Tag Archives: Secularism

“Profane” (Grenda, Beneke, & Nash, eds.)

This month, University of California Press will release Profane: Sacrilegious Expression in a Multicultural Age, edited by Christopher Grenda (Bronx Community College and City University of New York), Chris Beneke (Bentley University), and David Nash (Oxford Brookes University).  The publisher’s description follows:

ProfaneHumans have been uttering profane words and incurring the consequences for millennia. But contemporary events—from the violence in 2006 that followed Danish newspaper cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed to the 2012 furor over the Innocence of Muslims video—indicate that controversy concerning blasphemy has reemerged in explosive transnational form. In an age when electronic media transmit offense as rapidly as profane images and texts can be produced, blasphemy is bracingly relevant again.

In this volume, a distinguished cast of international scholars examines the profound difficulties blasphemy raises for modern societies. Contributors examine how the sacred is formed and maintained, how sacrilegious expression is conceived and regulated, and how the resulting conflicts resist easy adjudication. Their studies range across art, history, politics, law, literature, and theology. Because of the global nature of the problem, the volume’s approach is comparative, examining blasphemy across cultural and geopolitical boundaries.

Audi, “Democratic Authority and the Separation of Church and State”

Earlier this month, Oxford University Press released Democratic Authority and the Separation of Church and Stateby Robert Audi (Notre Dame). The publisher’s description follows:

Democratic states must protect the liberty of citizens Audiand must accommodate both religious liberty and cultural diversity. This democratic imperative is one reason for the increasing secularity of most modern democracies. Religious citizens, however, commonly see a secular state as unfriendly toward religion. This book articulates principles that enable secular governments to protect liberty in a way that judiciously separates church and state and fully respects religious citizens.

After presenting a brief account of the relation between religion and ethics, the book shows how ethics can be independent of religion-evidentially autonomous in a way that makes moral knowledge possible for secular citizens–without denying religious sources a moral authority of their own. With this account in view, it portrays a church-state separation that requires governments not only to avoid religious establishment but also to maintain religious neutrality. The book shows how religious neutrality is related to such issues as teaching evolutionary biology in public schools, the legitimacy of vouchers to fund private schooling, and governmental support of “faith-based initiatives.” The final chapter shows how the proposed theory of religion and politics incorporates toleration and forgiveness as elements in flourishing democracies. Tolerance and forgiveness are described; their role in democratic citizenship is clarified; and in this light a conception of civic virtue is proposed.

Overall, the book advances the theory of liberal democracy, clarifies the relation between religion and ethics, provides distinctive principles governing religion in politics, and provides a theory of toleration for pluralistic societies. It frames institutional principles to guide governmental policy toward religion; it articulates citizenship standards for political conduct by individuals; it examines the case for affirming these two kinds of standards on the basis of what, historically, has been called natural reason; and it defends an account of toleration that enhances the practical application of the ethical framework both in individual nations and in the international realm.

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Joas, “Faith as an Option”

In August, Stanford University Press will release Faith as an Option by Hans Joas (Humboldt University, Berlin and University of Chicago).  The publisher’s description follows:

Faith as an OptionMany people these days regard religion as outdated and are unable to understand how believers can intellectually justify their faith. Nonbelievers have long assumed that progress in technology and the sciences renders religion irrelevant. Believers, in contrast, see religion as vital to society’s spiritual and moral well-being. But does modernization lead to secularization? Does secularization lead to moral decay? Sociologist Hans Joas argues that these two supposed certainties have kept scholars from serious contemporary debate and that people must put these old arguments aside in order for debate to move forward. The emergence of a “secular option” does not mean that religion must decline, but that even believers must now define their faith as one option among many.

In this book, Joas spells out some of the consequences of the abandonment of conventional assumptions for contemporary religion and develops an alternative to the cliché of an inevitable conflict between Christianity and modernity. Arguing that secularization comes in waves and stressing the increasing contingency of our worlds, he calls upon faith to articulate contemporary experiences. Churches and religious communities must take into account religious diversity, but the modern world is not a threat to Christianity or to faith in general. On the contrary, Joas says, modernity and faith can be mutually enriching.

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“Democracy, Law and Religious Pluralism in Europe” (Requejo & Ungureanu, eds.)

Next month, Routledge Press will release Democracy, Law and Religious Pluralism in Europe: Secularism and Post-Secularism, edited by Ferran Requejo and Camil Ungureanu, both of Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. The publisher’s description follows:

Democracy, Law and Religious Pluralism in Europe

In contrast with the progressive dilution of religions predicted by traditional liberal and Marxist approaches, religions remain important for many people, even in Europe, the most secularised continent. In the context of increasingly culturally diverse societies, this calls for a reinterpretation of the secular legacy of the Enlightenment and also for an updating of democratic institutions.

This book focuses on a central question: are the classical secularist arrangements well equipped to tackle the challenge of fast-growing religious pluralism? Or should we move to new post-secular arrangements when dealing with pluralism in Europe? Offering an interdisciplinary approach that combines political theory and legal analysis, the authors tackle two interrelated facets of this controversial question. They begin by exploring the theoretical perspective, asking what post-secularism is and looking at its relation to secularism. The practical consequences of this debate are then examined, focusing on case-law through four empirical case studies.

This book will be of interest to students and scholars of political theory, philosophy, religion and politics, European law, human rights, legal theory and socio-legal studies.

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Haseeb, “State and Religion in the Arab World”

On July 22, Routledge Publishing will release State and Religion in the Arab World, by Khair El-Din Haseeb (Centre for Arab Unity Studies).  The publisher’s description follows:

This collection focuses on the controversial relationship between religion and the state within the Arab Spring context and the evolving debates on democratic transition. In this book, democracy is not questionable; it is hailed by all those vocal on the political scene. The array of opinions presented here varies from a call for a secular state based on Islamic philosophy to a call for setting democratic institutions before working on solving this religion-state dichotomy. Meanwhile some prefer to have an ambiguous stand on which side to back up, the liberals or the Islamists, despite a detailed criticism of the ossified ways of those calling for a religious state (Al-Majd). The book starts with an analysis and a detailed account of how the sensitive issue of the relationship between state and religion developed in Arab though and society and it goes on to employ less the religious discourse in presenting their positions thus focusing on actual cases of this struggle for power in different Arab countries such as Tunisia and Egypt. The collection also provides insights and analysis of the ongoing debates and views on the role of religion in Libya and provides an analysis of the case of Morocco. In addition to this there is a special chapter that deals with how Muslim communities living in the West adapt to secular state politics. The collection ends with a thorough discussion by a number of Arab intellectuals and activists, Muslims and Christians alike, whereby core issues related to the debate on state and religion are presented. This discussion, in addition to reflecting the Islamist-secular dichotomy, demonstrates the richness of the ongoing debates that extend well beyond the discourse on this dichotomy.

This book is a compilation of articles published in Contemporary Arab Affairs.

“At the Limits of the Secular” (William J. Barbieri, Jr., ed.)

This week, Eerdmans releases At the Limits of the Secular: Reflections on Faith and Public Life, edited by William A. Barbieri, Jr. The publisher’s description follows:

This volume presents an integrated collection of constructive essays by eminent Catholic scholars addressing the new challenges and opportunities facing religious believers under shifting conditions of secularity and “post-secularity.”

Using an innovative “keywords” approach, At the Limits of the Secular is an interdisciplinary effort to think through the implications of secular consciousness for the role of religion in public affairs. The book responds in some ways to Charles Taylor’s magnum opus, A Secular Age, although it also stands on its own. It features an original essay by David Tracy — the most prominent American Catholic theologian writing today — and groundbreaking contributions by influential younger theologians such as Peter Casarella, William Cavanaugh, and Vincent Miller.

Lupu & Tuttle, “Secular Government, Religious People”

The long partnership of Ira “Chip” Lupu and Robert Tuttle (both of GW Law) has resulted in a Secular Government Religious Peopledistinctive view of and approach to religious freedom in the United States through the years, and so I will be very interested to read the product of their latest collaboration, Secular Government, Religious People, to be published by Eerdmans Publishing Company in August. The publisher’s description follows.

In this book Ira Lupu and Robert Tuttle break through the unproductive American debate over competing religious rights. They present an original theory that makes the secular character of the American government, rather than a set of individual rights, the centerpiece of religious liberty in the United States.

Through a comprehensive treatment of relevant constitutional themes and through their attention to both historical concerns and contemporary controversies — including issues often in the news — Lupu and Tuttle define and defend the secular character of U.S. government.

Laïcité in Rome

S. Nicolas des Lorrains

This week, CLR Forum is in Rome, where we’re co-hosting our third international conference, “International Religious Freedom and the Global Clash of Values,” on June 20-21. For people interested in law and religion, Rome is an endlessly fascinating place. On practically every corner, you stumble upon evidence of the long relationship–sometimes cooperative, sometimes antagonistic–between church and state.

Here’s an example. The photo above shows the façade of the Church of San Nicola dei Lorensi, behind Piazza Navona. San Nicola one of a handful of historic French “national” churches in Rome–churches that historically have served as homes for pilgrims from France. The Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, on the other side of the piazza–the one with the famous Caravaggios–is a more well-known example. As the name suggests, San Nicola was the church for pilgrims from the region of Lorraine. It was built in the 17th Century, but must have fallen into grave disrepair over the centuries, because it was completely restored in the last decade.

Note the placard above the doorway in the photograph: “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.” This, of course, is the motto of the French Republic–the laïc French Republic. The motto is meant to capture the secular nature of the Republic and the separation of church and state. It’s not an insult, necessarily, but it definitely connotes a rejection of the Catholicism of the old regime. So what is the motto doing over the doorway of an old Catholic church in the heart of Rome?

The answer is, as far as I can tell, is this. San Nicola is owned by a French governmental organization called “Les Pieux Etablissements de la France à Rome et à Lorette,” administered by the French ambassador to the Holy See. According to its website (in French), the organization exists to maintain the historic French national churches, welcome French-speaking pilgrims, and organize cultural events that promote France in Rome.

This isn’t as strange as it may first appear. As readers of our 2010 symposium on laïcité know, the French government owns many church buildings in France, all that existed as of 1905, the date of the Law on the Separation of Churches and the State. Notwithstanding the commitment to laïcité, the 1905 law gives the French government title to church property; the government allows religious bodies to use the property at its discretion. At the time of enactment, the Third Republic required churches to affix signs with the republican motto on their doorways–to demonstrate, I imagine, that there was a new sheriff in town. Most of these signs have now disappeared, though you can still occasionally find them. I remember seeing one on the Church of Saint Julien-le-Pauvre in Paris a few years ago.

It isn’t strange, then, that the French government owns and maintains San Nicola today. According to the website of the French ambassador, San Nicola was restored in 2005 partly with funds from the Regional Council of Lorraine–that is, with public money. During the work, someone–a secularist council member? an embassy staffer?–must have decided it would be a good idea to restore the republican motto as well. So there it is today, a witness, to those who know the story, of the profoundly complicated relationship between religion and the state in France–and in Rome, too.

Oxford Journal of Law & Religion Summer Academy (June 23-27)

From June 23-27, the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion will host its annual summer academy at St. Hugh’s College in Oxford. The Summer Academy is a major international event held for the benefit of leading academics, policymakers, international officials, practicing lawyers, journalists,  NGO representatives, and students, working in the field of law, religion and international relations. This year’s theme is “Sacred and Secular–International Religious Freedom and Varieties of Secularism from the Perspectives of Comparative Law, International Law and Foreign Policy.” For details, please click here.

Sayyid, “Recalling the Caliphate”

Next month, Oxford University Press releases Recalling the Caliphate: Decolonisation and World Order, by S. Sayyid (University of Leeds). The publisher’s description follows:

As late as the last quarter of the twentieth century, there were expectations that Islam’s political and cultural influence would dissipate as the advance of westernization brought modernization and secularization in its wake. Not only has Islam failed to follow the trajectory pursued by variants of Christianity, namely confinement to the private sphere and depoliticisation, but it has also forcefully re-asserted itself as mobilizations in its name challenge the global order in a series of geopolitical, cultural and philosophical struggles. The continuing (if not growing) relevance of Islam suggests that global history cannot simply be presented as a scaled up version of that of the West. Quests for Muslim autonomy present themselves in several forms – local and global, extremist and moderate, conservative and revisionist – in the light of which the recycling of conventional narratives about Islam becomes increasingly problematic. Not only are these accounts inadequate for understanding Muslim experiences, but by relying on them many Western governments pursue policies that are counter-productive and ultimately hazardous for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. “Recalling the Caliphate” engages critically with the interaction between Islam and the political in context of a post colonial world that continues to resist profound decolonization. In the first part of this book, Sayyid focuses on how demands for Muslim autonomy are debated in terms such as democracy, cultural relativism, secularism, and liberalism. Each chapter analyzes the displacements and evasions by which the decolonization of the Muslim world continues to be deflected and deferred, while the latter part of the book builds on this critique, exploring, and attempts to accelerate the decolonization of the Muslim Ummah.