Cultural Lenses


Just like the French song, "La Vie en rose,"[1] which means life in rosy hues or seeing life through rose colored glasses, we all have a cultural lens that we view life, religion and politics through.

For example, the French have a positive opinion of Buddhism, Christianity and Judaism, but not of Islam. The percentages are dramatic, with 87% of the French having a positive opinion of Buddhism, while almost 75% have a negative opinion of Islam. Here are the range of percentages of positive opinion by religion.
  • 87% of Buddhism
  • 76% of Protestantism
  • 64% of Judaism
  • 26% of Islam
  • 1% expressing no opinion.[2]
In France, religious freedom and freedom of thought was guaranteed by the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and in 1905 the Separation of the Churches and State law was passed. Where once it was a Catholic nation with a monarchy, as France developed into a republic, it based its laws on the principle of freedom of conscience.[3]

In 1965, the population of France was upwards of 80% Catholic, and some resources still list the population at the same percentage.[4] However, a 2011 survey estimates the following percentages:
  • 45% Christian
  • 35% no religion
  • 10% not stated
  • 6% other religions
  • 3% Islamist
  • 1% Buddhist[5]
In addition, only 10% of French Catholics attend church regularly. As a country, they believe that religion is a private matter, so as individuals, they may answer a survey by stating which religion they were born into, but not necessarily whether or not they are a practicing member.[6]

Religious freedom is very important to the French, and they are open as a society to all religions as long as the practioners do not violate the law of the land. However, politically, the French view religion as a personal matter, not to be brought into the public sphere, hence the abolition of the wearing of burqas (a loose garment, covering the entire body, with only an opening for the eyes) in public schools. This restriction was not against religion, but against religion in the public sphere. The French view the burqas as a violation of French values and a hinderance to integration. In addition, there is the concern that burqas are not a religious sign as much as a symbol of the subjugation of women.[7]

Another area of conflict is the desire to institute and abide by Sharia law. Secular judicial systems view Sharia law as a religious system of law. However, in 2008 the United Kingdom permitted the recognition of sharia courts, if both sides of a dispute freely opted for it as a binding arbitrator. Other countries have similar options.[8]

Excluding extremists sects, Buddhism, Judaism and Christianity do not pose any threat to the French way of life, because they are largely practiced privately and do not infringe on any of their laws. The very high percentage of French people having positive feelings about Buddhism, would seem to be due to the private nature of it. Whereas, the Islamic population and a growing number of immigrants arriving in France from Muslim countries are creating conflict by wanting their women to wear burqas in public, and by their desire for the formal establishment of Sharia law.[9]




[1] "La Vie en rose," Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Vie_en_rose, retrieved June 24, 2013.

[2] Daniel Greenfield, "French Have Positive Opinion of Buddhism, Christianity and Judaism, Negative Opinion of Islam," FrontPageMag.com, frontpagemag.com/2013/dgreenfield/french-have-positive-opinion-of-buddhism-christianity-and-judaism-negative-opinion-of-islam/, retrieved June 17, 2013.

[3] "Religion in France," Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_France, retrieved June 24, 2013.

[4] "France," BerkleyCenter.Georgetown.edu, berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/resources/countries/france, retrieved June 19, 2013.

[5] "France Religion: Statistics," Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/France_religion#Statistics, retrieved June 24, 2013.

[6] "The French Society: Values and Beliefs," UnderstandFrance.org, www.understandfrance.org/France/Society2.html, retrieved June 19, 2013.

[7] Ibid.

[8] "Sharia: Application by Country," Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharia#Application_by_country, retrieved June 26, 2013.

[9] "Islam in France: Islamist Movements," Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_France#Islamist_movements, retrieved June 26, 2013.
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