“Genius of France”, by Abdennour Bidar: for a mystical secularism

Book. The title is daring, the subject removed. At a time when questioning the identity of France may seem obsolete or even tendentious, Abdennour Bidar intends to show the urgency of such reflection. Accustomed to religious or spiritual questions (self-islamThreshold, 2006; Spiritual revolution!Almora, 2021), the philosopher prefers, however, to the term “identity” – which suggests something fixed – the more dynamic term “genius”.

In what does this French genius consist? For the author, it is above all “a genius who says no” – libertarian, protesting and disobedient. And to recall that the etymology of the word “France” is that of free in English: it is rooted in the very idea of ​​freedom. This “profaning spirit” attacks with a particular predilection for the sacred. The religious sacred, first. From Philippe IV le Bel to the XIVand century, in open conflict with Pope Boniface VIII, the whole French gesture is marked by this hostility towards the authority supposed to emanate from the religious.

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However, asks Abdennour Bidar, “Has France said no to religious sacredness only to say yes to political sacredness? » From the deification of the Sun King to the Republic by divine right, a transfer of sacredness seems to have occurred. Chase away the sacred, is it coming back at a gallop? Not so sure, analyzes the specialist in secularism, who sees in the 1905 law of separation of Churches and State a major turning point: “Secularism consecrates, without pun intended, the French spirit of insubordination to all sacred power, whether religious or political. »

From monotheistic iconoclasm to secular iconoclasm

The consequences are dizzying: by placing the citizen before a full and complete freedom of choice in the spiritual domain, “everyone finds himself endowed with the entire metaphysical and social responsibility to give his life the fundamental meaning he wants”. This is why, continues the essayist, “secularism is addressed in us as much to the political animal as to the metaphysical animal”.

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Better: over a long development whose lyricism will be able to disconcert readers accustomed to purely legal analyzes of the system of separation between Churches and States, Abdennour Bidar believes that secularism completes the revolution initiated by the founders of the three monotheistic religions. For if Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad set out to break idols, “secular iconoclasm, by freeing men from any form of imposed sacredness, from any ideology, totally opens up the relationship to the sacred”. “Our secularism, he notes, thus appears as the final gesture by which the inaugural gesture of our long monotheistic tradition is accomplished”.

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“Genius of France”, by Abdennour Bidar: for a mystical secularism

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