Vocab: Separation of state and religion



It is wedding season in Myanmar! I attended three wonderful weddings at the end of October and the beginning of November. Everyone looks so beautiful at a Myanmar wedding.


At the same time, a student who had recently visited Australia, told me she was confused about how many unmarried men and women lived together in Australia and not only living together but also having children and raising families.


So, this is something that I think needs to be explained. Many 'developed' countries are democratic and secular. This means that one of the central beliefs is that, in the nation, there is a separation of state and religion.


This means that the government must be neutral (= no bias, no favouritism) about religion.


So, not only must the government allow all citizens the freedom to practice any religion they choose, but also the government must not officially recognize or favor any religion.


This is one of the main ideas of democracy, and once a government becomes neutral (does not favour any religion), then it is secular. Secular = not connected with religious or spiritual matters.


So, this is one reason why traditions such as marriage have declined in many developed countries, because when a government stops supporting a religion (e.g. Christianity in England) it becomes less popular and less important to the people of that country.


At the moment in Myanmar, Buddhism is that state religion (= is a religious group or system officially accepted by the state) but as Myanmar continues to develop and continues to copy patterns of globalisation, there will be more and more pressure for it to become a secular society.


This will probably have an effect on many traditions relating to marriage and family in Myanmar.


Vocabulary: secular, state religion, neutral

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