By Enda McCaffrey

This monograph examines how social switch and philosophical difficulty within the Nineteen Eighties created the stipulations for the go back of faith to modern French highbrow lifestyles. It highlights a serious conjuncture in fresh French heritage while faith used to be revitalised in French secularism as an expression of person identification.

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70 This identification is an important element in Debray’s argument because it locates reason and religion in a context that is alien to laïcité’s understanding of their mutual exclusivity, but intrinsic to a Catholic theological tradition. Former Pope John Paul II, arguably the most philosophical of recent Pontiffs, wrote extensively on this link. His 1998 encyclical Fides et Ratio is a pivotal document for several reasons. As a precursor to Debray’s report, it addresses the issue of the return of religion from the position of Catholicism.

In his article ‘Indépassable religion’, Eslin charts this shifting religious trajectory. His thesis is that religion, conceived as an event of the past, has been invalidated after the collapse of messianism. The same invalidation, he argues, applies to religion as a future of hope. 36 In its place is a ‘liberalism without frontiers’ which Eslin describes as a postmodern individual spontaneity that can do without tradition, roots, community or institution. Postmodernity, it would appear, has borrowed and nurtured the perception of religion in the 1980s as an expression of a legitimate right ascribed to private interest.

It would be my contention, therefore, that the post 1986 period represented a new departure for religion and religious debate in France. Beyond the historically organic solidarity between democratic politics and religious tolerance, the democratisation of the believer provided a platform from which to voice a legitimate opposition to laïcité. This democratisation did not involve the politicisation of a religious discourse per se. This discourse, as we shall see later in the case of Catholicism, was to assume doctrinal and theological dimensions.

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