Religion, Secularism, Politics – Conversations with History

– Welcome to a Conversation with History, I’m Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies. Our guest today is the distinguished anthropologist Talal Asad, who is the 2008 Foerster Lecturer on the Berkeley campus. Professor Asad, welcome to Berkeley. – Thank you very much. – Where were you born and raised?

– Well, I was born in Saudi Arabia, actually, because my mother comes from there and my parents moved when I was a couple of years old to India, and then eventually to Pakistan. So, I was raised both in India and in Pakistan. Well, in very different ways. My mother was a very traditional woman. My father actually was an Austrian Jew who had converted to Islam in his twenties and was a correspondent, a foreign correspondent for the Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung and for the Neue Zurcher Zeitung as well.

In the 30s, he had to give up the first one, the Frankfurt one, because he was not allowed to continue. And he was very interested in the Middle East. And that was where he eventually settled for six years in Saudi Arabia, married my mother, and moved on to India,

Partly for reasons, journalistic reasons, but also because he had friends who urged him to come. So, the question about what, how they shaped my views, well, certainly my father was much more aware of, as it were, a European heritage, as well as the heritage of the Middle East,

To which he was very attracted. And although he had relatives, mother’s relatives, in Palestine at the time, in the 20s, he was born in 1900. – And he converted when? – [Talal] And he converted in his mid-twenties. – I see. – And he died in 1992 in Spain and he’s buried there.

But, he was always really a strong anti-Zionist. He felt that this was a great mistake, even before he became, before he was converted. – So, what I’m hearing you say is you must have gotten a real sense of the diversity of the world and the complexity of the world from them.

– Absolutely, and I was a child, but my father was interned during the war, as an Austrian citizen, even though he was a Jew, by the British, it was, of course, British India at the time. And I was a child, but most of the people there during those years

Were, in fact, from Central Europe, who’d been brought together. So, I have memories of them, as well. And then, shortly after the war, we went to the Punjab, which became Pakistan. And, you know, I was very much aware of many of the things that were going on politically there, as well.

My father was quite active intellectually in Pakistan, as well. – And were you raised in the Islamic? – I was indeed, yes, very much so. My mother being a very pious woman who is not at all an intellectual, but who, in some ways, looking back on it,

I can see that her approach to her religion, in some ways, unconsciously made me aware of different approaches and that is of an unreflective, what people have called an embodied approach to religion, rather than a highly intellectualized one. My mother was not an intellectual, of course.

– So, the religion is really part of the way people live. Is that right? – That’s right, exactly. That was certainly so. And it was certainly for, for my father, it was even more an intellectual matter too. He thought of this as a kind of an intellectual promise,

So to speak, of Islam as a way of living within a community and within a political community and so on. – I believe I read somewhere that, as a Muslim, you were actually, were you educated among Christians – in a school. – That’s right. – And that must have been a kind of

Another layer of a sensitivity to diversity. – Very much so. It was a boarding school and the teachers were British missionaries there. And I can remember being a very obstreperous boy who was determined to, as it were, hold on to his own religious identity among others who were mostly Christians. But, you know,

It wasn’t a very conflictual situation in school, I don’t want to suggest that. But certainly, difference was, you’re right, was very much a part of my early experience. – And how did your education beyond, you know, these first schools, but more your advanced education in England, impact your future scholarship?

– Well, I came to England at the age of 18 and I was, in fact, going to become an architect. That was my father’s choice. He decided for various reasons, because he was also perhaps an architect manque. He thought a, it was a wonderful profession

And b, he thought I needed a certain amount of discipline as well as an opportunity to be creative and what could be better than being an architect? So, he chose for me the profession. I went to London and did architecture, not very successfully, because my heart wasn’t in it,

For two years in the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. But, I really wanted to be an anthropologist. And then I went off to that, took my own decision and went and did architecture at Edinburgh, sorry, anthropology at Edinburgh. I left architecture. And after that I went to Oxford

Where I did both my first postgraduate degree and my Dphil, the PhD, in Oxford. – And did you focus on religious studies and what was your dissertation on? – No, not at all. You know, I had to some degree, although I was brought up in a sort of a fairly conventional religious way,

Perhaps not quite so conventional, obviously, because given my parents’ background. But, I had to some extent revolted and felt myself to be, to have lost my faith already at the age of about 14 and so on. And I wanted very much to come to Europe,

Which I regarded as a source of all the wonderful things that seemed somehow not to be present in Pakistan at the time. And I remember that my father tried to, in his own way, to disabuse me of some of my ideas, which were rather naive.

But nevertheless, he allowed me to go to Europe, which was interesting. And indeed he, you know, he even encouraged me when I was a boy to try and learn the piano and things like that. And European music is something which I’m extremely fond of and still am deeply fond of.

But, going to Europe was, for me, both something which was exciting to arrive at and, at the same time, as I’ve said to friends, a kind of a slow disabusement, because I sort of had clearly had ideals, and so on, which were very misplaced in terms of what actually existed.

But, my intention to do anthropology was part of a, if you like, a purely secular choice and I eventually did fieldwork in a pastoral nomadic society in the deserts of northern Sudan in the 60s. And it didn’t deal with religion at all. It had to do with their economy

And their political system, primarily, their local political system. – Were there any particular political awakenings that you had in the 60s? I mean, coming from this background where you must have sensed, however young you were, the turmoil in the Pakistan region and then coming to your mature years of education in the 60s.

What stands out? – Well, I think one of the moments, a very important moment in my life was the ’67 war. And I’ve written about this elsewhere or spoken about it, anyway. It was very traumatic for me in the sense that I couldn’t quite understand the reaction of so many people in Britain

To what had happened and a kind of exaltation on the part of the British, which I thought was inexplicable to me. As I’ve said elsewhere, I think I could understand that the Israelis might have felt, you know, very pleased with the fact of the victory,

But why were the British so enormously satisfied with it and emotionally pleased? So, and that had to do with, of course, their earlier experiences. Particularly the ’56 war and their sense of humiliation at that time, when they were obliged, you remember, to withdraw. And some of that came back

And that was very important for me and it also made me think much more seriously about the entire colonial experience, which British society still somehow retained in part. – I wanna ask you about being an anthropologist, but what you just said is maybe a lead-in to this, because as an anthropologist,

One thing that stands out in the work of yours that I read is your sensitivity to power and the relationships of power between the former colonial powers and their former dependencies. And it strikes me that what you just said, was that an entree point into this insight? That is, with your background,

Sort of being surprised by the exaltation and then, sort of thinking about that? – Yeah, I think that’s a very good question. Because I was certainly aware of power in a very general sense and aware of the history of colonialism. But, the way in which it seemed to work

Within the psyche, if you like, of people both individually and collectively, was something that I felt was much more important than I had realized. And, you know, as I said, when I came to Britain, I was also enormously enamored of what one might call an enlightenment kind of culture,

Which I thought I would find. And I was enormously anticipatory with regard to ideas of equality and justice and rationality and so on. You know, held rather naively, of course, as a boy in my late teens. But, nevertheless, very powerfully. And in some ways I think

What my engagement with or my concern for power has been is a kind of complexification of those understandings. So, at first, I thought my goodness, how can this be that this is the culture which believes in all these things and compassion and so forth. And yet, it seems not to do that.

But then, of course, as I’ve said, I had to reinvent the wheel by recognizing that, you know, all sorts of cultures, all cultures, in a sense, are capable of bias of different kinds, every culture. So, the idea that there was one culture out there which would be without it

Was, in my view, very naive. – A theme that runs through your work is the power of concepts and often, how they are derived from power relations. And how those concepts then obscure the realities both of the conceiver and the object of the conception, so to speak.

Is that a fair, maybe simple, statement about some of the things that have interested you? – Yes, I suppose it’s one way of putting it. But, I think of power, now certainly, not simply as repressive and exploitative. I think of it also as something

Which is an opportunity to create, to rebuild, and so on. And the relationship between these two emotions of power, as it were, repressive and creative, it is what fascinates me and is certainly very involved. The ideas, the concepts which interest me, therefore, are both concepts that obscure the possibility

Of some kind of resistance as well as the possibility of some kind of creativity, as well. So, I do agree that that’s not an unreasonable way of describing things, of looking at the way in which these concepts are put together, in which we’ve received, in our culture,

And which in some ways are not adequately and critically and from a distance examined. – I’m curious, what, in the kind of work you do, what do you, what conclusions do you have about the skills that are required to do the kind of anthropology that you do well?

One thing that strikes me is sensitivity to culture, the different cultures. What else? – Well, certainly with languages. – Yeah. – You have to have languages which are necessary for what, I mean, as a medium, both in the field where you’re working but also, at the same, of other perspectives,

Even within the West, as it were, you know, to recognize that there are different national traditions, as well. I think the ability to listen is very important. I don’t know that that’s the kind of skill that can be very sort of systematically or formally learned. But it’s certainly has become easier for me,

Both through teaching, particularly through teaching, and through field work. And I think that that’s absolutely crucial for the anthropologist. To be able to listen, as it were, without too many presuppositions and being open to arriving at conclusions that might be quite startling, eventually, when you arrive at them.

But, not think that you have an answer. I’m giving you a really, perhaps not quite the answer you want. – No. – About skills, but. – Yeah, well, but that, this is, I should maybe I should have phrased the question better. But, that’s the answer I wanted. – [Talal] I see.

– Whether I gave you the right question. Now, how does the student and the scholar transcend the biases that come out of their own culture? That would seem to be a big problem. – It is a big problem and certainly, you know, I don’t think any of us can completely overcome our biases

And the formation that has made us what we are. But, insofar as one can try by encountering very different kinds of cultural phenomena, very different kinds of human beings in different societies, and demand of oneself that one listen, as I said a moment ago, and that one try and question

Not only what one finds out there, to question also oneself. I mean, I’m a great believer in criticism and a criticism which I think should not be confined only to, as it were, the cultural phenomena that we encounter, but also our own criticism, self-criticism. I don’t know, one can only try

And of course, we won’t completely succeed, I’m convinced. But, we can try and question ourselves. – If one looks at your works, it’s very clear that they’re steeped in comparative studies, comparative theory, interdisciplinary work, and combining that all with a sensitivity to the complexity of a particular setting and so on.

Talk a little about that. I know you’ve worked on reform in Egypt and religion and what emerges is a much more complex picture of what the interface between modernity and what the West would call modernity versus tradition. – Right, well you know, one of the things I’ve been very struck by

And I’ll come back to, more directly, to your question in a minute, but is, as I put it, that within the West there is much more argument, much more difference about what modernity means. And what it entails, how one gets to it, or what its problems, its primary problems are.

Too often, partly because it’s a presentation of Westerners who have, as it were, directed their words to the non-Western world and also, as a consequence, people in the non-Western world. There seems to be what I call a single face to modernity. I mean, this is no longer entirely the case.

I know that there are all sorts of developments going on, especially in East Asia and South Asia, and so on. But, there is a lingering sense here of, you know, we know what modernity is, modernity and we know how to get there and it’s quite different from our tradition.

I think in the West, one doesn’t think that. One recognizes how important traditions are, all intellectual traditions are traditions, first of all, we work through and we rethink them, but they’re still traditions and we think of them in or we try to think of them in a modern, i.e. contemporary way.

So, I would say that the question of, you know, the very different kinds of approaches to modernity, for me requires an exploration of kinds of knowledge from very different disciplines, both Western disciplines, if one might call them that. I’m not very happy with that, but still, you know roughly what I mean.

And the more traditional disciplines in the Middle East, theology, law, say Islamic law, Islamic theology and so on are I think very important to get into. As well as the different opportunities in the disciplines that we have in our liberal institutions. – I’m looking here at the definition in your book

And I’ll show the book, the Formations of the Secular. And just as an autobiographical note, you say, “Modernity is a project “or rather, a series of interlinked projects “that certain people in power seek to achieve. “The project aims at,” and then you list the and what just sort of struck me was

Many of these things must have been in your mind’s eye when you came to England, thinking that you had found a secular Mecca. – [Talal] And a modern, yes. – Yes, yeah, so. – Absolutely, yes. – And in another place, and I can’t unfortunately find the quote right now,

You mentioned that we forget that the notion of modernity that the West has come up with really emerges out of a particular time in our history when we made a transformation and we forget that and then want to apply the concept that emerged from that to other peoples who come from

Different practices and different histories. – Exactly, I think that that’s very true and that is, of course, part of the reason why we find so many problems, both social and political, in that part of the world. Indeed, we sometimes, you might say, some of these problems arise here too in the West,

Whether it’s the United States or Europe. For some people, the idea of modernity is quite straightforward and certain things must be rejected if one is to be truly modern. And then, for other people, not so. You know, one has seen arguments about the British political system. No doubt you’re familiar with these arguments,

Which say, well of course, the British system is not completely modern yet because, you know, the Church of England still has a certain important place in the British government and you can’t call that modern. Because in a modern state, and here we think of either the United States or France,

Both very different kinds of secular arrangements, in which, in some ways, the religion is at least politically intended to be kept out. So, but I’m not sure that it’s a good description, say, of the British system to say it’s not modern. This presupposes a single model.

The question is, is it the kind of society that is, that produces obstacles in the path of various developments which we think of as valuable or not? Rather than, is it modern or not? I mean, that’s why I’m a little leery of the idea of modernity as well.

– And you go on to point out in this book that the theory makes the assumption that it’s a binary choice, that it’s one or the other. And you’re trying to help us understand that there’s much greater complexity and in a way, I think you’re suggesting that you can’t actually understand

What’s going on in a place like Egypt and how it reformed itself in religious matters and how this interface between what came from the outside, interface with kind of living practices and a living religion. – Yeah, this is absolutely true as far as, you know, my work on Egypt is concerned.

This is what I’ve tried to do and I think of this as an anthropology which is, I think, appropriate for our time. By which I don’t mean it’s the only thing that one can do as an anthropologist, but I think it’s very important to be able to

Somehow tackle the question of various interconnections, as well as distinctions. But in ways that are not binary, as you’ve just rightly quoted. Because I think that the language that we use, that everybody uses, makes for very different possibilities of interpretation and of living and therefore, binaries are a rigid way

Of approaching these problems. I think it’s a mistake to even think of, you know, the secular and the religious in strictly binary terms. I think that there are all sorts of interpenetrations, especially if you look at it historically, as well as cross-culturally. That you see that there are various connections,

Various transmutations of concepts, of modes of behavior, of organizations, and so on. – Mmmhmm, you write, “In an interdependent world, “traditional cultures do not spontaneously grow or develop “into modern cultures. “People are pushed, seduced, coerced, and persuaded “into trying to change themselves “into something else, something new “that allows them to be redeemed.”

I’m curious because, of course, this is an insight into what’s going on in the developing world, but one could almost apply this to the United States itself and the way our secular modern elites have been shocked by the revival of religion in this country and the way it seeks to intrude into politics.

– Right, yeah, I’m still learning about the United States and the problem, or the problems, that people see of secularity and religion, but certainly, I think there is a greater awareness among various people of a complexity which we have overlooked. So that one can try to work out ways of accommodating

A certain kind of multiplicity and of interconnection, without allowing this to be repressive of individuals or of traditions and so on. And this is very difficult in any culture, certainly. In the Middle East, as well. You have forces which are repressive and you have forces which are opening up.

And it’s not always easy and I say this not as a criticism, but as a fact, not easy for people to know, certainly in the Middle East, where they should be going. And what, as it were, a more adequate and reasonable and just development of a tradition in moments of change might be.

So, and I think that this is true here too. You know, people are on the one hand worried by certain developments in the demand for the intrusion of religion into politics. But in other ways, they do recognize that there are some aspects of what we call religion

Which somehow could have a place, as it were, in the public square. But how to do- – And the important thing here, which we should say for our audience, is that secularity, being secular, defines a world in which religion is separated from the public space

And the two, although side by side, do not meet. And what we are encountering in the world and here at home is the concept doesn’t work completely. – Right, right and I think on this one finds ways in which one can address that difficulty. You know, the outcome will often be rather unpleasant.

And I do think that it’s necessary not just to keep insisting on a straightforward separation of two things, which are themselves very ambiguous, religion on the one side and secularity on the other, but to recognize that there have to be, one must analyze out what the implications of each are,

To what extent elements of each can be changed, accommodated, made to answer for its own claims. And I think that this can apply to both secularity and religion. – And a place where this problem emerges very strongly is in Europe today as it deals with its Muslim communities.

– Absolutely, yes, it’s a matter of both of great interest to me, as to what’s happening in Europe, and at the same time of considerable dismay that Europe has become so rigid in many respects and so fearful, really, of a population that is, on the whole, initially not at all,

Should not be seen as threatening. While elements might be, but I don’t think that the majority should be seen in this way. And there are ways of accommodating and some are more, and some states and some national traditions are very rigid. The French one, of course, is famously, extremely rigid

About accommodating certain kinds of religious differences. – For example, the veiling, the hijab, yes. – Yeah, absolutely. But you know, many people often forget that the French who are supposed to be so fiercely laic are also able to accommodate religious schools, Catholic schools, which have a place within the government educational system.

And it’s possible for people to do whatever they like, including cover their head and so on, in religious schools. But, not in government schools. I mean, there’s a degree of, you know, a contradiction and incoherence in our approaches to secularism, in Europe as well as, perhaps, in the United States.

– You write that when Europe or the West errs in its overemphasis or overstatement of its own modernity that you write, “The belief that human beings “can be separated from their histories and traditions “makes it possible to urge a Europeanization “of the Islamic world.” And you’re really suggesting that is gonna create problems?

Are you suggesting that? Or what are the implications beyond an insensitivity to the reality of people that one presumably would want to integrate? – Well, in the first place, yeah, I think that there are problems that will arise and have already arisen. The problems are partly also the result

Of certain claims, historical claims that liberal Europe has about degrees of autonomy, degrees of, as it were, self-determination, which are not simply political, but also social, cultural, and psychological, and so on. How is it that these ideas which were regarded as basic to Europe’s inheritance have now suddenly become difficult to apply

And you have to have one model? I think that integration, in other words, is something that requires a certain amount of give and take. The nations of Europe, as in the United States, have never been stable, stationary. They have evolved over time. We know this.

But, this very banal fact tends to be forgotten, time and again. That, you know, if we are changing then we can’t rigidly say there is just our way of life, which must stand forever and unchanged. But, also something in which one can give and take and at a reasonable level.

And that should apply, I think, to immigrants as well. – As a social scientist one has to analyze the factors that provide the social or political base for this blindness to both the inadequacy of the concept and the reality of one’s own history and evolution

And the reality, history, and evolution of the other, in this case. – Right, well, you know, there are clearly elements, if you like, on both sides so it’s not just a question of a straightforward blindness on one side. But, I think in some ways there’s a greater responsibility

On the part of the party which is much stronger and the party which is more secure in dealing with groups that are less secure that are expected to transform themselves. What are the origins of these? I think they are largely historic. In the case of Europe, the entire colonial experience

Has been very strong I think. That there’s no question in my mind, both for Britain and for France, certainly. In Germany, it’s a little more complicated, because the immigrants there are not from, I mean, the Germans have never had that kind of empire as the French and the British did.

But, that’s one part of it. And I think, if you like, that the modern nations in Europe are not sufficiently liberal, not sufficiently modern one might even say, provocatively, although I’ve criticized that idea as a simple idea, in not taking their own values seriously enough. But, there are all sorts of incentives.

For political, economic reasons, it’s easier to find scapegoats and so on. I often think that, in the case of Europe, I’ve said again, provocatively, that it’s almost as though the Europeans now, no longer able to publicly denounce Jews and persecute them, however sub rosa sort of anti-Semitic some of them might be,

But, it’s no longer possible for a person in Europe to be taken seriously as a respectable public figure and be anti-Semitic. This is no longer true. This is not true, of course, in relation to immigrants. So, there’s a kind of shift, almost. It’s almost, one might suggest,

Because they can’t any longer, as it were, choose one outsider or define one group as an outsider which they did and then, right up through the 30s, which was the most terrible period, and now they have to find somebody else. I mean, I’m making a provocative formula out of it.

– And you’re not saying that having lost the one, you have to do the other, it just tends in that direction, right? – In that direction. Because, of course, many people don’t do that. I mean, there are lots of very responsible people and lots of people who are warning against

Precisely the attitude which I’ve been describing with some dismay. Lots of Europeans who have made the very points that I’m making already about it being in conflict with liberal ideas, with democratic ideas, and so on. – Let’s talk now about 9/11 and look at the way

We’ve looked at this problem of suicide bombing. And let me show you, the audience, your book on suicide bombing, which is a series of lectures you gave at the University of California, Irvine, I believe. After 9/11 we were in a situation of having to reconceptualize our adversary,

So a lot of these themes that we’ve been talking about come into play in the way the West sees the other. What do you see as, what insights do you bring to that definitional issue that, you know, follows up on what we’ve just been talking about?

– Well, I think that, in some ways, this connects up with some of the things we’ve already said. And that is, the need to look critically at many of our received categories and received notions. In other words, not just to criticize the others or the perpetrators of that terrorist attack,

But to go deeper. And again, there were people who already suggested this at one time. At the time, it was a bit difficult to make this point forcefully. – [Harry] After 9/11. – After 9/11. – Yeah. – Nevertheless, there were some people and since then, there have been more

Who have urged that, you know, what we also need is an examination of the relationships between, say, the United States, in this case, it was the United States, and the rest of the world, but particularly, of course, in this case, the Middle East. Instead of just blaming,

Just as it’s, I think, quite wrong for Middle Easterners to blame everything that happens in Middle Eastern countries on the outside, which I think is not true, I’m extremely critical of the political situation in the Middle East, but it should be so too, in the United States, so that one can look critically

At our relationship, as I put it, to violence. In what way, historically as well as within the country, as well as between the United States and other parts of the world, what has been the relationship to violence and how has it been invoked at certain points and denied at other points

And what are the consequences of what we’ve done? I say we, ’cause I’m already now an American citizen, of course. So, I became an American citizen in summer of 2001. Rather, sort of symbolically. Anyway, so that’s what I would say in answer to, I don’t know whether I’ve really adequately, probably not.

– Yes, you had, but let’s explore, but at least in terms of looking at the other, you say, or you suggest, the way you see, define, explain terrorism gives a justification for the actions of the state. That’s my reading of what you’re saying. In other words,

That in going down one road of interpretation, it then makes it easier for the state to practice all kinds of violence and come up with a moral justification for that. – And a violence not only on the outside world, but within. – [Harry] Yeah, right, right.

– Exactly, and you know, so many people have complained a restriction of liberties and all sorts of things. We’re going over very familiar ground which, nevertheless needs, I think, to be stressed again and again. I think that the whole question of war and terrorism has fascinated me.

When I wrote this book and gave the lectures, I showed it to a friend who said yes, he liked it very much. And he could see, he was an American born and bred, he could see that I was rightly saying that in some certain instances, terrorism might be justified.

And I said no, this is not what this book is about. I am not trying to justify terrorism. I’m just trying to shake this sort of binary categorization which gives rise to certain kinds of policies. So, I had to actually spell this out. You may have seen this in my short introduction

That’s saying this is not intended as a justification for it. I’ve, as I’ve mentioned to you, I’ve become particularly interested also in the whole idea of just war and the reasons for it. And I’m working at the moment on that very category

And the way in which it is a kind of moralization of war, which I think should not be moralized at all. I’m not a pacifist, but I don’t for one moment think that just war is a coherent and valid notion. And the way in which this justifies certain kinds of violences,

Which are often of a enormously greater scale than anything that the wretched terrorists can do. There are so many things, not only in the way in which we have used air power in war, for example, but also in this very ambiguous business of when one transgresses the law of war.

And the law of war is, for me, fascinatingly, much more ambiguous than I thought it was. There’s a very fine and insightful writer on this, a law specialist, David Kennedy, who’s written, I’ve quoted him in my book, but since then he’s written another one on the law of war,

Which has, I think, extremely good insights about the law of war being not a series of rules which cannot be transgressed and which are supposed to justify just war, but really a language, what he calls a language for argument. And that’s what the law of war is.

There are others who’ve also developed this. Again, an international law specialist in City University who has written a number of wonderful articles called, I keep trying to remember rightly, was it Jonathan Berman? Oh, Nathaniel Berman, who’s written on this subject as well, very much about the question of the construction in war

Of various categories, including that which has allowed, you know, the proportionality business, the question of necessity, and so on. So, what I tried to do in this book, first of all, is to shake those categories so that we could think for ourselves.

I mean, I don’t provide any answers, as you know very well. But, I want, I hope that some readers will begin to question for themselves and find answers for themselves. And then, in the final part, of course, I was still fascinated by the reasons for horror at suicide bombing.

And there were all sorts of reasons, it seemed to me, one could draw on to try and explain what that sense of horror was. Which could be looked at without being moralistic about it, because as an anthropologist, I was and here I was much more thinking about it anthropologically.

And also reminding ourselves that, you know, in modern society, we are committed to all sorts of conditions that would otherwise be considered terroristic and horrific. And one of those, which I do mention in the book, you may remember, has to do with nuclear weapons.

– Go on, go ahead, please, no you know, finish, go ahead. – Well, I just wanted to say that, you know, in a number of official definitions terrorism is defined as not only an act, but also as a threat, the threat of terrorism. I mean, a particular kind of threat makes it terrorism.

Now, it has seemed to me, as well as to legions of other people, that possessing nuclear weapons, which you say you’re going to use if necessary and you will destroy not only the enemy, but in the process, yourself, you’re prepared to do that, seems to me, logically,

You have the logical structure of terrorism. And yet, we don’t see that and we don’t address it quite in those terms and I think we should. – This part of the conversation is raising an interesting point and that is, as a social scientist, as you try to disentangle

The complexity of our own development in thinking about an issue, violence and war, violence between combatants, and so on, we basically get some new insights about ourselves, we see different things about the adversary. Now, what’s interesting is the point you made about what your friend said, because when you begin to do that,

What you’re saying becomes politicized and people say, oh, you’re defending suicide. Talk a little about that, because it really is an important issue of where the academy can have insights, but in those insights becoming part of the political debate, there is a politicization in which people are accused of saying things

They didn’t say. – Yes, of course, this is very difficult to control, to some extent. Let me approach this indirectly by referring a review that was made of this book in the Times supplement, the Sunday supplement. A book review by Samantha Power, which, in fact, was about three books,

Including one of Petraeus, and this book, and one other, I forget which. And when she turned to that, she said among other things, well, she said a couple of nice things, but she disagreed, of course, fundamentally with it. But, she described it as an angry book

And she said in the end, rage overcomes him. And I’ve been saying to my friends, you know, did she read the book or didn’t she? Well, the point is, you can’t control how people read you. And I think that, you know, this is simply a rediscovery of a fairly obvious thing.

It’s no use by saying no, no, I wasn’t angry and I certainly wasn’t enraged. But, people will read you in odd ways and to some extent, you can control that by at least explaining yourself, but in the end, there are things that you can’t, I think,

Totally control how people will take up what you’re saying. My hope is that the, insofar as the politicization, it can be seen as an indirect one. I mean, I think of, if you like, of democratic politics also as a kind of personal, interpersonal kind of ethical encounter in which one can,

One should be able to treat others with whom one is engaging on equal terms, critically, but also listening carefully instead of jumping to the conclusion that, you know, that they belong to a certain category. What they’ve said, aha, we already know what he or she is saying

And we really will not tolerate that sort of thing. And asking oneself why one has these feelings of rejection, as well, as we proceed. You know, for me, in a sense, democracy is not just about, you know, voting and so on, which is, in some ways, the least problematic aspect of democracy.

There is that other aspect which I think is very important and very neglected, including the readiness to be self-critical. – Professor Asad, on that note I wanna thank you for coming to the campus to be the Foerster lecturer and also for appearing on our program.

– Thank you. – And thank you very much for joining us for this Conversation with History.

#Religion #Secularism #Politics #Conversations #History

Is it a SIN to listen to SECULAR MUSIC?

Hey guys! This is another video request  and the question we got from you guys is: Daniel, is it a sin to listen to Non-Christian music? So in this video, we are going to turn to the Bible to give you the answer. Let’s get to it. So should Christians listen to Non-Christian music?

Well, it’s not just a straightforward answer. Yes and no. It depends on the music. Now, first, you need to understand that God gave us music to enjoy, and you can see that right through Scripture, and a great example to look at is David.

He sang, and he worshipped God with music. 2 Samuel 22:1, “David spoke the words of this song to the Lord on the day the Lord rescued him from the grasp of all his enemies and from the grasp of Saul.

He said: The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; My God, my rock, where I seek refuge.” And he goes on and on just to worship God with songs. And look at how David and the singers of that time used music to praise and worship God

When they carry the ark. 1 Chronicles 15:16, “Then David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their relatives as singers and to have them raise their voices with joy accompanied by musical instruments—harps, lyres, and cymbals.” So they even used musical instruments to praise God.

And today in some churches they say, ‘No, you can’t do that, you can’t play any musical instruments in church, but you can if it glorifies God.’ David even used a harp to play too Saul, to calm him down. But the most amazing picture that we get from music

Is the angels in heaven who sing and praise God. Job 38:7 says, “While the morning stars sang together, and all the Sons of God shouted for joy.” And Luke 2:13-14 says, “Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host of the angel,

Praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors.” So there’s nothing wrong with music, to sing and praise God, but what about Secular songs that don’t have God in it?

Well, there are normal songs out there, Secular songs, that sing about nature, about love, about normal things that are not against Scripture. And then you can listen to it if it agrees with Philippians 4:8.

It says, “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy –dwell on these things.”

Now, there’s a lot of music that does not fit in with this verse, or the whole Bible, for that matter. Most people just listen to music because it has a catchy tune, right? But they don’t listen to the words, to the lyrics.

Music is very powerful, and you should be careful of what you let into your mind, into your thoughts because it will influence you. Songs that have lyrics in them that is just full of swearing, and cussing, cursing, should not be listened to.

Most of the rap music today is full of it. It’s focused on the sinful, fleshly nature that just focuses on our desires, those evil desires of the flesh and a lot of secular songs focus on immorality and violence.

It moves away from everything that is pure, and that is good, and you should not listen to it. An easy test that you can just do, when you want to listen to a particular song is just ask yourself this question; “Would Jesus listen to this song?”

Now, you need to know that nowhere in the Bible does it say that a particular instrument or style of music is sinful or ungodly. That being said, I will definitely not listen to heavy metal music, because the Holy Spirit in me just does not agree with that.

The best music out there will always be a type of music that honors and glorifies God. You can listen to secular music out there in the world that sings about normal things, but if it disagrees with Scripture, then stay away from it.

Remember Philippians 4:8 says, “Always focus on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, moral excellence and praiseworthy.” Now, if you’re struggling with any kind of sin, like pornography or drinking, that you’re drunk, all the time, or getting angry all the time, and you want to overcome it,

Then please watch this video here, and it will help you. And remember, God loves you, and I love you too. Bye!


Should Christians listen to secular music?

Thomas: You know, what is secular? Music is music. So if there’s secular music, there’s something called Christian music? Music is math, it’s notes, it’s sounds and silences and rhythm and beat. One isn’t secular, one is Christian, so I’m not quite sure what people mean when

They talk about secular music versus — if you mean modern contemporary, the top 15, 20 songs — I was at an event recently and somebody read out the top 20 songs of today, of this past few weeks, and I’ve never heard of any of them or the singers.

I was completely in the dark. But what do you mean by secular music? Music is music. So, if we have a — Mike, you’re the theologian here. If we have a doctrine of common grace — this is a Dutch thing. You would know all about this. Godfrey: Yeah.

I suspect there are several things hiding in this question. One would be that the question’s probably not just about music, but about words. So that that adds a significant dimension. Then you don’t just have sounds but you have meanings.

And, then I think also the whole question, “Are there styles of music that are, in one way or another, inimicable to Christian piety or practice. That’s a question for you. But, you know, some of us like opera.

I won’t, you know, get into who that might be, but those of us who might like opera would not think that we ought to have opera in the church service. So you can think of a kind of music that you enjoy that you would still say is inappropriate for the worshiping community.

Horton: Yeah, I think, when it comes to style, one of the big questions is, “Is this helping the Word of Christ dwell in us richly? And is the music what we’re thinking about or is the Word of Christ what we’re thinking about?”

And music can be very powerful, as Calvin realized over Zwingli, very powerful in a good way for instilling the Word of Christ. But when it comes to common grace, I agree with you, Derek. There is no Christian music or secular music.

Some of the Christian music out there is just as bad as some of the secular music out there, so we just have to have discretion whatever we’re listening to. Thomas: This is, you know, this is a sensitive question for me.

So, my first memory, you know, it’s one of my first memories, is as a two-year-old sitting on my grandfather’s knee — he died when I was five — sitting on my grandfather’s knee, listening to Pacini’s ‘Laboum,’ and it’s a vivid memory in my head, and

It instilled in me from that moment onwards, just a passionate love for classical music and opera. So he died and he left all of his records, and he had about 500 LPs, and he was very discerning, and he only bought the sort of best, and so he left them to me.

So the week before he died, I’m five years old, he brings me into his bedroom, he died at home, he died of cancer, he was ill for a year or so. And, he told me, “I’m leaving you” — because there were four children.

He could already discern — and my younger brother was three, my older brother was seven, no, nine, and my sister was seven — but he could already discern which of these four would take care of his records.

And, he decided it was me, and I actually didn’t inherit them until I was 15, and when I did, I loved them. I treasured them. I played them on an old gramophone record that you had to lift up the lid, you know,

And it was wider than the player, so you couldn’t put the lid down while it was still playing and there was one little, tiny mono speaker, but it was the state of the art. It was cutting edge, and this was in the ‘60s. And then — Godfrey: Did you have to crank it?

Thomas (Continued): No. We had electricity, but, just about. But I’m saved when I’m 18 and within probably a couple of months of being saved, I meet this guy. He came into my life for maybe six months and then disappeared, and I don’t know what

Happened to him, but he mentored me for six months and he told me I needed to get rid of all my records. So, the next day, I took them to the market, and sold them all for like five dollars. And, it’s probably one of the decisions I most regret in life.

Now, what he should have said to me was, “Put them away for six months to a year and then come back, and maybe they won’t occupy quite the place in your life that they did at that time.”

Because it was a question of priority, but for him, it was a question of this is secular and this is Christian, and you need to get rid of this secular part. So that — I think that’s why I respond fairly emotionally to it. Now, the words issue, I think I’m with you.

When I heard the top 15 or 20 songs that are playing right now, and I heard some of the lyrics, because it was an address to college students, and he was making a point about how every single lyric was about sex in some form or another.

I think I’m with you from what you said this morning about not going to the movies. So we don’t listen to modern music either. That’s you and me. Godfrey: And if we listen to — the first opera I went to I was an 8th grader.

I’d never been to the opera, I didn’t know anything about classical music particularly. And I went to the opera with my mother, my father didn’t want to go in San Francisco, and heard Tosca sung by Richard Tucker, who was the reigning tenor of his day, and I fell

In love with the opera that night as an 8th grader, because it was so glorious and beautiful. But — Response, Thomas: Of course, the lyrics aren’t any better, but they’re in German or Italian so — Godfrey (Continued): That’s the point I was going to make. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

I saw a cartoon in the New Yorker recently that said, you know, all of these opera plots really need to be sent to a therapist, and there’s a lot to be said for that. Thomas: Like country music. Godfrey: Like country music.

Nichols: You know, we’re spending a lot of time on this question but I think it’s an important one. As I think about this question, I think it’s the broader — maybe behind it is the broader question of the Christian’s relationship to culture.

We think of music as a particular way maybe to get at our entertainment or what we hear or listen to. We’re not left without a guide. Certainly, as we think about what it means to be a Christian, how we live in the world, we have certainly biblical principles to guide us.

We think about Paul speaking of whatever is excellent, whatever has virtue. We should be thinking on these things. But here’s something I think is especially true of us as Americans. We tend to think about these kind of decisions in ethical categories only without thinking in terms of aesthetic categories.

So, we think of truth and goodness and justice. We tend to do that pretty well. We don’t always think of the beautiful and how we spend our leisure time honoring God, honoring the Creator of beauty, in terms of thinking about aesthetics.

Whether it’s what we listen to or read or watch, to think of those categories, and maybe that can help us as Christians, and we think about these things that we devote our time and our energy to, and our leisure time.

#Christians #listen #secular #music

The Religious and Secular Sources of Democracy and Nationalism

– Good afternoon, everybody. And welcome to a new episode. In our ongoing series on Global Religious and Secular Dynamics. My name is Jose Casanova. And for the first time I can announce publicly that I am emeritus professor of sociology and theology at Georgetown University as of two days ago, August 25th.

But I continue my affiliation as senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, which sponsors this series. A series, which is also sponsored by Reset DOC. Today we are very fortunate indeed to have as our complaisant, professor Craig Calhoun, who is professor of social science at Arizona State University.

But before that he has been professor in many other universities and has had directing post, directing the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU for many years. Was the president of the Social Science Resource Council for 12 years, then moved to London, to the London School of Economics

Of which he was director and president for several years. Moved to the Berggruen Institute that he directed. And now he’s in Arizona. And throughout his life, So he has been dedicated to research and public knowledge, both as a researcher, but also as a director of many many research and academic institutions.

And obviously he has dedicated his life, his only scholarly life to precisely the study of the topics we are going to touch today. Democracy, nationalism, global, religious and secular dynamics, cosmopolitanism. These will be the topics we will be discussing and we’ll end with some observations on COVID-19 the pandemic, and what it implies

And its effects on all these institutions. So Craig welcome, welcome very much. Thank you, thank you for joining us. Let’s begin with democracy. Democracy or rather democratization, the surging and receding waves. Some years ago, 1997, I believe or 94 I’m not sure, anyhow. You published a book, “Neither Gods nor Emperors”

And “The Students Movement for Democratization in China”. This was based on essays you had published in prominent journals in 1989 in the midst of the Tiananmen Square Movement and its repression. This was a high point of expectations of a third wave of democratization, that had started in Southern Europe,

Portugal, Greece, Spain moved to Latin America, moved to Eastern Europe, moved to East Asia, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and then ended in South Africa. There were expectations that the wave will continue and to China and to much of the Muslim war, this didn’t happen. So let’s discuss about China specifically and what happened,

Why these expectations could not be realized there? And what is happening to democracy in China today? Some comments on this. – Well come to China, thanks Jose, let me probably start by saying. Democracy is always a project, it’s never a settled, finished reality. And so the project of building democracy in China

Has been one up against a variety of challenges contested by other visions of the future. But in some degree that’s true everywhere. The project of democracy in the United States, isn’t something that was finished in 1776 or 1789 or 1792. There are series of movements that expand the electorate most famously

The Abolition Movement that brought the Civil War, but then the Suffrage Movement, that brought women the right to vote and so forth. So democracy has been something that has been building over time. So the first thing I want to say is that everywhere democracy is not just a matter of institutional arrangements.

We have elections, we have free press. It’s a matter of movements of participation, of struggles. So democracy is necessarily a project and we can come back to other examples of this, including the US but now China. There were those for whom democracy remains today, a very important project.

Those who were hopeful of democracy in 1989 and the 1990s, and have lost some of their hope and there’s a longer history of this. So I’ll be really brief, but during the few hundred years of modernity and during the time in which China has entered into a new kind of global relations,

Not understanding itself simply as the middle kingdom and the center. It’s been transformed. For one thing, it’s been transformed by becoming increasingly a nation not the center of the world, but one nation among many with strong Solidarity and in common with other nations,

More and more of a bottom up idea that the people matter, the welfare of the people matters. This wasn’t absent in Imperial history, but it wasn’t as strong, it becomes more strong. Then it gets boost from things like literacy. As the Chinese language literally introduces new characters, simplified characters to ease printing

And printing helps to bring literacy. And so there’s a stronger idea of the people. This gets a manifestation in Nationalist Movements, 1911 famously, it gets a manifestation in communism with a very strong idea of being the People’s Republic of China. And then for some,

The rule by the people and rule for the people necessarily means democracy. And so this was true in 1989, in the struggles I wrote about. There were students and there were others who wanted China to live up to a strong idea of being for the people. And claimed that the communist

Partly as it existed then, was not living up to that, it was corrupt. It was pursuing its own power and not the welfare of the people. And it was failing to make China strong and international. Now we fast forward from 1989 to today, we have a renewal of communist language

And discourse with Xi Jinping. Who indeed is now pursuing a rectification campaign against people he sees as problems, very reminiscent of now, but this is a strong reassertion of an authoritarian center. And for several years, the would be Democrats in China have been losing out. The most visible face of this

Is China’s complete annexation of Hong Kong and destruction of the Hong Kong Democracy Movement. But inside China too, people are afraid to speak up too strongly for democracy. A few still do. And with that, there’s a final problem, of course which is that in 1989,

The US looked like a nice model for China. When people would say, Oh, let’s be a democracy. They could look at Europe, they could look at the US and they could say, being a democracy can be linked to other good benefits, other good values. Unfortunately today,

The US does not look like such a happy model for would be Democrats elsewhere. – Yes, but let’s look at specifically in China, one of the things, the subtitle of your book was, “The Students Struggle for Democracy”. It was a student’s struggle. My own experience in studying Transitions to Democracy

Is that you need transversal coalitions of workers, students, human rights lawyers, maybe national groups, religious groups. And this is what has been always absent in the China context. You may have some artists, you may have some lawyers on their own, but the way in which those different movements, I’ve never seen them coalesce.

And these, I think one of the weakness of civil society, I wouldn’t say that it is a authoritarian state penitentiary society completely, not at all. It’s a lack of autonomy. But then autonomy is very strongly regulated by the state. and knows exactly what are the limits.

And the people sort of in this respect, the 2000 year state that has to a certain extent imposed a model up on society remains very strong, despite what you said about nationalism, I thought about it. But nationalism of course also has its problems because nationalism is basically a nationalism

That makes difficult to deal with debate and seeing as seen in (indistinct) and other non Han groups. So there are difficulties on both grounds. The traditional state and the kind of Chinese nationalism. – I think that’s true, but maybe not as completely or as strongly as you’re stating it.

So first, the 1989 movement was not just students. The subtitle of my book is “Students and the Struggle for Democracy”. And it was students that I was with and talking to and studying. And they were certainly in the forefront, but the people who died at the end of that struggle

On June 4th were not students. They were workers and others who had joined with the students, and the students also received support from civil society actors of an earlier generation. People who had been involved in previous movements in China. One of the stories everywhere, including China

Is that large scale changes take many steps. And so China had had a number of movements and steps. Some of them explicitly democratic, but some of them, for example praising individual autonomy and individual spiritual autonomy, which was potentially important to democracy, but it wasn’t only for the reason of democracy.

So I think China has a relatively weak civil society or relatively weak legal framework and so forth. But I don’t think it’s quite all or nothing. And I think that in the 1980s, really from the late 1970s through to the early years of this millennium, China was building more civil society organizations

And giving more autonomy to them and they were becoming stronger. So there’s been a reversal made part of what has been going on with the current rule by C, has been a repression of many of these institutions and these forms of connection that we’re underwriting democracy,

Which of course he sees as a threat to party rule. – Now, recently you’ve been looking precisely at the crisis of democracy throughout the world. You are now working on a manuscript that will be forthcoming together with Charles Taylor The title I understand is going to be “The Generations of Democracy Degeneration.” So please, can you talk about these degeneration? What is going to be the main points of the book? – This isn’t a sense the other side of the coin from my point that democracy is always a project.

There are not only forward steps in this project. There are also backwards steps. And the idea of degeneration of democracy is that democracy can get in trouble, not only from outside attacks, like anti Democrats, but from internal weaknesses and degeneration. These include things like the erosion of the power of citizens.

Not only their power in a political voice, but their ability to manage their own lives, to get things done. And we’ve seen in the US and in many other countries, this kind of erosion of citizen empowerment. we’ve seen a loss of the inclusive nationalism of the ability of the overall discussion

To encompass and embrace everybody. And so in the US we talk about cultural wars, there’s an anti-immigrant movement. There are various frames for this, but they are all in some degree failures of the inclusive discourse of being American. And then there’s hyper partisanship. So, I think these are all manifestations of degeneration.

You can see a different story in Hungary, where democracy perhaps did not have the same long historical path and equally strong foundations, but where there has also been a degeneration and a backward walk for democracy. And, you can see versions of that in India. The world’s largest democracy,

Which has had forward and backward movements. We’re looking mainly at the rich industrial countries in the world. And the ways democracy has gotten into trouble in some of them not equally everywhere. This others often analyze this and say, oh, it’s populism. We talk about populism, but we say,

Well that’s not exactly an explanation, because populism can go both ways and there are left populism and right populism. There is a strong importance to speaking out to the people, but then there’s use and manipulation of that by demagogic leaders the greatest problem. So that raises as many questions as it answers.

And we don’t think that this kind of so-called populism, whether of Orban or Trump, just comes out of nowhere. And Orban and Trump create the problems. We think it reflects weaknesses in the democratic institutions in the framework. And these, I would argue, reflect underlying social conditions.

In the United States there’s been accelerating inequality. There’s been a disruption of local communities, whether by de-industrialization and plant closures, or by the economic transformations of so-called logistical of commerce that is ordering everything from Amazon, instead of buying it from a shop in your community and so forth.

And these and other changes have undermined some of the conditions for democracy. So that’s what the book is about. – Good, let’s move to a related topic. Nationalism, democracy are intimately connected. You wouldn’t have one without the other probably, but as we know nationalism also doesn’t means necessarily democracy.

And democracy could be a multinational democracy. So let’s look at. You’ve been involved in many of the debates around Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism. Those who were saying, it’s the end of the nation and state now a global cosmopolitanism is the future. You were already a skeptic about these kinds of claims,

And you wrote a very important essay, “The Limits and Necessity of Cosmopolitanism.” We could also say the same thing about nationalism, the limits and necessity of nationalism. So I want you to basically elaborate on precisely how can we not live without nationalism? But how we need to somehow go be a nationalism

To create trans-national structures, that basically are able to address all our global challenges and crisis. So not to put faith on a abstract cosmopolitanism, but how can we get strengthened nationalism and democracy by being able to go beyond it to address the global challenges? – At the heart of these questions

How do you have a good nationalism. A nationalism that you’d like, and that works for people. And that is not just manipulated for international conflict or domestic repression of so-called aliens or deviance or others by the majority. And this is a challenge and it’s a project. What I suggested in that essay,

And a variety of other things in a book I’ve never quite finished on nationalism and cosmopolitanism is that you can’t wish away nationalism. I’m not saying nationalism is inevitable and the world has to always be structured in terms of nation States. But that we live in a world of nation States,

Much of what has made globalization viable, has been international agreements. We create the United Nations, We create the World Trade Organization. We have international agreements for things like standards, so that we have an agreement of what is an ounce. We have an agreement on the width of railroad tracks.

We have failed to have just one agreement on electrical sockets. We have five or six. But there are standards for basic industrial and consumer products. These are the most extreme example of what we’re doing right now. The internet is not just a technology. It is a creature of international agreements,

Legal treaties, that do things like assign addresses and manage the way in which information flows around the internet. So, it’s not so easy to say, Oh, let’s just forget nationalism. Let’s imagine we have only individuals and they are perfect conscious individuals, and they relate to each other in the global cosmopolis.

We have to take nation seriously. then I’d suggest when we take it seriously, it’s not just an enemy. It’s a resource. It’s part of how actually existing cosmopolitanism works, actually existing care for the world. If that’s what cosmopolitanism is about, is accomplished largely by an internal politics,

That tries to get nations to change the way that they relate to the rest of the world, to not only be militaristic. And so I have felt we need both a global consciousness that tries to care for everybody, and a recognition of the importance of the political struggles within nation States,

About how we do that. And then of course, there’s the issue of the political struggles about how we live together inside the country, How the Han majority in China relates to the Uighur or the other minorities in China and so forth. And the same thing in the US.

We have a kind of White Christian Nationalism that is flourishing in a minority, but a powerful and disruptive minority in the United States, that claims to be the true American identity, against various others, that’s very problematic. And what I want to say is the answer to that is not to say,

Oh, we are only individuals with rights. The answer is to say, how else can we structure an inclusive identity? How can we make a better national whole? – I mean, one of the fundamental questions. The structures of solidarity? The strength of nationalism comes precisely from the ability to create this weed.

The sense of not only a cognitive, if we say a reading, emerging community through newspapers, but really an emotional community which obviously has gotten through all kinds of emotional memories etc. There are two problems I see today, one is of course, that in our case of democracy,

One of the fundamental issues is the dramatic polarization, that weakens national solidarity. And this makes even more impossible then to even create the good type of national solidarity, that can go beyond this national solidarity and create the structures which are transnational. Because I think that the issue of

Transnational global society is not only an issue of creating international mechanisms through which the nation States are able to collaborate and work together and all kinds of standards. but also create transnational structures of solidarity. We. – Sure. And so in here is where I want to bring religion in.

The same way that from Benedict under Saloninus, we know very clearly that the nation is a secularized church. There were national churches before there were secular nations in Europe. And to a certain extent religion has played this crucial role of being a source for nationalism. But you have also transnational religious communities

That could play an important role. It’s what I call global denominationalism, but doesn’t have to be only transnational religious communities. It can be transnational secular communities from all kinds of pacifist movements, ecological movements, movement for immigration refugees. So we need to create these structures, not only international agreements, but re-transnational social movements,

Transnational social structures to create precise the institutions that will be necessary to go beyond purely a whole system of nation state. – Well, I agree with you Jose, and the issue is truly changing a world system in the sort of strong sense. That includes a political economy,

A set of social structures and social institutions and culture. So we have an existing world system, a capitalist dominated Western dominated world system. and we would like to see it transformed. I think you and I. I think as I argued in those earlier essays, transforming doesn’t mean wishing away.

It means figuring out a historical process of change by which you can get something better. So you could see, and we have some scary examples in this COVID era of collapse of international order, which could bring chaos. So I think that we have to consider

That getting rid of nation States could produce chaos, or it could be part of a transformation to something better. How do we get that? You rightly point to the role of religion in transnational organizations. So there are a one dimension of this is the denominationalism

As you point to it on a global scale. So we have various versions of Christians and various versions of Buddhists organized on global scale. Another is the disproportionate engagement of religious people, People motivated by religious faith and understandings in secular organizations of certain kinds. So humanitarian action is often organized by secular groups.

So it’s not only church world service or something like that. It’s also secular humanitarian actions, Médecins Sans Frontières that are informed by religious heritage, religious thinking, and that mobilize religious people, including people from different religious backgrounds, Médecins Sans Frontières had sort of Catholic roots kind of odd combination of Catholicism and Maoism.

But it also then mobilizes others, Protestants and Jews and so forth. So, I think we need to be attentive to this. And I would quickly say that what it means is that global solidarity is poorly conceptualized by that image of a world full of independent conscious individuals.

Rather it’s better conceptualized as a patchwork quilt, in which there are many different kinds of connections between different kinds of solidary groups. So we aren’t individuals who are stripped of religions, stripped of communities, stripped of nation, stripped of all of our distinctive characteristics. We remain individuals because of those characteristics

Embedded in various kinds of communities. And that’s the path to a better future global solidarity, not having it be limited to nations, but not necessarily banishing nations either. And building multiple overlapping kinds of connections. One quick thing I want to say about nation of democracy is nation… Well, I’ll make it three steps.

Religion played a big role in the coming of nations, but in certain ways, as you point to Benedict Anderson saying. Nations become secularized of inheritors of religious communities. But not only that, nations become secular structures for relating multiple religious communities to each other. So we see very clearly in the United States,

But in various settings. So that the importance of nation is partly enabling people of different religions to live together in reasonable harmony, not just expressing one religion. And when nation is structured to just express one religion, that’s usually the enemy of democracy. When it is structured in a way that enables people

Of different religions to relate to each other, that’s much more compatible with democracy and with other kinds of differences that coexist in nations, people have no religious faith, but various kinds of views. So I think it’s important that we have a demos, right? Democracy depends on a Demos,

But that’s not dictated by ethno-nationalism. That’s one of the resources out of which demos is built religious identities sometimes one of those resources, but the loyalties that connect us to each other in our countries are more than either of these, and they have to be for it to be democratic.

– Well, this leads us then to the topic of going more in depth into the relation between global religious and secular dynamics. When you served as president of SSRC, you made this issue central to the intellectual project and the research project of the SSRC,

Partly because of the work you have been doing for years with Charles Taylor. You co-edited with Jonathan VanAntwerpen, who was one of the people that worked with you, several very important books, the book on “Varieties of secularism” analyzing child state on a secular age. Then a second book on secularism,

I don’t remember the title, but it came out of the many workshops you organize, I participate in these workshops. I also participated in this book, and then you wrote the third very important collection of essays and covered much in religion, and other major philosopher public intellectual, political figure, political theories,

Who has been in dialogue with you and with Charles Taylor for many years, and who was a very strong representative of secular modernity And then it comes out how to revise his own position and to be more open to the possibility of the role of religion, the public is fear.

So tell me about what has been faced? What was the impulse that led you to really put this at the forefront of the work you were doing in the social science research center that later you continue in the London school of economics. What can we learn from these new understanding of how

Religious and secular dynamics are interconnected, except they are not exclusive of each other, but actually they are intertwined. And where should we put precisely the focus, the things that we still need to understand better or to study today? – Okay, I will say my sources on this,

But institutions of course are not simply run by presidents as though they were Kings. And so there are a number of voices coming together. The SSRC is an organization that always brings people like you and Charles Taylor and others into conversation. And the conversation was intended to address themes

That were too often pushed into the background or obscured by conventional disciplinary academic discussions. And so to get people coming from anthropology and political science and economics and sociology talking to each other, but also talking about questions, like the extent to which our very understanding of knowledge or a very understanding of democracy

Reflected secular assumptions and what secular assumptions. A key importance to the works you were citing is the argument that secularism is not just a disappearance of religion. What Charles Taylor calls a subtraction story, and you indeed had made an important work, an argument about de-privatization renewal of public religion,

And the intensification of religious practices in this modern era when religion is supposedly receding. But I wanted to argue in particular. And I think Charles did that, secularization grows out of religion as much as it is imposed on religion. And that there is inside religion, a set of reasons

For trying to figure out structures to relate to this worldly life in vapor sense. And so, there are old ideas like secular priests versus priests and monasteries and all, but in modern democracies and in modern plural democracies with multiple religions, working out ways to relate to each other

Is something that people did often while being religious and for religious reasons, it wasn’t just because they lost their faith. But then that had an effect, changing the nature of faith in a religious practice and thinking. Universities grow out of some of this history, in fact. And so it’s not a surprise that

Disciplines and knowledge institutions do, but one of the peculiarities of the university is the way it compartmentalize thinking about religion and thinking about secularism as taking it out of most of the social science disciplines, placing it in the humanities, but also often in a religion department or a theology school, not everywhere.

And so not seeing as much as we would have liked the kind of connections of religion and secularism and their histories to all sorts of other things like the university itself, as I mentioned. So this was the importance then again at the LSE is a very secular institutions,

Are proud of its socialist, secular heritage and members of the LSE would tell you, it always was it’s completely secular. And they’re surprised when they find out that the Bishop of London laid the cornerstone at the invitation of Sydney and Beatrice, and socialists. That there was a Christian Socialist Movement

That was part of the shaping as well. That tends to get forgotten in the way in which we narrate the history, and the LSE confronted to make long story short and interesting but very telling. The students were much more religious than the professors. The students who come from all over the world,

The LSE is an amazingly international institution with students from every country. The majority of the students are not British. They come from all over. but the students often have very active religious involvements. And they have a hard time connecting those to their studies in the secular disciplines of the university.

But that also means that the people in those disciplines don’t have a very easy time understanding religion, that in the seeing the importance of religion, why it would matter for diplomacy and so forth. So a project at the LSE, building a faith center was partly to provide space for religious students,

But it was partly to build connections. so that both secular and religious people would be thinking better and acting better in relationship to a world that is neither Holy religious, nor Holy secular – On this topic, as you know, recently, Ronald Englehart published an essay in foreign affairs,

Basically “God is in decline”, whatever was the title, the global decline of the religion. As You know, Englehart and Pippa Norris have been basically putting forward a rather simplistic thesis. That religion is simply a response to existential insecurity, which of course is widespread throughout history in Agrarian societies.

This Agrarian societies move to industrial societies, and then to post industrial societies, existential security diminishes, and therefore religion is going to diminish as well. There’s thesis which of course was comparing much of Western European societies, the America, US was the exception. Then since the nineties, there was a modernization drive

In many non Western societies that was connected with religious revivals. So the thesis was in crisis, but now he has come up with, he says empirical evidence that finally the whole world, there is a clear decline in belief in God. Now it seems to me that the strongest argument

Or empirical evidence come from three countries in the list, which are the United States, Chile and Australia. One could argue for a specific reasons why the norms that people without religion have grown in the US in the last 20, 30 years, but it’s not necessarily as a sign of modernization

Is simply for a very specific historical reason. So I want you to maybe take a look at this thesis. What would you have to say to them? – Okay, really quickly, Englehart’s data and Englehart notes his data over a number of works is cross national survey research.

This is an important source of data. They are masters of this that have done a lot, but it’s a limited source of data asking people. What do you believe? What do you think? Is a limited way to find out what’s going on in various places. And so there’s one set of critiques,

I won’t go into around how to get from individual responses to translated questionnaires, to the kind of arguments that they’re making. And I tend to think that these lose touch with historical and ethnographic and other kinds of understanding. So that’s methodologically. More basically in terms of the theory,

I find it very hard to understand why anyone would think modernization brings existential security. I think that modernization transforms the kinds of insecurities that people feel. So they may feel less afraid of walking in the forest. they may be less vulnerable to disastrous of crops, but there are new insecurities,

We worry about climate change. We worry about the impacts of nuclear power. But look at war, far more people have been killed by war in the modern era than in previous eras. The Englehart essay has an irony of it timing. That it comes in the context of COVID.

And the existential insecurity that people feel because of global plagues and infectious diseases. In many ways the story of modernity, as a story of growing existential security, was a story of some parts of the world. The wealthier countries in the West, over a period of time, ignoring the periodic disasters

Like World War I and World War II and so forth. And suggesting there’s this growth. And it has a basis. It’s not all false, right? Life expectancy grows. More people live to old age. They become professors of emeritus. They don’t die at 40. But the sense of insecurity is a cultural phenomenon,

As well as a material phenomenon. So you can point to life expectancy and say, therefore people ought to feel much more secure. But you have only to look around at the anger and the anxiety of so many people in the United States, and in other countries to realize that

They don’t automatically feel more secure. and they worry about things like, What will my old age be like? If I’m very sick, will I have money? Will I have life? Will I have friends? Will I have care? How will I get care? Will I get care only from people

Who speak a different language and are immigrants? Will that make me feel bad? Right? So there are a lot of ways in which this… Now I think that studying these dynamics of security and insecurity is very important. And we would find that social institutions are basic. That having strong public institutions,

But also strong communities, is very important to having a stronger sense of existential security. But the kind of generalization that Englehart makes there. is just unwarranted about this last point on that. It may be entirely true that there is a decline in people saying, I believe in God.

I don’t have evidence to the contrary. The question is what that means. And the question to me is whether this is simply a decline, a subtraction story in Charles Taylor’s sense. or a transformation story in which people still have some of the kinds of faith and understandings and desires for transcendence

And so forth that have been expressed largely in religious terms. But they’re coming to express them in different ways, and maybe new religions are forming. Maybe religion won’t be quite the right word for the new structures of seeking that emerge. But it’s not clear to me that we do very good job.

By just assuming there’s a fixed category religion, and imagining people falling away from it. Rather than asking what are the transformations within religion and beyond religion. – Good before we move to COVID-19 and its implications. and the lessons of the pandemic, global pandemic and global lessons.

Let me remind everybody that, in about 10, 15 minutes, we’ll end the conversation, and there will be a time for question and answer. 15, 20 minutes at least. And so you are welcome to write your questions. In the question and answer. And I will reserve them to give these questions to Craig.

And Craig will have the chance to respond. So let’s look at COVID-19. One of the things that strike me first, it was really the truly first global pandemic in the way, in which so quickly, became a global both in its effects, how rapidly it spread and its consciousness.

It started very similarly as the SARS epidemic. But the SARS epidemic basically was restricted to East Asia. and some Chinese diaspora communities. So in these we’d say was not a global, Although it started precisely the same way as the SARS epidemic. But second was the extent to which

The response has been a nationalistic in the anarchist nationalism. Individually nationalist response, rather than a communitarian nationalist response. Even the European Union, the first response was to end the sanguine open borders to close and goes back to the basically anarchy European Nation state. And so, on the one hand,

The paradox is precisely the global pandemic. shows the need for a global communitarian response to the pandemic. And yet the immediate response has been. Now, probably things are, there have been some corrections, was a very, very nationalistic one. So I want you to, What are the implications there for democracy, cosmopolitanism?

The things we’ve been discussing. What are the lessons from the pandemic? And specifically, I want you to ask about the effects and lessons for universities. We’ve been talking about universities, research institutions, obviously they are, as we know, under tremendous pressures, uncertainties, how can we proceed campus, colleges, universities? How can education continue?

So especially the issue of education, youth education, not so much the issue of research, not so much the issue of public knowledge that can be distributed. because obviously you can use online distribution. But especially the issue of getting youth together. to the process of transmitting knowledge from generation to generation.

So what are the implications for the university in the future? And anything else you want to talk about. – Okay, well it does open the door to everything. Let me begin really concretely though. The Coronavirus like stars, starts in China, but if it’s prototyped in China, it’s mass produced in the US.

So the big difference in the first instance, is the catastrophic bad US response. The first thing you have to look at in COVID is why did it go awry in the United States? And so Trump made initial responses like restricting travel from China, but then in various ways,

The US response has been incoherence, often anti-scientific and problematic sense. I won’t try to offer a detailed explanation, but you have to see the US as figuring very centrally in this story, the COVID story. In a way, it didn’t figure it in the SARS story. It did somewhat in the AIDS story.

Look at another global pandemic, but the US still has the most cases in the world. This six, seven months into it, eight months, it’s had a high death rate. Now there are other countries with high death rates and high infection rates. You’ve got to look at where Spain, of course,

The United Kingdom has a very high death rate. Brazil has a high infection rate. India now has a growing number, although the rates is still low. and we can look around the world. So it’s not that it’s just the US but the fact that one of the richest countries in the world.

With one of the most highly developed healthcare systems. and high tech healthcare systems, would have such a disaster, is an important clue for what’s going on in the pandemic. And it’s partly that it’s confronting weakened institutions and internal divisions that weaken response in these countries.

So you have a politicized response in the US. Whether do you wear a mask or don’t wear a mask, is a statement of political identity, instead of a public health precaution. Whether if children go back to school or not, is the dictated by the political considerations.

And so forth and so on through a whole lot of responses. And that’s in many ways, true in several other countries. Countries with less political polarization. New Zealand or Germany have done better than countries with more political polarization. and countries that have been very neoliberal

In rolling back, their public institutions have done worse than countries with stronger public institutions. There’s a narrative that China would encourage that says this is a kind of referendum on democracy. China’s successful response shows that authoritarianism works. It’s not so clear, China’s initial problems showed that authoritarianism frightened people

From actually sharing the information about COVID in early days. And that helped to get going. And more over in line with our previous discussion in the US, in the United Kingdom and other countries, COVID confronts a degenerate form of democracy. Democracy has already been undermined. And so there are preexisting social conditions,

Just as there are for individuals pre-existing conditions. Like if you have a lung or heart disease, you have a much riskier time with COVID. For countries, high inequality, political polarization, damaged institutions, all shaped this. A couple of quick more points and I’ll turn to university. In this context, we see among other things,

A separation between the wellbeing of people and the wealth of economies. And so COVID is doing damage medically, but the COVID response is doing huge damage economically. And this is a complicated story. How much of that is necessary? The lock downs are a kind of blunt instrument. People would use testing and tracing

If countries had the capacity to do testing and tracing, but the United States didn’t have that capacity. The United Kingdom didn’t have that capacity more or less screwed up what it tried to use. So the blunt instrument of closure creates economic havoc. Who bears the pain of the economic havoc?

Not people like us who work at home. It’s inconvenient, and we can’t go out to cafes as much, but it’s actually a variety of working people. Who either lose their jobs, or who are forced to work in jobs, where they are exposed to COVID, and often paid very poorly.

Care workers, drivers, delivery workers, and so forth. So the COVID reveals some of the problems of societies in this sense. And I’ll be quick about the university, but ask more, if you want about it. There’s a very large story about how learning is affected. and the relative virtues of

Online versus in person learning. A lot of that has to do with the university as a social experience, not the university as an educational story. And there are losses, but I want to point to a few other factors. A lot of people debate online learning. as though there’s a choice between

Having small seminars at Georgetown, and having mass online classes. Well, most people didn’t get to go to Georgetown in the first place. And so the university system is highly heterogeneous. There’s not just the university. There are various different kinds of universities, scales of university. So what is online good for?

It’s good for access, right? It may or may not be as good for certain kinds of personal conversation and exchange and seminars. But if you didn’t have access to those seminars, you didn’t lose in the online transition. So online can be okay. There’s a whole story about proximity,

But there’s a second story that I think is more basic. It’s not about learning. It’s not about research. It’s about finance and about the upheaval in the economic basis of universities as knowledge institutions. Will they be able to employ the professors they have in the past?

Will they be able to support the libraries? Will they be able to provide the context for knowledge? And if they aren’t right? What kind of transformation will take place? It’s like the story of religion, they won’t just go away. There will be change. But what will that change be?

Will it be for profit providers? Will it be a consolidation which there are smaller number of bigger universities, that are effective in deploying the technology? How will we manage this? But we will not go back to universities as, before. There are too many ways in which the COVID experience

Has exposed patterns of change, including budgetary issues that will tempt administrators to keep going down some other paths. – Well, thank you very much, Craig. Let’s open the session for the question and answer from the audience. I have a list of questions already. Let’s see how many we can get at.

There is first a question Robert Neigh, writes, Steven Pinker says that relative to a number of people, violence and death in war is decreasing. Same with gruesome punishments. What is Dr. Calhoun’s response? Are we overcoming death and violence? – Right, so this is a reference to Steven Pinker’s “Better Angels” book.

I’m not fully persuaded by his empirical arguments. But I won’t take the time to go into details of why. I think there is some truth to it though. Even though I’m not fully persuaded, that is what I referred to by saying we have longer life expectancies. That’s one simple index of a reduction

In age adjusted death rates in reflects to violence. Now in response to this, though, I want to say a couple of things. First trends can be reversed. And even with gruesome punishments, we see Donald Trump bringing back the death penalty in the United States. It’s not necessarily true that there is

A one directional change that can never be reversed, which is more or less what Steven Pinker implies. Second, my main point was not about the physical risk of dying, but about existential insecurity. Englehart’s term, which is a term inevitably for how we feel. Do we feel secure? Let me use a simple example.

You may be healthy, but feel insecure. because you hear so much about the diseases around you, including COVID. So you feel at risk, even though you’re healthy, or you may feel insecure because you don’t have insurance, and you will have to rely on emergency rooms and substandard care and all that.

One of the things we saw in COVID was that, which hospital you went to was a big predictor of whether you lived or died. And the relatively poor areas of New York with publicly funded hospitals had higher death rates. People who could afford privately funded hospitals,

And other areas were more likely to survive. Now that can create a sense of insecurity. Even if on average, more people are surviving because we have hospitals for everybody. The inequality itself contributes to that. And there are other kinds of insecurities and risks. You may feel insecure because you’re not sure

If you can make your mortgage payment. That’s not a question of whether you will die necessarily, but it is a big existential insecurity. And as it happens, suicide rates are rising in the United States. And they’re rising particularly in certain populations. and partly for reasons like economic insecurity. So it’s absolutely true

That many kinds of material improvements in health and living conditions, sanitation, other things have taken place. But the kind of interpretation that has been based on that fact is misleading. – And a related question, which basically only needs a footnote come from Pat, What can human security theory

And the UN human security framework offer as insights for building and stabilizing a democracy? – Okay human security theory is basically the idea that there are a lot of different kinds of security as I was talking about. Not just whether you die in war. So traditional security, hard security,

Was all about war, we have all these other kinds. I think that this is important that human security is a very useful concept. It went out of vogue a bit. It was very popular in the late 20th century. After 2001, there was a return to talking mainly about hard security, terrorism and war,

Rather than broader human security. But I think broader human security is basic. and this is what we should be talking about. And we should connect it to the sustainable development goals. and the whole idea of a sustainable future. What makes for a sustainable future is not just the absence of war or terrorism,

But the presence of a variety of kinds of care for each other. Improved sanitation, improved environmental relations, greener infrastructures instead of resource intensive infrastructures and so forth. So if we extend human security into the environmental area, we’re really talking about something very basic that we can’t afford to leave out of discussions.

And I would link this also to something like the capabilities approach that Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum have pressed. That is the idea that we need to ask, whether people’s capabilities to do the things they want in their lives are being increased, in any path of development.

And I think this is an important question for this whole security and existential risk discussion too. – There is a question from Lasso Ramirez. on basically humanitarianism again, the limits and necessity humanitarianism globally. So the question is, do you think that NGOs run by secular and non-secular groups

Hinder rather than aid local communities as example, the white man’s burden, how this aid affect a country or a community’s economy, autonomy and viability and thinking of Haiti and the flooding of money and resources. – Great question. So there are problems with aid dependency, aid dependency tends to block

Some desirable paths of development inside countries, and tends to be very prone to problematic captures by governments. This doesn’t mean that all forms of aid are bad, but it means that being radically dependent on aid is problematic. I think humanitarianism represents, good values and efforts to have good actions

And it does good things, but it’s also an admission of failure. It is an admission that we haven’t in fact, reduced all the existential risks that Englehart is talking about. And to a certain extent, humanitarian action, reassures people in rich countries that the problems are often in other countries.

So people in Chicago can think the problems are in Haiti. And people in Los Angeles could think the problems are in Venezuela and so forth. So there’s an other arena of the sense of problem. Part of what we’re seeing now in this century since 2001,

Is the problems are in the rich countries too. The humanitarian issues cannot be seen as just third world issues. They are issues at home. And so we have to recognize increasingly what humanitarian discussion represses, which is that the global world system that you were talking about Jose, helps to produce these problems.

That it actively under develops some countries. That it creates problems. So it’s not just solutions. So humanitarianism is efforts by individuals and groups to put band-aids on problems, but it’s not solution to problems. I think the band-aids are good and they’re needed. The most basic moment of humanitarianism is refugees.

And we need a global regime of good treatment for refugees. We need each of our countries to give better treatment to refugees, but that doesn’t mean that we need all the things that call us refugees. It means we have to deal with it better. And the rich countries in the world have failed

The refugee test in recent years. You referred earlier to the nationalism in Europe and response to COVID or countries putting up walls, but already this was going on in response to immigration from 2015 on and from the financial crisis, the discourse in Europe immediately became a national discourse,

German started talking about those Greeks they’re profligate, those Southern Europeans, and it had a religious element. We Protestants saved those Catholics and Orthodox people. They don’t, this kind of thing, didn’t go away during the era of supposed secularization. – A question from Diane, How do you see the relationship

Between neoliberalism and religious ethnic nationalism, especially in the context of the argument that ethnic nationalist movements like Hindu nationalism in India are an expression of popular resentment, against increasing precocity in conditions of neoliberalism. – Okay, let me divide that into two parts. I think in general,

We have seen a huge spread of neoliberal thinking. in the world since the 1970s or so, that on the one hand, it involves stripping away the social support systems for people, the public institutions, undermining local communities making it harder for family members to care for each other.

So neo liberalism tends to privatize risk and throw people back on their own resources. Then people look for some other kinds of solidarity. Something to help them. Can ethnic nationalism appeal to some people as a way of dealing with the undermined support systems. Yes.

Is it necessarily an effective or good way of doing that? No. But we need to see nationalism as impart and attempt to find some sort of solidarity when other kinds of solidaristic institutions are being undermined or destroyed or attacked. I said two parts because the second part,

I have a slightly different view of India and of Modi, because I don’t think that the DJP is primarily a product of precarity among the relatively poor in India, lots of poor people, some of them support the BJP. I think first off, lots of the very Precarious poor

Are barely included in Indian politics. The BJP is big support comes from the middle classes, not from the most precarious and the mobs that are rallying may come from the poor, but it’s not the case that the middle class and the educated have rejected, so-called populism of Modi.

And so I think we have a kind of typical desire to think it is only the poor and uneducated. The same thing in America with Trump. Many people imagined, how could anyone with any education support Donald Trump? And that’s a question I’ve asked myself, because I think Trump is awful,

But I note a lot of his support comes from people with college degrees who live in suburbs. They have various interests, right? They are not just these sort of unwashed the downtrodden. There is a successful mobilization of many people who suffer with precarity, but there’s also a lot of calculation, right?

So evangelical Christians say, we can get some things we want from Donald Trump, in terms of future judges or whatever. And people who are rich say, we can get tax breaks. And Trump has dramatically reduced the taxes on the wealthy of the United States compared to everybody else.

And there are cynical calculations made by people who are not poor and the same, in various ways and in India. Well, I won’t belabor the point, but I think we should be cautious about imagining that the support for populism comes only from the ignorant. (indistinct) support for Modi is not coming

Because he’s in a precarious situation or ignorant. His brother does seem to be in a precarious situation now, but… – The next question comes from Sonya Sikas. and she writes, you mentioned the possibility of new formations, new patterns of seeking that express some of the same needs views, et cetera, as traditional religion,

But might not be described or describe themselves as a religion. I wonder if you could elaborate on where you see signs of such formations and how they deviate from traditional ideas of religion. – Okay, I will try to be really brief about this conscious of time, but I appoint to the rise of

Various kinds of self-help movements and movements in general, where people sort of sacrilege relationships, to Typology Gaia and so forth to certain kinds of other people in communal movements and all this, there are what would have been called seekers of a variety of kinds. And the heterogeneity is almost definitive of this.

People are looking. There are also Cults and people are joining Cults, and that’s not in my view, generally speaking a path forward, but it’s indicative of the number of people who are trying to find something, as a source of belief, but there are also right, let’s take this back to the core theme,

Ethno-nationalists, who are, sacralizing the nation. Who are seeking the kind of transcendence, that might have come from religious involvement in national involvement, right? And that’s also that kind of politicized national realism with a transcendent element, trying to replace religion is significant. – Let me put together three questions which are related,

And give you the chance to elaborate on the interconnections. There is a question coming from (indistinct) from sir Lanka and has to do with the waves of populism, and how many populace movements seem to ride, and the grievances of majority’s. State the cause about the tension between

The democracy being the rule of the majority, but liberal democracy has been there precisely to protect minorities from majority rules. So this is one of the problems. The other problem, the other question about democracy. (indistinct) writes, many great experience of democracy indeed seem to go backward. The examples are US and India.

People who are already skeptic with democracy are more frank now against the whole idea of democracy. How can one reassert the significance and the importance of democracy, is the only way of attaining political freedom and political arrangements. Are there alternatives or potential alternatives to democracy? And finally there is a more pessimistic question

About homo sapiens, the species having hit the limit of rational thinking and living. The rising types of nationalism, tribalism, populism, and religious fanaticism seems to have clearly dominated. This is in spite of profound insight from science, philosophy, et cetera. So you take it in any direction, these three come.

– Okay, I’m gonna go three, one, two. The last point, it seems to me is better stated as. We have tried to imagine human beings and human progress as a matter of rationality. And reason is certainly one of the human faculties we have,

But it was never the case that we were without affect, without emotion that our solidarity with others was only transactional based on reason, or even that knowledge was purely rational. and lacked standpoint and situation and so forth. So I think we are reaching the limits of a conception

Of human beings as defined by reason, and seeing the need to have a broader more complex view of human beings, that will also be one that makes it clearer to us. Why human beings matter in comparison to say artificial intelligence. Why do we care about human beings? Should we care about human beings?

Questions we need to answer. To the first question I can say very quickly, yes. The grievances of majorities are very central to contemporary populace but also to lots of the issues going on in the world. And they are partly grievances against minorities, and they think have unfairly benefited at their expense.

So, in the United States and some other rich countries, the resentment of immigrants is often expressed as they are living on welfare and we are paying taxes. But the resentment is often highest for successful immigrants. They are getting places at Harvard Medical School and I’m not, or my children are not.

And so we see a resentment focused on minorities. Second though, we see a resentment focused on elites. and the resentments of majorities that may scapegoat immigrants or people of color or other minorities are often deeply resentments of the established elites. who have presided over patterns of change that they don’t like, right?

So the people who have lost jobs due to de-industrialization in the context of globalization, are not necessarily politically economists who are analyzing the role of capital and private corporations, but they do notice things like, hey, this went on while Democrats were in office, it went on while Republicans were in office.

The whole elite political class didn’t care about people like us who were losing our jobs. And there’s a lot of truth to that, this one. Finally there is resentment of change itself. There are a lot of people whose resentments, whether they scapegoat minorities or they attack elites or whatever,

Their resentments are of the world changing, of not feeling familiar. And hence you have demands, Americans should speak English. We shouldn’t accept Spanish as a language or whatever. And pure gender is perhaps an important index. And the extent to which people on the populist right, are upset about changing gender roles,

Treating men and women. But we shouldn’t exclude the possibility that the elites, haven’t been very good elites. And that takes me to the second question. One of the things we should be struggling for is having better elites. We tend, we on the left, we who are Democrats.

So we need equality and I’m in favor of equality. But to the extent that we have elites or inequality, we need good elites. And we’ve had some pretty bad elites. And we have actually encouraged people to be bad elites. We’ve had ideologies like meritocracy,

That says you deserve to be part of the elite, because you did really well on your exams. And you went to a famous university. and those other people who aren’t part of the elite are less deserving. And so we’ve had a whole culture of encouraging elites not to be solidaristic towards non-elites.

And we’ve had elites who embraced this and said, well, look, the value of my house is going up. My kids are getting into the really good schools. Does it matter if it’s become more unequal in higher education? So after bad elites now, there is actually a political theory of good elites,

Republicanism, not the Republican party. But if you look at the founding of the United States. and most other democracies in the world. Most of the world’s enduring democracies are not just democracies, they’re republics, they are democratic republics. And what that means is that they embrace popular voice in government,

But they also embrace the rule of law. They also embrace a normative order of good elite leadership. And they embrace the rights of minorities, and including religious minorities. So, I think we need to remember, that democracy is not the only good, right? The rights of minorities, the rule of law are also good.

And part of the democratic project is trying to balance and integrate. The majority call for voice with the frameworks that ensure freedom, and majoritarianism does not ensure freedom. – Well, since we put these three last questions together, there about 10 new questions, which unfortunately will need to be left unanswered.

One of them is does capitalism have an alternative? And I would ask this person to read the book you’ve co-edited with. Immanuel Wallerstein, Michael Mann and Randall Collins, “Does capitalism have a Future?” and many other questions about pragmatic rationality. It’s an alternative to religion and so on.

Craig, thank you, thank you so much. What a wonderful enlightening, interesting conversation. on all kinds of related topics. And thank you for everybody for participating in this series. The next series will be a conversation. Then next episode will be a conversation with (indistinct) on global religious and secular dynamics.

And we’ll go from there. Thank you so much, Craig. Thank you everybody. And we’ll see you next time. – Thank you, Jose. And thanks to everybody.

#Religious #Secular #Sources #Democracy #Nationalism

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

Religious and Secular Dynamics of Social Thought

– Good afternoon. Good day, whichever time zone you are. And welcome everybody to the second in a series of conversations on global religious and secular dynamics. Welcome everybody, and especially welcome Hans Joas, Professor Hans Joas, who of course is a preeminent, distinguished, German sociologist and social theorist.

It is a pleasure to have you with us today, for this conversation. Before we begin our conversation, let me go over a few of the rules. This webinar is being recorded, and eventually in a few days it will be put on our website, the Berkley Center website.

If you are registered for the conversation today, you will receive an email notifying you that the webinar is already on the website. Otherwise, you can check in a few days on the Berkley Center website and you will find it there. We will have a conversation of around 50, 55 minutes,

Going over different aspects of Hans Joas’s life work, and afterward, we will have time for Q&A with the audience, about 20, 25 minutes, so please do prepare your questions. There is a question and answer at the bottom of your screen. You should open it and write your question,

Write your name, and please indicate your affiliation. We will try to answer as many questions as possible. So without further ado, I am Jose Casanova. I am a professor in the departments of sociology and religious studies at Georgetown University, and a senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion,

Peace, and World Affairs, which is sponsoring this series. But also is being co-sponsored by Reset (indistinct) USA. So, welcome everybody, welcome Hans. It’s a pleasure to have you. We will cover your life work, beginning with your early work and going to your most recent work. So let’s begin with your early work.

Your first major work was the book on George Herbert Mead. Which made you famous. It became the definitive work on George Herbert Mead. The subtitle it had when it was published in English by MIT Press was: A Contemporary Reexamination of His Thought. It was the least well-known of the major pragmatists,

Along with John Dewey, William James, Silas Peirce. There had been not yet any systematic interpretation of his work; your interpretation became the definitive one. Later, you wrote a second book on pragmatism and social theory, where you expanded the analysis to other pragmatists, into your parasocial theory.

You’ve become the main interpreter of American pragmatism, and interlocutor between American pragmatism and German and European social thought. So what attracted you to American pragmatism to the point that you indicated that you fell in love with American pragmatism, so please elaborate how did you fall in love with American pragmatism?

– Well, first of all Jose, let me say what a pleasure it is to see you, and to hear all your flattering remarks, about my early writings. Yes, I mean, I said, I wrote it someplace, I’d written it someplace, that I fell in love with pragmatism, and at first,

Particularly, with the work of George Herbert Mead. I could also have said that for me, it was a kind of revelation. Now why? I think the shortest way to explain that is to refer to the German, original German title of the book on Mead, which was: Practical Intersubjectivity.

I experienced Mead as a kind of transformation of something that was of profound importance for myself, namely the Christian idea of neighborly love, or of compassion, of understanding others. Now in Mead, you find this idea transformed into something you could almost say naturalistic.

I mean, he doesn’t remain on the moral level in that sense. It would be good, too, but he studies the empirical processes in which infants, children, human beings in general, develop the ability to see the world not just through their own eyes, but also through the eyes of others,

To put it somewhat metaphorically. And I still think this is an extremely important thing on both levels, on the empirical and on the moral level, and I’m rather radical with regard to that, in the sense of we as social scientists, or maybe we as historians, really should try to understand other human beings,

And we can understand all other human beings, even those who commit the most abhorrent deeds, so to speak. So that was the starting point. Now, in an atmosphere, I would say in Germany, in which all thinking about human intersubjectivity was kind of dominated by Jurgen Habermas’s idea about rational argumentative discourse.

So for me, Mead also was a kind of alternative in that sense; I mean there is a clear similarity or parallelism here to Habermas, but it’s also a kind of alternative because Habermas has this extremely strong emphasis on the rational and linguistic dimension, whereas in Mead, human intersubjectivity is much more corporeal.

It’s not necessarily on the rational, and not on the argumentative level, and even on the linguistic level. I mean, here are other ways of expressing yourself than the rational, argumentative one, like, let’s say the poetic forms of expression. So in this first phase, I would say, I mean,

The idea was to change from an exclusive focus on rational intersubjectivity to a more practical and corporeal way of thinking. But that, of course, then led me to discover that in the works of the pragmatists, this idea of intersubjectivity is not really the absolutely crucial one.

That such a central figure like William James, you could say, didn’t have so much to say about intersubjectivity, but he’s considered, and rightly so, as one of the most important pragmatists. So I realized that Mead’s thinking about intersubjectivity is, has a more basic, underlying level also,

And for that, I used the term: creativity. It is a specific understanding of the creative dimension of human action on which the ideas of intersubjectivity are based. – So Hans, if I may connect on this point, indeed, you are not only an authoritative interpreter of American pragmatism,

But one could say you are a major pragmatist social thinker in your own right. You’ve mentioned the creativity of action. This was the title of your next major work, and obviously this work was written in critical dialog with Habermas and his theory of communicative action. But also in critical dialog with the sociologist

Talcott Parsons, and his work: The Structure of Social Action. In a way, you are trying to expand the theory of social action beyond both Habermas and Parsons. And then you wrote another major work, a major work: The Genesis of Values. That continues the very same theoretical trajectory,

Trying to understand: where do values come from? But similarly, the personal commitment to specific values. In a way, it was a way of questioning theories of value decisionism, in the Bavarian tradition, but also the Parsonian emphasis on values being embedded in social systems, through which individuals are socialized and somehow accept those values.

You put the emphasis on the contingent historicity of both. The emergence of values in a particular social-historical context, and the personal commitment to these values. So can you explain this attempt to develop a theory of social action around these two key concepts, the creativity of action and the genesis of values?

– As I said, I mean, let’s say in terms of intellectual history, the book The Creativity of Action, was indeed an attempt not to write about the American pragmatists in historical terms, so to speak, but systematically on what the relevance of their work for contemporary social theory is.

And it makes sense to compare pragmatism and my own attempt in that sense, both to Parsons and to Habermas. Now, in Parsons, one could say, and I’m mostly referring to his first book, which I personally consider his best one, namely The Structure of Social Action from 1937,

That in a certain sense, the notion of value was the crucial term for Parsons, for his critique of what he called utilitarianism, and what we today might call rational action approaches or something like that, but although value was so crucial for him as a concept, he had nothing to say

About the historical emergence of values. And now it makes sense, as you did in your question, to distinguish between the historical processes in which certain values emerge, and the processes in which a person develops his or her commitment to a value. But even in the historical processes,

When values first come into being, so to speak, such the same processes in which individuals develop their commitment are at work. I mean, if nobody ever had had the idea, where would the values ever come from? So, I realized that one has to clearly go beyond Parsons,

On this very basic level, and as I already said with regard to Habermas, I think Habermas is, so to speak, two things: a moral philosopher and political theorist, on the one hand, and particularly in the book on the theory of communicative action, a sociological theorist.

But the two goals are not identical with each other. It can be that too much interest in the normative dimension, too much interest in rationality draws your attention away from the, let’s say, from the phenomenal character of human action, so for me I try to distinguish

The two problem areas more than he did. Now, we certainly don’t have the time to develop the details of such a theory of action that focuses on creativity, but I want to say one thing about the connection between the two books you mentioned, namely The Creativity of Action and The Genesis of Values.

When you study creative processes, I think what you cannot abstract from is something like the passive dimension in creative processes. I mean, you may have a problem, so to speak, that you would like to solve, but it doesn’t help to make the decision to solve a problem. You have to have the idea

That helps you to solve the problem. And this idea, although it may come from somewhere in your own person, you experience something that is coming to you, that is given to you, as in terms like inspiration and so on, huh? You are not really the master of the creative process.

That’s true for all creative processes. Even those, let’s say, in the area of what Habermas would call: instrumental action. As an engineer who has a technical problem to solve. But that idea of passivity is also the bridge between my book on action theory and these basic ideas about the emergence of value commitments,

Because the fact is when you’re honest to yourself, that you realize for you, certain things are self-evidently good or self-evidently evil. You do not really feel the need to develop a complex rational argument in favor of that. Let’s say, an example I often use in German discussions,

That the Holocaust is evil, is not something that you have found out after long processes of reasoning, it seems self-evident to you that this is the case, and if somebody asks you for a justification for this assumption, you find this a strange person, who asks such a question.

So that’s true for all of us, I would say. All of us who have any value commitment, and there is no human being without value commitments, have come to this feeling that something is self-evidently good in processes that also have very strongly this passive dimension. I mean, the German tradition, for example,

The theologian (indistinct) used terms like: you have been captivated or seized by something. That you then articulate in quasi-rational statements or propositional statements of character. I consider this to be good, or justifiable, and so on. So that is the connection between the two, and The Genesis of Values book, of course,

Is an elaboration of this idea. Namely the attempt to offer a rich kind of analogy of human experiences, out of which such a commitment emerges. – And you expanded this argument with a historic (indistinct) over the emergence of values in history, particularly in your next major work,

On The Sacredness of the Human Person, which had the subtitle: A New Affirmative Theory of Human Rights. And this work can be viewed also as an alternative theory of negative, Nietzschean and Foucaultian genealogies of values. It makes also, or marks also, actually, the beginning of your interest on the notion of religion

As self-transcendence as an experience of being seized or captivated by something external to the self, and also we’ll get into this notion of religion and self-transcendence in a moment, but also it is the beginning of a new phase in your work, focusing on global theories of religion,

Or the global history of religion, actually, and moral universalism. So, this work, can you explain or can you give a summary of this work, the Sacredness of the Human Person? And the role it plays in your further theoretical development? – I mean, for sociologists, so to speak,

Perhaps the easiest way to start is Emile Durkheim. And of his very famous Sociology of Religion, in which I think he analyzes connective processes, in which the participants develop an emotional commitment to something that he calls the sacred. Now, we should not forget that the analysis

Of what at the time was called primitive religion, was not his only contribution, but that he was also deeply interested in contemporary types of sacralization, let’s say, in the history of modern nationalism. I mean, obviously, historical sociologists have to explain why an emotional commitment to the nation,

That may go so far that people are willing to sacrifice their lives for the national flag, for example, has not been there in human history all the time, but that it emerged at some point. And Durkheim also already had, I think, the ingenious idea that we can analyze the history

Of human rights, along this line of a growing sacralization of the individual, or as I prefer to say, of the human person. I prefer to say person, because sacralization of the individual can easily be misunderstood as the self-sacralization of individuals, eh? People who think they are the only thing that is sacred,

For them, in the world, but what we mean when we talk about human rights and ideas about universal human dignity, is something different, of course. Namely that we attribute this dignity to all human beings, whatever they have done in the sense of, you know, even, let’s say,

A murderer who has tortured his victims must not be tortured by the state, or by other people in general. So that’s the basic idea here, that we have to understand the history of human rights, as a history in which such ideas about universal human dignity have become captivating.

So we cannot write this history on the level of history of ideas, as such, but we have to write it on the level of collective processes of experience in which this becomes something that then is articulated also in theories. But the theories, so to speak, are not constitutive for what happens later.

– And this is actually what you show in your book, The Sacredness of the Human Person, which the book was actually based on the Berkley public lectures that you gave here at Georgetown. And it was publishes subsequently by Georgetown University press.

Can you elaborate a little more on the way in which you link the first proclamation of human rights around the time of the American and French Revolutions, with the anti-slavery movement, and in similar ways, the way you link the second United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the experience of the Holocaust.

So there seems to be, in your theory, a linkage between the notion of the positive affirmation of the sacredness of the human person, and the negative experience of violence and oppression. Can you elaborate on this link? – Yes, I just realized that I did not really respond

To one element of your previous question, namely, what you said about a non-Nietzschean, non-Foucaultian approach, so to speak, and maybe before I answer this question, I just add very few sentences. Namely that what I share with Nietzsche, so to speak, is the insight that such processes are contingent,

They happen, that they are not determined by old, previous history, so to speak. But, in Nietzsche and Foucault, and that’s what they call genealogical, but in Nietzsche and Foucault, the idea is that as soon as people recognize how contingent the existing values are, and how contingent their own commitment to values is,

These values somehow lose captivating force. And I dispute that, and that is why I call my own approach following some ideas from Paul (indistinct), affirmative genealogy, namely: although I see the historical contingency of these processes, remembering these processes might actually strengthen our commitment to them.

I mean, you mentioned the, and I came to this period. Last question now: you know, I’m fully aware of the fact that let’s say if the Holocaust hadn’t happened, and if I were not a German, maybe my interest in the history of human rights would not be so passionate.

But this insight that if things had been different, I would be different, doesn’t destroy the energy, so to speak, I put into this research endeavor. Now, actually it is true what you said. Although my explanation of the innovations of the late 18th century is a little bit different,

But in principle, what I have to look for, if I follow the methodology as I’ve briefly described it, is of course changes in the experiential context of people. That is why the abolitionist movement plays an important role in my argument, but not for the 18th century, but for the 19th century, yeah?

The important point for the 18th century, in my eyes, is first that we should get rid of the myth that the French Revolution invented the basic ideas of human rights. It is indeed true that the American Revolution preceded and influenced the French Revolution, and I follow 19th century thinkers

Who already had the idea that although the topic of religious freedom was not crucial in the context of the American Revolution, let’s say basic logical structure of human rights, is a result of the struggle for religious freedom, not just for yourself, but for all human beings.

So it’s easy to ask for freedom for yourself. But it’s a complex thing to act in favor of the same right for people whose religious or other convictions you do not share. – So this is, however, the link with your new interest and new focus of your work, for roughly the last 15,

20 years, on the global history of religion, and the emergence and trajectories of moral universalism. I have to admit that probably the seminar that we both co-directed, the so-called Young European and American Scholars Seminar on Religion and Globalization was a turning point also for me, because I was already given up,

To a certain extent, on my interest in secularization, thinking that nothing new would be said, everything had been said already. And it was this participation in this seminar, first in (indistinct) and then in North Carolina, with very, very bright, young scholars that awakened in me once again the interest

In the study of global religious dynamics. So, if we look at your works of the last 15 years, beginning with your work in collaboration with Robert Bellah, your work on: do we need religion? Where you explain your theory of religion, itself, in standards; your work on faith as option,

In which you put both religion and secularity as options for modern individuals. In particularly your two major, recent works. First, the work that was published first in German, in 2017, and that will appear very soon, at the end of the year, in Oxford University Press, with a title: The Power of the Sacred.

And then the work, (unintelligible muttering), which is going to be published also by Suhrkamp, a German publisher, at the end of the year, with the title: (speaking German). Or: Under the Spell of Freedom. Basically, in this later work, you revisit the relation between religion and freedom, as postulated by Hegel,

By looking at some 20th century thinkers that have written about this relationship. So it’s a lot of work, but all of it can somehow be put under the heading: dynamics of sacralization, and de-sacralization. Can you explain what you mean by these dynamics of sacralization and de-sacralization?

– Jose, I’m of course happy to hear that the seminar we taught together, where you clearly influenced me a lot, also, that I also exerted some influence on you, and on your further intellectual development. Maybe I can just go back to what I said with regard to Durkheim, namely, I said:

I think Durkheim is an important author for, let’s say, the dynamics of new sacralizations. I used nation and person as possible examples. Now, if we think that new sacralizations are possible, we should certainly get rid of historical narratives that describe world history in the sense of an ongoing weakening of sacredness.

And I mean, I would have much, much more to say about Max Weber’s narrative of disenchantment. So I’m simplifying things at the moment, but at least in the reception of Weber, one could say, for the moment, the narrative of disenchantment is interpreted in that sense. And I think that’s totally wrong.

There are always processes of de-sacralization, that is true, but there are also always processes of sacralization, and some people say of the migration of the sacred, or of the migration or the transfer of the holy, and I mean, there are different terminologies. So, unexpected processes of that kind, I mean,

Nobody really predicted the rise of German Nazism, for example, and the cult-like forms connected to it, in the history of the 20th century. Now, let’s say for normative reasons, since I consider myself a moral universalist, what interests me most is not just any process of sacralization, so to speak,

But the long history of moral universalism. And what you mentioned with regard to Robert Bellah and our work together, including you, on the Axial Age, is of course work on what one could consider the first historical emergence of moral universalism. I mean, and one can even turn Karl Jaspers’s

Controversial claim that there was such a thing as an Axial Age into a question, so to speak. I don’t need all the implications of his claim for my argument, like simultaneity between let’s say China and the Middle East or something like that, but one can turn it into the question:

Where did moral universalism come into being? When did it come into being? Why did it come into being? And so on. So that interests me a lot, and I would have a lot to say about that, but of course that is just, let’s say, the first breakthrough of the idea

That there is empirically and normatively such a thing as mankind. That when I think about the justifiability of my action, the highest criterion is not: is it good for me, my family, my tribe, my people, my nation, my religious community? But is it good for all human beings, including maybe

Future generations that have not even been born ye? And after this Axial Age, or whether you call it Axial Age or not, but after this first breakthrough, of course, you have to study the processes in which such ideas became canonized, for example. How these processes of canonization into acts

With political power, because canonization always implies some power, at least within the religious community, but maybe much farther than that, and beyond its limits, so for me, the studies about the Axial Age, the two books I’ve actually written about the history of human rights, and still unpublished lectures

I gave in Wiemar as so-called Friedrich Nietzsche Fellow, on Gandhi and others, and Martin Luther King, in the 20th century, as extremely important, and rich articulations of the ethos of moral universalism. And why did they emerge and why did they be successful, so to speak?

All this is connected in this idea of a global genealogy of moral universalism, and in this global genealogy of moral universalism that nobody can write in a sense of a complete history of that, yeah? You can only reconstruct crucial points of that. History, I think, is the alternative

To the Weberian narrative of disenchantment, and since you mentioned Hegel, and since Hegel plays an important role in my most recent book that will come out in December in German, and Hegel’s narrative according to which somehow the world history of religion leads to Christianity, and Christianity somehow, particularly in its

Protestant version, leads to modern political freedom, I think that’s a myth and perhaps nobody would defend it as this myth today, but it is still extremely influential in the minds of people and even some leading intellectual figures. – Since you’ve been referring to Max Weber,

You serve actually as the director of the Max Weber Kolleg in Erfurt, for several years, and now you serve as the distinguished Ernst Troeltsch Professor at Humboldt University in Berlin. One could say in your later work, you have become much closer to Ernst Troeltsch and more critical of Max Weber.

And somehow this is related with your interest in historicism, and the problems for moral relativism with historicism, usually presents. Actually, the (indistinct) rift, written in your honor, at your 60th anniversary, a collection of essays to which I also contributed, had the title in German: Between Pragmatism and Historicism.

These being the two intellectual traditions within which one can say your own work is somehow related. So can you tell us more about your relation to Ernst Troeltsch, your interest, late interest in the work of Ernst Troeltsch, and also to a certain extent to answer those who argue that historicism leads,

Necessarily, to moral relativism? – It’s funny what you say, that I was the Max Weber Professor for nine years, and now I have been the Ernst Troeltsch Professor for six years. It’s funny, for those people who know that Max Weber and Ernst Troeltsch lived in one and the same house

For many years, in Heidelberg, and were very close together in a certain sense- (audio distorting) Had a major conflict in 1915 and nobody knows exactly why their friendship ended then. Now for me, as for most sociologists, and I would say for most people, at least non-theologians,

For a long time, Troeltsch was just a kind of version of the Weberian thinking, and you could, in the secondary literature, you can find many descriptions that say, let’s say Max Weber was this extremely also polemical author with clear, and sharp statements. And Troeltsch was milder and in that sense more liberal,

And so on. But in principle, they seem to have said the same thing. Now, I dispute that, and for me, I would say in my life, he is the second author, after the student, or this encounter with George Herbert Mead in my student days, he’s the second author

Who I experienced as a kind of revelation. Namely, I think in very fundamental ways what he has done differs from Max Weber and differs from Max Weber in crucial respects. Now, one could elaborate all that, with regard to many topics. Maybe I just mentioned the two 1,000-page books that Troeltsch published.

One is a kind of 1,000-page history of Christianity. But certainly not written in the spirit of a history of disenchantment, secularization and so on. But with an interest in the question: how can Christianity remain vital? How can it be justified intellectually, in the present, but also what has to change,

Organizationally, to make it vital again if it is in a kind of crisis? Now, you were referring to the other main book, one could say, a book that is practically unknown in the English-speaking world, because it has never been translated into English, Historicism and Its Problems.

It is fortunate that I know the translator. He has just finished the translation, so it, and I have written the preface to the American edition, so I will come out in English, and I personally think this will change many things, so to speak, also in the perception of Max Weber.

Now, with regard to historicism, I mean, Weber is famous for making a very strict distinction you could say, between empirical study and the clarification of evaluative questions. And he does that with a lot of emphasis, so to speak, that nothing follows out of your empirical studies.

You have to reflect on your own values, so to speak, and you have to decide in favor of your own values that then have an existential meaning for you, and of course, everything you do, empirically, is somehow driven by your values. Now, in Troeltsch, I think, I personally think

He’s much more sophisticated at that point. Namely that when we reflect on the values we already feel committed to, we necessarily get into the empirical realm. I mean, I have to ask the question: where do my values come from, in an autobiographical sense, and in a historical sense?

So I cannot so clearly mark and make a distinction here between the two, but there is a connection. Now, the idea of a history of moral universalism is also the way out of the dilemma that you are alluding to when you say: how can you be a historicist, without becoming a relativist?

I mean, what Troeltsch was thinking, and what other of my main heroes, so to speak, like Paul (indistinct) certainly, also, have had in their minds is that I am, I’m acting in a present, on the basis of a past, and in anticipation of a future.

And when I see myself as such a potential actor in a present, I reconstruct history as having led to the situation in which I now find myself. And I draw from history, as I said before when I explained this term, affirmative genealogy, a certain strength for my commitment to values.

This is not an uncritical, selective attitude to history, but it is an awareness that I was not born with my values. That I cannot speak about my values without getting into the terrain of narration, so to speak. I have to explain to people why I find certain things

Deeply convincing, and as soon as I do that, they can argue with me, both about on the narrative level, let’s say they can say: the last time, you told me a different story about yourself. Or last time, you described German history in a different way and so on.

And they can argue with me on the normative level and say: no, I dispute the, what you derive from your experience, or what you derive from historical fact, but there is an intertwinement of our reasoning about history, and our reasoning about our values. – So coming now to our final question.

One of the like motifs, precisely, of your work, has been the relation between the sacred and violence. Between the positive experience of faith as self-transcendence, and what you call its perverted brother of the traumatic experience of violence. If we can bring this in relation to contemporary developments, in 1795,

On your first trip to the United States, when you were digging in American libraries in search of the key to your interpretation of the work of George Herbert Mead, on the one hand, you encountered both, the promise and achievements of American democracy, which are so crucial in understanding the philosophy

Of American pragmatism, but also its perverted manifestation in massive poverty and social inequality, racism, criminality, violence, and social decay. For over 20 years, you’ve been coming regularly, every year as a visiting professor to the department of sociology and to the committee on social thought at the University of Chicago.

How do you see, in this relation, the contemporary intertwinement of the disastrous American response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the widespread societal support for the Black Lives Matter movement? – First, my interest in violence, yes, but it has not mostly been an interest, let’s say, in individual violence, crime.

But in macro violence, eh? War, and the Holocaust. And what I found, the really challenging thing, in connection with my work about religion and experience and so on, is that perpetrators of violence sometimes enjoy the violence they commit. And so I’ve written a theory in one of my two books on war

About this fact; that’s what I call the perverted brother. Namely, that when what is characteristic for religious experience and for the experience that leads to all sorts of value commitments, including secular values, is what I call self-transcendence. Namely that you feel captivated by something that draws you beyond the boundaries of yourself,

Something similar happens in acts of violence. But similar only in the sense of that. In other respects, it is radically different, of course. While you may open yourself to the other, in let’s say, positive experiences like love, the boundaries of yourself are opened by others, using force against your will.

And that leads us to recognizing strange parallels between let’s say the need we feel when we had an ecstatic experience, namely, to articulate it and to share it with others. And our inability to talk about traumatic events in our life, and the long and slow process

That we have to go through to become able to articulate these experiences. Now, so that was the first part of your question on violence. Now, my experience of the US and particularly one could say in connection with your question of the South Side in Chicago, it is true

That when I and my wife first arrived there, in 1975, we could hardly believe what we saw. I mean, the degree of poverty. The, the, yeah, the way, the whole situation was broken, so to speak, we could hardly believe that. And I could talk for hours about the intensity

And the shocking character of this. I mean, given the fact that we came and I would call myself and my wife something like ardent defenders of the social democratic welfare state, I could hardly believe that this is true. And of course, at the time, and with a somewhat idealized

Image of American democracy in mind, I thought this is a problem that exists right now, but this is such a great country, they will certainly be able to solve that problem in the coming years. Now I must say, that this was not true. Although things constantly change, I mean,

The character of specific street changes, the University of Chicago may buy some buildings, adjacent to the campus, so to speak, in principle, not much has changed. And even under President Obama, to be honest, I’m very disappointed in this regard, not much has changed. So I certainly experienced the current Black Lives Matter

Movement as perhaps, nobody knows that yet, a crucial step forward in that regard. Although, I would also like to add that the mechanisms for the long term, let’s say suppression, of the urban poor in the United States, and of the Black urban poor, are probably more complex

Than the mere term “racism” is able to express. – So Hans, thank you so much for all these insights and ideas. We can now move to the question and answer period. We have about 25 minutes. Let me begin with a question from Professor Bill Barbary

From Catholic University of America, who says: Hi, Hans. Here is my question for you today. In light of your comments about affirmative genealogy, and your own historical and existential location, I wonder how you think your development of critical alternatives to Habermas and Weber has been saved

By the fact that in contrast to these two thinkers, you are not unmusical when it comes to religion. – Yeah, let’s say, as a religious person, in an extremely secularized environment, I mean me being Catholic, living in Berlin, to put it concretely, of course,

If you are not, let’s say, excluded from secular dominated intellectual discourse, you are constantly confronted with the question: but how? Why are you a believer? Where does your faith come from? And so on. And so I’m used to answer these questions, so to speak, on an autobiographical level.

Now, I will not get into that, but the abstract conclusion from that is: nobody in a highly individualized culture can answer this question by simply referring to his or her childhood background. You definitely have to say that you, in your own life, had certain experiences that either, let’s say, strengthened your original commitment,

Or that brought you to such a strong commitment. And this structure, how do we speak about the origin of our basic commitments? That is exactly that, what I defended methodologically a few minutes ago. Now I am saying: but this is not only true for religious people.

It is true for people with a strong emotional commitment to secular values as well. They cannot say: I came to my commitment to, let’s say, a secular understanding of human rights just through reasoning. They have to admit that something happened in their lives that made them so intensely committed.

And so I derive from the fact that I have a religious biography a kind of structure of possible argumentation for our value commitments, and this possible argumentation for value commitments is different from Habermasian, rational argument about cognitive, and he would say normative, validity claims. – There is a related question coming from

Sergio Gader, a Jesuit and PHD student at the Hochschule für Philosophie in Munich. And he asks: would you elaborate on the connection between transcendence and the absolute or the sacred, and the normativity of values, in the sense and the relationship you find between religion and morality

And whether there has been an evolution in your perspective on this relationship in your recent work? – Okay, that’s a complex question, or a complex of questions, I would say. Maybe first I say: please bear in mind that in my terminology that may be a little bit unfortunate,

But I will not change my terminology now, after decades, so to speak. There is a difference between self-transcendence and transcendence. Self-transcendence, for me, is a descriptive psychological term, applied to the processes in which people have the experience that something draws them beyond the boundaries of their self.

Transcendence is a kind of metaphysical term, namely a sharp distinction between the mundane and something different, called the transcendent. That is not given in the whole course of human history, but that like moral universalism and in the certain connection with moral universalism, emerged at certain points and in history,

Like in the Axial Age. Now with regard to norms, I make a rather strict distinction between values and norms; values for me, are attractive. Norms are restrictive. Now, we certainly derive restrictive norms from our values. My favorite example to illustrate that is, even if I’m purely, let’s say, attracted by somebody.

Like, in love and friendship. Something restrictive follows from this attraction. Nobody can say: I have a very close commitment to this friendship, now my friend is sick; I don’t care. But if I do care, something follows from that. I will not do certain things I might have enjoyed.

Because I will visit this friend, help this friend, or whatever. So we derive normative restrictive things from our values. But the values are not the only and exclusive source of normativity; I follow Piaget and others, Mead, for example, in also thinking that the structures of action, themselves, have normative implications,

Like the rules of fairness and so on. So, there is a very complex interplay of values and norms in our individual lives, and in history. So ideas about transcendence in the metaphysical sense, for example, probably lead to ideas about humanity in the sense of mankind and moral universalism,

But how exactly we translate these ideas about the reference point, mankind, into specific moral or legal norms, depends on many intervening processes that I cannot spell out within a second. – A related question comes from Paolo Costa, from the Bruno Kessler Foundation in Trento, Italy. Namely: do you see the COVID-19 pandemic

As a collective limit experience, that could lead to the genesis of new values? – Yeah, Paolo, this is a very good question. I recently said in an interview that what is so striking about this pandemic is that in one crucial respect, it differs from other societal crises.

In general, I assume that a societal crisis, let’s say a major depression, a war, collapse of a regime and so on, in a sense that brings people closer together. At least, particular groups of people. I mean, not denying that there may be very hostile relationships among different groups,

But within those groups, people come closer together. They identify with each other in such a difficult situation. Now, in this pandemic, what is lacking is exactly the opportunity to come closer together. One could put that in the literal sense, so it makes us more lonely. And not more collective.

And I really do not know, and I do not want to make unfounded predictions, what the result of a crisis is that isolates people in the corporeal sense, from each other instead of producing a kind of enthusiastic public. In that sense, I’m also less optimistic than others,

Who think that this crisis is, might be, a turning point in the direction of more solidarity. But actually, I do not know, and it is probably too early to judge. And we have to bear in mind that the societal conditions differ very much from country to country.

I mentioned before, speaking about the South Side in Chicago, that I’m an ardent defender of the welfare state. I think that the current crisis also, I mean, at least for me, strengthens the commitment to the welfare state; the crisis is much less dramatic under conditions of a welfare state than it is

If the welfare state is as weak as it is in the US. – Then we have a very broad question from Andrew Condon. Do you feel that in this time of technological, digital socialization, the notion of transculturalism faces some impact on the adoption of intersubjectivity as a theory?

– Again, I’m not totally sure that I understand the question. But I certainly think that, under present conditions, we do not live in one culture, exclusively. But that our contact with people from other cultures and the availability of elements from other cultures has become much stronger and that affects intersubjectivity,

But in the sense of a greater challenge, so to speak. I mean, it’s certainly easier to understand people, with whom you share many cultural features than people who you first experience as being very far from your own cultural background. On the other hand, that is exactly what may make these encounters more fascinating.

– So, Hans, my dear friend, I would like to thank you very, very much, for your willingness to participate in this conversation, which for me, really, really was fascinating. And I would also like to thank the entire audience, everybody who came and participated in the webinar, for their interest.

Thank you so much to everybody. And at this point, I would like to announce that the next conversation, our third conversation in our series on global religious and secular dynamics is scheduled for August 16th, again, a Thursday at the same time, at 12:30, with the Turkish French sociologist Nilufer Gole.

We will be discussing her work on Islam (indistinct) in Turkey, in France, and throughout Europe. So, I hope to welcome many of you to this webinar. Thank you so much and goodbye.

#Religious #Secular #Dynamics #Social #Thought

Freedom of Religion: Crash Course Government and Politics #24

Hi, I’m Craig, and this is Crash Course Government and Politics, and I’m excited. I’m excited because today, we start delving into Supreme Court jurisprudence, with the totally controversial topic of freedom of religion. Now, other than being fun to say, jurisprudence means all the important cases on a particular topic, but unfortunately,

I’m only going to be talking about a couple of them, because they demonstrate how the Supreme Court reasons its way through a tricky issue. Jurisprudence. Jurisprudence. [Theme Music] So the Constitution deals with religion right there in the First Amendment, which is also

The one that deals with speech and the press and assembly and petitions. Here’s what it says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It’s the first clause in the First Amendment of the Bill

Of Rights, so it’s pretty darn important. Notice it has two parts, and each one creates a separate religious liberty or freedom. The first part, “no law respecting an establishment of religion” is caused the establishment clause; can you guess what the second religious liberty

Is? If you said free exercise, you’re right. What do these two freedoms mean, though? Establishment of religion means that the US can’t create an official state church, like England has with the church of England. This means that the First Amendment ensures that the US

Does not have any state endorsed religion nor does it write its laws based on any religious edicts, and it’s also the clause in the Constitution that deals with religious monuments and school prayers and stuff like that. The free exercise clause in a way is more straightforward, it means you can’t pay for exercise.

Gym memberships are illegal. But freedom isn’t free. You’re gonna pay with pain! No pain, no gain. Actually, none of that is what we’re talking about. What it means is you can’t be prohibited from being part of a certain religion, although it doesn’t

Mean that any religious practice is okay. For example, if your religion requires human sacrifice, because you’re an Aztec, state, local, and federal law could prevent you from practicing that aspect of religion, for obvious reasons, although it couldn’t prevent you from believing that human sacrifices were necessary to make the sun rise every day.

We are gonna anger a lot of Aztecs with this video, Stan. There are a number of cases that establish this distinction between religious belief and religious practice, but my personal favorite is Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye vs. Hialeah,

Because I love saying Lukumi Babalu Aye. You probably figured out that what these two clauses mean in practice has been determined to some degree by Supreme Court decisions. There’s a bunch of them, but probably the most important one is called Lemon v. Kurtzman, from 1971.

Right off the bat, the Lemon decision is a little complicated because it combines two sets of facts, although they both involve public money and parochial schools. In one case in Rhode Island, the state was using taxpayer funds to pay teachers in parochial

Schools in an effort to educate Rhode Island children, which is generally a good goal. In the other case in Pennsylvania, the state was paying teachers in private schools to provide secular education services, but enough with the set-up, let’s go to the Thought Bubble.

The Supreme Court in Lemon vs. Kurtzman devised a three prong test to see if the state law violates the First Amendment religious freedom clauses. Under the first prong, the Court looks to see whether the law in question has a secular legislative purpose. In this case,

The purpose of the law was educating children, which you remember, is one of the powers reserved to the states, and for the most part, is a secular purpose. Under the second prong, the Court examines whether or not the law’s principal or primary

Effect neither enhances nor inhibits religion. Here again, the Court found that paying private school teachers or using private school facilities did not necessarily promote religion or prevent students from worshipping as they wanted to. The third prong requires that the law under consideration does not create excessive entanglement

Between a church and the state. This is the one where both the Rhode Island and Pennsylvania laws got into trouble. In Rhode Island, the school buildings where the children were learning were full of religious imagery, and 2/3 of the teachers were nuns. The Court paid close

Attention the fact that the people involved were kids, ruling, “This process of inculcating religious doctrine is, of course, enhanced by the impressionable age of the pupils in primary schools particularly. In short, parochial schools involve substantial religious activity and purpose.” In Pennsylvania, the problem was different. The Court ruled that in order

To make sure that the teachers were NOT teaching religion, the state would have to monitor them so closely that it would be excessive entanglement and give the state way too much control. They ruled that, “The very restrictions in surveillance necessary to ensure that teachers

Play a strictly non-ideological role give rise to entanglements between church and state.” Thanks, Thought Bubble. So it’s pretty complicated, and I’m not 100% sure that I find it convincing. First of all, the Justices engaged in some slippery slope reasoning about the Pennsylvania case.

The Court argued that even if, in this situation, the secular purpose was a good one, there’s a tendency for states to take more and more power for themselves. But my bigger concern is that all three prongs in this case were given equal weight, and I’m not sure that

They always should be. I mean, you got the one round one and then the two like, you know, long ones, and you can pull that round one, it’s just for grounding. What the ruling in this case meant was that the secular purpose, educating children, was

Not gonna happen, or at least would be made more difficult. Also, you could argue that it was kind of paternalistic, assuming that kids wouldn’t be able to block out religious imagery, but since they are kids, maybe a little paternalism is okay. You spit that gum out, Junior.

So Lemon vs. Kurtzman built on an earlier case, Engel vs. Vitale, which ruled that prayer in schools violated religious freedom. You would think that, taken together, this issue would be pretty much put to bed, yet every few years, a case comes along involving prayer

In school, and now they apply the old three prong Lemon test. For example, one state adopted a statute mandating a moment of silence at the beginning of each school day. One of the purposes of this statute is to provide students with an opportunity to pray in school. Another

Purpose is to create a calming atmosphere in the classroom to better promote learning. The first purpose doesn’t look so secular, and as for the second prong, doesn’t necessarily advance or inhibit a particular religion. Students can choose not to pray at all. Is

This excessive entanglement? That’s always gonna be difficult to say, especially since ‘excessive’ is pretty subjective, but if you go on the standard of the Pennsylvania case in Lemon, almost any religious practice in school could be excessively entangling, because the state is going to have to step in and monitor it.

Some school systems have tried to get around this by having the prayers led by students, because they aren’t agents of the state. But then you have the issue of how much a student-led prayer is really led by a student, and how do you find out without more monitoring and

More state entanglement? The Lemon test is an attempt by the Court to set up a framework for analyzing future situations where religion and the state might get mixed up. It’s probably better than having what legal scholars like to call “a bright line rule” about religion

In public spaces like schools and courthouses, but it does leave a lot of wiggle room and it seems that it encourages future cases because we keep seeing them. The funny thing is, religious freedom is one of the less controversial protections found in the First Amendment, if you don’t

Believe me, wait until our next episode on free speech. Just wait. You just — you just wait. Did you guys hear what he said? See ya next time. Crash Course Government and Politics is produced in association with PBS Digital Studios. Support

For Crash Course US Government comes from Voqal. Voqal supports non-profits that use technology and media to advance social equity. Learn more about their mission and initiatives at Crash Course was made with the help of all these jurisprudences, am I using that word right? Thanks for watching.

#Freedom #Religion #Crash #Government #Politics

A Fully Catholic Life? Or a Secular One, With Patches of Catholic?

– We don’t often so much have Catholic cultures, but we have secular cultures with Catholic patches. And so, what I mean by that is what we celebrate, what we spend our time on, what we get dressed up for, what we prioritize in our free time is often the same things as everybody else.

Right? And so, we’ll go to mass or we’ll say some prayers, but that’s kinda the thing we do over here and then for the most part, what we’re listening to, all that, it’s really pretty much the same as everybody else, because the faith hasn’t really sunk in.

And so the image I had is, like, we don’t want… We don’t want our faith in the… Yeah, we don’t want the faith to respond to and sink into our lives like chocolate chips in some cookies, right? So it’s like, oh, here, there might be a lot of chocolate chips,

But they’re sort of scattered. You want it, like… The yeast, you want it in everything, right? And it gets in there and it’s deep and it animates everything. – Thanks so much for watching this segment from the Poco A Poco Podcast. If you wanna watch a full show, head on right over here.

If you want to support the podcast, head on over to Whether it’s a one-time gift or a monthly donation, we really appreciate your support. And also, don’t forget to tell your friends about the Poco A Poco Podcast, all right? Little by little.

#Fully #Catholic #Life #Secular #Patches #Catholic

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

Secularism: Christian Worldview with R.C. Sproul

SPROUL: There’s a real sense, I think, that every Christian is a missionary. If we go back to the New Testament, and we see in the book of Acts, that when persecution arose in Jerusalem we read that all of the Christians were scattered except the apostles.

And those who were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Gospel. That is the way the Christian church was born—not simply with the ministry of the clergy or the apostles or even of the deacons but it was the rank and file Christians that took the Gospel wherever they went in the ancient world.

But in our church today we make a distinction, don’t we, between a professional missionary and a layman who is not a missionary? But in Biblical categories every Christian, in a sense, is a missionary, because every Christian is called to participate in the mission that Christ has given to the church.

Well when I look at what we do with missionaries before we send them into a foreign country what do we have them do? We don’t just select a missionary, put them on an airplane, have them arrive in Timbuktu or someplace like that and say “ok, do your thing.”

Before a missionary can go to the foreign field that the person has to undergo in-depth study of the culture to which they are going. They have to learn the language; they have to learn the customs; they have to be able

To understand the way people think and the way they behave in the land to which they are sent as missionaries. Now let’s assume that you are missionaries to the United States. What’s your preparation? It’s not enough simply to know the Gospel, to know the content of Scriptures, the subject

Matter that you want to communicate and bear witness to your culture. It is also very important that you understand the culture in which you are acting out your role as a missionary. So that’s the purpose of this series of lectures.

It’s to try to get a handle on the culture as it now presents itself to us as Christians. I think it would be a dreadful mistake to assume that the American culture is predominantly a Christian culture. Certainly we live in a nation that has had an enormous influence from the church and

From Judeo-Christian value systems. It’s not that our country is pagan. Our country has been strongly influenced by Christianity. Some have said that we have been influenced in the degree that people are influenced when they receive a shot of inoculation to prevent a disease that you put a minor dose of the

Disease in the inoculation so that they have just enough of it to be immune to the real thing. And some have maintained that that’s what has happened here in the American culture, that we’ve had just enough Christianity impacting our society as to make us immune from the real thing.

There’s a sense, as I said, in which our nation is not pagan. Paganism is a pre-Christian situation. It’s a situation that exists where the Gospel and the light of the Gospel has never been manifest in a particular environment, but that’s not true about America.

Ours is what I call a “secular” environment, a “secular” society. And the secularization of the American culture is a post-Christian phenomenon, not a pre-Christian—”pre-Christian” is pagan; “post-Christian” is secularized. Now, I think it’s also important for us to understand that our culture is, and has been, a melting pot.

We don’t live in a culture that is monolithic. What is monolithic? A monolithic culture is a culture where only one definable worldview or value system is operating, and there’s kind of a uniformity as you find in some nations.

You go, for example, into Red China and you see a uniform system of thought that everybody is supposed to embrace—it’s taught in the schools, it’s advertised in posters, and even the uniformity comes down to literal uniforms. People dress in the same way as there is this enforced conformity, but that’s not been the

American ideal. The American ideal has been—we are a melting pot, so that there are all kinds of different beliefs and philosophies competing for acceptance within our society and within our culture. And if a Christian is going to be able to communicate to this culture, he has to be

Aware at least of the dominant systems that are operating within our culture. As I said, we’re not monolithic but the term that we use is pluralistic, and we’ll have a separate study, a separate lecture, just on pluralism. But the various schools of thought that are most dominant, I believe, in our culture today

Include the ones that I’m about to put up here on the blackboard, and we’re going to look at each one of those individually in the lectures to come. First of all, there is the influence of what we call humanism.

As I say, we will a separate lecture defining the content and the perspective of humanism. Secondly, there is the influence of existentialism. How many of you think that you could give a good definition of existentialism? How many of you have never heard the word existentialism? All right, just a couple.

Most of you have at least heard the term existentialism, but it’s one of those terms that we hear bandied about in the culture but very few people are able to give concrete definition—we will have a separate lecture on existentialism.

A third “ism” that has had a tremendous impact on our culture that most laymen have never heard of is the “ism” called positivism. How many of you have never heard of positivism? See, there’s some more here, more than have never heard of existentialism.

And also, there’s the influence of a very ancient perspective or philosophy that we call hedonism. How many of you have never heard of hedonism? How many of you have heard of hedonism? You have … You have heard of that. Ok, all right.

And then there is, as I said, pluralism and relativism … And there’s one other “ism” that I’m going to incorporate up above with positivism which we call pragmatism, which is a distinctly American life and worldview. All right, let’s see how many I have there—five—humanism, existentialism, positivism, pragmatism, hedonism,

And pluralism and its corollary relativism. All right, those are going to be the systems of thought or philosophical perspectives that we will be examining in this brief course. But what I’m looking for today is this: is there an overarching, generic, holistic philosophy

Or value system that would in some sense incorporate all of these? It’s been said that no society can survive, no civilization can function without some unifying philosophical perspective. Even if you have all different kinds of views competing, there must be some kind of overarching

Atmosphere or environment that makes it possible even for these to coexist in a given society. And when the historians and the philosophers seek the common term, the common basic generic lowest common denominator that incorporates features of all of these, usually the term

That we hear is the term secularism, and that’s what I want to look at in the time that we have left today. Let me do my handiwork here with the eraser and we’ll start again with this word: secularism.

Obviously, when we see that word, we see that we have a root and a suffix. And my favorite method of teaching is to do word studies and break these concepts down into its constituent parts so that we can get a hold of them. There’s the word “secular,” and then there’s the suffix.

Now let’s start at the back and work our way forward. Anytime we see this three-letter suffix, “ism,” what do we see? What do we find? What’s it saying? What’s it do to the word? You’re allowed to answer my question, you know. What does it do? What does “ism” do to a word?

AUDIENCE: It makes it a state of being. SPROUL: It makes it a state of being. Little bit more than that. AUDIENCE: A philosophy. SPROUL: A philosophy, a system of thought. What we call a “veltunchung,” a way of looking at the world, a view of the world, a value system.

It’s one thing—how many of you believe in humans? And think that being human is a good thing? It’s one thing to be human; it’s another thing to be a humanist—that is one who embraces humanism. We all exist, but we’re not all existentialists, are we?

You put that “ism”, existentialism, on the end of the root for existence and you’re talking now about a philosophical system, a whole way of looking at things. You want to be practical, but does that make you a pragmatist? Of course not.

All right, so we see that the suffix “ism” takes the root and elevates it to the level of a philosophical system. Now the word “secular” is a perfectly good and positive word in the Christian’s vocabulary. Historically the church has always had a good view of that which was regarded as being secular.

I’m thinking in terms of the whole of the history of the church. In the Middle Ages, for example, men were ordained to a specific role in the priesthood that was called the secular priesthood, because those were men who had offices that took them

Out of the arena, or the institution, of the church to minister out in the world where they were specific needs that needed the healing touch of the church, or the priestly mission of the church. There’s a sense in which I was ordained as a secular clergyman, because I was ordained

To the teaching ministry, not to an ecclesiastical office within a local congregation. So I was commissioned to go to the university and to be a teacher out in the world, if you will, in the secular world that can be distinguished to some degree by that sphere that we’ve set

Apart and called the church, or the sacred realm. But so often in Christians’ minds the distinction between sacred and secular is the distinction between the good and the bad, but that’s not the way it was meant to be in the development of church history. It was simply a different sphere of operation. Ok?

Now the word secular has its origins and its roots in the Latin, in the Latin language. It comes from the Latin word “saeculum,” which means—Do we have any Latin scholars in here? What does the Latin word “saeculum” mean? What’s its translation?—It means the word “saeculum” means in the original Latin “world.” Ok?

I said a secular priest is one who ministers in the world. What does the Latin word “mundus” mean? Anybody know? “World.” Remember Athanasius? St. Athanasius, what was on his tombstone? “Athanasius Contra Mundum”—Athanasius against what? The world. All right, so that “mundus” also means world.

Well both words mean the same thing in the original Latin, what was the difference? Well, the people in the ancient world understood that as human beings they lived in time and in space. We still talk that way, don’t we?

That our life is spatial; it’s geographical; there is a certain “whereness” to my life. I live here. I am here; I’m not somewhere else. And there is also a time frame in which I live. Jesus talked about this place or this generation—this age. Ok? The present age.

So in the Latin the word for this world, thinking in terms of time is “saeculum,” and the word for this world in terms of space is “mundus.” Now what in the world, what in the “mundus” or the “saeculum” does this have to do with our culture?

Well “saeculum” or the secular had to do literally with this time, this world in the present time. The secular realm is this world in this world, in the present time. Now what happens to the word secular when you add the “ism”?

The basic overarching theme of secularism is this: That all of reality, all of life, every human value, every human activity must be understood in light of and judged by the value or the norm of this present time. Where’s the point of conflict between secularism and Christianity? Can you see it coming?

The New Testament Scriptures, the Biblical worldview is always concerned about long-range considerations. The Bible teaches us that we were created for eternity that the heart of the New Testament message is that Christ has come to give us life, a life that wells up into what?—eternal life.

And that at the very beginning of our understanding of the world we read in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning,” what? “God created the heavens and the earth.” So that if we look at the earth and we see that it has a beginning in space and time,

But before there is even a world, if I can use the term “before,” there is One who transcends the world; One who stands above the world; One is outside of the restrictions of this space and time order that we call the world—namely, God.

“In the beginning God …” And we as part of the most core dimension of the Christian faith, we believe in a transcendent God—a God out there, a God who is beyond the confines of this planet. A God who is transcendent and a God who is what?—eternal, and that all judgments that

God makes, all things that He does are done from the perspective of what?—of the eternal. Now in philosophy we call that that God considers everything “subspecies aeternitatis.” Now that’s just a fancy Latin phrase for a very simple idea that means that God considers

Everything under, “sub” means under, under the species or the “auspices,” the auspices, or from the perspective of the eternal. In fact, the admonition and the rebuke that Christ brings to this world is that men are only thinking short term; they’re thinking in terms of the now and only the now instead

Of the future consequences of their behavior—long term. And Jesus says that He comes from above; He descends from the eternal realm. And He calls the Christian to live his life in light of eternity, and that his values are to be measured by transcendent norms of eternal significance.

I have a column that you know of in “Tabletalk,” our magazine, and what’s the byline, what’s the title of the column? “Right Now Counts…” what? “Forever.” Why do I choose that byline? Just to be cute? I did it because I said if there’s only one message that I can give to my generation,

And I can say the same message over and over and over again until people begin to think about it, it’s that. That’s the one voice that I want to scream from the streets—right now counts forever. What you do now has eternal significance.

And I did that consciously aware of the fact that we are being pressed upon by every side from the philosophy of the secularist who says, bottom line, right now counts for what?—right now. There is no eternity; there is no eternal perspective.

You’ve heard it said a jillion times “there are no absolutes;” there are no abiding principles by which human life is to be judged, is to be embraced, is to be evaluated. All reality is restricted or limited to the now. We see it in different phraseology in theology.

We’ve seen an attempt in twentieth century theology to produce a secularized gospel. Remember the Death of God movement? One of the most important books that came out of the Death of God movement by Dr. Van Buren was called the “Secular Meaning of the Gospel,” in which he talked in terms of synthesizing

Classical Christianity with the philosophy of secularism. But how can you do that without declaring the death of God? And you see the death of God, in the terms of the loss of transcendence, the loss of the eternal, means for you the death of man—because it means that history has no transcendent

Goal, no eternal purpose, that the meaning of your life is summed up in the words on the tombstone—born 1925; died 1985—that’s it. You have a terminal point, a beginning and an ending with no ultimate significance. This is called the theology or the philosophy of the “hic et nunc”—”the here and the now.”

Do you have to go to the library and get a dusty tome of philosophy, a heavy weighty treatise on moral philosophy to be exposed to these ideas? Where else do you see it? AUDIENCE: The media’s full of it. SPROUL: The media is full of it.

You know my favorite illustration of it is the beer advertisement: “You only go around life once, so do it with gusto.” And you see the guy out in the sailboat and this wind is blowing his hair and the salt spray is splashing at his face, and he’s having a fantastic time right now.

Ok? Pepsi calls it what? “The now generation.” Do it now. Do it now, because the message that comes through—you better get it now, because there is no tomorrow ultimately. Now we’re going to consider hedonism later, but one of the themes of the Epicureans who

Were hedonists in antiquity, one of … the bottom line of their philosophy was, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you die.” Contrast that with Jesus. “Lay up treasures in heaven.” Think in terms of eternity, long-range implications.

Do you see this touches us most heavily, not simply in how we handle our bank accounts or how we speculate philosophically, but it touches us at the level of how we invest our lives, because life is an investment?

And the question that modern man has to answer is he going to invest his life for short-term benefits or for long-term gain? And every time you are faced with a moral decision, the temptation to do something now that may have harmful after effects, you are caught up in the tension and the conflict

Between two worldviews right now. Do you live for the present? Or do we live for eternity? Because, again, at the core of our Biblical understanding of life and of our moral behavior is that there are actions and that every action not only has a cause but it also has what?—a

Result or a consequence. And the consequence takes us to tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow. What did Shakespeare say? “Creeps at its petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time.” But for the Christian there is no last syllable of recorded time.

Our lives are forever, but beyond the secular or the “saeculum” there is the eternal. And that’s what the Christian faith is all about. Why should a person be worried about salvation in terms of personal redemption if there is no eternal dimension? What is the mission of the church if secularism is correct?

Why should we be concerned about redemption of individuals? All we can really do—and churches get into this—all we can really do, is minimize pain and suffering for a season. We can never really offer ultimate answers to the human predicament, because for the

Secularist there is no ultimate answer because there is no ultimate realm. This side of eternity is the exclusive sphere of human activity. It’s not by accident, as we will see, that for the most part those who buy into secularism, who are thinking people, ultimately embrace a philosophy of despair.

And that despair, it’ll manifest itself in a host of ways—escapism, through drugs, alcohol, and other forms of behavior to dull the senses from the message that is being proclaimed and being screamed from every corner of our culture—There is no tomorrow ultimately.

It is a philosophy of despair, and it is right now competing for men’s minds in the United States of America. What we’re going to look at in the weeks to come are the constituent elements that make up secularism—humanism, you’ve heard of secular humanism, there’s also secularistic

Existentialism, positivism, and those different philosophies may be in the collision course with each other but they all embrace one common point; namely, the denial of the transcendent and of the eternal. Look for it in your culture. Be aware of it when you see it.

For we need to understand the world in which we live.

#Secularism #Christian #Worldview #R.C #Sproul