Luigi Berzano - Florence 7 april 2017


Video and text of the speech by professor Luigi Berzano, of the University of Turin, held on 7 april 2017 at the presentation of the Acts of the 1st Conference by FOB, Laicity and Freedom of Belief in Italy.

Thanks to Calzolari, thanks to FOB for this invitation and thanks for this enduring attention on the issue of religious freedom. There is, one would say, some positive effects, because last Tuesday, after all the previous legislatures, another bill on religious freedom was presented to the Commission chaired by Hon. Zaccaria. Allow me, before starting my speech, to give you some information, an impression of mine: it would seem that this time this bill will move forward, if the Parliament doesn’t fall.

Solely because at least two or three factors are becoming far too obvious. Factors that today establish not so much the principle of religious freedom cited by Fabrizio d'Agostini, but the law, because one thing is the principle [of religious freedom], but then the laws must implement it.

So I’d say that the factors that today make a law particularly demanding are on the one hand the problem of mosques – which sees regional legislations and national laws in contraposition – and this situation is becoming far too jarring and on the other the need to recognize the pastors of the churches so to enable them to visit hospitals, prisons and to celebrate the weddings. Probably, for different factors, it could be that this legislature will give birth to this law.

However, this law won’t remove the typical Italian structure. In other words, it will recognize some rights, yet it won’t take away the structure of this legislative structure which provides a noble floor for a religion that enjoys the Concordat, a less noble one for 15/20 religions that have the Treaty and freedom for all the others, for all other religions. Clearly, removing this legal monster which is that of the admitted faiths. And so it will be the freedom of all religions.

Now, if I can give an impression of how the works, in the case of FOB and of other organizations are giving positive results, I would refer to a solely linguistic type of datum, because until a few years ago we were talking about religious freedom and, afterwards, correctly, we started talking about freedom of religion, and in this case the theme of our meeting and even this book of the previous conference, is the “freedom of belief”.

Now, please note that these are not just linguistic variations, because religious freedom refers to a tradition, namely that of Benedetto Croce, i.e. the Benedetto Croce when he wrote about the “religion of freedom”. A title that, today, sounds a little emphatic, isn’t it? It would almost seem that the defense of freedom of religion is safeguarded when freedom itself becomes religious.

But beyond this vision, the one that Benedetto Croce recalls, the definition of “freedom of religion”, makes the problem and the religions expectations less heated, because when religions have too many pretensions, when they are too incandescent, the things that we know, start.

But even more so, when we talk about freedom of belief, we are rediscovering another area which is the one currently expanding, which is also that of non-believers. Therefore also those who are not members of a formally established religion, have their rights.

And so I would say that the title of this conference, in my opinion, is significant to this regard. To end off, I’ll tell you about the two fields we are facing: the first one refers to what Calzolari said before, a form of atheism, although improperly called atheism, which is that of Anatheism.

I apologize if I now make a typology in reference to a study that we are conducting. A typology of five types of atheisms which are probably much extended than one could think of. And in our research on the typology of atheisms, the first form of atheism is the anticlerical atheism, that of the nineteenth-century, today known as "hard" atheism, a tough, uncompromising, anti-clerical atheism, which probably today is the less present.

Instead, the most reoccurring in our current research is exactly that of last November conference: the Anatheism. It refers to a theory developed by Kearney, a Canadian philosopher, where this "ana" is not the privative alpha, so it is not atheism. Ana is this Greek preposition that exactly means "toward”. So, the Anatheism condition, is the condition of those who, belonging or not to a religion, say they are in search of. And our research indicates that the percentage of those who say to be “in search of" is a growing number.

So, that of Anatheism is another form in which the religious today is present in our societies. As we said before, societies, secular states and open societies prefer to put the term secular in relation with the State and not with societies.

That is, the secular State is the State that guarantees rights for all citizens, the right to establishment for all citizens. The societies, sometimes, are simply open, societies are open to other religions, to the non-religion, to the many forms of majority and minority religions.

A third form of atheism, perhaps typically Italian – because born among some politicians who created this category – is that of the devout atheists. Now, the devout atheists – Giuliano Ferrara of the newspaper Il Foglio and others - have introduced this form of atheism which is that of those who, being atheists, are largely subservient to religions. So the devout atheists are atheists who respect, who have a high regard of religions.

A fourth form of atheism is the one we use when we do a research. Privately, in my professional life, I am a researcher despite being a Catholic priest, but by chance I spent forty years carrying out researches in the Italian universities. Therefore, the ethics that a reputable professional applies in his work is that based on Peter Burger’s formula called methodological atheism, i.e. a reputable researcher who researches on stem cells, when doing a research on stem cells, the only ethics he can practice is that of the methodological atheism. When science is polluted by values related to one’s religious beliefs, it always becomes dangerous.

But the fifth form of atheism, which I believe is currently the one more in expansion, is the atheism of the lifestyles, that is, atheism of those who, being believers or not, organize their daily lives - we could say their ways of life - regardless of their religious beliefs.

Now note that this is what is happening today, I think, so I would say that we are currently living the fourth secularization. We talked with Fabrizio d'Agostini about the fact that sociologists have mainly studied the secularization with Max Weber in 1500 - 1600, that is, when the sciences were born, when spheres of life were born, and therefore from 1500 to 1600 the autonomy of science, politics, economy and so on were born.

Yet there are other radical secularizations that historians in particular have developed. When Greek philosophy was born in Greece in the fifth century, that is the secularization of myths, i.e. before then everything was organized around mythologies. When everything originated around the principle of the logos, i.e. when the chaos becomes cosmos around the logos, this was the birth of the Greek philosophy.

Now this is a great secularization, followed by secularization when the logo becomes the divine humanity, when Jesus, Jesua, replaces the logos: that has been a real secularization, so much that there have been some fascinating figures like Justin. Justin was a philosopher and historian, a Greek philosopher who converted to Christianity, who wrote hundreds of pages on the charm of the logos, of the Word made man, causing exactly the negative and baffled reaction of one of his closest friends, Emperor Marco Aurelio. And Marco Aurelio considered a true profanation imagining that the logos, the Word, could be a man, so that Marco Aurelio, with all his wisdom, will slay Justin and all of his disciples.

Now, we talked about the third secularization, that of the sociologists. I believe that today, since four or five decades, we are living the fourth secularization that is the autonomy of daily life.

An individual who leaves Italy and goes to die in a clinic in Zurich, well, I would say that this is the icon of secularism in lifestyle, that in this case are not the spheres, the economy, the politics, the science to be autonomous, it is the lifestyle. Now, what we notice today, from cradle to grave, is the demand of autonomy of lifestyles. How will religions live within societies where individuals, often without renouncing to their religious identity, claim the autonomy of styles? But what’s more isn’t this what many often wish to happen for the second and third generations of Islam?

So, this is told when the second and third generations - though in France this did not happen – of children, of young Muslims, without giving up their identity as Muslims will become autonomous in their daily life, namely in their style of life. By the way, living in a secular society, because if the society is secular it means that lifestyles, everyday life, cannot stand out and request intervention by the State, because that would be just a short circuit.

Now, what one would wish from religion in this context? Simply imagining – without any scientific value – what one would hope to happen, for example I would imagine that religions instead of being so heated, like today some of them are, all of them step back. This would mean to claim a different path from that of the legalization of all, as to legalize everything means exactly losing autonomy, losing freedom.

When a religion legalizes everything and deprives the individuals of their freedom, sometimes we say this in reference to Islam, but I would mention the opposite case, I would say that just reading the Gospels very coldly, the one who was announcing the Gospels was not putting the emphasis on legalizing everything. It is then true that in some instances legalization is required, but if we only read the nascent status of Christianity we find that Jesus did not legalize almost anything: Jesus does not say what to eat, how to dress, what to do, how to occupy the leisure time. So this rejection of legalization, to transform every need into a right - and where there is a right there is a law organizing it, I would say that this is what today we might hope to happen, especially where religions are more incandescent and, wanting to legalize all, often, they get the opposite effect.

I would say that what we instead find today are these spiritualities that sometimes do not have a God, but which are deeply ethical. I believe that Umberto Veronesi was proclaiming himself a layman, an atheist, let’s say without a God or with a hidden and implied God, but what his spirituality has been? t has been that of spending his whole life around the sacrosanct principle to fight against incurable diseases. And in this meaning that this secular society, this secular State, this open society, also comes to know these new forms of religiosity, of spirituality and I would say that these must be claimed, and about this, I would say that FOB is ahead of time, because this issue of freedom of worship basically already stresses exactly the freedom also of those who not being religious, still have a spirituality of their own. Thank you.