Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Debating religion and society: a paradox

Posted by worriedlebanese on 27/10/2007

religion-faith.jpgI have been doing some research lately on the issue of State and Religion. I was much amazed by the scope of the debate. I’ve been going through French, Anglo-Saxon and Israeli literature on the subject and I realised how rich the discussion was in some states, and how poor it was in the two countries I’m most familiar with, Lebanon and France. In Lebanon, the whole issue seems to be subsumed by the debate over “confessionalism” (existence of several family law statutes governing family law, and allocation of public positions according to confessional belonging) where some people think it’s an absolute evil and others think it’s a necessary evil. In France, the debate is subsumed by the dominant approach of the “Laïcité” (French doctrine on the separation between State and Church), and the delimitation of the sphere where religion can be expressed.
The comparison between the debate in France and the USA is quite interesting because they both uphold very strongly the principle of separation between State and Church. Only their understanding of the principle is not the same, and neither is the degree of religiosity within their society nor the legal framework they have translated their common commitment.
The comparison between Israel and Lebanon is equally interesting because both societies are openly communal and share a similar system of personal law. Only Lebanon sees itself as a secular State and Israel sees itself as a Jewish State. Moreover, there is no dominant confessional denomination in Lebanon (but a power sharing scheme between the six largest groups) while in Israel there is. So one would expect a richer debate in Lebanon than in Israel, which is clearly not the case.

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