Published On: Mon, Aug 17th, 2015

Has Secularism, as the new gospel, failed?

Jacob Gelt DekkerIn April 1810, Congress (USA) decreed that postmasters were required to deliver every day of the week, including Sunday—the Sabbath. Church tradition had no place in matters of State! In June 2015, the Supreme Court of the USA ruled that same sex marriage in the entire USA was legal, and legal union could not be withheld from applicants by any State. Secularism prevailed again

The 19th - and 20th -century was the era of nationalism, of the formation of sovereign nation states. All kinds of definitions for sovereign nations sprung up, but some kind of historic, cultural, racial and linguistic commonness within the nation states seemed essential. Secularism, the new ideology, was to produce a new, all-inclusive concept people could identify with, and be seen proudly wearing their new costume. In the process of nation building, symbol politics became most important, such as a National Flag, Code of Arms, National Anthem, National Currency, National soccer club, National team to the Olympic Game etc.

Nation states that had once been occupied by others quickly recovered their suppressed national identity, either revamped and somewhat historically correct, or newly conceived. But new countries, areas and territories, that only existed as a byproduct of the colonizer, were struggling; no national identity ever existed before.

Following the global fashion of nationalism and formation of nation states, most of the Caribbean fragmented into mini- and micro nations, tiny sovereign island states, which were mostly economically not sustainable. The common history of the island states was exactly that what islanders so eagerly discarded, being the byproduct of European trading nations. Hundreds of years of traffic and trade, including human trafficking, formed and shaped the island populations. Their identity was of Europe, Africa, India, China or Latin America, but hardly ever of any of the islands itself. The new gospel of secularism was going to set them free and supply a new identity; at every national holiday liberation was celebrated exuberantly, but soon it became apparent that feelings of national identity remained lame.

Secularism on the islands could not provide sufficient cohesion and identity. It fell short in ritual and celebration of life cycle, in hope and future, in common identity. So instead, the Caribbean became a large breeding ground for religious revival, from Santeria, Second Reformation Christianity (evangelism), Hinduism and Islam.

The new national identity in the Caribbean could easily materialize in the formation of conglomerations of religious nation states. That such formations can be very bloody will not be a surprise to anyone who looks at Africa and the Middle East of today.

By Jacob Gelt Dekker, opinion columnist for Curaça0 Chronicle.

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