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Secularisation belief and unbelief. Christopher Watkin christopherwatkin.com. Plan of the Lecture. Atheism A very brief history of atheism What is atheism? Dogmatic atheism Practical atheism Agnosticism Difficulties for atheism Secularisation The secularisation thesis

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secularisation belief and unbelief

Secularisation belief and unbelief

Christopher Watkin christopherwatkin.com

plan of the lecture
Plan of the Lecture
  • Atheism
    • A very brief history of atheism
    • What is atheism?
      • Dogmatic atheism
      • Practical atheism
      • Agnosticism
    • Difficulties for atheism
  • Secularisation
    • The secularisation thesis
      • What caused secularisation?
    • Critiques of the secularisation thesis
plan of the lecture1
Plan of the Lecture
  • Disenchantment
    • The difference between secularisation and disenchantment
    • Max Weber (1864-1920)
      • What is an ‘enchanted’ world?
      • Rationalisation
      • Disenchantment is not opposed to religion
        • Rembrandt and Procaccini
      • Disenchantment comes with a new ‘polytheism’
a very brief history of atheism
A very brief history of atheism

a + theos (Greek): without God

a very brief history of atheism1
A very brief history of atheism
  • a + theos (Greek): without God
  • Oedipus: atheos
a very brief history of atheism2
A very brief history of atheism
  • a + theos (Greek): without God
  • Oedipus: atheos
  • Early Christians called atheists
a very brief history of atheism3
A very brief history of atheism

“Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity. But both Him, and the Son (who came forth from Him and taught us these things, and the host of the other good angels who follow and are made like to Him), and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore, knowing them in reason and truth, and declaring without grudging to everyone who wishes to learn, as we have been taught.”

Justin Martyr, Frist Apology, chapter VI. Accessible at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.ii.vi.html

dogmatic atheism2
Dogmatic atheism

NATURALISM:

“reality is exhausted by nature, containing nothing ‘supernatural’, and that the scientific method should be used to investigate all areas of reality, including the ‘human spirit’”

(Stanford Encyclopediaof Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/naturalism/)

secularisation
Secularisation
  • sæculum (Latin): ‘age’ or ‘world’.
    • The secular is to do with this age and with this world.
the secularisation thesis1
The Secularisation Thesis

“By secularization […] is meant the process whereby religious thinking, practices and institutions lose social significance”

Bryan Wilson, Religion in Secular Society (London: Watts, 1966) xiv.

the secularisation thesis2
The Secularisation Thesis

Judith Fox, ‘Secularisation’, in The Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion (Hoboken: Taylor & Francis, 2009) 311.

the secularisation thesis3
The Secularisation Thesis

Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy (New York: Anchor, 1990). First published 1967.

slide26

“Religion legitimates social institutions by bestowing upon them an ultimately valid ontological status, that is, by locating them within a sacred and cosmic frame of reference. The historical constructions of human activity are viewed from a vantage point that, in its own self-definition, tran­scends both history and man. This can be done in different ways. Probably the most ancient form of this legitimation is the conception of the institutional order as directly reflecting or manifesting the divine structure of the cosmos, that is, the conception of the relationship between society and cosmos as one between microcosm and macrocosm. Everything "here below" has its analogue "up above." By participating in the institutional order men, ipso facto, participate in the divine cosmos. The kinship structure, for example, extends beyond the human realm, with all being (including the being of the gods) conceived of in the structures of kinship as given in the society.”

Berger, The Sacred Canopy 33.

slide28

“The concentration of religious activities and symbols in one institutional sphere, however, ipso facto defines the rest of society as "the world," as a profane realm at least relatively removed from the jurisdiction of the sacred. The secularizing potential of this conception could be "contained" as long as Christendom, with its sensitive balance of the sacred and the profane, existed as a social reality. With the disintegration of this reality, however, "the world" could all the more rapidly be secularized in that it had already been defined as a realm outside the jurisdiction of the sacred properly speaking.”

Berger, The Sacred Canopy 123.

slide30

“The reality of the Christian world depends upon the presence of social structures within which this reality is taken for granted and within which successive generations of individuals are socialized in such a way that this world will be real to them. When this plausibility structure loses its intactness or continuity, the Christian world begins to totter and its reality ceases to impose itself as self-evident truth.”

Berger, The Sacred Canopy 46.

critiques of the secularisation thesis1
Critiques of the Secularisation Thesis
  • Exaggerates the religiosity of pre-secular societies
  • Mixes up secularisation and the decline of Christianity
  • Underplays the importance of non-Christian and new religions
  • Can’t deal with anomalies like the U.S.A.
  • Overlooks non-religious religions, like humanism
critiques of the secularisation thesis2
Critiques of the Secularisation Thesis

Judith Fox, ‘Secularisation’, in The Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion (Hoboken: Taylor & Francis, 2009) 315-6.

critiques of the secularisation thesis3
Critiques of the Secularisation Thesis

“I think that the notion of secularisation offers a largely fictitious account of the transformations of religion in Western society during the past centuries. In consequence it camouflages the nature of religion in the contemporary world.”

Thomas Luckmann, Life-world and Social Realities (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1983) 123.

critiques of the secularisation thesis4
Critiques of the Secularisation Thesis

“an alternative suggestion is increasingly gaining ground: the possibility that secularization is not a universal process, but belongs instead to a relatively short and particular period of European history which still assumed … that whatever characterized Europe's religious life today would characterize everyone else's tomorrow”

Grace Davie, Religion in Modern Europe: A Memory Mutates (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000) 1.

the difference between atheism and secularisation
The difference between atheism and secularisation
  • Atheism is a state of not believing in (the existence of) God or gods
  • Secularisation (at least by Wilson’s definition) is a process of decline in the significance of religious institutions and practices in a society
disenchantment and rationalisation
Disenchantment and rationalisation
  • The relation between secularisation and disenchantment
    • Disenchantment is one way of describing a process of secularisation
what is an enchanted world1
What is an ‘enchanted’ world?

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Genesis 1:31

what is an enchanted world2
What is an ‘enchanted’ world?

Aristotle and final causes (purposes and ‘the good’ written into the natural world)

what happened to the enchanted world
What happened to the ‘enchanted’ world?

I neither admit nor desire any principles in physics other than [those] in geometry or abstract mathematics; because all the phenomena of nature are thus explained, and certain demonstrations concerning them can be given.

René Descartes, Principles of Philosophy, trans. V. R. Miller and R. P. Miller (Dortrecht: Kluwer, 1983 [1644]) II.64.

what happened to the enchanted world1
What happened to the ‘enchanted’ world?

The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by thedisenchantment of the world. Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life either into the transcendental realm of mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human relations.

Hans Gerth and C Wright Mills (eds.), From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946) 155.

what happened to the enchanted world2
What happened to the ‘enchanted’ world?

there are no mysterious incalculable forces that come into play, but rather that one can, in principle, master all things by calculation. This means that the world is disenchanted. One need no longer have recourse to magical means in order to master or implore the spirits, as did the savage, for whom such mysterious powers existed. Technical means and calculations perform the service. This above all is what intellectualization means.

Hans Gerth and C Wright Mills (eds.), From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946) 139.

two important points
Two important points

1) Disenchantment is not always opposed to religion/Christianity

two important points1
Two important points

Judith Fox, ‘Secularisation’, in The Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion (Hoboken: Taylor & Francis, 2009) 308.

two important points2
Two important points

Disenchantment is not always opposed to religion/Christianity

Marcel Gauchet (b. 1946)

two important points3
Two important points

1) Disenchantment is not always opposed to religion/Christianity

Christianity proves to have been a religion for departing from religion. For this reason, Christianity remains the most relevant religion in a postreligious society, especially in Catholicism in Europe where, as dis­tinct from America, Christianity has taken a stand against the world that issued from it.

Marcel Gauchet, The Disenchantment of the World, trans. Oscar Burge (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999) 4.

slide53

LEFT: Rembrandt van Rijn, The Holy Family (1640). Oil on wood. Louvre, Paris.

RIGHT: GiulioCesareProcaccini, Holy Family with John the Baptist and Angel (1620-25). Oil on canvas. The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.

two important points4
Two important points

2) Disenchantment comes with a new ‘polytheism’

two important points5
Two important points

I do not know how one might wish to decide 'scientifically' the value of French and German culture; for here, too, different gods struggle with one another, now and for all times to come.

We live as did the ancients when their world was not yet disenchanted of its gods and demons, only we live in a different sense. As Hellenic person at times sacrificed to Aphrodite and at other times to Apollo, and, above all, as everybody sacrificed to the gods of his city, so do we still nowadays, only the bearing of person has been disenchanted and denuded of its mystical but inwardly genuine plasticity.

[...] Today the routines of everyday life challenge religion. Many old gods ascend from their graves; they are disenchanted and hence take the form of impersonal forces.

Hans Gerth and C Wright Mills (eds.), From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946) 148.

humanity in the disenchanted world rational and arbitrary
Humanity in the disenchanted world: rational and arbitrary

No one knows who will live in this cage in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development, entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals, or, if neither, mechanized petrification, embellished with a sort of convulsive self-importance. For of the fast stage of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: “Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved.”

Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons (London: Routledge, 2001) 124.

slide58

Caspar David Friedrich, Der Mönch am Meer (The Monk by the Sea). 1808–10. Oil on canvas. AlteNationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany.

slide59

Andy Warhol , Gold Marilyn Monroe (1962). Silkscreen ink on synthetic polymer paint on canvas. Museum of Modern Art, New York.