Modernity believed that processes of secularization and rationalization are universally applicable. What is taking place in the 21st century, however, suggests that the reverse, a process of de-secularization, is becoming the hallmark of the present age. In the case of Islamic civilization, in which law is shari'a, the challenge to secularization takes the form of a process of shari'atization. This is not the traditional or inherited shari'a, restricted to civil matters and to a penal code, but an invented shari'a, one which also claims to be a constitutional law. Moreover, the constructed shari'atized constitutional law, in conflict with secular constitutionalism and appearing to offer no middle way, has been universalized to engender an international conflict between secularization and de-secularization. Since, for most Muslims, Islam without shari'a is unthinkable, this article examines the potential for religious reform of the shari'a in the direction of cultural change, freedom and democratic constitutionalism.
Notes on an ethnography of secularism
Oskar Verkaaik and Rachel Spronk
In Europe today, the most heated identity politics revolve around matters of sexuality and religion. In the context of “integration” debates that occur in different forms in various countries, sexuality has gained a new form of normativity, and new sexual sensitivities have replaced former ones. So far, scholarly discussions deal with these sensitivities in a deconstructivist and critical manner, denaturalizing discourses on culture, identity, and religion. However, these debates do not consider the experiences of people implicated in these debates, and their often emotional and political engagement in matters where sexuality and religion intersect. Joan Scott’s coinage of the term “sexularism” denotes a particular form of embodiment that is part of secularism in Europe today. Rather than studying the discourse of secularism, this article focuses on the practice of secularization; how do people fashion their daily lives concerning sexuality, religion and its intimate intersection?
Ethnocentrism and the Temple Mount
Zionism has always displayed a complicated relationship with the Temple Mount. While secular socialist Zionism wanted little to do with the site for pragmatic reasons, right-wing and guerilla Zionist groups considered it, before the founding of the state, as the embodiment of Jewish sovereignty over the Holy Land. And although Religious Zionism, until very recently, shied away from the site, over the past decade tremendous changes in this public’s attitude have taken place, leading to intense interest and activity concerning it. This article surveys past and present attitudes toward the Temple Mount, studying its recent rise as a focal point for ethnonational yearnings, and analyzing these developments vis-à-vis the secularization process.
Instrumentalised Secularity and Religious Futures in Northern Ireland
Liam D. Murphy
Competitive funding by the European Union for community projects in Northern Ireland operates according to a political logic in which some groups and projects (deemed progressive, modern and generally secular) are prioritised, while others (discursively positioned as anachronistic, traditional and religious) are precluded. In this process, EU processes of statecraft seek to instrumentalise grassroots organisations as means to the many ends of a disenchanted, modern EU federation. In turn, overtly religious groups (among them churches, parachurches, and confraternities of various kinds) adapt to these conditions by instrumentalising EU processes and goals to the general end of securing a future place for religiosity in the 'new' Northern Ireland. This paper discusses the intersection of religious objectives and ideologies with that of European modernism in the context of two organisations: the Orange Order and the Divine Fellowship Congregation (DFC). Speci fically, I argue that both associations have developed distinctive forms of practice (the 'Orangefest' and 'Utopia' projects, respectively) that re-conceive what is possible for modern EU-funded initiatives. This adaptation has implications for both sets of institutions, in that each is transformed through articulation with the other.
Christianity and the Return of the Sacred
This article argues a case against the theory of the sacred put forward by the French anthropologist René Girard. In particular, Girard seems to have obliterated one of the tenets of Christian theology, namely, the doctrine of Christ's ascension, in accord with his critical reading of Paul's letter to the Hebrews, which contains a rare emphasis on Christ's departure from the world. This article adopts a 'neo-Hobbesian' perspective in understanding the return of the sacred and fosters a 'political theology of the empty tomb', where the doctrine of Christ's ascension is called upon to again play a major theological role as a workable antidote to the contemporary resurgence of the sacred.
Using Schutz to Conceptualize the Nature Experiences of Secular People
David Thurfjell, Cecilie Rubow, Atko Remmel and Henrik Ohlsson
Denmark, Estonia, and Sweden are, if measured by certain sociological criteria, considered to be three of the world’s most secular countries. Nature—forests, pristine beaches, and the countryside—plays a specific role in the allegedly secular discourse of the mainstream populations of these nations. Not only is it almost without exception deemed as a positive asset worthy of protection, it is also thought of as holding certain existential qualities. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews, this article suggests that Alfred Schutz’s conceptualization of transcendence—further developed by Thomas Luckmann—can be used to describe the existential experiences in nature of contemporary secular people. The article results in a suggestion for an operational definition of transcendence.
This article examines some of Langlois's major works on nineteenth-century French Catholicism, which taken together suggest a vision langloisienne defined by three central, intimately interrelated insights. First, for Langlois a chronology of French Catholicism based on an assumption of an ineluctable process of dechristianization needs to be replaced by a more nuanced and contingent understanding of the evolution of belief and practice. Second, a revised chronology illuminates important sectors of creative vitality within Catholicism, particularly with regard to female religious congregations. Third, historians of religion must be willing to use a variety of methods in exploring their subject; social scientific approaches are crucial, but they complement rather than replace traditional narrative, biography, and a close reading of literary texts. The article concludes with reflections on the normative posture that is implicit in Langlois's historical writing, a position based on his commitment to the values of toleration and equality.
In the French polemics over the Islamic headscarf, the relationship betweensecularism and sexual equality has sometimes been made out to be an artificialone. The articulation between politics, religion, secularism, and women'srights is examined here over the longue durée. Since the beginning of the secularizationprocess during the French Revolution, a minority has championedan egalitarian conception of secularization. Rivalries between or convergencesof political and religious authorities have driven an ambivalent and not veryequal secularization, creating secular pacts that rely on gender pacts to thedetriment of equality. This dynamic reversed itself beginning in the 1960swith the battle for legal contraception and abortion, which shook one of thevery bases of French Catholicism to its foundation. The headscarf affairsrevealed the egalitarian effects of secularism and favored the elaboration ofthought about secularism in conjunction with sexual equality, which, whateverthe various interpretations of that thought may be, could prove to be anon-negligible benefit.
Religion, Modernity, and Muslim Women's Emancipation in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, 1945–1991
Pamela Ballinger and Kristen Ghodsee
This article uses the examples of socialist Bulgaria and Yugoslavia to propose some new directions for rethinking scholarly understandings of “secularism” and the ways in which socialist secularizing projects were intricately intertwined with questions of gender equality. Current scholarly debates on the genealogy of secularism root its origins in the Catholic/Protestant West, and systematically ignore cases from the former communist world. This article takes two cases of Balkan states to explore the theoretical contours of what we call “socialist secularism.” Although Bulgaria and Yugoslavia’s experiences of socialist secularism differed in the degree of their coerciveness, this article examines the similarities in the conceptualization of the secularizing imperative and the rhetoric used to justify it, specifically the rhetoric of communist modernism and women’s liberation from religious backwardness.
In examining the Jews of the former state of socialist Yugoslavia as a test case, this paper asks a familiar question: can Jews maintain their identity and survive as a distinctive group without the beliefs and practices of the Judaic religion? In their case, the change in the scope of secularization was abrupt and dramatic because of the devastation of the Holocaust and a contemporaneous radical political restructuring of society that denigrated religion. Although there were precedents of secular ideologies and movements, such as Zionism, and new inclinations to participate in broader movements, such as Communism, which influenced Jewish belief and behavior before the Second World War, the abruptness of the secularization and the postwar Jewish leadership's enthusiastic and nearly complete embrace of it put into action what can be called an experiment in secular Jewishness. It is this 'experiment' that is the focus of this paper.