Is the world becoming more religious or more secular? The secularization thesis (religion disappears with the rise of Modernity) has been challenged as the Christian “megachurch” phenomenon continues, radical Islam remains at the fore of public dialogue, and politicians continue to blur the lines between church and state as they invoke various religious aphorisms. Louis A. Ruprecht Jr, the William M. Suttles Chair of Religious Studies at Georgia State University, considers the argument that religion (both particular and comparative) made a comeback after the 9/11 attacks, recalling how many believed the event “put religion on a front burner everywhere: on television and internet discussions.” Ruprecht challenges this, arguing that “religion had already been ‘back’ for a generation,” arguing that the “singular date for any contemporary discussion of the resurgence of politicized neo-traditional religion is 1979,” not 2001. He cites various historical moments as key elements which indicated a shift in public dialogue concerning religion within American society: the Ayatollah Khomeini’s seize of power in Iran, Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority’s push for political power as they supported the candidacy of Ronald Reagan, the death of Pope John Paul I and the “unexpected elevation of John Paul II [a man who proved captivating] to the papacy.”
Recalling the fundamentalist reaction to Darwinism, the rise of liberal Protestantism, and the Second Vatican Council’s attempt to update the Catholic church to better serve the modern world, Ruprecht argues that what is different about the new century is simply this: “certain forms of neo-traditional religion became increasingly violent.” Despite this, or perhaps precisely because of it, society accepts pluralism as a way of life. Thus, while many hope to convert “the other,” whether evangelical Christian or Muslim, religious pluralism has created a society which continues to entertain the idea of faith. He argues that within the context of religious pluralism and transnational political conflict, online magazines such as Religion Dispatches serve us well, as our discourse about meaning continues to broaden.
Ruprecht’s closing statements reflect on the recent conference at Copenhagen, arguing that the “shocking transfer of so much carbon-based material from under the earth into the sky in little more than one century has changed and will continue to change the entire global system in some very catastrophic ways.” The “apocalyptically-minded,” he argues, will deal with any possible environmental crisis with a variety of interpretations, nursing a peculiar appetite for discussions about a disastrous future. Whether the environment, war, terrorism, or global economic collapse, “religions today can and should have much to say about each and every one of these new, and truly global crises.”
Read the full article here.
‘The Rise of the Historical Consciousness’ By Johannes C. Wolfart, Carleton University Religion Compass (Vol. 4, January 2009)
Towards a New Understanding of Jewish Language in the Twenty-First Century By Sarah Bunin Benor, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion Religion Compass (Vol. 3, October 2008)
Religious Environmentalism in the West. I: A Focus on Christianity By Steve Douglas, Australian National University Religion Compass (Vol. 4, June 2009)
Religious Environmentalism in the West. II: Impediments to the Praxis of Christian Environmentalism in Australia By Steve Douglas, Australian National University Religion Compass (Vol. 4, June 2009)
Islamism and Western Political Religions By Hendrik Hansen, University of Passau Religion Compass (Vol. 4, December 2009)