How will the long slow secularisation of Ireland affect NI’s future politics?

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At a rough calculation, when I was a lad growing up in Holywood, we had four well attended Masses on a Sunday as well as benediction in the evening. We also had two Parish Priests and a school that had partly to be paid for by fund raising from the Parish.

If you lapsed into not knowing what it meant to be Catholic, there was always the Redemptorist Missionaries to remind you. Being Catholic was a gateway into other aspects of your culture, Gaelic Football, Irish dancing and the language were if not exactly on tap, then readily available.

Well, they play a better standard of football these in Holywood, than we did in mine. And the pitch isn’t bowl-shaped any more. But considering that religious affiliation has played such a central role in cultural and political identity in the past, what are we to make of the news (from last week) that 75% of Irish Catholics pay no heed to Catholic teaching on sex, or that only 35% of us make it to Mass on a regular basis?

Will this mark a long slow drift in other forms of identity? Or will we, like the French, persist in some kind of secular Catholic identity that replaces the values of the earlier more religious one. It may depend very much on whether the current settlement successfully removes any real cause for political grievance.

But might it also open up the possibilities for people taking a more individuated choice in education and ultimately, in politics?

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    A few points on a good post.
    I reckon I am a good 20 years older and certainly if I had £1 for every service I attended in Redemptorist Clonard then I would be quite rich.
    While I certainly heard horror stories of their missionary work in the previous generations, I cant say that I found them in any way intimidating.
    My experience of annual parish missions was that there was a kind of rota involving maybe four of five different “orders”….Passionists, Franciscans whatever.

    Of course falling church attendances pre-date the past fifteen years or so.
    I once heard a priest…..funnily enough a “Red” say that the difference between the Provisionals and the Stickies was that a Provo went to Mass weekly but a Sticky went to Mass monthly. That would have been circa 1972/73.
    Arguably, the moral hazard presented by the Troubles led to falling attendances in Churches. If you dont fear hellfire because of planting a car bomb, youre not the sort of person to agonise about missing Mass.
    Arguably Church attendance in (say) St Peters in Divis Street is lower than 35%…but has it affected their sense of Irishness. Hardly. They are voting Sinn Féin and SDLP.

    Holywood circa 1972/73 actually had another dimension. Several local Catholics led by Cecilia Linehan were in open defiance of Bishop Philbin over state schools and sacraments and such. But Cecilia Linehan stood as an Alliance candidate in 1973. Holywood is hardly republican territory although I have always thought nationalists in Holywood were too low key.
    But there is a comparison to be made. With some degree of confidence in the figures Id say that West Belfast weekly church attendance is certainly lower than 35% but it appears solidly republican/nationalist.
    I cant speak with any confidence on Holywood but my guess would be higher than St Peters. Perhaps 35% sounds right. But it is not in any way republican/nationalist.
    Weekly Mass is no longer the touchstone. Or even “receiving worthily the Blessed Sacrament at Easter time” (in fact some priests I know are unaware of this definition…fairly standard fare in 1960s catechism). The definition might well be “do you want your child baptised etc”

    Looking at the Republics census figures we can say that 84% of 4.6 million people claim to be Catholic. But from ACP figures (if I recall) monthly mass attendance is around 50% which probably suggests a weekly rate of maybe 35%.
    There is obviously no disconnection between the Republics religious affiliation or observance and a sense of Irishness. Id be surprised if it was any different in the North.

    Indeed if we look at England, there has been falling Church attendance for years. People routinely describe themselves as “C of E” or whatever. But has it led to a lowering of any sense of Englishness/Britishness? I doubt it.
    There is actually another scenario which suggests that the primacy of a Republic rather than any religion makes a Republic more attractive to non believers.

  • Ní Dhuibhir

    It won’t affect the sectarianism of our politics at all. This was never a theological conflict. Such bigotry generally doesn’t require any objective referent. Islamophobia, for example, is directed by idiots like the EDL in defence of a Christianity they know nothing about towards anyone vaguely brown.

    The improvement secularisation might make to our politics, however, is in attitudes to issues like gay adoption and abortion rights.

  • Brian Walker

    As you know I’ve been thinking along similar lines. A fundamental question:, are we fated to be governed by our past or can we break out of its constraints? Do we actually want to or are our pasts our real comfort zone?

    The theme struck me as I was listening to a rather unsatisfactory discussion on Radio 4’s Start The Week on China this morning, which reflected a fundamental dichotomy of outlook in analysing societies. Marxist revisionist Martin Jacques believed the Chinese industrial revolution showed a dramatic ability to break out of the past; the more cautious Jonathan Fenby thought China had still to confront many of the past’s legacies, like fear of breakup if the centre releases its grip. Both of them were partly right and yet neither was able to offer clear pointers to the future. Who can blame them?

    What happens when change lacks clear definition and eludes familiar ideology? Institutions of all kinds are under great pressure – call it the age old hunger for personal freedom, greater absolute prosperity, better education, the internet, whatever. These phenomena present huge challenges to what passes for our own public intellectuals, even in our little parishes, where our people are still corralled in badged identities which are defining them less completely than before.

    Today, many would agree that it’s futile for the Church to keep going through the motions of exercising an authority which has seriously eroded. It’s entirely fair for beleaguered churchmen to ask, what then would you put in authority’s place, though such a retort is hardly a complete answer. The same question applies to the critics of the “managed sectarianism” of enforced powersharing. We know your critique. But what would you put in its place?

    Public intellectuals surely need to ask themselves more open, less loaded questions. For instance: can we use history to avoid becoming its prisoners? The reappraisals of 1912 etc are interesting as they prompt the counterfactual, what might have happened if the recourse to physical force or the threat of it had not finally triumphed in that generation, leaving it to later generations to fight it all over again with a not dissimilar outcome? Are we really going to be different this time?Do not historicist analyses of the past ( i.e.analyses holding that events were inevitable and were not amenable to a different outcome) reinforce the past’s charactertistics?

    Do we really the idea of a past put to rights before we can achieve a reconciling future? Is such an idea doomed to failure before direct experience of the Troubles finally recedes into history like the 3rd Cork brigade of the 1920s?

    Other more contemporary questions occur to encourage breakout. Is the vision of a non-sectarian future robust enough to bring it about, however gradually?

    Might it be better to work with the grain of sectarian division rather than oppose it head-on?

    Do human rights laws require an agreed moral basis before they command general consent?

    Up to now, the academy has had it easy in a way; the reactionaries were so bloody awful. But what happens now that the reactionaries are not quite so bad and are apparently securely in charge, sort of?

    This is taking some getting used to and is presenting big challenges to think afresh.

  • OneNI

    ‘has it affected their sense of Irishness. Hardly. They are voting Sinn Féin and SDLP.’
    Isnt it the case that it is increasing clear to many people that voting SF or SDLP is NOT part of any sense of Irishness.
    Increasing people who are ‘ethnically’ Irish Catholics realise you can be Irish within the UK and Irish without being particualrly Catholic.
    Sadly (for Irish nationalism) nationalism built its philosophy on the idea of a strong sole identity exclusive Irish Catholic Gaelic tribe staying united

  • weidm7

    I agree with OneNI, an acceptance of the ‘other’ as integrally Irish would be the best thing for the hopes of a united Ireland, but it’s a hard thing to encourage, especially when the south is almost entirely Irish Catholic Gaelic and the ones not like that have been assimilated by now.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “Sadly (for Irish nationalism) nationalism built its philosophy on the idea of a strong sole identity exclusive Irish Catholic Gaelic tribe staying united”

    I never new that. Wolfe Tone, Thomas Russell, Henry Joy McCracken, William Orr, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Sam Maguire , Roger Casement, Robert Erskine Childers, did not understand that either.

  • tyrone_taggart

    weidm7

    Is almost entirely Irish Catholic Gaelic and the ones not like that have been assimilated by now. Its the EU fault they stopped turf cutting and its turned the Bog into the Borg.

  • aquifer

    What is of interest is how long the religious of either foot can keep big issues like schools and abortion out of the political sphere.

    We have homosexual marriage and the sky did not fall in.

    What’s next?

  • JoeBryce

    I can only speak for myself, and I have not lived in NI for a long time, but to me the effect of the secularisation of politics is that a united – or at least, a new – Ireland, no longer holds any terrors for me, and even seems potentially attractive in certain circumstances. I thought at the time that Enda Kenny’s assault on the church was a decisive break with the past, and in some ways the most significant speech ever heard from any Irish politician, north or south, since partition.

  • PaulT

    TT, you forgot to mention the first President of Ireland and the name of the cup in the biggest sporting event in Ireland.

    OneNI has probably being watching the docu-series “How God Made The English” and superimposed that on the Irish.

    But what about Protestantism, do unionists want Liz’s photo everywhere because she is head of state or head of their religion or is it a BOGOF deal. Can protestants make the move to a secular world with the OO in tow, and closing down NI for 10 weeks every year to host religous marches through every city and town

  • Reader

    PaulT: But what about Protestantism, do unionists want Liz’s photo everywhere because she is head of state or head of their religion or is it a BOGOF deal.
    Very few unioninsts are Church of England, Most are Presbyterian, Church of Ireland or Methodist, if anything.

  • DoppiaVu

    JoeBryce – “I can only speak for myself, and I have not lived in NI for a long time, but to me the effect of the secularisation of politics is that a united – or at least, a new – Ireland, no longer holds any terrors for me”

    Indeed, and I wonder how many people born into the nationalist tradition will feel less antipathy towards staying in the UK as a result of events from the last few years. I’m not saying that they would positively choose to stay in the UK…but actually would be pretty relaxed either way.

    Brian Walker’s comment – “What happens when change lacks clear definition and eludes familiar ideology?” – hits the nail on the head. There will be no easily recognised seismic shifts, either in NI policy (from either British or Irish governments) nor in social attitudes. Just a steady drift to somewhere.

    I’m thinking that the steady drift will be away from the fundamentalists on both sides. Lets face it, both sides of the community already spend more time worshipping at the church of TK Maxx than at any religious church.

  • tacapall

    The advances of information and technology, access for all to a higher standard of education has changed the way we assimilate the actions, words and beliefs of others around us. What goes on around us and how that is portrayed can now be questioned or verified quickly. A new generation of individuals who although have the self confidence to articulate their own beliefs and are a law unto themselves, many nevertheless still cling to tradition out of respect for their elders perhaps and that is reflected in their political beliefs. Religion is now viewed as outdated, emotional blackmail or just another weapon in the armoury of politicians and those who are afraid of the future. The future is bright, not neccessisarily orange or green but will be secular, cosmopolitan and free from the sins of the past.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    tacapall, at times I struggle with language and composition but is your 9:29 post (and mine) really of a higher standard than those who attended elementary school in the 1920s?

    News and gossip is certainly travelling faster than ever before but there’s barely time for a period of decent digestion. The self-confidence of which you speak may be little more than arrogance; the ability to assimilate needs to be balanced by the ability to discriminate.

    Religion or its absence is just one facet of who we are; just one component of a cosmopolitan society that many of us experience either through personal contact or otherwise.

    I’m an observer of the sins of the very recent past and I don’t expect them to disappear any time soon.

  • tacapall

    Nevin

    “tacapall, at times I struggle with language and composition but is your 9:29 post (and mine) really of a higher standard than those who attended elementary school in the 1920s”

    I wouldn’t know that Nevin as I wasn’t around in 1920 but I know children didn’t get the same education I got nor was it freely available as it is now. Most working class people left school from the ages of 12 – 14 with little or no education, farmed off to the local mills or wherever as child slaves for the well off, like these, dont ask me who they are but they’re sailortown kids from an era long gone.

    http://a7.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/295919_289293567761147_100000415196495_1070701_79148237_n.jpg

    In the 1920s news was passed on word of mouth from individual to individual, third or forth hand information diluted or sensationalised depending on the character of the carrier. A lot of our past history is based around that undeniable fact but today we can easily switch on the news or have the ability to read the newspapers or communicate quickly and easily in real time, fact cannot be so easily manipulated and people are no longer sheeple for the snakeoil salesmen masquerading as politicians we’ve had for generations.

    Im not saying the past will disappear Nevin Im saying future generations will look at the past without blinkers, without baggage and having first hand information rather than hearsay and innuendo.

  • Clanky

    I’m not sure that I was ever enough of a Catholic to even consider myself lapsed, I have long despised the Catholic church (and the various protestant ones too), but that has not made me feel any less Irish or any less nationalist.

    For me nationalism is more about wanting to maintain an Irish cultural identity than about religion, unfortunately politicians for years have used both religious devotion and religious bigotry as a way to manipulate people, what secularism will hopefully achieve is a politics based on policies not on playing on peoples’ religious beliefs, when you look at politics in the south things have metamorphosised (sp?) from political parties trying to be seen as appealing to a strongly religious population to what has almost become a competition to who can distance themselves most from the church.

    The other important aspect of the secularisation of Southern politics is that it should help reduce the fears of protestants in the north that they would be discriminated against in a united Ireland, there will (arguably) come a point where the democratic will of the people in the north is for a united Ireland and at that point if unionists cannot be persuaded to accept the situation things will be very unpleasant, if unionists see a united Ireland as inevitable then both the secularisation of Ireland and the cultural shift together of the north and south which has happened over the last couple of decades will hopefully make the idea more palatable for unionists and the transition that little bit smoother.

  • Mick Fealty

    Some of the outworking of this report (and indeed, I suspect Benedict is way ahead of some of his critics on this) is that the church is no longer attempting to hold on to the whole flock, and de facto retain its role as part of a single cultural clearing house.

    Rather, a bit like the Protestant churches before them the Catholic Church as a tight is beginning to see itself as a community of committed believers. The same church in England is there nearly a generation in advance of them.

    Many of the monastic orders were part of similar attempts to create spiritual and institutional renewal.

    I think Brian’s question is an useful one, albeit that it comes without any obvious answers. If we look to the south Schools and Hospitals once build and run by religious organisations are being handed over to the state to run. The state is rising above the Roman-centric rule of the past; so that the potential for change there is massive.

    Other contributions put me in mind of John Naughton’s line from 2008, to the effect that ‘the First Law of Technology says we invariably overestimate the short-term impact of new technologies while underestimating their longer-term effects.’

    You don’t have to hold to the idea that religious conviction has been a driver for the conflict to understand that the weakening of religious institution’s social pull opens up new possible combinations social and political combinations.

    The short term impacts of such changes are hard to see, but in the long term, if people are committed to working with them, they hold open the possibility of previously unimaginable outcomes.

  • JoeBryce

    I agree with all of that Mr. Fealty and in particular the last para. and would add only two things:
    First, the changing situation of Scotland is the game changer. Whatever becomes of the Union, Scotland will be more autonomous in the future: she wants,and will increasingly want, the closest and friendliest possible relationship with the whole of Ireland, which in many ways is her sister nation in history. Insofar as partition works against that national interest of Scotland’s, which I think it clearly does, then to that extent Scottish autonomy becomes a driver for change.
    And second – here I take issue with Clanky – no section of the community is an object to be worked upon, whether the working be “physical force” or indeed “persuasion.” The epoch-changing breakthrough of the GFA is that we work from now on by consensus. I think that holds the door far more widely open to “previously unimaginable outcomes” than any other methodology.

  • antamadan

    Can’t say my hope for an eventual fair-minded united Ireland has changed since I lost my religion.

    Are unionists are more likely to use religous slogans ‘F the Pope’ ‘No Pope here’ than Irish catholics? I can’t remember any ‘No Archbishop of Canterbury here’ signs

    Also the President isn’t the head of the Irish Catholic church, in the way that the Queen of England is? the head of the C.o.E. and there are no Irish Catholic Bishops in ‘An Seanad/The Senate’ in the way that there is/was C.o.E bishops in the Lords.
    I’m as unhappy as anyone about the RC influence in the south after independence. I think it was not inevitable at all if there was a 32 co. republic with a good chunk of Protestants rather than a tiny minority, but partition let a prod extremism in the north and the catholic dominance in the south. Very sad.

  • abucs

    Secular is a political system where there is no state religion. We have that in Ireland. It can’t become any more secular.

    Please do not confuse secular with less religious, non religious or anti religious.
    Otherwise, if you call yourself secular it is easy to make the mistake that your views should dominate in a secular Ireland or in fact is the default view in a secular Ireland.

    If we are going to use the word ‘secular’ we cannot have one section of the population calling themselves ‘secular’ when they mean non religious.

    Otherwise the word ‘secular’ has two different meanings, causes confusion, causes an unhealthy thought that the values of one section of the population should dominate and in the end the word ‘secular’ has no real meaning.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “having first hand information rather than hearsay and innuendo.”

    tacapall, this ‘first hand’ information may be little more than hearsay and innuendo, it may also be misinformation or disinformation. Not all information here can be brought to a wider audience because of the risk of litigation or paramilitary attack; the risk from a religious inquisition has greatly reduced.

  • PaulT

    “Very few unioninsts are Church of England, Most are Presbyterian, Church of Ireland or Methodist, if anything.”

    Yet so many insist on getting involved in the matter….

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/orangemen-at-no10-over-catholic-ban-16076527.html

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7967953.stm

    Jeffrey’s a Presbyterian I believe.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    Secular is a political system where there is no state religion. We have that in Ireland. It can’t become any more secular.

    Not when the bishops still have a huge amount of influence over state education.

  • tacapall

    “tacapall, this ‘first hand’ information may be little more than hearsay and innuendo, it may also be misinformation or disinformation.”

    Nevin first hand information is seeing or hearing with your own eyes and ears and of course if its from images channeled through the television or computer then it depends on who either witnessed or recorded the event, a bit like the video below, no misinformation or disinformation, its not innuendo nor is it hearsay because its fact and nothing can change that.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SVyCGMTRv0

    Of course information can be manipulated or forged, what we hear on the news can be sometimes taken as fact, although I suppose it depends on how that information was gained.

    “It was reported on BBC News tonight that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others will be charged with orchestrating the September 11 attacks.”

    The BBC report went on to say, rather comically in the circumstances, was that “Khalid Sheikh Mohammed admits everything relating to the 9/11 attacks from A to Z.”

    What the report omitted to say

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/20/world/20detain.html?_r=1

    I think most people are wise enough now Nevin to understand whats truth and whats propaganda or illusion.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “de facto retain its role as part of a single cultural clearing house.”

    Sean Brady: “In the midst of such discrimination and a deep sense of alienation from the Northern State, the structures of education, health, parish and community provided by the Catholic Church, made it a very natural alternative source of political and cultural identity for Northern Nationalists. As one commentator explains:

    After partition Northern Nationalists kept a respectful distance from the State and became ‘a society within a society’. The Catholic Church was the key institution in integrating the community and clerical leadership was important. There was an intertwining of Catholicism, Irish culture and political nationalism.

    Discrimination was practised by those who were in a position to do so, irrespective of creed, class or constitutional affiliation. Discrimination by Unionists was partly influenced not so much by ‘respectful distance’ but by Irish nationalism’s claim to territory and physical attacks by militant Nationalists.

    London and Dublin used to seek the support of Church leaders for their plans but now paramilitary folks seem to be more in demand for community roles than clerical ones.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “I think most people are wise enough now”

    tacapall, such ‘wisdom’ is on display in the comment zone below the video.

  • PaulT

    “Not when the bishops still have a huge amount of influence over state education.”

    Yet in NI parents have choice, and nationalist parents choose Catholic schools for their kids, where bishops probably have more influence than in Ireland.

    Catholic education is a regular feature on Slugger threads, unionists seem keen to get rid of it until faced with the demands for nationalist history and culture to be expressed in state schools.

    As far as politics goes, secularisation will have a bigger impact on the DUP than any other party, and I think the bible bashers are disappearing rapidly from there so maybe its not such a long and slow road

  • Scáth Shéamais

    Yet in NI parents have choice, and nationalist parents choose Catholic schools for their kids

    True, though it seems more nationalist parents are turning toward Irish-medium education or integrated education for their children.

    As far as politics goes, secularisation will have a bigger impact on the DUP than any other party, and I think the bible bashers are disappearing rapidly from there so maybe its not such a long and slow road

    The DUP are the most salient example but, as Ní Dhuibhir argues above, there’s a social conservatism at the heart of all the Northern parties (including SF) that hopefully will be ameliorated by the secularisation of politics and society.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “demands for nationalist history and culture to be expressed in state schools.”

    PaulT, have you looked at the citizenship syllabus? The DUP seems to have been asleep. The history element is set in an island of Ireland context and UK citizenship has, er, been airbrushed away.

    Traditional music and dance isn’t an Irish nationalist domain so it’s nice to see it getting better recognition across all groupings.

  • tacapall

    Nevin its what you see with your own eyes that matter the comments below the video are irrelevant, like I said it depends on which side of the fence you’re on and from a Unionist perspective you could probably come up with all sorts of excuses except admit what you saw is what the headline implied, which was assault.

    “Discrimination by Unionists was partly influenced not so much by ‘respectful distance’ but by Irish nationalism’s claim to territory and physical attacks by militant Nationalists.”

    Had to laugh at that one Nevin, was it a case of “If your not with us your against us” Nationalists refusing to behave like protestants resulted in death, unemployment, homelessness and blind hatred. If memory recalls I do believe there was hundreds of innocent Catholics murdered from the 20’s through to the late 30s did they murder themselves too.

  • Reader

    PaulT: Yet so many insist on getting involved in the matter….
    I’m disestablishmentarian myself, so if the OO can’t articulate a position that you can understand I’m inclined to leave it to yourselves to sort out. Personally, I think their mumbles about disestablishing the CoE is a bit of legalistic nonsense to dress up their fears of an RC Head of State, which would actually freak them out. It would be more relevant but just as hopeless for them to try to re-establish the CoI. As for Jeffrey, I am sure he would willingly tell you that the Queen is not head of *his* Church. He might suggest she could be if only she would stand for election as Moderator.

  • Reader

    tacapall: If memory recalls I do believe there was hundreds of innocent Catholics murdered from the 20′s through to the late 30s did they murder themselves too.
    Your memory is impressive for one so old. Did any innocent Protestants get murdered in the same period?

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    tacapall, you and I are only two compared with all those who commented so our opinions are of strictly limited significance. They give context to your extravagant claim that ‘most people are wise enough’.

    “Nationalists refusing to behave like protestants”

    I expect Unionists and Nationalists to behave according to their perceived interests; I doubt if one ‘blind hatred’ is much different from the other. Can you provide figures for the number of folks who were killed North and South during the period you mention or the numbers who were interned?

  • tacapall

    Reader but of course innocent protestants were murdered as well I was answering Nevin’s suggestion that discrimination against Catholics was their own fault or because of “Irish nationalism’s claim to territory and physical attacks by militant Nationalists”

    Nevin why dont you look up the Belfast pogroms 1920 – 1922 especially around the Dock area for an idea of the brutality and sectarianism of the law abiding loyalist people and their impartial police force. While your at it check out how many protestants were interned during that period.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    tacapall, there was an inter-action between events North and South, not least Belfast and Cork. For example, Catholics were murdered in and burnt out of Lisburn following the murder of a police officer by folks from Cork.

  • abucs

    Hi Scáth Shéamais,

    that sort of is my point.

    Secular means there is no state religion. It means that the government does not appoint Bishops. It means the state is not the head of a particular religion. It means that the state does not force people to be one type of religion.

    It does not mean that the state takes over as many functions as possible from religion and tries to limit any one religion. That is the antithesis of what secular is supposed to mean.

    There is no compulsion that the state should be running education. There is no compulsion that the state should not be working with Christianity in delivering services if there is such a demand from the populace. If there is a demand from a section of the populace that wants services supplied from other community groups then the state should support that also.

    There is certainly no compulsion that if the state does control schools and other services that it implements the philosophy of secular humanism.

    These are non religious or even anti religious views.

    They are not properly called secular.

    The take over of the word secular by the anti religious has caused and is causing this confusion.

  • abucs

    If we look at governments around the world today many of them are secular and work with Christianity to provide services.

    Many poorer countries use Christianity because these services are supplied cheaper to the populace by use of Christian groups. Even (formerly) communist Russia and China are starting to do this.

    In the Western sphere of politics where monetary budgets are under huge pressure there has been a shift back to working with Christianity to supply these services.

    In Australia the government supplies Catholic sector Education with funding. This of course makes sense since the Austrlaian government is supposed to be working for the Australian people in all its diversity. About 21% of children are educated in the Catholic system. A further 9% are educated in other private systems. For every child in the Catholic system the government spends $4000. For every student in the government sector it spends $9000. The Catholic sector is showing much better results and many non Catholic parents send their kids there and are willing to pay fees in favour of the ‘free’ government schools.

    The Australian government cannot ignore the fact that every student that moves from the government to the Catholic sector saves them $5000 and is more likely (on average) to have a better educational outcome. This is the hard economics of the government being in education and other services. It sees the economic and social benefit in working with Christianity.

    In certain U.S states the goverment will now give ‘problem students’ money to go and spend on private education which is largely Catholic. The state school boards are saving a lot of money under these schemes. Research shows that these ‘problem students’ have better outcomes in the U.S. Catholic schools.

    http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/931014/bryk.shtml

    Because of better results in Catholic schools and because it actually costs less money, there is a debate in the States now on whether they should directly fund Catholic institutions such as they do now in Australia.

    Further, I can’t stress how wrong it is for one section of the population to use state secular schools to promote their own philosophy. This is the antithesis of what secular is supposed to be.

    Secular was supposed to mean government working with different groups within the community, not one section of the community taking over the philosophy of government and then that philosophy trying to push out other communities that do not share that philosophy.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “secularisation – the activity of changing something (art or education or society or morality etc.) so it is no longer under the control or influence of religion”

    Mick, as far as I can see there has been a decline in religious influence and control as well as in belief and observance. Are you suggesting that there are individuals or organisations that are directing such activity?

  • Scáth Shéamais

    Secular means there is no state religion.

    abucs, I think that’s too narrow a definition of secularism. Secularism to me is the separation of church of state, which means to me that any service the states provides (be it education, health, social welfare, etc.) must not be controlled by any church or churches.

    The state or the education body or a school’s board of governors can determine to what extent religious education will be present in a school – though given that there should be no state support for any single religion it can create a bit of a fudge in terms of what extent you teach religion according to Catholicism or Paganism or Pastarfarianism.

    But at any rate, a local bishop should have no control over which teacher gets hired or fired.

    In terms of certain churches getting called in by government to provide services, well charity will never compare to a good social welfare system.

  • abucs

    Hi Scáth Shéamais,

    i agree with a separation of Church and state but for me it is like the separation of powers which separates the government and the judicial system. It is a good idea to keep these separate where one formulates the law and another interprets it in society.

    It would be wrong for one to try and replace the other through legal or budgetary constraints. The whole idea is that they work together as pillars for the benefit of community.

    I would not want to risk descending into a secular humanist fascism.

    All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.
    Benito Mussolini

    It is the State which educates its citizens in civic virtue, gives them a consciousness of their mission and welds them into unity.
    Benito Mussolini

    I think we can both agree that we have different definitions, concepts and attached histories to very important words phrases such as secular, separation, welfare, charity, science, religion and faith etc.

    I would suggest that it is important to have somewhat more common understandings before we risk the possibility of fragmenting into irreconcilable, permanent sectarian groups who will paralyse progress due to continual argument.