Writing in the Christian Century, Philip Jenkins suggests that there are signs of an early stage European style “secularization” at work in parts of Latin America.
Posts Tagged ‘secularization’
On March 1st and 2nd, 2013, the Social Science Research Council and the University of California Humanities Research Institute will co-sponsor a conference at the University of California, Irvine entitled “After Secularization.”
Religion and the Political Imagination is a volume, edited by Ira Katznelson and Gareth Stedman Jones, that brings together a group of historians and political scientists to take a new look at the theoretical and constitutional aspects of relations between religion and political institutions since the Enlightenment, in particular the theory of secularization that arose during this period.
Hubert Knoblauch is a professor of sociology at the Technical University of Berlin, where he specializes in general sociological theory, sociology of knowledge, and the sociology of religion. A student of Thomas Luckmann, he is among the most distinguished representatives of the sociology of religion in Germany today. This summer, we sat down together over some of Berlin’s famously bad Indian food to discuss the sociology of religion in Germany, the influence of Jürgen Habermas, the meaning of spirituality, and ways to quit smoking.
The question “Was Antebellum America Secular?” obviously depends on what one means by secular. Because the term is dialectical by nature and immanent to the struggles of the age, we cannot expect it to be a neutral analytic framework; like secularism or religion, it requires constant qualification to be of any analytic use. As Gauri Viswanathan has noted, in many polemical contexts “words like ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ have lost their descriptive value and function instead as signposts to given attitudes.” It is almost impossible to see the question of my title without anticipating that a question of validity will be at stake.
Over at The New Republic, Mark Lilla reviews historian Brad S. Gregory’s latest book, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society.
Simon During’s essay begins with a taxonomy that is harmlessly at odds with my own classification. He uses the term “secularization” as overarching and he calls what I describe as secularism or (S), “state secularization.” He also describes (S) as a “negative” (as contrasted with Charles Taylor’s “positive”) form of “neutralism” regarding the state’s relation to religions. I am less happy with having (S) described as any form of neutrality. But since his intentions here are no more than verbal, it would be fussy to say why, so I will simply ignore my differences on the matter as mere amicable disputation in the word.
On more substantial issues, his instinct is exactly right (and mine) when he says that Taylor wants a neutralism that is not necessarily secular. I wrote a fair number of words in my essay to try and make that instinct into a sound bit of criticism in political theory. I am sure that I have not persuaded Taylor, but it is gratifying to see that During and I share an understanding of Taylor. If he and I are right, Taylor’s honorable and interesting effort to redefine secularism as his form of “neutralism” fails. Or at any rate—if one takes the view that definitions, being stipulative and conventional, cannot exactly fail—it is not theoretically well motivated. During doesn’t mention his grounds for thinking Taylor to be wrong, but does gesture at broad agreement with the grounds I had presented.
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.