Let me begin by thanking the contributors to this book forum for their respective reviews. I am enormously grateful for the gift of time and attention their reviews represent. It is always instructive to see one’s work through the eyes of others, even if one does not always immediately recognize what one then sees! While finding valuable insights and many points for further reflection in all them, this is something of my reaction to Michael Gillespie’s and Jane Wills’s reviews. In responding to their critiques I will put them in dialogue with the reviews by Andrew Forsyth and Richard Wood, who I read as more directly articulating and speaking to the core foci and concerns of Resurrecting Democracy: Faith, Citizenship, and the Politics of a Common Life. Situating my own response as an interaction between the two sets of reviews will hopefully clarify and help develop some of the book’s central arguments and positions.
Posts Tagged ‘secularity’
The Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network (NSRN) recently launched its new website.
Edited by Courtney Bender and Ann Taves, and forthcoming from Columbia University Press, What Matters? Ethnographies of Value in a (not so) Secular Age is the product of a collaboration between the SSRC and the School for Advanced Research.
Meghan O’Gieblyn, writing for Guernica, forays into the history of CCM, or Christian contemporary music, which also happens to be that of her own adolescence, tracing the gradual displacement of the more overtly gospel elements of Christian pop, rock, and rap, as the Christian music industry, in its growing drive for “relevance,” felt the squeeze of secular music, especially under the pincers the more profitable and marketing-savvy MTV. More than the fate of explicitly Christian popular music, this course, O’Gieblyn suggests, reflects the simultaneous devolution of a distinctly evangelical way of being in the world, which, stuck as it is between oppositional self-cloistering and secularizing dissipation, seems to O’Gieblyn to have tended toward to the latter.
Despite its roots in a religious entity, OISCA [The Organization for Industrial, Spiritual and Cultural Advancement] is registered as a non-religious group. Many of the staff express ambivalence about the religious aspects of OISCA’s vision, staff composition, and history. In an avowedly “secular” Japanese society—an environment crafted in the immediate years after the Second World War by the U.S. Occupation, which was intent on eradicating the principles of “State Shinto” that were seen as the basis of an evil imperial regime—the term “religion” often triggers an allergic reaction. The terrorist attacks by the cult Aum Shinrikyō, in 1995, have not helped either. Wedged between a religious heritage and demands for secularity, OISCA offers a telling case in which religion and aid work entwine in complicated ways. How does the religious-secular boundary sharpen or blur in the trainings described as “person-making” (hitozukuri)? What kinds of persons are made in these activities?
Susan Neiman reviews All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age, by philosophers Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly.
At the core of contemporary secularism is the denial of the existence of deities and the supernatural. There is only the natural, as described by our best sciences. This ‘disenchantment’ of the world seems to leave no place for value, and this exclusion of value from the world is, Akeel Bilgrami argues in his essay “What is Enchantment?” one of the central and damning failures of contemporary secularism.
How does secularism crowd values out of our picture of the world? If we accept a secularist metaphysics, then a necessary condition for the existence of values is that they can be accommodated by our best sciences. But our best sciences do not seem to have any room for values. Values make demands on human beings as actors—for instance, we ought to pursue the good, we ought to avoid the bad, and so on—but science describes no such free-standing “oughts.”
Contending Modernities, a research initiative of the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, has launched a new blog, featuring essays by Margot Badran, Daniel Madigan, S.J., Vincent Rogeau, and Scott Appleby, as well as video and information on the project’s upcoming launch events in New York City.
Is there a secular body? Or, in somewhat different terms, is there a particular configuration of the human sensorium—of sensibilities, affects, embodied dispositions—specific to secular subjects, and thus constitutive of what we mean by “secular society”? What intrigues me about this question is that, despite its apparent simplicity, the path toward an answer seems not at all clear. For example, are the scholarly sensibilities and the modes of affective attunement that find expression here elements of a secular habitus? What would be indicated by calling such expressive habits “secular”?
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.
On July 13, French parliament will vote on a bill to ban burqa-style veils in the name of gender equality and secular values. More than advocating for women’s rights and a “state-sanctioned Islam that respects the secular state,” this particular version of the bill also implicates “husbands and fathers who impose such veils on female family members.”
Wars of Religion 2.0
Conventional wisdom states that the Czech Republic is the least religious society in the West. At The Guardian, Dana Hamplová discusses the historical origins of the Czechs’ famed secularity, which reach back before Communism, and highlights the abiding forms of religious activity in the former Soviet satellite.