Humanist Organizations and Secularization in Germany

Stefan Schröder


Among social scientists, humanist and freethinker organizationsare often described as secularizing agents within society with a critical andconfrontational relation to religions. This article provides a re-evaluation ofthis theory with respect to a contemporary example of German freigeistigorganizations, the German Humanist Association (Humanistischer VerbandDeutschlands[HVD]). Through being incorporated into German religio-political arrangements, the author argues, the HVD rather imitates religion,thereby unfolding secularization-opposing effects. Drawing on a groundedtheory-based analysis of found data as well as interviews and participantobservations, and with reference to the comparative frameworks regarding‘multiple secularities’ (Burchardt/Wohlrab-Sahr) or ‘different modes ofnonreligion’ (Quack), the article concludes by distinguishing two differenttypes of freigeistig organizations in contemporary Germany, only one ofwhich can by described as a secularizing agent.


Freethought, Humanism, Non-religion, Religio-politics, Secularization

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