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Further, such a shift in the beliefs and values of religious communities may not necessarily be a secularizing of their beliefs but a ‘reclaiming’ of beliefs and values previously lost. Voyé’s example of human rights as a more neutral, secular concept is somewhat ironic in this context. Carlson (2003) has highlighted that the concept of human rights is underpinned by a belief in the sanctity and sacredness of the human being – a belief that stems directly from the Judeo-Christian doctrine of humanity that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God (Carlson 2003: 199–200; see also Erickson 1998: 518).

The third section of the chapter then examines how the assumptions of secularism, these four key moves and dualistic thinking have impacted International Relations theory. I highlight prevailing assumptions within International Relations theory that have contributed to the neglect of religion in general and its relationship with politics in Western contexts in particular. I also highlight the irony of the dominance of secularist assumptions in International Relations theory, given the historical contribution of religious thought to various aspects of different theories of International Relations.

These assumptions and claims vary depending on the type of secularism and the social, political and historical context in which the debate is occurring. Further, secularism’s claims are based on an inherent dualism that serves to privilege certain aspects of social and political life and subordinate others. The first section also briefly touches on mainstream secularization theory, outlining its key claims, assumptions and also challenges to its accuracy. Declining support for the arguments of secularization theory in International Relations suggests a need to rethink secularist assumptions about the relationship between religion and politics, particularly in the various countries that constitute the so-called ‘secular West’, and the nature of religion itself.

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