Framed



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PAUL HARVEY


Here's a fairly new but high-powered blog to check out: The Immanent Frame: Secularism, Religion, and the Public Sphere. Robert Bellah, Charles Taylor, Leigh Schmidt, my former Young Scholar compatriot Winny Sullivan, my graduate school buddy John Torpey, and other eminent sociologists, philosophers, and religious studies folk contribute. See, for example, Leigh Eric Schmidt's "That Weird, Strange Thing," which takes on Charles Taylor, and Robert Bellah's "Is a Global Civil Religion Possible," in which he writes:

One thing I learned from the complex discussion of the 1967 essay is that for many, particularly religious believers but also secularists, the idea of “a civil religion” is viewed as a threat, one religion competing with and threatening to displace other religions, even being established. All my Durkheimian arguments that any really existing social group necessarily has a religious dimension never quelled the opposition, to the point where, by about 1980, I stopped using the term civil religion and talked about the same issues using other language, language that did not involve me in endless, futile, discussions of definition. So if American civil religion is a bad idea, a global civil religion can only be worse, and I can answer the question of my title, which itself was meant to provoke as much as to describe, in the negative: no, a global civil religion is not possible.

But for the creation of a viable and coherent world order a world civil society is surely an essential precondition, and, dare I say it, any actual civil society will have a religious dimension, will need not only a legal and an ethical framework, but some notion that it conforms to the nature of ultimate reality. The biggest immediate problem is the strengthening of global civil society. As I will elaborate in my next post, I would suggest that perhaps the religious communities of the world may have something to contribute to that global civil society, and, indeed, that their participation may be essential for its success.

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