Pillarisation in the Netherlands

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Pillarisation in Holland: do we need to bring it back?

Throughout the 19th and early 20th century, Holland was a melting pot made up of different religions and social groups who lived their lives separate from each other, only associating with those people who were in their own, familiar group. This was called “verzuiling”, pillarisation.

The foundation of pillarisation can be traced to a collection of different events throughout the history of Holland, but one event in particular set everything in motion: the “Doleantie” in 1886. Dr. Abraham Kuyper was a protestant preacher who felt that King Willem III was too progressive in his ideas for reshaping the Protestant church. Kuyper led a small group of people away to establish a new church, the Reformed Church. This act was at first greeted with scepticism, as there did not seem to be a substantial difference between Kuypers church and that of Willem III’s.

Kuyper however, had a distinct vision of what was necessary to keep the Christian religion alive and worthy: a ‘zuil’, and this vision became slowly became more apparent. A “zuil”, or pillar, incorporated schools, newspapers, and political parties which revolved around the church. Basically all aspects of life needed to have Christian roots so that the masses would not be distracted from what was true and pure: the Dutch Reformed Church. Kuyper was a realist. He was aware of the fact that not all of Holland could be changed according to his beliefs. All he could do was lead those who already stood behind him in the right direction. So he created Protestant churches, schools, gatherings, and media, with the idea of ‘sovereignty in one’s own circle’. The success of his idea was proved by the fact that not much later the Catholic Church followed his example and pillarisation was born.

For many decades pillarisation proved to be a good, and for many people the only way of living. It was safe, familiar and easy to associate only with those who had the...
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