Religion in the 21st Century Debating the Post-Secular Turn
3 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2012
Date Written: November 15, 2012
For a long time there seemed to be a broad consensus in Western democracies - at least among political theorists and legal scholars - concerning the place of religion in the public sphere and the separation of church and state. However, since the end of the last century, religion has again become a highly contentious issue. With the arrival of sizable groups of immigrants for whom religion remains an integral part of their identity - not only Muslims, but also evangelical Christians - religion is back in the public square of many modern Western democracies (a place, arguably, it never really disappeared from in the United States). This reassertion of religion, Stanley Fish observed in 2005, has ‘re-alerted us to the fact […] that hundreds of millions of people in the world do not observe the distinction between the private and the public, or between belief and knowledge, and that it is no longer possible for us to regard such persons as quaintly pre-modern or as needy recipients of our saving (an ironic word) wisdom’. In the same article, Fish predicted that religion was going to be the wave of the future in academics: ‘Announce a lecture or panel on ‘religion in our time’ and you will have to hire a larger hall’. Intrigued by this resurgence of religion - and tempted by a high attendance rate - we hired a larger hall and convened a conference on ‘Religion in the 21st Century’ at the Erasmus School of Law, in September 2011. The focus of this conference was the question: Does the revival of religion confront us with a familiar phenomenon that we can describe and analyse in tried-and-tested categories, or has religious experience transformed into something altogether different, which demands a new approach, a new way of relating to religion? The articles collected in this special issue all originate from this gathering and all, in their own way, try to come to terms with its central theme.
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