Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

Is Secularism Failing?

 by Bennett Gordon

Tags: Spirituality, Politics, Iraq, democracy, Vali Nasr, Speaking of Faith,

The sectarian violence in Iraq has many people wondering, what is wrong with Islam? A better question may be, what is wrong with secularism? International politics professor Vali Nasr pointed out on NPR’s Speaking of Faith that religion is resurgent in Iraq, Israel, India, and the United States. People throughout the world are turning to religion and challenging the separation between church and state. Nasr asks, “Why is secularism sick?”

Part of the problem may lie in the style of democracy that the U.S. tries to export in places like Iraq. “We have a very good system of government,” said Nasr, “but whenever we go abroad we promote and implement a French one.” In U.S. history, there were strong bridges between religion and commerce in organizations like the YMCA or the Rotary Club. The style of democracy the U.S. has tried to export is more centralized and secularized, according to Nasr, more French than American. Ideally, the government would promote a more federalist system, less centralized, encouraging commerce and religion to work together for stability in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.