The religiously “unaffiliated”—atheists, agnostics, nonconformists, the unchurched and the uncertain—are underrepresented in Congress, notes Richard Blow today in The New York Times. Citing a recent Pew Forum poll, he notes that 16 percent of the nation refuses to identify with any particular faith, while only 1 percent of Congress claims no religious affiliation.Read the rest of Representing the unrepresented.
Justin Reynolds is a Ph.D Candidate in the History Department at Columbia University. He works in modern European and American intellectual history and is writing a dissertation on theologies of history in the early Cold War.
Posts by Justin Reynolds:
Why is it so difficult to treat religion as just another cultural phenomenon?Read the rest of Indifference we can believe in.
The majority of Americans may not know much about their own religions, but they seem to have a pretty good handle on the intricacies of secularization theory. That, at least, was what I got from looking at the findings of two surveys published this fall.Read the rest of The wisdom of crowds.
To “bear witness:” Obama’s phrase was widely quoted but not seriously analyzed. Some attacked (and some still attack) the President for leaving the protesters in the lurch; to these commentators, “witness” meant passive spectatorship when a robust intervention was needed. Others found the Administration’s aloofness a shrewd tactic that gave the good guys breathing room while respecting Iranian sovereignty. Few, as far as I know, took note of the Christian roots of the phrase. That’s too bad, because they help to shed light on Obama as a politician, a diplomat with “realist” predilections, and a national phenomenon—and how he manages to be all three at once.Read the rest of Obama bears witness (to the past of a tricky phrase).
Pecora writes that I claim his “use of the term ‘secularization’ must be secretly eschatological” and that he “cannot escape from transcendence.” Actually, I didn’t intend to make either charge. When I asked if Pecora’s idea of secularization as an ongoing, open-ended project was eschatological, it was a genuine question, not an accusation. Now I’m a little embarrassed because he seems to think that it was obvious that he did not intend the term that way at all. Still, not all the causes of my initial confusion have been resolved. Let me try to state them more clearly.Read the rest of What ends we mean: A reply to Vincent Pecora.
In their posts, Vincent Pecora and Jonathan Sheehan suggest imagining secularization as an open-ended, ongoing project. Neither doubts that something described as “secular” is worth seeking. Given that a major goal of this DPDF program is to ask what might come “after secularization,” I find this a little curious—especially because it’s not clear why Pecora and Sheehan think that the term “secularization” is worth reclaiming or conceptually fine-tuning in the first place. What is particularly “secular” about the principles—openness to contingency, falsifiability, treating humans as ends and not means—that Pecora and Sheehan embrace? Do we believe that such principles are alien to religious or theological traditions? If so, why?Read the rest of After secularization?.
Voegelin’s central, surprisingly Kantian thesis is that some recognition of transcendence is the precondition of open, self-reflexive inquiry. Founded on this recognition, he seeks to build “a new science of politics and history” capable of overcoming the dogmatic tendencies in “scientism.” He’s after, I think, something very similar to what Edward Said – and Vincent Pecora in his recent post – meant by the term “secular criticism.” If this is right, it raises the question of whether the “infinite” process Pecora recommends should be called “secularization” at all. Maybe God is less worth barring from the public realm than forms of dogmatic faith. It’s worth remembering that theology has its own resources for the fight against what Said calls “pseudo-religion.”Read the rest of Thinking of Vincent Pecora, with Eric Voegelin in mind.
What is secularization? This question raises the issue of what exactly religion and “the secular” are—terms that, as our discussions in San Diego and the blog posts so far have shown, defy simple description. Still, in purely formal terms, secularization might mean—and has meant—two different things. For some—Max Weber (in some of his writings) and modernization theorists—secularization means the demise of religious belief and practice, whatever they are, and the rise of “secularism.” For others, like Karl Löwith—a central figure in my own research on transatlantic debates over theological origins of historical consciousness in the early Cold War—it means the transfer of theological ideas or religious yearnings into secular forms and contexts. Thus the puzzle: is secularization the survival of religion in a different guise, or its demise?Read the rest of Confessions of a casual Löwithian.