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date: 22 September 2017

Abstract and Keywords

In the West, the distinction between the forms of secularism in France and the United States is instructive. The attitudes and legal approaches of both have their roots in the European Enlightenment, but their treatment of religion is significantly different due to their distinctive views on human reason. The first takes reason to be intrinsically liberating. Its watchword is human freedom and autonomy, but it takes these as given, just as it assumes a fundamental equality among all people. The second understands reason, freedom, and equality within a religious context. Freedom is God-given and must be respected as such, so freedom of religion must be recognized. Beyond these two positions, aggressive secularism regards all religious claims as beyond reason or even irrational and potentially dangerous. That kind of secularism can never achieve the neutrality to which aspires and always creates second-class citizens out of some religious believers.

Keywords: secularism, Enlightenment, freedom, state neutrality, religious liberty, equality, rights

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