Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, is drawing criticism for remarks made earlier this month in which he appears to question whether Islam is a religion. And the quetion may not be as straightforward as one would like to think. To be a religion is, in at least one important sense, to be acknowledged as such.Read the rest of Islam: not a religion?.
Richard Amesbury is Professor of Theological Ethics and Director of the Institute for Social Ethics at the University of Zurich. He is the author of Morality and Social Criticism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) and Faith and Human Rights (Fortress, 2008). Read Nathan Schneider's interview with Amesbury here, and read Richard Amesbury's contributions to Reflections on summer reading, Surveying religious knowledge, Religion and the midterm elections, and After Sandy.
Posts by Richard Amesbury:
Since the publication of Robert Bellah’s 1967 article “Civil Religion in America,” discussions of the topic have tended to devolve into debates between those who find the very idea morally objectionable and those who regard some form of civil religion as sociologically necessary. … Yet, if there is a benign form of American civil religion in the making, it has been a long time coming. The problem is not simply the proclivity to idolize the nation or the state, but the apparent impossibility of articulating our social bonds without relegating significant segments of the population to second-class citizenship. Because the “imagined community” of a nation rarely maps neatly onto the actual citizenry of a state, the quest for unity, however minimal its basis, ironically issues in exclusions. This may make perfectly good sense from a sociological perspective, but it presents a profound challenge to liberal democratic claims about equality.Read the rest of Religion and the civic imagination.
Charles Taylor has argued that those of us living in North America and Europe are witnessing a shift in our social imaginary from a “Durkheimian” self-understanding, according to which political identity is tied to religious belonging, towards a “post-Durkheimian” view, in which the two are no longer seen as intrinsically linked. In the emerging dispensation, Taylor predicts, “it will be less and less common for people to be drawn into or kept within a faith by some strong political or group identity, or by the sense that they are sustaining a socially essential ethic.” Whatever its merits as an analysis of contemporary European self-understanding—and these are surely significant—Taylor’s reading strikes me as underdetermined by the American evidence…Read the rest of Multi-religious denominationalism and American identity.