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Will a disembodied ideology get the better of religion lessons?

A carte blanche from Axel de Baker, professor of the Catholic religion

With the energy of the last chance, the Collective of religion teachers in the official (Cereo) defends religion courses with the deputies sitting in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation who, all political parties included, will soon have to vote on the fate reserved for these courses. The dominant tone that emerges is that they are doomed to disappear sooner or later. But where does this tone come from?

In Europe, since the political and industrial revolutions, the advent of a society emancipated from the religious mentality was and continues to be carried by the feeling that freedom is hampered by religions. It was true and sometimes still is, but true freedom always eludes ideology, whether religious or secular. In the now established context of the separation of state and religions, Christians are in principle better placed to bear witness to the word of Jesus: “the truth will set you free”. They still have to seize the opportunity.

Drifts of “all politics”

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama’s resumption of the Hegelian concept of “the end of history” expressed a triumphal will analogous to that, all things considered, of the secularists who today push to the wheel to suppress the courts. of religions. These secularists were not born lately, but the current political context is more than ever favorable to the advent of the “big night” they expect, where religions would once and for all be confined in the private sphere with prohibition to get out of it. It would therefore be exclusively for the Wallonia-Brussels Federation to ideologically ensure the coexistence of individual students. But how can one believe for a second that the abolition of religious courses would pacify, after so many struggles, the relations between the public power and the citizens? Rather, the “political whole” led to the “age of extremes”, as the historian Hobsbawm called the twentieth century. It is because the “political whole” has great difficulty in maintaining the secular enchantment. Whatever the ways in which people come out of religion, it is also striking to note that they always replace, unless they sink into nihilism, the enchantment lost by an ideology based or on faith in “miracles” “of techno-science, or on faith in finally autonomous Man, or on faith in a sense of History tending towards the homogenization of societies on a globalized basis. An incendiary mixture of the three is often the ideology of those who view the religious mindset as an illusion keeping human beings in infancy. But, at home as elsewhere, a multitude of individuals thus globalized rebel, unable for various reasons to join the “progressive” ranks. In the West, as elsewhere, a gap is widening between the “citizens of the world” and the orphans of anchors based on a transmitted religious mentality. If it claims to be universal, the areligious emancipatory ideal in fact only benefits those whose emotional base and inherited material ease place in a position to constitute the new “elite” on the political, cultural and media levels. However, this “elite” has the tendency, so undemocratic, to impose its views on the face of the world.

Build relationships

From this perspective, maintaining religion classes in public schools, which often educate the least advantaged students, is a question of justice. But above all, it is an appropriate way to allow students to forge transversal links with others of all ages, public institutions and the various associations which maintain the social sense of Man. The challenge is to embody the humanism that we talk about too often without effects.

Of course, the teaching of religions is only one means among others. More generally, without recognition of the public role of religions – a role which naturally finds its place in schools – our ideals resound like cracked cymbals and democracy is denied. Because, despite the upheaval in representations of the world and societies, the considerable influence that their religions continue to exert on Jews, Muslims and many Christian communities in Belgium greatly contributes to the civic spirit.

The terrorism charge

It is important here to wring the necks of those who only see religions from a terrorist angle and who point to Islam as the sole source of the tensions revealed by the persistence of the religious mentality. I can also testify that after each Islamist attack the heads of the most secular schools in Brussels ask religion teachers to moderate the spirits.

Moreover, how can one be surprised that in the historical context briefly described above, part of the populations of the world is turning against the ideological and cultural imperialism of the secularized West? No ideology justifies the massacres of innocent people, but if we were to apply to others the method of suspecting religions on the grounds that those who claim to be sometimes unbalanced, we should pillory business leaders. to the delusional ego, individuals who, unable to sublimate their sexual fantasies, subordinate their vision of Man to it, and transhumanists dreaming of a pied-à-terre on Mars. Behind the ideal that they display, is it not a similar desire for power which animates those who see the future of religions in the neutralization of their social influences? We are all on the same boat, the time is no longer for anathemas, in the short term these societal evolutions seem inevitable although they prevent individuation and disintegrate societies, then reconfigured into identity groups.

A global cultural conflict

I will conclude by recalling that in Belgium a comfortable majority of parents continue to enroll their children in religion classes and that in the majority of European countries, and not least, this course exists without being called into question. Belgium, at least French-speaking Belgium, is an exception here. No doubt this is due to the fact that we see France through the eyes of Chimene. France which – to say the least – is not a model of peaceful coexistence between the State and religious communities. Moreover, in France, where my grandmother, at the school of the Republic, appeared in the last row on the class photos because she had made her communion, chaplaincy services are nevertheless organized for all the children. students. But, if our religion lessons were to disappear, the religious presence at school would be over.

Our society is dominated by an egalitarian, rationalizing, objectifying and quantitative mentality. In this context, it is difficult, even proscribed, to express a truly differentialist, qualitative, subjective and analog religious mentality; a thought that establishes a game of vital correspondences between the microsome – I – and the macrocosm, between heaven and earth in symbolic terms, between me and my fellow human beings. In this vein, the programmed disappearance of religion courses in official education is only one sign among others of a global cultural conflict of which the stakes are immense. Beyond words, it is a question of giving a hold to the meaning of human life, of incarnating its conditions of existence.

>>> The ideas expressed in this article are those of its author.

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