Pondering a bit the posts so far in Notes from the field—those focused on the theoretical side of the secularization question, anyhow—it is not clear to me how much daylight there actually is between, say, Justin Reynolds’s position and my own. My interest in my initial foray was not so much to liberate secularization or the secular for an appropriately contextualized present (i.e., one that has taken on board both the historical dynamics of modern religious transformation and the critiques of secular reason that abound in our contemporary moment). Rather, it was to offer some kind of hope for something else “after secularization,” something other than the repetition of the same.Read the rest of Something more mundane.
Jonathan Sheehan is Associate Professor of Early Modern European History at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of The Enlightenment Bible: Translation, Scholarship, Culture (Princeton, 2005), which describes how the Bible survives, even thrives, in the era of its ostensibly secular overcoming. Recent articles include “The Altars of the Idols: Religion, Sacrifice, and the Early Modern Polity,” Journal of the History of Ideas 67 (2006), and “Sacred and Profane: Idolatry, Antiquarianism, and the Polemics of Distinction in the Seventeenth Century,” Past and Present 192 (2006). His current attentions are split between a project on sacrifice and theology in the early modern period, and a coauthored book on the systems theories of the Enlightenment, and the transformation of divine providence into worldly complexity. Read Jonathan Sheehan's contribution to Religion and the historical profession.
Posts by Jonathan Sheehan:
In his earlier post, Vincent Pecora suggests an “unfinished project” approach to secularization. He also hints that the difference between secularization and secularism may well lie in a certain openness to a contingent future. Precisely as an ideal—whether a good one or a bad one does not matter—secularism seems to foreclose on this contingency. In fact, its normative claims demand just this closure. Things should be like this (and not like that) in some future moment, which allows us to decide in the present between right and wrong. A courthouse lawn in Georgia should not have a statue of the Ten Commandments on it, even if every person who now goes to court is a believing Christian, presumably because (in part) some future litigant could well find their liberties infringed.Read the rest of Debating secularization.
At first glance, Justice is an internecine wrangle between theists (or better put, Christians). On the one side is Alasdair MacIntyre and his crowd, with their passively pious, neo-Aristotelian foundationalism. “We are waiting not for a Godot but for another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict,” MacIntyre concludes in his After Virtue, and I assume he is waiting still, whoever happens now to be sitting in the chair of St. Peter. On the other side, those like Wolterstorff who hope that Christianity might still have something to say in contemporary conversations about politics, justice, and human rights. Kozinski and Smith take up this wrangle in various ways. But it is a wrangle that I, standing over here, view with some detachment. What do I care whether Christianity can reconcile itself with a theory of inherent rights?Read the rest of We are all Christians now.
From the opening pages, my historical antennae quickly began to quiver. Taylor’s book works in a space far removed from what I understand (speaking perhaps parochially) as proper historical argument. I say this with due caution: Taylor has always believed in the importance of a historical setting for his arguments. And from the outset of A Secular Age, he specifically addresses the issue of history. “Who needs all this detail, this history?” he asks, to insist that indeed “our past is sedimented in our present.”Read the rest of Framing the middle.