Hard-Line Secularism Is a Bad Idea

Question: What lessons does France’s headscarf controversy hold \r\nfor the U.S.?
\r\nJoan Wallach Scott:  Well I mean I guess that hard-line \r\nsecularism is not a good idea, which is not to say that secularism is \r\nnot a good idea.  I mean I certainly think that the attempt in the \r\nUnited States to by groups here to rewrite American history as a sort of\r\n Christian story and to portray the founding fathers as Christian \r\nfathers is something that really needs to be challenged and in the name \r\nof secular… in the name of history, of accurate history as well as \r\neverything else, but I think the kind of hard-nose secularism of France,\r\n that kind of unbending insistence on that secular means one thing and \r\nthat violations of it will not be tolerated in any way is a bad idea and\r\n that if you’re accommodating different groups, different populations \r\nwhat you need to do is figure out ways of accommodating them.  The way \r\nthe French did when the passed the 1905 law separating church and state,\r\n the way they did with the Catholic Church.  There was a day off for \r\nreligious instruction for kids.  All the holidays in France still, some \r\nare state holidays, but most of them are Catholic, not even just \r\nChristian, Catholic holidays.  Parts of France are… Alsace and Lorraine,\r\n Alsace-Moselle, those departments which were under German control when \r\nthe 1905 law was passed and then came back to France after the war those\r\n areas were never forced to adopt the secular practices that the rest of\r\n the country adopted, so still in those areas you can have religious \r\nteaching in the schools.  Children have to take a course in religious \r\ninstruction and so on and so forth, so they’re not even consistent…  \r\nIt’s not even a nationally consistent policy in relation to Catholicism,\r\n which was the dominate religion at the time the law was passed, so to \r\nact as if it is either secularism or nothing or that the secular and the\r\n religious are in eternal opposition to each other is to misrepresent \r\nFrench history and to create a situation in which there will only be a \r\ngreater sense of felt discrimination and anger on the part of the \r\npopulations whom these laws affect.  So it seems to me that that kind of\r\n hard line secularism, which is as fundamentalist in its way as the most\r\n extreme Islamist fundamentalism defeats its own purpose and really \r\ndoesn’t end up producing a situation in which there can be a certain \r\nkind of pluralism, cultural pluralism and political assimilation and \r\npolitical citizenship.

Recorded April 26th, 2010
\r\nInterviewed by Austin Allen

What the U.S. can learn from French battles over mosque and state.

COVID-19 amplified America’s devastating health gap. Can we bridge it?

The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.

Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
  • Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
  • To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
Keep reading Show less

What the Greek classics tell us about grief and the importance of mourning the dead

The rites we give to the dead help us understand what it takes to go on living.

Photo by Stavrialena Gontzou on Unsplash
Culture & Religion

As the coronavirus pandemic hit New York in March, the death toll quickly went up with few chances for families and communities to perform traditional rites for their loved ones.

Keep reading Show less

Bruce Lee: How to live successfully in a world with no rules

Shannon Lee shares lessons from her father in her new book, "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee."

  • Bruce Lee would have turned 80 years old on November 27, 2020. The legendary actor and martial artist's daughter, Shannon Lee, shares some of his wisdom and his philosophy on self help in a new book titled "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee."
  • In this video, Shannon shares a story of the fight that led to her father beginning a deeper philosophical journey, and how that informed his unique expression of martial arts called Jeet Kune Do.
  • One lesson passed down from Bruce Lee was his use and placement of physical symbols as a way to help "cement for yourself this new way of being, or this new lesson you've learned." By working on ourselves (with the right tools), we can develop the skills necessary to rise and conquer new challenges.
Keep reading Show less

The "singleton hypothesis" predicts the future of humanity

Philosopher Nick Bostrom's "singleton hypothesis" predicts the future of human societies.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Nick Bostrom's "singleton hypothesis" says that intelligent life on Earth will eventually form a "singleton".
  • The "singleton" could be a single government or an artificial intelligence that runs everything.
  • Whether the singleton will be positive or negative depends on numerous factors and is not certain.
Keep reading Show less

3 reasons for information exhaustion – and what to do about it

How to deal with "epistemic exhaustion."

Photo by Filip Mishevski on Unsplash
Mind & Brain
An endless flow of information is coming at us constantly: It might be an article a friend shared on Facebook with a sensational headline or wrong information about the spread of the coronavirus.
Keep reading Show less