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Western concept of secularism under challenge: Holland


Drawing parallels between Turkish President Erdogan’s decision to turn the iconic Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque and PM Narendra Modi laying the foundation stone for the Ram Temple at Ayodhya, award-winning historian Tom Holland said that both events stirred a debate on the concept of the secular, as defined by the West.

In a conversation with TOI’s Vikas Singh at the Times LitFest, Holland pointed out that the word had its roots in Christianity, and had been repackaged and exported to the world.

Holland, who has recently penned ‘Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind’ that traces Christianity’s emergence and legacy, also underlined the significance of religion. “The power of religion to provide meaning to people and a sense of identity is far greater today than the immediate postwar years,” he said.

But the question of following a religion or belief is not without its challenges, like the idea of transhumanism or the debate on climate change. “The extreme fringes of the environment movement believe that humanity is the problem, that global warming is due to humans and humans need to be extinct,” he said.

Holland, who has earlier written Gothic horror and historic fiction, is not surprised by the popularity of historical shows on OTT platforms. “People study history because it is interesting, and it tells a great story. Medieval history offers someone in the 21st century something akin to the pleasure of science fiction, there are elements that are familiar and some that are incredibly alien and it is the conjunction of the two that makes for a thrilling story,” he said.



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