Before most Latin American nations gained independence from European powers, Catholicism was the dominant religion. The Catholic Church, as introduced by the Spanish, French and Portuguese in their respective colonies, maintained co-operative rather than competitive powers.
Therefore, people had a set of specific religious rules to follow, which were both strict and compulsory in most families. However, the introduction of Protestantism and other religious movements brought some significance changes among many communities. In fact, distinguishing of religious powers in the region came with the birth of “Laicization”.
Laicization in religion is a term used in reference to a secular way in which people gain the freedom to do various social and religious actions with little influence of mainstream religion. Some of these aspects include privatisation of religions, social differentiation and different configuration of beliefs. Such activities have faced much opposition in Latin America, especially in regions where the population of Catholics are dominant.
In some of these areas, Catholics hold on to the claim that Catholic should be the only church in control of both political and religious affairs. The purpose of this paper is to discuss Laicization by answering such questions as “what makes “laicization” unique in Latin America?” and “To what extent is it necessary given the split throughout the region between Catholicism, Protestantism, and popular religion?”
Within the context of Laicization, three unique elements are evident. First, it provides people with the freedom of personal conscience. In this case, every individual is entitled to own conscience. This therefore meant that by privatisation of religion, the state would protect all individuals regardless of their religious status. It further implies that interference would arise in whichever religion citizens chose to follow. Largely, this freedom brought social and moral liberalisation.
Secondly, independence of politics from religion is a unique element of Laicization. In fact, it introduced the ideology of separation of the church from the state, meaning that both would act as separate entities. This extends to the freedom in decision-making and rule implementation.
Finally, elimination of discrimination is a unique element in Laicization, which brought equality. The idea argues that anyone has the right and freedom to practice religion, regardless of gender differences. It meant that with uniformity of philosophical stands, equality would be embraced in all aspects of life.
Laicization is necessary to all religions because it introduced freedom in both culture and religion. In an attempt to develop a good understanding of the concepts of discrimination, there has been a special focus on respect and balance in communities and individuals with differences in cultural and religious values. Having a monopoly religion had for many years brought about discrimination. However, the birth of religious pluralism gave birth to social coexistence between difference communities.
In addition, the idea of Laicization has brought about modernisation even in the economy and politics. In fact, liberalization is a dominant aspect in these sectors. The process has further contributed to religious evolution, which in turn creates a social model that allows freedom in social and cultural interaction. Through democratic practices, laicization has made individual conscience strong. It provides individuals with the freedom of thinking and religion.
Around the beginning of the 20th century, the complete separation of the church from the state and the universal declaration of laicity was a great achievement in Latin America. Diversity in religious philosophies has improved significantly, with citizens gaining the freedom of worship, conscience and sovereignty in their political will. Finally, it has brought about social mobility and the freedom to practice any religion.