The term “postsecular” is quickly becoming a keyword for scholars of religion and public life. So what is it all about? An overview of its uses and meanings.
Posts Tagged ‘After secularization’
I think Jonathan Sheehan points to something quite useful in his last post: the need for a discourse that does not immediately slide into the “ideological” conflict of religious versus secular teleology. I think many in the religious studies and sociology of religion fields have tried to find such a discourse for decades now. It is just that their disciplinary efforts have become far more visible to the rest of us recently. Still, Justin Reynolds raises a point that is indeed important in the entirety of the “post-secularization” discussion, as it is now being called. However we contextualize this discussion—I tend to see it as accelerating rapidly after the end of the cold war—it is clear that much of it has circled around the question of teleology. For a variety of reasons, two of the foundational questions of religion and philosophy, and certainly not only in the West, have reemerged to trouble the standard thesis among Western intellectuals that predicted inevitable and irreversible secularization and modernization: What is the aim, the end, the purpose of human life? and, Can different societies reasonably embrace quite different answers to this question?
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.
I wondered how long it would take DPDF participants to undo what I thought I had carefully assembled in my opening post on “Secularism, secularization, and why the difference matters.” Not very long at all, it seems. And so, I will try a response here to Justin Reynolds and Alex Hernandez, both of whom have questioned what I actually mean by saying that “secularization” is a conceptual improvement over “secularism.”
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.