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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The ambivalence of religion within the framework of secular humanism : the case of faith-based humanitarian organizations Gres, Dijana


This paper intends to explore the complex and often implicit relationship between religion, humanitarianism and secularized politics. The research consists of two major parts. The first chapter analyzes the theoretical approaches to the role of religion and faith-based decision-making in modern international politics. It does that by discussing three particular topics: the neglected connection between religion and IR scholarship, major theories of secularization, and the influences of religion on international politics. The second chapter intends to move the research from the level of philosophical and abstract towards more practical levels of analysis. It focuses on the issue of faith-based humanitarianism and the substantial role faith-based organizations play in international politics. The research points to two related conclusions. First, while acknowledging that secular humanism is a historic civilizational achievement, it can be argued that it is impossible and misleading to strive for clear-cut segregation of religious and secular spheres of life. Second, faith-based humanitarianism is one of the phenomena which increasingly challenge this artificial dichotomy between the sacred and the secular by bringing religion back into public discourse. The paper does not suggest that the dominant paradigm of international relations be abandoned. It rather calls for its modification in order to account for religion which norms and values can be used to support the existing regime of human rights and institutions. Faith-based organizations should be thus seen as a potential channel leading towards the reconciliation of the sacred and the secular.

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