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Europe’s civil war

The separation of church and state itself has Christian roots

By Larry Siedentop  

© Nicolas Chinardet/Demotix/Demotix/Corbis

How should we understand the relationship between religious belief and the idea of a secular state? This is an urgent question today and brings with it issues about the identity of the west and its self-understanding. Like other cultures, that of the west is founded on shared beliefs. But, in contrast to most others, western beliefs are informed by the assumption of moral equality, which underpins the secular state and the idea of fundamental or “natural” rights.

Christianity played a decisive part in the emergence of this…

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