It’s that time of year again, and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, greetings of the season and happy holidays!
I found this rather timely post about the nature and giving of presents during Christmastime. Sometimes we should stand back and think about the more important things in life, and more meaningful ways of giving. ‘The present and future of presents’, here (h/t Far Outliers, who’s also on my blogroll).
Also from Far Outliers, I also discovered the blog Europe Endless. The author has two thought-provoking pieces of writing, one from someone else and the other an original commentary.
On democracy and enlightenment. An excerpt:
We anti-foundationalists, however, regard Enlightenment rationalism as an unfortunate attempt to beat religion at religion’s own game – the game of pretending that there is something above and beyond human history that can sit in judgment on that history. We argue that although some cultures are better than others, there are no transcultural criteria of “betterness” that we can appeal to when we say that modern democratic societies are better than feudal societies, or that egalitarian societies are better than racist or sexist ones. We are sure that rule by officials freely elected by literate and well-educated voters is better than rule by priests and kings, but we would not try to demonstrate the truth of this claim to a proponent of theocracy or of monarchy. We suspect that if the study of history cannot convince such a proponent of the falsity of his views, nothing else can do so.
Immigration has become the major test of Europe’s secularism. The increasing presence of Muslim in the public sphere has challenged citizens and governments to define the meaning of secularism. “Super mosques”, honor killings, plural marriage, headscarves, language, etc., test the extent to which religious expression is tolerated. Some are easy to proscribe. Others, like headscarves, can be claimed as important symbols of expression and identity central to Islam, even though the wider public regards them as symbols of liberty undermined. Tensions over Islam show one thing: Europe’s secularism is built on an assumed, internalized Christianity.
Europe’s secularism is what it is … another institution that can only be known in itself. It internalizes religion, rejecting the institutions of faith but institutionalizing its spirit. Freedom may not require religion, but in Europe, they are allies.