Tag Archives: Secularism

Baker and Smith, “American Secularism”

In September, the New York University Press will release “American Secularism: Cultural Contours of Nonreligious Belief Systems,” by Joseph O. Baker (East Tennessee State University) and Buster G. Smith (Catawba College). The publisher’s description follows:

A rapidly growing number of Americans are embracing life outside the bounds of organized religion. Although America has long been viewed as a fervently religious Christian nation, survey data shows that more and more Americans are identifying as “not religious.” There are more non-religious Americans than ever before, yet social scientists have not adequately studied or typologized secularities, and the lived reality of secular individuals in America has not been astutely analyzed. American Secularism documents how changes to American society have fueled these shifts in the non-religious landscape and examines the diverse and dynamic world of secular Americans.

This volume offers a theoretical framework for understanding secularisms. It explores secular Americans’ thought and practice to understand secularisms as worldviews in their own right, not just as negations of religion. Drawing on empirical data, the authors examine how people live secular lives and make meaning outside of organized religion. Joseph O. Baker and Buster G. Smith link secularities to broader issues of social power and organization, providing an empirical and cultural perspective on the secular landscape. In so doing, they demonstrate that shifts in American secularism are reflective of changes in the political meanings of “religion” in American culture.

American Secularism addresses the contemporary lived reality of secular individuals, outlining forms of secular identity and showing their connection to patterns of family formation, sexuality, and politics, providing scholars of religion with a more comprehensive understanding of worldviews that do not include traditional religion.

“Voltaire’s Revolution” (Noyer, ed.)

In July, Prometheus Books will release “Voltaire’s Revolution: Writings from His Campaign to Free Laws from Religion,” translated and edited by G.K. Noyer. The publisher’s description follows: 
Voltaire, the pen name of François-Marie Arouet (1694–1778), was one of the most influential leaders of the Enlightenment. This book presents the first full English translations of selected writings from Voltaire’s legendary pamphlet campaign for tolerance, which forcefully drove the movement to grant freedom of beliefs and end state-imposed religions. Voltaire wrote close to two hundred works advocating for that change. John Adams wrote that Voltaire “did more for religious liberty than Calvin, Luther or even Locke.” 
This collection also contains accounts of Voltaire’s battle as seen by the great mathematician-philosophe Condorcet, King Frederick the Great of Prussia, and others, long unavailable in English―a valuable addition to the library of anyone with an interest in human rights and freedom of thought.

“Handbook of Religion and the Asian City” (van der Veer, ed.)

Last month, the University of California Press released “Handbook of Religion and the Asian City: Aspiration and Urbanization in the Twenty-First Century,”  edited by Peter van der Veer (Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen and University Professor at Large at Utrecht University). The publisher’s description follows: 

Handbook of Religion and the Asian City highlights the creative and innovative role of urban aspirations in Asian world cities. It does notassume that religion is of the past and that the urban is secular, but instead points out that urban politics and governance often manifest religious boundaries and sensibilities—in short, that public religion is politics. The essays in this book show how projects of secularism come up against projects and ambitions of a religious nature, a particular form of contestation that takes the city as its public arena.

Questioning the limits of cities like Mumbai, Singapore, Seoul, Beijing, Bangkok, and Shanghai, the authors assert that Asian cities have to be understood not as global models of futuristic city planning but as larger landscapes of spatial imagination that have specific cultural and political trajectories. Religion plays a central role in the politics of heritage that is emerging from the debris of modernist city planning.

Megacities are arenas for the assertion of national and transnational aspirations as Asia confronts modernity. Cities are also sites of speculation, not only for those who invest in real estate but also for those who look for housing, employment, and salvation. In its potential and actual mobility, the sacred creates social space in which they all can meet. Handbook of Religion and the Asian City makes the comparative case that one cannot study the historical patterns of urbanization in Asia without paying attention to the role of religion in urban aspirations.

Kumar, “Radical Equality”

Stanford University Press has released Radical Equality: Ambedkar, Gandhi, gandjhiand the Risk of Democracy, by Aishwary Kumar (Stanford). The publisher’s description follows:

B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of India’s constitution, and M.K. Gandhi, the Indian nationalist, two figures whose thought and legacies have most strongly shaped the contours of Indian democracy, are typically considered antagonists who held irreconcilable views on empire, politics, and society. As such, they are rarely studied together. This book reassesses their complex relationship, focusing on their shared commitment to equality and justice, which for them was inseparable from anticolonial struggles for sovereignty.

Both men inherited the concept of equality from Western humanism, but their ideas mark a radical turn in humanist conceptions of politics. This study recovers the philosophical foundations of their thought in Indian and Western traditions, religious and secular alike. Attending to moments of difficulty in their conceptions of justice and their language of nonviolence, it probes the nature of risk that radical democracy’s desire for inclusion opens within modern political thought. In excavating Ambedkar and Gandhi’s intellectual kinship, Radical Equality allows them to shed light on each other, even as it places them within a global constellation of moral and political visions. The story of their struggle against inequality, violence, and empire thus transcends national boundaries and unfolds within a universal history of citizenship and dissent.

“Secularism in Question: Jews and Judaism in Modern Times” (Joskowicz and Katz, eds.)

This summer, the University of Pennsylvania Press will release “Secularism in 15424Question: Jews and Judaism in Modern Times,” edited by Ari Joskowicz and Ethan B. Katz. The publisher’s description follows:

For much of the twentieth century, most religious and secular Jewish thinkers believed that they were witnessing a steady, ongoing movement toward secularization. Toward the end of the century, however, as scholars and pundits began to speak of the global resurgence of religion, the normalization of secularism could no longer be considered inevitable. Recent decades have seen the strengthening of Orthodox movements in the United States and in Israel; religious Zionism has grown and radically changed since the 1960s, and new and vibrant nondenominational Jewish movements have emerged.

Secularism in Question examines the ways these contemporary revivals of religion prompt a reconsideration of many issues concerning Jews and Judaism from the early modern era to the present. Bringing together scholars of history, religion, philosophy, and literature, this volume illustrates how the categories of “religious” and “secular” have frequently proven far more permeable than fixed. The contributors challenge the problematic assumptions about the development of secularism that emerge from Protestant European and American perspectives and demonstrate that global Jewish experiences necessitate a reappraisal of conventional narratives of secularism. Ultimately, Secularism in Question calls for rethinking the very terms that animate many of the most contentious debates in contemporary Jewish life and far beyond.

“Secularism, Catholicism, and the Future of Public Life” (Adler, ed.)

This June, Oxford University Press will release “Secularism, Catholicism, and the Future of Public Life: A Dialogue with Ambassador Douglas W. Kmiec” edited by Gary J. Adler, Jr. (University of Southern California).  The publisher’s description follows:

Secularism, Catholicism and the Future of Public LIfeHow can religion contribute to democracy in a secular age? And what can the millennia-old Catholic tradition say to church-state controversies in the United States and around the world? Secularism, Catholicism, and the Future of Public Life, organized through the work of the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies (www.ifacs.com), responds to these questions by presenting a dialogue between Douglas W. Kmiec, a leading scholar of American constitutional law and Catholic legal thought, and an international cast of experts from a range of fields, including legal theory, international relations, journalism, religion, and social science.

“Crossings and Crosses” (Strandbrink et al., eds.)

This April, De Gruyter Press will release “Crossings and Crosses: Borders, Educations and Religions in Northern Europe” edited by Peter Strandbrink, Jenny Berglund, and Thomas Lundén, (Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden). The publisher’s description follows:

Crossings and CrossesDealing with different regions and cases, the contributions in this volume address and critically explore the theme of borders, educations, and religions in northern Europe. As shown in different ways, and contrary to popular ideas, there seems to be little reason to believe that religious and civic identity formation through public education is becoming less parochial and more culturally open. Even where state borders are porous, where commerce, culture, and trade as well as associative, personal, and social life display stronger liminal traits, normative education remains surprisingly national. This situation is remarkable and goes against the grain of current notions of both accelerating globalisation and a European regional renaissance. The book also takes issue with the foundational tenet that liberal democracies are by definition uninvolved in matters concerning faith and belief. Instead, an implied conclusion is that secular liberal democracy is less than secular and liberal – at least in education, which is a major arena for political-cultural-ethical socialisation, as it aims to confer worldviews and frameworks of identity on young people who will eventually become full citizens and bearers/sharers of prevailing normative communities.

Claassen, “Godless Democrats and Pious Republicans”

This June, Cambridge University Press will release “Godless Democrats and Pious Republicans: Party Activists, Party Capture, and the ‘God Gap’” by Ryan L. Klaassen (Kent State University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Godless DemocratsDo Evangelical activists control the Republican Party? Do secular activists control the Democratic Party? In Godless Democrats and Pious Republicans?, Ryan Claassen carefully assesses the way campaign activists represent religious and non-religious groups in American political parties dating back to the 1960s. By providing a new theoretical framework for investigating the connections between macro social and political trends, the results challenge a conventional wisdom in which recently mobilized religious and Secular extremists captured the parties and created a God gap. The new approach reveals that very basic social and demographic trends matter far more than previously recognized and that mobilization matters far less. The God gap in voting is real, but it was not created by Christian Right mobilization efforts and a Secular backlash. Where others see culture wars and captured parties, Claassen finds many religious divisions in American politics are artifacts of basic social changes. This very basic insight leads to many profoundly different conclusions about the motivations of religious and non-religious activists and voters.

Goldscheider, “Israeli Society in the Twenty-First Century”

This June, Brandeis University Press will release “Israeli Society in the Twenty-First Century: Immigration, Inequality and Religious Conflict” by Calvin Goldscheider (Brown University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Israeli Society in the Twenty-First CenturyThis volume illuminates changes in Israeli society over the past generation. Goldscheider identifies three key social changes that have led to the transformation of Israeli society in the twenty-first century: the massive immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union, the economic shift to a high-tech economy, and the growth of socioeconomic inequalities inside Israel. To deepen his analysis of these developments, Goldscheider focuses on ethnicity, religion, and gender, including the growth of ethnic pluralism in Israel, the strengthening of the Ultra-Orthodox community, the changing nature of religious Zionism and secularism, shifts in family patterns, and new issues and challenges between Palestinians and Arab Israelis given the stalemate in the peace process and the expansions of Jewish settlements.

Combining demography and social structural analysis, the author draws on the most recent data available from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics and other sources to offer scholars and students an innovative guide to thinking about the Israel of the future.

This book will be of interest to scholars and students of contemporary Israel, the Middle East, sociology, demography and economic development, as well as policy specialists in these fields. It will serve as a textbook for courses in Israeli history and in the modern Middle East.

“Judaism, Christianity, and Islam” (Gilman, ed.)

This past February, Columbia University Press released “Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: Collaboration and Conflict in the Age of Diaspora” edited by Sander L. Gilman (Emory University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Judaism, Christianity, and IslamIslam, Christianity, and Judaism share several common features, including their historical origins in the prophet Abraham, their belief in a single divine being, and their modern global expanse. Yet it is the seeming closeness of these “Abrahamic” religions that draws attention to the real or imagined differences between them. This volume examines Abrahamic cultures as minority groups in societies which may be majority Muslim, Christian or Jewish, or self-consciously secular. The focus is on the relationships between these religious identities in global Diaspora, where all of them are confronted with claims about national and individual difference. The case studies range from colonial Hong Kong and Victorian London to today’s San Francisco and rural India. Each study shows how complex such relationships can be and how important it is to situate them in the cultural, ethnic, and historical context of their world. The chapters explore ritual practice, conversion, colonization, immigration, and cultural representations of the differences between the Abrahamic religions. An important theme is how the complex patterns of interaction among these religions embrace collaboration as well as conflict–even in the modern Middle East. This work by authors from several academic disciplines on a topic of crucial importance will be of interest to scholars of history, theology, sociology, and cultural studies, as well as to the general reader interested in how minority groups have interacted and coexisted.