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Secularity versus Fundamentalism: importance of debate for the Sustainable Development Goals

For Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Vol. 16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, published by Springer.

The debate between secularity and fundamentalism has been ongoing since the eighteenth century, but it has been paid increased attention during the last decades of the twentieth century. Events such as the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington have caught the attention of the public toward a phenomenon difficult to understand from a Western secularist point of view.

However, these same events have directed the interest to understand in which point we are at this moment, what is the role that religion plays nowadays in public affairs, has secularization failed, and what is fundamentalism beyond the special focus that has been put over the Islamic forms of fundamentalism in detriment of other religions.

This debate is important in the framework of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) since harmony in our societies is key to ensure that policies can be implemented and agreed to improve the overall situation of each society. In recent years, problems and disputes between different faith groups and communities have hampered the efforts toward achieving social development. This renders necessary that all groups in society participate in shaping how the future will look like, so all need to be included regardless the nature of their beliefs and knowledge as long as they are all committed to collaborate to bring about positive change. This debate relates also with SDG4, and its target 4.7, which aims that everybody acquires the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, the promotion of a culture of peace and nonviolence and an appreciation of cultural diversity. The current debate between secularity and fundamentalism tries to elucidate how the different approaches to belief can coexist peacefully and contribute to the development of societies by rejecting those that seek confrontation and endorse violence in favor of those that promote coexistence, peace, and dialogue.

This entry addresses both secularity and fundamentalism by trying to understand the concepts and the conceptual development during the past decades as well as discussing the key issues where the debate on secularity versus fundamentalism is focusing at this moment.

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