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Conference Leading culture Humanism and Enlightenment: Perspectives of secular politics in Germany

Open conference on October 2 and 3, 2005 in Cologne within IBKA's general assembly together with the Giordano-Bruno-Stiftung (Giordano Bruno Foundation) and bfg Munich


While conservative politicians claim a christian-patriotic leading culture ("Values of the Christian occident") and sometimes call to the arms against "godless and unpatriotic fellows" others are dreaming of the "multi-cultural society" including a "naturalization of Islam". But neither the conservative reanimation of the idea of a "Christian fortress Europe" nor the postmodern appeasement politics towards religious and esoteric tendencies will promote the project of an "open society".

Theoretically it should be known that we have nearly no other choice than to bet on that "suppressed leading culture" , the leading culture of humanism and Enlightenment that was firmly tied to the historical progress of societies. But the politcal establishment is far from seeing this. On the one hand all the great successes of the modern age are due to the tradition of the Enlightenment (technical know-how, a state being founded on the rules of the law, freedom of speech, etc.). On the other hand the Enlightenment still is an "underground movement". Millions of people turned their back to the religions in Germany but in politics and in the media they are enormously underrepresented. Today some 32 % of the Germans don't belong to any religious confession and some 50% say they are "not religious" but neither politicians nor the media take very much notice of that.

But what could be done to enforce the enlightening, humanist thinking in social debates? This perspectival question will be in the centre of IBKA's and Giordano Bruno Foundation's open conference "Leading culture Humanism and Enlightenment". We will discuss topics like "Limits of religious freedom", "Leading culture Humanism and Enlightenment", integrations of migrants and the problem of Islamism", "missionary work in the east" or "philosophical and religious neutrality of the state?" We will also discuss whether it could help to found a "central council of the confessionless", as Giordano Bruno Foundation recently proposed, to enforce the lobbying for the interests of confessionless people in Germany.


Sunday, October 2, 2005

14:00 The conference begins - Introduction (Room "Barcelona")

14:30 - 16:00 Three parallel working groups with experts in different rooms

Limits of religious freedom (Moderation: Dr Gerhard Czermak)

State and religion in Germany (Expert: Prof Dr Dr Eric Hilgendorf, Würzburg University)

Prof Dr Armin Pfahl-Traughber, Fachhochschule des Bundes: The fundamentalist character of religions and the necessary limits of religious freedom illustrated in Christianity and Islam

Migration, Integration and Religions (Moderation: Gunnar Schedel)

Via Religion to Integration? (Expert: Dr Steffen Rink (REMID))

On Empowerment, Integration and the state's policy on religions (Expert: Dr habil Waldemar Vogelsang, Trier University)

Imported puritanism, immigration and religion illustrated via a Baptist parish of immigrants from Russia (Expert: Frank Welker, Trier University)

"Leading culture Humanism and Enlightenment" or "philosophical and religious neutrality of the state?" (Moderation: Dr Wolfgang Proske)

Pleading for a humanist - enlightened leading culture or why the philosophically and religiously neutral state is fiction (Expert: Dr Michael Schmidt-Salomon)

Humanism as third denomination (Expert: Dr Horst Groschopp, HVD)

May the state take an active part in teaching values? (Expert: Werner Schulz, HVD)

16:00 Coffee break in the Bistro

16:30 - 18:30 The working groups continue their work

  • Proposals for the future work

18:30 - 21:30 Dinner (warm)

19:30 - 21:30 Public event in "Barcelona"

Forced marriage and honor killings of female migrants in Germany as an example for parallel societies

Introduction + documentary film + discussion with Collin Schubert (Terre Des Femmes)

Afterwards: Party in the Bistro

Monday, October 3, 2005 (public holiday in Germany)

08:30 Breakfast

Room "Barcelona"

09:00 - 11:00

Reports from Sunday's working groups and general discussion

11:15 - 12:45

Panel discussion "Confessionless of all German states, unite!?"

Debate on the proposed founding of a "central council of confessionless" in Germany (Moderation: Gunnar Schedel)

Invited representatives of secular organizations who will take part in the discussion: Dr Michael Schmidt-Salomon (Giordano Bruno Foundation), Dr Horst Groschopp (HVD), Gerhard Rampp (bfg Augsburg, Rudolf Ladwig (IBKA)

12:45 Lunch (warm)

14:00 End of the conference

16:00 Freidenkerzentrum, Bayenstr. 11, Cologne

Event of the Freethinker's federation (no further information currently available)

Working groups of the open conference

Working group: Limits of religious freedom

The religious freedom is part of the vested human rights of individual and collective stupidity. As it is well known, there is no end to human stupidity and it is not up to the state to judge the stupidities. And therefore some religious representatives that the laws of the several religions should have a higher rank than the individual's basic rights, without any restrictions. Others have a look at the multitude of all the offers in ideology and hop on relativism. Does really nothing matter even when some religious communities claim that their definition of truth has to be recognized by all? Is the state just a neutral referee and is it really neutrality? Or is the "partnership" with the two large Christian confessions already an example for the occupation by religious symbols and religious contents? May a state even support these organizations by privileges and special rights which will restrict basic rights?

The right of religious freedom is a basic right, so what are the legal limits for religions? In which cases will the legitimate practising of religions restrict other persons' rights? Are the basic rights for members of religions granted? Does every community accept democracy? Can religious laws break general laws? How far are women concerned by ludicrous or criminal religious norms? How can children of members of religious communities be protected against legal guardians who want to exclude them from an influence from the outside? How do we recognize when normal practising a religion will turn into an essay to force their own rules on the whole country? Is there a collective right of religious communities to educate their members' children? Are the groups even entitled to replace governmental education with an education by the religious community ("homeschooling")? Which practices of religious communities are illegal? What can we answer if the religious communities say that criticizing their practices is meddling in their inner affairs? How can we deal with groups who act as a group on the basis of religious freedom but who don't allow their members to criticize or leave the group? What can we do when a member of a religious community will e.g. be threatened with murder just because he wants to join a competing religious community? How long can we tolerate the intolerant? Do we need consumer's protection for religions - far from the commentaries you will hear from professional watchers who are part of competing religions?

Prof Dr Dr Eric Hilgendorf

State and religion in Germany

In the statement "state and religion in Germany" the legal conditions that limit and control religious communities in Germany will be presented. Traditionally this is called "Staatskirchenrecht". But nowadays this term is no longer valid as we now have a multicultural patchwork of religions. Some examples will show some problems that exist today in the relationship of state and religion.

Prof Eric Hilgendorf teaches criminal law, code of criminal procedure, information law and computer science law. He studied philosophy, newer history and law in Tübingen. In his master's dissertation he wrote about the development of the parlamentarian freedom of speech. Since 2001 Prof Hilgendorf has held the chair for criminal law, code of criminal procedure, information law and computer science law at Würzburg University.

Further topics and speakers are:

Prof Dr Armin Pfahl-Traughber

The fundamentalist character of religions and the necessary limits of religious freedom shown at the examples of Christianity and Islam.

Moderation: Dr Gerhard Czermak

Working group: Migration, Integration and Religion

De facto Germany is an immigration country. During the last 40 years several millions of "guest workers", refugees, emigrants from Poland, Russia etc. have come to Germany, carrying their religion on their backs. Those in power accept more and more the offers of religious communities for a better integration of the immigrants. The Islamic education as offered by several German states is an example as well as it is the money the Central Committee of the Jews gets for its care of the immigrated jews from Russia. This means that all people who come out of one area or who belong to the same community are made part of a religious communtiy without being asked. On the other hand they move the integration problem from the individual person to the organization. Here they ignore the fact that large parts of the newcomers are not religious as well as the question whether (e.g.) a Turkish teenager will or will not be more integrated if he gets two hours religious education a week.

In the working group "Migration, Integration and Religion" we will have a look at the religious offers supported by the state. How much do they contribute to the integration of muslims and are they covered "missionary work" (as people will just because of their origin be seen and treated as a part of a religious community). Here it will be examined in which parts of the society one can accept or even support the living up of a religious identity because it helps to integrate or where it will collide with the claim of a secular society.

One part of the debate will be the term "parallel society". This describes a real problem: the claim of certain groups to live in a subculture according to their "own law". In this subculture central human rights are - be it because of tradition or because of religion - not respected. In the actual discussion no one reflects that the people are willing to integrate themselves but they realize that they are excluded. Therefore this term can easily be used to restrict the civil rights of the migrants living in a "parallel society" (no matter whether they do really live there or not).

During the discussion we will reflect the secular integration models resp. the difficulties in this part of politics as all secular unions have only some members who are migrants.

Possible questions


How many migrants are religious when they come to Germany, does their attitude towards religion change (are they still religious, will they turn secular) and how can one interprete this result?

Is anything known about the acceptance of "their" religion within state and society and whether it is important for the migrants concerning their integration and their willingness to integrate?

Are there immigrant groups with parallel societies and what's the role of their religion concerning the parallel societies?

What do non religious immigrants from the same cultural environment think about parallel societies with a religious touch?

Which forms of religious practise could promote integration? Which forms could promote integration but get into conflict with the claims of a secular society? Which forms will be a problem according to the rules of a secular society?


What's the russian immigrants religious identity?

How far are the russian immigrants (first, second generation) integrated in Germany and what had their religion to do with it?

Paper of the Libertäres Forum

A1: at the moment religious parallel societies are no danger for the "normal majority" but for here living migrants who don't want to submit to religious conditions; they are forced to submit and if they don't obey they will be threatened

A2: as the Germans are normally not very willing to accept them secular migrants often can only live in "their" milieu and therefore they have to submit to the ruling religious norms

A3: the progress of the secularisation has to be accompanied by the development of a "capability to be an outsider / stranger" and offers for migrants to take part.

B1: if one tries to "integrate" via supporting and granting privileges to religious communities this will not only put the collective's right over the individual's right but is just a mean to control the people via their organizations. You really don't improve the concerned people's lives. In the end you don't succeed in integrating the individuals into the society but into an allocated religious community.

B2: Sometimes they say that this could be a way to create a "Euro-Islam". They don't see realize that religions only change via long debates with the surrounding society. But this will only happen if the religious individuals can take part in this society and if they can "develop". This means that if the parallel society dissolves a softened Islam could develop itself. It is untrue that the parallel societies will dissolve if there exists a "Euro-Islam" because one supported some associations that run mosques.

B3: If you regard one's origin and religion as the same ("every Turk is a muslim") or if you tend to seeing the Islam just as a culture you will promote the parallel societies. You will get the same result if you segregate children according to their religion.

Further topics and speakers

Dr Steffen Rink

Via religion to integration?
On empowerment, integration and the state's religious politics

"Integration with an R - for religion" is a motto of the representative of the federal government. Again and again the importance of the empowerment that leads to self organization will be stressed. The statement will

  • show actual strategies of state driven integration policy
  • outline the development of the migrants' organizations
  • show the necessity of religion for integration
  • ask for the consequences for a religously neutral state and the development of a democratic society

Dr habil Waldemar Vogelsang / Frank Welker (Trier University)

Religious segretation

The unholy alliance between puritan orthodoxy, cultural traditonalism and (new) forms of social closing - explained at the example of a Baptist parish of immigrants

Dr Waldemar Vogelsang (*1952) is a scientific employee at the Faculty of Sociology at Trier University. He is mainly researching the sociology of youth, media and education as well as cultural life and the way of life. He is a co-founder of the interdisciplinary working group "Youth- and media culture" that has been working empirically on researching media and culture since 1985.

Frank Welker (*1975 in Saarbrücken) is an insurance salesman and is studying politics, German and sociology. He is a member of the interdisciplinary working group "Youth- and media culture", the society for the scientific research of Parasciences and writes articles for the journal "Materialien und Informationen zur Zeit (MIZ)". He is mainly interested in religious criticism and youth research.

Moderation: Gunnar Schedel

Working group: leading culture humanism and enlightenment - a contradiction to the concept of an philosophically neutral state?

Moderation: Dr Wolfgang Proske

May the state actively communicate values or should he take a neutral position like a night guard? Is the separation of church and state really the same as the separation of state and ideology? Is it at least possible that something like an "philosophically neutral state" exists? Does it make sense to understand humanism as "third denomination" in Germany and should this confession have the same rights as the two big churches? Or does humanism place greater demands, can it be more than just "one confession between many others"? Could it be possible that one understands it as the "secret leading culture of a modern state founded on the rule of the law"? What practical consequences would either perspective have for a modern, secular policy? Questions like these will be discussed by Michael Schmidt-Salomon (secretary of the Giordano Bruno Foundation), Horst Groschopp (Federal President of the Humanistischer Verband Deutschland (HVD) and managing director of the Humanist Academy Berlin) and Werner Schulz (responsible for the humanist lifescience studies at the HVD). Of course they will not only discuss abstract definitions of terms but what will determine the course for the future, too. This means which directions the politics of the secular associations should follow.

Dr Horst Groschopp

Humanism as "Third denomination"

Ideological communities have always been denominational organizations. In their fight against the national church they opposed against the religious denominations. Even the group of those who did not belong to a confession ("Dissidents") have never been confessionless in the sense of an philosophical abstinence. There are and have been only some of them without religion.

As the "confessionless" form more a less a third of the society one has to ask again for the denominations, their quantitative and qualitative characters, the consequences as well as the organizational interests as large parts of the members of a Christian church are Christians if this means they are part of an organized denomination but not if that means they really believe. Of course there are different kinds of (politically contrary) atheisms.

For the cultural sociology the confessionless are an unknown area. One of the debates that reflects these dissents and new questions is that of the"third denomination". As there is a growing tendency in the scene of secular organizations to understand humanism as an ideology and to formulate the "ideology" humanistically the result is a strategic problem with the subject that wants to organize itself secularly-humanistically or that wants to get philosophical offers and services.

The associations have to decide for themselves what they will see as their option for the future, which will be their concepts and which will be their potential. The HVD will continue to profile itself as a denominational organization and to address itself to his clientele of some 4,27 millions (according to Allensbach opinion reserarching institute) - but not to the "whole world". In this the debate about the "Third denomination" will put some things right. It is absolutely unimportant if the term "modern denomination", related to the humanist part of the population will be used further on, as the HVD does not intend to become a "church" or to define a "leading culture". The HVD does not want the state to be "philosophically neutral" but to be "philosophically plural".

The cultural scientist Dr phil habil Horst Groschopp (*1949) is federal president of the HVD. He published essays on the historical workers' culture (Zwischen Bierabend und Bildungsverein, Berlin 1985), on the the German freethinkers' cultural history (Dissidenten, Berlin 1997) as well as on history and presence of modern humanism (Humanismus und Kultur, Berlin 2000). At present he works for the Institut für Humanistische Lebenskunde in Berlin and is director of the Humanistische Akademie and writes for the journal Humanismus Aktuell (Berlin 1997 ff).

Further topics and speakers:

Dr Michael Schmidt-Salomon (IBKA / Giordano Bruno Foundation): Plea for a humanist - enlightening leading culture or Why the philosophically neutral state is a fiction

Werner Schulz (HVD - Berlin): May the state actively communicate values? The debate on teaching values at school in Berlin

Moderation: Dr Wolfgang Proske

Evening event: Sunday, 1930

Forced marriage and honor killings of female migrants in Germany as an example for parallel societies

Introductory statement + documentary film + discussion with Collin Schubert (Terre des femmes)

Parallel or integrated?

In the difficult balancing act between tradition and modern age many migrant women in Germany are looking for their way. Not all of them succeed in this. The young women who wish to life self-determined run a high risk within ethnic colonies and they may be punished with forced marriage or even be murdered for reasons of honor.

Tradition and political Islam dominate at the development of parallel worlds and they influence the women. Lacks in integration policy lead to to a rollback in the third generation of immigrants, too.

How can a culture of living together on the basis of universal values develop? With an introductory statement Collin Schubert wants to illuminate the situation of migrant women.

The documentary film "Türkische Hochzeitsreisende: Familienehre vor Liebe?" (45') (Turkish wedding travellers: family "honor" valued more than love?) gives impressions of a strange society. On her journey through the Turkish Germany the SWR-author (SWR: Südwestdeutscher Rundfunk- Southwest-German Radio and TV) Susanne Babila found a society in which norms and value of the time of the immigration were conserved.

Collin Schubert studied psychology and sociology and works as a psychologist. She lived three years in Kabul / Afghanistan.

Collin Schubert is an expert with Terre des Femmes in the department Women's Rights in Islamic societies and is coordinator of a women's project in Afghanistan. At conferences, workshops, in interviews and publications she is talking / writing on Islam / Islamism, Women's Rights, crimes of honor and Afghanistan.