Clericalism and secularism in the canton of Fribourg (Switzerland)

About the collusion between the Catholic Church and the State of Fribourg

Diminished, but still very present: clericalism in the style of Fribourg

In 1978, when I was hired as a teacher in a high school in the canton of Fribourg, it was imperative to have an approved denomination, even to teach mathematics. As I had deliberately omitted the religion section of my curriculum vitae, the headmaster demanded that I add it. In 1980, suspected of having links with a sect, a fellow French teacher was dismissed. The state took care of the teachers' private lives to ensure their ideological conformity. A characteristic feature of intolerance is the demonisation of those who do not share the pseudo-truths of the community. In this context, I had to hide my atheism. This is how I was deprived of religious freedom for many years. As the situation evolved only slowly, I never knew when I regained my freedom of belief.

Clericalism has diminished, but it remains very present. Even today, essential measures such as

  • the ecclesiastical tax fixed by law,
  • State funding of the Roman Catholic Faculty of Theology at the State University of Fribourg,
  • the monopoly of the Christian Democratic Party on the Directorate of Public Education and
  • catholic or Reformed religion lessons in public schools.

To this must be added the mentality, heir to a long tradition, which underpins all teaching. An attenuated form of clericalism is the promotion of a humanism based on Christian values. In practice, Christian teachers are allowed to preach the word of God, while others are asked to keep quiet. Feeling assaulted by the plurality of beliefs, the clerical demands that the state be tailored to its faith.

On the contrary, I demand that the rules be the same for everyone. Today, because of the lack of confessional commitment of young people, the clerical system is weakening, but it remains firmly in place. The undivided reign of the conservative party has left us with some beautiful remnants. That it was worse in the past is not enough to justify the current situation. The progress made has served to retain as many denominational privileges as possible that are partially compatible with the evolution of society. If a system is unjust, it is not enough to reduce it; it must be abolished. Current policy must take structural measures to ensure that the mistakes of the past cannot be repeated: it is a matter of moving towards secularism and separating the Church from the State.

Question or objection

Why are atheists against religions? He who does not believe can simply distance himself from religions, without any animosity.

Answer

The absence of faith does not imply the struggle against beliefs. There are atheists who are indifferent or benevolent towards religions. For example, Michel Bavaud published several books to declare his atheism, but continues to go to mass and pay Church tax. On another level, Buddhism and atheism are compatible. Those who did not live in the era when the Church exercised social control are more inclined to indifference. In any case, a distinction must be made between people and doctrines. It is necessary for all atheists to be tolerant and respectful towards believers, just as it is necessary for all believers to be tolerant and respectful towards atheists.

By launching the anathema against the unbelievers :

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. [Mark 16:16]

Christian religions proclaim an arrogant and sectarian attitude.

But doctrines must be subjected to criticism. If my social environment discriminates against me in the name of religion, it leaves me with only two options: to submit or to resist. An environment with a totalitarian tendency incites a brittle tone. A form of defence is expressed by rejection, which is totally different from attack.

Each person has his or her own story. As far as I am concerned,

  • during the period 1948-1968, I lived in Valais where Catholicism was the state religion; I underwent 13 years of indoctrination, of which 5 years were brainwashing; the experience of clericalism made me anticlerical;
  • the pre-Vatican II Catholicism I was taught did not recognise religious freedom and condemned human rights, which led me to reject Catholicism and to approach agnosticism;
  • between 1968 and 1978 I studied mathematics, which contributed to the adoption of a rationalist point of view; the epistemology of the sciences, by highlighting the lack of objective foundations of religions, led me to atheism;
  • from 1978 onwards, in the high school where I taught, I was deprived of religious freedom and forced to hide my atheism even in my private life; an example of the misappropriation of the philosophy course for religious purposes led me to support secularism.

I have suffered the assaults of a society that was trying to maintain old dominant positions, before having to retreat and deploy on new lines that it could defend with less activism and fewer means. I feel I have the right - the same right as that of self-defence - to write that I pass a negative judgement on Catholicism, while respecting Catholics as individuals.

The valiant defenders of the values conveyed by the Church - teachers and political authority combined - the defenders conscientiously prescribed to me what I was to think. If I have received their solicitude with ingratitude, it is because my suffering is neither understood nor recognised. It is the adherence of the schools in Valais and Fribourg to the objective of the Christian state that annihilates the empathy I desire.

Why does society view resistance to religion with a hostile eye when it favours religious indoctrination through a crypto-clerical policy known as "culture based on Christian values"? Other notices must be present in the public square. I call for more benevolence towards atheists.

LA LIBERTÉ (the largest daily newspaper in the canton of Fribourg), Wednesday 27 September 2013, FORUM - YOUR LETTERS - RELIGION. Let us dialogue without judging each other. The new book by the writer Michel Bavaud, "L'Évangile de l'athée" (The Gospel of the Atheist), elicits this testimony from a reader.

JACQUES POCHON, Domdidier
If there is one teacher that I admired and appreciated at the training school for teachers in the canton of Fribourg, for his erudition, his humanism and his open-mindedness, it is Michel Bavaud. I was of course very surprised when I learned that he declared himself an atheist, but knowing his deep faith in man and humanity, it took a deep disillusionment and a long reflection I think for him to take this decision ("LL" of September 21).
I appreciate his frankness, independence of spirit and courage. I deeply respect his decision taken in complete freedom, his personal and independent search for the truth. I myself am a deep believer, but not in this limited and exclusive God that every religion claims to possess.
Thank you to Mr Bavaud for opening the door to intelligent reflection, dialogue and respect for the opinion of others. On the other hand, I do not understand the reaction of those who show "theological harassment" and those who have sent him insulting messages, thereby proving that they have forgotten Christ's message of love.
I myself left the Catholic Church (in 1970) when I discovered the Baha'i faith. It was made clear to me that becoming a Baha'i was incompatible with my profession as a teacher in the canton of Fribourg. Intimidation and mobbing got the better of me, and I went to teach under other skies. This allowed me to discover other horizons and to open my mind to other cultures and religions.
Let us dialogue, let us seek the truth together and we will advance love, unity and civilization. There is not just one path to reach the top. Thank you dear Mr Bavaud.

About the Representations of the Councillors of State of the Canton of Fribourg

On Shrove Thursday, AT THE CONVENT OF THE CORDELIERS YOU WILL EAT

Types of official receptions, use of cantonal flags and banners, order of placement in processions, funerals, wines of honour, official congratulations: the 2011 protocol regulations leave nothing to chance. They are weighed down by the weight of history. For example, according to an 1879 agreement between the Cathedral Chapter of St. Nicholas and the Council of State, the anniversary of the Battle of Murten is traditionally celebrated on the third Sunday in June "with a thanksgiving service offered by the government in St. Nicholas' Cathedral". The town council of Murten, the authorities "based in Freiburg" and representatives of the army "close to Freiburg" are invited to attend. All these people, as well as the "celebrants and preacher", then share a meal. The Cathedral choir and orchestra are joined for the aperitif. There are many provisions governing religious events, and the protocol regulations devote a specific article to relations with convents. At the beginning of the year, the entire Council of State receives the Cistercian community of Hauterive, in principle represented by its father abbot, to present its vows. In autumn, the invitation is returned: the government is received in Hauterive "for a recollection meal", to which its former members are also invited. Once per legislature, the Council of State invites the community to a meal served at the Domaine des Faverges. This lunch is preceded by a liturgical service. On the other hand, the executive is invited to the convent of the Cordeliers for the meal on Shrove Thursday (the last Thursday before the first day of Lent). And in mid-Lent, he is the guest of the Capuchin convent. LR
Source : La Liberté of Wednesday 13 July 2016

Religious majority

In Switzerland, the legal religious majority has been set at 16 years of age. From this age, the pupil can decide for himself whether he wants to submit to religious indoctrination, but he is not always asked for his opinion, which makes the following actions, numbered 1, 2, and 3, completely illegal.

1. An example of the misappropriation of the philosophy course for religious purposes

Under the pretext that the foundations of philosophy must be carefully laid, with an emphasis on Greek Antiquity, a roundabout method consists of dwelling on Aristotle, emphasising first and foremost the features of his thought that were taken up by Saint Thomas Aquinas and which form the backbone of neo-Thomism.

«Philosophy fell on me, at the age when one is not wary, at the age when one fears above all mumps. It fell upon me in forced doses of Thomism, hours and hours of a weekly catechism. After having undergone Saint Thomas Aquinas, I acquired a definitive conviction: one cannot be both a saint and a philosopher at the same time, one must choose one's side, reflection or faith.»

Jean Ammann, La Liberté of August 19, 2017, Can philosophers be forgiven ?

"Philosophy" instrumentalized by religion is not philosophy, but propaganda. One of its tendentious aims is to "dispose your heart so that God will give it to believe". In a high school in the canton of Fribourg where I taught, the philosophy course was given, from 1977 onwards, by a priest who was zealous for truth: it was there that the future bishop passed the torch of Thomism to the pupil who was to succeed him in the bishopric. This indoctrination, presented as neutral and state-sponsored, was imposed on entire classes until 1994. When the label does not correspond to the content, one can speak of deception. This hypocritical situation made me a supporter of secularism. Let's stop fuelling the misuse of the state in favour of a Church.

I tried to say that I saw a drift in it. The teachers concerned replied that I was not qualified to talk about philosophy. I see there the admission that it is a reserved area. Being less sectarian, I allow them to talk about mathematics.

Can one charitably hope that today philosophy is taught in a neutral way, and that one has given up putting it at the service of a religion ?

2. An example of the misappropriation of theme days for religious purposes

3. Computer interlude

The high school computer technician finished all his e-mails as follows (the excerpt is from 2008):

IT does not save, but helps - when everything works - in our daily tasks!
This is better: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." (The Bible - Ephesians 2:8)

Let's be clear: the proselytizing and propagandistic actions of a civil servant who wants to reconcile computer science and theology may be anecdotal. I see a much more serious problem in the fact that the social environment and the authority consider this behaviour acceptable and normal, even if it is publicly displayed for five years.

It would be impertinent to respond to a homily. The Catholic Church has been able to create a cultural climate in which victims are agreeing. The good shepherd obtains from his flock a submissive attitude.

A mocking or scornful article in La Liberté

The book review of Michel Bavaud " The Gospel of the Atheist", éditions de l'Aire, 2013, published in La Liberté of Saturday 21 September 2013 and signed Pascal Fleury, ends with these mocking or scornful words:

... we are waiting for the third volume of the trilogy. Its title would be quite obvious: "How I regained faith".

Would it be a good tone to make fun, not only of atheism, but also of atheists? Is La Liberté the newspaper of all the people of Fribourg, or only of those who conform to a certain religious tradition ? One can be critical of beliefs, convictions and doctrines - and I would even say that one must - but one principle must be absolutely respected: people are entitled to respect.

The clerical regime in Fribourg has left its mark on the brains of some journalists. It is a question of discrediting atheism, of showing that it is devoid of consistency, while faith remains the only sure value.

The media readily relay religious and inter-religious discourse, but are reluctant to treat areligious or anti-religious statements in the same way. In Switzerland, about 26 % of the population is without religion. Why is it given so little consideration in the press? I will leave you to reflect on the following point: there are more people without religion than there are Muslims, but the press avoids making them credible and visible. Faith has the advantage of protecting people from doubt.

The Swiss CVP (Christian Democratic Party) has been in decline for several years. The C (Christian) is perceived as an obstacle by many city dwellers. In 2020, the party changed its name to "The Centre" in order to reach a wider electorate, but without changing its policy. The party continues to push the cantons to support the Christian Churches with the church tax and to promote Christian religious education in public schools.

Politics and religion should not be mixed. "Religious parties should be replaced by secular parties." This advice given to Muslim countries also applies to the canton of Fribourg. Switzerland does not need a party that wants to maintain the remnants of clericalism.

Grand Council of the Canton of Fribourg
The debates of the Great Council of the Canton of Fribourg remain under the sign of the crucifix [photo 2017].

Call

If, for a Catholic, being a missionary is a moral duty, it is not the same outside the religious community: indoctrinating one's fellow citizens and their children is not a right. I appeal to the supporters of clericalism: practice your religion as you wish, but please leave others alone! The Kulturkampf ended in 1887 (to compensate for their loss of influence on the Federal Constitution, the Catholic cantons stepped up their counter-reform efforts), so you can stop fighting and return to civilian life. Thank you to all the brave!

Perhaps an organisation should be set up to help people with religious obsessions?

If you want to give back to God what you think is God's, don't forget to give back to Caesar what is Caesar's!

What is the role of the state?

Let's set up the elements of the decor: crucifixes are hung in the classrooms and the Council of State has an official place in the Corpus Christi procession. Businesses are subject to church tax, and all taxpayers contribute to the financing, through ordinary taxes, of the Roman Catholic Faculty of Theology.

Does the State consider agnostics and those who are indifferent to religion to be lost sheep that it should, if possible, bring back into the right flock? When Christians proclaim their hope that the coming century will become religious again, do they hope to revive indoctrination? Just as there is a reason of state, can we invoke a reason of Church that prevails over respect for people? Do we live in a crypto-confessional state, i.e. non-confessional in its statements and appearance, but confessional in its interior and functioning? Do supporters of a residual clericalism give their support to Muslims who, in their respective countries, demand that the state be religious?
On the contrary, I believe that the State, not being the arbiter of religious truth, must welcome all citizens in the same way, without making differences, whether they are Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, without religion or others. Consequently, it cannot take sides with particular communities, for example by proclaiming itself Christian or declaring that certain religions are entitled to a privileged status.
In order to maintain their political majority, will supporters of residual clericalism ally themselves with certain religious minorities? Will Pentecostals? Muslims? Buddhists? Scientologists? Raelians be given official status? In Great Britain and Greece, the recognition of religious communities has swollen to the point of giving legal status to Islamic courts.

In my opinion, the state should not support certain religious communities. In order to promote civil peace, the state should mitigate the division of society into religious communities through a restrictive policy of favours. It must demonstrate, including in public education, its neutrality with regard to beliefs.

Religion cannot be indicated on identity cards because of the risk of discrimination. Similarly, it should not appear on any administrative documents, including those relating to taxes. For example, the Constitution of Spain, in its Article 16.2, states

No one may be forced to declare his or her ideology, religion or beliefs.

In the canton of Fribourg, the state collects and registers the lists of Catholics, Protestants and Jews! I am astonished not to hear those who want the state to do less, protesting against the recording of this sensitive data. The heading "religion" must disappear from the Fribourg tax declaration.

"Do not mix politics and religion" being a universal recommendation, Westerners cannot only address it to Muslim countries. Church and State must be completely separated throughout Switzerland, following the example of the cantons of Geneva and Neuchâtel. I refuse to allow part of my taxes to be used to support Vatican propaganda.

It is accepted that the school is not politically engaged. The same should be true in religious matters. Instead of focusing on shaping the minds of students by encouraging the dissemination of myths and fables that do not hold water, the Directorate of Public Education would do better to develop the ability to step back and learn critical thinking. Some rudiments of epistemology would highlight the distinction between ideology and objective knowledge. One could become aware that universal truth does not exist and, for example, compare various religions and ideologies from the point of view of respect for human rights. The status of women may be the result of a power struggle in which religion has been instrumentalized. Young people do not need an institution that thinks for them, but to acquire tools of analysis. A framework of thought should be a springboard, not a limit. Since everyone is confronted with various ideologies, many of which are toxic, it would be better to give the student some sort of plumb line to guide his or her judgement rather than asking him or her to accept the first ideology or religion that comes along.

"Critical thinking" is recognised as one of the key competencies of the 21st century by the OECD, particularly in dealing with the wealth of information available in the digital world.

The development of critical thinking is beginning to be introduced as such in teaching. Courses are being given to identify aberrant theories, prevent adherence to irrational ideologies and guard against all the excesses linked to false information: conformism, stereotypes, unfounded beliefs such as astrology, ufology, conspiracy, climate scepticism, homeopathy, catastrophism, etc. And, in a secular society, we can also mention life after death: it is a belief, not an established fact.

Various means can be used, such as verification of sources, elements of reasoning and detection of fallacious arguments, all applied to concrete cases such as certain rumours circulating on social networks:

Nicolas Gauvrit et Sylvain Delouvée
Des têtes bien faites, défense de l'esprit critique
Presses Universitaires de France (PUF) 2019

But in the canton of Fribourg, they prefer to teach philosophy filtered through the Catholic catechism.

Recognising religious communities

In 2015, New Zealand allowed the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to perform marriages, as this Church meets the criteria required by law. Followers wear colanders on their heads to parody religions. In 2016, pastafarianism is administratively recognised as a religion in the Netherlands.

Wouldn't it be more reasonable for the State not to recognise any religion as official? If not, I ask that

also become official religions of the Canton of Fribourg.

About the Swiss Islam and Society Centre, Fribourg

The right constitution

For Kant, in Critique of pure Reason, the just constitution is the one that gives the greatest possible freedom to individuals.
For the partisan of a residual clericalism, would the just constitution be the one that incites individuals to save their souls, with the help of the Church?

Since the Church carries out social work that is not provided by the State, church tax is necessary.

The separation of Church and State concerns several issues, among which the financing of the official Churches through church tax is a prominent one. This separation is feasible since two cantons have achieved it: Geneva and Neuchâtel. In hospitals, prisons and centres for asylum seekers, the doors of these establishments can be opened to outside contributors in order to respond to requests. Any remuneration of external actors must be borne by those who call upon them and the communities that support them. As for charities, the State should favour those that are apolitical and non-religious so that the aid provided is not linked to propaganda, even if it is light or indirect. Public social assistance will be adapted and, if necessary, strengthened. It may not be distributed among religious organisations, as the latter do not cover the entire population.

As the Church is not a public service, it should not be financed as such.

Secularism is not the solution. Look at what is happening in France, for example.

This is a mistaken analysis. Secularism makes it possible to live together in good harmony. Unfortunately, some people reject it and oppose it with all their might, including violence. This is the problem.

Do not accuse secularism when it is a question of religious aberrations.

I have suffered the abuses of the religious policies of the cantons of Valais and Fribourg. This is proof that the legislation granting substantial privileges to recognised (not to say official) religions is deficient. It is necessary to give it a secular framework.

Religious practice is in freefall and religiosity is declining. Courage: we are moving towards a society where the role of religion will be negligible.

Religious sensitivity is a turn of mind built on personal dispositions, reinforced and supported by education in a cultural environment imbued with religiosity. Remove social pressure and much of it will evaporate.

For many people who have reached retirement age, religion is seen as the pillar that sustains society. This is no longer the case for young people who see religion as a strictly personal matter. It can be predicted that within a generation, the secular nature of the state will become established and separation from the church will be achieved, including in the cantons of Fribourg and Valais. There are already tangible political signs: some sections of the Socialist Youth and the Liberal-Radical Youth are making such demands. Unfortunately for them, the Swiss method - the so-called consensus method - is not to abolish clericalism, but to wait until the system falls into disuse. Resistance to religious indoctrination, mainly in the passive form, is ongoing.

We should not jump to conclusions. In ordinary human functioning, intelligence is put at the service of feelings, among which we must count fear and religiosity. When faith burns, reason capitulates and subordinates itself to it with zeal and application. This is why religions will not pass.

The evolution of the Muslim world in recent decades provides us with a sad example of a return to fundamentalism. The course of history is not linear. For example, Turkey is moving away from secularism and wants to give a more important role to Islam. Societies are not only transformed by adaptation, but also by resistance to change. We are then reduced to containing religious movements so that they do not become invasive again.

At present, the fragmentation of society into separate religious communities is growing, which should stimulate our vigilance. The only bulwark against a return to the past is the secularism of the state and the school. There will be no end to the struggle against those who want all citizens to live in a society with a privileged religious faith: the minority need only adapt. I have another conception of democracy in which minorities are respected.

Anti-clericalism is a rearguard struggle

It was a rearguard education, imposed in the name of "true faith", that aroused my resistance to religious indoctrination. What is non-retrogressive education?
In political matters, I am campaigning for the state to abolish the privileges granted to certain religious communities, such as the right to levy an ecclesiastical tax, to have a confessional window in public education, to contribute to the maintenance of the theological faculties, etc. The state does not have to interfere in the religious life of citizens. Resisting the residues of clericalism remains as relevant as ever!

In 2014, the launch of the popular initiative "For a secular Valais" shows that the issue is on the political agenda. In order to succeed, the initiative had to collect 6'000 signatures in one year. As it only collected 2'000, it was withdrawn. In my opinion, in the future, the separation of church and state will become a struggle throughout Switzerland.

The situation is not so bad. The canton has, for the most part, already abandoned clericalism.

I do not understand how this argument would exonerate the State and allow the Church to maintain a status that remains privileged.

When you say "It's not like that anymore", you have to understand that it's not like when the Catholic lobby put the State at its service. We have left those times, but not completely. The evolution of the canton is effective, but the credit for it does not go to the Church, who reluctantly underwent it.

Today, in 2019, I am 71 years old. What do I do with the phrase "It's not like that anymore"? Are you offering me the opportunity to relive my life in better conditions? And in the history of the canton of Fribourg, what period in the history of the canton of Fribourg should I ignore? And in the history of Christianity? The simple attenuation of clericalism does not satisfy me.

A problem that we consider to be solved may turn out to be one that we want to conceal, consciously or through lack of attention. But no, it is far from over; there are still some nice leftovers: the church tax, the state financing of the Faculty of Theology, the privileges granted to Christianity in education, crosses in public buildings and schools, etc. It is clever of Catholic activists to spread and make people accept the idea that "It's all over", because this defuses all protest, since there is nothing to protest against. We do not want to see that, despite the improvements that have taken place, the weight of religion remains important, including in the functioning of the state. One does not respond to obvious abuses by simply mitigating the biggest ones, leaving in place the whole system that produces them and keeping clericalism to the maximum that social constraints allow.

Whoever adheres to the faith taught is fulfilled by it. If what is asked of us corresponds to our desire, the process is carried out in serenity. Unfortunately, the heaviest aspect of the teaching I have received is the pretension of reigning over the conscience of others. It is then necessary to make an effort to imagine the discomfort of one who must, in conscience, refuse the proposed faith.

Only a few events whose veracity is difficult to dispute have been reported here. The situation would appear much more damning if it were possible to examine the underwater part of the iceberg. Among teachers, for example, there are relatively more openly Christian teachers than among the rest of the population. One explanation could be that when I was hired as a teacher of mathematics and physics at a public college, I was required to add the heading "religion" to my curriculum vitae. It would seem that the label "committed Christian" makes it easier to get a teaching position. The time of the state as a great supporter and sponsor of religion is far from over! Why in the Council of State is the Christian Democratic Party so keen to run the Department of Public Education?

Among the teachers, there are bound to be supporters of secularism at school in the manner of the cantons of Geneva and Neuchâtel. Why don't they dare to express themselves? I put the question to colleagues, who replied: "You have been appointed to a single school on a full-time basis for a long time. My situation is much more fragile". They are thus following the path chosen by society: waiting silently for the changing mores to reduce the role of religion even further.

In the mouths of those nostalgic for the past, I have the impression that the expression "it's not like it used to be" means "what remains of the state's support for Christianity must be maintained". It is true that society has partly freed itself from the weight of the church, but in a heterogeneous way. For example, while the newspaper La Liberté emancipated itself from religious tutelage, public education remained under the influence. The canton of Fribourg remains far removed from secularism. That it was worse in the past does not excuse the current situation, and important progress remains to be made. I do not agree with those who think that, since things are better than before, we must bravely support the tools of clericalism that have survived. Who will be the François Gross of the Directorate of Public Education, Culture and Sport, capable of resisting the Catholic lobby?

Behind the denial of the problem lies something deeper, which calls into question the Church's credit, because discrimination has been practised in the name of defending religion. When one takes advantage of an ideology revealed by God, it is not enough to declare "We don't do that any more" to clear oneself, because what is at issue is that clerical political practices, even today watered down, do not seem to have been inspired by a respectful, just and good God. The past tells us about the true nature of the Church.

Excuse me for telling you like this, but to spend so much time and energy talking about religion, or against religion, you really have to have a problem, don't you?

The texts on my site relating to religion represent, in quantity, less than one thousandth of the Catholic indoctrination I received over thirteen years. Fortunately, I am not trying to restore a fair balance! I did this work to resist. Writing clarifies thought, gives it the coherence that takes it out of confused perception.

Most importantly, I feel much better now that some of the nonsense that the school had instilled in me has been removed from my head. In a secular state, the exercise I have been doing would be pointless. It's society that has a problem!

Your site is very interesting and well argued. I agree with many points. However, I think that religious indoctrination should not be confused with belief in God. It is the extremes that are wrong. I am a deist and I believe in certain things, however, I remain rational and develop my critical mind. It is not comparable to fanaticism, for example. Believing can make sense, it is simply a different perception of things. Existence or non-existence of God, neither of these two alternatives should be posed as a truth, because deep down nobody will know the truth on the subject :)

There is no confusion since the two subjects, indoctrination and beliefs, are developed and justified independently, with specific arguments.

For me, the important thing is that no authority - be it family, school, State or Church - should catch us in the net of a religious ideology. Everyone must remain free in their choices in spiritual matters. As such, even if it differs from mine, I can only respect and encourage your approach. On the other hand, I distance myself from all those who claim to submit to a Church or any other form of religious authority: the centre of decision is, and must remain, one's personal conscience.

I agree with you that the existence of a Creator is a matter outside the scope of our knowledge. However, in my life experience, clericalism mixes everything up and puts its opponents on the defensive. Since the conservative party is based on faith, it incites its critics to make a critical analysis of religion. I am convinced that a God who points his finger at every man and says, "I will judge you and if my scales are tipped the wrong way, you will be put in a torture chamber" is a belief to be rejected, but I accept other opinions without any problem.

To the defenders of an orthodoxy, I prefer those who demonstrate their intellectual autonomy by freeing themselves from religious tutelage, because this changes everything as regards the claim to reign over the conscience of others. This is the sign of success that I applaud, whatever personal path one chooses.

Where are the intellectuals of Fribourg?

The queen of science has gone from theology in the Middle Ages to economics today. Like the Fribourg radicals who have changed sides (yesterday's anticlericals now support the residues of clericalism), intellectuals have little criticism to make of the clerical regime. Are they satisfied with a simple attenuation of clericalism or are they usurping their title as intellectuals? For those who are concerned about their careers, the opportunism of those who know where the places of power are is more profitable than the critical spirit. To be recited piously every day: "Religion, Catholicism in particular, is an excellent thing to support. Vote for the church tax and give public funding to the Roman Catholic theological faculty".

Why do the many advocates of less state intervention exclude religion from the scope of their principles?

The new generation looks better. In Switzerland, certain sections of the young radicals and young socialists have taken a clear stance in favour of secularism. But their elders are urging them to mute it.

How did you experience the events of May 1968?

At that time, I was 20 years old, I was still in boarding school, and I only saw a few rare images of the events of May 1968 that were reported by the newspapers during the weekends. The "Nouvelliste et Feuille d'avis du Valais" (the largest newspaper in the canton of Valais) discredited and misinformed the movement. I was effectively kept away from all "subversive ideas" and indoctrinated against all non-Catholic ideologies. It was only much later that I understood what had happened. The events of May 1968 - a revolt against social control - were only the scum of a profound change in society. The motto "Don't coerce more than necessary" changed the distribution of power throughout the Western world. To understand the evolution, one has to know the state of society before 1968.

I am always amazed to hear women say the word "May 1968 supporter" in a contemptuous tone when at that time they did not even have the right to vote. In the Catholic cantons, the good old days are the good old days of true values: the wife had to obey her husband and the children had to go to Sunday mass under the guidance of their teacher. By today's standards, the institutions of family, school, employers, church and state curtailed individual freedoms and commonly practised abuse of authority. For example, the law prohibited cohabitation of unmarried couples. It may be instructive to study the role of certain public schools, such as the teacher training college in the canton of Valais.

Christian humanism

Christian humanism is a misleading expression: the human side is used as a diversion. It is in fact a theological vision of man in which God is at the centre, a kind of theocracy, draped in democracy, in which the clergy is the guide for the action of the state. That is how I was taught at the teacher training college in the canton of Valais, in the name of the social encyclicals of the Church that we read in class, that the worst enemy of humanity is socialism, and that every true Christian has a moral duty to vote for a Christian party, i.e. for the Christian Democrat party.

Whereas Christian humanism is a city built around a cathedral and a Catholic theological faculty under the patronage of a clerical state, all surrounded by the rampart of Greek and Latin culture, true humanism places the public square, human rights, democracy and secular culture at the centre.

I am wary of humanisms that have a vision of a tomorrow that sings, whether in this world or in another. True humanism refuses to subordinate itself to any religion, otherwise it loses its quality of humanism. Humanism consists in reinforcing the primacy of man over all ideologies that demand submission to other values.

The good side of clericalism

What has ignited in me the critical spirit and pushed me to go and see what is behind the façades of the Church? What is the trigger that saved me from having to align my thoughts with those of the official ideologues of service? Thank you clericalism!

Religion should remain a private matter. In society, only behaviour matters: let's flee from doctrinaire and intolerant people, as well as from all believers who practice proselytism!

State support for certain religious communities promotes the fragmentation of society into distinct communities.

I do not consider that an ideal society should be religiously homogeneous. We know that civilisations are deadly, but it is to be hoped that humanity is relatively sustainable. Just as biodiversity gives nature the capacity to adapt to changing conditions, cultural and religious diversity gives humanity more resources to face the uncertainties of the future, provided that religious wars and all forms of extremism, radicalism, totalitarianism, state-organised indoctrination, official religion, privileges granted to certain religious communities, etc. are avoided. In order to protect society from the inevitable excesses, the right method is to contain religion in the private sphere and to keep the state religiously neutral.

Unfortunately, the Catholic cantons consider religion to be a matter of state.

While the number of Muslims is increasing in Switzerland, the number of practising Christians is in free fall. I see this as a danger to our western culture. To counter it, we must undertake a serious re-Christianization of Western society.

Christians and Muslims should not be separated into two separate communities, each with its own culture, religion and schools. Each community must avoid investing its energy in indoctrinating its members, coercing their behaviour and promoting proselytism, the aim being to convert the lukewarm and bring them back to the "right path". This is an effective means of generating conflict and intolerance. To find out what happens next, all you need to do is open a history book. Since the Enlightenment, our Western culture has been fighting against these abuses. We must see it as a break with the previous world dominated by religion and authoritarianism. Since then, culture has had the right to a secular space, and every person has the right to religious freedom. Christians, atheists, Muslims, Buddhists and others must blend into the same secular society. In order to avoid deepening confessional divisions, the state must remain neutral by refraining from intervening, without formalising certain Churches or supporting certain communities.

Today, Swiss public schools must cease to be places of religious propaganda. Just as one does not combat the plague by spreading cholera, it is counterproductive to counter one religion by developing another. It is not the Church that must be put back in the centre of the village, but man and the forum.

We want to be characterised by values that are more open and universal than the cult of credulity within a communitarian framework, namely human rights, democracy, respect for minorities, tolerance and secularism. The Western culture to be defended is precisely there.

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