This contribution on the topics of religion and secularity attempts to question the secular status of the modern democratic state by focusing on its relationship with the institutionalized religion. It is not my intention, as the title might evoke, to create another platform to dismantle the secular practice, but rather to have a look on the institutionalized Christianity in its imperial struggle on one hand and the strategy of retaining power within the neoliberal societies, especially post ’89 Central Europe, with the focus on Slovakia, on the other. From this point of departure I intend to dismantle the notion of the modern secular nation-state in its comprehension of functioning separately of religious ideology.
I will approach this issue in two parts – historically (with reference to Walter Mignolo) and, from this point of view, contemporary.
Racialization and the “Peaceful Expansion of Christianity”
If the basic definition is saying that secularism, or the secular character of a society, is the separation of a government, organization or institution from religion and/or religious beliefs, or in another sense, it refers to the view that human activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be unbiased by religious influence1, my point of departure is, what separation we speak here about ..? Such case of separation was introduced by the institutionalized Christianity itself, in terms of the “peaceful expansion of Christianity” and its legitimization within the formation of the modern/colonial order. Parallel to this we should not forget the values, on which the modernist or post-modernist ideologies, rooted in the Christianity, are built up. Walter Mignolo writes in these terms about a colonial/racial matrix, based on two structures, one religious and one secular, where, as the following text will show, the racial matrix is not founded solely on the color of the skin.
“The larger frame in which the racial formation of the modern/colonial world has to be understood, should take account of the context of concurrent transformation of Christianity and the emergence of the Atlantic economy – an economy of investment and accumulation of wealth, that we call “capitalism”. (…) As Christian Theology became the privileged and imperial locus enunciationis, it prepared the terrain for two complementary articulation of racism. One was founded on Christian epistemic privilege over the two major competing religions (Jews and Moslims). (…) The other was founded on the “secularization of the theological detachment”: when the detachment between God and Man became secularized in the detachment between Nature and Man, then racialization was located in the “natural” markers of human bodies and “purity of blood“ became the biological and natural marker (Indians, Blacks, Mestizas, Mulatas) of what was before the marker of religious belief (Jews, Moors, Conversos, Moriscos).2
Thus, the processes of racialization are rooted in processes of devaluation3 within the epistemic construction of religious difference.
Why am I writing about the Western colonial past, when I actually intend to focus the Central European Space? As Modernity and Coloniality are two sides of the same coin4, it is necessary, especially in the contemporary situation of rewriting and romanticising local histories (and thus from that point of view to construct the presence) to think these as parallel to Western colonial past. Zuzana Kepplová in her text “Does Eastern Europe need post-colonial theory, does the post-colonial theory need Eastern Europe?” states an answer to her own question: “Of course, the view and the vocabulary that was offered by the post-colonial theory for theorizing the identity, which was being framed by global power structures, served an inspiration for the Eastern (or Central) European theoreticians. The conceptual apparatus of the post-colonial theory was a “ready to be used” tool palette for expressing methods, by which means the new-constructed “Eastern” identity had to hierarchically pertain, after the Fall of the Wall, to the victorious and conquering “West”.”5 (translation by ij)
The Central European Conditions
In these terms, thinking the Central European Space means, historically and also contemporary, thinking the past of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, that, in its essence, fulfilled many of the “conditions” of a colonial power. In the time of the 16th and 17th century, when European Emperors and Pope shared their power as the self-proclaimed “rulers of the globe”6, the role of the Empire was to serve as, using the contemporary language, “Fortress Europe”, against incursions of the Ottomans, but, in terms of religious difference, especially against the circulation of Islam. One of the main European issues of this time was the discussion about just and unjust wars“7. The key issue here is that the debate was one sided: Ottomans and Muslims had no say in the debate that was from, by and about Christian ‘religious security’”. A tradition, founded in the time of Renaissance, that, actually, never disappeared, only was shifted.
In terms of parallels to coloniality/colonial difference and racism (or the aforementioned
“natural markers of human body and the purity of blood”) in the Central European conditions it is necessary to raise public awareness about the long history of brutal discrimination of Roma. Regarding this conjunction its worth to mention the era of Maria Theresia and later Joseph II., which, within the racist context of its time, “discovered” Roma as “deficient creatures in need of education”8, and imposed an official colonial policy – an educational experiment, toward these. The key issue also here is, that the debate was, and actually still is, one sided: The Roma had no say in the debate that was/is form, by and about the security of the white majority. And from the current point of view it’s bewildering, how little of these policies did change.
As “the bottom line of racism is devaluation and not the color of your skin”9, then other historical process of racialization, that, similar to Islamophobia and Antiromanism, never disappeared, might be concerned homophobia – physical, epistemological and verbal violence toward homosexuals almost on all levels of the social structure. The hate toward Roma and homophobia are two processes, or, in reference to Marina Gržinić and Santiago Lopez Petit better to say events10, that are through media representation being made paradigmatic for the mechanisms of racialization and exclusion within the nationalist post-socialist countries. In case of homosexuals the consequences of these processes/events are best to be observed at eventual struggles for visibility and political self-representation, as i.e. the Gay Pride March (but not to forget that there is a huge difference between the Gay Prides in the East and in the West, where these, in the meantime, turned into an empty presentation of sexuality and nakedness). Currently the crucial issue for homophobe (not only) Christian Catholics, i.e. in Slovakia, is about abolishing demand of gays and lesbians for their visibility and political (self)representation. On the contrary, the univocal demand for their quietude and invisibility is, next to the public reproduction of stereotypes towards homosexuals, the latest strategy within nationalist and Christian policy – if you (gays/lesbians) fulfill these conditions, then we (Christians, nationalists, homophobe fellows) can tolerate your existence. The question here is, until when?
What do these three mentioned cases have in common?
– They are based on construction of difference through processes of devaluation/racialization, framed by imperial Christian theology in conjunction with functioning of Atlantic economy
– The demand for quietude and invisibility as conditions for tolerance that, if these are fulfilled, implies the possibility of integration for those affected (means, actually, in first instance, the use and adaptation of epistemic violence)
As the mechanisms of free market in its essence of control, investment and accumulation of wealth did acquire an overhand over religious ideologies, Atlantic economy and the market replaced religious ideologies as the leading instrument of racialization and identity construction. But the ideological religious paradigms didn’t disappear. In terms of investment and accumulation, they only were fragmented and shifted. What I want to say is, since the totality of Christianity was replaced by the totality of the market, the separating religious difference and the secularized accumulation of the market, works in stipulated simultaneity.
Totalitarian Tradition and Neoliberal Market / Central European Conditions
What this means is described by Tatjana Greif in her text “Wars On Green Fields”, published in journal Reartikulacija: “The advocates of the Vatican are also present in Slovenia, visited in June by one of the most homophobic of Cardinals who in April convened a press conference in which he accused gays of pedophilic scandals in the RCC. His visit – which took place precisely on the day of the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Mathausen concentration camp – was advertised in the Slovenian media as “breaking news.” What is more, recently, the Slovenian community experienced a culmination of a consensus between the Catholic and Islamic communities, who joined forces in solidarity against the rights of same-sex couples and families. (…) Again we could hear truisms about the family being the fundamental nucleus of society and came to know that members of the Catholic and Islamic communities in Slovenia were being called upon to publicly strive for the protection of marriage and family life. The roles of father and mother are “of key importance for a proper personal development of the married couple and children.” Of course when it comes to lesbians and gays, diverse religious hierarchies easily overcome historical differences, gaining “large consensus” without delay.”11
Important here is not to forget another traditional colonial context, in which this encounter is taking place. As Islamophobia in the Euro-Atlantic region currently is one of the main issues, the institution Christian/Roman-Catholic Church in terms of political correctness attempts to evoke an imaginary leading role in the processes of conciliation between these two major religions. Means, for the Western conception, the agents of Islam are also in favor of the peaceful coexistence, but the leading role of the real “peacemaker” – the colonial “burden of the white man” – is here being put on the shoulder of Christianity.
In these terms of peacemaking and religious security is to be understood an offer for a conciliation toward the homosexuals or Roma: “The good gays and lesbians” (means the quite, suffering and invisible) are those being ready to integrate themselves (for the institutionalized Christianity, at least in Slovak conditions this means “healed”) into the society dominated by the Christian Catholic values; in similar way is to be comprehend the notion of the “good Roma”.
C. Slovakian Conditions and the Fear of a “Gay Tyranny”
One notable reaction, uttered by an influential Christian Conservative in Slovakia (also representative for the country’s homophobe majority) toward the first Gay Pride in 2010, is worth to be mentioned. In these terms the politician warned of the near future of a “gay tyranny”, as is already case in the West.12 What was actually meant by the “gay tyranny” the person referred to? A few cases in the UK were mentioned, where individuals who were acting according to their religion or beliefs were penalized or fired from their jobs when preventing homosexuals from accessing certain services which were available to heterosexuals, such as marriage, advisory services etc. So these individuals were penalized for openly discriminating against homosexuals. He warned us of this situation as it is taking place in the West, and as the forerunner to the East, we could expect this “tyranny” to extend to Slovakia. In Slovakia, the “tyranny” starts with a claim to visibility, becoming organized and articulating demands against discrimination and marginalization. Paradoxically, the inventor of the notion of “gay tyranny” is also known for his racist comments, i.e. on Roma. So the “gay tyranny” is to be understood as a conjunction of/for different processes of racialization.
Of course, the West, in its old (Christian) colonial manner, reacts alarming on the Homophobia, Antiislamism, Antiromanism, or the abolishment of the rights of women in Eastern Europe. As aforementioned Roma, followed by gays/lesbians, are the most frequented issue in the West toward criticism of racism and human rights in the East.
Western politicians are travelling to the East to observe these zones of inhumanity, racism, segregation and exclusion. In their authoritarian-tutorial behavior demands to put these spaces of inhumanity an end are uttered on the TV-screens. In logic of this text it’s possible to say, that these demands – the “gay tyranny” by the West on the East, are to be understood as extended racialization in terms of hiding racism, deportations, exclusion, segregation and necropolitics within own spaces and spheres.
Where is, in the Central European context of the current totality of the neoliberal market, the difference between gays/lesbians, Roma and Moslems?
The answer would be, in their access to the neoliberal market, functioning in accordance with the notion of democracy. As this, in its basic definition, is promising equal rights and freedom for each individual, the comprehension of equal rights imply cultural (means Western) hegemony. In these terms, the majority of Roma don’t achieve the access to the totalitarian market and, on the contrary, for the majority of Western (or Westernized), white, middle-class gays/lesbians, it was the Western neoliberal market, that, so to say, did prevent these of the (living) dead. In these terms the role of the institution of Catholic Church is to take care of the (by Atlantic economy) excluded Roma, or ex-Moslems converted to Christians. And where the secularized democracy market achieved an overhand of institutionalized Christianity (as in the case of the “bad gays/lesbians”, “bad Roma” or “bad Moslems”), a traditional method of violence (epistemic/verbal/physical) is to be restored, so to say from conciliation to criminalization (i.e. through the notion of the aforementioned “gay tyranny”).
And what this means, I will elaborate on the example of the “Right To Conscientious Objection” from the perspective of Slovak conditions.
The Conscience Concordat / Tradition of Religious Fundamentalism
One of the frequented issues in the political debate in Slovakia is since long concerning the Right To Conscientious Objection, which is supposed – through political blackmailing by Christian Conservatives – to be extended of an additional Conscience Concordat. This means a unique special agreement with Vatican that would prevail the Christian/Roman-Catholic ideology into a state ideology on human rights. Due to the Vienniese Convention this means a status prior to the state laws and constitution. Thus, the Concordat with Vatican is so to say “detached” from the state constitution in its secular character. Means, the conservative agenda of the institution Catholic Church in Slovakia is, in its imperial tradition, a self-proclaimed International Law on Human Rights. Important to mention here is also the character of Vatican that, in difference to other religions, carries a status of a state.
A ratification of this agreement obviously will guarantee a legitimization only of those services and administrations by the state, which are conformable with the Catholic veracity. Vatican already committed within the basic agreement to “make use of all available instruments for the moral formation of citizens of Slovak Republic on behalf of the common good, due to the principles of Catholic teaching, in accordance with the juridical order of Slovak Republic”13 (translation by ij). But, as mentioned, the character of the extending Concordat as an international agreement on human rights would juridically legalize its priority to/over the state constitution and its laws.
Slovakia, similar to other fundamental regimes, would, through this Concordat, legitimize one and only moral, valid for its all citizens. In compliance with this, the agreement is securing a whole bunch of privileges, enabling ideological intervention into the main fields of the social structure – education in the first instance, then army, different Catholic youth movements, and further, a guarantee of a massive state funding toward the mentioned activities.14 Important to remark here, that parallel to the state’s massive financial and economical oppression and control of the “average citizen”, any notion of a private possession and financialization of the Catholic Church simply doesn’t exist – it remains invisible (translation by ij).15
When I, in the begin of the previous paragraph, mentioned the term “political debate”, in terms of in/visibility its necessary to distinguish between political debate and public discussion. The key issue also here is that the debate is one sided: Non-Christians/ Catholics or Atheists in Slovakia have no say in the debate that is from, by and about them. Christian Conservatives are assuring about the innocence of this Concordat: “Nobody in Slovakia has to fear policy dictated by Vatican, or even to fear a determination of practicing interruption”.16 Yes, it’s true, it’s not necessary to fear the Vatican, as the Conservative Christian ideology is made inherent and naturalized. It’s also true, that despite several assurances, state hospitals do not practice, since around one year, any interruptions, as well as do not offer any advisory services toward those affected. The state health resort is governed by Conservative Christians. As this, Slovakian proposal of the Concordat with Vatican, impend the sexual and reproductive rights of women also in other EU-countries, it is possible to expect Vatican to struggle for subscribing similar agreements also with other countries joining “over-average” bilateral relations (translation by ij)17. For Christian Conservatives this means “a massively reinforced international position for Slovakia”18.
If the basic definition of secularism defines the character of a society as separated from religious ideology, or in another sense, it refers to the view that human activities and especially political decisions should be unbiased by religious influence, my point of departure is, what separation we speak here about ..? Such case of separation was introduced by the institutionalized Christianity itself within the formation of the modern/colonial order, in accordance with appearing Atlantic economy. Nevertheless it is not to forget that values of modernist or post-modernist ideologies are deeply rooted in Christian values.
Different processes of religious and secular detachments prepared terrain for system of racialization that naturalized processes of devaluation and construction of superiority.
When, within the Atlantic economy of investment and cumulation the capitalist market achieved an overhand of the religious ideology, one totality replaced the other. Constructions of difference, framed by imperial Christian theology were fragmented and shifted. As ideological religious paradigms didn’t disappear, the separating religious difference and the secularized accumulation of the market started to work in stipulated simultaneity. Different strategical coalitions followed, in Central European context i.e. Christians with Moslems (in terms of defending heteronormativity and family values via homophobia), or Post-fascist Antisemitists with Israeli Nationalists (in terms of fighting terrorism, understand, Islam or Arabs). Processes of 1990’s conciliation were replaced by those of criminalization.
In the Slovak conditions additionally via special agreement with Vatican, a Conscience Concordat extending the Right To Conscientious Objection, being adapted when the institutionalized Christian ideology fail to prevail within the market mechanisms. Its character as an international agreement of human rights induces, due to the Vienniese Convention, a status prior to the state laws and constitution. Means, the official secular state is being dismantled and replaced by Christian/Roman-Catholic ideology as a state ideology on human rights. Slovakia, similar to other fundamental regimes, legitimizes through this Concordat one and only moral, valid for its all citizens.
Important in these terms is to keep in mind the modern history of Slovakia as part of Central European space. Its 20th century history is constituted as a succession of totalitarian regimes, based on colonial legacy. Each of them legitimized itself as progress gaining for final freedom and justice. The immediate past was constructed as exploitative, oppressive, dogmatic and reactionary. Meanwhile currently the socialist past is situated under constant ideologically one-dimensioned elaboration and being labeled as the “Era of Darkness”, the era of the first Slovak fascist state is out of the focus. Even more, it’s getting more and more collectively accepted. A prosperous Catholic nation-state, that, in terms of own survival, affiliated complicity with Fascism – a complicity of mutual totalitarian regimes working in stipulated simultaneity.
1 Kosmin, Barry A. “Contemporary Secularity and Secularism.” Secularism & Secularity: Contemporary International Perspectives. Ed. Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar. Hartford, CT: Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture (ISSSC), 2007.
2 Walter Mignolo, Duke University: Dispensable and Bare Lives: Coloniality and The Hidden Political/Economic Agenda of Modernity (page 86);
The text is published online in Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge in 2009, edited by Mohammad H. Tamdgidi and co-edited by Lewis R. Gordon, Ramón Grosfoguel and Eric Mielants. See http://www.okcir.com/JournalVII2Spring09.html, retrieved June 18th, 2011.
3 Ibid; p. 81
4 Walter Mignolo and Mladina Tlostanova have extended the notion of “coloniality” – originally coined by Anibal Quijano as the fundamental logic of modernity, which inevitably leads to a logic of coloniality – based on the “colonial matrix of power” that encompasses four interrelated domains: the control of economy (land appropriation, exploitation of labor, control of natural resources); control of authority (institution, army); control of gender and sexuality (family, education) and control of subjectivity and knowledge (epistemology, education and formation of subjectivity). See, for example: Walter Mignolo, Cultural Studies, Vol. 21, Nos. 2–3 March/May 2007, pp. 449–514.
5 Zuzana Kepplová: Potrebuje „Východná Európa“ postkoloniálnu teóriu, potrebuje postkoloniálna teória „Východnú Európu“? (manifest teórie a praxi) http://www.konstruktmag.cz/potrebuje-%E2%80%9Evychodna-europa%E2%80%9C-postkolonialnu-teoriu-potrebuje-postkolonialna-teoria-%E2%80%9Evychodnu-europu%E2%80%9C-manifest-teorie-a-praxi/
6 Walter Mignolo, Duke University: Dispensable and Bare Lives: Coloniality and The Hidden Political/Economic Agenda of Modernity (p.84)
8 Reimer Gronemeyer/Georgia A. Rakelmann, Die Zigeuner. Reisende in Europa; Köln DuMont; 1988
9 Walter Mignolo, Duke University: Dispensable and Bare Lives: Coloniality and The Hidden Political/Economic Agenda of Modernity (p.81)
10 “Contrary to numerous analyses of globalization seen as a process, Petit claims (through maybe Alain Badiou or, even, Gilles Deleuze) that contemporary global capitalism is an EVENT. Petit states that if we think of globalization as the result of a process, we imply a development and a progression (also temporarily a regression, a crisis), but definitely as something that is progressing and, therefore, we are not capable of understanding the way capitalism functions. In such a situation of global capitalism being a process, we therefore even imply capital emancipation”. Santiago López Petit, La movilización global. Breve tratado para atacar la realidad. Madrid: Traficantes de Sueños, 2009. See in Marina Gržinić: Naked Freedom: A VIDEO IN THREE PARTS; 5 SEQUENCES and 7 TAKES (2010)
11 Tatjana Greif: Wars On Green Fields http://www.reartikulacija.org/?p=1385