In Europe and in the whole world a situation is developing today which shows the dangers linked to the place of religions in the political debate. Atheistic, humanistic, secular and of Free Thought organizations have a duty to give their opinion on this subject. Political mobilizations that exploit the public visibility of religions for their own purposes are an example.
The tens of thousand nationalist demonstrators on the borders in Poland, yelling openly racist and xenophobic slogans on the occasion of the anniversary of the ottoman naval defeat at Lepanto (on October 7th, 1571), or the same demonstrators on November 11th in Warsaw, the Hungarian government’s stands based on the ultra-catholic constitution, the feverish activity of a former French prime minister against the “Muslims”, these are all the symptoms of a reactionary tendency which shows itself in numerous countries.
It becomes a reality by a revival of the tendency toward imposing the Christian religious symbols in the public space : on hiking trails, on mountains tops, along highways, in the Italian public schools, in City halls and in public buildings in France…
In Poland, the ultra-conservative government takes advantage of this situation to restrict the public liberties (press, abortion); in Spain, during the Catalan crisis, Mr Rajoy’s government restored a political role to the archbishops; in France, the legal battle about the statue of the Polish pope Wojtyla, sculptured by a close friend of Vladimir Putin, leads the catholic conservatives to become allied to the extreme-right and try to question the law of Separation of Churches and State (Ploërmel).
The national legislations are very diverse and the existence of the Separation of Churches and State is obviously a point of support for the equality of the rights. Nevertheless this offensive has consequences almost everywhere: resistance of the Lord bishops in the United Kingdom, discussion about the ” bioethical law ” in France, about the Civil status or about cremation in Greece, on the freedom of movement in numerous countries, where this is objected to [by clerics] solely on the grounds of the religion of the migrants.
On the other hand, if a part of the European Christian fundamentalists share or voluntarily commit in the crusade of the racist and nationalist movements, other ones, more intelligent and more civilized but equally insidious, try to seize the opportunity offered by the new European religious pluralism: some of the protagonists were never confronted with the secularization of our societies, so they never tried to question and to overthrow secularism, even by using false progressive euphemisms, such as religious freedom. Unlike the first ones, they would agree to share their privileges with the new religious actors – more dynamic and more uninhibited – because they know that it is the price to pay to keep their own privileges and to try to restore the ascendancy of the religious order in the public space.
These two seemingly very different strategies converge in the objectives of destroying the secularism and the neutrality of public institutions, giving believing citizens and their beliefs a dignity superior to that of non-believing citizens and their way of life.
This is why the European members of IAFT’s International Council propose to all skeptical, atheistic, humanistic, rationalist and of Free Thought organizations present in Europe to carry out a joint campaign to put an end to this significant intrusion into the European public space of religious privileges, emblems and symbols.
They will act in this sense at the level of national governments and international organizations to which they may be represented.