What is a Religion? Rethinking Religion and Secularism

– This is what I hope will be potentially a future book, which I’m tentatively calling “The Myth of Secularism”, but I’m basically going to share some of my reflections on what is really a work in progress. And looking at a few questions. What is religion?

We usually think of it as a relatively limited concept. Everyone knows what a religion is when they see one. What is din? That’s usually translated. It’s an Arabic word, usually translated as religion. And I want to look at whether that translation, which has been called into question

By a lot of scholars might have something to it. And finally, what is secularism, and that is an area of considerable sort of contention in the contemporary era, but it’s also in a sense, an ideology that underpins the way in which we organize the world, particularly in the Western world today.

So let me begin actually, by looking at some competing conceptions of the notion of religion. There are in a sense, I mean, there are a number of conceptions of what constitutes religion in academic scholarship today. But I wanted to actually think about, perhaps start by looking at the Oxford dictionary definition of religion.

So this is the Oxford dictionary of English. It’s not the OED that 20 volumes of mammoth piece of scholarship, but it’s basically a work of contemporary English usage you could say. So how is this word used in English today? And they sort of define religion as the belief in

And worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. This sounds familiar to most people, but if we think about a religion like Buddhism, which we usually refer to as a religion, about 70% of the global population, half a billion people, there’s no concept of God.

Some scholars have described it as an atheistic religion. So already, even with our common sense, understanding of these things, things are starting to break down. And so, in a sense, you have these two conceptions of religion within the academy one is close to the conventional understanding,

Which we’ll have a look at in a moment, but you also have a notion that religion is actually a modern category. It was invented in the modern period after the 17th century, the wards of religion kind of work constitutive of our understanding of religion today.

And some scholars also talk about the fact that secularism as an idea develops with the concept of religion. Scholars talk about the fact that as they would put it, there is no for religion in pre-modern times, what we refer to as religion doesn’t have a pre-modern equivalent. So that’s actually a widespread view

And we’ll have a look at it. I shouldn’t proceed any further without plugging the work of a colleague at Stanford University, Rushain Abbasi, he’s recently written a mammoth article, a 100 page article called Islam and the invention of religion where he’s basically criticizing what he describes

As the kind of modern orthodoxy in the study of religion, which argues that religion is a modern invention. Rather he says, that concept can be found early on in the Islamic tradition. And that’s something I’ll be looking at in a moment. But as I say, the current academic orthodoxy,

And it might be a little overstating of the case. I think that there are a significant number of scholars and I quote one of them in the transcript, but I’ll be sort of quoting him in passing. They hold this kind of traditional concept of religion that I mentioned earlier but this is

The view of Brent Nongbri, a scholar whose recent book is a 2013 book published by Yale University press called “Before Religion:The History of a Modern Concept”. He actually early on in his book defines religion in this way. “Religion is anything that sufficiently resembles modern Protestant Christianity.” Okay, now stay with him on this.

Let’s stick around. So religion is anything that sufficiently resembles modern Protestant Christianity. Such a definition might seem as crass, simplistic, ethnocentric, Christiancentric, and even a bit flippant. It is all of these things, but it is also highly accurate in reflecting the uses of the term in modern languages.

So this is, as I say, this is a very widespread view that basically what happened was modern Protestant Christianity post reformation kind of develops a conception of itself as a religion. That religion is privatized. That religion is in a sense to stay in the private realm, stay out of public life.

At least that’s the dispensation we live with today for the most part in a place like the UK. And then Europe exported that concept around the world and said, “This is what religion is. Get your religions in line with this.” So this is kind of the argument that scholars like

Brent Nongbri are making, that religion has to be privatized. And this is actually something we hear very often in society. We say, “Well, if it’s a religious matter, it’s a private matter. It should be privatized.” And what he’s saying is that conception of religion is actually a distinctly Protestant conception of religion

Developed after the 17th century in the wake of the wars of religion. And that is actually the way religion is used in other modern languages as well. And that’s a point which I will contest in just a moment, at least with respect to Arabic and other what scholars call Islamic cult languages.

Scholars sometimes make a distinction between Islamic and Islamic cult. And Islamic cult is basically a reference to what you could say, the secular components of a Muslim society, which are in some way imbued with the values of Islam, but are not really part and parcel of the religion.

I’m already using the category of religion that we’ll get back to why I think that is justified. Now, I want to ask us to think beyond Europe and I take my cue from sort of a Bengali historian, my own roots of Bengali as well, from the University of Chicago, a very prolific author,

This is an influential book he wrote in the year 2000 called “Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference”. So Dipesh Chakrabarty is a scholar of post-colonial studies. And he basically is arguing in this book that when we do history in an academic setting, we are so deeply embedded within a Eurocentric paradigm

That it’s extremely difficult to escape from it, even though that’s something that we should try and do. So the very concepts that we’re using, et cetera, are deeply embedded within the conceptual universe of Europe. And in a sense, it’s descendants in a place like the United States.

And so in the spirit of Provincializing Europe, I’m trying to ask ourselves, well, what if we discard this conception of religion and start to think about religion in terms taken from another tradition, the Sonic tradition, for example. Not to say that there’s a single unitary conception of religion in any given tradition.

Sorry on the basis of this I’m trying to look at, okay, is there an Islamic conception of religion? And why should that not be as legitimate of basis for our theoretical ruminations on the category of religion, on society, on the way in which society is organized.

Why should that not be as legitimate a source for those sorts of reflections as sort of what some scholars described as the Eurocentric conception of religion, right? And I think, increasingly it’s possible to ask those sorts of questions. I think maybe a generation or two ago

That suggestion would have been sort of dismissed as being, that’s not scholarship. Scholarship means you have to respect the canon, right? And that canon is now being brought into question. I think that’s a healthy development in our studies. So in Islam you have a concept of din.

So the term din is the Arabic word found in the Quran, found in the hadith literature. And I’ve got a hadith up there, section of its terpene on. And that term is usually translated as religion in modern period. Okay. It’s not always been translated as religion,

But in a sense, a language shifts over time. There’s something to be said about that. But what I’ve got on the screen is actually a hadith, a statement that is attributed to the prophet, which Muslims generally will consider to be authentic in this particular case, authentically attributed.

I’ve just made a note of where it’s found in sort of authoritative missing collections. And it’s a hadith where it’s a statement of the prophet or it’s actually a narrative of something that happened to the prophet and his companions where someone came to the prophet completely unfamiliar. It’s known as the Gabriel hadith

And so kind of title gives away who’s coming. So Gabriel appears in the form of a human and asks the prophet, “What is Islam? What is iman?” Which means faith. “What is the lesson?” Which is sometimes translated as spiritual excellence, and then asks a series of other questions.

And at the end of that hadith, the prophet asks one of his companions, “Do you know who asked that question was?” He had gone at that point. And then the companion response, “God and his messenger know best.” It’s very pious response. And the prophet responds, “(speaks foreign language) That was Gabriel.

He came to teach you your din.” And so early on in the tradition you have this term, which kind of identifies the entire project, din. But what’s interesting is and perhaps in contradistinction with some other traditions and some scholars point out people like Wilfred Cantwell Smith made this observation over 50 years ago.

That Islam is almost unique in history as naming itself. The scripture in a sense names itself. It reifies itself to use a bit of an academic term. And so the Quran itself actually has this sort of 109:6 where it says, “(speaks foreign language).” It not only attributes din to itself

Or the Muslim communities practices, but also attributes it to the other. It says that you have your religion, we have ours. Okay. Or I have mine. And this was addressed according to the unbelievers who are persecuting the prophet, okay. Saying, let us be, you have your religion, we have ours.

So the clan in a sense, uses this word. And this is just one instance but throughout the grant, this term is to be found in my estimation, rather transparently refer to beliefs, norms, practices that a given community adheres to, whether it be approved or disapproved by God.

And sometimes it refers to the din or the religion of Muslims as din will have the true religion. So it will sort of make those sorts of claims. But it’s interesting that that concept is in my estimation, very transparently present in earliest time scripture. And this should disrupt in my view,

What Rushain Abbasi calls the orthodoxy that has formed about the notion that religion is actually a modern category. Now, I’m going to change gears now and think about secularism for a moment. Okay. What is secularism? Another of these concepts, as I say, we all think we know what it is,

But when we start to sort of explore what it means, it’s difficult to pin down. And so, philosophy is sometimes called ideas like this, essentially concepts. Concepts where people are arguing about the very essence of it, the concept itself, democracy. And you could say Britishness, like what is Britishness?

And so secularism is often viewed as the separation of church and state. That’s one very popular definition. Something I’ll come back to towards the end of the lecture. And Charles Taylor, and this really it’s an award-winning book, “A Secular Age”. It’s a huge book, I think it’s 900 pages,

Took a long time to finish reading that. But Charles Taylor has suggested that secularism should better be understood as managing pluralism, a kind of neutrality between different competing religious claims, for example, on the part of the state. So the state should be a neutral umpire between different sort of perspectives.

But as I say, secularism is a contentious topic. How do we define secularism? Talal Asad, the chap whose book is on the left, an influential anthropologist of the secular. So he’s an anthropologist, who instead of looking at sort of traditional societies he said, “Well, what does an anthropology of secular societies look like?”

And he says, “Secularity is a distinct product of European history.” And he’s one of these people who described religion and secularism as Siamese twins for example. Charles Taylor, I’ve already mentioned talks about sort of neutrality. And he also highlights that secularism is about sort of the prevention of the persecution of minorities.

For example, the recognition of pluralism is acceptable, managing pluralism. And then you have, I think this is a relatively conventional view, but one which has been brought into question increasingly as he’s a scholar, I think he’s in Budapest at the moment, but he describes secularism as kind of a natural product of history.

So history kind of tended toward secularism and he’s a very sophisticated scholar, but it strikes me as teleological. It’s kind of history arrived at its conclusion with Europe, for some reason, according to that view. And I would sort of question that kind of a reading, but what about secularism beyond Europe as well?

So, I’m sort of going perhaps a bit backwards, sort of in a sense I’ve already mentioned Dipesh Chakrabarty’s “Provincializing Europe”. And so what I’m suggesting here is that account of secularism as sort of emerging and kind of reflecting natural historical development whereby all societies as they mature, as they advance,

As they progress, they will secularize. This is a very widespread assumption within the sociology of religion as well. And so, in a sense, in accord with that sort of an understanding, I want to sort of go back slightly and mention Bruce Lincoln, as another person who upholds a conception of religion,

Which is relatively conventional in that way. And he describes religion as a consisting of four components. The most important of which I want to highlight is a transcendent discourse, but it also is. And I want to highlight Bruce Lincoln’s definition for two reasons. One is, let’s think about religion,

But let’s think about how this might even apply to the concept of secularism as well. So Bruce Lincoln, a scholar at the University of Chicago as well wrote in this book made an attempt to define religion. And he’s a very sophisticated scholar, one of the finest positive religion of his generation,

But someone who in my view, adheres to the conventional view, that in a sense you can attempt to come up with a universal category of religion that excludes secularism as well. So he defines religion fairly extensively. I have summarized it here as a transcendent discourse, a practice, a community and an institution, right?

So, if we think about Christianity, transcend the discourse, the discourse of the Bible, a practice, there’ll be various rituals attached to it, the community, the Christian communion as were and an institution, the church. But in my estimation, depending on how you define transcendent, that can define any community.

So if we think about the British. Britishness as a discourse, it is also a practice that is regulated through laws, laid out through statute or in the form of the British constitution, whatever that is, a community. I happened to have my passport with me today ’cause I’m flying out tomorrow,

But we actually have sort of like these documents with which we can identify ourselves, and an institution. The institution you could say is the British state. But I think Britain is an institution in a sense. So I mean, one of the things that I should perhaps highlight here is these are all ideas

That there’s nothing natural in the world, which identifies someone as being from some country. These are ideas that we generate and we develop into institutions. The idea of progression college is basically a collectivity of people who have continued certain practices over time, right? And in that way, what I’m suggesting here is that

What is so different about secularism as a practice compared to a religion? The term transcendent is what Bruce Lincoln leans on heavily in my estimation, in order to justify the distinction between religion and secularism. So transcendence, he uses in my estimation, and he doesn’t use the term, God

Probably bearing in mind a traditional Buddhism, right? Or other potentially non-theistic practices, I suspect certain forms of other religions other than Buddhism and I’m not an expert on Hinduism would be considered to be transcendent discourses. Buddhism in a sense believes in spiritual practices that elevate people to around that cannot be accessed

By the normal human beings and so on. So in a sense, transcendence is doing a lot of work here, but to my mind, the values that underlie, any of these religious systems are transcended on some level. And I’m happy to sort of take questions later,

Querying my conception of this, but what is liberty? What is sort of liberalism as an idea? What is individualism as an idea? These are transcendent ideas in a sense, they are concepts and conceptions that we elevate to levels of unimpeachability in order to underpin our legal frameworks,

In order to recognize what is an acceptable social practice in our communities, what is equality? And what I want to suggest is that any normative system has to depend on these norms, which are transcendent ideas on some level, I haven’t gotten the book in the slides, but I’m reminded of William T. Cavanaugh,

Has a wonderful book called “The Myth of Religious Violence” where he basically argues that transcendence is something which is a kind of convenient way. It’s a slight of hand to allow for the creation of religion as a category. So he says that someone who works on Wall Street

And has a commitment to capitalism in a sense engages in a kind of deifying of the market and may spend hours and hours in rituals of devotion to the market, I suppose to give a sort of a locally relevant example, be the City of London, right?

And so I personally think that there’s something to that. And I think that the attempt to distinguish between theistic traditions or even something like Buddhism and an idea like secularism hinges on this conception of transcendence, which I think is highly problematic, I should sort of conclude this slide.

I didn’t mean to take quite so much time on it, but I’m going to plug my colleague, Rushain Abbasi’s work again as being an extraordinary history, his PhD, a 600 page PhD is a remarkable history of the concept of the secular not secularism, but the secular meaning.

He talks about the distinction between a religious realm and a secular realm as being present within the Islamic tradition from early on and theorized by scholars through history. It’s unfortunately unpublished. So if you want to read it, you’ll have to fly to Cambridge, Massachusetts and check-in at the library of Harvard University,

But hopefully it’s a different publication in 2023 with Princeton University Press. So if you’re interested that will be a book to look for. Okay. So I’ve already sort of suggested this, inverting the gaze: secularism as religion. And I’m taking inverting the gaze as a kind of a decolonial phrase, so to speak.

In my estimation, the Islamic view of religion resembles Emile Durkheim sort of famous definition of religion early on in his enormous book, “Les Formes Elementaires de la vie religieuse.” “The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life”. So this is 1912 work. He passed away five years later. It’s kind of his… I’m sorry.

I hope that’s not me. So, this is his great work towards the end of his life. And he defines religion interestingly enough, without reference to God. He says a religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things that is to say things set apart and forbidden.

So that’s his definition of sacred. And in all societies, we set things apart and forbid people from transgressing them in a sense. And practices which unite into one single moral community called the church, all those who adhere to them. So he’s used the term church, I think, that’s a little sort of,

I would query the use of that term, but I think to a certain extent, these sorts of conceptions of various modern ideologies religions is not terribly new. Another example. So this is from 1912, obviously, Emile Durkheim. And in a sense argues towards the end of his book that all societies need religions.

If we were to get rid of religion, we’d have to invent a new one. A decade later, Carlton Hayes, a scholar, a historian at Columbia University. And he writes an essay in a collected volume of essays, nationalism as a religion. It’s out of copyright so you can Google it and read it online.

And a really fascinating, I mean, he expands it later on, I think he published the book form in 1961, so 30-35 years later, but the book is called nationalism or religion, and this is nationalism as a religion. But those sorts of reflections on the way in which various modern ideologies in a sense

Take the place of religions is something which is quite widespread. And so I asked this question, could various modern ideologies be viewed as religions and his, one potential way of looking at this, depending on how one defines religion. And I’ve suggested a few definitions, we could view secularism as a broad church religion

While various secular ideologies, such as liberalism, nationalism may be seen as denominations or sects, right? I suppose denominations is a less loaded term, but perhaps Nazism and fascism should be considered sects. And so, in a sense, these are all post-enlightenment ideologies that predicate themselves on a world focused, what Charles Taylor calls,

“They look through an imminent frame.” They look at the world beyond not as transcendent, as connected somehow to a transcendent world, but only as eminent, only as interacting with the here and now, and well the times as well. And so, this is I think a remarkable transition in the history of humanity,

In a sense this kind of a shift beyond transcendence. But I also think that this is simply another manifestation of human religion. So these religions are ones which the secular wealthy realm, sorry, one’s in which the secular wealthy realm has been converted into an encompassing system that has replaced religious traditions.

And what do I mean by that? I’m just thinking about an idea like liberalism as something that imbues all of our institutions, or at least it should in a sense. So, we see ourselves as a liberal society, the values of liberalism and individuality, equality, all of these sorts of notions,

In a sense what Charles Taylor, the Canadian historian of secularism calls the French revolutionary trinity. Liberty, equality and fraternity. And those values in many respects are things that imbue our institutions. They imbue our laws. They are the basis on which we can actually adjudicate disputes among one another. And in my estimation, we engage in philosophical inquiry, which can be described as theological

With respect to those sorts of traditions. So if what I’m suggesting is a legitimate reading, then we live in a deeply religious age, right? And it sort of subverts our self image as a secular society. So in a sense, I mean, this book is slightly unrelated to the slide,

But I’m highlighting the limitations of the prevailing understanding of secularism in light of Islam, that a number of modern scholars know that Islam even as a practice today, even as a tradition today, not only the pre-modern world, but the Western trend of secularization in a form of marginalizing religion from the political sphere.

Now, most of the time people have rather sort of like unpleasant conceptions of this, partly because of the way in which it has been mediatized. But even beyond the more shocking manifestations that people are used to and form, part of a narrative, which is very problematic and skews our understanding

Of what’s actually happening in the world in my estimation. There are interesting things to be said about the fact that religiosity in the Muslim world often manifests also in the political sphere. And there isn’t really a very widespread conception in parts of the world, which have not been deeply touched by secular paradigms

That that is a bad thing, right? And so, that’s something that we can explore in perhaps the Q&A but it’s just something to recognize that the sort of the common understanding that secularism is the natural way for humanity. And it will gradually sort of secularize the whole world

Still held by a sort of respected sociologist of religion today. I think really needs to be brought into question and not in a historical fashion, but in a fashion that’s reflective and thinks about the sort of plurality of perspectives that exist in the world. These perspectives remain discussable marginal.

So in the broader discourse on whether it’s as an academic level, whether it’s I think greater latitude in this sort of discourse, or certainly in the popular level, they are discussing only marginal due to sort of the dominance of certain in my estimation narrow views of how society should be organized,

What we can think in a sense. So let me give one other example of what we can think of as a nation, as a religion. So I’m taking this again from Carlton Hayes, this is his 1961 book or note, it says 1960 on there.

So his 1960 book, and I’m just riffing off of it. This isn’t necessarily what he’s saying, but I’m just saying, what do we think about modern nation states as kind of these religious entities of sorts? They have sacred histories, all nation states have founding myths.

Why are we sort of Britain rather than England or Scotland? I guess Scotland might happen. But what makes France France? And younger nations have to kind of invent mythologies about themselves. They create museums. They sort of write histories that are to a certain extent, an act of creation,

Not an active sort of discussive discovery. You could say it’s a form of discovery question. It can also be a form of discovery. And so we have founding myths, we have sacred scriptures in my estimation, and I had a sort of Marshall Hall Patel’s book earlier “People of the Book”.

Constitutions, I mean, it’s a bit difficult to say this in the UK, of course. But in some respects statutory law can be seen as having elements of this. These are texts which cannot be ignored. They are true by definition, right? That’s how scripture works, right? The constitution of the United States is a good example because to a certain extent, it’s starting to be a bit archaic,

A couple of 100 years old at this point, or more than that. And it’s creating all sorts of complications with respect to, for example, the second amendment and the right to bear arms and things like that, written in a very different time. Yet, it’s not something that can just be discarded.

It’s a sacred text in practice, and you have a clerical class that adjudicates this sacred texts and various rankings of clerics, the Supreme court justices of the greatest theologians, the sort of the doctors of the church. But you do have a massive theological discourse and describing it somewhat facetiously as theological discourse,

But that’s what legal scholars are there for to mull over these complicated questions as they relate to practice, the philosophers are there to explore the philosophical underpinnings. And sometimes those two realms will overlap as well. You have, as I said, sort of a clerical class, you have unequal ingroups and outgroups

So religions will have members of that confession and people who are outside of that confession, but we have citizens and foreigners, for example. In fact, we’re so committed to our in-groups and out-groups that we create documents to prove that we’re number of one and not a member of another,

And people vie over these things, of course, right? I mean, it’s a tragedy that we’re living through in the course of the refugee crisis. And the state, is in a sense this inviolable sort of entity, the state in a sense becomes quite sacred. And we can talk about that,

But in a sense, the way in which sometimes security is used to run roughshod of a liberty is an illustration of some of these crazy theological debates. And yeah, so I hope that this sort of reading of kind of alternative history of the secular, so to speak,

Based on an Islamic sort of set of presuppositions is an interesting, sort of interesting one that people may consider taking up. That’s my friend, Rushain Abbasi, the scholar at Stanford, and here is a book by Noah Feldman, who’s at Harvard. But in a sense, what we have with secularism

Is the kind of in my estimation, the marginalization of traditional religions and replacement with potentially an alternative religion. Rushain Abbasi argues in his thesis at one point, that Islam’s worldliness. Actually, no, this isn’t a separate article, but Islam’s worldliness may have prevented the formation of secularism within Islamic civilization

And the form that we have within Western civilization. In a sense, this is his argument, that there was a kind of harmony, a natural harmony between the secular and the religious within Islam that allowed for that interplay not to create great tension in the way that he suggests was the case in Europe.

And Noah Feldman also sort of points out in the political realm, which is, in a sense of the reason secularism is the separation of the religion, religious and the political. In the political realm historically sort of… Sorry. Historically the political realm was subordinate to a rule of law system.

Yes, it was based on the sheria, but it was a rule of law system that was seen as just, and operated in ways that conform to society’s values rather than what is very often assumed that, pre-modern religious policies were in some way on the basis of religion despotic,

The divine right of kings doesn’t really exist in the Islamic tradition in my reading. Part of the reason I wrote my latest book about the Arab revolutions of 2011, is that there’s an attempt to revive or in a sense manufacture kind of divine right of kings

Or in the case of the Middle East divine right of dictators. So, that is a problem, but yeah, this is kind of my last slide. And then I’m just going to read a brief, sort of the conclusion to the written version of the paper, which I say is a work in progress.

And so, there’s a lot of stuff here, which I don’t talk about in that paper, but under stuff in that paper, which I didn’t talk about here. But, in a sense the implication of what I’ve said for the last 40 minutes is that it creates a kind of contradiction in secularism self-image, right?

How can secularism be a neutral umpire between religions, if it is self is a religion? I think this question indicates the need for reassessing our conceptions of various concepts. And I hope that, in a sense that I’ve contributed to something useful in that regard, I’m just going to read out

And I hope this is not too much, I don’t drone too much, but I just wanted to read out a brief section, the conclusion of my article. Of course, secularism rejects the notion that it is analogous to the religions of old. It sees itself as a uniquely rational enterprise

That has transcended the superstition of pre-modern religions. Those religions now belonged in the private sphere of the modern secular order. This was essential to maintaining the peace and preventing the world from being written by superstitions wars of other world is south Asian, at least in secularism self-conception.

But in fact, secularism was simply even in genuinely reenacting the established pattern of a new universal religious project. It had simply come to recognize its own salvific qualities and thus it was only reasonable, but it supersede the primitive paradigm of religion in the public sphere. Secularism was the new dispensation

Brought for the salvation of humanity. And it was for humanity’s own good that it’d be accepted in one ideological form or another. Yet unlike a religion like Islam, his scriptures offered the ostensibly unbeatable claim that God had sent Islam as the final revelation through the final prophet to end all profits.

That’s the Muslim belief that the prophet Mohammed was the final prophet. Unlike that secularism could make the claim that it had in fact, superseded the category of religion itself. This was in many ways a master stroke of self legitimation for it cleared away all the traditional competitors for authority in the public sphere.

By masking itself as transcending religion, secularism has arguably found the means of legitimizing itself that is proven remarkably effective. It is called for religion to be largely removed from public life except in a symbolic or vestigial form. In doing so, it has rendered the public sphere, a realm over which it exercises

A monopoly of legitimate violence. Yet, I have tried to suggest, as I’ve tried to suggest over the course of this presentation, there is a deep contradiction at the heart of secularism, as it stands today, namely that it upholds the principle of separation of religion and state or in more recent articulations upholds

The states neutrality or equidistance between all religions. But if secularism is indeed itself a religion, then the claims that the secular state is separate from religion breaks down. And I asked the question, how can the secular state be neutral between religions if it is governed by the rules of one particular religion,

Namely secularism? I don’t have the answer to these questions, versions of which have been posed by certain Christian scholars for some time now. But I do think posting such questions from an Islamic perspective is important in helping us recognize the need for our society to acknowledge that the conversations in these areas

Needs to be broadened to include a wider range of viewpoints that better reflect the people who make up our increasingly diverse societies, the conversations these kinds of reflections might open up can be enriching and mind broadening in many ways. And I hope we’ll foster greater mutual respect

And understanding if what I say contributes to such an outcome, I will consider the job of this brief presentation to be done. Thank you. – If secularism is a religion, what should it mean for the separation of religion and the stats in your view? – Oh my, I hope my conclusion made clear I have no idea. I mean, I think we need to have conversations about this because it does make things a lot more complicated in a sense. And I think that that claim that I have presented, and I’ve not presented it as the truth, but I’m presenting it as a claim that secularism is a religion,

Opens up opportunities for conversations and discussions rather than giving us any answers, to be honest. And I think that that’s the opportunity that we should embrace at this point in time. And, I think it will make for a very interesting sort of, and mutually respectful conversation.

– [Man] Thank you for a fascinating lecture. – Thank you. – [Man] I have a number of questions, but I’ll keep it to one. – Thank you. – [Man] Where in secularism or religion does morality come and I think it’s been subtext there actually. – Right, right.

– But is there a universal morality that can be a bit- – That’s an excellent question. I mean, yes, it’s absolutely. It’s been sort of implied throughout and I’ve used the term, norms throughout. And in a sense, the sort of the enterprise of ethics and moral philosophy and philosophy more generally

Over the last century or two has been trying to address what happens to morality when we lose sort of the traditional sources of that morality. So Christianity or Judaism or any given religious tradition, what I’m suggesting is that actually, and it’s not a suggestion. It’s very well recognized.

Political philosophy is a species of ethics. It’s a species of moral philosophy when people like John Rawls, great sort of liberal philosopher from Harvard wrote a theory of justice. He was basically trying to ask, what is ethical for society? How should societies be organized in a way that’s ethical?

So I think secularism has its own traditions of morality. And liberalism is one such tradition of morality. Religious traditions have that sort of discourses on morality as well. So I think that in my estimation and I figured out a definition for religion from an Islam conception,

But what I take to be the broadly speaking, the understanding of religion is a community that religion is basically a set of norms that govern the community, norms mean that there’s morals involved, right? How should we behave towards one another? What sorts of laws? Laws are intimately tied with our ethics as well,

But what kinds of laws should govern our transactions and interactions with each other? And so, I think religions where that source historically and secularism in its various dispensations, liberalism and forms that we might not like so much, communism and so on. We’ll have the morality’s as well.

And I think we need to recognize, of course, that there’s a diverse array of moralities out there. The question of universalism is a difficult one. I mean, one classical and perhaps dominant Islamic perspective was that virtually relativist one, which was to say that you cannot really know

What is right or wrong without the guidance of God. I think that’s somewhat problematic personally, because then how do you know how to accept what God gives you? Is that right or wrong, right? But there’s interminable debates, anyway. So I hope that answers the question somewhat.

– [Man] Would you say that the periods of political Islam revival, the 1970s to 2010s actually represent a wide rejection of secularism within the Islamic world or due times or perceived Islamic revival merely represent Islamic influence coming from the background to the forefront of society. – It’s a very thoughtful question actually.

So the sort of what’s referred to as political Islam, a term which I think reflects and scholars are increasingly noting this, that even that label reflects a kind of Eurocentric paradigm because you have to give a special label to a religion that has a political component phrase.

But, I think that it reflects not necessarily, I mean, what is secularism? A lot of the groups that are labeled as political Islamists are pro-democracy, they want to uphold a certain regime of human rights, which in many cases we would recognize, in some cases, there would be tensions

With dominant liberal traditions, for example, perhaps on questions of gay rights or things of that nature. I think it’s too simple to say it’s a rejection of secularism. Secularism is an entire tradition. There are lots of things that, secularism in my view as a religious tradition

Has to offer and not all of those things are problematic. In fact, many of those things are quite positive in my estimation. And so those elements don’t need to be rejected by political Islam. And I don’t think are rejected by political Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that I’ve spent some time studying,

Which is probably the largest and most influential organization under the label of political Islam is an organization that is very pro-democracy that is extremely popular and anti dictatorship in the middle east. And that’s why they are hated by the secular autocrats and the secular autocrats sell themselves as secular to the west.

They’re not actually any more secular or less religious than the Muslim Brotherhood. That’s just a good marketing tool to get sort of the west on your side. So, I think in the region that there are interests, but there’s not much to do with the secular religion divided in my estimation.

– One thing that really came to mind when thinking about your ultimate conclusion, secularism as a religion, is why is the word secularism used? And it immediately made me think of France, the concept of laicite. And to my mind and I’d like your observations on this, it’s a device, the word secularism,

It’s a device basically used to make a particular belief system seem more important, neutral, and acceptable in a society. And that in a sense what happened to France because you have a particular belief system. – Right. – [Man] It’s not called a religion, it’s put forward under the concept of laicite

And it privileges certain historic practices. And what I’m really interested in is what do you think about the use of the word secularism, and why is it used? – That’s again, very thoughtful question. Thank you very much. And France is a very unusual sort of case of,

I mean, compared to sort of the liberal polities that we might be used to in the Anglophone world, I lived in the United States for more than five years. And religion is quite widespread in society there and it’s invoked in Congress and all of those sorts of things.

And France is a very kind of laicite is a very aggressive kind of anti religion in a sense. And some such a sociologist of religion actually call it a religion. I mean, not in the sense that I’m talking about, for some reason, this is something I feel a bit irritated by the way,

Some sociologist of religion will label as religious secular ideologies, which tend to be extreme. So they’ll see Nazis and fascism and perhaps laicite can be considered political religions or something. And I’m like, “Well, everything’s a religion.” Anyway, so I think at the end of the day, we use labels…

These developed very often organically in the course of debates. The word secularism emerges from a sort of important English thinker, George Hollyoke who wanted to coin a phrase that would not suggest atheism and immorality. I believe he’s the one who sort of coined the phrase

Sort of secularism, but then it kind of takes a life of its own. And as a philosophical system, it sort of develops into a very important and central idea. I think those things happen through historical accident and then we become wedded to a particular version of that.

So I’m not sure that there’s a particular sort of effort to engineer something by using a particular word. I think whatever word has ended up representing what we think is appropriate, an appropriate ideology or appropriate philosophy and appropriate religion, we will then argue the best thing since its spread

And therefore we must uphold it. And if you’re not upholding it, we need to somehow marginalize and show society that this is not acceptable. All societies do that with their core concepts. And so, I’m not sure it’s particularly unusual to secular societies. I hope that answers the question somewhat.

– [Woman] I can remember when I did my first thesis long, long time ago, but there’s a theologian, who wanted to encompass a whole variety of different theistic and nontheistic, including dialectical materials. and he had angles his material, his stints in the sense of the material world

Is all that counts and the highest (indistinct) but he wanted to call it a religion that would ought to include that in this broad conception of what religion might be. – So I mean, as you can see, I’m quite sort of liberal with the liberal religion, no pun intended.

But what’s interesting about dialectical materialism is that even someone like Bruce Lincoln who holds this sort of notion of religion as transcendent in a footnote in that book argues that, well, it might be reasonable to say dialectical materialism, given that certainties in this sort of like in the ideas that they’ve generated

Can be considered a religion. But again, for me, this is one of the things that irritates me slightly, which is that, well, why make a special case of bad things is religion, right? I think there’s a kind of prejudice in my estimation in the way in which certain things are called religion,

Because there’s something wrong with them. They come into the political realm, that’s a Protestant prejudice. So to speak that is post 17th century for what it’s worth. – [Man] I disagree with most of it. – Great. – I don’t really think that secularism can be defined as a religion because it doesn’t have

The normal characteristics or religion. It doesn’t have a catechism or membership category or rituals. It’s not a religion, it’s a principle. No, I don’t have a religion but I’m a secularist. But if I had a religion, I’d also be a secularism because I do believe as a principal in the separation

Or the neutrality of the state and institutions. So I don’t think that religion should have a special role in the functioning of the state. That’s all that secularism is. So the examples you give really secularism grew out of conflicts within religion not between religions, whereas the Islamic societies you describe,

Have always been almost wholly Muslim. Not always, not always, not always, but mostly have. And secularism, even before (indistinct) had a history, there were many empires, which were broadly speaking secular. They left people to their own devices. They did not interfere or force conversions, et cetera, et cetera.

So I’m not saying that it’s secular, but there were in some ways secular and so secularism has a long history which you seem to be suggesting somehow it’s a completely modern idea. It’s not. – It’s a lot of stuff that you’ve mentioned. I’m just trying to keep up with which points.

I wonder if you’d like to sort of like summarize the question in one or two components. – Well, your definition of secularism as a religion is not substantiated because it does not have the characteristics of religion. It doesn’t have places of worship, does not have catechism rituals.

– So how do we define anything? On what basis do we define something as religion, something as secularism? Basically the conclusions will arrive that will depend on those decisions that are made early on in that sort of thought process. So early on, I kind of set out my store

On how I conceived of religion. And religions are basically, broadly speaking about norms that allow for the cohesive existence of a society. If I define religion on that basis, then certainly I can call it secularism my religion, your defining religion on the basis of, certain other presuppositions.

So we can then go and question, the presuppositions themselves, is it reasonable to say that, if something has a catechism, it is a religion. If something has such and such a component, it is a religion. And I think there are scholars who have argued in that way, as I’ve mentioned with Bruce Lincoln,

But I would suggest that it’s perfectly reasonable to develop this kind of a conception of religion. And I think the resistance to that is something that we’re better bringing into question because it shows us a kind of attachment to ideas which are somewhat arbitrary and historically

Sort of like have come about at a certain point in time for reasons that maybe need to be brought into question. So, yeah, I mean, that would be my sort of broad response to that. We could take specific questions because you raised a lot of…

There were a number of aspects to what you mentioned, and I can’t recall all of them and I didn’t have the presence of mind to make notes at the time. And I’m happy to discuss this with you afterwards, but really it hinges on how you define the category of religion,

The way in which you’ve defined religion. Obviously secularism doesn’t count as a religion because you’ve defined it in a way that precludes the possibility of including secularism Islam as religion. But I’ve brought into question in the course of my talk, and this is, you’re not the only person who does it,

Plenty of scholars have done that. I brought into question, that approach to the definition of religion. And I think that there are cogent reasons to bring that approach into question, but this will be hopefully a conversation we can take on after the session. – I would just like t thank Dr. Usaama al-Azami

For a really fascinating, stimulating evening. – Thank you all. Thank you all very much.

#Religion #Rethinking #Religion #Secularism

Global Religious and Secular Dynamics

– Good afternoon, everybody. And welcome to the first in a discussion series on Global Religious and Secular Dynamics. My name is Jose Casanova and I’m a sociologist, Professor of Sociology and Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Georgetown University as well as a Senior Fellow at the Berkeley Center

For Religion, Peace and World Affairs, which sponsors these series. Good afternoon here in the East Coast where both Charles Taylor and I am but I know some of you is good morning in the West Coast, for others is good evening in Europe in the Middle East

Goodnight in Asia and even past midnight in Australia. Welcome all. We are fortunate to have as the first speaker in our series, in our conversations, the great living philosopher, Canadian, Quebecker Charles Taylor. Charles, welcome to our conversation. We are going to have a conversation between both of us,

We are going to cover four topics, The Secular Age, The Crisis of Democracy, Linguistic Anthropology or Global Human Condition in a Catholic Modernity. It will be first conversation perhaps a bit superficial, but I think that it blends well key aspects of Charles Taylor’s life work. After our conversation, we’ll have a 20 minute

Period for question and answer. And so please, you have there a chat. And you can write your questions and answers. And we’ll try to give you the opportunity to for Charles Taylor to respond. Without further ado, Charles, good afternoon. Again, it’s a great pleasure to have you with us,

It will be much better if we could be physically together. But this is a still a substitute is important that we keep socially connected an intellectual conversation under those conditions of physical distance. So again, let’s begin with “A Secular Age.” This is a book that obviously made you famous beyond philosophy.

It became almost you could say an intellectual best seller. Did you expect such a response to the book “A Secular Age” when you were writing? – No, I didn’t, I thought it would be largely ignored by most people but just specialists in the field might find some interesting ideas.

You remember, when we worked it out together, I finished the draft in discussions with you and Hans Joas very intensely in Berlin. And I thought then it’s a continuation of that kind of discussion among sociologists and philosophers. And suddenly, to my surprise it– – Well, it certainly went beyond anybody’s expectation

And I’m so pleased that it happened. So now one of the concepts you develop in the book you had already begun developing, is this of the imminent frame. Explain what we what we mean by the imminent frame. And how is it connected with our secularize.

– Yes, well, I’m trying to get out there they what we all understand that we all understand. People’s understanding of what they share in their understanding of their situation. Now if you go back to the Middle Ages, Early Modern Period in Europe, there was a biblical story that everyone accepted

There was a fight between different versions of Christianity, there was a sense that we also lived in a Cosmos with moral orders that the various kingdoms and so on were based on these cosmic realities et cetera. And today, it’s really very, very different. What we all understand, that we all understand

Across all civilizations, is roughly speaking the natural science view of the natural world, the sense that our different societies have all been created by human beings at a certain time revolutions and so on. The sense that we live in in man’s timeframe, stretching back unimaginably millions of years

And in the evolution of the universe then we have different positions within that we some of us are into certain faiths. Others are against faith and so on. But everybody understands that that’s what everybody understands starting point. And that’s what I call the, if you like the frame

And I call an imminent frame because it’s elements are totally imminent and they transcend. – So okay, so this the imminent frame meaning is based on horizontal institutions, without any reference to transcendence? They all operate as if God would not exist, right? But as if there was none directly. And obviously, in Europe,

The emergence of this imminent frame, perhaps because it was there that you could be develop had very negative consequences for the survival of traditional forms of Christianity. The spectation was that is the imminent frame becomes globalized to other civilizations, the same will happen, the same process of decline of religion, and basically,

Rather, purely secular is the only option of normal life could also happen. But this has not been the case. So how can we explain that within such an imminent frame, such a diversity of possibilities of global religious and secular dynamics are possible? – Yeah, well, I think he was to turn it around

Why should that change people’s mind? It means, of course, that one’s religious faith is in a quite different context. I mean, think of religious faith 16th century world of magic, of magic forces, God is a being that could defend us against that. But it’s perfectly possible to turn it around

And say within this imminent frame, people are searching for meaning, they’re searching for a sense of what human beings can become, how they can grow and so on. And some people are gonna see that growth, that development, that journey towards something greater in terms of religious faiths,

And indeed, what we find in the imminent frame now is a tremendous growth and diversification of different ideas of what the spiritual development is. So it’s in a sense, it’s a different context it inflects all faith positions differently but it doesn’t rule out the possibility of faith quite the contrary. – Right.

And yet you in your lifetime you’ve experienced personally the rate transformation of Quebecker Society from being a uniformly Catholic, and then suddenly almost a homogeneous radically secular. So it seems that Quebec is almost a confirmation of the European notion of a self fulfilling prophecy of secular modernity.

And yet, we see the parallel to that in Latin America, you see, the transformation of the societies, their own silent revolutions, leading into all kinds of religious pluralism. So how do we explain under which conditions then one seems to, this imminent frame it seems to lead to homogeneous secularity.

And when does it open up the possibility for precisely all forms of pluralism? – Yeah. Well you see if the previous period in which there was this sole unanimous belief in this case, the Catholic Church in Quebec, if it was a period in which people really suffered is certain kinds of restriction, oppression

Being forced to do things they didn’t want to do and so on, then, the change in the global understanding of where we are at, is seen as a possibility, where we can get rid of all this, we can throw it all away. And that’s what of course,

Was lived in my society in Quebec. But if you take a society on the other end of the spectrum, like the United States, which in a sense became plural, roughly around the time of the Great Awakening or the Great Awakenings, maybe the second one in the early 19th century

Then it’s a quite different situation. And so you see these very, very different ways of responding and again, and in the Latin American case in Brazil and so on it’s something different again what’s clear in all these cases is you get plural pluralism, glorification, growth of different possibilities. And that exists here too,

Because in the generation after the one that threw the church out there are young people that are saying, “well, what are we gonna do with our lives?” Well, I mean, we’re searching for some kind of meaning for some kind of, in some cases, spiritual growth and that’s happening in all sorts of ways.

So it depends if the experience prior to pluralism was very negative, then it’s reached to this rejection of religion. – Right. So it seems that it’s also, as you point out a radical transformation. Pluralism was viewed as a negative fact these what explains the Wars of Religion. Nobody could imagine the possibility of

Different religious beliefs in the same society. There had to be homogeneity, thus the Westphalian model. While we’ve moved from this model, it was for plurality of beliefs, which are heresies, or false doctrines to a positive recognition of plurality is a positive development into pluralism to which extent this is one of the factors

Of our global condition recognition of a kind of hereditament plurality, especially in the field of the world system of religions. – Yes, well, I think that this has causes its reactions and we have various parts of the world in which is still thought to be a disaster

So now it’s thought as something that has to be stamped out and really, you know, very, very tight discipline. If you look at the evolution of a society like Pakistan, It’s really very, very worrying. But it’s very much a lesson of that, Pakistan was started with the idea of

An Islamic state that was Islamic State culturally that was connected to the culture of the moguls and so on. And it’s slowly evolved towards a state that is permitting people, Islamic in the narrowest possible sense of Wahhabi time discipline around, they’re a very narrow notion of the Sharia.

So you get people who are on death row, now for being accused of blasphemy and so on. So there are reactions to this kind of pluralism in various parts of the world. And they become in a certain sense, even more viciously narrow (laughs) than the original, raw, the conformist societies that–

– But of course, paradox here is that we know the Jinnah the founder of the idea of Pakistan himself was really an atheist. He didn’t take Islamic religion seriously. Muslim identity yes but not Islamic beliefs. – Even worse than that, he was a member of a sect

That would be probably victims of drive by killings of Ultra Shia sect, and yet he’s still revered. There’s a kind of tremendous cognitive distance in Pakistan so he was both not really a believer but he was connected to a sect which is considered not really Islamic anymore, by most, anyway, lots of Pakistanis.

– These resets to the next topic of The Crush of Democracy and to a large extent it has also to do with attempts to impose the kind of religious or ethno-religious homogeneity, that of course, was also the mother of Westphalia this is what happened in Europe

And to to a large extent, there has been a tragic repetition of this model of ethno-religious uniformity for the sake of the nation or state and of religious nationalism, this is one of the crisis of democracy. But there are many others which have to do with even populist rejections of liberal democracy

In the West, you’ve been working with your friends with Craig with Philip on a new book, precisely analyzing this crisis of democracy and how we can somehow respond to it. You’ve been involved in democracy both as a political thinker but also as an activist, you’re one of the founding members

Of the New Democratic Party of Canada, you have been a social democrat before Bernie Sanders was a social democrat. And to a certain extent, you’ve been always very much involved both intellectually but also politically involved in democracy. So how do you see our contemporary moment and what is the fundamental for you the most fundamental crisis of democracy today? – Well, I think the faith of Western democracy

The crisis is the rise of what we call not really very apathetic populism, And that is, there is a sense among the idea that one has to mobilize the people defined as ordinary people who are not part of the elites but the mobilization is around extremely

As you say, extremely narrow, and notions of identity and that exclude others that exclude people with varieties of ways of approaching. And I think that this has different sources. One of the sources in our Western societies has been that a lot of ordinary people were neglected in the era you might see

A new liberalism where there was globalization carried through without a concern for whether they were victims losers as well as gainers from this without any attempt to inflect the gains so that makes sure that everybody was on board and I think the United States is a key example

Of that kind of cause where the society moved more and more towards galloping inequality and tremendous deprivation and that’s one of the things that could easily turn into populism. Then if you go to the other end of the Western world and you look at a country like Poland, it’s somewhat different,

Is that they have this experience of their nationalism, which is very much linked with the Catholic church or older now, ideally the Catholic Church, suppressed for years for decades under communist regime. And so when the liberation comes back, it’s easier to argue by people who have this kind of view that

That’s really what Poland is all about and that it’s not about being open, liberal, plural and so on. So there are different kinds of origin of this thing but it happens that we are in a, I don’t know why, in a constellation in the world in which these bad movements are winning

And even India is not connected to the Western world at all. Indian democracy is moving in a very worrying direction with Modi with a kind of very narrow notion of Hindu persecuting the largest minority, the second largest Muslim society in the world in terms of population has just

Had a law passed where doesn’t recognize Muslims as Indian citizens. So, we have this– – You mentioned Poland, what is to me evident in these contemporary regime in Poland is a very clear critique of rule of law, of justice former justice by experts but also of liberalism, for in the name

Of majoritarian democracy. So you get a affirmation of the rule of the majority but without concern for minority rights and without concern really for a fundamental constitutional order that protects everybody. To me, it’s a dissociation of three elements of democracy that were also separate in the 19th century. Liberals used to be anti-democrats,

Democrats used to be anti-liberals. And you will have a rule of law in Prussia that was neither liberal nor democrat. So part of the problem and we see it in Trump is very majoritarian rule without any also concern for institutions, legal institutions rule of law, and also a certain totally dis-concern

For the rights of minorities. So to which extent is a fundamental problem today how to bring together because one understands a critique of liberal elites, but in the critiques of basically pure expertise, legal formalist but when it goes to undermining the fundamental legal constitutional structures and minorities, professional minorities rights

Then there is a fundamental problem. So to which extent this is a fundamental issue today? – I think it’s absolutely fundamental but how to defeat it is the big question. What powers it, is a sense of the national identity, which is very much this in a narrow sense

It anchored in mostly in the past, and a tremendous fear. So the fear around losing that is what makes all these illiberal regimes try to make their power irreversible. So what you see in all of them in Hungary, they succeeded in doing that. In Poland, the fight now is that they,

You know, the reigning party is trying to change the judicial system, fire judges and so on. The idea is to make it irreversible what you see in the Trump regime with the Republicans in the United States Well, Republicans in general have been trying to have this kind of irreversibility

By both suppressing and so on. And in the case of Trump who go to any length to make sure that he doesn’t get turned out, there’s completely abandon the idea of as a democratic society, which well, we rule for a while, and then you take over

And you rule for a while but you open the possibility of it continuing. So how you undermine that immense fear around a certain identity which makes it just inconceivable or horrible to think that one could ever change. That is the big challenge today. – And of course, too, as you point out

The growing, global problem of growing economic inequality and social inequality to these we are the global pandemic and it is also precisely made clear manifest the consequence of these inequalities but then in has produce a retrenching towards presenting national autarkic you know almost Americantlism right even the European Union,

Closing its inner borders once again abandoning the Schengen model and retracting to a purely national a unit Black Lives Matter protest that under those conditions despite the fear of well contagion, you have people risking their health for the sake of an idea, is not any more simply Blacks,

African Americans, but now you see a very wide spread other populations supporting the both participating but also majority of the American population supporting the demonstration. So do you see here a point of influx or revitalization of democracy? – Yes, I think I do. And, you know, there was one good thing

That came from the COVID crisis, one good thing, which was in many, many societies an immense wave of solidarity which precisely bridged the divisions in many cases that existed before. And I think that that sense of solidarity greater solidarity you know, we’re faced with the same crisis,

With the same danger, with the same enemy, as it were. People said, the beginning is like a wartime and I think that’s very true. It’s like the, you know, declaration of wartime, which I was old enough to remember in the Second World War, when a lot of lines of division were closed

Because people thought we have a common enemy and we have to get together and fight them. And I think that that stronger sense of solidarity is partly explaining the wonderful reaction to the killing of George Floyd I mean, it’s partly the horrible scene in which he was killed.

But I think it’s also because there’s a sense that we have to hang together now we have to create a kind of unity and that’s why, not just in the United States but worldwide in Canada and elsewhere there is this very strong feeling, no we can’t carry on like this

With these kinds of hierarchical views of who really matters. And we have to do something about it. I think that comes from the very context of the COVID crisis in which it arose. – Right, especially the realization to the extent to which discriminated racial minorities have been disproportionately impacted

By this inequality, by the crisis when this is big. This is a very positive aspect. For me the fundamental question remains however, that the answers have been purely national so far and we know that these crises are global crises that required also transnational solidarity, also in their response.

And so part of the problem I see today is that we can innovate transnational international structure partly because of the United States that was the leader abandoned it, and partly because of the growth of authoritarian regimes in China, in Russia, in India, et cetera that are not interested in creating these transnational structures.

So the point is, to which extent we need to go beyond internal democracy precisely towards developing a structures of transnational solidarity because it’s not only the global pandemic, it’s of course, the global ecological crisis, is a crisis of global refugees, is the crisis of base, equally global inequality.

None of these problems can be solved in one single country. If you associate democracy in one country is not possible today, for economic reasons for many reasons. So how can we go both reinforce national democracies to make them lively and that responsive to people,

But at the same time be able to transcend them? So how can we do that? – Well, I think we have some of the basis for doing that in the way we’ve responded to the the Coronavirus crisis, because the idea is we want, first of all the solidarity within the society.

But secondly, the idea that here’s something really overriding our normal concerns for my own prosperity or my own job and so on. It’s something that goes beyond that. And that can only be fought on an international level. So you could imagine we could emerge from this

With a sense that yeah, we have to pull together not only within societies, but between societies. And we could start a new kind of movement, which would mean that we would have a more effective fight against global climate change as well. Then what tells against that

Is that we’ve spent a tremendous amount of money, rightly keeping people afloat, who’ve lost their jobs or businesses that couldn’t function and so on. And I know there’ll be people who will be saying at the end of all this, if ever there is an end to all this

“look, we’re so much in debt, “we can’t possibly afford a program “of really fighting for global, “against global climate change, and so on.” And I think Left and Right are gonna line up as we leave this crisis around that issue. Does this I mean, one thing is to say

What it showed us that we were terribly unprepared to face this kind of thing ’cause we ran down our health systems or old folks homes and so on, let’s never do that again. And the other response would be well, Oh be spend so much money, we’re so much in debt.

We can’t afford it. So let’s run the beam further down in order to get back to our level of production before the crisis. And I think we, you know, I don’t know exactly who is gonna win this battle. (laughs) I know it’s not long but we have a real chance

We have a real chance because of what’s the mindset created in the crisis of doing the right thing or once. (laughs) – But there was a time, obviously, where you talk over international social democracy in Europe, it gave a new light to European Union beyond what had originally been at least

A democratic project. But now really, really social democracy transnational is in serious crisis throughout Europe we see it. And so, how can we somehow recover this tradition and how can we revitalize it for our contemporary global condition? I’m not sure but obviously, you’ve been at this fight for a long time.

So do we have any idea of how– – We need new kinds of alliances in a way. there were moments in our history, like the New Deal, the first New Deal of the United States was a recreation of a new kind of alliance to fight a crisis that hadn’t existed before.

And people are talking now in the United States about our Green New Deal (laughs) that’s the same idea. But in countries of Europe, we have to have a new alignment. I mean, for instance, in Germany, it has to be an alignment of various Left parties and the Greens.

You know, the Greens are a very important possible vehicle. This when you think of the election of Bavaria last year that a lot of the votes lost by the Right wing went to the Greens. So it won’t be simply a social democratic or in France, a Socialist Party has virtually disappeared.

But it could be a realignment which produces a new situation, a new political course and I think the possibility is there the were a lot of young people are at in all our societies at this point, politically is they’re ready to move in that direction

But we have to be creative in bringing about the new kinds of alignments. – And if we can move now to your life work, you’ve basically been a consistent critique of what could be called any form of naturalism. Naturalism, your first critique in your book, “The Explanation of Behavior” in 1963, 64,

Against precisely the model of the natural sciences to understand human societies from the social science, human sciences. You develop a critique of communitarian critique of liberalism, which has also some of these elements a critique of purely formalist epistemologies and now in your new book, “The Language Animal,”

A book which I do recommend everybody to read this the book that at the base of which you receive one of the last big prizes, right? You got the Templeton Prize and the Kyoto Prize, the Kluge Prize together with Jürgen Habermas from the Library of Congress and then the Berggruen Prize

Now this is a book in which you tried to it’s called “The Language Animal” very clearly we are could be called “The Language Mammal” we are an animal species, and the attempt to any type of epistemology any type of understanding of reason, which is disembodied and dis-embedded from social context will not work.

The subtitle is the “Full Shape of the Human Linguistic Capacity” and you develop as a critique of you put two different types of linguistic anthropology one right HLC, Hobbes Locke Condillac and then the three aids of German romanticism, Harmond Humbolt Hargen. What do you mean by this critique of a purely,

Designative theory of language that only is an utensil is again, useful, but really is not considerative of fascist humans. Can you explain? – You see the Hobbes, Locke, Condillac all those three thinkers, what they were interested in language for was language enables us to formulate information,

You know, record it and communicate it to others. They were thinking always of how does it help us build a science of the world right, and their followers in the modern analytic philosophy, theories of language with a certain number of very important changes really introduced by Fregean

Are really focusing on the same thing. But if you look at human beings in language, just obvious that it’s doing other things for us. It’s I mean, if you look at art, if you look at literature, if you look at the role of metaphor, incidentally, metaphor is the enemy for Hobbes

And Locke and Condillac their customs say, you know, this is their confusing science if you use this word for that. See, but metaphor, we live by metaphors but also what language does, is it relates us to each other. So we thinking of linguistic anthropologists like Michael Silverstein in Chicago

Who really shown that language creates a communication between people and therefore sets up all kinds of relations of people including hierarchical relations between people and so you know, a when I was a kid in Quebec everybody, we used to speak to our parents with the familiar with French tu.

And they would speak to us with vous. And between classes, it was also like that, right? And we’ve had a revolution in the modern world in which people have struggled against that. And in places like Sweden, I understand everyone calls her What else tu or do now, right?

So what is language doing here? Language is framing how people relate to each other. And it does all sorts of things of this kind all sorts of functions in human life other than simply collecting information, building sciences, which is not to say that that’s not important is tremendously important.

But you have to see this capacity, scientific capacity as it were placed within a much broader range. That’s why I use that, you know, subtitle “The Full Range of the Human Linguistic Capacity.” I wanted to bury that kind of theory once and for all. – So let’s talk about the global pandemic

And how these reinforces these issues on the one hand, our embeddedness in the live world of nature and the violence we are part of the live world and so on, right? Then the other the lack of communication or the physical separation but then the connectivity through media but one of the strengths

Of the new media is of course, the focus on artificial intelligence and big data the kind of thing that precisely reinforces the other notion of reduced linguistic capability. So, to which extent what we are doing now, despite doing it through media, it still is able to reinforce this notion

Of a linguistic capacity goes beyond precisely gathering information, big Data, are purely a kind of mechanistic artificial intelligence that machines are more rational than we are and therefore they are better than we are. So what are the lessons of the pandemic in this respects? – Well, I think that, you know,

They, there’s a perpetual temptation it’s a great technological temptation to be able to reduce everything to machine intelligence and so on. And I think we’re gonna find with the pandemic, it’s gonna work in both directions for exactly the usual reasons that there’s a certain kind of mindset,

Which is gonna say, “well, let’s you know, “let’s have a systems of control “working out what people should be allowed to do “or not do, by machine intelligence.” And then they’re going to be other people who are saying, “well, these are never going to work “because human beings have to be

“brought to motivated towards have to “in virtue of the certain notions of “what they owe to other people in their society,” like the sense of solidarity we have today that’s an important part of it. And you can’t talk about a machine intelligence which is feels Solidarity.

I mean, you can’t talk about a machine that feels anything That’s why there’s a perpetual fall back falling short of these claims that are made for artificial intelligence. Now, there are certain needs that it really can very well do it can, you know, like, can calculate, calculate in a much more quickly than ordinary human beings. But there are certain functions

That it just can’t take over. So what we get is, in my long life, I’ve seen there are booms and busts. There was a theory of psychology which was a behaviorist when I was younger and I wrote a book saying it was no good. And it collapsed.

And I thought for a moment I did it, but I didn’t do it. It collapse of its own weight. But then people who have a mechanistic mindset needed something so they found the computer. Oh, the computer that’s it, nothing, simply looking at behavior but looking at the computers

And there’s a whole wave of that and then that collapsed. And then you see there is this motivation always to find a certain mindset. It’s the kind of Cartesian being masters and possessors of nature mindset that pushes people and we’re going to have this series of booms and busts,

Booms and busts, booms and busts. But there’s always going to be a version Of the mechanistic outlook, which is riding high. – Let’s move then onto the question of different narratives. Precisely, it’s not only that we need feelings and machines, but also narratives are parts of what is constitute of ourselves in group identities, and as you point out in your big, big narrative

Of a secular aids, the question is not to get rid of narratives, but simply you have to come up with better, more compelling more basically hermeneutically full narratives. One of them is you develop a text is not well known “A Catholic Modernity.” What did you mean with this narrative of a Catholic modernity.

What were you after? – I was after trying to find ways of being Catholic that made sense in the world we’re now in, right? And I felt that the ways of being Catholic that we were offered by the established churches remember that I was brought up in Quebec

Before the revolution before this make up. (laughs) We’re just designed to repel people particularly young people and send them out elsewhere. So I was trying to struggle through to the idea of modes of being Catholic that would make sense today and of course, that led me to the surrounding idea

That what it means to be a Catholic has been very different in different ages it’s evolved and has changed and so on. And in that I was partly inspired by the theology that underlay Vatican Two the theology of people like Judy Burke and Econ Gollins.

Their idea was let’s go back to the Fathers of the Church and see what was going on then. And then we’ll have a point of view outside our present situation in which to ask if our ways of operating now and as against the anti-modernism, which was really itself very recent.

It was based on the Tridentine mindset. They had a way of understanding that we were gonna have different ways of being Catholic, but let’s find the one that makes sense for us. That’s really what got me going and eventually led to my making this lecture and then from there (laughs) the discussion —

– If we can continue in this vein obviously you’ve always insisted that Medieval Catholicism was much more openly pluralist than even later Catholicism right? Although we see there’s the Golden Age of Catholicism it was much more precisely pluralist that the one that comes out of the Tridentine

And then of course of Vatican One. You refer to Vatican Two, for me always, what is obvious from reading Vatican Two is the associated fathers who are from all over the world, suddenly, are aware of these global condition, the sign of the times that globalization they don’t use the name yet

But whether it is Nostra Aetate whether it is Dignitatis Humanae whether it is Gagument Space. This idea of the science of the times of a new global age is very, very powerful. Now in these lecture, you refer to Matteo Ricci as a possibility of an alternative form of Catholicism.

Indeed, for me, as you know, I’ve been working on Jesuit and globalization looking for an alternative form of competing models of Catholic organization that of inspired by the Catholic Kings, right, the Portuguese, the Spanish, the French, or by Rome that will come with propaganda fitted. Here you have this model of

Based on open communication, accommodation to other cultures partly the same way that is, you say the Daniel Lou and Congarme have gone to the patristic. They went to San Paul and the Gentiles. And they realize that if early Christianity could be Latin and Greek to radically different forms of Christianity,

It could also be Chinese, it could also be Indian Hindu, and therefore the idea is that of multiple Catholicisms. So, the Christian story itself is universal but it is embedded in very particular cultures and understandings and contexts. And so Christian universalism cannot be the globalization of Roman centralism.

But it will have to be some form of understanding of the multiplicities of Catholicism through history and today now in the globe. So, we know that part of the project of this Pope Francis, precisely the acceptance of these multiple local churches. How do you think that this is something

Which still can be brought back by the very stronger systems of Catholic uniformity? – Well, I think it’s what’s gonna make it irreversible is the fact that the majority of Catholics are rapidly if they aren’t already the case outside of Europe, outside of Europe and North America outside of the Old West.

And what we’re also looking at is the effect of the decline of the Imperial West. Right? When, you know, the history, modern history of the West is more complex than people think. In the 18th century and the 17th century, there wasn’t necessarily this certainty

That Europe is absolutely the be all and end all right? There was a, on the contrary, you get the end of the 18th century, people like Burke who are horrified at the way the British Imperialist are creating the Indian Empire and so on because they’re destroying another culture.

You go through the 19th century and you get this total belief that Europe has the answers to everything. Right and Left Marks and John Stuart Mill both agreed that is a good thing that the Indians are under British rule because they’ll get shaped up properly so that they can be modern men.

And I think the disappearance of that and it’s reflected in the Catholic Church by the fact that the majority of, close to the majority of Catholics are outside this original imperial core means that the idea of imposing the European model, I think he’s utterly, there’s no chance at all

It’s it can’t possibly succeed. I know, I know that there are holdouts in the Vatican still and there are holdouts in certain parts of the European and North American Catholicism, but the movement of history is just not gonna make this possible. – Okay you know, I’m sure that the audience

Has been very much quiet listening to us. I think it’s time to end our conversation between both of us our dialog and to open up to some of the panelists. I already see some questions coming from some close friends, common friends. Let’s see, I see a question from Paolo Costa,

Who is the translator of “A Secular Age” into Italian. And he has the question, has the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic and of how the various religions handle the health emergency affected in some ways your understanding of secularization? – Well, no, I don’t think it has really

I think that what I found interesting and encouraging in the COVID crisis, as I said earlier, is a creation of a new kind of solidarity in societies, but I don’t think that it’s had any effect at all on the really big evolution that I was talking about,

Which is the evolution towards the world of and which is an immense number of spiritual people on the spiritual search on a spiritual journey. The number of these people are growing, but the number of possible journeys is also growing. And I think that the whole COVID crisis could only accentuate this further, right?

People are very often in the face of all this people are turning to issues of what was my life really mean? What is my life based on? What is my whole moral view based on? And I think that that will just accentuate the spread of this kind of this kind of searching.

– Okay, there is another question from Bill Barbieri again a common friend who recently brought you and Michael Walzer together to American Catholic University to discuss the “Crisis of Democracy.” And Bill asked Charles, I’d be interested in any thoughts you might have in this moment

About race and racism, and how they are implicated in first, the dynamics of secular modernity second, our pressing democratic crisis and third, our linguistic anthropology and how deep racial categories help restructure modern thought. – I think it’s very, very interesting, but very, very hidden. I think what you have in a great number

Of Western countries, including ours, is a kind of unspoken, unstressed sense of hierarchy. Who comes first, who comes second, right? There is not the old racism of you know, we don’t want these people all around us. But the new kind of racism that, well,

This kind of person counts, people who came first count more than people who came later or the people of this race count more than the people race, you know, and we have certain amount of racism in Canada but we also have this in relation to Aboriginals in Canada, a lot of mainstream Canadians

Coming from elsewhere, originally had that have that sense. And it doesn’t emerge until the people who are thus disadvantaged protest, and then you get a lot of very harsh reactions, but not an awful lot of theorization because you can’t say these things. I mean, there are white supremacists who do say things

But there are a small minority of those who share these responses. So the big question, the big challenge for us is how to overcome these largely unspoken attitudes, which even the people who have them don’t quite recognize that they have them. They don’t quite recognize they’re being racist.

They just think it’s kind of normal. So when you know Black Lives Matter movement start a lot of people, a lot of whites are tremendously indignant of this so they’ve rationalized that you know, like Trump or against disorder or against looting and so on. But actually what it comes from

Is a sense that why are these people objecting? They’re in their proper place of getting their due desserts. And that I think, is that the insidious kind of racism is something we have to defeat. Now there’s this whole other things we can do about that. But I think that’s the that’s a fact

We have to see in our societies. – Okay, there is a question from Aristotle Papa Nicolau, from the Public Orthodoxy Center at Fordham University, and they are related to again Orthodoxy but the most broader question of “The Secular Race” how do you respond to the critique that culture of secular is Western,

In the sense constructed in use for colonial interests? And then how can you speak to how secularization is taking shape in pos-communist countries and in particular, Orthodox countries? – Yes. Well, I think that’s something that I didn’t tackle in the book. And I deliberately didn’t tackle it

Because I think that processes that we can call secularization are very different, in very different parts of the world. And it’s even not the same thing in, for instance, Latin America, as it is, so I was claiming, they were talking about the civilization that emerges from Latin Christendom,

And even a big part of that in Latin America I couldn’t really touch on. And ’cause I realized, I think I could explain I could justify myself by saying that I for a long time in political science department, people talked about secularization as a world movement, which happens in certain countries

Like our countries first and other countries afterwards. And it’s always seemed to me to be absurdly Western-centric, that this whole situation in China the whole situation in the Muslim world is something very, very different. And there are analogs, but we have to understand them in their own terms.

So now that includes I didn’t really talk about it the Eastern Orthodox Christian world. And in a certain sense, I’ve lacked more sense because I’ve had the kind of conversations that I hope the book as it would spark, where an Indian friend of mine said “it’s very interesting book you wrote on Europe.

“But that didn’t happen here.” And I said, “good lets have a talk “and discuss what did happen there.” And I think that that’s the talk that I still have to have with friends and colleagues in the in the world of Eastern Greek and Eastern Orthodox. – There is a question similar questions

On Catholic modernity. Into which extent the Agg is precisely something that is very much linked to this notion of the Catholic modernity. And the other question about aspiring Catholic theologian who has studied the history of Western philosophy and post-modernism, increasing the strength within the church. I have found it ought to be wanting

It is safe to say that the Catholic modernity will be an authentic response to the call for aggiornaménto from Pope John 23rd. What I mean is a comparison or metanoia, where we returned to the sources in such a way that there’s not prima facie reject the modern world

Nor blindly accepts past views of reality. – I subscribe to that, that’s very convincing. I mean, I think that what goes along with the aggiornaménto is another attitude towards the past, where it doesn’t become simply normative but where are you see in the past an immense possible repository of spiritualty

That we can can nourish us today if we connect up to them in our own way, and I think that’s going on all the time that people are, you know, rediscovering the importance of (speaking in a foreign language) rediscovering the importance of the Desert Fathers and so on.

And seeing that is very much related to their particular path as growing in the Christian faith. So it’s not a matter of we either follow slavishly the past, or we totally reject it. On the contrary, we have to hold aggiornaménto of the Vatican Two

Was we have to think of what’s appropriate in our time. But in working out what’s appropriate in our time, we can find resources, right to the whole history of the church and right across across the whole geography of the church and then think of how someone like myself have been tremendously helped

And fed by a certain dimension of lets go again to talk about Eastern Orthodox theology that crept through to me and had been very meaningful to me even though they’re not part of my immediate background as a Catholic. – And then we have a question from David Lemon, Prominent Sociologists of Religion

From Cambridge University work in Latin America and Israel his question is, we are the finding that the authority of experts, judges bureaucracy is quite fragile. Is this because religion is not providing the glue, if it ever did but rather has in many places become a force for polarization

Precisely at a time when political participation has been spreading and intensifying as advocated by Citizenship Theory? – Well, I think that religion is not a single thing it’s split. I think we are virtually all confessions are split between very often as this is the kind of split between people who really want

To return to a past of much greater conformity and greater unanimity around church, mosque, whatever Oma et cetera. And people who find this new world in which there’s a plurality of searchers in which the searchers are interested in a kind of a e-communism of exchange with each other right?

So there’s an opening their horizons, I think we find these two reactions, and they’re, they break rather hostile to each other. So there isn’t a single phenomenon called religion operative here, there is a different kinds of faith different kinds of ways of entering into faith, which have tremendously different consequences.

I would say that the one that I was writing about, but the one that I also feel I belong to the world of searchers is, of course, much more open and much more favorable to the idea of a re-diverse society of mutual respect. Whereas we find that in many cases,

The more reactive kind of circling the wagons religiosity is supporting the reason why they turn back to various kinds of populism, even to certain Catholics in the states voting for Donald Trump (laughs) on that basis. – There’s a question for Salma Rodriguez, who is a PhD candidate at Columbia University

And she writes deeply diverse democracies like India have negotiated the dilemmas with an Indian form of secularism. But in the process, Islamic justifications for post-colonial democracy, or other similar minority justificatory discourses have had to constantly encounter Hindutva majoritarianism. Can rejecting mythological nationalism be one way of dealing with this dilemmas?

– Well, no, I think again, we’re dealing with one of these fights between different notions of the national identity. And there was a few like Gandhi narrow idea of the Indian national identity, which we meant to include all the different faiths and for a long time it was dominant.

I mean, what is really worrying is that you go back to the 1960s, the kind of thing represented by the present ruling party, the BJP was represented by the Hindu Maha Sabha which was a tiny group, it was a virtually no members of parliament. And it’s since grown.

So the issue is always in all these cases, not nationalists, like not national identity, but to the two very different versions of the national identity, fighting it out. And what I find very worrying and I don’t have the explanation to it is why in the present constellation,

What I consider the bad side of national identity is winning out everywhere. See, I mean, there are individual explanations in all these countries, but why is it all happening now? Is there any kind of common cause or common factor here? – We have a question from Iban Garthone

From let me look for the question. From Colombia, who is asking, what do you think of the fact that during the COVID-19 pandemic, in many Western countries, people can go to a church to pray even alone? Is this some kind of secularism imposed by public authorities and the protest of public health?

As you know, this has been a controversial issue about maintaining churches open or not gathering churches. So what do you think of his controversies? What is valid of the critique? What is not valid? – Well, I don’t think it’s a valid critique that for instance, you know,

There are no more Friday mosque prayers and the no more people getting together for mass. It’s is something that is obviously very dangerous for you if spreading could be a dangerous locus of spreading the the virus opening churches where people can go as individuals to pray is another matter and that’s happening

In a lot of countries, right? Provided people keep social social distance from each other. But I think that it’s not in any way I got a secularist blog or a secular ploy to close churches and it’s something that a great many churches and religious communities have quite freely accepted as being something necessary.

– Then we have two questions which are similar political theory. One comes from me, name Blaisdon, Jason Blakely, a Professor of Political Theory at Pepperdine. And he writes, you seem to affirm aspects of the liberal tradition, especially pluralism. Yet many of the new socialist millennials in the USA think of themselves as post-liberals.

How do you conceive of the relationship between your social democratic commitments and liberalism? In what sense are you a liberal? Should we be liberals or post-liberals? – Well, I think that liberal is one of these words that has so many different meanings, that you can’t take a stance towards liberalism without specifying it.

So let me specify, I think there is a kind of liberalism could be called that which I’m calling pluralism, the acceptance of difference and the belief that a difference enriches us and not impoverishes us and that we should be open, and we should exchange.

And then there’s a kind of thing that which you can call maybe neoliberalism, which is a quite unjustified faith in markets, not only to maximize production but also to make sure that everybody benefits from the results of production benefits from well. That has been an immense illusion, which somehow,

People I hire can force it on the world, together with the political movements on Reagan and Thatcher and so on. And I think we see the utter refutation of that in the present crisis that we just have not prepared ourselves. We starved various public services, we have increased radically increased inequality,

We have increased the plight of deprivation, which we thought we had no obligation to relieve. And this is more the case in the United States than anywhere else in the Western world. And so if that is if neoliberalism is liberalism, I’m totally against it, and I think this is what the young millennials are saying in the United States today, who are part of the, you know, the big Democratic victory in the Midterms and I hope will be part of the Democratic victory in next November. But they’re thinking of that as liberalism

But it’s a terrible confusion to think that all these different things openness, willingness to exchange sense of enrichment by difference. And Reagan Thatcher or US Republicans are part of the same world, the same idea. It’s just the single word which unites those different views. – Then we asked a question from a student

Of political theory is a Ukrainian doing his PhD at Leuven University, Victor Poletco who writes, “in your work some political secularism, “you often expressed an optimistic attitude “as to the prospects of reaching an overlapping consensus “and a set of central liberal notions “in the sense that they get support “from diverse intellectual traditions

” despite some opposing metaphysical claims “of those intellectual traditions. “Do you remain optimistic on that?” – Yes, I am. I mean, I do because I realized is a danger because as we see, various people turn their version of the national identity into something which is seen to be absolutely essential

To living that national identity and they then not only wanna win out but they wanna make their gains irreversible. So they end up destroying democracy, but there can be this kind of unity of citizens across difference. So I would say my notion of democracy and liberalism

Can be summed up by going back to the original French Republican Trinity. Liberty, Equality, I would replace fraternity with a gender neutral term of solidarity, I think if your notion of democracy doesn’t include a very powerful sense of solidarity between all citizens, then you have a very inadequate democracy, which is heading for one of these terrible populists deviations.

So I think that if we include solidarity in our picture of what democracy requires, then we have a really adequate view. And we can we can be in solidarity with people that are not exactly carbon copies of our outlook. We’re asked to the every time we open our frontiers to refugees from very,

Very different cultures, and we’re asked to do that whenever we unite together with citizens of very different cultures, different origins, and share with them in order to make sure that everybody has a decent life. – Very good. And then Gloria Moran is scholar of Canon Law,

Would like to ask you about the role of mediation, in particular religious mediation in the narratives of consensus and democracy. – Oh, well, I think yeah, mediation I can see I think I can see what the question is getting at. Mediation is very important

Because one of the things we find one of the real, you know, diseases we find in our society is that people are seem to be more and more convinced that they understand what other people are about. And this is what gets intensified in one of these populace situations because they,

Populace appeals demonize the elite so it’s clear that they are simply interested in themselves and not sense of the good of the people in heart and on the other side, you get these same elites who are dismissing populace voters as ignoramuses, as deplorables and so on.

What we really need much more in our societies is a attempt to understand what is motivating people, including what’s motivating people to do things that we totally disapprove of. I mean, this is something that I’ve been very engaged in in Quebec because we’ve had a fight about certain legislations

Which have been discriminatory against Muslims for instance. But if you dig into the reasons for this, you find a very complex set of reasons not all of which are bad. And one has to have that kind of attempt to understand what makes the opponent tick. What the deeper motivations are,

’cause a lot of them are perfectly good, perfectly acceptable and it’s that which is missing in our societies and unfortunately, not just missing it’s being driven to the margins. The kind of polarizations we now live in, encourage people to caricature and misunderstand their opponents to the point where

The possibility of finding some kind of common ground, I would say the possibility in very many cases of converting the other side to one’s own side, disappear completely. – In the same vein, Marco Ferrario ask, the need of recognition how is it connected with the crush of democracy you mentioned?

Would you like to add something about the need for recognition in the importance of this concept? – Yeah, well, I think that the Yeah, I think the recognition is precisely the opposite of this kind of alienation I’m talking about where we have a completely caricatural view of the other so that the sense that the other has, he or she has is that when faced with us, they’re faced with some kind of stereotype

Being plucked on them and what they really are like, is totally unrecognized. The kinds of mediation I was talking about can lead to this sense of mutual recognition, a sense of yeah, I get you I don’t fully agree with what you’re driving at

But I sort of get where you’re at as a human being. And it’s that kind of mutual understanding that can help to dissolve some of these deep, deep divisions. So I think that recognition is still absolutely one of the really important issues in our society.

– I will ask you for a brief personal question asked by Brooke Valve in a Duke. Take it into the final reflections in any direction you want. So she asks, what inspired you to study religion? – Very big question. Well, I mean– – You have four minutes to answer it. – Ill be faster than that. I break the question down into two, what inspired me to begin to think about the Christian Catholic faith. And that’s really very simple, that I was brought up in this extremely narrow authoritarian in church. And I couldn’t, I just couldn’t see the point in any of this and I, but I had several questions and so I wanted to ask myself, how to articulate it. And then the next part of the question is how I got interested in something beyond my faith.

And that’s because I had the great luck to have a magnificent teacher as an undergraduate Wilfred Cantwell Smith who later became famous as a student of Islam set up the Islamic Institute. And he gave a course on comparative religion, which is absolutely riveting in which he made these different faiths comprehensible to us

Young undergraduates in the 1950s, 40s and 50s, in Montreal, and I was carried away by that. I’ve never come back from that kind of interest in economism and understanding the other. – Well, on this great note, I want to thank you, Charles, very much for your openness

To have this conversation with all of us. I would like to again, thank you all of you for participating and for your interest. As I mentioned, this is the first in our series we already can confirm it will appear it will be eventually appear in our website,

But we know that the next conversation is going to be on July 9th. Is it July 9 Thursday? I believe so, let me make sure that they got it right. Yes and July 9th, the prominent sociologist German sociologist Hans Joas will be the next conversationalist.

Hans Joas is actually the one who brought us together as three together, Charles Taylor, me and him to be together for one year at the Brandenburgische in Berlin. And this is where basically Charles Taylor wrote his manuscript, A Secular Race conversation with many of us. There was a larger group and since then,

Hans Joas really, really written very significant works on the sociology of religion. Two new books are coming out. “The Power of the Sacred” and the new book is writing on religion freedom. And we’ll be discussing those issues. I can say it’s an anecdote the three of us

Three Catholics in a very secular Protestant city Berlin a few times we appear together in forum discussions, and we began to be known as the Three Catholic Tenors. Charles, would you like to add something to that? – No, I didn’t know that. (laughs) – You didn’t know that?

– Or I forgot my memory suppressed me. (laughs) (mumbles) no, not a base or something like that. – Well, and these note again, thank you very much to everybody. Thank you, especially Charles, stay safe and we are looking forward in a few years to celebrate your 90 years anniversary.

I still remember the big celebration we’re in Montreal the fantastic conference and your work, both as a philosopher as an intellectual as a politician in Canada, and we are looking forward to again, celebrate your 90th anniversary in a few years. So keep safe, stay healthy, and keep us

Illuminating us on the complexity of the human condition as you’ve done through many decades. We are still looking for many important books from you as they are coming in your mature age. Thank you so much.

#Global #Religious #Secular #Dynamics