Tag Archive | secular

There will be no church bells for us…

There will be no church bells for us, no hymns, no doting vicar to join us together, and tell us when we are allowed to kiss. Because no church would have us. Too many miles on the clock, you see. Too much life lived.

I thought that I would regret that too. The lack of the sanctified. I thought that would be a definite damper on the proceedings.

But when she takes my hand, somehow it doesn’t matter anymore, because I can sense something sacred in the small secular room with the women in their hats, the men in their suits, the children in what my mum would call their Sunday best.

Everybody smiling, happy for us, white lilies everywhere, their scent filling the air.

There’s no place more sacred than this place.

And if anyone is blessed, then we are blessed …

And to tell the world – the best is yet to come. What could be more hopeful than that? What could be more right? More sacred? …

Just a simple ceremony joining together two complicated lives.

(Tony Parsons, Man and Wife, 2003, p. 5)

Functionally Secular / Substantively Nonreligious: Scottish Students, their Secular Sacreds, and the Sacred Secular

The next batch of conferences are coming up… and I am finally attempting to really push the boat out with my material. I have just had the following abstract accepted for the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network‘s Conference in London, 4-6 July 2012:

Functionally Secular / Substantively Nonreligious: Scottish Students, their Secular Sacreds, and the Sacred Secular

The academic study of religion and related categories is populated with reified, mutually constitutive, and superficially synonymous dichotomies – religion/secular, sacred/profane, sacred/secular, religion/nonreligion – yet each serves a distinct, contextually dependent purpose. In this presentation I shall utilise a case study amongst notionally ‘nonreligious’ undergraduate students, in combination with a discussion of these dichotomies, to problematise the complex relationship between nonreligion and the secular.

When asked about their beliefs and ‘religious’ identities, many of these students were substantively nonreligious (utilising Lois Lee’s understanding of nonreligion as defined primarily by the way it differs from religion). This nonreligiosity manifested itself in divers ways, dependent upon idiosyncratic interpretations of ‘religion’, and always linked to particular ‘secular sacreds’, which corresponded to five distinct-yet-overlapping nonreligious types. Individual narratives exemplify pragmatic negotiation of nonreligious identities, ‘fluctuation’ in nonreligious beliefs, and the rhetorical creation of religious ‘others’ against which substantive nonreligiosity was  constructed.

In terms of salience and practice, many of these students appeared functionally secular i.e. ‘being nonreligious’ was generally unimportant and had little impact upon day-to-day life. However, the interaction of religion with personal sacreds precipitated the recognition and reaffirmation of subjective nonreligiosity. In many cases, the sacred in question was the ‘secular’ itself, which was profaned by the incursion of religion into individual narratives.

This overview of the complex dynamics between these terms provides empirical clarification of the relationship between nonreligion and the secular, and demonstrates that nonreligion is a substantive phenomenon in its own right and, as such, an important component of secular society.

I have yet to (as promised) present a blogged version of my presentation on New Atheism, Open-Mindedness and Critical Thinking (Lancaster University, 3 April 2012; University of Edinburgh, 25 April 2012). This WILL happen… in fact, I am in discussions with a colleague regarding developing this presentation as a book chapter… watch this space.

For now, here’s a picture of me just about to deliver that presentation:

The Postsecular in International Politics (Conference)

I would totally be attending this conference if I weren’t on my way to present at another conference in the US. For those in the UK, it will definitely be worth checking out!

Welcome to the blog for the International ESRC-sponsored conference, The Postsecular in International Politics, taking place at the University of Sussex on 27th-28th October 2011. The Postsecular in International Politics will bring together a range of internationally renowned scholars. Speakers  include: Joseph Camilleri, Stephen Chan, Fred Dallmayr, Richard Falk, Jeff Haynes, Mustapha Pasha, Tariq Ramadan, Nick Rengger, Richard Sakwa,  Ole Wæve … Read More

via The Postsecular in International Politics

What does ‘Postsecular’ actually mean?

A lengthy post on the terminology behind ‘postsecular’…

What we talk about when we talk about the postsecular

Recently, a somewhat opaque term found its way onto the front page of The Immanent Frame in the title of <a title=”Post-secular development <Daromir Rudnyckyj’s pieceon “post-secular development.” This term, “postsecular,” also came up a few months ago in Nathan Schneider’s <a title=”Endgame capitalism: an interview with Simon During <interview with Simon Duringas well as <a title=”postsecular <a string of other entriesin this blog over the past few years. A group of contributors to The Immanent Frame, including its founding editor Jonathan VanAntwerpen and editor-at-large David Kyuman Kim, are even involved in editing a volume called The Post-Secular in Question. Apparently the term is quickly becoming a keyword for scholars of religion and public life. So, what is it all about?

The concept is not just all over The Immanent Frame. It has also appeared in the titles of about forty books, most in English and German, the majority of which were published within the past five years. Additionally, the concept features prominently in seventeen dissertations indexed by ProQuest, which largely reflects dissertations completed at North American universities. More than half of these dissertations were deposited after 2007. And that is to say nothing of the dozens of articles in scholarly journals that are an important part of the discussion of the postsecular, or the approximately half-dozen academic conferences held on both sides of the Atlantic in the last three years. These numbers indicate that both established and emerging scholars are staking their work on the concept of the postsecular. Finally, illustrating a broader trend in intellectual debate, significant interventions in the discussion have also appeared online, especially at EurozineResetDOC, and on this very blog…. <Continue>

The Need to Dissolve the Religion/Secular Dichotomy

A massive, thought-provoking quotation from Timothy Fitzgerald, with which I couldn’t agree more:

“From our own postcolonial standpoint, it should be easier for us to question the idea that, whereas other, less-advanced peoples are permeated with ritualism and therefore with a ‘religious’ worldview, we in Anglophone cultures do not ‘do’ ritual, except minimally in church. I ask, rhetorically, but with serious theoretical intent, why should the legal procedures and taboos surrounding our courts and ideals of justice, our separation of the branches of government, our concept of private property, the practices of the stock exchange and the capital markets, the traditions of the civil services, be considered ‘nonreligious’, but the practices of divination, or the Islamic Shari’a, or the generic potlatch of various indigenous American peoples, or Buddhist meditation be assigned to the ‘religion’ basket? Why are transcendental values such as the belief in progress, or individualism, or nationalism, or the democratic virtues of ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’, the practice of secret ballots and elections of governments, which many millions of people died to establish and institutionalise, not included in books on ‘religion’? Why should state institutions that defend the freedom of Americans such as the Pentagon, the White House, and the Congress be treated as nonreligious rather than ‘religious’ or ritual institutions? Is the queen of England, who is supposedly head of a secular state, but who is also the head of a national religion, to be treated as a religious or a secular functionary? Is the raising and lowering of a national flag of religious or secular significance? It seems we are trapped by language when we consider these issues. For, arguably, they are all both religious and secular, and in that sense neither, for they undercut this grand dichotomy. We need to dissolve these reified binaries if a new paradigm is to have a chance to get articulated in public discourse.”

Fitzgerald, Timothy, 2007. Discourse on Civility and Barbarity: A Critical History of Religion and Related Categories. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 38.