Religious Pluralism and Post-national European Democracy: Reflections on the Westphalian Settlement and the Jewish Question

Author: José Casanova

December 2, 2015

This speech, the Laudatio address on the occasion of the bestowal of the Abraham Geiger Award on Dr. Angela Merkel, chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Jose Casanova uses the context of the meaning of “the Jewish question” in modern European history and how it is inextricably intertwined with the dynamics of European state formation and nation building to reflect upon the Westphalian settlement of 1648, which while bringing an end to the religious wars in Europe proved a problematic solution to the challenge of religious pluralism. He argues that the Westphalian settlement implemented throughout continental Europe solved the problem of religious conflict by eliminating religious pluralism through the enforcement of religious homogenization. Modern European nationalism is grounded in the same logic of uniform homogenization as if the imagined community of the nation were a secular translation of the imagined community of the national Christian church. Casanova concludes that the solution for the current system’s failures depends on some form of post-national and post-secular democratic state that offers equal rights and liberties to all citizens—secular as well as religious—and on some model of diverse and pluralist societies that offer free and equitable exercise to all their religious communities, be they Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or other.

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