The 2013 Telos Conference is currently seeking paper submissions on the subject of Religion and Politics in a Post-Secular World.
Posts Tagged ‘post-secularization’
There has been considerable amount of research on how commodification and the Internet are transforming the religious lives of young people. For young Muslims, Internet use is an important means of building a consensus about, for example, whether the use of henna for cosmetic purposes is compatible with Muslim tradition or whether dating and premarital intimacies are compatible with the life of a “good Muslim.” Whereas the religious system of communication in an age of revelation was hierarchical, unitary, and authoritative, the system of communicative acts in a new media environment are typically horizontal rather than vertical, diverse and fragmented rather than unitary, devolved rather than centralized. Furthermore, the authority of any message is constantly negotiable and negotiated. The growth of these diverse centers of interpretation in a global communication system has produced considerable instability in the formal system of religious belief and practice.
It was, then, a stirring sight to see Habermas sit down with Cardinal Ratzinger in 2004 for a philosophical dialogue. It is hard not to miss a breath at the image of both men in conversation, one the arch-defender of reason and rationality, described by Habermasian scholar Thomas McCarthy as the “last great rationalist,” and the other, renowned as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (and subsequently as Pope Benedict XVI), for his steadfast theological defense of Catholic tradition and moral teaching. At the same time, the twinning of the two Germans made for a fitting tableau: through their long careers, both have shown little interest in sociological realities and have remained intellectually aloof from lived experience.
Sharing Jonathan Sheehan’s aversion to discourse that perpetuates the “ideological conflict” between secular and religious teleology, Vincent Pecora, in “A brief note on teleology,” offers two major observations in connection with the “post secularization” discussion. In particular, Pecora argues that our “perennial dissatisfactions with civilization”—and especially with purely economic answers to the question of “what ends we mean”—inevitably keeps teleology rooted in the debate. To conclude, Pecora cautions that attaching any notion of “secularism fulfilled” to prevailing ideologies would simply (and more aptly) indicate “hubris fulfilled.”
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?
Most observers, even the otherwise sober-minded journal The Economist, agree that the anticipation and then election of Barack Obama to become the 44th president of the United States carried—and continues to carry—the promise of something like a “redeeming effect.” What has not been well-understood, even less clearly explained, is what I take to be one of the key factors of Obama’s phenomenal success. He won over an unlikely coalition of voters based on an inspirational message of hope for the common good, while running a campaign that stood out for its impeccable discipline and, at times, ruthless efficiency—at a certain moment the New York Times even spoke of its “military precision”—its message-oriented focus and lack of drama, its technological sophistication as well as its overall outreach where it mattered (its so-called ground battle, “street by street, block by block,” as the mantra went). It is fair to say that both the Clinton and the McCain camps and most conservative pundits fatally underestimated what they were up against, completely misread the signs, the writing on the wall, and, in the end, had no idea what had truly hit them. [...]