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Essay Paper on Religion

Freedom of religion and Human rights are secured in various ways in different European states. Human-rights debates and actions take place in historical and philosophical contexts inspired by various economic and political agendas. We have seen how Denmark has its own part of this dispute and is challenged to find a way forward to secure the rights of the popular religions.

This must be done on the basis of the debate in the 1840s that lies behind the present constitution. This debate was not at all as old-fashioned as one might think: many of the arguments of today were already heard during the revolutionary year of 1848. The main issue for the Danes is whether to continue the Nordic pattern or to decide that the old paradigm of state church and freedom of religion can no longer meet the pluralistic realities of the present.

The answer depends mainly on the continuation of the process of nation-building in Denmark. Will this take place in a more and more European context? Will Danish Christianity follow the nation-state in an international development that automatically involves ecumenical fellowship among the churches in Europe today? So far the established church has been very reluctant to engage itself in ecumenical cooperation, but on the other hand it has always been good at accommodating itself to social and political realities.

In the course of the development illustrated by the case of Denmark, the Nordic Lutheran churches changed from territorial churches to state churches, folk churches or national churches. These new ecclesiological concepts presuppose that a church is somewhat different from a state and its governance. Along with the concept of “free churches” (which replaced older terms such as “sects” and “separatism”) these new concepts reflect changes in the understanding of the church which evolved in Europe during the 19th century.

At the same time they expressed the new relations between state, people, nation and church. As a simplification one might say that free church and state church are contrary concepts about the organization of the church, whereas folk church and national church deal with the qualitative aspect of being the church. Dag Thorkildsen points out that among modern ecclesiological concepts, “state church” expresses continuity with pre-modern society, whereas “national church” and “folk church” are regarded as linking with the new popular reality.

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