Help me find the Latin phrase describing my position on a religion/government issue...
February 26, 2011 6:51 PM   Subscribe

Government/History/Religion question: is there a Latin phrase for a doctrine of belief in secular government (vs. theocracy or other religious governments) amongst a plurality of beliefs?

I was in a rather lively discussion with someone online, and he mentioned that he suspected that I believed in a secular government and amidst a pluralistic society. He even had a Latin phrase for it - but the forum where we had the discussion is no longer in existence. If it helps, we were having a discussion about how it is possible to be a Christian libertarian (as I am), be fully socially conservative in regards to gay marriage, taxation, abortion etc but still hold completely Libertarian beliefs in regards to regulation (or in my case, the lack thereof) of these things.
posted by brownrd to Law & Government (10 answers total)
It's just secularism.
posted by empath at 7:22 PM on February 26, 2011

"nomocracy" - rule of law?
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:34 PM on February 26, 2011

Secularism wasn't invented until the 19th century (the Wikipedia article on this is wrong) so any Latin term used to refer to it would be a neologism.
posted by shii at 7:34 PM on February 26, 2011

Secularism the word or the concept? The concept existed before the word did.
posted by empath at 7:43 PM on February 26, 2011

The only phrase I can think of that would be relevant for this is "cuius regio, eius religio"--the principle established by the Treaty of Westphalia that individual princes (as opposed to, say, the Pope or whoever the major regional power happens to be) have absolute authority over the religion their domains follow. This is generally regarded as an important step in the development of secularism, and it's conceivable that it could be extended metaphorically to mean something like what you describe.

The French also have the term "laicité," which means the principle that the state has to be affirmatively secular rather than simply tolerant of different religions (so no prayer in schools, for instance, not even if it's multifaith).
posted by nasreddin at 9:15 PM on February 26, 2011

Sorry, not Westphalia--the Peace of Augsburg, which was a hundred years earlier.
posted by nasreddin at 9:20 PM on February 26, 2011

Redde Caesari quae sunt Caesaris? (for a secularist who's also a Christian, anyway)
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 1:55 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think there is an accepted word for it, other than secularism or secular government. I've seen "atheocracy" here and there but only as a joke.
posted by Decani at 2:47 AM on February 27, 2011

Response by poster: It wasn't just one word... it was a phrase. It could have been a neologism... not sure.
posted by brownrd at 6:08 AM on February 27, 2011

In the sixteenth century, opponents of Calvinist theocracy were known as 'libertines', but the term then changed its meaning and began to be used in its modern sense, i.e. a lack of moral or sexual restraints.

You're not thinking of 'Erastianism', by any chance? This is the doctrine that the state has final jurisdiction in religious matters (and can therefore promote freedom of conscience in a Christian society, or hold the ring between different religious groups in a pluralistic one). Another way of expressing this -- as you say you're looking for a phrase, not just a single word -- is 'ecclesia gladium non habet nisi spiritualem', meaning that the church has authority in matters spiritual but not in matters political (which fits your 'Christian libertarian' position quite well).
posted by verstegan at 12:54 PM on February 27, 2011

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