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The Hedgehog Review

Critical Reflections on Contemporary Culture


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The Hedgehog Review
Critical Reflections on Contemporary Culture


Spring & Summer 2006 / Volume Eight / Numbers One & Two

Box 400816. This paper meets the requirements of ANSI/NISO Z39. University of Virginia Charlottesville. MLA International Bibliography.O. The Hedgehog Review Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture P. Worldwide Political Science Abstracts.This issue is co-sponsored by the Center on Religion and Democracy at the University of Virginia. Cover image © iStockphoto. The Hedgehog Review is indexed or abstracted by The American Humanities Index. International Bibliography of Social Website: www. VA 22904-4816 Email: (Permanence of Paper).html . the Gale Group. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the Editor. Copyright © 2006 Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture ISSN 1527-9677 All rights reserved. Sociological Abstracts. and EBSCO Publishing. International Political Science Witczka All statements of opinion or fact are the responsibility of the author alone and not of The Hedgehog Review.

Contents INTRODUCTION After Secularization / 5 E ssa y s Rethinking Secularization: A Global Comparative Perspective / 7 José Casanova Is Europe an Exceptional Case? / 23 Grace Davie Secularization and the Impotence of Individualized Religion / 35 Steve Bruce Challenging Secularization Theory: The Growth of “New Age” Spiritualities of Life / 46 Paul Heelas In Search of Certainties: The Paradoxes of Religiosity in Societies of High Modernity / 59 Danièle Hervieu-Léger Sellers or Buyers in Religious Markets? The Supply and Demand of Religion / 69 Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart French Secularism and the “Islamic Veil Affair” / 93 Talal Asad Secularity without Secularism: The Best Political Position for Contemporary Jews / 107 David Novak American Religion and European Anti-Americanism / 116 Thomas Albert Howard Islam in the West or Western Islam? The Disconnect of Religion and Culture / 127 Olivier Roy Secularization. and “The End of the West” / 133 Slavica Jakelić Islam in European Publics: Secularism and Religious Difference / 140 Nilüfer Göle . European Identity.

Brissett I N T E RV I E W An Interview with Peter Berger / 152 Charles T. Mathewes REVIEWS A Review of Susan Jacoby’s Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism / 162 Christopher McKnight Nichols A Review of David Martin’s On Secularization: Towards a Revised General Theory / 167 Emily Raudenbush BIBLIOGRAPHIC REVIEW Secularization: A Bibliographic Review / 170 Kevin M. Schultz .R eport from the field Secularization in the Global South: The Case of Ethiopia / 146 Wilson N.

The decline of religion as a disenchantment of the world. who view secularization as a process of individualization and privatization of religion.  . nuanced views. As a result. Others suggest that secularization has occurred in the United States as well. Others. While the idea of secularization was not the property of the social sciences alone. Only a few prophets of religion’s decline—Karl Marx being the most notable among them—dared to predict that the world of the future would be a world without religion. did not speak of. but also because of a problem in its own conceptual foundation. for almost two decades now. it is not only secularization but sacralization. Due to this intimate connection between the notions of secularization and modernity. there was never just one understanding of the relationship between the progress of humanity and the future of religion. that characterizes European religious life. Still others. Many agree that secularization theory still works (only) in Western Europe. Max Weber declared a century ago. was one of the unintended consequences of the Protestant Reformation and constitutive of the general processes of modernity. due to the rise of New Age spirituality in Western Europe. not simply as a result of the general processes of modernization—industrialization and urbanization—but as a consequence of the actions of concrete historical agents. From its earliest days. or look forward to. Paul Heelas proposes that. On the other side of the Atlantic.After Secularization T he idea that religion gradually ceases to be the guiding authority in the lives of individuals and in societies as they become more modern has roots in the intellectual and institutional heritage of the Enlightenment. has been a complex one and has involved a number of different. The traditional version of secularization theory involved a two-fold claim: that modernization is a universal process that has similar features everywhere and that secularization is inseparable from modernization. read this New Age spirituality as ultimate proof of secularization processes. this secularization theory was thus inseparable from the sociological conceptualization of modernity. social scientists have been divided into two camps: those who want to discard secularization theory altogether and those who want to preserve some part of it for limited use. But even in Enlightenment thought. too. which took this assertion to its theoretical heights in the form of secularization theory. the crisis of secularization theory occurred not only because of empirical evidence that came in the form of religious revivals around the world. the end of religion as such. The history of the idea of secularization. like Thomas Jefferson. the full embrace of a causal relationship between progress and religious decline happened precisely in the social sciences. in other words. but predicted that human enlightenment would be accompanied by a rational form of religious knowledge and experience.

The disentanglement of these two questions is vital if we are to see that what is at stake in the secularization debate is not just the destiny of the social sciences. much more importantly. just as they were in the times when secularization theory was born. but it is pressing that we continue to try to make sense of it all. Arguably the most important realization that came out of the secularization debate was that the questions of what religion is and what it ought to be are mutually intertwined in our contemporary thinking of religion. He is right. the differentiation of the secular spheres. Given the nature of events unfolding in the world. only multiple modernities? How might we understand secularization in a time and world after secularization? Religion today has not only survived the modern world. of course. and the privatization of religion. but even thrives in some senses. José Casanova suggests that secularization should be thought of as a three-fold phenomenon—the decline of religion. as a weakening in the authority of the faith that is still embraced or as the re-symbolization of ancient creeds in ways that accommodate the modern world. That said. Attempting to introduce some conceptual clarity and empirical accuracy into the debate. How are we to understand the different roles that religion plays in different societies and at the same time preserve our ability to conceptualize this as a problem? How should we approach the relationship between modernity and secularity while being aware that there is no single modernity.” The old secularization theory may not explain exactly what did happen. but there are other ways in which secularization could be conceptualized.H. —T. for example. our appreciation of the place of religion in the contemporary world.  . but. as Peter Berger observed some decades ago. Each one of these subtheses should be empirically and separately studied in the context of concrete historical cases.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 The claims in the secularization debate very much depend on one’s definition of both religion and secularization.R. much is at stake in how we address such questions. “something still happened.

Public Religions in the Modern World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. As indicated by every dictionary of every Western European language. This is the core component of the classic theories of secularization. developmental process. transnational migration. and globalization. it refers to the 1 My book. usually understood as “emancipation” from religious institutions and norms. He is presently a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. José Casanova is Professor of Sociology at the New School for Social Research in New York City. which is related to the original etymological-historical meaning of the term within medieval Christendom. b) Secularization as the privatization of religion.1 c) Secularization as the differentiation of the secular spheres (state. often postulated as a universal. 1994). Public Religions in the Modern World (1994). has appeared in multiple languages. put into question the empirical as well as the normative validity of the privatization thesis. human. His most important work. where he has taught since 1987. indeed as a precondition for modern liberal democratic politics.  . science). although it remains unregistered in most dictionaries of most European languages.” we needed to distinguish between three different connotations: a) Secularization as the decline of religious beliefs and practices in modern societies. I suggested that in order to speak meaningfully of “secularization. He has published widely in the areas of sociological theory. This is the most recent but by now the most widespread usage of the term in contemporary academic debates on secularization. often understood both as a general modern historical trend and as a normative condition. religion and politics. economy.essa y s Rethinking Secularization: A Global Comparative Perspective José Casanova O ver a decade ago.

Rodney Stark and William S. or at least its postulate of the progressive decline of religious beliefs and practices. 3 Steve Bruce. R. or control. Religious Change in America (Cambridge. The Future of Religion (Berkeley: University of California Press. the historical evidence points in the opposite direction of progressive churching of the American population since independence. from ecclesiastical or religious to civil or lay use. 4 Jon Butler. but simply that they take it for granted as an unremarkable fact.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 transfer of persons. belief in God. MA: Harvard University Press. more recent meaning of the decline of religious beliefs and practices among individuals. . Smelser and Paul B. Neil J. Andrew M. such as church attendance. 1989).. American sociologists of religion tend to restrict the use of the term secularization to its narrower. once they are able to show that in the United States none of the usual “indicators” of secularization. drastic and assumedly irreversible decline of religious beliefs and practices among the European population. 2002). European sociologists tend to view the two meanings of the term as intrinsically related because they view the two realities—the decline in the societal power and significance of religious institutions. etc. MA: Harvard University Press. It is not so much that they question the secularization of society.786–91.P. 2001) 13. I argued. since the 1960s. and...5  2 “Secularization.I. Bainbridge. and the decline of religious beliefs and practices among individuals—as structurally related components of general processes of modernization. 1985). evince any longterm declining trend. The United States. For the European defenders of the traditional theory. across societies and civilizations. Baltes (Oxford: Elsevier. Greeley. ed. 1776–1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. “Secularization. 1992). should allow for the examination of the validity of the three propositions independently of each other and thus refocus the often fruitless secularization debate into comparative historical analysis that could account for different patterns of secularization. etc.” The International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences. was already born as a modern secular society. 1990). 5 Rodney Stark.4 Consequently. they assume. the secularization of Western European societies appears as an empirically irrefutable fait accompli.2 Maintaining this analytical distinction.3 But Europeans tend to switch back and forth between the traditional meaning of secularization and the more recent meaning that points to the progressive. possession. God Is Dead: Secularization in the West (Oxford: Blackwell. Yet they see no evidence of a progressive decline in the religious beliefs and practices of the American people. frequency of prayer.3 (1999): 249–73. as a European myth. Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People (Cambridge. many American sociologists of religion tend to discard the theory of secularization. If anything. The Churching of America. Roger Finke and Rodney Stark. meanings. in all three meanings of the term.” Sociology of Religion 60. things. Yet the debate between European and American sociologists of religion remains unabated.

” Sociological Analysis 46.5 (1993): 1. L. “Work in Progress toward a New Paradigm for the Sociological Study of Religion in the United States. Roger Finke. particularly within European sociology.7 But the internal comparative evidence within Europe does not support the basic tenets of the American theory.044–93. Yet one should ask whether it is appropriate to subsume the multiple and diverse historical patterns of differentiation and fusion of the various 6 R. 7 Theodore Caplow. open and free competitive and pluralistic religious markets.. “The Consequences of Religious Competition: Supply-Side Explanations for Religious Change. ed. The traditional An impasse has been reached theory of secularization works relatively well for Europe.6 In the extreme “supply-side” version of the rational choice theory of religious markets. and high levels of individual religiosity.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 33 (1994): 230–52. “A Supply-Side Interpretation of the ‘Secularization’ of Europe. while the previous European rule is now demoted to being a deviation from the American norm. and adopt a more global perspective.9 While the decline and privatization sub-theses have undergone numerous critiques and revisions in the last fifteen years.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 39.” Predicting Religion.1 (2000): 32–46. the understanding of secularization as a single process of functional differentiation of the various institutional spheres or sub-systems of modern societies remains relatively uncontested in the social sciences. refocus the attention beyond Europe and North America.8 An impasse has been reached in the debate. What was until now the American exception attains normative status.S. Neither can offer a plausible account of the internal variations within Europe. The low levels of religiosity in Europe are now supposedly explained by the persistence of either the religious establishment or highly regulated monopolistic or oligopolistic religious markets. but not for Europe. but in the debate. one needs to historicize and contextualize all categories. in order to overcome the impasse and surmount the fruitless debate. and Linda Woodhead (Aldershot: Ashgate. But most importantly. “Beyond European and American Exceptionalisms: Towards a Global Perspective. Grace Davie. Thus.2 (1985): 101–8. The American paradigm works relatively well for the U. ed. Paul Heelas. not for the United States. “Contrasting Trends in European and American Religion. “The Supply-Side Model of Religion: The Nordic and Baltic States. Monopolistic situations in Poland and Ireland are linked to persistently high levels of religiosity. while increasing liberalization and state deregulation elsewhere are often accompanied by persistent rates of religious decline. 1997) 45–65.” American Journal of Sociology 98. Most importantly. one needs to make clear the terminological and theoretical disagreements.  .” Rational Choice Theory and Religion: Summary and Assessment. Rodney Stark and Laurence Iannaccone.R ethinking S E C U L A R I Z A T I O N / casanova The new American paradigm has turned the European model of secularization on its head. Stephen Warner. 2003) 17–29. 9 José Casanova. Young (New York: Routledge. 8 Steve Bruce. American sociologists use the American evidence to postulate a general structural relationship between disestablishment or state deregulation. neither works very well for other world religions and other parts of the world. A.

Should one define these transformations as a process of internal secularization of Western Christianity. and fails to recognize the extent to which the formation of the secular is itself inextricably linked with the internal transformations of European Christianity.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 institutional spheres (that is. can the theory of secularization as a particular theory of European historical developments be dissociated from general theories of global modernization? Can there be a non-Western. denominational Protestantism in nineteenth-century America. Asad has shown how “the historical process of secularization effects a remarkable ideological inversion…. or as the cunning of secular reason. Modernity (Stanford: Stanford University Press. the secular are inextricably bound together and mutually condition each other. see also Talal Asad. 1993). Genealogies of Religion (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Formations of the Secular: Christiantiy. One should further ask the extent to which it is possible to dissociate the analytical reconstructions of the historical processes of differentiation of Western European societies from general theories of modernity that postulate secular differentiation as a normative project or global requirement for all “modern” societies. In other words. 11 Asad 192. so that “religion” itself as a historical category and as a universal globalized concept emerges as a construction of Western secular modernity. or both? A proper rethinking of secularization will require a critical examination of the diverse patterns of differentiation and fusion of the religious and the secular and their mutual constitution across all world religions. For at one time ‘the secular’ was a part of a theological discourse [saeculum]. state and economy.” while later “the religious” is constituted by secular political and scientific discourses. 10 Talal Asad. non-secular modernity or are the self-definitions of modernity inevitably tautological insofar as secular differentiation is precisely what defines a society as “modern”? I fully agree with Talal Asad that the secular “should not be thought of as the space in which real human life gradually secular are inextricably emancipates itself from the controlling power of ‘religion’ and thus achieves the latter’s relocation. and from the ascetic and pietistic sects of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the emergence of evangelical.”10 In the historibound together and mutually cal processes of European secularization. from the so-called Papal Revolution to the Protestant Reformation. 2003) 191. the religious and condition each other. economy and science) that one finds throughout the history of modern Western societies into a single teleological process of modern functional differentiation.11 …the religious and the But Asad’s own genealogy of the secular is too indebted to the self-genealogies of secularism he has so aptly exposed. church and state. 10 . Islam.

in the Latin-Catholic cultural area. modern capitalism. to find any “progressive” social movement in America appealing to 12 David Martin. and worldly pursuits from the constraints of religion. there was “collusion” between religion and the secular differentiated spheres. There is little historical evidence of any tension between American Protestantism and capitalism and very little manifest tension between science and religion in the U. all these processes everywhere are dynamically interrelated and mutually constituted. 11 . Even “the separation of church and state” that was constitutionally codified in the dual clause of the First Amendment. though also newly differentiated. there was a collision between religion and the differentiated secular spheres—that is. The secularist self-narratives. only they are relocated. and Modernities There are multiple and diverse secularizations in the West and multiple and diverse Western modernities. as well as of the multiple and diverse historical patterns of secularization and differentiation within European and Western societies. and the modern state. and Byzantine Christianity. and to some extent throughout Continental Europe. the Enlightenment critique of religion found here ample resonance. It is rare. at least until very recently. and they are still mostly associated with fundamental historical differences between Catholic. which have informed functionalist theories of differentiation and secularization. religious sphere. As David Martin showed.R ethinking S E C U L A R I Z A T I O N / casanova The contextualization of categories should begin with the recognition of the particular Christian historicity of Western European developments. have envisioned this process as the emancipation and expansion of the secular spheres at the expense of a much diminished and confined. Multiple Differentiations. by contrast. Such a recognition in turn should allow a less Euro-centric comparative analysis of patterns of differentiation and secularization in other civilizations and world religions. prior to the Darwinian crisis at the end of the nineteenth century. between Catholic Christianity and modern science. and particularly in the United States. and practically every “progressive” European social movement from the time of the French Revolution to the present was informed by secularism. 1978). The boundaries are well kept. The American Enlightenment had hardly any anti-religious component. drastically pushing religion into the margins and into the private sphere. A General Theory of Secularization (New York: Harper & Row. and between Lutheran and Calvinist Protestantism. Protestant. the secularist genealogy of modernity was constructed as a triumphant emancipation of reason. had as much the purpose of protecting “the free exercise” of religion from state interference as that of protecting the federal state from any religious entanglement.12 As a result of this protracted clash.S. freedom. Secularizations. and more importantly the further recognition that with the world-historical process of globalization initiated by the European colonial expansion. In the Anglo-Protestant cultural area.

appeals to the Gospel and to “Christian” values are certainly much more common throughout the history of American social movements. but they often even place in this world the interest which they have in practicing it. 1965) 284. differentiated society. In a sense. never knew the established church of the European caesaro-papist absolutist state. Democracy in America (New York: Harper & Row. one could argue that there is less functional differentiation of state. If the European concept of secularization is not a particularly relevant category for the “Christian” United States. “not only do the Americans practice their religion out of selfinterest. much less may it be directly applicable to other axial civilizations with very different modes of structuration of the religious and the secular.” insofar as their model of transcendence can hardly be called “religious. in étâtiste France than in the United States. but this does not make France either less modern or less secular than the United States. insofar as they are not characterized by high tension with “the world. But the category becomes problematic once it is generalized as a universal process of societal development and once it is transferred to other world religions and other civilizational areas with very different dynamics of structuration of the relations and tensions between religion and world. science. the second proposition does not follow. or between cosmological transcendence and worldly immanence. While the first may be true. as well as in the discourse of American presidents. etc.. to such “religions” as Confucianism or Taoism.”13 Yet it would be ludicrous to argue that the United States is a less functionally differentiated society. those religions that have always been “worldly” and “lay” do not need to undergo a process of secular- 13 Alexis 12 de Tocqueville. than France or Sweden. the United States has always been the paradigmatic form of a modern secular. and therefore less secular. it is not clear where the secular ends and religion begins. and therefore less modern. for instance. On the contrary. The category of secularization could hardly be applicable. secularization is a category that makes sense within the context of the particular internal and external dynamics of the transformation of Western European Christianity from the Middle Ages to the present. Yet the triumph of “the secular” came aided by religion rather than at its expense. .T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 “secularist” values.” and insofar as they have no ecclesiastical organization. As Tocqueville observed. As an analytical conceptualization of a historical process. they are right if only in the sense that the United States was born as a modern secular state. On the contrary. When American sociologists of religion retort from their provincial perspective that secularization is a European myth. at least by European ecclesiastical standards. and did not need to go through a European process of secular differentiation in order to become a modern secular society. and the boundaries themselves became so diffused that. economy. The purpose of this comparison is not to reiterate the well-known fact that American society is more “religious” and therefore less “secular” than European societies.

appears as an “outlier” or deviant case among advanced post-industrial societies. which help to shape the multiple modernities. in the same way as the U. first developed by S.” and how all the religious traditions are reinterpreted as a response to this global challenge. “to make worldly” or “to transfer from ecclesiastical to civil use”—is a process that does not make much sense in such a civilizational context. 14 Indeed. and there can be pre-modern societies like China. Moreover. similarly China appears as an outlier among agrarian societies. Eisenstadt. Western European dynamic of secularization became globalized with the expansion of European colonialism. the concept of multiple modernities maintains that there are some common elements or traits shared by all “modern” societies that help to distinguish them from their “traditional” or pre-modern forms. which from our Euro-centric religious perspective look deeply secular and irreligious. Modern traits. this multiplicity becomes even more pronounced as non-Western societies and civilizations acquire and institutionalize those modern traits. In this respect.. Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. many of these institutionalizations are continuous or congruent with the traditional historical civilizations.R ethinking S E C U L A R I Z A T I O N / casanova ization. The concept of multiple modernities. Thus. Like cosmopolitanism. Thus. To secularize—that is.S. the relevant questions become how Confucianism. 13 . China and the Confucian civilizational area have been “secular” avant la lettre.14 It just happened that the particular. and with the ensuing global expansion of capitalism. Actually. It is the postulated intrinsic correlation between modernization and secularization that is highly problematic. Naturally. There can be modern societies like the U. specifically Christian. In a certain sense.S. Taoism. and other world religions respond to the global expansion of “Western secular modernity. challenging the assumed correlation between insecurity/survival values and religious beliefs and participation.2 in Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart. there is both a civilization of modernity and the continuous transformation of the pre-modern historical civilizations under modern conditions. but even there one finds multiple modernities. See Figures 10. agrarian China—at least its Confucian elites—would have appeared for centuries as a highly secular-rational society. of the European system of states. and of modern ideologies of secularism. N. the multiple modernities position shares with the clash of civilizations position the emphasis on the relevance of cultural traditions and world religions for the formation of multiple modernities. Most of the modern traits may have emerged first in the West. In this respect. of modern science. China evinces the lowest level of religious beliefs and religious participation of any country in the world. which are secular while deeply religious. but rather through the transformation and the pragmatic adjustment of tradition. 2004) 224–6. are not developed necessarily in contradistinction to or even at the expense of tradition.1 and 10. is a more adequate conceptualization and pragmatic vision of modern global trends than either secular cosmopolitanism or the clash of civilizations. But these modern traits or principles attain multiple forms and diverse institutionalizations. moreover. On the Norris/Inglehart scale. it shares elements from both.

“secular” and “Christian” cultural identities are intertwined in complex and rarely verbalized modes among most Europeans. Traditions are forced to respond and adjust to modern conditions. increasing rationality. 1994). Anglican. still identify themselves as “Christian. All traditions and civilizations are radically transformed in the processes of modernization. In this respect. diffused. Yet traditional explanations of European secularization by reference to either increasing institutional differentiation. “Religion und Sozialer Zusammenhalt in Europa. but they also have the possibility of shaping in particular ways the institutionalization of modern traits.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 Secular cosmopolitanism is still based on a rigid dichotomous contraposition of sacred tradition and secular modernity. The multiple modernities position rejects both the notion of a modern radical break with traditions as well as the notion of an essential modern continuity with tradition. even in the most secular countries. and Religion in Modern Europe: A Memory Mutates (Oxford: Oxford University Press. Western modernity is assumed to be continuous with the Western tradition. The clash of civilizations perspective. or Transformation of Religion? The progressive decline of institutional Christian religion in Europe is an undeniable social fact. the historical churches (Catholic.”15 At the same time. emphasizes the essential continuity between tradition and modernity. Danièle Hervieu-Léger has offered the reverse characterization of the European situation as “belonging without believing. they also help to shape the particular forms of modernity. as public carriers of the national religion. or increasing individualism are not persuasive since other modern societies.”16 From France to Sweden and from England to Scotland. the inevitable clash of civilizations as all modern societies basically continue their diverse and mostly incommensurable traditions. vicariously as it were. like the United States. Once the exceptional character of European religious developments is 15 Grace Davie. still function. 16 Danièle Hervieu-Léger. assuming that the more of one. Decline. by contrast. although emptied of active membership. Grace Davie has characterized this general European situation as “believing without belonging. and submerged Christian cultural identity. Lutheran. but in the process of reformulating their traditions for modern contexts.” Transit: Europäische Revue 26 (Summer 2004): 101–19. large numbers of Europeans. they will also maintain an essential continuity with their respective traditions— thus. or Calvinist). Revival. 2000). however.” pointing to an implicit. while still maintaining relatively high levels of private individual religious beliefs. 14 . Since the 1960s an increasing majority of the European population has ceased participating in traditional religious practice on a regular basis. As other civilizations modernize. do not manifest similar levels of religious decline. becoming ever more like the West. Religion in Britain since 1945: Believing Without Belonging (Oxford: Blackwell. the less of the other.

Nor does every community cult function as a religion of individual salvation offering the individual qua individual salvation from sickness.” From Max Weber. and all sorts of distress and danger—one may think of state Confucianism in China. political. once they lose faith in their national churches. sects. The internal variations within Europe. as well as in terms of different paths of secularization It is the tendency to link among the different branches of Christianity. is why national churches. The Christian church and the Muslim umma are two particular though very different forms of historical fusion of community cults and religions of individual salvation. moreover. 1946) 272. it becomes necessary to search for an explanation not in general processes of modernization but rather in particular European historical developments. of churches. Wright Mills (New York: Oxford University Press. Indeed. Following Weber we should distinguish analytically the community cult and salvation religious communities. The secularization of Western European societies can be explained better in terms of the triumph of the knowledge regime of secularism. and nations— debate. Crucial is the question of why individuals in Europe. H. but the fact that this decline is interpreted through the lenses of the secularization paradigm and is therefore accompanied by a “secularist” self-understanding that interprets the decline as “normal” and “progressive”—that is. Lesser forms of “folk” religion tend to supply individual healing and salvation. once they ceded to the secular nation-state their traditional historical function as community cults—that is. than in terms of processes of secularization to levels of modernization. ed. as collective representations of the imagined national communities and carriers of the collective memory—also lost in the process their ability to function as religions of individual salvation. 15 . that is at the root of our impasse at the secularization debate.R ethinking S E C U L A R I Z A T I O N / casanova recognized. processes of modernization… It is the tendency to link processes of secularization to that is at the root of our processes of modernization. states. is co-extensive with a territorial political community or plays the Durkheimian function of societal integration.17 Not every salvation religion functions as a community cult—that is. One may think of the many denominations. Gerth and C. can be explained better in terms of historical patterns of church-state and church-nation relations. the most interesting issue sociologically is not the fact of progressive religious decline among the European population since the 1950s. and societal impasse at the secularization communities—that is. “The Social Psychology of the World Religion. poverty. The truly puzzling question in Europe. as a quasi-normative consequence of being a “modern” and “enlightened” European. or cults in America that function primarily as religions of individual salvation. do not bother to look for alternative 17 Max Weber. or most caesaro-papist imperial cults. rather than to the patterns of fusion and dissolution of religious. Shintoism in Japan. and the explanatory key in accounting for the exceptional character of European secularization. H. than in terms of structural processes of socio-economic development.

20 It is important to realize. each and all denominations. and Jew became the three denominations of the American civil religion. and Protestant. Eventually. ed. America became a “Judeo-Christian” nation. that immigrant religiosity is not simply a traditional residue. “Denominationalism: The Shape of Protestantism in America. Catholics and Jews. and death.” The Lively Experiment: The Shaping of Christianity in America (New York: Harper & Row. while American religion and the nation were equally transformed in the process. The fact that religion. pluralistic. after prolonged outbursts of Protestant nativism directed primarily at Catholic immigrants. even after explicitly abandoning them. At first. yet differentiated from. America was defined as a “Christian” nation and “Christian” meant solely “Protestant.” formally equal under the constitution and competing in a relatively free. the particular pattern of separation of church and state codified in the dual clause of the First Amendment served to structure the unique pattern of American religious pluralism.” But eventually. “Immigration and the New Religious Pluralism: A EU/US Comparison. the pattern allowed for the incorporation of religious others. It is this peculiar situation that explains the lack of demand and the absence of a truly competitive religious market in Europe. denominationalism constitutes the great American religious invention. 1976). Andrew M. all religions in America. The Denominational Society: A Sociological Approach to Religion in America (Glenview: Scott. In contrast. 16 . Thomas Banchoff (New York: Oxford University Press. and ecclesiastical identities. The national churches remain there as a public good to which they have rightful access when it comes time to celebrate the transcendent rites of passage. 1960). and voluntaristic religious market. the diversity and substantial equality was only institutionalized as internal denominational religious pluralism within American Protestantism. irrespective of their origins. turned into “denominations. Greeley. into the system of American religious pluralism. therefore.” The New Religious Pluralism and Democracy. an Old World 18 Sydney E. Protestant-Catholic-Jew (Garden City: Doubleday. In a certain sense. churches as well as sects. Mead. Catholic. As the organizational form and principle of such a religious system. religious institutions. the American civil religion functions as the community cult of the nation. A process of dual accommodation took place whereby Catholicism and Judaism became American religions. forthcoming).T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 salvation religions. birth. 19 Will 20 See Herberg. the answer lies in the fact that Europeans continue to be implicit members of their national churches. 1972).18 Along with.19 Herberg’s claim that immigrants became more religious as they became more American has been restated by most contemporary studies of immigrant religions in America. The United States never had a national church. and religious identities played a central role in the process of incorporating European immigrants has been amply documented and forms the core of Will Herberg’s well-known thesis. doctrinal claims. Foresman. José Casanova.

one could certainly talk. and not race alone. as Herberg’s study would seem to imply.” and “church”—correspond to these three levels of analysis. that America was the exception to the European rule of secularization.” “sect. Under conditions of globalization. hybridity. Inter-civilizational encounters. that collective religious identities have always been one of the primary ways of structuring internal societal pluralism in American history. All world religions are being transformed radically today. as it was in the past. 1931). But they are being transformed in diverse and manifold ways. creolization. the thesis also offers a more plausible explanation of American religious vitality than rational choice supply-side theories of competitive religious markets. In this respect.R ethinking S E C U L A R I Z A T I O N / casanova survival likely to disappear with adaptation to the new context. ed. as it has become fashionable today. Sociologists of religion should be less obsessed with the decline of religion and more attuned to the new forms that religion is assuming in all world religions at three different levels of analysis: the individual level. ments and American religious developments are rather unique there is no global rule. and transcultural hyphenations are all part and parcel of the global present. 1999).22 When it comes to religion.” But both characterizations are highly problematic. world religions do not only draw upon their own traditions but also increasingly upon one another. diasporic diffusions. that secular Europe is the exception to some global trend of religious revival. as they were throughout the era of European colonial expansion. 17 . Peter Berger (Washington. DC: Ethics and Public Policy Center. The thesis implies not only that immigrants tend to be religious because of a certain social pressure to conform to American religious norms. In a certain sense. something that is undoubtedly the case. “Europe: The Exception that Proves the Rule?” The Desecularization of the World. but more importantly. Ernst Troeltsch’s three types of religion—“individual mysticism. as it often is today. they are the keys to “American exceptionalism.” 22 Grace Davie. and exceptional. cultural imitations and borrowings. The Social Teachings of the Christian Churches (New York: MacMillan. the group level. 23 Ernst Troeltsch. There is a sense in which both European secular developWhen it comes to religion. if it is implied. Not religion alone. All world religions are forced to respond to the global expansion of modernity as well as to their mutual and reciprocal challenges. there is no global rule. as they all undergo multiple processes of aggiornamento and come to compete with one another in the emerging global system of religions. of “European exceptionalism. or if it is implied. of “American exceptionalism. as contemporary immigration studies would seem to imply. as Europeans have done for decades.21 In my view.23 At the individual level the 21 Racialization has been the other primary way of structuring internal societal pluralism in American history. but religion and race and their complex entanglements have served to structure the American experience of immigrant incorporation—indeed.” or one could talk. and the societal level. but rather an adaptive response to the New World. by processes of modernization and globalization.

” often detached from their temporal and spatial contexts. and Charles Taylor. and of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. and particularly for the construction of new religious communities as voluntary congregations. the sect lives in a high and ultimately unsustainable tension with the larger society. 1985).T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 predictions of Troeltsch and William James at the beginning of the last century concerning individual mysticism have held well. But in the traditional theory. 2002). can be understood as the generalization and relaxation of the sectarian principle of voluntary religious association. The Invisible Religion: The Problem of Religion in Modern Society (New York: Macmillan. however. But the fact is that modernity. American denominationalism. so are the spiritual and religious options that were usually reserved for them. the paradigmatic type of a voluntary religious congregation. from the most “primitive” to the most “modern. ready for flexible or fundamentalist individual appropriation. 24 William James. I would not characterize such a process. virtuosi. by contrast. From a Western monotheistic perspective. But what is certainly new in our global age is the simultaneous presence and availability of all world religions and all cultural systems. particularly that of the Asian pan“Invisible religion”…remains theist religious traditions. Both individualism and societalization are supposed to expand at the expense of community. and Taoist traditions.24 What Thomas Luckmann called “invisible religion” in the 1960s remains the dominant form of individual religion and is likely to gain increasing global prominence. offers new and expanded possibilities for the construction of communities of all kinds as voluntary associations. Buddhist. The sect is. of course. 18 . the condition looks much more the dominant form like the old state of affairs. As the privileged material conditions available to the elites for millennia are generalized to entire populations. 1967). as religious decline. within the Hindu. But from a non-Western perspective.25 The modern individual is condemned to pick and choose from a wide arrangement of meaning systems. Theories of modernization are predicated on the simple dichotomies of tradition and modernity. What Inglehart calls the expansion of post-materialist spiritual values can be understood in this respect as the generalization and democratization of options until now only available to elites and religious virtuosi in most religious traditions. at least for elites and religious of individual religion…. At the level of religious communities. Varieties of Religious Experience (Cambridge. such a condition of polytheistic and polyformic individual freedom may seem a highly novel or postmodern one. as Tocqueville saw clearly. much of sociology has lamented the loss of Gemeinschaft as one of the negative consequences of modernity. Individual mysticism has always been an important option. 25 Thomas Luckmann. MA: Harvard University Press. Varieties of Religion Today: William James Revisited (Cambridge. Most theories of secularization are based on the same simple dichotomies and ultimately on the premise that in the long run processes of modern societal rationalization make community inviable. MA: Harvard University Press.

globalization represents not only a great opportunity for the old world religions insofar as they can free themselves from the territorial constraints of the nation-state and regain their transnational dimensions. are likely to have greater difficulty in doing so.” or “new religious movements” assume the form of voluntary congregations. 1996). In fact. that have a less developed tradition of congregationalism. Religious Privatization. Obviously. who support the enforcement of legislation banishing “ostensible religious symbols” from the public sphere because they are viewed as a threat to the national system or the national tradition. Therein lies the merit of Samuel Huntington’s thesis. This institutional transformation in the immigrant diasporas is in turn affecting profoundly the religious institutional forms in the civilizational home areas.26 But his geo-political conception of civilizations as territorial units akin to nation-states and superpowers is problematic. At the societal level of what could be called “imagined religious communities. laïcité can indeed become a constitutionally sacralized principle. like the Christian base communities in Latin America or the Pentecostal churches throughout the world. other than through the tyranny of a secular majority over religious minorities. but also a great threat insofar as globalization entails the de-territorialization of all cultural systems and threatens to dissolve the essential bonds between histories. particularly in the immigrant diasporas. the opposite is the case in the United 26 Samuel P. Huntington. or the most dynamic forms of Islam—such as Tablighi Jamaat. Authoritarian regimes may be temporarily successful through repressive measures in enforcing the privatization of religion. peoples.” “new religions. Democratic regimes. As the case of France shows. but ongoing processes of globalization are likely to enhance the reemergence of the great “world religions” as globalized transnational imagined religious communities. are emerging as prominent new institutional forms. the most relevant ones are likely to be once again the old civilizations and world religions. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster. but so do the most dynamic forms of Christianity. by contrast. leading him to anticipate future global conflicts along civilizational fault lines.” secular nationalism and national “civil religions” will continue to be prominent carriers of collective identities. consensually shared by the overwhelming majority of citizens. a form of evangelical Islam akin to early nineteenth-century American Methodism—and the many forms of Sufi brotherhoods. like Hinduism or Buddhism. and territories that have defined all civilizations and world religions. While new cosmopolitan and transnational imagined communities will emerge. Religious De-Privatization. Even world religions. or Both? It is unlikely that either modern authoritarian regimes or modern liberal democratic systems will prove ultimately successful in banishing religion to the private sphere. 19 .R ethinking S E C U L A R I Z A T I O N / casanova Most of the so-called “cults.

T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6

States, where secular minorities may feel threatened by Judeo-Christian definitions of
the national republic.
I cannot find a compelling reason, on either democratic or liberal grounds, to banish
in principle religion from the public democratic sphere. One could at most, on pragmatic historical grounds, defend the need for separation between “church” and “state,”
although I am no longer convinced that complete separation is either a necessary or
a sufficient condition for democracy. The attempt to establish a wall of separation
between “religion” and “politics” is both unjustified and probably counterproductive for
democracy itself. Curtailing the “free exercise of religion” per se must lead to curtailing
the free exercise of the civil and political rights of religious citizens and will ultimately
infringe on the vitality of a democratic civil society. Particular religious discourses or
particular religious practices may be objectionable and susceptible to legal prohibition
on some democratic or liberal ground, but not because they are “religious” per se.
Tocqueville was perhaps the only modern social theorist who was able to elaborate these
issues with relative clarity and freed from secularist prejudices. He questioned the two
central premises of the Enlightenment critique of religion, namely that the advancement of education and reason and the advancement of democratic freedoms would
make religion politically irrelevant. He anticipated,
rather presciently, that the democratization of politics
Curtailing the “free exercise of
and the entrance of ordinary people into the political
arena would augment, rather than diminish, the pubreligion” per se must lead to
lic relevance of religion. He found empirical confirmacurtailing the free exercise of
tion in the democratic experience of the United States,
the civil and political rights
at the time the most democratic of modern societies
and the one with the highest levels of literacy.27

of religious citizens and will

ultimately infringe on the vitality

The history of democratic politics throughout the
world has confirmed Tocqueville’s assumptions.
of a democratic civil society.
Religious issues, religious resources, interdenominational conflicts, and secular-religious cleavages have
all been relatively central to electoral democratic politics and to the politics of civil
society throughout the history of democracy. Even in secular Europe, where a majority
of the political elites and of ordinary citizens had taken the thesis of privatization for
granted, unexpectedly, contentious religious issues have returned again to the center
of European politics.28 It is not surprising therefore that this should be even more the

27 The fact that Tocqueville uses the subterfuge of discussing the problems of black slavery and the genocide

of the Native American in a separate chapter at the end of Book I because “they are outside democracy”
shows the extent to which Tocqueville was at least implicitly aware that America was a “racial” democracy,
for whites only, and therefore far from being a model democracy.

28 José Casanova, “Religion, Secular Identities, and European Integration,” Religion in an Expanding Europe,

ed. Timothy Byrnes and Peter Katzenstein (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).


R ethinking S E C U L A R I Z A T I O N / casanova

case in the United States, where historically religion has always been at the very center
of all great political conflicts and movements of social reform. From independence to
abolition, from nativism to women’s suffrage, from prohibition to the civil rights movement, religion has always been at the center of these conflicts, but also on both sides of
the political barricades. What is new in the last decades is the fact that for the first time
in American political history, the contemporary culture wars are beginning to resemble
the secular-religious cleavages that were endemic to continental European politics in
the past. Religion itself has now become a contentious public issue.
If today I had to revise anything from my earlier work, it
The rules for protection
would be my attempt to restrict, on what I thought were
from the tyranny of religious
justifiable normative grounds, public religion to the public sphere of civil society. This remains my own personal
majorities should be the same
normative and political preference, but I am not certain
democratic rules used to
that the secular separation of religion from political society or even from the state are universalizable maxims,
defend from the tyranny of any
in the sense that they are either necessary or sufficient
democratic majority.
conditions for democratic politics. As the example of so
many modern secular authoritarian and totalitarian states
show, from the Soviet Union to secular Turkey, strict no establishment is by no means
a sufficient condition for democracy. On the other hand, several countries with at least
nominal establishment, such as England or Lutheran Scandinavian countries, have a
relatively commendable record of democratic freedoms and of protection of the rights
of minorities, including religious ones. It would seem, therefore, that strict separation
is also not a necessary condition for democracy. Indeed one could advance the proposition that of the two clauses of the First Amendment, “free exercise” is the one that
stands out as a normative democratic principle in itself, while the no-establishment
principle is defensible only insofar as it might be a necessary means to free exercise and
to equal rights. In other words, secularist principles per se may be defensible on some
other ground, but not as intrinsically liberal democratic ones.
The rules for protection from the tyranny of religious majorities should be the same
democratic rules used to defend from the tyranny of any democratic majority. The
protection of the rights of any minority, religious or secular, and equal universal access
should be central normative principles of any liberal democratic system. In principle
one should not need any additional particular secularist principle or legislation. But
as a matter of fact, historically and pragmatically, it may be necessary to disestablish
“churches”—that is, ecclesiastical institutions that claim either monopolistic rights over
a territory or particular privileges, or it may be necessary to use constitutional and at
times extraordinary means to disempower entrenched tyrannical majorities.


T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6

Finally, on empirical grounds there are good reasons why we should expect religion and
morality to remain and even to become ever more contentious public issues in democratic politics. Given such trends as increasing globalization, transnational migrations,
increasing multiculturalism, the biogenetic revolution, and the persistence of blatant
gender discrimination, the number of contentious public religious issues is likely to
grow rather than diminish. The result is a continuous expansion of the res publica
while the citizen’s republic becomes ever more diverse and fragmented. The penetration of all spheres of life, including the most private, by public policy; the expansion
of scientific-technological frontiers giving humanity Demiurgic powers of self-creation
and self-destruction; the compression of the whole world into one single common
home for all of humanity; and the moral pluralism that seems inherent to multiculturalism—all these transcendent issues will continue to engage religion and provoke
religious responses.


even though they are no longer able to discipline the beliefs and behavior of the great majority of the population. and the arrival in Europe of groups of people from many different parts of the world. 1999). John Madeley and Zsolt Enyedi.europeanvalues. Religion and Society in Modern Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press.. notably the global South. with very different religious aspirations from those seen in the host societies. conversely. eds. eds. If we conclude that Europe is indeed “exceptional. an awareness that these churches still have a place at particular moments in the lives of modern Europeans. ed. 2003). She is the author of Religion in Britain since 1945 (1994). Alongside these overviews. Grace Davie has a personal Chair in the Sociology of Religion at the University of Exeter. The Decline of Christendom in Western Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. listed on the frequently updated EVS website <www. Church and State in Contemporary Europe: The Chimera of Neutrality (London: Frank index2/htm>. Hugh McLeod and Werner Ustorf. Muslims in Western Europe (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press. 23 .1 These include the legacies of the past. why not? And what can we say about the future? Will Europe continue within the trajectory set by its past or will it become more like the patterns found elsewhere? Or—it must be asked—will the rest of the world become more like Europe? 1 Overviews of the place of religion in European societies can be found in Gerhard Robbers. 2003). René Rémond. where she is also the Director of the University’s Centre for European Studies. more particularly the role of the historic churches in shaping European culture. an observable change in the churchgoing constituencies of the continent. 1996)..” why is this so? Or.. and Europe: The Exceptional Case (2002). rather than a model of obligation or duty. State and Church in the European Union (Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft. and in the publications emerging from the European Values Study. The Sociology of Religion: A Critical Agenda will appear in 2007. Each of these factors will be taken in turn in order to answer the question set out in the title: is Europe an exceptional case in terms of its patterns of religious life? The answer leads in turn to more questions. Andrew M. Religion in Modern Europe: A Memory Mutates (2000). Religion in Europe at the End of the Second Millennium: A Sociological Profile (London: Transaction. 2003).Is Europe an Exceptional Case? Grace Davie A number of factors must be taken into account if we are to understand the place of religion in twenty-first-century Europe. there is a rapidly growing literature on the presence of Islam in Europe. 2004) for a useful summary of this material. Greeley. which operate increasingly on a model of choice. see Jorgen Nielsen.

however. but. 3 Grace Davie.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 Cultural Heritage Two points are important in relation to the role of the historic churches in shaping European culture. I have explored this continuing ambiguity through the concept of “vicarious religion. This is not to deny that in some parts of Europe (notably the larger cities) the skyline is becoming an indicator of growing religious diversity. Greek rationalism. but it is by no means the only one. In my own work. a “hands-on” role in the everyday lives of European people quite another. We do not. who (implicitly at least) not only understand.”3 By vicarious. I mean the notion of religion performed by an active minority but on behalf of a much larger number. Religion in Modern Europe: A Memory Mutates (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 26 (Bradford: University of Bradford. Vicarious Religion Physical and cultural presence is one thing. University of Bradford Peace Research Report no. but their combinations can be seen in forming and reforming a way of life that we have come to recognize as European. Both week and year. The religious strand within such combinations is self-evident. 1991). . Wherever you look in Europe. there is a predominance of Christian churches. The second half is more controversial 24 2 James O’Connell. O’Connell identifies three formative factors or themes in the creation and re-creation of the unity that we call Europe: Judeo-Christian monotheism. The Making of Modern Europe: Strengths. Or to put the same point in a different way. That does not mean. but the legacies of the past remain deeply embedded in both the physical and cultural environment. The same is true of space. Constraints and Resolutions. approve of what the minority is doing. that the churches have entirely lost their significance as markers of religious identity. The first half of the definition is relatively straightforward and reflects the everyday meaning of the term—that is. 2000). consider Friday an issue in this respect—though this may change. for instance.2 These factors shift and evolve over time. some of which retain huge symbolic value. Europe is changing. Commentators of all kinds agree that the latter is no longer a realistic aspiration for the historic churches of Europe. even if the major festivals are beginning to lose their resonance for large sections of the population. follow the Christian cycle. quite clearly. to do something on behalf of someone else (hence the word “vicar”). we have had heated debates in parts of Europe about whether or not to shop on Sundays. for the most part. the Christian tradition is indeed a crucial element in the evolution of Europe. One example will suffice: the Christian tradition has had an irreversible effect on the shaping of time and space in this part of the world. and Roman organization.

It is perfectly possible to have a secular ceremony at the time of a death. The least controversial of the above list concerns the role of both churches and church leaders in conducting ritual on behalf of a wide variety of individuals and communities at critical points in their lives. relatively few people do this. that most Europeans come into direct contact with their churches and would be deeply offended if their requests for a funeral were met with a rejection. it is. See also David Jenkins’ own account in The Calling of a Cuckoo (London: Continuum. case of a “doubting bishop” in the Church of England was that of David Jenkins. including secular music or readings and. finally. churches. with increasing frequency. it seems. however. and not entirely justified. In many parts of Europe. they also expect the institutional structures to be kept firmly in place. can offer space for the vicarious debate of unresolved issues in modern societies. Much more common is what might be termed a “mixed economy” funeral—that is. a eulogy rather than a homily. and whilst that population anticipates a certain freedom in ritual expression. maintain vicariously the rituals from which a larger population can draw when the occasion demands it. their “job” to believe. Exactly the same point can be made the other way round. and. Religion. moreover. The same is not true with respect to churches’ services at the time of a death. if no other. a marriage. Churches. church leaders and churchgoers believe on behalf of others. can operate vicariously in a wide variety of ways: churches and church leaders perform ritual on behalf of others. But churches and church leaders do more than conduct ritual: they also believe on behalf of others. Each of these propositions will be taken in turn in order to demonstrate the fruitfulness of looking at European religion from this point of view. a liturgy in which the religious professional is present and the Christian structure maintained but filled with a variety of extraneous elements. even in a moderately secular society. And the more senior or visible the role of the church leader. the more important it becomes that this is done properly. a death. de facto. This episode was given extensive press coverage at the time (July 1984). though not in all. to give but one example. A refusal to offer either a funeral liturgy or appropriate pastoral care would violate deeply held assumptions. It is at this point. are rebuked (not least by the tabloid press) if they doubt in public. for some sort of religious ritual at the time of a birth. after all. The most celebrated. 2002).4 To a large extent the controversy turned on a frequently 4 Shortly after David Jenkins’ consecration in York Minster. The most obvious examples can be found in the continuing requests. 25 . the demand for the first two of these diminished sharply in the later decades of the twentieth century. most of all. an event that was seen by some as a sign of divine displeasure. Bishop of Durham from 1984 to 1994. church leaders and churchgoers embody moral codes on behalf of others. English bishops. Princess Diana’s funeral in September 1997 offers an excellent example.I s europe an e x ceptional case ? / davie and is best explored by means of examples. the building was struck by lightning.

large sections of the European media are. If it is true. something quite clearly has gone amiss. Similar pressures emerge with respect to behavioral codes: religious professionals (both local for debate regarding particular. particularly in relation to the partners and children of religious personnel. wanting to have their cake and eat it too. Either way. Such expectations become at times unreasonable.S. sociological thinking must take this factor into account. topics that are difficult to address elsewhere in society? The current debate about homosexuality in the Church of England offers a possible example. is that bishops believe. Indeed. The cultural expectation. royal divorces provoke a similar reaction). be marginal to modern society. and more provocatively. That. The pressures on the Catholic priest are somewhat different. in a decade of lecturing across both Europe and the U. moreover. but in their own way they are equally demanding. When they doubt. from outside churches as well as within. it is hard to understand why so much attention is being paid to the churches in this respect. Could it be that churches offer space for debate regarding particular. Failure leads to accusations of hypocrisy but also to expressions of disappointment (interestingly.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 misquoted statement concerning the Resurrection. thereby maintaining a way of living that has long since ceased to be the norm in the population as a whole. in other words. The phrase “not just a conjuring trick with bones” quickly turned into the opposite. is the norm in European societies—a situation rather different from that found in the United States. given the requirement of celibacy. for which the Bishop was widely pilloried. and and national) are expected to uphold certain standards of behavior—not least. pointing the spotlight at controversies within the church whilst maintaining that religious institutions must. more rather often controversial. Social scientific observers of the scene cannot afford to make a similar mistake. The public attention displayed in the examples set out above demands that we understand how religious institutions matter even to those who are not “participants” in them (in the conventional sense of the term). topics that are than less traditional representations of family difficult to address elsewhere in society? life—and incur criticism when they fail. I have seldom met an audience in the former who do not immediately grasp the notion of vicariousness and its implica26 . It is almost as if people who are not themselves participants in church life want the church’s representatives to embody a certain social and moral order. an interpretation encouraged by the intense media attention directed at this issue—and not only in Britain. Could it be that churches offer space A final possibility with respect to vicariousness develops this point further. by their very nature.. it seems. Is this simply an internal debate about senior clergy appointments in which different lobbies within the church are exerting pressure? Or is this one way in which society as a whole comes to terms with profound shifts in the moral climate? If the latter is not true. it is hardly surprising that clergy families come under strain. and often controversial.

There are exceptions. ed. one must clarify the constituency: here are Europe’s diminishing. where the connections between the population and their religious organizations are very differently understood. a shift that is discernible in both practice and belief. This is much less the case in the United States. for example. but to act vicariously is not part of American self-understanding.5 Herein. From Obligation to Consumption The changing nature of churchgoing in modern Europe is important to understand.I s europe an e x ceptional case ? / davie tions for the European scene. or inherited (a rather more positive spin). In England. and to do so. however. There is. Nancy Ammerman (New York: Oxford University Press. there is a very marked rise in the proportion of adult confirmations among the candidates overall—up to 40 percent by the mid-1990s (by no means enough.” however. but the associated mentalities are. evidence once again of institutional decline. 5 Grace Davie. but I have no obligation either to attend in the first place or to continue if I don’t want to. out of which grows the notion of a state church (or its successor) as a public utility rather than a private organization. What until somewhat recently was simply imposed (with all the negative connotations of this word). becomes instead a matter of personal choice: “I go to church (or to another religious organization) because I want to.” The “chemistry. to offset the fall among teenagers). more difficult to shift. lies an important explanation for the “exceptional” nature of Europe’s religion. “Vicarious Religion: A Methodological Challenge. gradually changes. forthcoming). not to mention the connections between them. to fulfill a particular rather than a general need in my life and where I will continue my attachment so long as it provides what I want. maybe for a short period or maybe for longer. 27 . though not yet in the Nordic countries. moreover. The overall number of confirmations has dropped dramatically in the post-war period.” Religion in Modern Lives. an easily documentable change in the patterns of confirmation in the Church of England. confirmation is no longer a teenage rite of passage. it seems. A public utility is available to the population as a whole at the point of need and is funded through the tax system. this pattern is entirely compatible with vicariousness: “the churches need to be there in order that I may attend them if I so choose.” As such. but a relatively rare event undertaken as a matter of personal choice by people of all ages. but still significant churchgoers—those who maintain the tradition on behalf of the people described in the previous section. And here an observable change is taking place: from a culture of obligation or duty to a culture of consumption or choice. Elsewhere both constitutional and financial arrangements have been modified (sometimes radically). Precisely that combination remains in place in the Lutheran countries of Europe. It derives from a particular history of state-church relationships. Indeed.

rather than parish. There is. 71–2. a marked parallel between the Anglicans and the Catholic Church in France in this respect: adult baptisms in the Church of England match very closely those in France—indeed. Large numbers of young people now choose the option of a confirmation camp rather than a series of weekly meetings. . Taken together. Or to continue the “chemical” analogy a little further. moreover. Voluntarism (a market) is beginning to establish itself de facto. model. These are churches that draw their members from a relatively wide geographical area and work on a congregational. a gesture indicate a marked change in which is evidence in itself of the fall in infant baptism some twenty to thirty years earlier. these events candidate immediately before the confirmation. The stress on experience is important in other ways as well. an attitude that is bound to affect the rite itself—which now includes the space for a public declaration of faith. Lutheran nations. Confirmation becomes an opportunity to make public what has often been an entirely private activity. regardless of the constitutional position of the churches. though the manner in which they do this is changing. confirmation becomes an “experience” in addition to a rite of passage. implying a better fit with other aspects of youth culture. therefore. these events the nature of membership in indicate a marked change in the nature of membership in the historic churches… the historic churches. Here. given the very different ecclesiologies embodied in the two churches (one Catholic and one Protestant). For significant numbers of people. Individuals are invited to opt in rather than opt out. to baptize an adult Taken together. 7 The figures for confirmation stay particularly high in Finland. in some senses.6 But it is precisely this shift across very different denominations that encourages the notion that something profound is taking place. a very significant event for those individuals who choose this option. and membership implies commitment to a set of specified beliefs and behavioral codes. at least in the British case. It can be seen in the choices that the religiously active appear to be making.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 Confirmation becomes. within a constituency that is evidently reduced. a whole set of new reactions are set off that in the longer term (the stress is important) may have a profound effect on the understanding of vicariousness. Religion in Modern Europe. It is increasingly common. however—despite their reputation for being the most secular countries in Europe—still stick to a more traditional pattern as far as confirmation is concerned. these churches offer firm boundaries.7 In making this choice. both inside and outside the mainstream. two options stand out as disproportionately popular. much more like their non-established counterparts. the similarity in the statistics is almost uncanny. for instance. The trends are considerably more visible in some parts of Europe than in others. which become. The first is the conservative evangelical church—the success story of late twentieth-century churchgoing. clear 28 6 Davie.

London: Harper Collins. we experience the sacred. old-fashioned Biblicism. each of these countries looked to its former empire to expand its workforce: Britain to the West Indies and the Indian sub-continent. though the lines between these groups frequently blur. A visit to a cathedral is an aesthetic experience. are considerable—the more so on special occasions. and excellence in preaching.9 If we feel nothing. Working from the inside out. all of which take place in a historic and often very beautiful building. in the tranquility of cathedral evensong. or in a special cathedral occasion (a candlelit carol service or a major civic event). is losing its appeal. both civic and religious. see Davie. they become almost the mirror image of the evangelical churches already described. pilgrims. visitors. top-class music. sought after by a wide variety of people. and considerable support—effective protection from the vicissitudes of life.8 What then is the common feature in these very different stories? It is the experiential or “feel-good” factor.I s europe an e x ceptional case ? / davie guidance. New Arrivals The final factor in this complicated mosaic is somewhat different: the growing number of incomers in almost all European societies. moreover. however. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912. The purely cerebral is less appealing. including those for whom membership or commitment presents difficulties. 9 See in particular Emile Durkheim. France. we are much less likely either to take part in the first place or to continue thereafter. Hence. 29 . and tourists. They are places where there is no obligation to opt in or to participate in communal activities beyond the service itself. In this respect. The numbers. 156–62. however. the set apart. Religion in Modern Europe. and the Netherlands. Cathedrals and their equivalents deal with diverse constituencies. Looked at from the point of view of consumption. Very different and less frequently recognized in the writing about religion in modern Britain (as indeed in Europe) is the evident popularity of cathedrals and city-center churches. Durkheim was entirely correct in this respect: it is the taking part that matters for late modern populations and the feelings so engendered. Wherever possible. The first was closely linked to the need for labor in the expanding economies of post-war Europe—notably in Britain. cathedrals are places that offer a distinctive product: traditional liturgy. Interestingly. relatively speaking. The point is that we feel something. There have been two stages in this process. it is the softer charismatic forms of evangelicalism that are doing particularly well. 1976). they are frequented by regular and irregular worshippers. whether this be expressed in charismatic worship. France to the 8 The attraction of cathedrals and city-center churches is closely related to the growth in pilgrimage across Europe. Germany. concerns about upkeep and facilities lead to difficult debates about finance.

common to most. The situation in France is very different: 10 In terms of its religious life. Spain. expensive. One result of this is the vibrant AfroCaribbean churches of Britain’s larger cities—some of the most active Christian communities in the country.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 Mahgreb. and Portugal)—bearing in mind that the latter. It is also very like Poland. have been countries of emigration rather than immigration. the second filled a rather different gap. The pull factor in this case is the shifting demographic profile in Europe. but also to Morocco. It is important to remember that those who are arriving in Europe are coming primarily for economic reasons—they are coming to work. Italy. until very recently. West Indians. The turnaround has been truly remarkable—the sharpest illustration of all being the transformation in the 1990s of Dublin. Some points are. A second point follows from this: all is well. As the twentieth century drew to a close. All is less well when there is a downturn in the economy (as happened in the late 70s and 80s) or when those who work to support dependent Europeans become dependent themselves. Hence the unrest in France in the autumn of 2005: a population excluded both from the economy itself. Afro-Caribbeans were largely excluded from mainstream churches when they first arrived in Britain. and increasingly diverse place to live. and the Netherlands to its overseas connections (Indonesia and Surinam).11 From the sub-continent. cases. In Britain immigration has been much more varied than in France. What. an episode that the historic churches have come to regret bitterly. come Sikhs and Hindus as well as a sizeable number of Muslims (1. 30 . Britain and France offer an interesting comparison.5 million). Britain is also a country where ethnicity and religion criss-cross each other in a bewildering variety of ways (only Sikhs and Jews claim ethno-religious identities). For a variety of reasons. Ireland is in many respects a “Mediterranean” country. Germany (with no empire) to Turkey and the former Yugoslavia. and from its concomitant benefits. if not all. The second wave of immigration occurred in the 1990s and included. Ireland. moreover. insofar as Catholicism has become a marker of national identity. 11 There is a negative side to this story. as long as there is sufficient work for everyone in an economy able to maintain the services necessary for incoming populations. from a relatively poor city to a thriving. though. are Christians—and much more formed in their Christianity than their British equivalents.10 Different host societies and different countries of provenance have led to a complex picture—generalization is dangerous. both in terms of provenance and in terms of faith communities. are the implications for the religious life of Europe? The short answer is that they vary from place to place depending on both host society and new arrivals. expressed its frustration on the streets. in addition to the places listed above. or relatively well. among them racism. both the Nordic countries and the countries of Mediterranean Europe (Greece. Europeans were becoming increasingly aware that there were insufficient numbers to employ in Europe to support the rising proportion of dependent people—notably the growing number of retired. If the first wave provided labor for expanding industrial economies. for example. however.

with a secular state. On a strict measure of democracy. The result. Rather more provocative. Hence a markedly different policy towards newcomers: the goal becomes the accommodation of difference rather than its eradication.I s europe an e x ceptional case ? / davie here immigration has been largely from the Maghreb. is a relative lack of tolerance. “Pluralism. as a result of which France has by far the largest Muslim community in Europe (between 5 and 6 million)—an almost entirely Arab population. Rightly or wrongly. and prominent members of the established Church. are the conclusions that emerge if you look carefully at who. among and “Muslim” have become them the tensions between democracy and tolerance. become the protectors of “faith” in general rather than the protectors of specifically English expressions of Christianity. Thomas Banchoff (New York: Oxford University Press. in fact. Britain is very different. Britain fares less well than France—with no written constitution. however. see Grace Davie. Britain has a more developed tradition of accommodating group identities (including religious identities) within the framework of British society. The latter. interchangeable terms in for example.12 12 For a more detailed presentation of this argument. a monarchy. Britain and France can be compared in other ways as well— Rightly or wrongly. two elected chambers.” The New Religious Pluralism and Democracy. Tolerance and Democracy: Theory and Practice in Europe. “Arab” an exercise that provokes some interesting questions. a feature that owes a good deal to the relatively greater degree of religious pluralism that has existed in Britain for centuries rather than decades. France. a half-reformed and so far unelected House of Lords. those expressions that impact the public as well as the private sphere. Very frequently it turns out to be those in society who do not depend on an electoral mandate: the royal family. whether intended or not. There is a correspondingly strong stress on the equality of all citizens whatever their ethnic or religious identity. with the express intention of eradicating difference—individuals who arrive in France are welcome to maintain their religious belief and practices. and an established church. in British society is advocating religious as opposed to ethnic toleration. France holds a strongly assimilationist policy towards incomers. provided these are relegated to the private sphere. precisely. 31 . Hence. “Arab” and “Muslim” have become interchangeable terms in popular parlance in France. not by election). is markedly more democratic than Britain on almost all institutional or constitutional measures. and no privileged church (in the sense of connections to the state). significant spokespersons in the House of Lords (where other faith communities are well represented by appointment. including the discussion of specific examples. Exactly the same point can be put as follows: any loyalty (religious or otherwise) that comes between the citizen and the state in France is regarded in negative terms. forthcoming). France is a popular parlance in France. They are actively discouraged from developing any kind of group identity. More positively. Republic. ed. if by tolerance is meant the freedom to promote collective as well as individual expressions of religious identity—that is.

T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 One further point is significant and reflects a shift that is taking place right across Europe. is challenging some deeply held European assumptions. for example. population in particular. together with an unwillingness to compromise. however. Germany. for most Europeans. both in Europe and beyond. led alarmingly fast to dangerous confrontations. The repercussions of the now famous (or infamous) Danish cartoons are a case in point. The point to grasp in the space that remains in this paper is that such elites—just like their religious alter-egos— vary markedly from place to place. France. be proscribed from public life—notably from the state and from the education system—is widespread in Europe (not only in France). therefore. That is the extent to which the secular elites of Europe use these events in order to articulate an ideological alternative to religion. and offer—simply by their presence—a challenge to the European way of doing general. though not always very tolerant. The notion that faith is a private matter and should. In the United States. The fact that the cartoons were first published in Denmark was not simply a coincidence. many of The growing presence of those who are currently arriving in this part of the world other faith communities in have markedly different convictions. The growing presence of other faith communities in general. if developed. The depictions of Mohammed were considered derogatory by many sections of the Muslim community. nor was the insistence on the part of the media in some countries rather than others (most notably France) that the cartoons should be repeatedly re-published in order to affirm the freedom of speech. is the European society where the Enlightenment has been most obviously configured as a freedom from belief. they were simply “cartoons. could become an article in its own right. institutions already described. and of the Muslim things.” 32 . Such episodes raise a further point which. Such attitudes have historical roots.13 The lack of comprehension on both sides of this affair. Reactions to this challenge vary from place to place. 13 The cartoons were first published in the autumn of 2005 and reprinted in many parts of Europe in the early months of 2006. and of the Muslim population in particular. the wearing of the veil in the school system and about the rights or wrongs of publishing material that one faith community in particular finds offensive. an attitude which finds expression in the democratic. is but at the very least. A developed treatment of this theme would reveal. European societies have been obliged to re-open debates about the place of religion in public as challenging some deeply held well as private life—hence the heated controversies about European assumptions. the Enlightenment becomes something very different: a freedom to believe. and Italy) fall somewhere between the two. that other European societies (much of Northern Europe. Europe as ever is far from homogeneous. Conversely.

Paradoxically. which run alongside each other. given the legacies of the past. There are effectively two religious economies in Europe. Conversely: is the residue of the state church sufficiently strong to resist this—maintaining thereby the notion of religion as a public utility rather than a freely chosen voluntary activity? And where in these complex equations do we place the newly arrived populations. Interestingly. in which membership remains ascribed rather than chosen. For example: is Europe likely to produce a religious market like that found in the United States? The turn from obligation to consumption could be seen in this light. Simultaneously. the two economies are in partial tension. whether Christian or not? The answers must be tentative. in many ways this is easier for the active. The historic churches. remains the norm and is most visible at the time of a death. 33 . and in which voluntary membership is becoming the norm. In this economy opting out. New forms of religion are coming into Europe from outside. rather than opting in. the range of religious choice is widening all the time both inside and outside the historic churches. despite their continuing presence. a tendency driven largely by the presence of Islam in different parts of Europe. if not all. Exploring these tensions offers a constructive route into the complexities of European religion in the twenty-first century. The religious situation in Europe is and will remain distinctive (if not exceptional). The fact that they are occurring at the same time is partly a coincidence—each. Clearly things are changing. and by looking carefully at their implications for the religious life of Europe. which is emerging among the churchgoing minorities of most. largely as the result of the movement of people. For the former. Christian minorities to understand than those who remain passively attached to their (public) historic churches. The first is an incipient market. It is not. are losing their capacity to discipline the religious thinking of large sections of the population (especially the young). the last takes the form of a cautious prediction about the future of religion in Europe. de facto if not de jure. but also depend upon each other—each fills the gaps exposed by the other. static. It is equally clear that at least some aspects of exceptionality can be pursued by framing these statements in the form of questions. but I will offer three. European societies. encourages the other. seriously held belief leads to public implications. seriously held belief is seen as a threat rather than an opportunity. Religion will increasingly penetrate the public sphere. The second economy resists this tendency and continues to work on the idea of a public utility. however. Finally.I s europe an e x ceptional case ? / davie Concluding Remarks Several things are happening simultaneously in the religious life of Europe. at least some of the people arriving from outside are offering a significant challenge to the widely held assumptions about the place of religion in European societies. increasingly voluntarist. however. for the latter.

but the fact that their choices will include the historic churches complicates the issue (the alternatives are not as mutually exclusive as they first appear). It follows that the actively religious in Europe will increasingly work on a market model. the second more certain. Second—I know that the presence of Islam is a crucial factor that we ignore at our peril. First—I think that vicarious religion will endure at least until the mid-century. Not only does it offer an additional choice. and the third increasingly evident. Finally. but it has become a catalyst of a much more profound change in the religious landscape of Europe. 34 .T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 and in some places very fast. but maybe not for much longer. debate—a tendency encouraged by the ever more obvious presence of religion in the modern world order. the combination of all these factors will increase rather than decrease the salience of religion in public. the world is more likely to influence the religious life of Europe than the other way round. as well as private. Exactly how they will evolve is not easy to say. In this respect. but I will conclude by making a cautious and three-fold prediction—the first part is tentative.

It is not a universally applicable scientific law. Some changes go together. but a description and explanation of the past of European societies and their settler offspring. Choice and Religion: A Critique of Rational Choice (Oxford: Oxford University Press.Secularization and the Impotence of Individualized Religion Steve Bruce T he secularization paradigm combines two things: an assertion about changes in the presence and nature of religion. examine in some detail one alternative to the secularization paradigm. 1999). He has written extensively on religion in the modern world and on the interaction of religion and politics. As I show below. A full elaboration of the secularization paradigm with sufficient data to convince the open-minded (some people are beyond persuasion) needs at least a book and it took me three. 2002). Steve Bruce has been Professor of Sociology at the University of Aberdeen since 1991.1 All I can do here is offer a few illustrative facts. and request that the reader make the charitable assumption that I will have dealt with the obvious criticisms in other places. elaborate one part of the explanation. 35 . For example. culturally diverse liberal democracies cannot. it is not a simple evolutionary model and does not imply a single uniform future—but it does suppose that there are “socio-logics” to societal changes. 1 See my books Religion in the Modern World: From Cathedrals to Cults (Oxford: Oxford University Press. His most recent works in the sociology of religion are Fundamentalism (2001). 1996). and Politics and Religion (2003). feudal societies can have effective state churches. and a collection of related explanations of those changes. Contrary to often repeated caricatures. others do not. it can be explained by fundamental features of the latter sort of society. God Is Dead: Secularization in the West (2002). And that is not an accident. and God is Dead: Secularization in the West (Oxford: Blackwell.

ed. “Christendom in Decline: The Swedish Case. those who still strongly associate with organized religion do so in a spirit markedly different than that of their grandparents. 2003) 47. Most Christian churches have abandoned their supernatural focus.” and atheism or agnosticism.3 Even in the U.” the wonderfully vague “there is something there. 1750–2000. “‘Losing My Religion’: A New and Comprehensive Explanation of Three Empirical Regularities Tested on Data for the Netherlands in 1998. and Hamberg finds no evidence of revival in a situation that she describes as follows: the share of the population who adhere to Christian beliefs or who devote themselves to such traditional religious activities as prayer and church attendance declined in Sweden during the twentieth century…data indicate a decline not only in the prevalence of religious beliefs but also in the saliency of these beliefs. Now fewer than one-third of babies are baptized. Britons now divide pretty equally between four positions: belief in a personal creator God. churchgoing is now about 20 percent.S. Statistical data on religious beliefs are available only for the last fifty or so years. routinely held up as the great exception. but they show a similar trajectory to that of church attendance. Ariana Need.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 Secularization In 1851 about half the population of Britain attended church regularly. There is no need to labor the point: anyone familiar with European societies will be aware of the drastic decline of organized religion. 1998) table 1. In Holland. ed. Equally important. . Hugh McLeod and Werner Ustorf Astor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. down from about 50 percent in 1950. belief in “a higher power or life-force. and Wout Ultee. now it is less than one-third. Baptism was once universal and so widely held to be essential that in the Middle Ages midwives were taught a simple formula to baptize babies thought unlikely to survive until the arrival of a priest. 3 Eva M. There has been a steady decline in the popularity of orthodox Christian beliefs. Alasdair Crockett and Richard O’Leary (Lamenter: Edwin Millen.” The Decline of Christendom in Western Europe. 36 2 Nan Dirk De Graaf.2 An overwhelming majority of Swedes (95 percent) seldom or never attend public worship. Now it is about 8 percent. In 1971 over two-thirds of weddings were religious. Hamberg.” Patterns and Processes of Religious Change in Modern Industrial Societies—Europe and the United States. and the therapeutic benefits of faith (once firmly second place to placating God and ensuring salvation) are now advertised as the main point.. On the existence of God. the percentage of the adult population describing themselves as having no denomination rose from 14 percent in 1930 to 39 percent in 1997 and 42 percent in 2003. The attitude of most believers has shifted: from being loyal followers to being selective consumers.

The public square is gradually evacuated. First. or forcibly converted. despite obvious differences of birth. of course.secularization and T he impotence of individualized religion / bruce The explanation of the decline of religion is necessarily complex. 37 . modern people seem quite capable of believing all sorts of twaddle (witness the popularity of alien abduction stories or theories of racial superiority). need not provoke doubt. Berger. Unless it is prepared to accept high levels of social conflict (and none were). Modern Western consumers think rather highly of themselves: they choose their microwaves.4 Diversity. and they choose which God to believe in and in what manner. Inasmuch as religion essentially rests upon supernatural certitudes. status. must become increasingly religiously neutral. Crucial to the marginalization of religion has been the combination of egalitarianism. The Reformation insistence on the responsibilities of the individual gradually became a demand for the rights of the individual and rights gradually became separated from religious identities. they choose their governments. This not only removes formal state 4 Peter L. 1979) 213. it became increasingly accepted that. In the modernizing industrial societies of late eighteenth. This is where egalitarianism becomes relevant. In this situation the maintenance of certitudes that go much beyond the empirical necessities of the society and the individual to function is very difficult indeed.and nineteenth-century Europe. the pluralistic situation is a secularizing one and. Medieval peasants quite reasonably saw themselves as being of no significance in the eyes of either their worldly masters or their Creator God. Facing Up to Modernity (Hammondsport: Penguin. the idea that science displaces religion in a zero-sum contest to explain the world is largely a red herring. The first response to such a cognitive threat is usually martial: the deviants are murdered. and talents. it is through technology (rightly or wrongly) giving us a sense that we are masters of our fate. plunges religion into a crisis of credibility. individualism. Insofar as science does impact faith. If everyone believes the same things. they are not beliefs. Using the phenomenology of Alfred Schutz. ipso facto. Contrary to the expectation of liberal theologians and advocates of the “higher criticism” in the 1890s. People became reluctant to enforce religious conformity and ruling classes came to see social harmony as more important than religious orthodoxy. if it has to encompass diversity. the diagram I often use to illustrate the secularization paradigm has 21 boxes! I will mention here only a few of them. the modernizing state. simultaneously in competition with each other. Any belief system is at its most plausible when it is entirely consensual. and diversity. Peter Berger drew our attention to the impact of the “pluralization of life-worlds” on the plausibility of religious belief systems: Our situation is characterized by a market of world views. they are merely an accurate account of how things are. expelled. we were all in some sense much-of-a-muchness.

When all faiths are in some sense equally valid. the church form of religion (with a single shared culture and institution providing a single plausibility structure for an entire society) becomes rare: it survives only in situations (Poland until 1990. we tend to keep it to ourselves. Ireland until the 1960s) where the Church acts as a guarantor of national identity and integrity. the long-term result is a shift to evermore liberal and tolerant forms of religion and eventually to benign indifference. rates of adherence drop rapidly as the Church comes to be seen as just another pressure group. parents lack an incentive to indoctrinate their children.. but as confirmation that any religion taken too seriously is a bad thing. but this 38 . Here I will add a brief aside. This seems a forlorn hope. Where a community shares a common faith. In the terms of the classic typology of religious forms derived from Weber and Troeltsch. At the societal level. When we can no longer be sure that those we meet share our faith. there is as yet no empirical evidence for revival. we tend to keep it to ourselves. A revival of concerns about the public presence of one religion might encourage a revival in the more conventional sense. it seems the opposite of that hoped for by church leaders.S. Insofar as fears of militant Islam are having any effect on secularization in Europe. and the environment proves stony ground for such seeds of faith as are planted. big events such as births. And everyday conversation can reinforce the shared beliefs as people gloss even mundane matters such as the weather and crop yields in religious terms. impossible in European societies). Beyond the observation that those people who described themselves as “Christian” in England and Wales in the 2001 census is vastly greater than the number who ever trouble a Christian church. and marriages can be glossed by the shared religion. And when that role becomes redundant.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 support for a particular religion. The idea is that Islamic challenges to Western liberalism and secularity might stimulate a Christian revival. The fragmentation of the religious culture into a range of competing alternatives drastically curtails the routine low-level social reinforcement of beliefs. To return to the typology of forms. Because most Britons lack any acquaintance with Christianity (let alone a commitment to it) they see Islamic militancy not as proof that Islam is a bad religion. Recent concern about Islamic fundamentalism in the West and about the reaction of some Western Muslims to such foreign policy matters as the war in Iraq and the Palestinian problem has led some commentators to consider that the church form of religion might enjoy a revival. When we can no longer be sure that those we meet share our faith. as Europeans with a nominal commitment to their previously dominant Christian traditions feel moved to explore their heritage faith and then acquire a real commitment to it. more importantly—and this is where Berger’s concern with “taken-for grantedness” is vital—it removes a whole range of opportunities for the religious tradition to be reinforced in day-to-day interaction. The passing of the seasons can be similarly treated. deaths. the sect can survive if it can insulate itself from the wider society (possible in parts of the U.

2004). 1 (Edinburgh: Clark. God: An Itinerary (London: Verso. 2004) 259. vol. then long-term secularization is impossible. but it quickly became obvious that the scale was wrong. 6 Christopher Partridge.”5 The two are certainly related on the supply side. The decline of the Christian churches has negated their power to stigmatize alternatives as foreign and dangerous. there has been a vast increase in the range of spiritual revelations and therapies on offer in the West.secularization and T he impotence of individualized religion / bruce comes at the cost of considerable sacrifice by its members. If specific religions decline in popularity. Diffuse Spirituality Many of the counters to the secularization paradigm are based on the belief that people are essentially religious. The twin facts that we all die and that we can distinguish the self from the body cause us all to ask what the theologian Paul Tillich called “ultimate questions. It is the future of this form of religion that I want to consider in the rest of this essay. The Re-Enchantment of the West. extremely tolerant form of religion that stresses private experience and grants to the individual the primary authority to decide what he or she will believe. hoping that these innovations could restore the religious capital of 1900 or 1950 was like setting a toy train engine to pull real freight wagons. For a brief time in the 1970s it looked as if a variety of usually Eastern-inspired new religious movements (NRMs) were going to fill the space left by the decline of the Christian churches. speaking French) but as an expression of an innate biological need. This form of religion exists not in large formal organizations but in a milieu: a world of overlapping outlets and expressions through which individual consumers chart their own paths of preference. Which brings us to the cult. When the Moonies could never muster more than one thousand members in Britain and all the NRMs together did not come close to the numbers lost by the main churches in a month. What matters for testing the secularization thesis is not the range of spiritual offerings being purveyed but the numbers who take them up and the spirit in which they do so. The denomination gradually declines because its members lack powerful incentives to indoctrinate their children. Religion is not seen as a social accomplishment (like. As Partridge notes. I use it to mean a diffuse. The term is often casually used to mean any small new religion we do not like.6 But we should not confuse supply and demand measures. a serving naval officer managed to establish paganism as a legitimate religion that the British armed services should accommodate. 39 . for example. In 2005.” If it is the case that we all have a need for religion. Regis Debray made the point elegantly in saying that the twilight of the gods was the “morning of the magicians. 5 Régis Debray. then others must arise to fill the gap. A more plausible candidate is the highly personalized individualistic “New Age” spirituality of the cultic milieu.

The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion Is Giving Way to Spirituality (Oxford: Blackwell.” Devolution—Scottish Answers to Scottish Questions. yoga or meditation. ed. but there is a clear pattern that fits well with what colleagues at the University of Lancaster have found in their study of New Age providers and consumers in Kendal. c Alternative or complementary medicine such as herbal remedies. and horoscopes. John Curtice. or aromatherapy. Most Scots have not tried these things. the research team used a wide variety of techniques to identify everything (from organized yoga classes to one-to-one therapies) that could be seen as New Age activity.605. They concluded that between one and two percent of the population are involved in the holistic milieu in a typical week.kendalproject. how important were these in their lives. a Consulting horoscopes in newspapers and magazines. homeopathy. Kerstin Hinds. for preparing these summaries of the Kendal data. the Scottish Social Attitudes survey asked a representative sample if they had ever tried a variety of arguably New Age activities such as tarot cards. But it is worth looking more closely at the activities they survey. and if they had. Table 2 summarizes the distribution of holistic milieu activities under nine and of those who have tried them. of the University of Manchester. Experience and Salience of the New Age.7 Table 1 summarizes the replies. Scotland 2001 Horoscopesa % Divinationb % Yoga or Meditation % Alternative Medicinec % Very important 1 2 3 5 Quite important 4 4 7 15 Not very important 21 13 9 20 Not at all important 15 11 4 5 Never tried 59 70 78 55 Note: Sample size for this table was 1. particularly those that represent a significant commitment. Percentage totals vary from 100 because of rounding. astrology. alternative medicines or therapies. or astrologer (excluding horoscopes in papers and magazines). 9 I am grateful to friend and collaborator David Voas. 8 Paul Heelas and Linda>. 2005). The original data is publicly available at <www.8 Led by Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead. a small town in the northwest of England. “Religious Beliefs and Differences. 2003) 86–115. Catherine Bromley. and through detailed interviewing and surveying compiled a reasonable estimate.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 Table 1. fortune teller. In 2001. The questions are perhaps too blunt to make much of the answers. b Consulting a tarot card reader. .9 40 7 Steve Bruce and Tony Glendinning. and Alison Park (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. most do not think them very important. fortune telling.

art. In order to get over 1 percent 10 Heelas and Woodhead 54–5.1 Specialized spiritual/religious groups 5. for “foot massage” (which involved typically 48 people) the figure was 25 percent. CancerCare. the percentage spiritual was only 28 percent.5 Dancing. Taking New Age spirituality at its narrowest. for osteopathy only 10 percent. Only 51 percent of respondents saw their yoga classes as spiritual.6 Massage. but even these (for example. bodywork 13.9 Homeopathy 3. it is trivial. Kendal 2000–02 Activity % Yoga and tai chi 45.2 Reiki or spiritual healing 6.0 It is hard not to be struck by how few activities listed are obviously spiritual. for the massage category. singing.’”10 It would be unproductive to argue over what is or is not “minute. bodywork) and you have covered nearly two-thirds.5 Healing and complementary health groups 11. singing.secularization and T he impotence of individualized religion / bruce Table 2. art and craft 5. reiki) seem pseudoscientific rather than necessarily spiritual. In their defense of all this activity as a “spiritual revolution. dance. Participation in the Holistic Milieu. Fewer than half of the respondents said that their participation had anything whatsoever to do with spiritual growth. winner of the Queen’s Jubilee Award for Voluntary Service in the Community. Fortunately. we do not have to argue about the nature of the activity or its significance for those involved because Heelas and Woodhead asked their respondents whether they saw their activities as spiritual.6 Counselling 3.6 Miscellaneous one-to-one 5.” Heelas and Woodhead assert that “the figure we have arrived at for the holistic milieu…shows that Bruce…is wrong when he claims that ‘the number of people [in Britain] who have shown any interest in alternative religions is minute.” but the implications of their own work seem very clear. tai chi. Over half of all involvement is in what most people would view as leisure or recreation: yoga. Add in pampering (massage. 41 . Only some 45 percent of those engaged in holistic milieu activities think of them as spiritual. Not all the “healing and complementary health groups” are obviously spiritual or even unconventional. homeopathy. A fair proportion of the healing activities are based on distinctive beliefs. is one of the larger ones.

miscellaneous methods of relaxation. which is widely regarded as a major problem for churches. 100 percent of them must be socialized into a practice for it to survive in the long term. or the beauty salon. two-thirds of respondents with offspring said “no. 2003) 234. all practiced mainly by people who do not even pretend to see them as spiritual. Far from growing. and diverse forms of alternative medicine. the self is the 11 Heelas and Woodhead 137. middle-aged white women in people-orientated professions) may be approaching saturation point. 12 Paul Heelas and Benjamin Seel. Intergenerational transmission of Christian affiliation. Back to our toy train metaphor: the scale is wrong.12 In a society where parents have only two children on average.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 of the population. Secular and Alternative Futures.1 (2003): 83–108. we need to encompass a variety of imported recreational activities. 13 David Voas. not least because women with spiritual interests are more likely than average to be childless. and that the relevant section of the population (educated.” but this level of transmission is disastrous. it is not even clear that the holistic milieu can reproduce itself. It is primarily concerned with physical and psychological wellbeing. and belief currently stands at about 50 percent. the gym. ed. an extremely detailed community study conducted by commentators sympathetic to New Age spirituality fails to convince us that this milieu comes close to providing a viable substitute for the decline of the Christian churches. the clinic. “An Ageing New Age?” Predicting Religion: Christian.” Heelas is more struck by the fact that 32 percent said “yes. In the New Age. Self and Other Religions Not only is the New Age world very small. The Future of the New Age To strengthen the proposition that what we are seeing is the decline of one form of religion rather than secularization per se. 42 . but there are good reasons to describe it as fragile. Heelas and Woodhead predict that the holistic milieu will double in size over the next forty to fifty years. They admit that at present holistic spirituality has a rather narrow socio-demographic appeal. Grace Davie. Rather than seeing the New Age as compensating for a decline in Christianity. Asked if their children were interested in the activity. The weakness of community in the New Age is not an accident but an inevitable consequence of its solipsistic basis of authority. we should see it as an extension of the surgery.11 This seems highly unlikely. attendance. Paul Heelas. and Linda Woodhead (Aldershot: Ashgate.” British Journal of Sociology 54.13 On the face of it the New Age has an even higher mountain to climb. “Intermarriage and the Demography of Secularization. In summary.

43 . Fewer attended the second meeting and the initiative petered out. This explains why. but he continues in the mainstream. the civilization of industrial society owes a great deal to committed Christians. The Glastonbury ethnography raises an interesting genLeft to our own devices a eral problem that first occurred to me while lecturing to combination of sloth and students about the social reforms pioneered by British self-interest will always make evangelicals in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. a small group of New Agers decided to meet regularly on Sunday mornings for some sort of collective act of “worship. First. penny savings banks. The ending of slavery. 176–8. only a religion that has an authoritative reference point outside the individual is capable of providing a challenge to any status quo. The New Age in Glastonbury: The Construction of Religious Movements (New York: Berghahn. Although New Agers are fond of talking of their revelations and therapies as life-changing. the social impact of New Agers seems trivial. Against that example. it is true. limitations on the use of women and children in factories. for all the talk of counter-cultural and alternative community. the construction of decent housing for workers. New Age spirituality has not produced its alternative schools and communes.” At the first meeting they talked about what they would do but could not agree. improvements in prisons. Left to our own devices a combination of sloth and self-interest will always make sacrifice unlikely. he may acquire a certain detachment from his work role and become a more contented holistic banker. Although they do not appreciate the significance of their own examples (they want to describe New Agers as a “tribe”). Prince and Riches’s study of New Age in Glastonbury provides glaring examples of an inability to cooperate.” 14 Ruth Prince and David Riches. public schooling for the poor—all of these were the results of philanthropic activity by people who were driven by the related ideas that we could hardly expect the poor to be concerned about their souls when their bodies were sore oppressed and that a society that claimed to be Christian could not also be barbarous. mutual insurance. controls on exploitation of workers. there is no basis for settling the dispute. If it works for you. in practice mostly what changes is merely attitudes to their circumstances.14 In one example. The anxious repressed merchant banker who takes up yoga or meditation does not cease to be a banker. A very small number will “downsize. 2000) 166–7.secularization and T he impotence of individualized religion / bruce final arbiter of truth and utility. If two people disagree. There is no legitimate basis for imposing on others or even arguing. and I take two points from the comparison. workers’ educational institutes. a primary school collapsed because parents could not agree on how or what they wanted their children taught. This makes any sort of concerted activity remarkably difficult. In another. It is not much of an exaggeration to say that sacrifice unlikely.

world-rejecting religion seems only possible if there is a shared external authoritative source of revelation: the God who punishes those who step out of line. Meditation is not about attaining enlightenment. it is united only in highly abstract operating and epistemological principles such as. And ayur vedic medicine is just another cosmetics line from the Body Shop chain. Europe’s oldest New Age center. 16 Bruce. it is about relaxing. it is a decorating style. Native American sweat lodges. But the significance for the wider society is negligible. “to your own self be true”—any new perspective or revelation is more likely to be assimilated to our current circumstances than to provoke change. Or to be more precise. Worse. . the New Age movement is always less than the sum of its parts because even the highly motivated and genuinely counter-cultural core is not united by common beliefs and values. and Hindu notions of karma.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 They sell the expensive house in London and retreat to a cottage in Wales or Cumbria to make pottery and run weekend workshops in reiki healing.15 To use the formal language of Max Weber.16 In its original context.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 13.1 (1998): 23–36. Since the 1960s elements of the entire world’s religious repertoire have been imported to Britain. Yoga is no longer a spiritual discipline. “Good Intentions and Bad Sociology: New Age Authenticity and Social Roles. the innovations have been stripped of their religious content. Conclusion I have concentrated on New Age spirituality because it encourages us to move part of the secularization debate forward. whereas the Victorian evangelical movement was more than the sum of its parts because it was made up of individuals who were bound together by a shared faith. in many cases the change is no more than the acquisition of a new language to defend old patterns of behavior. If the only source of authority is the self—as in the classic New Age slogan. it is an exercise program. I am struck by how often male New Agers manage to seduce younger women by persuading them that getting in touch with their true feelings. but instead of secular Britons being transformed by Chinese necromancy. In Britain. or creating authentic relationships means having sex. Consider the example of sexual exploitation. it is to explain why it fails to resist co-option and bastardization. discovering the angel within. 118–39. 44 God Is Dead. “No one has the right to tell anyone else what to do. coming into their power. the major non-Christian religions brought to 15 Steve Bruce.” My purpose here is not to criticize New Age spirituality (though that is hard to resist). In Britain the Christian churches have shrunk to a point where reproduction is threatened. feng sui is a serious matter of relating to the spirits of the dead. Second. In reading a number of accounts of Findhorn.

little work has gone beyond being impressed by the growth of the supply of spiritual innovations. we may be able to see if societies are religious because people are religious. Over the next thirty or so years. significance. Such work as has attempted to measure demand suggests that alternative spiritualities will not refute the secularization paradigm. not just in the formal operations of major social institutions but also in popular culture. If it is the case that people are in some sense enduringly interested in the religious and the spiritual (and thus our current secularity is temporary). We are in a historically novel position.secularization and T he impotence of individualized religion / bruce Britain by migrants since 1945 have not recruited beyond their original ethnic bases. and impact of alternative forms of spirituality. and 1970s NRMs have failed to make any headway. To date. 45 . What is needed is serious research directed to assessing the spread. New Age spirituality would seem to be a strong candidate for the future of religion because its individualistic consumerist ethos fits well with the spirit of the age. then we should soon see evidence for this. We now have a society that is very largely secular. or vice versa.

Enabling spiritual seekers to make contact with their inner depths. Take away the theistic God of religious tradition. Drawn from many sources. It is part and parcel with authentic ways of being—as when one hears that “spirituality is love. and ethical injunctions of theistic traditions. and New Age spiritualities of life remain virtually intact. doctrines. Spiritualities of Life: From the Romantics to Wellbeing Culture. Being a classic “baby boomer” (born 1946) and having lived through the 60s whilst at University.” one is readily identifiable.” “New Age” spiritualities of life—or contemporary spiritualities of life—can be distinguished from theistic spiritualities. and there is little left of Christianity (or theistic traditions). the spirituality of the Holy Spirit. the spirituality of obeying the will of God. he is especially interested in tracing how inner life spiritualities have developed and changed—a topic which is explored in his forthcoming volume. most especially the spiritual “traditions” of the East. seekers experience spirituality Paul Heelas is Professor in Religion and Modernity in the Department of Religious Studies at Lancaster University. and what lies at the heart of subjective life—the core of what it is to be truly alive. The key words of New Age spiritualities are “experience” and “practice. importance is attached to experiencing the heart of life. Spirituality is taken to be life itself—the “life force” or “energy” that sustains life in this world.Challenging Secularization Theory: The Growth of “New Age” Spiritualities of Life Paul Heelas O f the various meanings which have come to be associated with the term “spirituality. activities range from yoga (the most popular) to spiritual massage (also popular). Practices are taken to facilitate the inner quest. from reiki to spiritual forms of the Alexander Technique. take away the God of theism. 46 . love is spirituality.” Rather than attaching importance to the beliefs. Whereas New Age spiritualities are experienced as emanating from the depths of life within the here-and-now. or the spirituality of experiencing the God-head itself are understood as emanating from the transcendental realm to serve life in this world.

there were 126 separate activities provided by 95 spiritual practitioners—41 practitioners served 63 different groups and 63 practitioners worked with individual clients (9 practitioners served both groups and individual clients). run by mind-body-spirit practitioners. namely “mindbody-spirit. of a group or one-to-one variety. we established that there were virtually no holistic. The Growth of New Age Spiritualities in the West Concluding his discussion of religion and “alternative” spirituality in Britain. and on some of the data that follow in this essay. their emotions. 47 . amounting to 1. 2 For more on the Kendal Project. See also <www. Whether it be the beliefs and interests of individuals.” But there is at least one major problem with the across-theboard application of secularization theory. “Religion in Britain at the Close of the 20th Century: A Challenge to the Silver Lining Perspective. New Age spiritualities of life have grown.6 percent of the total population of Kendal and the immediate environs. However.’”1 Accordingly. a gateway to the Lake District of England.150) had grown.3 (1996): 273. specialized associational activities. At the time of our research. To draw on a term that has acquired wide currency. belief or action and can compare 1995 with 1895. see Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead. institutional cultures or widely available cultural provisions such as books. By way of several methods.kendalproject. however.000 inhabitants of Great Britain are now active on a weekly basis in the holistic milieu of 1 Steve Bruce. Including the practitioners. including use of British Telecom Archives of the Cumbria and North Lancashire Yellow Pages running back to 1969. which take place within their own self-contained contexts rather than within and with reference to broader institutional contexts like schools or businesses. Evidence is provided by the growth of the “holistic milieu.2 Even in the Glastonbury of 1970. From October 2000 to June 2002 I was part of a research team studying spirituality and religion in the market town and regional center of Kendal.” this is therefore mind-body-spirit spirituality. A primary aim of the Kendal Project was to establish whether the holistic milieu of the town and immediate environs (population 37. secularization theory can be applied to explain decline “across the board. The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion Is Giving Way to Spirituality (Oxford: Blackwell. there are very good reasons to suppose that over 900. their relationships.C hallenging secularization theor y / heelas flowing through other aspects of their personal lives—their bodies.” namely associational there were very few holistic milieu activities of the kind found today. and if so. the only description for the change between the two points is ‘decline. 2005).” Journal of Contemporary Religion 11. mind-body-spirit activities in 1970. to what extent. Steve Bruce writes that “in so far as we can measure any aspect of religious interest. 600 people were involved with mind-body-spirit activities during a typical>.

18 (11 November 1998): 1. In the U. Within another sphere of public services. the National Health Service. calming.”3 Turning to evidence of growth within mainstream institutions. Additional evidence is provided by the growth of complementary and alternative forms of “medicine” (CAM). 5 Evidence is provided by Paul Heelas.. adults. mind-body-spirit spirituality.352). almost half of the general practices in England were providing access to CAM activities. As defined by Ofsted (the government’s inspection agency).. and holistic therapies.569. or 15 million people. 1990–1997. often with a spiritual orientation. “spiritual development” relates “to that aspect of inner life through which pupils acquire insights into their personal existence which are of enduring worth…a non-material dimension to life. Although this includes attending to the “spiritual needs” of theistic believers.5 and 8 percent of the total population. “Trends in Alternative Medicine Use in the United States. et al. the holistic milieu of the nation has grown from being tiny in 1970 (an obvious exception being the San Francisco Bay area) to between 2. much the same picture is to be found.S. is of greater numerical significance than the regular participants of Methodist congregations (372. it is not surprising to find evidence that inner life spirituality is becoming more significant within the mainstream educational system.5 percent from the previous year. Many primary schools now provide yoga and tai chi for their pupils (and parents). one indicator being that some 10 percent of hospitals now provide alternative forms of healing. By 2001. 4 Cited in Heelas and Woodhead 71–2. for example. some have special areas where pupils can go for creative. .400). survey research suggests a “47. with almost one-third of activities being provided “in-house” by doctors themselves or their staff.” it being explicitly stated that “‘spiritual’ is not synonymous with religious.3% increase in total visits to alternative medicine practitioners. with around 400.. thereby exceeding total visits to all US primary care physicians. all the schools of England and Wales are legally required to attend to the spiritual development of their pupils. “Nursing Spirituality.600) or Pentecostal churches (216. but many do. et al. from 427 million in 1990 to 629 million in 1997. And so are doctors..000) is considerably in excess of National Health Service general practitioners (37.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 the nation—a not inconsiderable figure.000 participants.” Spirituality and Health International (forthcoming): 1–16. the number of holistic milieu practitioners (146.S. A poll carried out by the Harris Interactive Service Bureau in 2003 found that 7 percent of U. According to David Eisenberg. practice yoga—an increase of 28. Not all practice yoga in associational milieu settings.5 48 3 David M.” Journal of the American Medical Association 280. which are often provided by mind-body-spirit practitioners.”4 Given that Ofsted visits schools to judge the quality of provisions for spiritual education.S. Yoga. government charters and plans state that nurses must attend to “the spiritual needs” of their patients. Eisenberg. Regarding the U. it is clear that patients and their nurses are increasingly concerned with holistic.

7 Eileen Barker.” “wisdom. and seminars that aim to release and optimize the resources that lie within—including what spiritual “energy. ed. “I believe in an impersonal spirit or life force. In terms of the numerical significance of inner life beliefs Holistic spirituality is also a among the general population. The Next American Spirituality (Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor. with many employees (especially in larger companies) participating in trainings. it is safe to say that the picture of Europe and Britain over time adds up to one of growth.. 49 . companies. we can reverse Bruce’s assessment to conclude that “the only description for…change…is ‘growth. Jerolimov. Jr. Hicks. S.” and “creativity” have to offer. Drawing on the 1998 Religious heartlands of capitalism.”6 Indeed. “I believe that God is something within each person. D.” a typical response being that spirituality is “the essence of my personal being. Zrinscak and I. 8 George Gallup.” with an additional 15 percent agreeing with the statement. In sum. The argument is that a great deal of holistic mind-body-spirit spirituality is part of the very process of secularization itself.S. Spirituality. Borowik (Zagreb: Institute for Social Research. Leadership (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. As David Voas and Steve Bruce make the point. New Age language fundamentally shapes discussions of contemporary workplace spirituality. with no (significant) indices of decline.C hallenging secularization theor y / heelas Holistic spirituality is also a growing presence within the heartlands of capitalism.S. “along with a new public Christian evangelicalism. 2000) 49.” it can be argued that inner life spirituality has become more significant than Christianity. the importance of inner life spirituality is indicated by George Gallup and Timothy Jones’s finding that “almost a third of our survey defined spirituality with no reference to…a higher authority. 2004) 38. she reports that 29 percent agree with the statement. the best evidence to date is growing presence within the provided by Eileen Barker.. Religion and the Workplace: Pluralism. According to Douglas Hicks in his study of current interest in religion and spirituality in U. “The Church without and the God within: Religiosity and/or Spirituality?” Religion and Patterns of Social Transformation. M. rather than something out there. surveying the evidence provided by the numerous companies which have incorporated “the sacred.”7 In the U. “Unconventional spiri- 6 Douglas A.’” The “Symptom of Secularization” Defense Faced with evidence of growth. courses.”8 Although comparison is not made easier by virtue of the fact that survey questions have tended to change over the years. and Timothy Jones. and Moral Pluralism (RAMP) survey of eleven European countries. across-the-board secularization theorists have adopted the strategy of arguing that expansion is more apparent than real. 2003) 31.

a considerable number of group members or one-to-one clients understood homeopathy or osteopathy. 50 Hippocratic Oaths: Medicine and Its Discontents (London: Atlantic. writes that acupuncturists require one to believe ideas about illness for which there is no evidence. Voas and Bruce draw attention to the finding that nearly half of the respondents to the questionnaire sent to all the participants of the holistic milieu did not consider their activities to be of spiritual significance. during 2002 finds much the same picture: 83 percent of questionnaire respondents “describe themselves as having a spiritual life” whilst 47 percent have a “‘spiritual’ interest in their practice. if not secular.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 20.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 tuality is a symptom of secularisation. and that acupuncture corrects the disruptions and suggests that such practitioners use “untested medicines invested with the magic of antiquity and the subversive charm of irrationality. 133. Although all the practitioners might have been providing activities that they understood to be spiritual. “The Spiritual Revolution: Another False Dawn for the Sacred. However. Voas and Bruce do not take into account the finding that 82 percent of all respondents agreed with the statement that “some sort of spirit or life force pervades all that lives. 71 percent rated “spirituality” between 6 and 10 on a scale from 1 (not at all important) to 10 (very important). To discuss this defense in connection with the Kendal Project. with 38 percent selecting 10.”12 From the perspective of critics 9 David Voas and Steve Bruce.” A Sociology of Spirituality. a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. ed.”11 The extent to which the holistic milieu differs from the secular is seen in the criticisms directed at CAM by scientific researchers. 11 Suzanne Hasselle-Newcombe. Raymond Tallis. 10 Voas and Bruce.” Furthermore. “Spirituality and ‘Mystical Religion’ in Contemporary Society: A Case Study of British Practitioners of the Iyengar Method of Yoga. Voas and Bruce themselves write that questionnaire responses are “extraordinarily high on unconventional beliefs. as devoid of spirituality. not a durable counterforce to it. that disease is due to disruptions of this flow.”9 Compared to the “real thing”—religious tradition—New Age spiritualities of life are impoverished. 2004) 129. and quasi-spiritual. . for example. 12 Raymond Tallis. The milieu is thus by no means secular as the understanding of activities by some participants might lead one to suppose. To mention just one critic. attenuated. Kieran Flanagan and Peter Jupp (Aldershot: Ashgate. Suzanne Hasselle-Newcombe’s study of the Iyengar Yoga Jubilee Convention held at Crystal Palace. vague. forthcoming).” with 73 percent agreeing that there is “subtle energy (or energy channels) in the body.3 (2005): 312. London.”10 As for elsewhere in Britain. other than the sacred texts of Chinese medicine: that there are patterns of energy flow (Qi) throughout the body that are essential for health.

” Journal of Contemporary Religion (forthcoming). 15 Lionel Trilling. though. forthcoming). For a brilliant analysis of the muting of “inner space” in a culture where individual autonomy is equally muted. taking place within internal “space” and which can only be experienced by the self. key terms (like “spiritual energy” or “life force”). a chasm exists between the explanations and procedures of orthodox medicine and CAM—a chasm that reveals the extent to which beliefs like “subtle energy (or energy channels) in the body” deviate from the secular world of science.C hallenging secularization theor y / heelas like Tallis.” “inner healing. express itself. the holistic milieu activities of Western countries are not the “last gasp” of the sacred sought out by those who are happy to make do with the impoverished. “The Infirmity Debate: On the Viability of New Age Spiritualities of Life. 51 . the challenge is to develop alternative explanations—explanations that specifically attend to the growth of New Age spiritualities of life. 14 See Paul Heelas. Sincerity and Authenticity (London: Oxford University Press. Kieran Flanagan and Peter Jupp (Aldershot: Ashgate. and key experiences (like “harmony. Much of the content of the autonomous self of Western societies is (relatively) secular: the “mind” itself. regulating one’s “emotions” to 13 See Paul Heelas. mutually confirmed.” A Sociology of Spirituality. see Godfrey Lienhardt. that the great majority of participants accept spirituality. and those who do not sometimes accept the existence of scientifically untenable states of affairs. the growth of the milieu attests to its vitality—a vitality which owes a considerable amount to the fact that the milieu (in any particular locality and beyond) works by way of shared.13 Generally speaking. 1974) 24. being “imaginative” and “creative”. It is also true that a smallish minority (probably in the order of 20 percent) do not acknowledge belief in inner spirituality or spiritual energy. act on the world. The fact remains. Divinity and Experience: The Religion of the Dinka (Oxford: Clarendon. make judgments.14 Explaining Growth With secularization theory very much dwelling on the decline of religious tradition in “Western” settings. invisible chakras. The development of the assumptions. “will” and the ability to exercise “will power”. and grow whilst being true to itself. such as the operation of non-material. are required for the self to be able to consider itself able to exercise control. 1961). “The Holistic Milieu and Spirituality: Reflections on Voas and Bruce. Without going into detail here.”15 To be autonomous the self must act on the basis of what belongs to itself. expectations. “cultural” values. The argument is basically simple. Whatever the reasons for this development—which are multiple—the autonomous self has to have what Lionel Trilling refers to as “internal space. and values of the autonomous self during modernity is pivotal. It is true that some of those participating in the holistic milieu of Britain (as elsewhere) are simply doing yoga for stress relief (for example). ed. beliefs.” or “holistic wellbeing”). Appropriate subjectivities.

see. Other than those participating in holistic milieu activities. and not “simply” in being autonomous. we then have to ask: why do some people.16 As the sociocultural order becomes increasingly restrictive. articulating. but not others.” or one’s sense of what “feels right” into play to make decisions. in particular. people increasingly is most threatened. Whether it be life or the universe. as Einstein was fond of observing. profiles. 1957) 13–4. 17 Ludwig 52 Feuerbach.” honest about oneself. The becomes increasingly “ideology” of autonomy. . being “authentic. there must be something more that is way 16 See Heelas and Woodhead 113–23. critical. or the values and worldviews of those in the population at large who believe in the sacred within. educational. However. spiritual beliefs.” Feuerbach argued. The Essence of Christianity (New York: Harper. before he finds it in himself.” comes to the fore precisely when it restrictive. people increasingly come to value their freedom. or emphasizing autonomy is by locating the “sacred”—with its powers—within the subjectivities of the self. calling one’s “intuition. is increasingly found within our consciousness—our consciousness of our infinite. Indeed.”17 What he called “religion.3 (2002): 455–73. emotionally “intelligent” in dealing with malfunctioning relationships. etc. believe in the sacred within? Unfortunately. who value autonomy. In 1841 Feuerbach wrote that “Man first of all sees his nature as if out of himself. given the value ascribed to being autonomous. “Why Do Churches Become Empty. detailed evidence has yet to be provided. scientific progress highlights the unknown. As the sociocultural order Another question arises in relation to the argument I have outlined: surely it is perfectly possible to be autonomous without buttressing the exercise of freedom by way of inner spirituality? Given that this question has to be answered in the affirmative. The fact that people are “determined” come to value their freedom. however. but who continue to believe that the sacred is primarily located in the transcendental realm. Houtman and D. mysterious nature. And indeed a considerable body of evidence shows that autonomous selves are much more likely than conformist selves to hold inner life. that an ingredient which has to be added to the autonomy argument lies with the role played by the mysteries of life. While New Age Grows?” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 41. the pioneering research carried out by S. P. but certainly in the sense of their own self-determination—counters the Foucault-inspired objection that “autonomy” is subverted by implicit regulatory or constructivist processes. Neither do we have a clear idea of the number of people who do not go to church (or other places of worship) on a regular basis. age.” “experience. Scientific advance since the time of Feuerbach has done nothing to dispel the inexplicable nature of consciousness and life. I strongly suspect. occupational. an effective way of informing. we know very little about the gender. which is certainly deeply rooted in “Western cultures.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 exercise authority. Mascini. to be free—maybe in one sense of the word (in line with Foucault).

will be most aware of the mysteries of life. gendered. Such people. national. Durkheim claimed that the ethic has become a fact. freedom is valued as providing the opportunity for people to “live out” their humanity in their own way—so long as life itself (and the freedoms of others) is not (unnecessarily) at stake. ed. it has penetrated our institutions and our mores.).” Emile Durkheim: On Morality and Society. 53 . In short.” as he called it. the more mysterious it becomes.” and the associated institutionalization of human rights. In Durkheimian fashion. the “sacred” is quite naturally associated with the most important. we would have to recast our whole moral organization at the same stroke. who almost certainly value autonomy. or to participate in holistic milieu activities to explore the significance of their lives by plumbing the depths of “life” affirming life. The basic assumption of the ethic is that life itself—what we all share by virtue of the life of humanity—lies beyond “difference” (ethnic. then exercised by careers in personcentered jobs (most obviously hospices) where “meaning and purpose” issues come to the fore. The “sacred” also quite naturally dwells with the mysterious. if the sacred is to be located in this world (and where else can it go?) it will be in the realm of the mysterious: the realm that exists beyond the mere materialities of the secular world—a realm that can be experienced but not grasped by the mind. the core value of the ethic in fact lies with life itself. we had to give it up. ultimate of cultural values. the universe). so the question of what it means to be alive means a great deal to those who adhere to the ethic of humanity. The irreducibility of the great mysteries… Especially with the decline of belief in the transcendental world since the time of Feuerbach. Other values—for example equality and respecting the other—flow from this. and if.18 Durkheim’s claim is even more justified today. capacities. Hence. etc. it is the interior home for many of the “free spirits” who value the autonomous way of being. I predict that research will show that those whose self-reflexivity about life has been stimulated by college or university education (especially in the humanities and social sciences). are therefore the most likely to hold beliefs of the kind reported by Eileen Barker. and value of the inner life mean a great deal to the autonomous self.” Fuelling the value of freedom by way of the importance attached to the value of “respecting the other. at least in “the West. it has blended with our whole life. And the more you think about it. as with Einstein and other preeminent scientists. Just as the powers. Acknowledging that no one human being is the same as another. Assessing the significance of the “religion of humanity.C hallenging secularization theor y / heelas beyond our ken as mere partially evolved mortals. truly. “Individualism and the Intellectuals. inexplicable depths of life (or. Hence the probability that it has its interior home with those who are most aware of the unfathomable. 18 Emile Durkheim. Robert Bellah (London: The University of Chicago Press 1973) 46–7.

That they share the theme of there being a universal core to life. there is undoubtedly an extremely close match between the two. Whereas the ethic of humanity is grounded in “life in general. With the development of the autonomous self. etc. for example.”) Whatever the precise role played by the “secular” ethic of humanity in explaining the growth of inner life spirituality. adding up to one of the largest (if not the largest) employment sectors of contemporary modernity. Given that the subjective life of any particular individual is unique. (Recall the key Kendal Project finding that 82 percent of questionnaire respondents agreed with the statement that “some sort of spirit or life force pervades all that lives. subjective life—so vital an aspect of the self-understanding of the autonomous agent—becomes an increasing focus of attention and concern. Those working within subjective wellbeing culture seek to align their provisions and activities with the elementary “logic” of enhancing the quality of subjective life. All cultures are bound up with the wellbeing (or not) of their denizens. the explicitly sacralized rendering of the ethic in contemporary spirituality of life circles today.” with only a photograph.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 the ultimate value assigned to life itself by the dominant ethic of “the West. undoubtedly shows that the “secular” ethic has played an important role in providing assumptions for. Catering to subjective life. in the difference between the car ad that provides the objective facts (fuel consumption.” the development of the autonomous self is more about “life in particular”: the unique life of the experiences of each person. perhaps constituting particular elements. means that it is not surprising that Durkheim called it the “religion” of humanity. And the culture of subjective wellbeing has played a major role in the growth of inner life spirituality. expressing or “manifesting” itself through the unique life experiences of particular individuals by way of the (relative) freedom which they are accorded. impersonal provisions of this variety. One sees this.” and in many other parts of the world. The key is to enable people to “be themselves” (where the unique comes in) “only better” (which is where the enhancement of quality comes in)—a two-fold aim which is frequently advanced by encouraging people to go “deeper” into their experiences to develop their qualities and circumvent their limitations (and for those who regard life as unfathomable. Subjective wellbeing culture is marked out by the explicit (often highly elaborated) attention that is paid to subjective life. Clearly.) and the one that declares “Experience the Difference” or “The Drive of Your Life. subjective wellbeing culture has thus become a vehicle for a range of careers. you might be pleased about the fuel consumption figure—but the fact remains that the life of experience is not explicitly addressed in objective. fuelling it. and in lending plausibility to. number of cylinders. Neither is it surprising that so many today explicitly locate the sacred within the depths of this shared life. provisions or activities are personalized or individualized as much as possible (or are left intentionally vague so as to be inclusive and open to personal interpretation). there is plenty of scope for 54 .

those producing “reality TV” shows aim to provide as many opportunities as possible for the individual viewer to learn from the “personalities. it does not distract from the unique—the “I am what I am” anchorage of so much of modern culture. many of the provisions and activities of subjective wellbeing culture have introduced holistic.” to patient-centered nursing. to life-skill coaches: Provisions and services offer a provisions and services offer a wide range of ways of being yourself only better.” and (of course) the “mind-body-spirit” categories in the wellbeing zones of major bookstores—could well be serving to contribute to the increase in the number of people who believe in inner spirituality. to manager-centered “soft capitalism. Market researchers will know that the sales of newspapers (like the Daily Mail) or (women’s) magazines like O The Oprah Magazine benefit from the inclusion of articles catering to the hopes of those with beliefs of this variety. to viewer-centered “reality TV” shows. market researchers will know that “spiritual” products sold in health and beauty shops are likely to appeal to those who think that holistic spirituality might well improve their quality of life. any good market researcher will be aware of the inner life beliefs of the kind reported by Eileen Barker. What has all this got to do with the growth of New Age spiritualities of life? Within the ranks of those supplying the provisions of purchasing culture.” “health and fitness.” both how to avoid ill-being and how to be happy and successful as a person. to advertising. The child-centered primary school wide range of ways of being teacher works in the spirit of Rousseau to cultivate the paryourself only better. perhaps even influencing the “I definitely believe in something” camp. It adds to the “better” or “more” of more secular forms of subjective wellbeing culture by offering an additional means to the end of the “more.C hallenging secularization theor y / heelas going “deeper”). to flow through her or his personal life. 55 .19 19 Whether or not people are “taken in” by the advertising (etc. the therapist at the spa endeavors to work with her guest to facilitate the best possible experiences. Sometimes these are well-developed. And in turn. sometimes they take the form of allusions to inner life spirituality and hints of what it promises. to guest-centered spas and hotels. ticular abilities or “gifts” of individual children and to help particular children to develop their own “well-rounded” personalities. to client-centered therapists. What matters is that they have the opportunity to be “taken in to” their subjectivities. From child-centered or “independent” education. to the more individuated health and fitness clubs. inner life spirituality is thriving. the widespread presence of spiritually “significant” provisions—not least the many books housed under the “self-improvement. to reader-“engaging” or “life-provoking” autobiographies and women’s magazines. to “person”-centered call center operatives. to customer-centered shop floor assistants. mind-body-spirit themes.” Working from within the heart of the person.) of much of subjective wellbeing is not my concern here. sometimes they provide a “taste”. “Capitalizing” on widespread beliefs in what lies within and what this realm has to offer. Relative to context.

they can engage in associational. Take the National Health Service hospital nurses as an example: on the one hand. and celebrate who you really are—are writ large in the holistic milieu. Many of the participants of the holistic milieu work. were widely regarded as deviant. or have worked. energy flows. see Heelas and Woodhead. they are terribly busy working to comply with scientific and bureaucratic procedures. until recently. therapy. anti-deferential ethos that is widely in evidence today. face-to-face activities to go “deeper” into what is to be found in other areas of the culture. and so on. one exercises one’s autonomy to find out what works best. wellbeing professions—nursing. consideration could also be paid to other growth factors. to liberate themselves by becoming practitioners in the holistic milieu. the ways in which inner life spirituality lends itself to serving the interests of the managerial sector (in particular) of mainstream businesses. she introduces “stilling” sessions. the positive. one gets older and starts thinking about one’s health and what one’s life is all about. If space permitted. one finally settles with a tai chi group. person-centered. 56 . including the roles played by increasing prosperity. subjective wellbeing concerns within the workplace. governmental policies direct them to respond to the “spiritual needs” of their patients. of knowledge of Christian beliefs. she experiences the effects for herself and observes the results in the classroom. one gets interested. opening up the “space” for spiritualities that. on the other. the celebratory. and. in person-centered. somewhat conversely. celebrity factor. Here. the increase of enrollment in college and higher education. including wellbeing-oriented professions such as nursing. Accordingly. A number of nurses whom I interviewed were seriously interested in “growth” by way of working closely with others and with what holistic spirituality has to offer. “can do” way it is envisaged. expectations aroused by subjective wellbeing culture can serve to direct people to the specialized zone of the milieu itself.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 The assumptions and values of subjective wellbeing culture—the importance of subjective life. one decides to “work out” whilst watching a yoga DVD. One reads about yoga and wellbeing in a popular magazine. she decides to join a meditation group. buys a book or two. the ways in which the “empiricism” of holistic spiritualities of life—the test of “what works in my experience”—suits the ethos of consumer culture pragmatism.20 20 For more on the role played by subjective wellbeing culture. the ways in which the egalitarianism of inner life spirituality suits the democratic. counseling. at least in Britain. Or again: a primary school teacher feels that she should really do something to prepare for the upcoming Ofsted inspection. the theme of exercising autonomy to develop. meaning that increasing value is attached to living a fulfilling. and what yoga has to do with the purpose of life. Many become active in the holistic milieu because they have been unable to fulfill their holistic. education. the ways in which “humanistic” spirituality provides a useful way of appealing to “the same” in the increasingly multicultural environment of many schools and hospitals (for example). but got so frustrated with the “iron cage” of the ward that they simply left or went part-time. express. the self-reported efficacy of holistic activities in enhancing the quality of life. and reads about chakras. the decline of belief in “human” existence in heaven. experience-laden life in the here-and-now. HRD. one “realizes” things about oneself that one had not known before. the widespread loss.

Consider the process of pluralization.C hallenging secularization theor y / heelas Conclusion The across-the-board claim—that both religion and “alternative spirituality” are in decline—is clearly wrong. On the one hand. one finds the sacred within the common ground of humanity). Or consider the development of the autonomous self. their sense of fulfillment and authenticity—without sacrificing their uniqueness and sense 21 This is not to deny that secularization theorists have done a great deal to illuminate the nature of moder- nity. and structural differentiation theories. thereby contributing to other explanations. the argument is that the “turn” to the autonomous self and its subjectivities—which Charles Taylor calls “the massive subjective turn of modern culture”—favors those forms of spirituality which resource one’s subjectivities and treats them as a fundamental source of significance. their intimate relationships.23 Experienced as the heart of life and flowing through the unique experiences that comprise personal life. the longer answer is that certain sociocultural developments are associated with both decline and growth. activities and beliefs within mainstream institutions. In The Spiritual Revolution. and undermines those forms of religion which do not.” thereby “elevating.” the quality of their subjective lives. 57 . inner life spirituality (for example. the same increase almost certainly contributes to the growth of humanistic. 23 Charles Taylor.”21 However.S. for example. 1991) 26. most especially the activities of the holistic milieu. pluralization. might well help explain why theistic beliefs among the general population are becoming less popular (the first theory) and why public institutions have generally lost most of the theistic significance that they might have had in the past (the second). A great deal of evidence might show that regular church attendance is falling in many countries (including the U. Designed to explain decline. the short answer to this ill-explored question is “no. holistic spirituality can appeal to the increasing number of free spirits in the culture—people who exercise their autonomy by trusting their own experience to find ways of “deepening. and personal beliefs.). 22 See Heelas and Woodhead for further discussion. The Ethics of Authenticity (Cambridge. to handle the problem of difference in multicultural public institutions. another for decline. But does secularization theory have anything to offer with regard to explaining the growth of holistic spiritualities of life? Since explanations of decline can hardly explain growth.22 Basically. MA: Harvard University Press. the increasing awareness of different religions probably contributes to loss of faith in tradition. (Why should one be right when they all claim to be true?) On the other. Linda Woodhead and I argue that the subjectivization thesis serves to offer a particular explanation of growth. but virtually all indices show that New Age spiritualities of life are growing.

or conservatives who are willing to remain with places of religious worship. subjectively oriented mode of selfhood on theistic tradition is one thing.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 of authority. Secularization theory is not so much challenged as put in its place—a place where it serves to complement explanations of growth. The fact remains. that the particular ways in which growth and decline are explained are by no means the same. there are progressively fewer traditionalists. Bearing on both growth and decline. As the assumptions. let alone to start attending. the subjectivization thesis offers a particular explanation of decline. beliefs. rather than by something from within their own (not dependent) life. conformists. the positive impact on New Age spiritualities of life another. 58 . The adverse impact of the autonomous. And autonomous selves are unlikely to participate in forms of worship that require living by an order of things not of their own making. the development of the autonomous self and the associated subjective turn of modernity provide a general explanation of change. and values of the autonomous self oriented toward the subjective life become more widespread in Western cultures. At the same time. however. though. unique.

as we know.In Search of Certainties: The Paradoxes of Religiosity in Societies of High Modernity Danièle Hervieu-Léger T he “rational disenchantment” characteristic of modern societies does not mark the end of religion. Belgian. the small systems of belief that fit their own aspirations and experiences. individuals write their own little belief narratives using words and symbols that have “escaped” the constellations of meaning in which a given tradition had set them over the centuries. individuals create. The first thing that can be observed is the unpredictable diversity of these individual compositions of belief. Professor (Directrice d’Études) at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (Paris). a task still far from complete.” deliberately choosing examples drawn from the European religious scene. Norwegian or Danish Danièle Hervieu-Léger holds academic degrees in political science. Regularly practicing French. This assertion—which nowadays would sound selfevident—formed the starting point. or Italian Catholics. law. of a theoretical revival in the sociology of religions. and sociology. Among her sixteen books is Religion as a Chain of Memory (2000). thirty years ago. It paved the way for a major re-evaluation of the secularization process. in broad outline. In societies that have adopted the autonomy of individuals as a principle. actively integrated in a parish community. is substantially different from that of the United States. however: it has become clear that belief proliferates in proportion to the uncertainty caused by the pace of change in all areas of social life. It has not caused the disappearance of the need to believe—far from it. in an increasingly independent manner. 59 . One point has now been established. But we also know that it sits less and less easily within the dogmatic frameworks offered by institutional religions. a number of elements of “religious modernity. which. She is also Chief Editor of the Archives des Sciences Sociales de Religions. she was elected President of the EHESS in 2004. which may include elements borrowed from a wide variety of symbolic resources. state their belief in reincarnation. Today. I propose to review.

T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6

Lutherans affiliated with their national church advocate, in accordance with spiritual
ecology, a religion in harmony with nature, which they see as an all-encompassing
whole where the human has a place but does not possess any particular privileges over
any other living organism. Jews claim to find in Buddhist meditation the authentic
meaning of their relationship to the Torah. Believers of all origins assert composite
religious identities, in which are crystallized the successive and cumulated stages of their
personal spiritual search.
At the same time, the organized structure of the belief systems authenticated by religious institutions is weakening: surveys on the beliefs of French people show that the
vast majority of those who state a commitment to Catholicism no longer associate a
belief in sin with the idea of possible damnation. Belief in a paradise after death holds
out, but it is out-distanced—among practicing Catholics—by belief in reincarnation.
The concept of hell is in the process of disappearing. More surprisingly, it seems that
essentials of Christological belief are held only feebly by believers who nevertheless
proclaim themselves “Christians.” Endless examples could be cited of this dual tendency towards the individualization and subjectivization of beliefs, on the one hand,
and deregulation of the organized systems of religious belief, on the other. Seen from
this angle, religious modernity means the individualized dissemination of convictions
and the collapse of the religious codes that organized shared certainties within believing

To Each His “Own” Truth: The Primacy of Authenticity
The direct effect of this expressive individualism in the spiritual and religious sphere
is to call into question, in the eyes of the believers themselves, the institutions’ claim
to bear witness to “the true faith.” Thus, during a national survey on the beliefs of
Catholics and Protestants carried out in Switzerland, only 2 percent of people questioned agreed with the following statement: “All religions are respectable, but only
mine is true.”1 This down-toning of religious orthodoxies massively affects the younger
generations and is apparent increasingly early. A survey carried out in France in 1998
shows that 6 percent of the population questioned, and only 4 percent of 18- to 29year-olds, think that their religion is the only true one.2 This putting into perspective
of the orthodoxies upheld by institutions is part of a deeper movement in which the
governing systems of truth are being displaced. Legitimization of belief is moving from
religious authorities, guarantors of the truth of belief, to individuals themselves, who
are responsible for the authenticity of their own spiritual approach. What gives value to


Roland J. Campiche, et al., Croire en Suisse(s) (Lausanne et Genève: L’Age d’Homme, 1992).

2 Yves Lambert, “Un paysage religieux en profonde évolution,”

(Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1994) 123–62.


Les valeurs des Français, ed. Hélène Riffault

in search of certainties / hervieu - léger

the believer’s search, not only in his own eyes but also in the eyes of those with whom
he dialogues, and before whom he testifies, is his sincerity and his personal commitment. The endeavor to conform to truths formatted by religious authorities has become
completely secondary.
This trend is also confirmed by Wade Clark Roof ’s studies in the United States on the
religiosity of baby-boomers.3 Religious authorities themselves are contributing to this
movement, by giving greater weight to the quality of personal spiritual experiences
than to the strict orthodoxy of statements of belief. This tendency to consider that, in
spiritual and religious matters, there is no truth other than that which is personal, and
personally appropriated to oneself, is not a characteristic only of “floating” spiritual
seekers, whose search for belief now has few links, if any, with claims of belonging to
a particular community. It is also active within the domain of institutional religions,
profoundly calling into question the hierarchical structures through which they underpin their authority in the field of truth. Of course, one could demonstrate that these
mechanisms for bringing the faith of believers into conformity have never, historically
speaking, functioned in a pure and perfect manner. But the novelty here is the rejection in strictly spiritual terms (in the name of faith itself ) of an institutional means of
authenticating religious truth, which for centuries had represented both the support for
the unquestioned universal validity of the major religions and the basis for the denominational definitions that identify different churches.

An Increasingly Broad “Symbol Market”
Does the increasingly “do-it-yourself ” nature of individual beliefs mean we have
entered into an era of spiritual fragmentation and radical change in perspective on
shared certainties? Things are not so simple. It is true that contemporary belief systems
are cobbled together from the resources available and accessible within a vast market
of symbols. But the extreme dissemination of the little narratives produced by the
individualization of belief must not be mistaken for a completely chaotic shattering
of beliefs. Individuals freely assemble their personal “belief solution,” but they do so
using symbol resources whose availability remains confined within certain limits. The
first of these are related to the cultural environment; the second to the access that each
person has to these resources. Reuse of elements taken from different sources is, up to
a point, guided by the way the social environment represents and interprets the different contributing traditions. Thus, French Buddhism, currently being reinvented with
great success, is propagated by a series of clichés that derive—somewhat distantly from
the historical Buddhist tradition—from the assumed (and somewhat arguable!) closeness of Buddhism to flexibility in moral matters and to conciliatory openness towards

Wade Clark Roof, A Generation of Seekers: The Spiritual Journeys of the Baby Boom Generation (New York:
HarperCollins, 1993); and Spiritual Marketplace: Babyboomers and the Remaking of American Religion
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999).


T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6

other traditions that appeal to the modern individual. Obviously it is within the social
classes most directly affected by the issues pertaining to this modern culture of the
individual that this Buddhism revisited finds its main field for expansion. Furthermore,
in this game of individualized belief composition, individuals display varied do-it-yourself skills, corresponding to differentiated social aptitudes. A
Furthermore, in this
forty-year-old graduate from a renowned university who lives
in central Berlin and spends one-third of his time on business
game of individualized
trips will not cobble ideas together in the same way as a thirtybelief composition,
year-old woman just arrived from the Caribbean who works
as a cleaner. It is impossible to grasp the social logic of spiriindividuals display varied
tual do-it-yourself composition without taking into account
do-it-yourself skills…
both the social conditions of an individual’s access to symbol
resources of unequal availability and the cultural conditions of
the use of these resources. It is true that relaxation of institutional control over belief
favors individualistic dispersion of beliefs. But one should not overlook the fact that
this dispersion still falls within a mechanism of social and cultural restrictions, the
resonance of which remains extremely important.
However, there is no doubt that the pool of symbol resources upon which individuals
today are liable to draw in order to make their little personal belief system is undergoing considerable expansion in all societies of high modernity. This is a consequence of
the general increase of cultural awareness linked to schooling and the development of
communication, to the professional and geographical mobility that brings individuals
into contact with a diversified range of cultural worlds during the course of their lives,
and so on. I wish to retain two elements whose combination sheds some light on the
increasing eclecticism characteristic of the belief productions of individuals.
The first is the weakening of the family structures of religious transmission, which
used to link an individual at an early age to a legacy of symbolic possessions that he
inherited and that it was his role to pass on, in his turn, to the next generation. One of
the characteristics of the contemporary religious scene is that religious identities are no
longer inherited, or at any rate are less and less so. This breakdown of transmission is
the result of a sequence of events that fall within the historical process of secularization.
The pace of social and economic change, geographical and job mobility, and cultural
transformations has dissolved the structures of plausibility in which inherited religious
identities were formed. Competition from the spheres of belief and the normative systems to which they correspond in a pluralist society has contributed on a large scale to
weakening the prescriptive power of religious references transmitted within the family.
More recently, the “imperative to pass on the faith” has itself undergone the backlash of
an individualization of belief that places individual choice at the forefront in religious
matters. It is considered self-evident by increasing numbers of people in our societies
that each individual must choose for him- or herself the lineage of belief with which
he or she identifies: the intervention of parents, even assuming it were legitimate, no
longer plays more than a subsidiary role.

does it imply that religious belief no longer plays any part in the working out of common worlds that bind individuals together? Things are somewhat more complex. The rejection of institutional approval of belief and the broadening of the stock of references and symbols made available for use and reuse by individuals does not only signify the fragmentation of small systems of belief. They will have made contact. And their first exposure to the Gospels might well have been a successful popular musical. films. In Europe much is made of the dangers. almost invariably dislocated from the symbolic syntax that made it readable. with the world of Jewish festivals or Ramadan. The profusion of religious sites on the internet offers a perfect illustration of this great bazaar of meanings in which individuals move around and take what they want. At the same time. the liberalization of the symbol market gives room to a paradoxical tendency towards the standardization of these small narratives: a standardization that makes possible—in a context of general cultural globalization—their arrangement into networks on a worldwide scale. albeit in the most anecdotal and unreliable fashion. in other words. or with the themes of New Age trends and spiritual ecology. television. or Witness. have been unknown to their grandparents. perhaps even the impending “cultural catastrophe. with no special access code. the ready availability. Seven Years in Tibet.léger Furthermore. But they will without a doubt have seen movies such as Little Buddha. the existence of diverse cultural. clearly distinguishable from one another and socially identifiable.” entailed by such a chaotic spraying around of references to traditions known only fragmentarily. Alongside this explosion of virtual religion. They will thus have discovered. at the same time as a weakening of cultural and symbolic footholds formerly guaranteed by the early integration of individuals into a given religious tradition (a situation commonly described in terms of the ebb or disappearance of “religious culture” among the younger generations). It is better to attempt to reason on the basis of this situation than to vainly regret the time when early religious or ideological socialization enabled long-lasting stabilization of compact identities. the proliferation of published matter on religious topics. of search of certainties / hervieu . to share common beliefs? Or. of multifarious symbol stocks has expanded quite phenomenally. This proclivity for standardization is a very precise response to the mechanisms of a symbol economy increasingly in alignment with the general laws of the market. and spiritual worlds that would. The fact remains that individuals build their capacity for spiritual and religious composition from this kaleidoscope of disparate data. the Greater Its Degree of Homogenization Does this fragmentation of personal religious structures imply that it is becoming impossible. through the intermediary of films. in our societies. The Greater the Individualization of Belief. religious. and the mainstream press all contribute to putting at everyone’s disposal information that—however partial or superficial it may be—broadens the “known religious landscape” of individuals. 63 . Two out of three French teenagers born into Catholic families have never been to mass or Sunday school.

the recent product of an assumed “postmodernity. This “religiosity reduced to affect” is not. Although it is often a dubious procedure to resort to economic categories when examining religious phenomena.” Encyclopædia Universalis. it is justifiable to make use of them here in a non-analogous manner. It is also applicable in the field of symbol production. in the remarkable increase in adherence to a “minimum creed. Jesus saves. . “Modernité. A good indicator of the logic of symbol production standardization in the Christian world can be found in charismatic Catholic territory. traces it back to Saint Augustine and Descartes and follows it up right through to the present day. But this spiritual dynamic obviously underwent new development with the coming of a “psychological modernity” (as Jean Baudrillard says5) and the highly contemporary reign of concern for the self. in all areas of production. but rather of a search for happiness and wellbeing. Faith as an operator of individual realization is (with various modulations) 64 4 Charles Taylor. Les sources du moi (Paris: Seuil.” It must be noted.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 The economic logic of the standardization of products on offer for mass consumption has asserted itself. Standardization as a production procedure. 1980). along with the liberalization of competition. in this area as in all others. Sources of the Self (Cambridge. is the direct consequence of the process of liberalization. a major stage—after the Reformation and the radical assertion of religious individualism—can be identified in the great spiritual movements of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the invention of a “friendly God.4 From the point of view of the history of spirituality.” It represents one of the culminations of the long process by which modernists have learned to think of themselves as beings endowed with an inner life and to think of their presence in the world no longer in a context of the order of things or of divine will. from the manufacture of goods to artistic production. however. MA: Harvard University Press. that this emotional internalizing of the divine coincides chronologically with the relegation of the deists’ Great Clock-Maker to a distant heaven from which he refrains from intervening in the history of Men.” which can be summed up as follows: “God loves you. and you can be healed. incidentally. 1989). in the broad panorama that he proposes of this process. as is too often suggested. This theological minimalism—which reduces the relation with transcendence to the mere emotional and personalized closeness experienced with the divine being—allows the efficient adaptation of the content of exhortation to the demands of modern individualism for self-fulfillment and personal realization.11 (Paris: Encyclopædia Universalis. as well as in evangelical Protestant territory (especially Pentecostal). 5 Jean Baudrillard. vol. This “doctrinal reduction” is linked to the expansion within this movement of an emotional religiosity that explicitly preaches putting the intellectual mind on the back burner and promotes the value of emotional experience of the presence of the Spirit.” Theological clarification of this “creed” is not required and its practical effectiveness is meant to be experienced personally by each believer. itself made possible by the abolition of the institutional monopoly of truth. 1998). Charles Taylor.

or a semi-collective one—which corresponds to the institutional and family transmission of religious identities.” etc. At the time when all the products on offer for consumption conform to a small number of common standard types. and mobile. one that is willful. shared themes directly associated with typically modern individual requirements. Frequent reference to the convergence of different individualized spiritual quests (following the pattern of “we are all saying and seeking the same thing. Here we should stress the fluidity brought to these spiritual journeys by the standardization of search of certainties / hervieu . Such approaches bring the field of spirituality into contact with that of therapy. Two other factors encourage wider-ranging movements of believers beyond their community bases. This dual movement of standardization and personalization (present in all fields of consumption) here corresponds to a rational concept of privatizing access to symbol goods. or even away from their native religious soil. These dialectics. who define and modulate spiritual courses that pay less and less heed to denominational and community boundaries. The Greater the Homogenization of Belief. subject to norms. weaving their own tapestry of meanings along the way.” “we are expressing the different aspects of a common truth in a variety of forms. which represents its counterpart. which is being progressively substituted for a collective rationale. one that is modifiable and external to the routines governing the daily lives of the individuals concerned. especially regarding each individual’s right to satisfy his subjectivity. At the same time. it is possible to group together these individual 65 . not. Believers move around and borrow from the various banks of resources available. the Greater the Migration among Believers This homogenization of belief clearly encourages the migration of believers. of the standardization of goods put into circulation and of the ultra-personalization of their forms of presentation to believers. the individual consumer of these goods needs to be able to find in them the answer to individual expectations. as a consumer process. But the content of this belief is thinning while at the same time being strengthened by the personal benefits that each individual is supposed to gain from it. recognized as such in their unshakeable distinctiveness.) allows the idea of a “common core belief ” to be authenticated. individual.léger the central motif of modern religiosity. This is the precise pivotal point of the standardization of spiritual goods as a production process and of the phenomenon of marginal differentiation. The first is the movement of religious innovation stemming from migration itself. which enables seekers of meaning to find anew. is one of the major traits of the new spiritual currents unfurling inside and outside the main churches. or only slightly. in various forms. They depict a “pilgrim-like” form of religiosity. and which in return reinforces the homogenization effect. psychology. or personal and professional performance management.

Another “topical converter” of the utmost importance is the idea of healing. This abstraction also furthers the homogenization of forms of religious expression. the first sign of this. as has already been pointed out. Exploration of the implications of this phenomena are only just beginning. drawing on the various sources that nourish them. But there are also “practical converters. in particular via the media. the less they determine tangible affiliations and the more they further a desire for community liable to evolve into intensive forms of religious socialization.” etc. one can observe the appearance of “converters” that. where individuals come to seek essential confirmation of their own productions of meaning. the Greater Their Need for “Community Niches”: The Paradox of Rejoining a Community The most striking paradox of this situation is this: the more beliefs circulate. one may emphasize the place held by the question of reincarnation—freely reinterpreted. In this context. The extreme acceleration of the circulation of beliefs. mutual authentication of belief. and from one symbolic world to another: the spread of meditation techniques (calling upon a variety of different cultural and religious traditions) also constitutes a good reference point for analyzing these migration phenomena. which it both heralds and anticipates) and the modern rediscovery of the centrality of the body in the process of self-construction. in highly un-Buddhist terms—as the boon of another chance to lead a successful life and avoid the dead-ends and failures of one’s initial path. the conventions of “netiquette. since it makes radically less remarkable a relationship of dialogue requiring. by their very polysemy. but also from the standpoint of the effects of abstraction and virtualization or the disembodying effect of the phenomenon on the relationship between individuals communicating by this means. The multiplication of religious sites on the internet and the lively activity of “discussion forums” on spiritual topics are. help to make believers more mobile.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 belief productions on the basis of the play of mutual authentication that occurs within peer networks. not only from the standpoint of the standardization of means of expression defined by the “web” (communication styles. which establishes communication between the traditional religious worlds (where healing connects with the prospect of salvation. make it possible to connect networks of meaning rooted in different religious traditions. under the governing system of religious modernity. In this way. in turn. stretches the connection between belief and belonging almost to the breaking point. These bridges are actually (thematic or practical) structures of transposition from one religious sphere to another. The second factor triggering believer migrations is the mass development of communications that enable the worldwide exchanges through which believers obtain confirmation of their own syntheses of belief. The More Individual Believers Migrate. transpositions that.” which make possible transpositions from one experiential context to another. create new bridges between different religious worlds.). The belief choices of indi66 . These conglomerates produce new syntheses of belief that.

in search of certainties / hervieu - léger

viduals are more and more dissociated from the processes of socialization that ensure
the introduction, however limited, of individuals into tangible groups. The bond that
one chooses to preserve with some kind of spiritual family is now supported by no
more than, one could almost say, minimal references, shared on a worldwide scale.
One may call to mind the prodigious sales of Paulho Coelho’s books—translated into
every language with millions of copies sold—or the media success of the Dalai Lama’s
works. In these extreme conditions, this tendency towards global circulation of props to
belief—which is both fragmented to the extreme and yet standardized, within networks
more and more distended or even virtual—tends to submerge the exchanges between
individuals that are necessary for the mutual authentication (and therefore a minimum
of stabilization) of beliefs.
The whole paradox of religious modernity lies in the fact
There can be no subject
that the extreme fluidity of beliefs, which bears witness to
without the ability to “speak.”
the emancipation of individuals from the tutelage of the
great institutions of meaning, rarely provides the “minima
And this ability implies
of certainty” that they need in order to create their perthe confrontation with an
sonal identities, as believers called upon to assume their
autonomy in all areas. These same individuals claim the
right to direct their spiritual course themselves and give
precedence to the authenticity of this personal quest over
any form of compulsory conformity to the “truths” of which religious institutions claim
to be the guardians. But for all this they have not eradicated the need to dialogue with
others and to testify to their experiences. In fact they continue to seek, by means of such
communication, a “sharing of certainties,” which does not challenge the individualization of belief process—quite the contrary, in fact. In order to understand that this trend
towards individualization does not in any way contradict the search for a community
where one can declare one’s personal search, it must be remembered that the need
for subjectivization cannot really be met just through personalized consumption of
increasingly standardized symbol goods. For it has the more fundamental aim of making meaning of individual experience. It thus requires the construction of a narrative, an
operation that is itself inseparable from an “ability to speak” that makes up the subject’s
own identity. There can be no subject without the ability to “speak.” And this ability
implies the confrontation with an otherness, outside of which no language—and hence
no recognition—is possible.
However, it is the action of recognition that, through interaction and dialogue, makes
possible the grounding of meanings individually produced and their introduction into
social life. In other words, there is no possible rendering of spiritual experience as a
narrative unless the individual, at some point, meets another individual able to confirm
it for him: “What has meaning for you also has meaning for me.” If this narration is
performed according to a religious mode, it requires the existence of a means of authentication of belief, by which an individual’s subjective and objective connection to a particular lineage of belief can be constructed. Invoking the continuity of a lineage received

T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6

from the past, and qualified to set a course for the future, constitutes the structural axis
of any “religious identity.” If, in the contemporary context of fluidity of belief, the paths
of religious identification follow unpredictable and continually amendable courses, they
nevertheless still come across as the construction of an imaginary positioning system of
individuals within a symbolic genealogy. It is this construction that ensures the integration of successive and fragmented experiences of the present into a duration endowed
with a meaning.
And yet, what is happening today? The collapse, or at any rate the weakening, of the
great institutional governing systems of truth leaves individuals, to some extent, at a
loss. If truth is no longer imposed from outside, if the burden of conducting one’s own
search for certainties comes back to each individual, then if he or she is to endure the
psychological and social cost of the operation, he or she must have sufficient access to
symbol resources, to cultural references, to circles of dialogue that enable him or her to
operate and ground his or her personal composition of meaning more firmly through
contact with others. If these means are denied him or her, efforts to obtain authentication of belief may then move towards other ways, far more structured, of joining
religious communities in which the sense of security of a shared code of meaning may
be found and vouched for collectively. A call to recreate a community of shared truth
may thus arise, paradoxically, at the very breaking point of tangible socio-religious
links. At this extreme limit, a need to define a “base-platform of certainty” may arise,
within closed spaces where intense sharing of a common objective truth, vouched for
by the word of a charismatic leader and/or the sense of fellowship of being among kindred spirits, may bring individuals together. Taken to this extreme, this idea of finding
reassurance within a community may lead to a group closing in upon itself and falling
back on “bunker values” or “refuge identities,” rendered as impermeable as possible to
communication with the outside world.
Individualization, which dissolves inherited cultural identities, then leads, as the other
side of the coin, to the constitution, activation, and even invention of small community identities, which are compact, substantial, and compensatory. This paradox falls
within the contemporary proliferation of “cults,” as well as the strengthening of traditionalist and fundamentalist trends within the great religious traditions. This dubious
component of religious modernity is not only a subject “worth thinking about” for
sociologists; it is also a crucial political issue for society as a whole, and a challenge for


Sellers or Buyers in Religious
Markets? The Supply and
Demand of Religion1
Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart


ince the September 2001 terrorist attacks and their aftermath in Afghanistan
and Iraq, public interest in religious pluralism has grown tremendously, and the
debate about secularization theory and its recent critiques have become increasingly relevant to contemporary concerns. The religious landscapes in both Europe and
the U.S. are increasingly diverse in different ways, but the overall trend on both sides of
the Atlantic is toward greater secularization and a multiplicity of different approaches to
religion. This diversity reflects centuries-old differences among Protestant and Catholic
churches, Orthodox Christians, and long-established Jewish groups, combined with
growing multiculturalism from immigrant populations adhering to Muslim, Hindu,
Buddhist, and other faiths, as well as those adhering to none. Many observers suggest
that New Age spiritualities may also play a role, including the development of more
individualized practices outside organized religion. Secular Western societies have experienced the influx of migrants and political refugees drawn from traditional cultures
and developing societies in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, which
has highlighted contrasts over divergent religious values and beliefs. Some traditional


This essay is adapted from Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart, Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics
Worldwide (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Pippa Norris is the McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the John F. Kennedy
School of Government at Harvard University. In May 2006 she begins a two-year
term as the new Director of the Democratic Governance Group at the United Nations
Development Program in New York.
Ronald Inglehart is Professor of Political Science and Program Director at the Institute
for Social Research at the University of Michigan. He helped found the Eurobarometer
surveys and directs the World Values surveys. He has also served as a consultant to the
U.S. State Department and the European Union.


. Karl Marx. Herbert Spencer.. loosened the dominance of the sacred. 1992) 170–94. ever since the Age of the Enlightenment. ed. In due course. The Sociological Imagination (Oxford: Oxford University Press. Wright Mills. The seminal social thinkers of the nineteenth century—Auguste Comte. it has been regarded as the master model of sociological inquiry. the evangelical revival sweeping through Latin America.2 We are seeing a landscape in Western societies that is becoming both more secular and more diverse. After the Reformation and the Renaissance. As C. The death of religion was the conventional wisdom in the social sciences during most of the twentieth century.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 political conflicts between religious communities have become more muted. indeed. this thesis of the slow and steady death of religion has come under growing criticism. one of the foremost advocates of secularization during the 1960s. new forms of identity politics appear to have become more salient.3 They were far from alone. the sacred shall disappear altogether except. however. Wright Mills summarized this process: Once the world was filled with the sacred—in thought. rationalization. and Sigmund Freud—all believed that religion would gradually fade in importance and cease to be significant with the advent of industrial society. Max Weber. 4 C. 1959) 32–3. recanted his earlier claims: 70 2 Some examples are the assassination of Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands and the bombings by foreign or indigenous Muslim groups causing mass casualities in Madrid and London. ranging from the continued popularity of churchgoing in the United States to the emergence of New Age spirituality in Western Europe. Alan Aldridge. and institutional form. with many seminal thinkers arguing that religiosity was declining throughout Western societies. Peter L. in the private realm. 3 See Steve Bruce. 5 “Fundamentalist” is here used in a neutral way to refer to those with an absolute conviction in the fundamental principles of their faith. At the same time.4 During the last decade. secularization theory is currently experiencing the most sustained challenge in its long history. possibly. the growth in fundamentalist movements and religious parties in the Muslim world. where secularization was ranked with bureaucratization. Emile Durkheim. Religion and Modernization (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2000) chapter 4. The idea of secularization has a long and distinguished history in the social sciences. notably among Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. practice. and urbanization as the key historical revolutions transforming medieval agrarian societies into modern industrial nations. anthropology. the forces of modernization swept across the globe and secularization. and sacred practices are the product of a past that will be outgrown in the modern era. Religion in the Contemporary World (Cambridge: Polity. Berger. and psychology have postulated that theological superstitions. leading figures in philosophy. to the extent that they will not accept the validity of any other beliefs.5 After reviewing these developments. symbolic liturgical rituals. a corollary historical process. and the upsurge of ethno-religious conflict in international affairs. Critics point to multiple indicators of religious health and vitality today.

with some exceptions. 71 . Durkheim. 1999) 2. 8 For example. Rodney Stark and Roger Finke suggest it is time to bury the secularization thesis: “After nearly three centuries of utterly failed prophesies and misrepresentations of both present and past. 1967). and temples around the globe. and there to whisper ‘requiescat in pace. as furiously religious as it ever was. 6 See Peter L. Roger Finke claims that “the vibrancy and growth of American religious institutions presents the most open defiance of the secularization model” (Finke.S ellers or bu y ers in religious markets ? / norris & inglehart The world today. DC: Ethics and Public Policy Center. The Desecularization of the World (Washington. and in some places more so than ever. facing personal survival-threatening risks. Compare this statement with the arguments in Berger’s The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion (Garden City: Doubleday. shrines. 2000) 79. This means that a whole body of literature by historians and social scientists loosely labeled “secularization theory” is essentially mistaken. the feeling that survival is secure enough that it can be taken for granted.. This study develops a revised version of secularization theory that emphasizes the extent to which people have a sense of existential security—that is. especially those living in poorer nations. and we demonstrate that the process of secularization—a systematic erosion of religious practices. it seems time to carry the secularization doctrine to the graveyard of failed theories.8 We need to move beyond studies of Catholic and Protestant church attendance in Europe (where attendance is falling) and the United States (where attendance remains stable) if we are to understand broader trends in religious vitality in churches. We believe that the importance of religiosity persists most strongly among vulnerable populations.’”7 Were Comte. and personal risks are a key factor driving religiosity. and beliefs—has occurred most clearly among the most prosperous social sectors living in affluent and secure post-industrial nations. Talk of burying the secularization theory is premature. societal. and Marx completely misled in their beliefs about religious decline in industrialized societies? Was the predominant sociological view during the twentieth century totally misguided? Has the debate been settled? We think not. ed. There is no question that the traditional secularization thesis needs updating. We build on key elements of traditional sociological accounts while revising others. mosques. We argue that feelings of vulnerability to physical. “An Unsecular America.. Weber.6 In a fierce critique.. Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion (Berkeley: University of California Press. 7 Rodney Stark and Roger Finke. synagogues. The critique relies too heavily on selected anomalies and focuses too heavily on the United States (which happens to be a striking deviant case) rather than comparing systematic evidence across a broad range of rich and poor societies.” in Bruce 148). Berger.

T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 Secularization is a tendency. but the importance and vitality of religion.12 On this basis. and all being service-sector knowledge economies with broadly similar levels of education and affluence. Graham K.” 10 We first describe systematic and consistent evidence establishing the variations in religiosity among postindustrial nations. Religion in Europe at the End of the Second Millennium: A Sociological Profile (New Brunswick: Transaction. we find that the overwhelming bulk of evidence points in the opposite direction: people who experience ego-tropic risks during their formative years (posing direct threats to themselves and their families) or sociotropic risks (threatening their community) tend to be far more religious than those who grow up under safer. the remnants of religion have not died away. not an iron law. and more predictable conditions. Continental Divide: The Values and Institutions of Canada and the United States (New York: Routledge. Only in America? The Politics of the United States in Comparative Perspective (Chatham: Chatham Publishers. We examine whether the United States is indeed “exceptional” among rich nations in the vitality of its spiritual life. and economic inequality drive the popular 9 Berger. we then consider systematic evidence to test alternative “supply” and “demand” explanations of variations in religiosity.900 by the UN Development Report. The Liberal Tradition in America (New York: Harcourt. 11 Post-industrial nation-states are defined as those assigned a Human Development Index score over . Wilson. Greeley. such as Osama bin Laden who is (or was) extremely rich and fanatically religious. Andrew M. 1998). at least until the early 1990s. These countries have a mean per capita GDP of $29. 72 .S. more comfortable. some of the multiple factors that could be causing variations in religious behavior. We compare evidence supporting this account with the theory of secure secularization. 12 Berger. Desecularization. allowing us to compare like with like. most (but not all) sharing a cultural heritage of Christendom (although the critical cleavage dividing Catholic and Protestant Europe remains). In relatively secure societies. as Berger proposes.S. 1955). its ever-present influence on how people live their daily lives. 1990). But when we go beyond anecdotal evidence. has gradually eroded. based on the idea that societal modernization. We focus on similar post-industrial nations. See also discussions of American cultural exceptionalism in Louis Hartz. Seymour Martin Lipset. as the conventional wisdom has long suggested. or even eliminates. in particular contrasts between the U. or whether.11 This “most-similar” comparative framework narrows down. and Western Europe. Desecularization. Religious market theory postulates that intense competition between rival denominations (supply) generates a ferment of activity. trends. The strongest challenge to secularization theory arises from American observers who commonly point out that claims of steadily diminishing congregations in Western Europe are sharply at odds with U. One can easily think of striking exceptions.585. human development.9 Here we focus upon how we can best explain “American exceptionalism. all affluent countries and established democracies. Western Europe is “exceptional” in its secularization. Brace & World. 2003). explaining the vitality of churchgoing. 10 Further discussion of our larger project can be found in Norris and Inglehart.

Denmark. Figure 1 shows the basic pattern of religious behavior.S ellers or bu y ers in religious markets ? / norris & inglehart  )RE 3FMJHJPVTQBSUJDJQBUJPO -OSTRELIGIOUS  )TA 53 !US #AN  *AP . Comparing Religiosity in Post-Industrial Nations We can start by considering the cross-national evidence for how the indicators of religiosity apply to post-industrial nations. although religion in the United States is distinctive among rich nations. at least once a month (4). only on special holidays (4). highlighting substantial contrasts between the cluster of countries that prove by far the most religious in this comparison. Religious behavior in post-industrial societies. Therefore. never or practically never (1). once a week (5). At the other extreme. the most secular nations include France. and Britain. and for divisions in the predominant cultures found in Europe and the United States. There is a fairly similar pattern across both indicators of religious behavior. more than once a week (6).ETH )CE  $EN &R  '" &BTUFSO . about how often do you attend religious services these days? More than once a week (7).) demand for religion.EASTRELIGIOUS 1SPUFTUBOU 3PNBO$BUIPMJD     'SFRVFODZPGQSBZFS Figure 1.UX 3P 'ER 3FMJHJPVT$VMUVSF "ELG &IN . once a week (6). 73 . several times a year (3). once a month (5). pooled 1981–2001. and Italy.” Mean frequency of prayer is based on “How often do you pray to God outside of religious services? Every day (7). less often (2). suggesting that both collective and individual forms of participation are fairly consistent in each society. as though it were a deviant case from all other post-industrial nations. once a year (3). funerals and christenings. The conclusions consider the broader implications of the findings for the role of faith in politics. including the United States. Ireland.” (World Values Survey. it would still be misleading to refer to American “exceptionalism” (as so many do). Mean frequency of attendance at religious services per society is based on responses to the question “Apart from weddings. less often (2). never (1).

PMEPWB 4FSCJB #VMHBSJB 4QBJO . once a year (3).BDFEPOJB *UBMZ (SFFDF "MCBOJB 3FMJHJPVT1BSUJDJQBUJPO UP UP UP UP UP Figure 2. More plausible explanations include the contemporary strength of religiosity in Protestant and Catholic cultures. 74 . less often (2). since these are all rich nations. Religious participation in Europe. Mean frequency of attendance at religious services is based on responses to the question “Apart from weddings. a puzzle that cannot be explained by the process of societal development alone. once a week (6). once a month (5).” (World Values Survey. about how often do you attend religious services these days? More than once a week (7). funerals and christenings. as well as differences within Central and Eastern Europe. The “North-South” religious gap within the European Union is. never or practically never (1).T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 *DFMBOE /PSXBZ 4XFEFO 'JOMBOE 6OJUFE. mapping secular Northern Europe compared with the persistence of more regular churchgoing habits in Southern Europe. admittedly.) The marked contrasts within Europe are illustrated further in Figure 2.JOHEPN 3VTTJB #FMHJVN 1PSUVHBM &TUPOJB -BUWJB -JUIVBOJB %FONBSL /FUIFS MBOET *SFMBOE 1PMBOE #FMBSVT (FSNBOZ $[FDI 'SBODF 3FQ 6LSBJOF 4XJU[FS "VTUSJB4MPWBLJB MBOE )VOHBSZ 4MPWFOJB $SPBUJB 3PNBOJB #PTOJB . pooled 1981–2001. as well as societal differences in economic equality. only on special holidays (4).

75 . Luxembourg. and documented a dramatic decrease in congregations during this period in the states under comparison. 2002) chapter 3. L. as Greeley does. “Secularization in a Context of Advanced Modernity. Voye. first. Höllinger. weddings and funerals. and sharply 13 Wolfgang Jagodzinski and Karel Dobbelaere. 14 R. God is Dead: Secularization in the West (Oxford: Blackwell. “Although the timing and pace differ from one country to the next. in a path-dependent fashion. the Netherlands. and L. based on the Eurobarometer surveys. Currie. notably Belgium. Sabino Samele Acquaviva. A. For a challenge to this view. Studies have often reported that many Western Europeans have ceased to be regular churchgoers today outside of special occasions such as Christmas and Easter. The Decline of the Sacred in Industrial Society (Oxford: Basil Blackwell. a pattern especially evident among the young. To conclude. Churches and Churchgoers: Patterns of Church Growth in the British Isles since 1700 (Oxford: Oxford University Press. but that these trends have occurred from different starting points. Religion in the Modern World: From Cathedrals to Cults (Oxford: Oxford University Press. The fall is steepest and most significant in many Catholic societies. 1977). F. due to the historic legacy of the religious institutions and cultures within each country. Gilbert. 1979). and Spain. and the Netherlands. 1996).”13 Numerous studies provide a wealth of evidence confirming similar patterns of declining religiosity found in many other post-industrial nations. that religion is “still relatively unchanged” in the traditional Catholic nations of Europe seems a triumph of hope over experience.3 (1999): 275–88. D.” the authors concluded. Volksreligion und Herrschaftskirche. Steve Bruce. “the general tendency is quite stable: in the long run. “A Supply-Side Reinterpretation of the ‘Secularization’ of Europe. see Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge.14 Trends in recent decades illustrate the consistency of the secularization process irrespective of the particular indicator or survey that is selected. however. Steve Bruce. Jan W. What Europe Thinks: A Study of Western European Values (Aldershot: Dartmouth. particularly since the 1960s. Figure 3 illustrates the erosion of regular church attendance that has occurred throughout Western Europe since the early 1970s. vary considerably from one country to another. second. France.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 33 (1985): 230–52. Evidence in Western Europe consistently and unequivocally shows two things: traditional religious beliefs and involvement in institutionalized religion. Britain. Ireland. Sheena Ashford and Noel Timms. and. Horsley. the percentage of unaffiliated is increasing.” The Impact of Values. Where the church is today could depend in large part upon where it started out. ed. van Deth and Elinor Scarbrough (Oxford: Oxford University Press. Jagodzinski and Dobbelaere. Overall levels of church disengagement had advanced furthest in France.” Sociology of Religion 60. 1996). have steadily declined throughout Western Europe. for example. 1992). “Secularization and Church Religiosity. compared the proportion of regular (weekly) churchgoers in seven European countries from 1970 to 1991.S ellers or bu y ers in religious markets ? / norris & inglehart Trends in Secularization in Western Europe One reason for these cross-national variations could be that most post-industrial societies have experienced a significant erosion of religiosity during the post-war era. 1995) 105. Die Würzeln Religiösen Verhaltens in Westlichen Gesellschaften (Opladen: Leske und Budrich.

Moreover. 76 . 16 See Reginald W.16 15 Greeley xi. Nevertheless. regular churchgoing also dropped during the last two decades in affluent Anglo-American nations such as Canada and Australia. 1985).3 (1998): 249–63. which shows that in Canada church attendance fell from 67 percent in 1946 to 35 percent in 1978. (The Mannheim Eurobarometer Trend File 1970–99. “Religious Change and Secularization: The Transmission of Religious Values in Australia. Graphs represent percentage of the population in each society who said they attended a religious service “at least once a week” and the regression line of the trend. Hans Mol.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 #FMHJVN %FONBSL 'SBODF (SFBU#SJUBJO (FSNBOZ (SFFDF *SFMBOE *UBMZ -VYFNCPVSH /FUIFSMBOET /PSUIFSO*SFMBOE 4QBJO                             Figure 3.1 (1979): table 3. The Faith of Australians (Sydney: Allen & Unwin.” Sociological Analysis 49. Bibby. as between contemporary rates of religious participation in Ireland and Denmark.” Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology 16.) at odds with the evidence. Religious participation in Western Europe. 1970–2000. “The State of Collective Religiosity in Canada: An Empirical Analysis. the erosion of religiosity is not exclusive to Western European nations.15 Marked contrasts in the strength of churchgoing habits remain clear. all the trends point consistently downward. Ian McAllister.

d World Values Survey/European Values Survey “Do you believe in God?” Yes/No/Don’t Know.379 ** -18.3 (1977): 289–94.05.016 n/s 78 83 -1. “Review of the Polls: Multination Surveys of Religious Beliefs.” Observers such as Wade Clark Roof.6 -. *p<.1 -.0 -.461 * 84 -12.1 .9 -.277 n/s 93 94 -4.039 n/s 94 0.675 ** 79 64 61 58 -22. if religiosity has evolved and reinvented itself today as diverse forms of personal “spirituality.463 * 75 -19. g The statistical significance of the change in the time-series. c Gallup Opinion Index “Do you believe in God or a universal spirit?” Yes/No/Don’t Know.473 ** 80 73 Britain 77 Greece 96 W. 94 Brazil 96 98 73 57 98 Italy 71 59 India Austria 65 72 84 Switzerland 75 77 77 -7.263 n/s 89 91 85 88 -7.S. e The difference between the first and the last observation in the series.2 -.5 -. N/s = not significant. Grace Davie. and the rise of multiple “New Age” movements concerned with “lived religion” result in public engagement with churches being replaced by a 77 .9 -.296 n/s 72 68 63 78 76 65 61 56 -10. Robert Fuller.231 n/s 37 44 35 -3. Belief in God.0 -.487 n/s 72 -10. and Danièle Hervieu-Léger suggest that the declining status and authority of traditional church institutions and clergy. In the OLS regression models. b Gallup Opinion Index “Do you believe in God?” Yes/No/Don’t Know.2 -.2 -. personally.0 -.097 n/s 88 -0.S ellers or bu y ers in religious markets ? / norris & inglehart Table 1.8 -.387 n/s Japan 38 39 85 U.g 60 52 38 48 46 -33.3 -. f The unstandardized β summarizes the slope of the line.9 -.0 -. Note: Figures indicate the percentage of the public who express belief in God. the individualization of the quest for spirituality. Germany 81 Belgium Finland 83 83 France 66 73 Canada 95 76 79 68 58 53 59 62 -17.364 69 -12. 1947–2001 Nation 1947a 1968b Sweden 80 Netherlands 80 Australia 95 Norway 84 Denmark 80 1975c 1981d 1990d 1995d 2001d Changee βf Sig.9 -.0 .056 n/s 88 82 82 94 96 93 94 98 99 Source: Gallup polls from Lee Sigelman. and **p<. One interpretation of these patterns is offered by those who emphasize that trends in churchgoing are interesting but also out of date. believe in God?” Yes/No/Don’t Know.305 n/s 67 -11. a Gallup Opinion Index “Do you.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 16.01 (2-tailed).027 n/s 3. year is regressed on the series.387 * 73 72 61 -16.4 -.

Robert C.18 Given such divergence. such as Greeley. 17 Grace Davie. Danièle Hervieu-Léger. beliefs. where again an erosion of subjective religiosity occurs in thirteen of the seventeen countries where evidence is available. and Brazil. and Italy. rather than a simple uniform decline: In some countries.S. 2002). Wade Clark Roof.S. Greeley suggests that simple attempts to discover secularization should be abandoned. Table 1 shows that in 1947. Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American Religion (Princeton: Princeton University Press. A fall in faith in God occurred across all but two nations (the U. the Netherlands. a consistent link between the “public” and “private” dimensions of religiosity. and instead attention should focus on explaining persistent and well-established cross-national patterns—for example. Yet we find that. Spiritual. Japan. The greatest falls during the last fifty years are registered in Northern Europe. religion has increased (most notably the former communist countries and especially Russia) in others it has declined (most notably Britain. are in the United States. and France) and in still other countries it is relatively unchanged (the traditional Catholic countries). where there is a revival of religious faith.. Religion in Britain since 1945: Believing without Belonging (Oxford: Blackwell. and Brazil. Canada.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 “private” or “personal” search for spirituality and meaning in life. Fuller. display a mixed picture during the last two decades. one reason for the decline in religious participation during the late twentieth century lies in the fact that during these years many common spiritual beliefs have indeed suffered considerable erosion in post-industrial societies. propose that indicators of subjective beliefs in Europe. with the highest levels of belief expressed in Australia. roughly eight out of ten people believed in God. and Brazil). Canada. 1994).17 Others. why people in Ireland and Italy are consistently more religious than those in France and Sweden. exemplified by faith in God or in life after death. making the practices. and symbols of religiosity less visible.” Social Compass 50. Australia. 18 Greeley 78 xi. the U. and Britain. and the only exceptions to this pattern. . in fact. There is. We monitor trends in religious beliefs in God and in life after death during the last fifty years by matching survey data in the Gallup polls starting in 1947 to the more recent data where the same questions were replicated in the World Values surveys. but Not Religious: Understanding Unchurched America (New York: Oxford University Press. far from divergent patterns. and in yet other countries (some of the social democratic countries) it has both declined and increased. The decline proved sharpest in the Scandinavian nations. 2001). the Netherlands.3 (2003): 287–95. Table 2 illustrates very similar patterns for belief in life after death. “The Case for a Sociology of ‘Multiple Religious Modernities’: A Different Approach to the ‘Invisible Religion’ of European Societies.

many have regarded the United States as an outlier. Greeley. Studies published during the 1980s indicated that Protestant church attendance had not declined significantly in the U. At least until the late 1980s. Belief in life after death. MA: Harvard University Press. c The difference between the first and the last observation in the series. “The Center Doesn’t Hold: Church Attendance in the United States. 40 percent of American 19 Andrew M. Greeley. Hout and Andrew M. while it fell rapidly among Catholics from 1968 to 1975. Note: Figures indicate the percentage of the public who express belief in life after death.3 (1977): 289–94. analysis of trends in church attendance derived from historical records and from representative surveys commonly reported that the size of congregations in the United States had remained stable over decades.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 16. 1980).S ellers or bu y ers in religious markets ? / norris & inglehart Table 2. 79 . Trends in Religiosity in the United States In light of these European patterns. a Gallup Opinion Index “Do you believe in life after death?” Yes/No/Don’t Know.19 Gallup found that in March 1939. “Review of the Polls: Multination Surveys of Religious Beliefs. Germany 38 41 33 74 73 37 -11 39 -10 47 -10 40 -8 56 44 -7 45 -4 52 52 36 38 50 38 0 69 70 70 73 76 8 Japan 18 33 30 33 32 14 Italy 46 46 53 61 15 U. 1947–2001 Nation 1947a 1961a 1968a Norway 71 71 54 Finland 69 Denmark 55 Netherlands 68 France 58 Canada 78 Brazil 78 Sweden 49 1975a 1981b 1990b 1995b 41 36 43 44 50 55 63 50 35 68 Australia 63 Britain 49 -28 44 -25 25 29 32 -23 41 39 47 -22 35 38 39 -20 54 61 61 67 -11 28 70 67 31 40 57 Belgium Changec 39 38 Greece 2001b 48 36 48 49 43 46 56 38 Switzerland 55 50 W. 1940– 1984. Greeley.. it did not erode further in subsequent years.” American Sociological Review 52. M. and. 1985). 68 -3 Source: Gallup polls from Lee Sigelman.S. although in fact the evidence remains somewhat ambiguous. Religious Change in America (Cambridge. b World Values Survey/European Values Survey “Do you believe in life after death?” Yes/No/Don’t Know. Unsecular Man: The Persistence of Religion (New York: Schocken. Andrew M.S.3 (1987): 325–45.

Today Poll. “Secularization and Religious Revival: Evidence from U.21 Other indicators also suggest that traditional religious participation may have eroded in the United States. while at the same time the proportion saying that they never attended church doubled to one-fifth of all Americans (see Figure 4). and Episcopalians. The GSS monitored religious identities annually during the last three decades and found that the proportion of Americans who are secularists. or never [16 percent]?” Self-reported church attendance figures may well contain systematic bias towards over-reporting (C.S. many studies report that congregations for newer evangelical churches have expanded their membership at the expense of “mainline” Protestant denominations such as the United Methodist Church.S. “How often do you attend church or synagogue—at least once a week [31 percent]. even where we have reliable estimates 20 March 1939 Gallup Poll—A. During this decade. Yet this cannot explain the apparent discrepancy between reported churchgoing in the U.” American Journal of Sociology 107.4 (1989): 464–77. Kirk Hadaway and P.N.S. seldom [28 percent]. Greeley.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 adults reported attending church the previous week—roughly the same figure given by Gallup more than sixty years later (in March 2003). For example. Gallup polls registered a modest decline in the proportion of Americans who are members of a church or synagogue. Wilde.P. General Social Survey (GSS). “The Demographic Imperative in Religious Change in the United States.2 (2001): 468–500.S. 21 See Hadaway. 80 .O.” American Sociological Review 58.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 28. 22 Robert Wuthnow. hovers around 25–30 percent.22 Moreover. parallel to the long-term trends experienced throughout Europe. Other evidence based on cohort and period analysis of the GSS suggests that the apparent long-term stability of the aggregate levels of churchgoing in the U. about once a month [16 percent]. changes have occurred among denominations within the religious population in the United States. “Did You Really Go To Church This Week? Behind the Poll Data.20 The U. According to the GSS. are brought in.A. 1988). C. and Melissa J. in part due to changes in the American population and also patterns of immigration from Latin America and Asia. Gallup—C./U..S. Marler. et al. Presbyterians. reporting that they have no religious preference or identity.S. Andrew M. climbed steadily during the 1990s (see Figure 5). “What the Polls Don’t Show: A Closer Look at Church Attendance. 2003.S. March 14. “Did you happen to go to church last Sunday?” 40 percent answered yes. Kirk Hadaway. in fact disguises two simultaneous changes occurring since the early 1970s: a negative cohort effect and a positive period effect. and Western Europe. The Restructuring of American Religion (Princeton: Princeton University Press.I. At the same time. Brian Wilson emphasizes that. 60 percent no. Church Attendance Rates. L. in part fuelled by a substantial influx of Hispanic immigrants with large families. “Are Conservative Churches Really Growing?” Review of Religious Research 33 (1992): 305– 29. See Mark Chaves. Tom Smith. conducted annually by NORC during the last three decades. 1972–1986.6 [1993]: 741–52).” Christian Century [6 May 1998]: 472–5. down from about three-quarters (73 percent) of the population in 1937 to about two-thirds (65 percent) in 2001. the proportion of Americans reporting that they attended church at least weekly fell to one-quarter in the most recent estimate. while the proportion of Catholics in the population remained fairly steady. also indicates that weekly church attendance in the U. unless some “spiral of silence” claims about the social acceptability of churchgoing in the U. the main erosion occurred among American Protestants.N. et al. almost every week [9 percent]. with a significant fall in church attendance occurring during the last decade. Michael Hout.

for example.23 Despite the overall popularity of religion in the United States. The Diminishing Divide: Religion’s Changing Role in American Politics (Washington. Religious participation in the U. Green. 1969). or churches may have become more secular in orientation.1 (2001): 3–26. religion was by far the strongest predictor of who voted for George W. These regional divisions proved important for politics: in the 2000 U. John C. presidential election. Butterfly Ballots and Partisan Vitriol.S. By contrast. and to be single and male. Lines represent responses to the question “How often do you attend religious services?” (U. VNS Exit Polls in “Who Voted. as well as to have a college degree.S.24 The election result reflected strongly entrenched 23 Brian R. Toth. it would also be a gross exaggeration to claim that all Americans feel the same way. as well as be female and married. General Social Survey 1972–2002. Andrew Kohut. DC: Brookings Institution Press. Wilson.S. committed evangelicals are far more likely to live in small towns or rural areas. 1972–2002. little relationship may exist between these practices and spirituality— churchgoing may fulfill a need for social networking within local communities. Bush and who voted for Al Gore.) of churchgoing. Scott Keeter. Secularists. 81 . are far more likely to live in urban cities on the Pacific coast or in the Northeast. Religion in Secular Society (Harmondsworth: Penguin. “U.” Government and Opposition 36. 24 Pippa Norris.” The New York Times (12 November 2000). especially in the South and Midwest. Campaign 2000: Of Pregnant Chads.S.S ellers or bu y ers in religious markets ? / norris & inglehart  1FSDFOUPGQPQVMBUJPO "UUFOEXFFLMZPSNPSFPGUFO   /FWFS                           Figure 4. 2000). and Robert C.. as important social and regional disparities exist.

and conformist.S. 25 Gertrude 82 Himmelfarb. reproductive rights. there are some indicators that secular tendencies may have strengthened in the U. family-centered. American cultural values are more individualistic. (U. is religious. which may bring the United States slightly closer to Western Europe.S. Jewish. The pervasive importance of these values is apparent in many American practices. Religious identities in the U. and more culturally conservative than Europe.. especially in public life (even prior to the Bush administration and 9/11). in part because they inhabit different worlds. and this makes the U. tolerant. or no religion?” The graph excludes religious identities adhered to by less than 3 percent of Americans. Nevertheless. General Social Survey 1972–2002. . Catholic. despite the strict division of church and state. 1999).T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6  1FSDFOUPGQPQVMBUJPO 1SPUFTUBOU   $BUIPMJD  /PSFMJHJPO                          Figure 5. One Nation: Two Cultures (New York: Random House.25 The United States remains one of the most religious in the club of rich countries. hedonistic.S. Lines represent responses to the question “What is your religious preference? Protestant. and the other is secular.) divisions in public opinion and values between social conservatives and liberals on issues such as the death penalty. patriotic. puritanical. These cultures coexist and tolerate each other. more moralistic.S. The regional patterns of religiosity are important and may even have led to two distinctive cultures within the United States.S. some other religion. In the same way. at least during the last decade. Himmelfarb argues that one culture in the U. one of the most religious countries in the world. and multicultural. alongside Ireland and Italy. more patriotic. 1972–2002.. and homosexuality.

Stark and Finke emphasize that most European nations sustain what they 26 Stark and Finke. Religious groups compete for congregations with different degrees of vigor. notably denominational competition and state regulation of religious institutions. is believed to have maximized choice and competition among faiths. thereby mobilizing the American public. American churches are subject to market forces. and welfare services such as soup kitchens and babysitting cooperatives. where a free religious marketplace exists. Stephen Warner. and depend upon their ability to attract clergy and volunteers as well as the financial resources that flow from their membership. and the principle proponents include Roger Finke.27 By contrast. shape levels of religious participation in the United States and Europe. Acts of Faith.26 Dissimilar levels of spiritual behavior evident in various countries are believed to result less from “bottom up” demand than from variance in “top down” religious supply. 88. The proliferation of diverse churches in the U. and Western Europe. Methods and Selected Results.S.S.S ellers or bu y ers in religious markets ? / norris & inglehart Explaining Variations in Religiosity: The Religious Market Model Given the existence of important and consistent cross-national variations in religiosity. During the last decade many American commentators have enthusiastically advanced this account. For example.4 (1999): 458–76. Market-based theories in the sociology of religion assume that the demand for religious products is relatively constant.” thereby mobilizing religious activism among the public. engagement in community politics. including religious education. Iannaccone. although the evidence to support this argument is drawn largely from the U. By contrast. based on the otherworldly rewards of life after death promised by most (although not all) faiths. what best explains these patterns? Religious Markets Religious market theory provides the most critical and sustained challenge to the traditional secularization thesis. “The National Congregations Study: Background. the National Congregations Study found that American churches commonly seek to attract new adherents by offering multiple social activities (or “products”) beyond services of worship. Rodney Stark.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 38. William Sims Bainbridge. with a fixed market share due to state regulation and subsidy for one particular faith that enjoys special status and privileges. Established churches are thought to be complacent monopolies taking their congregations for granted. Competition is thought to generate certain benefits. This account suggests that supply-side factors. 27 Mark Chaves. energetic competition between churches expands the supply of religious “products. producing diversity. and compelling recruitment by congregations. Lawrence R. although the theory has also encountered sustained criticism. cultural and arts groups. and R. stimulating innovation. 83 . The theory claims to be a universal generalization applicable to all faiths.

with the distribution illustrated in Figure 6. 30 Data on the major religious populations is derived from the Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year 2001. derived from free market economics. concerns the unit of comparison: since this study measures religious pluralism among the major world faiths at the societal then religious pluralism and state regulation of religion should both be important in predicting rates of churchgoing in post-industrial societies: in particular. such as in Germany and Sweden. and lax. slothful. Stark and Finke believe that if the “supply” of churches was expanded in Europe through disestablishment (deregulation). In short. countries with great competition among multiple pluralist religious churches. William Easterly. and this is true irrespective of whether the comparison focuses on frequency of attendance at services of worship or the fre- 28 Stark and Finke.30 One important qualification. 84 . Arnaud Devleeschauwer. the correlation between religious pluralism and religious behavior all prove insignificant in post-industrial societies. it is thought that priests will grow complacent. Sergio Kurlat. Any one indicator may be flawed.28 Religious monopolies are believed to be less innovative. “To the extent that organizations work harder. this would probably lead to a resurgence of religious behavior among the public. as compiled by Alberto Alesina. Acts of Faith. The data set is available at <www. 228. and if churches just made more effort. and efficient. they conclude. What could be more obvious?”29 What indeed? Leaving aside the strong normative thrust of the supply-side argument and concepts. 257. and Romain Wacziarg. Acts of Faith. but if all results from the independent measures point in a generally consistent direction then this lends greater confidence to the results. which is necessary for cross-national research.html>. 29 Stark and Finke. “Fractionalization. and faiths should have the highest religious participation.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 term “a socialized religious economy. they are more successful. Supply-side theorists use the Herfindahl index as the standard measure to gauge religious pluralism. due to the limitations of data or measurement error. Where clergy enjoy secure incomes and tenure regardless of their performance. what specific propositions flow from this account that are open to systematic cross-national testing with empirical evidence? We can compare four separate indicators to test the religious market model (see Table 3). denominations.stanford.” Journal of Economic Growth 82 (2003): 219–58. it cannot gauge competition among religious organizations representing diverse denominations and sects at local or regional levels. Religious Pluralism If the supply-side theory is correct. Contrary to the predictions of supply-side theory. The results lend no support to the claim of a significant link between religious pluralism and participation. responsive. however.” with state subsidies for established churches.

Nor is this merely due to the comparison of post-industrial societies: the global comparison in all nations confirms that there is no significant relationship between participation and pluralism across the broader distribution of societies worldwide. where churchgoing habits are far weaker. 32 Lipset. at a finer level of denominational detail than is available in most social surveys. This is one of the explanations for American exceptionalism advanced by Lipset. without hindrance to particular sects and faiths. but the problem is that it fails to work elsewhere. Moreover. and indeed even in most census data.S ellers or bu y ers in religious markets ? / norris & inglehart quency of prayer. The scatter gram shows that other English-speaking nations share similar levels of religious pluralism. but rather competition among or within specific denominations. in Catholic post-industrial societies the relationship is actually reversed. Nevertheless. who argues that the long-standing separation of church and state in the United States has given the churches greater autonomy and allowed varied opportunities for people to participate in religion. whether the comparison was restricted to post-industrial societies or to all nations worldwide. Cann in eighteen post-industrial 31 It should be noted that the proportion of adherents to the majority religion in each country was also compared as an alternative measure of religious diversity or homogeneity. since people are more likely to switch particular churches within closely related families. 85 . based on the measure of pluralism of faiths and religious participation used in this study. the United States is the exception in its combination of high rates of religious pluralism and participation: the theory does indeed fit the American case. First. This proposition would require testing at the community level with other forms of data. State Regulation and Freedom of Religion An alternative version of religious market theory predicts that participation will also be maximized where there is a strong constitutional division between church and state. but this measure also proved an insignificant predictor of religious participation.31 Among post-industrial societies. Of course the account could always be retrieved by arguing that what matters is less competition among the major faiths. since people rarely convert directly. this would greatly limit its applicability for cross-national research. in these countries far fewer people regularly attend church.32 Three indicators are available to analyze this relationship. protecting religious freedom of worship and toleration of different denominations. if the claims of the original theory were modified. however. compared with the more pluralist Netherlands and France. with the highest participation evident in Ireland and Italy where the Church enjoys a virtual religious monopoly. the state regulation of religion was measured by Mark Chaves and David E. no empirical support is found here for this account. Irrespective of the extensive literature advocating the supply-side theory.

Mean religious participation is based on responses to the question “Apart from weddings. It was then standardized to 100 points. 3) the state appoints or approves the appointment of church leaders. once a week (6). 5) there is a system of ecclesiastical tax collection.PS &TU /FUI 6SV (# 'S 3VT $[FDI 3FMJHJPVT$VMUVSF &BTUFSO 5BJ . which measures the freedom of houses of worship.PM (FP $BO 4XJ (FS "[F -BU "VTUM 4. 2) there is official state recognition of some denominations but not others. “Regulation. so that a low score represents greater regulation. 6) the state directly subsidizes. Cann. (Alesina et al. comparisons can then be made with the summary analysis of religious freedom generated every year by Freedom House. 4) the state directly pays church personnel salaries. the operation. worship. or sects. for ease of presentation. for ease of interpretation. educational institutions.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6  /JHFSJB . Religiosity and pluralism. and coded so that a higher score represented greater religious freedom. The scale is reversed in this study. humanitarian organizations. See Mark Chaves and David E. about how often do you attend religious services these days? More than once a week (7). maintenance. Pluralism and Religious Market Structure.JN 1IJM 4"GS *OE *UB 3PN 4MPW #FMH 'JO %FO 4XF #SB[ #PT "MC 4MPWL 64 $IJM . The 20-item scale was constructed by coding 20 indicators. officially designated state church.34 Third. only on special holidays (4). 34 See Norris and Inglehart. and dress. the freedom for individual religious practices such as prayer. cults. constitutional recognition of freedom of religion. once a year (3). 33 The 6-point scale was classified by Chaves and Cann using data provided by the World Christian Encyclopedia (1982) based on whether or not each country had the following characteristics: 1) there is a single.) Religious pluralism is based on Herfindahl Index. less often (2). these results were cross-checked against the Norris and Inglehart Freedom of Religion Index. funerals and christenings. never or practically never (1).BMUB  6HB 3FMJHJPVTQBSUJDJQBUJPO *OEP  $PM 1FSV (SF *SBO "SH +PS   #OH *SF  5VSL -VY . pooled 1981–2001. 86 . and restrictions of certain denominations. such as the role of the state in subsidizing churches.) nations. once a month (5).33 Second.VTMJN 0SUIPEPY  1SPUFTUBOU $IJOB    3PNBO$BUIPMJD   3FMJHJPVTQMVSBMJTN Figure 6.” Rationality and Society 4 (1992): 272–90. beyond mere tax breaks. 2002. or capital expenses for churches.” (World Values Survey.

insecurity.. however. Even relatively affluent nations have multiple pockets of long-term poverty. In post-industrial nations. homeless. the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. But. Pakistani. no empirical support that we examined could explain the puzzle of why some rich nations are far more religious than others or establish a significant link between patterns of religious behavior and the indicators of religious pluralism. farm laborers in Sicily. this pattern was found both within the comparison of post-industrial nations and also in the global comparison of all countries where data was available. single-parent. The Role of Security and Economic Inequality in Generating Demand Supply-side religious market theory has therefore provided only limited insights into the diversity of religious participation found in rich nations. this still leaves us with the question that we considered at the start of the paper: why are some societies such as the United States and Ireland persistently more religious in their habits and beliefs than comparable Western nations sharing a Christian cultural heritage? Our answer rests on patterns of human security and. The growth of the welfare state in industrialized nations insures large sectors of the public against the worst risks of ill health and old age. See Paul Marshall. Religious Freedom in the World: A Global Report on Freedom and Persecution (Nashville: Broadman and Holman. and the European Convention on Human Rights. and Indian émigrés in Leicester and Birmingham. 87 . and activities. ed. or Bangladeshi. penury and destitution. There are many reasons why one might imagine that the spread of greater tolerance and freedom of worship. facilitating competition among religious institutions. whether afflicting unemployed African-Americans living in the inner cities of Los Angeles and Detroit.35 Contrary to the supply-side theory. capable of falling through the welfare safety net. the work of non-profit charitable foundations. conditions of socioeconomic inequality. Populations typically most at risk in industrialized nations. the results of the simple correlations of these three indicators (see Table 3) suggest that no significant relationship exists between any of these indicators of religious freedom and levels of religious behavior. and 35 The survey criteria used by this organization develops a 7-point scale based on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. in particular. of course. and the perceived functions of the church. individuals. might prove conducive to greater religious activity among the public. the long-term disabled. include the elderly and children. and unemployed. 2000). What matters for the societal vulnerability. and access to financial resources have transformed security in postindustrial nations and also reduced the vital role of religion in people’s lives. female-headed households.S ellers or bu y ers in religious markets ? / norris & inglehart and human rights in general. while private insurance schemes. where they involve particular religious bodies. religious freedom. Moreover. and risk that we believe drives religiosity are not simply levels of national economic resources but their distribution as well. But so far the range of evidence using multiple indicators fails to support the supply-side claims.

018 n/s .249 n/s . h Data from World Bank.367 n/s . If we are correct that feelings of vulnerability are driving religiosity. estimated in the latest available year by the World Bank. N/s = not significant. <www. not surprisingly since all these countries are highly developed. 88 .T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 Table 3.614 * 18 HUMAN SECURITY a Pearson simple correlations without prior controls. and religiosity in post-industrial societies Indicators Religious Participation Ra Sig.550 n/s 13 Human Development Indexg -. then this should be evident by comparing levels of economic inequality across societies. which measures the extent to which the distribution of income among households within a society deviates from a perfectly equal distribution.119 n/s 21 Religious Freedom Indexd .org> (2002). Yet the level of economic inequality proves strongly and significantly related to both forms of religious behavior. d See Appendix C of Norris and Inglehart (2004) for details of the construction of this scale. 2002). but especially to 36 The GINI coefficient ranges from perfect equality (0) to perfect inequality (100). We analyzed the distribution of economic resources in post-industrial societies by comparing the GINI coefficient.077 n/s 21 Economic inequality (GINI coeffecient)h .314 n/s -. and **p<.05. Statistical significance. <www.477 n/s 21 State regulation of religione .b RELIGIOUS MARKETS Religious pluralismc Frequency of Prayer Ra Sig. c Data from the Herfindahl Index (Alesina et al. World Development Indicators. even in rich nations.b N of nations .org>.496 * .freedomhouse. Human security. *p<. f Data from <www. World Development Report (New York: UNDP/Oxford University Press.423 n/s 18 Freedom House religious freedom scalef -. e Scale measured by Chaves and Cann (1992). 2003).undp. b ethnic minorities.worldbank.01 (2-tailed). as well as by looking at the strength of religiosity among the poorer sectors of society.427 n/s .org> (2001). religious markets. g Data from United Nations Development Program.36 Table 3 indicates that the Human Development Index fails to predict variations in levels of religious behavior within post-industrial nations.

MA: Harvard University Press. once a week (5).ETH *AP $EN   #AN 3FMJHJPVT$VMUVSF &BTUFSO &R 1SPUFTUBOU 3PNBO$BUIPMJD   &DPOPNJDJOFRVBMJUZ  Figure 7. the United States is exceptionally high in religiosity in large part. at least once a month (4). The State of the Nation: Government and the Quest for a Better Society (Cambridge. <www. Americans face greater anxieties than citizens in other advanced industrialized countries about whether or not they will be covered by medical> 2002. be fired arbitrarily. never (1). Mean frequency of prayer per society is based on responses to the question “How often do you pray to God outside of religious services? Every day (7). or be forced to choose between losing their jobs and devoting themselves to their newborn children. Figure 7 illustrates this relationship. we believe.) the propensity to engage in individual religiosity through prayer. face serious risks of loss of paid work by the main breadwinner.” (World Values Survey. Religiosity and economic inequality. as well as the problems of paying for long-term care of the elderly. the dangers of sudden ill health without adequate private medical insurance. many American families.S ellers or bu y ers in religious markets ? / norris & inglehart  53 )RE 'SFRVFODZPGQSBZFS  )TA  !US &IN  3P 'ER "ELG .37 The entrepreneurial culture and the emphasis 37 For a discussion of the comparative evidence.UX . World Development Indicators.) Economic inequality is gauged by the GINI coefficient. see Derek Bok. because it is also one of the most unequal post-industrial societies under comparison. more than once a week (6). (World Bank. 89 . several times a year (3). 1996). Despite private affluence for the well-off. even in the professional middle classes. less often (2).worldbank. vulnerability to becoming a victim of crime. pooled 1981–2001.

90 . and John D. compared with 47 percent of the highest income group. and pensions. Social Foundations of Postindustrial Economies (Oxford: Oxford University Press. Conclusions and Implications Secularization is not a deterministic process. “Distribution and Redistribution in Postindustrial Democracies.. Inequality. conversely. eds.” World Politics 55. and William Julius Wilson. Alexander Hicks. found that the GINI coefficient for income inequality was greatest in the United States compared with thirteen other advanced industrial democracies. Poverty. 39 Katherine McFate. and yet one trade-off is that the United States has greater income inequality than any other advanced industrial democracy. despite recent pressures on restructuring. Conditions that people experience in their formative years have a profound impact upon their cultural values.39 If this argument rested only on the cross-national comparisons. Similar patterns can be found in the United States (see Figure 9): two-thirds (66 percent) of the least well-off income group pray daily. But evidence can also be examined at the individual level by looking at how far the distribution of income relates to religious behavior. Stephens. 1995). including comprehensive healthcare. of course. as multiple other characteristics distinguish Western Europe and the United States. Social Democracy and Welfare Capitalism: A Century of Income Security Policies (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. based on the Luxembourg Income Study database.1 (2003): 193–228. Stephanie Moller. despite the numerous possible explanatory factors that could be brought into the picture. the historical role of church-state relations. but one that is largely predictable. from institutional structures to state restrictions on freedom of worship. the secular Scandinavian and West European states remain some of the most egalitarian societies. 1999). Growing up in societies in which survival is uncertain is conducive to a strong emphasis on religion. based on knowing just a few facts about levels of human development and socioeconomic equality in each country. social services. 38 By comparison. The levels of societal and individual security in any society provide the most persuasive and parsimonious explanations and predictors. it would be too limited. See David Bradley. The patterns in Figure 8 show that religiosity is systematically related at the individual level to the distribution of income groups in post-industrial societies: the poor are almost twice as religious as the rich. with relatively high levels of personal taxation but also an expansive array of welfare services in the public sector. and the Future of Social Policy: Western States in the New World Order (New York: Russell Sage. Francois Nielsen.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 on personal responsibility has generated conditions of individual freedom and delivered considerable societal affluence. then. experiencing high levels of existential security throughout one’s formative years reduces the subjective importance of 38 A recent detailed study comparing the levels of household income after government redistribution through tax and welfare transfers. Roger Lawson. 1999). Evelyn Huber. and patterns of denominational and church competition. Gosta Esping-Andersen.

less brutish. and among the less secure strata of society than among the affluent. (World Values Survey. What must be included is that. tolerance of homosexuality. and longer.S ellers or bu y ers in religious markets ? / norris & inglehart 1FSDFOUPGQPQVMBUJPO  1SBZEBJMZ  3FMJHJPOWFSZJNQPSUBOU U FT  )J HI        -P X FT U  -FWFMPGJODPNF Figure 8. our interpretation implies that the demand for religion should be far stronger among low-income nations than among rich ones. and work orientations. The citizens of historically Protestant societies continue to display values that are distinct from those prevailing in historically 91 .) religion in one’s life. This hypothesis diverges sharply from the religious market assumption that demand for religion is constant. salaries. pooled 1981–2001. The percentage of the public who pray daily and who regard religion as very important by decile household income group (counting all wages. As a society moves past the early stages of industrialization and life becomes less nasty. On the contrary. Religiosity by income in post-industrial societies. and other incomes before taxes and other deductions) in post-industrial societies. to gender roles. pensions. although rising levels of existential security are conducive to secularization. The most crucial explanatory variables are those that differentiate between vulnerable societies and societies in which survival is so secure that people take it for granted during their formative years. people tend to become more secular in their orientations. ranging from approval of divorce. cultural change is path-dependent: the historically predominant religious tradition of a given society tends to leave a lasting impact on religious beliefs and other social norms.

92 . a society’s cultural heritage continues to influence cultural direction. salaries. The percentage of the American public who pray daily and who regard religion as very important by decile household income group (counting all wages. pensions. Thus. meaning that the cultural differences linked with economic development not only are not shrinking. Orthodox.) Catholic.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 1FSDFOUPGQPQVMBUJPO 1SBZEBJMZ  3FMJHJPOWFSZJNQPSUBOU  U FT )J HI         -P X FT U  -FWFMPGJODPNF Figure 9. within the Netherlands. (World Values Survey. and our new forms of identity politics. These cross-national differences persist even in societies where the vast majority no longer attends church and reflect historical influences that shaped given national cultures. Thus.S. Protestants. Hindu. While secularization started earliest and has moved farthest in the most economically developed countries. and those who have left the church all tend to share a common national value system that is distinctive in global perspective. pooled 1981– 2001. Catholics. but are growing larger. and other incomes before taxes and other deductions). our cultural change. or Confucian societies. little or no secularization has taken place in the low-income countries. while economic development brings systematic changes. This expanding gap between sacred and secular societies around the globe has important consequences for our current religious and political landscapes. Religiosity by income in the U.

Modernity (2003). France’s Headscarf Controversy. but on this occasion the outcome was a law prohibiting the display of religious differences in public schools. my essay is not part of that debate. 2006). “Muslims and Citizens. Ruth Mas. This is also a useful overview of the controversy. particularly religion in the Middle East.”2 Should Muslim girls be allowed to wear a covering over their hair when they are in public schools? The dominant view was definitely that they should not. They should not.” forthcoming in Political Theologies. A considerable amount of polemic has been published on this topic. Talal Asad is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the City University of New York Graduate Center. be taken as endorsing my views. he is the author of a number of books including Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam (1993) and Formations of the Secular: Christianity. But first a caveat: Much has been written on this subject. and Peter van der Veer. For most of 2003 and 2004. Jonathan Boyarin. following a speech by the then Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy in April 2003. in France as well as elsewhere.” Boston Review (February/ March 2004): 31. ed. Mahmood Mamdani. “Trying to Understand French Secularism. This was not the first time that the matter had been publicly discussed. Baber Johansen. 1 This essay is adapted from a longer chapter.French Secularism and the “Islamic Veil Affair”1 Talal Asad I n what follows I want to look in some detail at the so-called Islamic veil affair in France and its central articulation in the Stasi commission report. Veena Das. Islam. I am grateful to a number of friends for comments on various versions of this essay: Mustapha Alem. some arguing for and some against the right of young Muslim women to wear the headscarf in school. Hent de Vries (New York: Fordham University Press. A renowned anthropologist of religion.” Its more modest aim is simply to try and understand some concepts and practices of French secularism. Nor is it in any sense an attempt to offer solutions to what is often called “the crisis of laïcité. David Scott. 93 . Marcel Detienne. Markha Valenta. of course. 2 See John Bowen. French public opinion was exercised by the affair of the “‘foulards islamiques’ [Islamic scarves].

such as that of the United States. As Emile Durkheim pointed out in his writings on integration. and if so. It is felt by what seems to be the majority of French intellectuals and politicians—of the left as well as of the right—that the secular character of the Republic is under threat by aspects of Islam that they see as being symbolized by the headscarf. even though it disclaims any religious allegiance and governs worldly concerns. (This doesn’t include the guarantee of life. …since “religion” directs the One way of looking at the problem that interests me is this: since “religion” directs the attention of subjects to other-worldly concerns. the state may kill or let die its own while denying that right to anyone else. In my view it is not the comneeds to define its proper place mitment to or interdiction of a particular religion that is most significant in this principle but the installation of a for the worldly wellbeing of single absolute power—the sovereign state—drawn from a the population in its care.) An image of worldly wellbeing that can be seen in social life and so believed in is needed.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 The headscarf worn by Muslim schoolgirls has become the symbol of many aspects of social and religious life among Muslim immigrants and their offspring to which secularists object. But it does include the encouragement of a flourishing consumer culture.3 Intellectuals have debated whether. state power a largely irreligious society. And as Hobbes showed. See Jerusalem Report (6 May 2002). but so is an answer to the question: what are the signs of religion’s presence? Laïcité therefore seems to me comparable to other secularisms. and not only on the part of French Muslims. the state is now a transcendent as well as a representative agent. and independent of any supernatural power. whether governors or governed. The passions that have led to the new law are remarkable. Researchers have enquired into the reasons for their lack of integration into French society. it is possible for religious Muslims to be integrated into secular French society. but that others see as a result of manipulations by conservative Middle Eastern countries and by inflammatory Islamist websites. a society hospitable to religious belief and activism in which the federal government also finds the need to define religion. how. . a drift that some of them trace to pervasive racism and to economic disadvantage. and especially for the drift of many of their youth towards “fundamentalist Islam” (l’islamisme). 3 94 It is estimated that more than half the inhabitants of French prisons are young Muslims of North African origin. state power needs to define its proper place for the worldly wellbeing of the population in its care. it can now embody the abstract principle of sovereignty independent of the entire political population. I want to suggest that the French secular state today abides in a sense by the cuius regio eius religio principle (the reliattention of subjects to othergion of the ruler is the religion of his subjects). single abstract source and facing a single political task: the worldly care of its population regardless of its beliefs.

fr>. On the other hand. the state’s right to defend its personality would trump all other rights. The commission was headed by ex-minister Bernard Stasi.ladocumentationfrancaise. My references are to the latter. little crosses. are authorized. remis 11 December 2003. the recognition of oneself as a particular kind of self—on which this state is built. the scope and content of “public space” is primarily a function of the Republic’s power. medallions. The headscarf worn by Muslim women was held to be a religious sign conflicting with the secular personality of the French Republic. Commission présidée par Bernard Stasi (Paris: La Documentation française. The state’s inviolable personality was expressed in and through particular images. but since the legal distinction between public and private spaces is itself a construction of the state. the state’s right to strict separation between religion and the state.F rench secularism and the “ islamic veil affair ” / A sad Reading Signs Because religion is of such capital importance to the lay Republic. They were defend its personality would first and foremost about the structure of political liberties— trump all other rights. and about the structure of emotions that underlie those liberties. and large crosses worn around the neck. The eventual outcome of such debates about the Islamic headscarf in the media and elsewhere was the President’s appointment of a commission of enquiry charged with reporting on the question of secularity in schools. 2004). kippas. including those signifying the abstract individuals whom it represented and to which they in turn owed unconditional obedience. The arguments presented in the media about the Islamic …in the event of a conflict headscarf affair were therefore embedded in this power. hands of Fatima. or miniature Qur’ans. and it heard testimony from a wide array of persons. The dominant position in the debate assumed that in the event of a conflict between constitutional principles. In December 2003.4 In making all these stipulations. a report was finally submitted to the President recommending a law that would prohibit the display of any “conspicuous religious signs” (des signes ostensibles) in public schools—including veils. the commission clearly felt the need to appear even-handed. about the relations of subordination and immunity. The report has also been published in book form as Laïcité et République. nor even about the principles. stars of David. 95 . between constitutional They seemed to me not so much about tolerance towards Muslims in a religiously diverse society. The proposed law was formally passed by the National Assembly 4 Rapport au President de la République: Commission de réflection sur l’application du principe de laïcité dans la République. that Republic reserves for itself the final authority to determine whether the meaning of given symbols (by which I mean conventional signs) is “religious.” One might object that this applies only to the meaning of signs in public places. that the report designates “discreet signs” (les signes discrets). <www.

However. Only by rejecting one available interpretation (“the headscarf has nothing whatever to do with real religion”) in favor of another (“the veil is an Islamic symbol”) can the Stasi commission insist on its being obviously a “religious” sign. although it did not discourage people from participating as individuals. Of course there are many Muslims. one of the organizers of the February 13th demonstration against the law. The second point is this: the “religious” signs forbidden on school premises are distinguished by their gender dimension—the veil is worn by women. “UOIF: ‘La loi sur la laïcité est là et nous l’appliquerons. in contrast. the wearing of the headscarf by women in public is a religious duty. The object of the whole exercise is of course to ban the Islamic 5 96 The Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF) ordered its youth wing. some reluctantly. the kippa stands for “Judaism. to a secularism of exclusion [une laïcité d’exclusion]” signaled by the new law.’” Libération (12 April 2004).” it assumes the existence of such a definition because the qualifying form of the term (“religious signs”) rests on a substantive form (“religion”). men and women. and the cross by both sexes. to desist from open struggle against the law. for example. all the wearables mentioned are signs. The Stasi commission takes certain signs to have a “religious” meaning by virtue of their synecdochic relation to systems of collective representation—in which. as displaceable signs. This choice of the sign’s meaning enables the commission to claim that the principle of laïcité is breached by the “Islamic veil. if her conscience impels her to wear it as an act of piety. if the wearer assumes the veil as an obligation of her faith. For the Stasi commission. furthermore. the kippa by men.5 I begin with something the Stasi report does not address: according to the Muslims who are against the ban for reasons of faith. the veil becomes for that reason an integral part of herself. .” the cross for “Christianity. precisely because there is disagreement among contemporary pious Muslims as to whether the headscarf is a divinely required accoutrement for women. that is to say a secularism aiming at integration [une laïcité d’intégration]. At the annual meeting of the UOIF at Le Bourget in April 2004.” the veil for “Islam.” What a given sign signifies is therefore a central question. There are two points that may be noted in this connection. who maintain that the wearing of a veil is not a duty in Islam. I stress that although the Stasi report nowhere defines “religion. There were some demonstrations of young Muslims—as there had been earlier when the Stasi commission had formally made its recommendation—but the numbers who protested openly were small.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 in February 2004 by an almost unanimous vote.” and that since laïcité is not negotiable the veil must be removed. but carrying “discreet signs” is not. regarded. its “religious” significance must be indeterminate for non-Muslims. its president denounced what he saw as the move from a “tolerant. See the account by Catherine Coroller. and it is undoubtedly true that even those who wear it may do so for a variety of motives. Most French Muslims seemed prepared to follow the new law. of a way of being. open and generous secularism. First. For her it is not a sign intended to communicate something but part of an orientation.

” What is set aside in this assumption. sounds that partake of a “religious” essence) is an integral part of the liberty of the individual. In other words. secularism does not insist on religion being confined to the privacy of conscience. despite its overflowing character. the process of signification is both rational and clear. and therefore an imaginary transgression. is not very clear. published as “Laïcité: une loi nécessaire ou dangereuse?” Le Monde (11 December 2003). As one of the commission members later explained. however. As such it is not only legitimate but essential to the conduct of public debate in a secular democracy—so long as the representatives of the different religious opinions do not attempt to dominate it. its use of the term “displaying.” manifestant. words.6 The Muslim identity of the headscarf wearer was crucial to the headscarf ’s meaning because the will to display it had to be read from that identity. that a man may chastise his wife for insubordination. But what “domination” means when one is dealing with a religiously defined minority. However. the girls who are the object of the school ban are French living in France. 97 . Thus the wearer’s act of displaying the sign was said to incorporate the actor’s will to display it—and therefore became part of what the headscarf meant.” volonté d’apparaitre. where and how may they be used to make a statement? According to the Stasi report. is used to give the “Islamic veil” a stable meaning. was meant to underline the fact that certain acts embodied “the will to (make) appear. it says that the free expression of religious signs (things.F rench secularism and the “ islamic veil affair ” / A sad veil partly because it is “religious” but also because it signifies “the low legal status of women in Muslim society” (a secular signification). and it is precisely these qualities that make it capable of being rationally criticized. the sign designates not a real status but an imaginary one. as it did until 1975. they are therefore subject to French law and not to the shari’a. whose traditional religion is actively practiced by a small proportion of that minority. Since French law no longer discriminates between citizens on grounds of gender or religious affiliation. It is assumed that a given sign signifies something that is clearly “religious. (Another aspect of its meaning came from equating the-will-to-make-the-veil-appear 6 Interview with Ghislaine Hudson. what is signified by the headscarf is not some historical reality (the evolving Islamic tradition) but another sign (the eternally fixed “Islamic religion”) which. Ideally. On the contrary. since it no longer allows. It is interesting that the determination of meanings by the commission was not confined to what was visible. The precision and fixity accorded to the relationship of signification is always an arbitrary act and often a spurious one where embodied language is concerned. to its being denied public expression. Assuming for the sake of argument that certain signs are essentially religious. is the entire realm of ongoing discourses and practices that provide authoritative meanings. It included the deciphering of psychological processes such as desire and will.

The point is that in ordinary life the wish to do one thing rather than another is rooted in dominant conventions. It opens up the universal prospect of cultivating Republican selves in public schools. It decided to accord freedom to the 7 98 See Laïcité et République 102–3. teachers. there are only two options: it must either be encouraged (hence “naturalized”) or discouraged (hence declared “specious”). Republican law thus realizes its universal character through a particular (female Muslim) identity. However. Was it possible that some of them secretly wanted to wear a headscarf but were ashamed to do so because of what their French peers and people in the street might think and say? Or could it be that they were hesitant for other reasons? However. The commission’s concern with the desires of pupils is expressed in a distinction between those who didn’t really want to wear the headscarf and those who did. a particular psychological internality. In this way “desire” is not discovered but semiotically constructed. This asymmetry in the possible meanings of the headscarf as a sign again makes sense if the commission’s concern is seen to be not simply a matter of scrupulousness in interpreting evidence in the abstract but of guiding a certain kind of behavior—hence the commission’s employment of the simple binary “coerced or freely chosen” in defining desire.” or “Islamism. So the commission saw itself as being presented with a difficult decision between two forms of individual liberty—that of girls whose desire was to wear the headscarf (a minority) and that of girls who would rather not. It is not very clear exactly how these “genuine desires” were deciphered. and other authority figures. that is. But when “desire” is the objective of discipline.7 It is worth remarking that solicitude for the “real” desires of the pupils applied only to girls who wore the headscarf.” terms used interchangeably to denote a range of different endorsements of public Islam. although reference is made to pressure by traditional parents and communities. and one assumes that some statements to that effect must have been made to the commission. in loyalties and habits one has acquired over time. “the will” itself is not seen but the visible veil points to it. as one of the veil’s effects. No thought appears to have been given to determining the “real” desires of girls who did not wear the headscarf. the mere existence of an internal dimension that is accessible from outside is felicitous for secularism. And the commission was certainly engaged in a disciplining project. in their case surface appearance alone was sufficient for the commission: no headscarf worn means no desire to wear it.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 with “Islamic fundamentalism. At any rate.) Paradoxically. with relatives. as well as in the anxieties and pleasures experienced in interaction with lovers and friends. . “Desire” is treated even more interestingly.

does not afford citizens a critical distance from state power here. and compared numerically.F rench secularism and the “ islamic veil affair ” / A sad latter on majoritarian grounds. the commission was a device to constitute meanings by drawing on internal (psychological) or external (social) signs. see Laïcité et République 47–50. Desires are essentially neither “religious” nor “irreligious”.8 This democratic decision is not inconsistent with laicïté. It seemed to him impossible to enter into the interpretation given to 8 “After we heard the evidence. and thus supported a situation that denied freedom of choice to those—the very large majority—who do not want to wear the headscarf. From its beginning the idea of the secular Republic seems to have been torn in two conflicting directions—insistence on the withdrawal of the state from all matters of religion (which must include abstention from even trying to define “religious signs”). To the extent that this is so. My point here is not that this right—or any other—should be absolute and unlimited. today. aggregated. Muslims and the Headscarf. Now I have been suggesting not only that government officials decide what sartorial signs mean but that they do so by privileged access to the wearer’s motive and will—to her subjectivity—and that this is facilitated by resort to a certain kind of semiotics. I think. We decided to give freedom of choice to the former during the time they were in school. 99 .” <www. a guarantee of liberal democracy. something to be counted. it says. “A Nation in Diversity: France. 9 The Stasi report cites various international court judgments in support of its argument that the right to religious expression is always subject to certain conditions. A government commission of enquiry sought to bring “private” concerns. The trouble with the earlier legal judgments relating to the veil. and it allowed certain desires and sentiments to be encouraged at the expense of> [25 March 2004]). It is the very terrain on which that power is deployed to ensure the proper formation of its subjects. Either we left the situation as it was. or we endorsed a law that removed freedom of choice from those who do want to wear it. while the latter retain all their freedom for their life outside school” (Patrick Weil.opendemocracy. To take away a right in part or whole on grounds of utility (including public order) or morality means that it is alienable. although it does conflict with the idea that religious freedom is an inalienable right of each citizen—which is what the Rights of Man (and. is that the judge did not think he had the power to pronounce on the interpretation of the meaning of religious signs. we concluded that we faced a difficult choice with respect to young Muslim girls wearing the headscarf in state schools. and sentiments into “public” scrutiny in order to assess their validity for a secular Republic. The Stasi report seizes this basic contradiction as an occasion for creative interpretation. they are simply socio-psychological facts. The public sphere. Here was an inherent limit to the intervention of the judge. commitments. any declaration of human rights) articulates. it is simply that a right cannot be inalienable if it is subject (for whatever reason) to the superior power of the state’s legal institutions to define and limit.9 But more important. is the detachment of desire from its object (the veil) so that it becomes neutral. and the responsibility of the state for forming secular citizens (by which I do not mean persons who are necessarily “irreligious”).

And that of course is contradictory to a basic principle of the Republic. although such groups are usually thought of as exceptions. to display crosses and kippas. But first it has to constitute religious signs whose meanings can be deciphered according to objective rules. it is simply that they want them to have “a good education. What is evoked is not a headscarf (un foulard ) but “the Islamic veil” (le voile islamique). and where religious texts are systematically taught.html>. It wants the law to fix meanings. One might suggest that for the Stasi commission the headscarf worn by Muslim schoolgirls is more than a sign. Of course. More than an image. to be brought into the light of reason. Perhaps the most striking are Christian and Jewish schools. Their teachers are also less likely to go on strike than those working in public sector However. 11 (Incidentally. not all the parents of children enrolled in these schools have concerns about the spiritual education of their offspring. he was not able to understand that the wearing of the veil by some young women can mean discrimination between man and woman. and so it recommends legislation that will do just that.” Because they are more selective (that is. It is an icon in the sense that it does not simply designate but evoke. And the answer is that indeed there is. as far as school is concerned. among other things. In these state-supported religious schools. the report believes that in dealing with some religious signs (texts) pupils should not concern themselves with theological meanings (Laïcité et République 34). Dealing with Exceptions A question that arises is whether there is any place in laïcité for rights attached to religious groups. More precisely. that are heavily subsidized by the secular state. religious schools tend to maintain higher educational standards. contraires à un principe fondamental de la République. pupils nevertheless grow up to become good French citizens. How important is this educational sector? According to the latest government figures. slightly over 20 percent of all high school pupils are enrolled in religious schools. it is in playing that game that the abstract being called the modern state is realized. For what the commission calls “a sign” is nothing in itself. que pouvait revêtir le port du voile par certaines jeunes filles” (Laïcité et République 69–70). il s’agit là d’une limite inhérente à l’intervention du juge: Il lui a semblé impossible d’entrer dans l’interprétation donnée par une religion à tel ou tel signe. where it is possible. 11 See <www. 100 . il n’a pu appréhender les discriminations entre l’homme et la femme. the veil is an imaginary—a shrouded difference waiting to be unveiled. Par conséquent. private establishments “under contract” (sous contrat) to the government.10 The Stasi report regrets that judges in these cases had refused to enter the domain of religious signs. even in public schools where “ostentatious religious signs” are now forbid- 10 “Le juge n’a pas cru pouvoir se prononcer sur l’interprétation du sens des signes religieux. “Religious signs” are part of the game that the secular Republic plays. middle class) and often better funded than public schools. and made Consequently.gouv.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 one or another sign by a religion.

separate dining arrangements are made for Muslim and Jewish pupils who wish to follow their religious dietary laws. and confirms Republican sovereignty. It explains them by distinguishing between the founding principle of secularism (that the lay Republic respect all beliefs) and the numerous legal obligations that issue from this principle but that also sometimes appear to contradict it. The sensibilities are not always secure. And since they dispose of unequal power in the formulation of public policy. gifts made to religious associations benefit from tax concessions—like other associations that provide a general public service. I want to suggest that that very exercise of power to identify and deal with the exception is what subsumes the differences within a unity. According to the 1987 law.12 Thus these exceptions all have a politico-legal presence in the secular structure of the French Republic. it points out in its report. is not at all a monolithic whole. Do such groupings amount to “communitarianism”? The term is less important than the fact that France consists of a variety of groupings that inhabit the public space between private life and the state. To these organizations belong many citizens. prisons. 12 See Laïcité et République 52–4. Jewish and Muslim funerary rites are permitted in cemeteries although they are all owned and maintained by the state. I want to stress that my interest is not in arguing that France is inadequately secular or that it is intolerant. The Stasi commission is aware of exceptions to the general rule of laïcité. clerical and lay. and hospitals. No actually existing secularism should be denied its claim to secularity just because it does not correspond to some utopian model. they are rarely free of contradictions. whose sensibilities are partly shaped by that belonging. colleges. The banning of the veil as a sign can therefore be seen as an exercise in sovereign power. define the sensibilities underpinning secular citizenship and national belonging in a modern state. an attempt by a centralized state to dominate public space as the space of particular signs. But they make for qualitatively different forms of secularism. The scattered sources and diverse forms of French secularism mean that the Republic has constantly to deal with exceptions. are all provided and paid for by the state. Varieties of remembered religious history. it is at once dispersed in numerous legal sources and diversified in the different forms it takes throughout mainland France and in its overseas territories. and they are sometimes fragile. of perceived political threat and opportunity. 101 . schools.) There are more exceptions that reinforce the attachment of individuals to religious communities: chaplains in the army. The legal regime. the state’s claim of political neutrality towards all “religious” groups is rendered problematic. The Stasi report acknowledges these exceptions to the principle of the state’s absolute neutrality but sees them as “reasonable modifications” that allow each person to exercise his/her religious liberty.F rench secularism and the “ islamic veil affair ” / A sad den.

and for many. In a witty and incisive review of the Stasi report. the French anthropologist Emmanuel Terray has recently claimed that this is how the headscarf affair should be understood—as an example of “political hysteria” in which symbolic repression and displacement take place to obscure material realities. 13 Terray points out that in discussing the “threat to the functioning of the social services. and the quality of the spaces that secularism defines as public. virtuous outrage. sly calculation.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 What is at stake here. Guilt. is not the toleration of difference but sovereignty that defines and justifies exceptions. a division that cuts across left and right parties: a highly centralized and controlling state versus a decentralized and minimalist one.” In a complicated historical readjustment this status has now been accorded to Muslims instead. The “crisis of laïcité ” seems to me uniquely embedded in a political struggle over two idealized models of France’s future. Jews were the “internal other. I think. The desire to keep some groups under surveillance while making amends to others—and thus of coming “honorably” to terms with one’s own past. compassion. See especially Laïcité et République 90–6. One might therefore wonder whether the headscarf affair wasn’t generated by a displacement of the society’s anxieties about its own uncertain political predicament or its economic and intellectual decline. calling into question the very idea of neutrality. even those committed to promoting “tolerance. anxiety. This struggle has somehow come to be linked to the state’s principled definition of religion and its “public” limits in the interest of creating “a community of sentiment. pride. or is ashamed in relation to others (Jews) because of what they have suffered at the hands of Frenchmen.” Passionate Subjects The politics of secularism are fraught with emotion. fear. “Headscarf Hysteria. contempt. of re-affirming France as a nation restored—are emotions that sustain the integrity of the lay Republic. And they serve to obscure the rationality of communication and the clarity of signs that are explicitly assumed by the Stasi commission. another is the image of and (until recently) antipathy towards Judaism. All modern states. in both of which the need to exercise sovereignty seems to be taken for granted. resentment. all intersect ambiguously in the secular Republic’s collective memory and inform attitudes towards its religiously or ethnically identified citizens.” the 13 Emmanuel Terray. Laïcité is not blind to religiously defined groups in public. In France one such inheritance is the image of and hostility towards Islam. 102 . For a long time.” are built on complicated emotional inheritances that determine relations among its citizens. It is suspicious of some (Muslims) because of what it imagines they may do.” New Left Review 26 (March/April 2004): 118–27.

Most their religious heritage to show liberals are not passionate in expressing their beliefs. Of course. How does the secular state address the pain address the pain of people who of people who are obliged to give up part of their religious heritage to show that they are acceptable? The simple are obliged to give up part of answer is: by expecting them to take beliefs lightly. In general.F rench secularism and the “ islamic veil affair ” / A sad Stasi report makes no mention of inadequate funding but focuses instead on the minor difficulties created when some Muslims make “religious” demands in schools. secular passion led to Terror. on the other hand. “Good” passion is the work of secular enlightenment.” Where. quite simply. Isn’t this why the strong defenders of laïcité seem unwilling to explore the complicated connections between these two? The antipathy (even hostility) evoked in this affair is. Passionate support of secular beliefs. Since for them passion was identified with religious belief. It is worth recalling that in early modern Europe. not of religious bigotry. This virtue seems to have been absorbed into the style of liberalism. Its overriding concern is with transcendent values (neutrality of the state. part of what it means to be a secular Frenchman or Frenchwoman. That passion is felt to be more like the public expression of “objective principle” rather than “subjective belief. There is a special sense in which this claim is right. this was precisely because it was a revolution. hospitals.). was not—is not—regarded in the same way. neo-stoic that they are acceptable? thinkers who supported the emergence of the strong. intolerance. or prisons. so that religious passion has tended to be represented—especially in a modern political context—as irrational and divisive. the cause of much instability. to have an identity formed by layers of educated emotions. etc. Yet ironically. The signs do have political and economic implications. although the emotional concern about anti-Semitism (or Islamophobia) is always an example of “good” (because secular) passion. and the sense among many is that passion is a disturbing force. The advocates of secularism claim that signs are important when they signify the worldly equality of all human beings and invite compassion for human suffering. distress is a symptom of irrational and disrupted social conditions. 103 . etc. “sacredness” of the republican compact. being emotionally steeped in the object of anti-Semitism or Islamophobia (the traditions of Judaism or Islam themselves) may not be. a divided people in process of being made into a united Republic. Defenders of the veil claim that it is integral to their reliHow does the secular state gious beliefs.) and not with immanent materialities (distribution of resources. this is precisely what laïcité is. The affair is about signs and about the passions evoked by them. flexibility of organizations. this meant in effect a detachment from the latter—a skepticism in matters of faith. and unhappiness. secular state—the state that became the foundation of modern nationalism—did so because they saw passion as a destructive force that threatened the state. but they do not stand as empty masks. the separation of “religion” from politics. As in the political domain so in the private. as in the French Revolution. although the game of signification is much more complicated than spokespersons for the Republic declare it is.

flexible and tolerant yet fiercely principled. that free choice gives way to coerced behavior. The liberal idea is that it is only when this individual sovereignty is invaded by a body other than the representative democratic state that represents his individual will collectively.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 Conclusion Defenders and critics of the Islamic veil law represent it in different ways. the reading becomes a way of retrospectively constituting “real desires. So I end with a few further remarks on it.14 I think that in doing so most of them miss how certain discourses can become part of the powerful practices that cultivate particular sensibilities essential to a particular kind of contradictory individual—one who is morally sovereign and yet obedient to the laws of the secular Republic.” It facilitates the attempt to synthesize the psychological and juridical concepts of the liberal subject. the young women with headscarves were represented as victims of their relatives. 2003) 31 (italics in original). in response to the latest sociological studies on the wearing of the veil that showed a complicated picture of the young women’s motives for wearing it. he notes. conventional signs) is that they invite one to do a reading of them independently of people’s stated intentions and commitments. antiféministe et antisocial. employ the same political language in which they assert something about the proper place of religion. leviers d’émancipation.” Le Monde diplomatique (February 2004): 9. and Pierre Tevanian. “Laïcité et égalité. The interesting thing about symbols (that is. 15 La 104 nouvelle islamophobie (Paris: La Découverte. But then. Central to that apparatus is the proper deployment of signs. but secularists. . a topic with which I began this essay. which is the state’s dominant civil partner (as well as its indispensable electoral technique). the media chose an even more alarmist interpretation: Henceforth it is the idea of “voluntary servitude” that prevails in media analyses: that young French women should themselves choose to wear the headscarf is precisely what makes them even more dangerous. Henri Pena-Ruiz. Vincent Geisser records some of the ways that the French media represented those who wished to wear headscarves in school. At first. But the fact that the notions of moral and political sovereignty are not coherent as descriptions of contemporary individual and collective life is less important than the fact that they are part of the apparatus of techniques for forming secular subject-citizens and that the public school has such an extraordinary ideological place in the Republic’s self-presentation. Indeed. and other than the market. This act is no longer to be seen as the consequence of family pressure but as the sign of a personal—and therefore fanatical—commitment.” Le Monde diplomatique (February 2004): 8.15 14 For example. whether pro or con. “Une loi antilaïque.

18 Instead of withdrawing completely from anything that describes itself as “religion” (while insisting that no behavior be allowed that disrupts the proper functioning of education) the Stasi report chooses to interfere with “religion” by seeking to define its acceptable place. becomes difficult to maintain with clarity. to the liberty of conscience of the pupils”) and that it then glosses in its own fashion. as Geisser points out. Where the power to read symbols includes the construction of (religious/secular) intentions attributable to practitioners. Secularism is invoked to prevent two very different kinds of transgression: the perversion of politics by religious forces on the one hand. and the state’s Pierre Tevanian. “cannot be content with withdrawing from all religious and spiritual matters. d’une part. the school curricula. but not freedom on the other. the Republic acquires the theological function of defining religious Secularism is invoked to signs and the power of imposing that definition on its subjects. and 1886. 17 Tevanian 8. it perversion of politics by insists. prevent two very different of “assimilating” them. the state must identify “religion. even the distinction. and to behave respectfully towards others. to neutral curricula and teachers.” To the extent that this work of identification becomes a matter for the law. in order to determine its acceptable forms within the polity. de la liberté de conscience des élèves’” (66). and. one will find what one is looking for. de cette neutralité par les programmes et par les enseignants. on the one hand. The idea that religion is a system of symbols becomes especially attractive in the former case. to the pupils. on the other hand.F rench secularism and the “ islamic veil affair ” / A sad This. and the teachers.17 These founding texts appear to be echoed in the Council of State judgment of November 27. as in the Spanish Inquisitor’s search for hidden beliefs. Once one is in the business of uncovering dangerous hidden meanings. to attend all lessons properly. applies restriction of religious to the premises. The latter are simply required to obey school rules. 16 “Il ne peut se contenter d’un retrait des affaires religeuses et spirituelles” (Laïcité et République 32). The kinds of transgression: the Stasi report does not pretend otherwise. This may not be usually thought of as coercive power. made in the 1905 law of separation between Church and State between “freedom of conscience” (a moral immunity) and “freedom of religious practice” (a legal right).”16 religious forces on the one hand. 105 . d’autre part. but it is undoubtedly an intrusive one. 1989 (issued on the occasion of an earlier crisis concerning the veil) that the Stasi report cites (“education should be provided with regard. has written that secularism as defined by the laws of 1881. and the state’s restriction of religious freedom on the other. a critic of the new law. The secular state. because in order to protect politics from religion (and especially certain kinds of religiously motivated behavior). 18 “L’avis énonce que le principe de laïcité impose que ‘l’enseignement soit dispensé dans le respect. makes the veil appear even more threatening to the state school and to Republican values in general. 1882.

The only significant difference is that since World War II they have been largely from North Africa. what it affords and obstructs. of minimizing social and individual harm.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 Today it seems that “religion” continues to infect “politics” in France—partly as parody (the “sacred” foundation of the secular Republic) and partly as civilization (“JudeoChristian” values in the education of secular citizens). In brief. are not eternally fixed. the question of feelings of belonging to the country is distinct from that of the rights and duties of citizenship. It is a continuous attempt by the state apparatuses at encouraging subjects to make and recognize themselves through appropriate signs as properly secularized citizens who “know that they belong to France” (Only to France? Ultimately to France? Mainly to France?). Whatever else laïcité may be. That is what makes varieties of secularism—including French laïcité—always unique.” 106 . not a social reality.” One might instead learn to argue over the best ways of supporting particular liberties while limiting others. Besides. region. modern France has always had a sizeable body of immigrants. In any case. all bringing in “foreign” ideas. the latter to practices of civic responsibility. one might content oneself with assessing particular demands and threats without having to confront the general “danger of religion. the French are imbued with complex emotions about their fellow citizens. the former relates to dreams of nationalism. The famous slogan “la République une et indivisible” reflects a nationalist aspiration. including a simple feeling that “France” belongs to them and not to Others. If one accepts this conclusion one may resist the temptation to think that one must either “defend secularism” or “attack civic religion. how it mutates. gender. what memories it shelters or excludes. Like other modes of secularism. and ethnic origin do not constitute a community of shared values in France. Like people everywhere. and experiences. it is certainly not the total separation between religion and politics said to be required for living together harmoniously in a diverse modern society. habits. The ways in which the concept of “religion” operates in that culture as motive and as effect. laïcité is a modern form of political rule that seeks to define a particular kind of secular subject (whether “religious” or not) who can take part in the game of symbols—the right kind of conventional signs—to demonstrate his or her loyalty to the state. Where does all this leave the notion of “a community of shared values.” which is said to be minimally secured in a modern democratic society by secularism? My simple thought is that differences of class.

matters dealt with by criminal and civil law. He is the author of thirteen books. this has meant that even different groups that call themselves “Christian” do not accept each other’s biblically based normative teaching. secularity is the modus operandi of a society that does not look to any particular religious tradition for the validation of its political authority in matters pertaining to the bodies and the property of its members. is seriously threatened. that is. most recently The Jewish Social Contract: An Essay in Political Theology (2005) and Talking with Christians: Musings of a Jewish Theologian (2005). then the cultural integrity of the Jews. In pre-modern. 107 . Jews were at best tolerated and at worst they were persecuted as foreigners. suggestions of “Christian David Novak holds the J. Modern secularity has enabled Jews to become full and equal participants in the secular societies in which almost all Jews now live. In theory and in fact. one cannot invoke biblical authority as a reason for public acceptance of any authorized practice in the United States. that is why even though a majority of the citizens of the United States are Christians. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Chair of Jewish Studies as Professor of the Study of Religion and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto. First. Nevertheless. for example. presecular societies. The authority of the Bible is only cogent for the members of a particular religious community who accept their tradition’s normative interpretation of the Bible. As such. and Christianity looks to the Bible to authorize all its practices. We need to define at the outset what is meant by “secularity” and then what is meant by “culture.” “Secularity” can be taken in two distinct senses. when these beneficiaries of modern secularity are told that they must affirm secularism as the ideological foundation of the secularity from which they have so benefited. So.Secularity without Secularism: The Best Political Position for Contemporary Jews David Novak N o group has benefited more from modern secularity than have the Jews. especially but not exclusively.

the United States. they have thereby relegated their own religious tradition and its morality to a marginal role. any of these religious people makes the secular society their ultimate moral arbiter.2 Therefore. and who have accepted. the second. most of these religious people are only willing to give their moral allegiance to a secular society whose public policies are consistent with the morality that has already come with their respective religious traditions. this consensus is rational. by contrast. For the argument that religious people can present both the source and the end of any of their stands on public morality.1 As such. Any society that can respect the prior religious commitments of its members—commitments that actually enable them to live in a secular society in good faith—is a society of “moderate secularity. based on what these respective traditions hold to be basic moral norms that apply to all human persons because they are rationally evident. Therefore. until quite recently. Rather. as long as he or she can also give the reason his or her tradition advocates that public policy. Jews would hardly accept as authoritative Christian biblical interpretation. or even to a combination of several religious traditions. Instead of looking to any one religious tradition.” 2 Logically speaking: the first “because” here denotes a “source” of a norm. when a true moral consensus is reached in this kind of secular society.” Moderate secularity has largely obtained dominance. it can only claim those who are part of the community constituted by this revelation. 108 1 I say “singular” rather than “particular” inasmuch as all the religious traditions adhered to by citizens of a democratic polity would resist being taken as “parts” of some larger worldly genus called “religion. not because of the authority of any religious tradition itself. preserved. on the contrary. any more than Christians would accept Jewish biblical interpretation on any significant normative issue.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 America” break down on the question: Whose Christianity—Catholic or Protestant—and if the latter. which Protestant Christianity? Even if one were to speak of “Judeo-Christian America” and assume that the biblical foundation of that society was the Old Testament (whose authority is accepted by both Jews and Christians). this consensus is not based on merely accidental historical overlappings between traditions. At least in the United States and Canada. namely Britain. is rooted in a historical revelation and. . a secular society looks for a moral consensus among its members in order to validate its political authority and its public policies. and it is in tandem with these traditions that they bring their morality. Inevitably. however. in the English-speaking West. that reason has to be because this policy is for the good of any human society and not just for the members of his or her traditional community. see David Novak. the majority of the members of the secular civil society come from singular religious traditions. 1998) 16–26. Traditional authority. one that is at odds with the primacy faithful adherents of that tradition have always attributed to it and its morality. and Canada. there is nothing irrational about a member of a traditional religious community affirming a public policy because this is what his or her tradition teaches. the end or purpose of a norm. But if. Natural Law in Judaism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. as such. and transmitted that revelation to posterity.

What this most often means is that the very goods individual members of society are “allowed” or “entitled” to choose turn out to be only those goods that the elites (those who have political or economic power in that society) provide.” Unlike moderate secularity. a secular society does not look to any particular religious tradition for its political validation. the prior religious commitments of its members. for those 109 . even advocates of this type of secularity cannot equate human self-creation with the uniquely divine attribute of creatio ex nihilo. which means that their “self-creation” is really self-development. Unlike God.S ecularit y without secularism / novak The second sense of secularity is what I would call “radical secularity. can be justified as a form of privacy. as long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others to do likewise. which are so very public. However. are a threat to the ultimate hegemony that the secular society. being the public practice of specific communities. It is assumed all members of a secular society have ceded all prior rights to that society as the price of admission to it. and good faith—is a society of sexuality. over which these elites have varying degrees of social control. In fact. Such societies are atheistic de facto (as is the case in France) or atheistic de jure (as was the case in the former Soviet Union). As such. In this kind of secularity. Usually this exclusion is subsumed under what has come to be called “the right to privacy. it does not even look to any moral consensus among the religious traditions Any society that can respect the from which the majority of its members come. radical secularity looks to “secularism” for its primary justification. prior religious commitments this kind of secularity regards the members of the society as having no religio-moral background at all. Instead. The only area of human interaction “moderate secularity. before gaining entrance to the process of public policy making. At most. Secular society entitles them—that is. in this kind of secularity. family relations. claims like those made by traditional religions upon their own members are only valid when they are consistent with the claims made upon citizens by the secular society itself. That is the case even live in a secular society in in matters pertaining to marriage. so to speak.” that is seemingly left out of the range of secular public policy making is the area of religious ritual. which means that human individuals are free to create themselves. grants them the right—to project whatever ends or goods they choose for themselves as their raison d’être. they still have to create themselves out of something already there. it is being vigorously promoted by certain “secularists.” especially in the United States and Canada. and especially the secular state with all its political power. and by some of the leading proponents of the European Union. or it of its members—commitments requires them to leave their cultural background outside that actually enable them to society’s door. it cannot recognize any authority outside itself to make any valid public claims upon any of its citizens. And. At present.” Yet it is hard to see how something like religious ritual. as it were. This latter view of secularity justifies itself in terms of individual autonomy. claims for itself. the secular polity can accept no prior source of right. areas in which historic traditions have a very heavy investment. For radical secularity. This kind of secularism found its first and most powerful expression in the French Revolution.

we now need to define what is meant by “culture. seems to be identical with “religion. Culture. even honor—the only proviso being that the exercise of freedom of religion not violate the common good (as. culture permeates the lives of the members of the historical community who bear it. a democracy can 3 110 The only reason I use “culture” rather than “religion” is to avoid the modern mistake of separating culture from religion by making culture a matter of nostalgia and something which. the Latin word cultura is closely related to the word cultus. historically continuous community. makes no moral demands upon those who bear the cultural memory within a secular society. That particular event is inevitably a theophany. no such prior rights ever existed at all. Accordingly. Since the way culture is dealt with denotes a major difference between a radically secular society and a moderately secular one. As an all-encompassing way of life. both stemming from the verb colere. nor can they see it as having been superceded by some other culture. . the most basic of these cultural rights is the freedom of religion.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 who have long ago abandoned a Hobbesian view of the ceding of prior rights being an essential component of the total move from a state of nature to civil society.” In Western democracies like the United States and Canada. are cultivated by their religious cultures. and I know of no democracy that claims to have been founded by a revelation from God. I know of no historical culture or tradition that does not have a revelation as its foundation. cultures that recognize that they are not synonymous with humanity per se look to some particular historical event for their origin in the past. That revelation is the transcendent warrant for the existence of the community founded upon it. The first and foremost of these prior rights are what could be called “cultural rights.”3 Indeed. it is a prior right that society is to respect. it is their inheritance from the past. “culture” means a way of life adhered to by a particular. both collectively and as individuals. for example. Moreover. a revelation of God that calls a singular community into existence for an indefinite period of time. when the exercise of one’s religion endangers public safety). The bearers of culture are a people.” In its deepest sense. unlike religion. Culture is not the invention of the people who bear it. At most. The people inevitably regard their raison d’être to be the maintenance and enhancement of their culture throughout history. Distinct from radically secular societies. the people cannot change it beyond recognition from what it has generally been in the past.” Both religion and culture are cultivated as living things by those who bear them. what in biblical terms is an “everlasting covenant” (Isaiah 55:3). one might say that a culture is the outer form of its religion and that a religion is the inner intentionality of its culture. A democracy seems to be secular by definition. then. in moderately secular societies freedom of religion is not an entitlement from society. “to cultivate. and in a deeper sense these people. Even though the people have ample opportunity to change and develop many of the specific aspects of their culture in the course of transmitting it from the past through the present into the future.

art so understood becomes a substitute for culture in its transcendent sense. and just after the French Revolution coincides with the political emancipation of Jews in the West. Separated from A democracy seems to be culture. implying the humanly created state is not. culture can be relegated by a radically secular society to the realm of private taste. to be sure. But they thereby lost the collective rights they had when Jewish communities (qehillot) enjoyed a large degree of independence. Moreover. when Jewish communities had considerable collective power in ordering the religious. segments of the Jewish community who resented this elimination of what they took to be more ancient privilege than ancient discrimination. knew that the end of their ancien régime meant the loss of their 111 . even though art in its original sense of “making” (as in the Greek poiesis. 1789 (generally speaking) marks the abrupt end of the Middle Ages and the equally abrupt hurl into modernity. rather than individual Jews having a direct relation to the sovereign (be it monarchial or republican) as did the Christian citizens of the polity. For Jews. inspirational role. These interest groups see themselves as having a mandate to create culture. but one where Jews were related to the larger Christian polity as members of a community having a contracted communal status therein. The emergence of radical secularity just before. Many rabbis. Under the influence of radical secularity. especially. art becomes entertainment. All of this was obtained within a larger Christian polity (imperium in imperio). Religious people cannot accept the reduction of their very public culture to the privacy of an “art form.S ecularit y without secularism / novak affirm that God is supreme. That seems to be the minimal reason for the mention of God at the beginning of the Declaration of Independence of the United States and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities. There were. and even the economic lives of their members. When art retains its secular by definition. understood to be the way of life the society is dedicated to promoting—what incorporates the social energies usually involved in traditional religions and their moralities. these interest groups often explicitly reject the notion that secular society derives its culture from earlier social engagements.” When reduced to entertaining art. during. Instead. they now require older cultures to either derive their moral authority from the secular polity or to totally obliterate themselves (as in a melting pot) into the new secular culture that these interest groups are continually creating and promoting. though. many have a tendency to confuse culture with art.” But when culture is reduced to art as entertainment. Secularist political claims are inevitably the claims made by those interest groups having economic and political power in a society. from which our word “poetry” comes) was developed as a cultural activity designed to inspire the members of a culture to re-experience the founding events of the culture in their transcendent dimension. This meant that Jews gained the rights of all other individual citizens. there is nothing disturbing about the presence of non-cultural art to anyone who is not a “puritan. familial.

there was very little these traditionalist rabbis and their diminishing circle of committed followers could do to stem a historical-political reality that promised Europeans (and. These liberal Jews have endorsed just 4 112 See Spinoza. despite their opposition. That revolucould not have come about tion occurred in the late eighteenth century. David Novak.4 These have been the assimilationists of various The most enthusiastic Jewish stripes. there have been Jews who have followed the Jewish philosopher. . Nevertheless. and which seemed to be succeeding in delivering on that promise. That being the case. chapter 3. sufficient enough to make their separate Jewish existence not only redundant but a positive detriment to their becoming fully part of the newly created culture of secular modernity. By looking to the secular polity for their warrant. North Americans) a freer. The vast majority of Western Jews have seen the new secular political order to be a marked improvement over the time when. when the without a cultural revolution. Baruch Spinoza. Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. have known that the political The most enthusiastic Jewish proponents of radical secularity have known that the political revolution that their rights as equal citizens brought them their rights as equal citizens could not have come about without a cultural revolution. how could Jews—who had much more to gain than the already politically dominant Christians—do anything less if they wanted to be citizens of the new secular nationstates in good faith? revolution that brought them Second. they have thereby ceded any real moral authority of the Jewish community. simultaneous with external political control by gentiles. also. which the rabbis alone were allowed to interpret and apply. and more prosperous life. For them the chief attraction of this new culture has been its minimal dogmatic requirements. there have been Jews who have not wanted total assimilation but who have believed that they could survive culturally and religiously by becoming a special interest group voluntarily functioning within a secular society with a warrant from the governing polity. First. unlike those proponents of radical secularity requirements of the Christianity of the ancien régime. more intellectually open. The response of Jews in the West to this nouveau régime has been threefold. still mostly Christian people of Western Europe (and their cousins in still politically and culturally primitive North America) in effect renounced the claim of their religion to be the transcendent warrant of the state’s political authority and their acceptance of it. The Election of Israel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. in taking this new secular political order to be their new theological-political reality. later.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 political power to enforce Jewish religious tradition among people who had no civil recourse elsewhere. 1995) 26–49. rabbis could internally direct almost all Jewish social and intellectual efforts in the direction of traditional Jewish religion.

This approach makes itself manifest. 1 (New York: KTAV. as being conducted in return for the “tolerance” of their particular religious practices by these powerful elites. if not detest—they look to the secular polity for political entitlements. when liberal Jews suggest that the “spirit” of the Jewish tradition endorses such practices as abortion and same-sex marriage—practices that are explicitly proscribed by the “letter” of the Jewish tradition.” This approach could be taken. Yet they too have accepted more of secularist ideology than many of them might realize.” who have attempted to keep as much distance as possible from the secularist culture and morality around them. the right of everyone who wants to be married to be married). Just as the liberals look to the secularists for entitlements in order to be like them. Like the liberals—whom they usually suspect. vol. these sectarians simply ask to be exempt from what is being promoted as public morality (that is. instead of challenging secularist morality in principle. legal. the task of traditionalist Jews who see themselves as being real participants in secular society is to work out a public philosophy that can fully affirm political. 5 In Jewish tradition.S ecularit y without secularism / novak about any moral position being promoted by the powerful political-cultural-intellectual elites in their society in the name of “progress. these Jews (and Christian sectarians like them) are content to simply claim their “peculiar” religio-moral practices not be interfered with by the polity for the sake of something as elusive as “cultural diversity. See David Novak. In other words. 113 . Law and Theology in Judaism. How long the secularists who seem to be gaining more and more power in the United States and Canada will “tolerate” such moral “diversity”—especially when it is being practiced by people otherwise quite involved in the society and its intellectual culture— is already being doubted by some of the more politically perceptive Orthodox Jews. but which can avoid pitfalls offered to Jews by Jewish assimilationists. so many Orthodox Jews look to these same secularists for an entitlement to be different from them. or sectarians. whether explicitly stated by its liberal proponents or not. mostly known by the Jewish neologism “Orthodox. I for one am convinced that such a quest can find within the sources of the Jewish tradition authentic building blocks for the construction of a Jewish public philosophy adequate to the challenge of modern secularity.” Instead of arguing that something like same-sex marriage is contrary to the rational-moral consensus of the various traditions that most of the citizens of society come from. especially today.5 The willingness of more and more liberal rabbis to almost celebrate abortions and to officiate at same-sex weddings indicates that the religious exclusivity formerly claimed even by liberal Jews has been elided by their concessions to secularist morality. and even intellectual secularity without succumbing to either the fervent affirmation of the program of secularism or to the cautious begging for dispensational tolerance from secularist elites. Therefore. abortion is only allowable as a dispensation from a prohibition in cases where the fetus is a direct threat to the life of its mother. 1974) 114–24. accomodationists. Third. there have been traditionalist Jews.

especially its laws.6 That is why the Canadian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities can begin with an affirmation of “the supremacy of God and the rule of law. There was recognition of enough common morality between the two founding traditions to establish a secular polity. that a majority of Canadians can recognize a divine lawgiver standing behind the moral norms they hold in common. It does not offer salvation of any kind. In other words. It means. requires a society that sees itself to be multicultural rather than being dominated by a single culture or denying culture altogether. and Sikhs into this moral consensus belies the charge that it represents a “Judeo-Christian” cabal trying to impose the Bible on a secular society. did not require any people to give up its cultural identity and attendant morality (that was only required of the Aboriginal peoples. For that reason. The faithful can also practice much of their morality in concert with members of other historic faith communities whose basic morality looks very much like their own. formulated in the Articles of Confederation. They can thus practice much of their religious culture in public without worrying that a larger secular domain will swallow them up.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 Such a Jewish public philosophy that affirms the value of secularity. without succumbing to secularism in its various guises. is true pluralism. People of faith do not have to check their cultural baggage at the door of civil society before being granted admission. like the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai for Jews or the Resurrection for Christians. Canada was founded as a unique polity in 1867 by the union of predominantly EnglishProtestant Upper Canada (now Ontario) and predominantly French-Catholic Lower Canada (now Quebec). Since that moral consensus is hardly limited to Protestants and Catholics alone. Yet it is not secularist since it does not presume to create a new morality for its participants. came to Canada after 1867—such as the Jews. rigidly secularist. Canadian consensus is secular insofar as it does not look to any singular religious event for its warrant. it could easily be joined by groups who. That. an injustice whose effects Canada is still experiencing). indeed. maximally. and that this does not require the affirmation of any particular revelatory event.” 6 114 The gradual inclusion of Muslims. whether in this world or the next.” two terms that can be taken in apposition. The consensus is secular without being secularist because it only deals with what is penultimate in human existence: the maintenance of a just social order. An example of such a society is Canada. . faithful Jews—and members of other historic faiths—can affirm the value of this society in good faith and be loyal to its political institutions. let alone claim to create a new culture for them. one can locate a consensus on what many would call “natural law. even though its intellectual elites are now. Hindus. This union. for the most part. for the most part. one that looked to this consensus for its moral warrant.

S ecularit y without secularism / novak To date. an intelligent public policy position of the Jews of Canada (and in other democratic societies). who attempt to replace culture with ideology. to which anti-religious secularism stands in opposition. too much of Canadian-Jewish political advocacy has been ethnic advocacy. What is now needed is a theoretical perspective that can make the pursuit of multicultural secularity. Nonetheless. Canadian Jews can only affirm a multicultural secularity with others. however. This is probably due to Canadian-Jewish memories from the not-so-distant past of anti-Semitism coming from both the Anglo-Protestant and Franco-Catholic communities. And they can do this more honestly and effectively with Christians when they realize that there is no official antiSemitism being promoted by either the Catholic or Protestant churches in Canada (or elsewhere in the world). 115 . This true multiculturalism needs to protect itself and be protected from its enemies on the right—those who reduce culture to race and thus deny multiculturalism by proposing a policy of ethnicity for its own sake. rather than an affirmation of true multiculturalism. the inevitable conclusion of which is racism. And this true multiculturalism needs similar protection from its enemies on the left.

” the German journalist Peter Schneider noted in a 2004 New York Times op-ed.” The New York Times (12 March 2004).American Religion and European Anti-Americanism Thomas Albert Howard T he American invasion of Iraq in 2003 roiled transatlantic relations. and irredeemable. and the Benelux countries—to serve as a “locomotive” of European integration “to counterbalance the hegemonic unilateralism of the United States. In part. Thomas Albert Howard is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Jerusalem and Athens Forum at Gordon College in Wenham. “Across a Great Divide. but expressed something entrenched. in American history and culture.” Topping Schneider’s list was what we might call the religion factor. Germany. he noted. sentiments. “The war in Iraq has made the Atlantic seem wider.”1 Other European intellectuals have expressed similar. touching upon religious differences: “In European societies. In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. their essay engaged in transatlantic cultural analysis.” 116 . if less dispassionate. The United States is a deeply religious nation. 2003. bringing older and more fundamental differences between Europe and the United States into focus. He is the author. spearheaded by Jürgen Habermas with the late Jacques Derrida riding shotgun. most recently.” Besides offering policy suggestions. Habermas and Derrida called for a “core Europe”—principally France. Massachusetts. many of which had been wholly or partly obscured during the Cold War and its immediate aftermath. 1 Peter Schneider. “while in Europe the process of secularization continues unabated. offering a jarring impetus for intellectuals and policy makers to consider afresh various social and cultural differences between Western Europe and the United States. agitated in the extreme that the moral pitch of President Bush’s foreign policy—underwritten by a cabal of “neoconservative” intellectuals and “evangelical” electoral shock troops—constituted no episodic phenomenon. Italy. “but in reality it has had the effect of a magnifying glass. He is currently working on a project entitled “American Religion in the European Mind. of Protestant Theology and the Making of the Modern German University (2006). this worry gave rise to a spectacularly staged series of essays in Europe’s newspapers of record on May 31.

A merican religion and european anti . inclined leftward politically. religion.3 For sociologists preoccupied with the so-called “secularization thesis. indeed the paradigmatic example of modernity in many respects. for scholars interested in the genealogy of European anti-Americanism.’ and the proof of it is in our economic and military superiority..” La Stampa (31 May 2003). despite being frequently invoked. and simultaneously awash in a sea of faith. is hard to imagine.” the transatlantic religious divide has emerged as a truism in recent scholarship. most now concede that this is not necessarily the case: the United States is at once a thoroughly modernized nation. Behind these invocatory references lies the assumption that disparaging assessments of religiosity in the United States—not unlike those of Habermas. as a leading dividing factor and source of misunderstanding between Europeans and Americans.americanism / howard secularization is relatively developed…. Gianni Vattimo. In fact. especially when compared to most Western European societies. “L’unione affronta i nodi decisivi del suo sviluppo. almost offhandedly. Derrida. Claiming knowledge of “something felt in the consciousness of all Europeans. 117 . lent a supporting voice in Italy’s La Stampa. 3 Gianni Vattimo. to understand the genealogy of European 2 Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida. [This] has had desirable consequences for our political culture.” When detailing the differences. In this essay. besides making the general point that religious differences need to be taken more seriously by students of transatlantic relations. While once sociologists held that modernity led inexorably to secularization in society.” opining further that “our hope is that this difference will become the inspiring principle for a political system able to bestow on Europe the dignity and significance it deserves in world politics. However. came to the fore: We [Europeans] are certainly familiar with the religious roots of North American society…. “Unsere Erneuerung.” he made clear that “our spirit differs from the currently prevailing spirit in American society.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (31 May 2003).”2 The Italian philosopher and member of the European Parliament. a president who opens his daily business with public prayer. once again. passing skeptical judgment on overly credulous “Yankees” slow to accept that enlightenment and the disenchantment of the world stand or fall together. But—[the] religiosity that characterizes the American spirit has ended up manifesting itself as what we fear it really is: the notion that ‘God is with us. Nach dem Krieg: Die Wiedergeburt Europas. I want to suggest that anti-American sentiments vis-à-vis religion are not simply a byproduct of Europe’s exceptional secularism and leftist political traditions. religion has received scant attention. For us.. and Vattimo—emanate from a secular historical consciousness.

immigrants.”5 What had been regarded as a remote backwater of colonial exploitation in the eighteenth century became for Europeans. analyzed. 4 C. equality. perhaps particularly to the far left today. 1976) xiii. even those inclined to radicalism. “described. and intellectuals (many who never went abroad) sought to “explain” America to an Old World audience seemingly insatiable in its curiosity to make sense of the upstart nation. a phenomenon to be examined. although repositories of an older Tory anti-Americanism have by no means been extinguished. European anti-Americanism has a recognizable “Whiggish” aspect too. promoted. nourished largely by Marxist political currents in the twentieth century and the juggernaut of “critical theory” in the post-war transatlantic academy. as the French say. eds. truly a novus ordo seclorum. leftist political traditions. Abroad in America: Visitors to the New Nation. the resurgent ecclesiastical establishmentarianism of this era. and attacked in virtually every nation struggling to come to terms with new social and political voices. one must actually fix one’s gaze at the opposite end of the political spectrum. At this time. if only they could shake off the backlash to the French …anti-American sentiments Revolution and Napoleonic upheaval inaugurated by the vis-à-vis religion are not political Restoration of 1815. what I’ll call “the Tory imagination. Vann Woodward. if we cast our glance farther back. However. 5 Marc Pachter and Frances Wein.. 28–9. the fledgling American republic was the only state of any size in the world to still practice what many considered the invalidated ideas of democracy. The Old World’s New World (New York: Oxford University Press. as Alexis de Tocqueville asserted. it becomes apparent that most European liberals and social democrats. they have since migrated to various points on the political landscape. and the climate of simply a byproduct of Europe’s Romantic nostalgia in literature and the arts. to misgivings about the United States emanating from voices on Europe’s historical right—or. regularly lionized the United States—praising its religious voluntarism in particular—as an example of what European nation-states should aspire to. 1991) 21–2. 118 . 1776–1914 (Reading.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 anti-Americanism in its full historical complexity.” To be sure. borrowing from British political parlance.4 Les extrêmes se touchent. a secularist-leftist mien. a moral and political experiment to be judged. a possible laboratory of the future. “America was the China of the nineteenth century. and this is perhaps especially true when considering anti-Americanism and the European political spectrum. exceptional secularism and But it was also during the post-1815 era of Restoration and Romanticism that lasting anti-American images and metaphors first gained wide currency in European thought. After the collapse of the democratic experiment in France in the early nineteenth century.” as one scholar has put it. numerous European visitors. to the nineteenth century. but this is of more recent provenance. and religious voluntarism. virtually overnight. MA: Addison-Wesley.

“flows that absurd and erroneous teaching. both judged to loose anarchy upon the world and drown the ceremony of innocence. if not identical. viewed the American experiment through the lenses of the French Revolution and the Italian Risorgimento. as signs of profound impiety.” Vom Sinn der Geschichte. ed. the American religious experiment and the political institutions enabling it represented a perilous plunge into cultural confusion and social anarchy. 1. suggesting that modern freedoms and true religion need not be sworn enemies. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country.. In Mirari vos (1832). “Upon my arrival in the United States.”8 6 Alexis de Tocqueville. but quite positive in many respects. vol.americanism / howard Tocqueville’s own assessment of the fate of religion in the United States is fairly nuanced. 2005) 148.” run often quoted lines from his Democracy in America. Henry Reeve (New York: Knopf. Otmar Franz (Stuttgart: Seewald. the encyclical rebutting Lammenais. To the conservative imagination of the nineteenth century. But we should resist equating Tocqueville’s views on America with that of Europe’s intelligentsia tout court. 7 Noted in Günter Moltmann. The Church that Can and Cannot Change (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. the pope condemned religious liberty.” From “this most foul font of indifferentism. Tocqueville’s interpretation suggests a fairly sanguine view of religious conditions in the new nation. made his famous appeal to Rome in 1832.” the pope wrote.7 The Catholic Church. or rather that folly [deliramentum] that it is necessary to assure and guarantee to whomever it may be the liberty of conscience. In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. The pope. a Catholic champion of religious liberty. 1945) 319. he saw the American and French revolutions.6 When coupled with tales of persecuted religious minorities finding safe haven in America. 8 Quoted in John Noonan. Democracy in America. a pillar of the Restoration era. 119 . “Deutscher Antiamerikanismus heute und früher.. was not impressed.A merican religion and european anti . Gregory XVI. the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention. he brought to the pope’s attention the example of the constitutional freedoms of the United States.. trans. The French arch-conservative Joseph de Maistre might well serve as the archetype of this mindset. the diplomatic architect of the post-1815 order. once opined that the American polity set “altar against altar” and represented an abiding insult to time-tested Old World institutions. 1976) 92. When Félicité de Lemannais. political hubris against divinely sanctioned traditions. Austria’s Count Metternich. defining it as the error “indifferentism.

E. 1858) 457.10 La Civiltà Cattolica. Not surprisingly. But in Reisach’s view. to pass itself off as the one true way. Mormonism’s rise amounted to an indictment of Protestant “religious individualism. 1854). at least for many. emerged as a leading organ of ultramontane opinion. 9 See the entry on “America” in volume 9 of Kirchen-Lexikon: oder.” penned by Cardinal Archbishop Karl August von Reisach (1800–69). Heinrich Joseph Wetzer and Benedikt Welte (Freiburg im Breisgau: Karl Herder. is an apt case in point. I thank Mark Noll for calling my attention to this article. 2 (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder’sche Verhandlung. ed. the entry on America in a Catholic encyclopedia (1854) depicts the United States as a land of bizarre religious enthusiasms. 120 . As a nation founded by Calvinist separatists and harboring numerous Protestant emigrants from Europe. ultramontane Catholics were keen to call attention to the proliferation of Protestant sects in the United States. depicting the new nation as a grand bedlam of religious schism and theological charlatanism. the Catholic scholar Joseph Edmund Jörg portrayed American society as floundering in “chaos. vol. a Jesuit publication founded in Naples in 1850.” resulting from the “religious individualism” and “sectarian spirit” of Protestantism. He traced the malady of American Protestantism back to colonial New England. “Mormonism in its Connections with Modern Protestantism. and thereby a powerful. Trying to govern society theocratically “in a state of total reliance on the Bible. 10 J. a symptom of American Protestantism. allowing Mormonism fertile ground to take root and.”11 The proliferation of sects in the nineteenth century gave rise to conditions of religious confusion. inadvertent witness for the Catholic Church as the authentic bulwark of religious truth and social cohesion.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 The Catholic Church not only regarded the American experiment as deficient in its assertion of religious freedom. An article from 1860. Jörg. Encyklopædie der katholischen Theologie und ihrer Hilfswissenschaften.” Puritans were ultimately unable to limit individuals from interpreting the Bible for themselves and “thus the same foundational principle of the Reformation naturally and necessarily caused the collapse of such a theocratic system and caused new sects and religious societies to emerge. not its cure.” La Civiltà Cattolica 6 (19 May 1860): 394. Geschichte des Protestantismus in seiner neuesten Entwicklung. 11 “Il Mormonismo nelle sue attinenze col moderno Protestantismo. For example. In Reisach’s interpretation. a safe passage from sectarianism and individualism to a secure collective and religious certainty.” to which the American republic had given free reign. the United States represented for some the land where the principles of the Reformation would be reduced to absurdity. often exhibiting a pointedly anti-American slant. The success of Mormonism in the United States had long been a source of bewilderment to Europe’s traditionalist imagination. the authors even list one non-existent sect alleged to require its members to pluck out their right eye in literal interpretation of the biblical passage in Matthew 5:29!9 In his History of Modern Protestantism (1858). Mormonism itself represented simply a sect writ large.

A merican religion and european anti - americanism / howard

European Catholic misgivings about the American polity continued apace during the
pontificates of Pius IX (r. 1846–78) and Leo XIII (r. 1878–1903), arguably reaching a
high watermark in the latter’s encyclical Testem benevolentiae (1899), which condemned
the so-called heresy of “Americanism” (to my knowledge, the only time a national identity has ever been associated with a heresy).12 The complex
background to this papal condemnation found its center
…the hurly-burly pluralistic
of gravity in debates about American freedom and ecclesiethos of American religious
astical order. Many European clergy, particularly those in
France, worried that their counterparts in the United States
life…elicited a skeptical,
had succumbed to the American environment of “indiffercondescending attitude…
entism,” in that some had advocated a church remodeled
along liberal democratic lines. Other clergy even equated
“Americanism” with the degenerate spirit of modern times itself.13 In Leo XIII’s encyclical, European clergy got what they wanted, even if in a much less alarmist voice: a warning against the “Americanist” heresy. The events surrounding this controversy negatively
colored Catholic attitudes toward America until a time when Catholic thinkers such
as Jacques Maritain and John Courtney Murray—not to mention Vatican II’s epochal
Declaration on Religious Freedom (1965)—allowed for a more positive estimation of the
United States.
The Catholic Church, of course, had no monopoly on anti-American sentiment in the
nineteenth century. For anyone—Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, or Reformed—who
took Europe’s state-church system to be the proper state of things, the hurly-burly pluralistic ethos of American religious life, with its revivals, camp meetings, and itinerant
preachers, elicited a skeptical, condescending attitude, if not one of bemusement and
The Anglicans Frances Trollope and Bishop Samuel Wilberforce exhibited such attitudes. After traveling throughout the United States and residing for several years in
Ohio, Trollope published (in London) The Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832).
Her portrait of America as a nation of revivalist zealots and as a people lacking in social
refinement became a top seller in British literary circles. One cannot remain long in
the United States, she observed, “without being struck with the strange anomalies produced by its religious system…. The whole people appear to be divided into an almost
endless variety of religious factions.”14

12 See

Testem benevolentiae nostrae, “Concerning New Opinions, Virtue, Nature and Grace, with Regard to
Americanism,” encyclical of Pope Leo XIII (12 January 1899).

13 Abbé

Henry Delassus, L’Américanisme et la conjuration antichrétienne (Paris: Société de Saint-Augustin,
Desclée De Brouwer et Cie, 1899).

14 Frances Trollope,

Domestic Manners of the Americans (New York: Penguin, 1997) 84.


T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6

Bishop Wilberforce of Oxford reached a comparable conclusion in his history of the
Episcopal Church in the United States. “Every fantastic opinion that has disturbed the
peace of Christendom,” he wrote, “has been reproduced in stranger growth on the other
side of the Atlantic. Division has grown up in all its rankness, and seeded on every side
a new crop of errors.”15 This reality, he feared, threatened to produce a generation of
theologically illiterate and schismatic individuals who in turn would “obliterate civilization.”16 He found a modicum of comfort in that this uncivilized anarchy existed at a
safe distance from the gothic tranquility of Oxford, in the far reaches of the American
Concerns about religious anarchy easily passed over into
broadsides against American culture and society generally.
political opportunities
In his American Notes (1842), based on extensive travels in the United States, Charles Dickens wondered how
in America were rarely
the lack of an established church might have contributed
gainsaid, Continental religious
deleteriously to American society, which he viewed as a
cauldron of mob passions in politics, libel in the press,
leaders were less sanguine
and swindling in business. The American Revolution
about the effects of American
had produced “a degenerate child,” he concluded, driving the point home in The Life and Adventures of Martin
society on Old World religion
Chuzzlewit (1843), a 700-page novel-cum-anti-American
and culture…
polemic.17 Dickens’ disparaging musings on America, far
from standing alone, fit a larger pattern of derisory commentary on the United States by eminent visitors from Victorian Britain. Another
revealing example is Matthew Arnold’s Civilization in the United States (1888), in which
the apostle of high learning portrayed the United States as a country of Philistines given
to ignoble pursuits, in possession of “a defective type of religion.”18

While the economic and

In Continental Europe, leaders of Lutheran and Reformed communities regularly
expressed puzzlement at the religious free-for-all of the upstart nation. While the economic and political opportunities in America were rarely gainsaid, Continental religious
leaders were less sanguine about the effects of American society on Old World religion
and culture, being transplanted across the Atlantic by waves of German immigrants
during the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Philip Schaff, a Swiss-German
Reformed émigré theologian, worried, for example, that the church in America (his

15 Samuel

Wilberforce, A History of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America (New York: Standford and
Swords, 1849) 290–1.

16 Wilberforce
17 Charles


Dickens, American Notes (London: Chapman and Hall, 1842) 141.

18 Matthew

Arnold, Civilization in the United States, 6th ed. (Boston: DeWolfe, Friske, 1900), 140. For
additional Victorian-era criticisms of America, see Benjamin Evans Lippincott, Victorian Critics of
Democracy (New York: Octagon, 1974).


A merican religion and european anti - americanism / howard

adopted home) lacked a principle of authority and mechanism toward unity and thus
appeared destined for a career of fissiparous, obscurantist ignominy:
Tendencies, which had found no political room to unfold themselves in other
lands, wrought here without restraint.... Every theological vagabond and peddler
may drive here his bungling trade, without passport or license, and sell his false
ware at pleasure. What is to come of such confusion is not now to be seen.19
Less devout German-speaking intellectuals also expressed their misgivings about the United
States. Among them, arguably none was more influential than G. W. F. Hegel. In his
Lectures on the Philosophy of History, America occupies a marginal position. Hegel’s famous
division of the world into “three distinct world-outlooks”—Oriental, Greco-Roman, and
the Germanic—made no place for the indigenous peoples of the New World, and he
dismissed the culture of the U.S. as derivative from Europe and ultimately of negligible
importance. “America,” he wrote, “has severed itself from the ground that world’s history
has taken place until now. What has taken place in America so far is a mere echo of the
Old World, and the expression of an alien vitality.”20
To be sure, Hegel admitted that America might represent “the land of the future,” “the
land of longing for all those who are weary of the historic arsenal that is old Europe.”21
Even so, this land of longing presented for him a problem, particularly in the religious
sphere. While dismissive of traditional, creedal Christianity, Hegel was supportive of
the Prussian state church and the Ministry of Culture, which had secured for him
his influential post at the University of Berlin. To his mind, America constituted a
deficiency insofar as it lacked a strong state and a European-style ministry of culture,
which, among other things, served to check popular religious enthusiasm. From the
august Prussian capital, society across the Atlantic appeared to him a hatchery of religious misfits, isolated from the truly important currents of world history. The United
States is the land of “every sort of capriciousness,” he wrote,
This explains the proliferation of sects to the point of sheer madness…. This
total arbitrariness is such that the various communities hire and fire ministers
as they please: the church is not something that [has]…an external establishment; instead, religious matters are handled according to the particular views
of the congregation. In North America, the wildest freedom of imagination

19 Philip

Schaff, The Principle of Protestantism, trans. John Nevin (Chambersburg: Publication of the
German Reformed Church, 1845) 149–50.

20 G.

W. F. Hegel, Werke, vol. 12 (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1970) 114.

21 Hegel


22 Hegel



such as Oswald Spengler. Adolf von Harnack. note in the thought of numerous intellectuals influenced by Hegel.” before wondering who will live in this “iron cage” of the future. and Eduard Spranger. Nietzsche. By contrast. trans.” adding that “the trader’s spirit molds religions in its own image too. the only nation Weber mentions by name is the United States. 24 Friedrich 258–9. represented a utilitarian. 124 . as Fritz Ringer has persuasively argued. this site of “mechanized petrifaction. Scholars felt their collective worldview best preserved the genuine spiritual values necessary for a deep and rich culture (Kultur). 1974) 25 Max Weber. Emil Dubois Reymond. “regards the whole existence of man on earth as a sum of commercial transactions which everyone makes as favorably as possible for himself. shallow. trans. or Kant. and America foremost. Friedrich Nietzsche had written. In the famous final passages of his Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. whether with fate or God. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Random House. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” written after visiting the United States in 1904. Although no haven of religious orthodoxy.” 25 In a shorter essay. and an ethos of daunting academic accomplishment. if not a major. 1969) 183. The transference of religion from the public to the private sphere helped account for the voluntary and “ascetic” character of 23 Quoted in Fritz K. “The [Anglo-American] trader. “The Protestant Sects and the Spirit of Capitalism. “is already beginning to infect old Europe with its ferocity and is spreading a lack of spirituality [Geistiglosigkeit] like a blanket. constituted a spiritual aristocracy of sorts. precociously capturing a widespread fear. that anti-American sentiment in general and contempt of American religious life in particular. commercial interests.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 Such derisory preoccupation with religion and culture in the United States enjoyed a long life in modern Continental thought—a minor.”23 One finds similar sentiments in the writings of a wide spectrum of thinkers. mass civilization (Zivilization) that threatened to place all “spiritual” (geistige) motivations and actions into the maw of purely individualistic. While he was less politically illiberal and anti-American than many of his peers. 1958) 181 and following. empowered by ideals of cultural organicism. The Decline of the German Mandarins: The German Academic Community. the “mandarin” guilds of the German university system in the late nineteenth century. one capable of producing a Goethe. criticism of democracy. attained a stage of true virtuosity.”24 Max Weber’s well-known writings on American religious life reflect his milieu. Schiller. Yet it was arguably in Hegel’s own stomping grounds. The Gay Science. MA: Harvard University Press.” wrote Werner Sombart after the outbreak of World War I. his writings on the “sect spirit” in American society bear witness to a distinctly pre-democratic. Talcott Parsons (New York: Scribner’s. the site of capitalism’s “highest development. Weber expressed amazement at the high levels of church affiliation in the United States despite the severance of church-state ties. European disquiet toward the United States. Ringer. “Western” countries. 1890–1933 (Cambridge. fin de siècle German academic culture. embellished with a sort of convulsive sense of self-importance. The “breathless haste” of the American.

One-Dimensional Man (Boston: Beacon. 125 . has been considerable and in whose writings the Heideggerian image of “the American” as a history-less “mass man” or “collective man. H. The ponderous anti-modern. and. An Introduction to Metaphysics—has exerted an estimable influence on the European left: on the existentialist Marxism of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simon de Beauvoir and their successors. 30 Martin “Hölderlins Hymne.. “lies today in a great pincer. trans. Compare with James W. Heidegger. because it appears in the form of a democratic middle-class way of life mixed with Christianity.”26 The German mandarin depiction of America as a religiously deformed.americanism / howard American churches.” in Gesamtausgabe. 40 (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann.. From a metaphysical point of view.. Gerth and C. From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (New York: Oxford University Press. as the Holocaust was underway.” as he put it in yet another formulation. 1946) 322.”30 26 H. 27 See Herbert Marcuse. not least. emerges as an article of certainty. squeezed by Russia on one side and America on the other. this asceticism only helped “put a halo around the economic ‘individualist’ impulses of the modern capitalist ethos. 29 Heidegger. Holzwege (Frankfurt: Vittoria Klostermann. Germany. Einführung in die Metaphysik. he would write that Americanism is the purest and most problematic form of modernity.” holding desperately to a simple and irrational faith. In many respects. Ceasar. the gold standard of contemporary leftist anti-Americanism. One also thinks of subsequent au courant thinkers such as Herbert Marcuse (One-Dimensional Man) and Jean Baudrillard (America). Growing up in provincial Baden in southwestern Germany and once a devoted student of Catholic theology (he sought to become a Jesuit as a young man). America. 1975) 40–1. two years after the Nazis had seized power. Heidegger is a pivotal and revealing figure in the story of European anti-Americanism.” he wrote. on leaders within Germany’s Green Party. 1997) 190. Heidegger had deep roots in a rural.A merican religion and european anti . “Bolshevism is only a variant of Americanism. 53 (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann. anti-technological outlook that he developed—in. with the same dreary technological frenzy and the same unrestricted organization of the average mind. vol. 1988). 1975) 86. on both sides of the Atlantic. whose influence in the modern academy.27 But we should not forget Heidegger himself in considering his influence. 1991) and Jean Baudrillard. in Gesamtausgabe. in his interpretation. he wrote in 1935.”28 But in 1942. Chris Turner (Lodon: Verso. 28 Martin Heidegger. and all this in an atmosphere devoid of any sense of history. 1957) 103. “the most dangerous shape of boundlessness. economically utilitarian. “is the still unfolding and not yet full or completed metaphysical essence of the emerging monstrousness of modern times. on the 1960s counterculture generally. quoted in Ceasar 9. Russia and America are the same. pre-democratic conservative religious milieu. Wright Mills. vol. Reconstructing America: The Symbol of America in Modern Thought (New Haven: Yale University Press.”29 “Americanism. and culturally shallow civilization arguably reached its apogee in the writings of Martin Heidegger and in his highly symbolic conception of America—or Americanism—as a site of cultural catastrophe. eds. But. for instance.

but one can reasonably conjecture that a rather venerable Tory condescension and contempt of New World religiosity prowls about today ghost-like in the general (secular) European body politic and historical consciousness. and these deserve open and fair discussion in the media and political arena. And in Europe today this tradition is vestigial at best (and should not be confused with more recent nationalist and anti-immigrant right-wing voices). the welfare state. European anti-Americanism includes a significant. much deeper cultural and religious forces come into play. Indeed. Even so. such as transatlantic differences of opinion over the death penalty. and diverse in possible interpretations. finally. from “the throne and altar” milieu of reactionary. and Vattimo might have important and valid grievances with the directions of the current administration. These attitudes and the long history of concerns. and unexpected ways. and professors—is quite foreign to American political thought. and cultural organicism. religious dimension. tell us as much about European attitudes toward America as about America itself. and this requires more penetrating historical analysis. social hierarchy. it is inaccurate and simplistic to regard it as a product of “the European left. “anti-Americanism” is a diffuse and complicated phenomenon. This particular form of anti-modern conservatism— one of established churches. conservative one. polygenetic in its origins.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 To be sure. economics. more often they live on in transmuted. and anxieties informing them deserve more attention from students of transatlantic relations. In the final analysis. perceptions. the penal system. which in turn might take one to some rather unlikely places and periods. But their efforts—and those of many others—to insinuate a link between contemporary policy and America’s general religious identity might. progressive mindset passing judgment on a more religious. bishops. The deepest historical currents of anti-American sentiment vis-à-vis religion derive from the traditionalist. with the partial exception of Southern Agrarianism. A longer treatment would be necessary to establish this point definitively. residual. if often obscured. And it certainly transcends much-discussed single issues. often expressed by aggrieved aristocrats. intellectuals such as Habermas. One cannot properly understand its deep-seated hold on the imagination if the scope of inquiry is limited to recent history and the domains of politics. 126 . or the war on terror. To be sure. clergy. Derrida. and diplomacy. post-1815 Europe. But. especially when the truth of religion and the social order is at stake. passionate moods of being and thought perish reluctantly in history. an embedded element of cultural memory.” a secularist. protean in its manifestations. at a minimum. political right.

on June 3. 127 . The first model is called “multiculturalism” and is dominant in Northern Europe. Secularism. including The Failure of Political Islam (1996). nevertheless. or of “Western Islam” as if a European Islam should necessarily differ from its Middle Eastern or Asian versions? Since the late 1970s. the assassination of the Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh seems to have played a role in the Dutch rejection of the European Constitution in May 2005. two models have shaped Western European countries’ immigration policies. There is. or is one a Muslim by ethnic background? Beyond the demographic aspect. Furthermore. Is one defined as a Muslim strictly because of one’s choice to belong to that religious community. The New Central Asia: The Creation of Nations (2000). It is clear that the rejection of Turkey’s European Union candidature by European public opinion is largely linked to the fact that Turkey is a Muslim country. partly due to imprecise data. and the End of the West. He is the author of numerous books.” held by the Center on Religion and Democracy and the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture in Laxenburg/ Vienna. the fact that Islam is taking hold in Europe seems to put into question European identity. the second one is “assimilationism” and has been advocated by a broad spectrum of 1 This paper was first presented at the conference “Religion. What does the rise of Islam in Europe entail in terms of shared culture and values? Should we speak of “Islam in the West” as if Islam were the bridgehead of a different culture area. Austria. and Globalized Islam: The Search for the New Ummah (2004). have long-term consequences. Olivier Roy is Research Director at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Lecturer at both the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and the Institut d’Études Politiques in Paris. some debate about the figures of the Muslim population. when it became clear that the bulk of incoming immigrants would stay in Europe. partly due to the difficulty of knowing who qualifies as a Muslim. of course. 2005.Islam in the West or Western Islam? The Disconnect of Religion and Culture1 Olivier Roy T he definitive presence of a huge Muslim population in Europe will.

and community leaders who maintain some sort of social control on the community. because it presupposed that this dimension would fade away during the process of integration. The underlying policy was to integrate the Muslims the way the Jews had been integrated in the wake of the French Revolution: to grant them “nothing as a community (nation). addressed by some Islamic institutions in Europe (The European Council of Fatwa. social fabric. for the multiculturalist approach. the assimilationist perspective assumes that the “Western” model is universal and could integrate people from various cultural backgrounds on the condition that they give up former identities. they have actually acquired a permanent Muslim population—and this is a realization that Eastern European countries will soon be having. The French assimilationist model failed because it initially ignored the religious dimension of immigrants’ identities. diet.” The underlying idea was that a religion is embedded into a culture (or that any culture is based on a religion).T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 political forces in France. however. entails a disconnect of edented convergence between the different European countries. At the end of the 1990s. But national identities are in crisis at two levels: from above. Both models presuppose what is perceived as a national and/or Western identity. everything as individual citizens. The model of multiculturalism failed not because of the “multi” but because of the “culturalism. Holland. and Denmark). in fact. based in London. The same issue is. However. both models were widely seen as having failed. in 2002. which led to an unprectherefore. Such self-regulation through community leaders is portrayed in an old story from Holland. This convergence demands a European approach to the question of what Islam in Europe means. Contemporary fundamentalism. which. and so on. in which the Jews expulsed from Spain and Portugal around 1600 were granted asylum and offered hospitality. due to European integration (which 128 . for instance). ly that. the French Council of Muslim Faith. Religious believers form a community with its own customs. but asked to regulate their own community themselves. To share a faith means to share a common culture. Countries that did not consider themselves religious markers from immigration societies (Italy and Spain) realized recentcultural content.” But the rise of different forms of Islamic religious revival among integrated immigrants pushed the government to acknowledge the existence of a (supposedly) purely religious community (hence the creation by the state of a religious body. or more exactly. which is in itself a break from the Republican secular policy of laïcité). should coexist with other cultures. This last model—an exception in a generally multiculturalist Europe—possesses new appeal for Northern European countries (Belgium. It is clear that the way the different European countries have defined their relations with immigrants is deeply rooted in their own history and political culture. it should be noted.

etc. “hallal ” does not refer only to a traditional cuisine but describes any cuisine. the focus on Islam is. kite-flying. and they tend to speak better French than Arabic (when they speak Arabic at all). but far more slowly. Islam is deemed incompatible with secularization and democracy. entails a disconnect of religious markers from cultural content. Such a rejection of the very concept of culture appeals to a youth who feels often culturally alienated.). This disconnect means that the issue is not a clash of cultures between West and East but the recasting of faith into what is seen as a “pure” religion based on isolated religious markers. fundamentalism is itself a tool of deculturation. singing birds. hence. Youth tend to adopt Western urban youth sub-culture (in terms of dress. leads to the conclusion that the modernity of a religion has to do with its theological dogma. the flourishing of hallal fast-food restaurants among born-again Muslims in the West. Contemporary fundamentalism. The Saudi Wahhabis reject anything close to a “traditional” culture. A superficial understanding of Max Weber. has been able to adapt reluctantly to modernism. there are “liberal” Muslim theologians who advocate 129 . and even. then. Fast food is more popular than traditional cuisine.). due to the crisis of the “social bind” in destitute neighborhoods (in France) or big city centers (in Holland). a focus on national and/or European identity. He became outraged at what he saw as blasphemy against Islam in a purely Western context. slang. as long as it does not undergo a deep theological reform. German than Turkish. who has often been misread. Such a reasoning ignores the fact that Roman Catholicism never underwent a deep theological reformation (because it would have meant the triumph of Protestantism) but. wrongly or rightly. The Taliban in Afghanistan did not fight against Western influence but against the traditional Afghan culture (banning music. dance. Religious fundamentalism among Muslims in the West is not a consequence of the importation of a given original culture into the West. but few Moroccan or Turkish traditional restaurants. Van Gogh’s killer in Holland spoke better Dutch than Arabic and was not reacting to the Middle Eastern conflict or to Muslim culture. novels. music. Second and third generations tend to prefer the language of the guest country over that of their parents’ home country. but of the deculturation of Islam. as immigration changes the relation between migrants and the original culture. they banned music. For instance. nevertheless. and from below. English than Urdu. how to deal with such a surge of religious identities at a time when secularization is seen as a prerequisite for democracy and modernity. It is an often expressed idea that the Westernization of Islam should mean the reformation of Islam. etc. and non-religious poetry. and the inability of the school system to cope with these areas of social exclusion. even if socially well-integrated. Pristine cultures like Islam are in crisis. Because it supposedly does not differentiate between religion and politics. Of course. Moreover. Clearly. both immigration models have failed because they have been unable to acknowledge and deal with what is at the root of the present forms of religious revivalism: the disconnect between religion and culture. therefore. The issue for European societies is.I slam in the west or western islam ? / ro y has nothing to do with Islam). In fact.

And the religious community is defined not as an already existing body (church or ummah). churches and congregations tend to be disembedded from mainstream society (a process clearly at work in Spain and Italy. Even if the dogmas differ. the new forms of religiosity are “transversal. . this is not a prerequisite for Westernization. Westernization is already at work. Jenkins. 2 130 Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. coupled with the crisis of religious institutions. But. which advocates the revival of the Islamic Caliphate but simply skips the issue of its territorial basis: the Caliphate could be restored in a very short time if every Muslim decides that it exists and pledges loyalty to it. The “community” lives both in and apart from the existing society. one can live both as a member of a specific minority group while also part of a universal community. for two reasons. we find common forms of religiosity that explain the religious nomadism of our time (people going from religion to religion while claiming to look for the same thing). A contempt of history. as favor for a direct. but religiosity (the relationship between a believer and religion). What is at stake is not religion (a set of dogma and rituals). tradition. Although the great majority of Americans claim to be practicing Christians. specifically in the more fundamentalist forms of religious expression. This dialectic of universalism/minority is interesting because it is to be found both in Islam and Christianity. First. fundamentalism entails a clear delinking of religion and culture. including the most radical ones. with a nation-state and borders. They consider the ummah to be everywhere Muslims are to be found. in which the “saved” are a minority). An interesting case is that of Hizb-ul-Tahrir.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 some sort of reformation. Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days (Carol Stream: Tyndale. a radical (although not terrorist) movement now based in London. for me. philosophy.” which is common to Islam and Christianity. most of the neo-fundamentalist movements. implying a political leadership. but as a reconstructed community of the “chosen” by individuals. every church speaks about living as a minority in a decadent society (as illustrated by the novel Left Behind.2 Even the Catholic Church acknowledges representing a minority in Europe and advocates closing ranks in difficult times. Immediate access to the “truth” is promised through faith. 1995). until recently. Thus. In fact. In fact. The space of the ummah is no longer a territorial one. where. stopped discussing the “dar ul islam” (abode of Islam) in territorial terms. and literature develops. personal. emotional form of religious feeling takes precedence. at the expense of studies. And second. Catholicism was seen as being at the core of the national culture). The present forms of religiosity are based on the same patterns. There is a stress on the individual. As much as religion tends to be disembedded from cultures.

Mystical Islam is linked with the burgeoning of Sufi orders. Holland. but not it nevertheless had to take into account the customs of the time (for example. are wide open to converts. it was to protest the declarations of a Dutch-speaking Moroccan Imam who called homosexuals “sick people” and refused to grant them any rights as a minority 3 The fast of Ramadan is. then alcohol is permitted. 131 . For example. it could be said that Islam was a progression in terms of women’s conditions. These brotherhoods. norms tend to be recast into values on the model of conservative Christianity. mending it). The same argument is used about the prohibition of alcohol: alcohol was banned because people were unable to drink moderately and thus became drunk at prayer time. then. who could be compared to Orthodox Jews. The brand of fundamentalism that is thriving among many second-generation Muslim immigrants in the West is a paradoxical consequence of their own Westernization.” or “conservative ethical” Islam.3 But beside this normative dimension. It should be noted. especially the diet norms: eating hallal and fasting during Ramadan. according to polls.” “mystical. but if one can drink without becoming drunk. even before daily prayer. but how to live integrally with that society according to one’s true religious tenets. If one comes back to the true spirit of the text. compared norms in terms of Westernto the previous period (jahiliyya or “ignorance”). Conservative ethical Islam is probably the dominant trend among practicing Muslims. men and women should be considered equal. Whatever the religious validity of such assertions. such as “liberal. that such a view is not dominant by definition among those who are born again and represents more the “lazy” discourse of secular or seldom-practicing Muslims when they are asked to explain their behavior. When Pym Fortuyn entered into politics. for instance.” and religious revivalism does not challenge the existing political or social order. once again blurring the divide between West and East. Historically. they clearly contribute to making Islam Westerncompatible. however. the most respected religious norm among French Muslims. Yet the same phenomena of deculturation and recasting could take different forms. “Liberal Islam” means delinking the religious meaning of …many Muslims in the West the Koran and the Sunnah from its socio-cultural and hisare recasting their religious torical context. The basic norms are taken into account. “Integralism” in this sense tends to replace “fundamentalism. whether traditional or reconstructed. Islamic Sufism fits here with the spread of New Age religious communities and cults in the West. which means first deculturation and then the recasting of Islam as a “mere” religion. but that compatible values.I slam in the west or western islam ? / ro y The new dilemma for many who are born again is not how to rebuild the society on Christian or Islamic principles. allowing polygamy without recomnecessarily on the liberal side.

but not necessarily on the liberal side. however. but within the West: What are Western values? Where is the divide between human freedom and nature (or God)? In fact. It expresses itself inside the present debate on religious revivalism and secularism—but as part of the debate. They tend. while abortion has never been a central issue in Muslim societies (it is usually condemned. but the ban on abortion has never really been enforced). Islam is the mirror in which Europe is looking at its own identity. but it does not offer a new culture or new values. Fortuyn. 132 . not its cause. to support the anti-abortion campaign. Interestingly enough. was not acting in the name of traditional Western values but in defense of the “sexual liberation” movement of the 1960s. which is largely seen by many conservative Christians as the collapse of a society based on values and principles. many Muslims in the West are recasting their religious norms in terms of Western-compatible values. The debate in the West is not between Islamic and Western values. for instance.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 group.

and “The End of the West”1 Slavica Jakelić I f Europe is so uniquely secularized—as most scholars of religion.. and is presently working on a book entitled Religion as Identity: The Challenge of Collectivistic Religions in the Contemporary World. The usual way to understand the “Europe versus America” phenomenon is to contextualize it in the end of the Cold War era. to explain its source as the rise of religious conservativism in the U. Slavica Jakelić is Associate Director of the Center on Religion and Democracy and Lecturer at the University of Virginia. and Joshua Yates for reading and commenting on this essay. or Italy. and U. She is co-editor of Crossing Boundaries: From Syria to Slovakia (2003) and The Future of the Study of Religion (2004). the struggle to define the symbolic foundations of European identity.S. politically affirmed in the Bush administration. and the debates about the public role of religions in the Netherlands. For anyone watching—social scientists in particular—the right thing to do is not to reiterate the too often repeated arguments about European uniqueness but to ask: why are discussions about public religions and affirmations of European secular heritage happening precisely now? This question is the point of departure for a correlation I want to draw between the insistence on the secular character of Europe. Her work focuses on religion. Western European intellectuals.Secularization. the diversification of the European religious context. identity. Jason Varsoke. the French decision about the wearing of foulards. 133 . European Identity. or to point out that Europe is undergoing a serious and 1 I am grateful to Charles Mathewes.S. Poland. in the institutions of the European Union and those of the current (and future) Union members? Many disputes and disagreements surrounded the mentioning of the Christian heritage in the constitution of the European Union. and social change. and the positing of America as Europe’s Other. conservatives seem to agree—why is its secular character so widely and vigorously debated in the legal and political context of European integration.

2 The focus here is different: the goal is to understand the place of religion within today’s European cultural and political currents. enlargement. see Agnes Heller. In post-World War II Europe. But during the last several years. During the first decades of the existence of some form of European integration processes. 4 See the statement of the former French finance minister. the working group of intellectuals and politicians organized around the Vienna Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen. To paraphrase T. upon watching the demonstrations against Bush’s war in Iraq all over Europe. and the Surprising Future of the West (New York: Random House. 3 For the report of this working group. What comes out of these processes that bring together countries as distant and as different as Lithuania. and immigration. it seemed. as these factors particularly shape “the end of the West thesis” and. and Walter Veit (New York: Berg. and steps toward definition are multiple and range widely—from a view of European identity as a new national identity. moreover. concluded that “markets cannot produce a politically resilient solidarity” that would result in “a genuine sense of civic community. . ed. the prevalent view was that economic cooperation guaranteed peace. 4 (Fall 2004): 86. Ash. the paradox bound up in this thesis. and Malta.”3 The main concern of European intellectual and political elites has become the determination of the features—boundaries and characteristics—of European identity. see IWM Newsletter no. the religious processes that define the everyday life of Europeans and the political discourse negotiating the proper place of religion in European societies are not the homogenizing forces that can provide the foundation for what it means to 134 2 For a recent succinct statement of the contextual variables surrounding the twenty-first-century notion of the crisis of the West. where the definition of what it means to be European is at stake. Europe. who. initiated by a former president of the European Commission. sufficient rationale for these processes.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 often disquieting quest for its geo-political and cultural boundaries. 1992). Romano Prodi. by which it is greatly defined as an economic and political entity. see Timothy Garton Ash. declared: “On Saturday. This new nation is the European nation” (Ash 46). “Europe: An Epilogue. 5 For a critique of the possibility of creating European cultural identity from different national cultures and for a notion that the elements of “European” identity are only aspects of modernity. France. Discussing these questions. Brian Nelson. The current context of the European Union. while the Americans are asking “What are we to do with who we are?” Europeans are still asking “Who are we?” The European identity is anything but defined. and introduce into the heart of Western European cities immigrants from Africa and Asia. 2004). Free World: America. is that of integration.” The Idea of Europe: Problems of National and Transnational Identity. G. a new nation was born on the street.5 or as “something” that has been and will remain. to be defined by “unity in plurality.4 to an attempt to define European identity as a cultural identity. February 15. is a crisis of European collective self-understanding. David Roberts. economic rationale had been a dominant and. Dominique Strauss-Kahn. more and more voices have expressed a serious worry that economy and market cannot be the foundation for solidarity among different European peoples.” In this context.

6 A second component is the emergence of new religious movereligious diversification… ments with their individualistic character and “here-andnow” spirituality. especially as new countries such as Bulgaria. Fetzer and J. Within the processes of integration. european identit y . Currently. France.8 This number can only grow in coming decades. “Christian 6 See Grace Davie. Two other processes do. and “ the end of the west ” / J akeli Ć be European. however. The Catholic-Protestant difference was the hallmark of European religious history. See also Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead. ed. but toward new divisions. But neither the argument about Catholic-Protestant difference nor suggestions about the spiritual revival of Western Europeans seriously challenge the dominant narrative of progressive secularization within the European world. 7 See Paul Heelas. enlargement. The first and oldest component of European religious …the contemporary religious pluralism is the difference in the levels and character of developments lead not religiosity between Catholic and Protestant countries. “Detraditionalizing the Study of Religion.7 Both components are indigenous to the European West. The other major. eds. and Germany (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. and Albania approach the Union. Religion in Modern Europe: A Memory Mutates (New York: Oxford University Press. and immigration in Europe. the number of Muslims within European borders would increase by more than sixty million. phenomenon that adds to the diversification of the European religious scene is that of collectivistic Christianities. there are more than ten million Muslims in Western Europe.S E C U L A R I Z A T I O N . while new religious movements are perceived by some as the result of secularization. 2005). contemporary religious developments lead not toward a unified secular destination—as many Western Europeans would like to believe and religious scholars still prophesy—but into a religious diversification. The first phenomenon that is changing the European religious scene is Islam. 2005). not toward a new collective effervescence. 2004) 251–73. 135 . Bosnia and Herzegovina. Spain. Christopher Soper. As many commentators point out. and the specifically religious impact. 2000) 11. it is impossible to overemphasize the general cultural and political impact.” The Future of the Study of Religion. and Ireland than in destination…but into a historically Protestant Netherlands and Great Britain. yet much less discussed. Slavica Jakelić and Lori Pearson (Leiden: Brill. The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion Is Giving Way to Spirituality (Oxford: Blackwell. As studies clearly point out. since the spiritual revivals that embody the sacralization of life and the self are highly individualized and de-institutionalized religious expressions.. With Turkey in the European Union. Muslims and the State in Britain. that the public presence of Muslim believers is already generating and will continue to generate in European societies. 8 See Joel S. the level of religious practices is toward a unified secular much higher in Catholic Italy.

10 To be Serbian has for centuries meant to be an Orthodox Christian. Rather. Ireland. Religion as Identity. and class boundaries. collectivistic Christianities will be represented by an additional seven million Bulgarian Orthodox Christians. For a discussion of the historical context of Croatian Catholicism. 10 The Eastern Orthodox collectivistic Christianities are autocephalous national to name a few—the church as an institution and Christianity as a religious tradition have been distinctively embedded in vernacular liturgy since medieval times. processes that happen with Christianity all the time. Christianity also developed many collectivistic traditions.iwm. or Croatia—domesticating themselves most evidently with regard to the existence of a religious other. although the Roman Catholic Church explicitly understands itself as a universal church. unpublished manuscript. One can recognize collectivistic religions in the institutional and historical applications of Roman Catholicism discussed. 136 . However. and have long been. and experienced as fixed rather than as changeable. Collectivistic adds to the diversification Catholicisms are not simply grounded in the localization of the European religious of universal meanings or the localization of rituals.php?option=com_content&ta sk=view&id=239&Itemid=415>. and vice versa. and Serbs. Russians.” Tr@nsit online 25 (2003) <www.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 identity” usually denotes an identity that crosses ethnic. phenomenon that as well.9 While different in the extent of their institutional sovereignty. institutions that developed under very specific historical contexts—such as in Poland. gender. The other major. Before long. often the constitutive. national. to be Polish has meant to be a Catholic. element of people’s collective memory. see José Casanova. This type of identity gives to the collectivistic Christian communities the primary meaning of primordial and only secondary meaning of universal communities of salvation. all collectivistic Christianities have in common historically embedded meanings of Christianity. the key aspect of collectivistic Christianites is belonging shaped by religious identification that is ascribed to individuals rather than chosen by them. focal in defining the boundaries of the collective identities of Bulgarians. Russian. and perhaps counter-intuitively. Institutionally and symbolically often inseparable from the political establishment. while the Catholic Churches belong under the jurisdiction of the Pope. “Catholic Poland in Post-Christian Europe. yet much less The collectivistic Christianities described above are now represented in the European Union by ten million Greek Orthodox believers and thirty-eight million Polish Catholics. or Serbian Orthodox churches. Put differently. see Slavica Jakelić. scene is that of collectivistic collectivistic Catholicisms are religious traditions and Christianities. It is too often forgotten that in a number of cases Christianity is constitutive. an identity that links the individual into a universal community of salvation. about twenty-one million Romanian Orthodox 9 For a discussion of the Polish case and its specific historical context. In Orthodox Christian churches—in Bulgarian. these Christian churches are.

the claim could be made that even if the collectivistic Christianities are now public and highly institutionalized. what gets overlooked is the rootedness of a people’s collective self-understanding in Christianity and the historical processes of that collective identification that long precede the age of modern nationalisms.13 In Europe. social scientists regularly study collectivistic Christianities under the title of “religious nationalism. has an inherent teleological quality to it.S E C U L A R I Z A T I O N . and in order to understand what these Christianities may do for the European Union. “The Secularization Issue: Prospect and Retrospect. Studies of religion and religious institutions in post-Communist societies—where collectivistic Christianities are primarily located—seem to show that the “commitment to the Church” and “the level of religious practice” are generally lower than they were during the Communist period. To be sure. and as such must be re-assessed in 11 See Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart quoting Irena Borowik in Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide (New York: Cambridge University Press. and “ the end of the west ” / J akeli Ć Christians. This belonging is specific. as social scientists triumphantly declare.3 (September 1991): 465–74. But this thesis about European secular exceptionalism. the argument about the strength and potential of collectivistic Christianities could be relativized if one is to follow the only unquestioned paradigm that has remained from the old theory of secularization: that the march of secularization is unstoppable whenever Europe is in question. 137 . as the argument regularly goes. Then. they will become less so when they become integrated into the European world. 12 On the treatment of religion as an epiphenomenon. Most social scientists suggest that collectivistic Christianities are suffering the same enervation as Western European Christianity. even “as low today as in the most secularized Western European societies. see David Martin. Even when this belonging is without believing. one needs to appreciate their key aspect: belonging.”11 In addition. historically embedded. and four million Roman Catholic Croats.” Such a conceptualization contains an inherent assumption that Christianity is secularized because it is linked to nationalism and results in an interpretation of Christianity as epiphenomenal to nationalism. just like the old theory of secularization.12 Due to this approach. and—something that collectivistic Christianities share with Islam—public. it has a different character than in Western European Christianity: it is rarely private and it is rarely de-institutionalized. secularization begins with modernization and always ultimately ends in secularization. european identit y . Students of religion usually perceive these Christianities as something that connects the Old and New Europe—not as something that further complicates the European religious scene.” British Journal of Sociology 42. In order to understand that collectivistic Christianities are a significant religious force operating in Europe. 13 My thanks to Joshua Yates for pointing this out to me. 2004) 113.

the view so constitutive of the “end of the West thesis.14 Today. different religious traditions—collectivistic Christianities and Islam—present a challenge to the idea of Europe as defined by Western European. makes defining Islam as Europe’s religious Other a catastrophic move. see Davie 2. Western European elites. America. For an important systematic discussion of this relationship. what is being neglected are the circumstances—historical sources and structural legacies in a relationship with contemporary developments—that shape the current America’s religious Otherness.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 the face of the specific historical moment. The questions surrounding religion and secularism can hardly be separated from this European quest for self. but they nevertheless share this agenda. 2000). represent the future of Christianity in Western Europe. Islam’s immediate presence in most European societies. 17 See Tony Judt. They are also numerous enough to make the establishment of secularism as a common legacy and foundation of identity for all Europeans rather difficult. post-Christian civilization and the secular foundations of contemporary European democracies. as Philip Jenkins argues. 2002). see Casanova. Muslims and these “new Christians” would want their places at the table where the elements of Europeans’ collective memory are to be defined. nybooks. “Europe vs. And. see Danièle Hervieu-Léger. Europeans today are making intellectual and political efforts to forge their identity by creating the symbolic and cultural foundations of their political community. In a situation in which Europe is experiencing the diversification of its religious landscape—quite opposite to the dominant view that Europe is both secularized and secularizing—American religiousness emerges as the ideal opposite pole to Western European secularism.2 (10 February 2005) <www. because it enables Europeans to reaffirm their secular identity around that opposition rather than against occurring religious pluralization. 15 Another group that constitutes Europe’s “new Christians” and that needs to be at least mentioned here is African immigrants who. which defines America as that Other.” The New York Review of Books 52. while Europeans need some Other to define themselves. The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Oxford: Oxford University Press. appears a better option. Their presence in Europe supports the claim about the diversification of the European religious scene. 138 . I suspect.” In essentializing the differences between European and American religious past and present. In insisting that America is the religious Other to Europe.17 The “end of the West” thesis. and European identity. see Jenkins. and social scientists miss that the European religious scene today is not 14 On the teleological feature of the secularization>. 16 On the relationship between religion. religious scholars.15 They are very much the internal European religious Others.16 Put differently. And here is the paradox related to this dominant view of European secularism. as some have pointed out. they need the American Other to unify themselves. Religion as a Chain of Memory (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. Both Muslims in Europe and Europe’s “new” Christians have a public character. These traditions may present this challenge for very different reasons. memory. Stated succinctly.

The short-term consequence of such an oversight might be the imposition of secularism as a defining element in the identity of all Europeans. however. For Europeans. disregarding religious pluralization would be a serious misstep in fully grasping the magnitude and political implications of their own religious differences. european identit y . for their elites and their citizens.S E C U L A R I Z A T I O N . the price for finding European Others in religious America and thereby affirming a secular European identity could be too high for Europe itself. It is much less secular than many think. old and new. In the long run. 139 . and “ the end of the west ” / J akeli Ć very different from that of America. especially the one that is now being created. since the accompanying failure to address religious differences is nothing short of dangerous for any contemporary political community. and it is increasingly pluralistic religiously.

The “old” Europe is being transformed by its encounter with contemporary Islam—an Islam that is reappropriated. The cartoon controversy. referring to Islam as a distinct and separate civilization. Europe (meaning both European nations and the European Union) becomes a central site for this encounter. but also the Turkish claim for membership in the European Union. for example— the publication of cartoons on Islam and the Prophet in a Danish right-wing newspaper created a debate on the relation between freedom of expression and religious tolerance at the European scale. 2005. It is most often among the members of social groups 1 This paper was adapted from a presentation at the conference “Religion. and generally address Western cultural values of democracy. but provoked anger and protestation in the Middle East. expanding the debate to other Muslim publics. By Islam. The claims of new generations of migrant Muslims within European nation-states. She is the author of The Forbidden Modern: Veiling and Civilization (1996) and Interpénetrations: L’Islam et l’Europe (2005).Islam in European Publics: Secularism and Religious Difference1 Nilüfer Göle T he European nations are witnessing unprecedented forms of encounter with Islam. Secularism. She works on the new configuration between Islam and modernity.” held by the Center on Religion and Democracy and Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture in Laxenburg/Vienna. Austria. on June 3. including Indonesia and Pakistan. and the End of the West. Nilüfer Göle is a professor of sociology at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. interpreted. and revitalized in political and cultural terms by a new generation of Muslim actors. 140 . which particularly focus on the presence of Muslims in Europe. raise a series of public debates. I refer to the ways in which Muslims interpret and perform religious faith in their individual and collective agencies. the Europe-based controversies have spread into other publics and provoked conflicts at a global scale. Furthermore. but as an idiom that provides a source for the redefinition of collective identity and self-affirmation of Muslims in modern contexts. therefore. I am not. and in particular on the emergence of new Muslim figures and practices in the public sphere.

have also brought to public attention the divide between those who defend equality between the sexes. Yet the terms capture the tension between the two players as their relationship is shaped and expressed publicly. and to European societies in particular. young Muslims are distanced from their national cultures of origin and are more integrated than the previous generation into the culture of their host countries.” carried by female members of the new generation of migrants in the French public schools. The assassination of the Dutch intellectual Theo Van Gogh for a film he had produced with Hirsi Ali on Muslim women’s submission. and friction between Islam and Europe. is wrought by proximity and interaction between the two. The question of gender in particular disturbs and becomes a prominent issue of dispute in this encounter. and the debate that followed in the Netherlands.I slam in E uropean P ublics / G ö le who have been uprooted. and conflictual aspects of the relation between Europe and Islam take place. that we observe the return to Islam. since one cannot contrast a religion to a historical and geographical entity. We need to privilege the description of the zones of contact. interaction. activates a political return to Islam. or who have crossed national frontiers and migrated to European centers to find new opportunities of work. One can rightly object to these terms. who have moved from little towns to urban cities. distancing oneself from one’s country of origin and integration into one’s host country do not necessarily imply assimilation to the cultural values of Europe. or European citizenship. Their entry into life spheres of modernity in general. but also on the French Republican notion of laïcité. this newer generation engenders a series of public controversies on the place of religion and Islam in European democracies. The nature of relations between Islam and Europe is not that of an encounter between two distinct and separate civilizations. and both groups claim their French. on the other. By means of reference to Islam. but on the contrary. and since Muslims are co-creating Europe. German. contemporary Islam is the outcome of a conflictual conversation with the premises of modernity. not only on gender equality. one can suggest that the questions raised by the presence of the immigrant Muslim population in Europe do not merely concern Muslims. The public sphere is the site where the two-way. Islam is carried into public debates in Europe foremost by the religious claims of a new generation of Muslim migrants. Contemporary Islam and its revival is closely related to the social mobility of Muslim groups. In making their religious difference visible to the European public eye. Third-generation. Young Turkish migrants speak German. individual freedom. the Arab-origin Muslim migrants are instructed in French public schools. transversal. However. and life. and liberty of expression (Van Gogh) and those who define their identity in reference to Islamic values and religious faith (Van Gogh’s assassin). European Muslims of this new generation claim their religious difference as a source of self-affirmation but also as a source of social distinction and cultural confrontation with the European values of self and democracy. In light of these examples. but all European citizens and become part of a general and societal debate on 141 . education. on the one hand. illustrates the ways in which the irruption of Islamic symbols in French public schools has triggered a nation-wide debate. Consequently. The “headscarf issue.

such as “Arabs. encouraging identity politics.” or on the national one. or Islamic values. but in the absence of a common frame of communication. On the other hand. whereas Republican values and politics have seen revitalization in the French society of the last few years. both French Republicanism and Dutch multiculturalism. rather than putting the accent on the social qualification. In this respect. recognizes cultural pluralism and furthermore enhances a politics of difference. However. respectively. fall short of providing a successful frame for rethinking Islamic difference in European democracies. groups. if not faded away altogether. and specifically in terms of a religious and Islamic presence in Europe. The politics of integration supposes a predetermined frame of social institutions and public values to which the newcomers are expected to conform and assimilate. The French model of Republicanism promises equality of universal rights for individual citizens.” the religious attribute “Muslims in Europe” becomes widely used. Islam enters into the public life of European countries 142 . I have to add as well that the political discourse on multiculturalism in Europe and the academic discourse of cultural relativism and postmodernity came to a halt. but the voluntary secular “blindness” to religious difference and the fear of communitarian twists (seen as an Anglo-Saxon and American model to be avoided) risk leading to a politics of denial. Multiculturalism. but are in the process of being transformed by the entrance of new actors. but also by means of Muslim-majority Turkey’s claims for membership in the European Union. In spite of their strong traditions of Republicanism and multiculturalism. and religious differences disappear. whether it is defined as neo-liberalism. My point here is not to engage in a debate on the issue of multiculturalism. and idioms on the public scene. on the other hand. the established system and values are not fixed. the two countries joined each other in defending their “national” cultural particularities against what they have perceived as a threat. The semantic change in naming this immigrant population indicates this shift as well. One should recall that the two European countries that have voted against the referendum for the European constitution are France and the Netherlands. Carried into the forefront of public debate in Europe not only by new claims of Muslim minority groups. such as “the migrant worker. the question of immigration becomes progressively a question that is perceived and framed in terms of religion. On the one hand. interaction then turns into cultural avoidance. global economics. as two different forms of integration. where ethnic. cultural. The discourse of integration therefore does not fully capture the changing nature of relations between European nations and Muslim migrants. if not over-determinate. such as “Turks” in Germany or “Algerians” in France.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 the cultural values of democracy. but to introduce a reservation for those who condemn French universalism with the comfortable certainty that multiculturalism is the solution. In this respect. or where authoritarian attitudes towards Muslims manifest themselves. or using the more general cultural attribute. both multiculturalism and universalism present two opposite sides of the same coin: both cultural avoidance and political denial end up with the relative failure of the integration of Muslims into Europe. in reaction to Islam.

2 The encounter between Europe and Islam calls for a critical re-examination of the coupled academic notions and their articulations that have accompanied this transformative process: European identity and project. or religious belief. Whether Europe will be defined as a particularistic identity or as a political project becomes a crucial question. and attempts. if not reticence. but as the Other. The self-definition of Europeans needs difference to define itself against. laïcité and secularization. the European project suffers in its claims for pluralism. when reference to God and to the Christian heritage in the European Constitution was claimed by some European countries and rejected in the end by France-led secular European nations. forbidding religious symbols and organizations from public schools and institutions.I slam in E uropean P ublics / G ö le setting a new public and political agenda. Turkey has been widely discussed in France—yet not in relation to secularism and Islam. Europe is made of diverse nation-states. faith and identity. Turkey presents herself as a secular Republican state—though she does not acknowledge a full separation between the state and religion. and thereby transmits a feeling of reserve. to the extent that European heritage becomes a source for the essentialization of European identity it undermines the universalistic claims of the project. for European citizens. 143 . there is no hiatus between the two. and lastly. As Europeans turn towards the defense of their identity and cultural heritage. Turkey’s ban of the Islamic headscarf from universities has provoked a nation-wide political debate since the post-1980 period. The Turkish candidacy has been a catalyst in revitalizing the debate on Europe and its identity. to maintain state control over religion—and entails some commonalities with French laïcité: the principle of secularism was declared in the 1937 Constitution (compared to 1946 in France). in regard to Muslim Turkey’s entrance. on the contrary. Thus. the West and modernity. ironically evoking a reminder of the tacit equation between Europe’s Christian religious heritage and values and European identity. 2 This equation became more than tacit in the European Constitution debates. But the presence of Muslims reveals a tension between these two notions. because the definition of Europe as a particularistic (Christian) identity does not facilitate the creation of hyphenated identities between Europe and Islam. Europe as an Identity or as a Project? Islamic difference in Europe raises a major question regarding the future and definition of the European Union. but the European Union aims at a transnational unity beyond the nation-states and offers a new political frame for democratic rights and freedoms. cultural differences. In other words. and Turkey demonstrates a notion of laïcité (including the notion itself ) in the regulation of public life. whether this difference is defined in terms of geographic frontiers. The controversy over Turkish membership in the European Union became a common preoccupation for European citizens and provoked a debate on the cultural and spiritual origins of European identity. a civilizational discord underpins the public discourse.

as seen in younger Muslim generations. becomes problematic. and cultures beyond the European and American context. twists. to embrace these different modernity narratives. This testifies to the success of the project. The semantic shift in the self-presentation of the West illustrates this change as well. is becoming a new source for the definition of personal and collective identity. 144 . on the contrary. One is born into a given religion. We speak of the politicization of Islam to the extent that religious faith is turned into a public and collective identity. or location. the Western experience of modernity suffers from its own success. religion is a matter of faith. culture. but. between the West and the universal. First. or by belonging to religious communities. the equation between Europe and civilization. Yet the non-Western habitations of modernity are not copies of European and American models. We can put it the other way round as well: for a pious Muslim. namely the validity of the Western model of modernity in every cultural and historical context. there is a divorce between the Western experience of modernity and its claims for universalism. not forcefully an identity. Islamic radicalism is not in continuation with religious orthodoxy. offers a new interpretation of religious texts in the light of criticism addressed to the modern world. The European experience of modernity was identified with a universal “civilization” and not with a particular culture and religion. and take different forms. however. and one becomes a pious person by learning norms. and such testimony lends itself to universal claims: modernity’s meanings will not be bound to a given particularistic religion. Second. European and American. deconstruction of the Western universal is underway. contemporary Islam voices a new articulation between religious faith and collective identity. Whereas one becomes an Islamist as a personal and collective choice—this is the politicization of Islam—one learns to become Islamic by means of a learning process and performative practices.” Today. In a way. and traditions transmitted by family members. rituals. Hence. the way the notion of civilization is used to underline Western cultural difference makes its meaning closer to the German kultur. Faith and Identity Religious faith has lost its institutional representative power but.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 The End of the West? The “end of the West” can be understood as a difficulty in identifying the project of modernity with the West. become more apparent. the fractures between the two Wests. and interpretations. regions. The debate over the notions of “civilization” and “kultur” that divided the French and German peoples during the nineteenth century ended with the victory of “civilization” over “kultur. The experience of modernity spread to peoples.

whereas the process of secularization was depicted to be a universal trait of modernization. and in particular the headscarf from the public schools. as embodied by Muslims and Europeans. genetic engineering and the critique of Darwinism—all illustrate cleavages between secular and religious sets of values (Muslim as well as Christian) in shaping modern life. It is not in terms of two distinct entities—Islam and Europe—but in terms of zones of contact. and “bio-politics”—same-sex marriage.I slam in E uropean P ublics / G ö le Laïcité and Secularization The principle of laïcité is searching for ways of adaptation to the presence of Muslim migrants. and the “disenchantment” of modern daily life. life and death. However. but has also become an issue for the French public. and public debates over Western definitions of self and society are intensifying. It might be fruitful to rethink the principle of laïcité as a single secular law. abortion. The principle of laïcité was thought to be a “French exceptionalism” and therefore limited in its scope. The principle of laïcité and the process of secularization are not interchangeable. religion enters into the public domain and competes with the process of secularization. or religions. religion. Interpenetrations: l’islam et l’europe (Paris: Galaade. but also testified that the “Islamic veiling” is not confined to a Muslim nation. euthanasia. However. or to the Middle East region. Europe is becoming a central site where the conflictual encounter between these orientations. religious references in the regulation of matters concerning gender. providing a consensual judicial frame in a pluralistic context. two different orientations toward modernity. such a divorce between the West and the experience of modernity might undermine the latter as well. whereas the latter describes a long-term process of the marginalization of religion. but also the whole European project. but a confrontation between two different sets of cultural values. the first is defined in relation to state will and legislation. its privatization. and interpenetrations that one can frame the nature of this confrontation. is taking place. expressed firmly the French commitment to the principle of laïcité. 145 . 2005).3 The emergence of Islam in the European publics provokes a two-way relation that transforms not only Muslims and Europeans. interactions. The confrontation between Islam and the West is not a confrontation between two different civilizations.” The legislation to ban ostentatious religious signs. and secularism become decisive in debates on the values of modernity. Issues related to faith. The establishment of a representative council for the Muslim population (Conseil Français de la Culte Musulmane) marked a moment of public recognition for Islam as the second largest religion in France and a step toward creating a “French Islam. In the contemporary context. in which we are witnessing the end of Western hegemony on the definitions of values of modernity. 3 Nilüfer Göle.

And while socialist states in Africa and Latin America fell like dominoes through the 1990s. the toxic cultural impact of the militant socialist appropriation of secularization theory remains thick in the atmosphere. however. 146 . Wilson N. naturalistic. if still controversial.rep o rt fr o m t h e fiel d Secularization in the Global South: The Case of Ethiopia Wilson N. His dissertation is entitled Beauty among the Puritans: The Cultural Aesthetic of Early New England. The marriage of secularization and modernization theories in the social sciences produced a great deal of useful. through the militant socialism of the 1960s and 1970s. it must be remembered that secularization theory also exerts a very practical influence in places quite distant from the sacred halls of the Ivy League and Oxbridge. its influence has rarely been other than pernicious. Brissett While the academic debate over the validity of the theory of secularization continues in American and British universities. In colonial and postcolonial contexts. He conducted research in Ethiopia in the summer of 2005. In the global South. Brissett is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at the University of Virginia and a dissertation fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. extended the destructive logic of cultural paternalism beyond the fall of the colonial regimes and into the era of de-colonization. more often than not. The experience of Ethiopia across the twentieth century crystallizes with terrible clarity the ravages of secularization theory in the global South. the union served. we have yet to consider fully the enduring. If European and North American audiences have become thoroughly aware of our complicity in the resource problems that plague the global South. Here we see how the classic theory’s guiding assumption—that the process of modernization requires a dismissal of any traditional religious commitments that do not comport with a scientific. to legitimate authoritarian ideologies of progress that. corrosive influence of the political uses of our social science theories. analysis of modernity in Western societies. enlightened worldview—opened the door to the tragic cycle of violence that dominated twentieth-century Ethiopia and shows few signs at present of receding into a more just social and political equilibrium.

In 1977 and 1978 alone. the regime killed half a million people. and acquired the status of African golden child among the Western powers after Selassie famously abolished slavery in the 1920s. 2005 Ethiopia. according to reports by Amnesty International. and the Emperor’s regime was overthrown in 1974 by a self-identified Marxist-Leninist military junta. dominated in the first half of the twentieth century by the personage of Emperor Haile Selassie. styling himself after Lenin.S E C U L A R I Z A T I O N in the global south / B rissett © Kate Hundley. under 1 Lamin Sanneh. The Derg ruled the country with an iron fist and an indifference to the sanctity of life. Lamin Sanneh has shown that. in this authoritarian environment. known as Ehadig. 2005) 216. Mengistu Haile Mariam. the West. EPRDF became the ruling party. Ethiopian intellectuals became impatient with the slow pace of reform. resistance was not cheap for those who managed to maintain it: The story of what happened in Ethiopia may stand as an object lesson for all concerned. Shortly after he came to power in 1974. later known as the Derg. “Conclusion: The Current Transformation of Christianity. Despite advances in modern infrastructure and Western education. 147 . unleashed what has come to be called the reign of Red Terror that engulfed the monarchy and the church. and the World (New York: Oxford University Press.1 The Derg was displaced in its turn in 1991 through the military collaboration of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) and the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).” The Changing Face of Christianity: Africa. however. entered the League of Nations.

Ehadig has retained its control of political power since 1991 by manipulating elections.3 Mezlekia demonstrates what he is not able to articulate: the materialist account of the political tragedy of modern Ethiopia is finally as insufficient in explanatory power for the past as it is impotent to heal the deep cultural fissures that shape the current social and political morass. Notes from The materialist account the Hyena’s Belly. and still does. Mezlekia fights against the darkness by uncovering the wretched material situations that produced so much horror in revolutionary Ethiopia.2 Mezlekia’s book is an artful narrative that weaves together traditional wisdom. which recounts his experiences in Ethiopia of the political tragedy of during the revolutionary era. Most recently. even as he has offered compelling economic. because by then I’d realized that what had happened in Ethiopia was not exceptional. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi preserved his place at the head of state by crushing opposition protests to the tune of nearly seventy dead and hundreds imprisoned. 3 Mezlekia 351. the military junta that had ruled Ethiopia for over a decade was finally deposed by one of the guerrilla movements. To varying degrees. the seeming intractability of the configuration of global power. after Mezlekia has escaped to Canada. agricultural. in June 2005.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 the new constitution and immediately announced a doctrine of democracy and liberalization. impotent to heal the deep If ironic distance provides one strategy for keeping existential annihilation at bay. Notes from the Hyena’s Belly (New York: Picador USA. it had happened all over sunny Africa. I did not break open a bottle of champagne to celebrate the occasion. and despite once again paving Ethiopia’s way into favor with the West. 148 2 Nega Mezlekia. the need for land policy reform—to the neglect of equally significant cultural factors that address the less visible realm of moral order. his reaction to the overthrow of the Derg indicates the helplessness Mezlekia feels in the face of history. and reports of historical brutality—all delivered with as insufficient in explanatory a terrible irony that seeks desperately to claim some minute comic distance from realities that otherwise threaten to power for the past as it is swallow the speaker in silence altogether. Orthodox modern Ethiopia is finally ritual. the revelation of truth through sheer fact offers another. . Near the end of Notes. The dominant interpretation of what went wrong in Ethiopia often focuses narrowly on problems of material circumstances—economic inequality. and political explanations of the path that led to Ethiopia’s autocratic political fate: cultural fissures… In 1991. Despite these stated ideals. This pattern holds true even within the more personal register of Nega Mezlekia’s English-language memoir. 2002).

S E C U L A R I Z A T I O N in the global south / B rissett “Merkato” Ethiopian Konjo Collection © Marie Claire Andrea. Once reform proved powerless. Ethiopian philosopher Messay Kebede has steadily offered an interpretation that focuses instead on the indoctrination of Ethiopia’s intellectual elites in Western social theories that paired secularization with modernization and taught that the way of progress was to be achieved only at the cost of absolute retreat from backward native traditions. Kebede argues. during the time of the Emperor’s love affair with Western education. 2005 While most commentators on this sordid history have. a more sinister brand of colonial influence in the form of an indigenous. The door to the auto-genocidal Derg days was flung open. emphasized the material roots of Ethiopia’s troubles. Claiming scientific authority that legitimated any means of revolutionary establishment. the intelligentsia—those who had bitten hard at the notion that the prosperous future was a secular future liberated from the oppression of tradition—were ripe for the acceptance of the messianic political doctrine of Marxism-Leninism. Despite Ethiopia’s grand history of repelling military invaders. culture-slay149 . the Marxist Derg forced the transition to secular modernity that appeared stalled in the evolutionary process. like Mezlekia.

Let us admit it. Once nationalism was emptied of its traditionalist content.4 The politicalscientific doctrine of messianic Marxism-Leninism provided no deeper soil in which to sow a new Ethiopian political culture than a fanatical dedication to the revolution itself.addistribune. were craving for a substitute. to itself than any foreign occupier could have been. those who were most able to resist the tide of the tyrannical socialist state. “Marxism-Leninism and Ethnicity as the Two Stages of Ethiopian Elitism—Part I. Kebede remembers. the best way to prove oneself a patriot was to display an enthusiasm for the revolution. In the context of this zealous one-upmanship.” Addis Tribune (6 August 2004) < having walked away from the traditional beliefs of their people under the impact of Western ideas. the wholesale murder of the Red Terror was countenanced by its perpetrators as the ultimate loyalty to the homeland. were those who clung to aspects of traditional Ethiopian life—in this case the ancient.” . 5 Kebede.5 150 4 Messay Kebede. and perhaps more pernicious.htm>.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 © Jessup. See also Kebede.htm>.” Addis Tribune (19 October 2001) <www. In Ethiopia. nationalist Orthodox Church: People of my generation offered the greatest resistance to Marxism when they remained faithful to Orthodox Christianity. the story of the spread of Marxist-Leninist views among the young of the 60s and 70s is the story of Westernized Ethiopians who. “Guilt and Atonement.addistribune. “Guilt and Atonement: The Genesis of Revolutionary Spirit in Ethiopia. 2005 ing secularization model produced a Westernized native regime as deadly.

serving as the handmaiden of ruthless politicians set adrift by the corrosive cultural influence of Western imperial powers. it seems secularization theory ended up. though. however. 151 . They often lost their lives in the struggle. terms than those that have guided the West. perhaps Africa should be granted the elbow room to do the same in developing societies that respond to postmodernity on different. Ethiopia’s Enigmatic Present: A Philosophical Discourse (Lawrence: Red Sea. where he also indicates the significant place of traditional Islam in shaping a new Ethiopian modernity. If so. Kebede conceives of the possibility of a re-modernization of Ethiopia in which habits of mind and heart are shaped by a dynamic that preserves traditional Ethiopian culture as it seeks to come to grips with the realities of a modern economic and political world. as often as not.6 As Kebede’s work suggests a new path for Ethiopian cultural analysis and development. 1999). it also offers unspoken reflections on European and American approaches to Africa: the constituent nations of the West have worked out modern cultural systems within the (now distant but yet discernable) frameworks of their own native traditional beliefs. 6 His most elaborate formulation of this vision is laid out in Survival and Modernization.S E C U L A R I Z A T I O N in the global south / B rissett The experience of Ethiopia may be emblematic for the broader Marxist-impacted global South. Those who found voices to oppose such rank abuses of authority often did so by drawing from the same traditional cultural resources the native usurpers sought to abolish. and quite possibly better. In light of their courage.

152 . for a theory of secularization and then for renouncing that theory in the 1990s. I think I made one basic mistake intellectually—leaving aside the question of data and empirical evidence—and that was to conflate two phenomena that are related but quite distinct: secularization and pluralization. Berger is Director of the Institute on Culture. and there are a few others. He has published several books and is Editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. It wasn’t a dramatic change—it happened in stages. He’s a very intelligent and likable fellow. What are the distinctively modern characteristics of how religion is lived today? You’re right. sociologists of religion came to agree that the original secularization thesis was untenable in its basic form. I followed most people in the field.interview An Interview with Peter Berger Charles T. Today you cannot plausibly maintain that modernity necessarily leads to secularization: it may—and it does in certain parts of the world among certain groups of people—but not necessarily. Steve Bruce in Britain is a heroic upholder of the old theory. but not all. His most recent book is Questions of Faith: A Skeptical Affirmation of Christianity (2003). Much earlier than the 90s—I would say by the late 70s or early 80s—most. that I changed my mind over the years. There are some people who didn’t follow. I went through the same process of rethinking. and there are still some today. which simply said modernization and secularization are necessarily correlated developments. A leading scholar on secularization theory. of course. and World Affairs at Boston University. most notably in The Sacred Canopy in the 1960s. as I think a social scientist should base his theories on evidence. most notably The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion (1967) and the edited volume The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics (1999). Charles T. he has written numerous books on sociological theory and the sociology of religion. which I greatly respect. Peter L. Mathewes You’re known for arguing. and it wasn’t due to any change in theological or philosophical position. Religion. If I look at my early work. It was basically the weight of evidence. Mathewes is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia.

but they’re becoming rare. don’t have to lead to secular choices. This is what I took to be the insight of your book The Heretical Imperative—the idea that modernity makes us all “foreground” our beliefs. leads to pluralism. including religion. and I think the difference is that certainty becomes more difficult to attain or can only be attained through a very wrenching process. yet the question of certainty did not arise because their religious beliefs were so fundamentally in their background that it was unthinkable perhaps for these people to translate in this way. It flourished in the religious sense for obvious reasons. it’s almost worldwide. It has to do with certain structural changes and their effects on human institutions and human consciousness. but the how is different. Someone can come out with an orthodox Catholic statement of belief—“I believe everything that the Pope would approve of ”—but how that person believes is different. Might certainty itself be a modern concept? With the experience of Muslims and Christians living side by side in medieval Sicily. values. Given that. It’s more vulnerable. but not inevitably. for example—but they change the character of how religion is both maintained institutionally and in human consciousness. to a pluralization of worldviews. In places like Russia. I would argue that modernity very likely. etc.berger interview On the other hand. it’s now almost forty years ago—is that what has changed is not necessarily the what of belief but the how of belief. pluralism has become a worldwide phenomenon. I’m sure there are peasants in Indian villages who are no more pluralistic than people were two hundred years ago in those localities. and with mass education and mass communications of one sort or another. the necessity to choose. So I’m not saying that pluralism is uniquely modern. for example. It’s not a mysterious process. What pluralism and its social and psychological dynamics bring about is that certainty becomes more difficult to attain. They can lead to religious choices—the rise of fundamentalism in various forms. and I think one can show why that is. and it’s very difficult to stop as long as the society’s modernizing. I mean.. of which fundamentalism is the main expression. Pluralism and the multiplication of choices. I would simply define pluralism as the coexistence in the society of different worldviews and value systems under conditions of civic peace and under conditions where people interact with each other. The what can be inherently unchanged. which are mildly repressive of various religious groups. would certainty have been a question for a twelfth-century Sicilian peasant? I’m not a historian. it happens anyway. but I think modernization has intensified this phenomenon both in depth and in scope. That’s what I mean by the how of belief. But even in societies where the government tries to limit its effect. What I did not understand when I started out—my God. It flourishes particularly in societies in which there is religious freedom. but my hunch is that pluralism the way I’ve defined it is not a uniquely modern phenomenon. the other people’s religion would not be a live option for them. it happens anyway. and in scope it’s enormous. 153 . where everyone has the right to proclaim their messages to each other. They lived in pluralist settings.

It doesn’t have the kind of dogma or church that we’re accustomed to in the West. knows that there are many gods and things can be both A and B. and so different societies will develop different kinds of modernity. but some people read interesting stuff. they may read a lot of garbage. which is in a way the most interesting case because it’s the first non-Western society that has successfully modernized. This eclecticism is not just apparent in Japan—it’s in all of East Asia. It’s very different from Western notions. People see no problem going to a Shinto shrine on certain seasons of the year. Mass education. but it’s a very different form of religiosity. And then modern mass communications from radio. Japan leads to a lot of misinterpretations of sociology. which probably come from monotheism. what precisely is it that he’s not seeing? It’s very syncretistic. he said. the other is an alternative possibility of life. of religion data.” the other is present in the consciousness of enormous numbers of people and not necessarily as an enemy. Internet. films. and expand the scope of pluralism? Urbanization. and so on. I mean. and even if they only read the newspaper.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 What aspects of the modernization process accentuate. because some people like Ron Inglehart see it as a secular society. we certainly could. development is path-dependent. Take Japan. television. Well. intensify. being married in a Christian-like ceremony. There’s a Japanese philosopher by the name of Nakamura who wrote a book. Every intelligent Asian. and they make both religion and secularity where it exists take on a very different form. What do you take to be the character of the religiosity of a society like Japan vis-à-vis a society like the United States or France or England? If Inglehart isn’t picking this up. not just in religion but also the religious shape of Japan is different from that in. People read. those are deep-seated cultural habits of mind. You either believe or you don’t believe. and being buried by a Buddhist monk. which inevitably means that people of very different backgrounds impact each other. If you want to use that favorite postmodernist term “the other. 154 . Is that an idea we can translate in some sense over to the possibility of multiple secularisms or multiple secularizations? Yes. I don’t think it’s secular at all. they read about other ways of life. One is monotheism—there’s only one God—and the other is Aristotle’s principle of contradiction—something is either A or non-A. You could say Japan is an alternate modernity in many ways. There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the idea of multiple modernities—the idea that in some important way. say. I’ve forgotten everything about it except one sentence in it in which he says that the West has been responsible for two basic mistakes. Now. Europe or North America. China is similar in that respect.

Well. Belgium. One is New Age-ist type stuff: “I want to be in harmony with the cosmos. The cultural elite is the minority of the population. in terms of the question of secularity and secularism? In particular.— “I’m not religious.” and that doesn’t have to have a New Age flavor. and even the law to some extent. what do you think about Grace Davie’s idea of “believing without belonging”? Oh. but I don’t feel at home in any church. in any organized religion. the educational system. but why is it an exception. I don’t know. it’s a different picture. certainly very much compared to the United States. Europe is less secular than it seems. As you look more closely. I’m not sure.berger interview How would you characterize the differences between the U. is Europeanized. and that’s how one should begin to think about this. which. “yes. Europe is.” what do they mean? I think they mean two quite different things. Europe is less secular than it seems because of the kind of thing that Davie has been writing about. and the E. it’s a very good concept. it’s difficult to argue that the United States is less modern than. but I’m spiritual. but it has great influence through the media. Are you referring to a turn to more diaphanous kinds of spirituality? Well. Also belonging without believing is equally important. not North America.U. and Grace Davie and I are writing the book together to summarize what we think came out of the project. One can go into much greater detail. it means. if you will. Maybe with the exception of Greece. We just finished a project at our Institute on what we call Eurosecularity. but a lot takes place outside the churches and that has to be taken into account. how do you explain it? Grace Davie is quite right: the exception is Europe. and also institutionally in terms of recruitment of the clergy. But the broad generalization holds. When you say Europe. but it’s not only that. I want to discover my inner child. and the very important question is: how did this come about? The question is particularly interesting in terms of the old secularization theory because the United States clearly is not a heavily secularized society except in certain strata. of what is clearly religious but outside the doors of the church. are in bad shape by any indicator of either behavior or expressed belief. I would say America is less religious than it seems because it has a cultural elite which is heavily secularized. a lot goes on under the radar. that’s certainly part of the phenomenon of religion. the churches.” But sometimes it’s much simpler. You can say it’s the big exception. America’s less religious than it seems. When people say—and you get this in Europe as much as in the U. In Central and Western Europe. one has to say Central and Western Europe. both Protestant and Catholic. I’m interested in the questions of religion. When you get into the Orthodox world.S. believing without belonging.S. 155 . no question. and public influence. The popular perception that America is a much more religious society than Europe is correct as far as it goes. Again. the financial situation. so something is wrong here. to use one of her terms.

If you were an atheist in a Catholic culture. Think of the Virginia Bill of Rights that Jefferson pushed through the colonial legislature. The typical expressions of American religion are not rooted in millenia of deep cultural background. you were still a Catholic atheist—but in America maybe we’ve always been Protestants or Catholics or whatever in a fundamentally profane culture. In America. but they failed very quickly. The interesting question is: will they change and become more like mainline Protestants or will they retain their distinctiveness and influence the culture? That’s something that’s happening in an interesting way. I don’t see that an American Presbyterian going to church a hundred years ago was more shallow than somebody in a Scottish village.” Danièle Hervieu-Léger used the term “bricolage”—tinkerings like a Lego game. Pluralism became an -ism in a sense. What it does mean is religion was voluntary from the beginning. so that’s similar on two sides of the Atlantic. and even before independence. and one shouldn’t overlook that. and I think the increasing middle-class and higher education status of the evangelical community is going to make a difference.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 You get the same thing in America. was characterized by pluralism. even if they didn’t like this—certainly the Catholics didn’t like it—were forced to become voluntary associations. Have you come to any preliminary conclusions about the likely changes in religious life in these two societies in the coming decades? Most broadly speaking. I think the basic structures are here. which changed the way they related to the laity and to each other. American history virtually from the beginning. There are some things that are happening which are interesting. but it happens under very different conditions. not only an empirical fact. I think this is very unlikely to change. even in colonial times. I wouldn’t dare to predict what this will look like forty years from now. The churches. I don’t think that America is going to become much more secular or Europe much more religious. 156 . Here it has become enshrined as almost a foundational principle of the state. And that’s been characteristically American. Robert Wuthnow used the term “patchwork religion. and I don’t think this necessarily means anything more superficial or shallow. so I think America in many ways is the vanguard society of religious pluralism. You put together your own version of whatever. Might American religion be characterized as broader in some sense but yet shallower than religion in Europe? This relates to Hervieu-Léger’s argument about French culture being Catholic even after the populace had given up going to church. These failures were later legitimated by the principle of religious freedom. and there were some attempts to set up state churches in Virginia and in Massachusetts. but something people were proud of.

I was in Holland a few months ago. They don’t want Wahhabi faculty. The belief is still quite prevalent among intellectuals—secular intellectuals—that religion is a kind of backwoods phenomenon that with rising education will increasingly disappear. ordinary Muslims don’t play by the rules of that game. and I visited the first Islamic university in the Netherlands.berger interview In Europe. There are other voices as well—fanatical jihad voices. for example. ideological basis in a way which didn’t happen earlier—and certainly in terms of laïcité.. but European societies are forced to rethink their. the reported decline in birth rates in Europe? Do you think that the possibility of the traditional ethnicities of these various nations staying stable or even declining in population numbers vis-à-vis immigrants. that religion is in some ways at least as much socially fundamental as it is individual. etc. Equally important is what will happen within the Muslim communities. That’s not happening. but at the moment I don’t see the likelihood of anything terribly dramatic. I wouldn’t dare to predict. will continue to grow. It’ll affect us. there is the really dramatic challenge of Islam and the effect this will have. not just for Europeans. 157 . The struggle for the soul of European Islam is going to be a very important issue. might be quite mistaken? It seems that the attention that sociologists such as Max Weber have given to this should make us rethink received understandings of religion. Muslims are not only radical Muslims. have we learned something that is useful about the idea of religion or the concept of religion? It’s certainly useful to understand that religion is not about to disappear. and there is a struggle going on. A very important issue is not only what European governments are going to do and how European publics are going to look at this—and this could become very ugly. if you will. it could become a nativist. The Muslim population within the E. It’s not going to happen. It’s very interesting what’s happening there. What do you think about Hervieu-Léger’s argument. So change is occurring. that in some ways the notion of religion itself is deeply connected to notions of memory and similar things. They don’t want to play by the rules of that game.U. but that’s as far as I would go in terms of prognosis. intolerant kind of thing. It’ll affect everybody else. Again. How dramatic the consequences will be I don’t know. so that the frequent focus on religious interiority. They want to be Dutch Muslims. What do you think of the predictions of demographic changes. They don’t want to take money from the Middle East. It’ll affect the Middle East. Given all of this about secularization. will cause some large-scale pressures? I’m sure it will. and that will have certain consequences. such as we find in William James.

They’re not dark mysteries. Now. he was certainly wrong about Confucianism. morally. how could he foresee the East Asian economic miracle of the post-World War II period? But the questions he asked were the right ones.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 Yes. Pentecostalism now is a worldwide phenomenon. Since I’ve spent much of my intellectual career looking at third-world development. anywhere between a quarter and a half billion people. Those are tremendously important questions which are susceptible to social science inquiry. in terms of Russia. and they speak Spanish or even Mayan. but that’s not just Weber. in terms of India. as they were in Europe and North America in the seventeenth century. conducive to democratic development. about how they act. We now can say that he was wrong about certain things—he may have been wrong in exaggerating the importance of Protestantism. It was pioneering. It’s a question about the Russians’ belief. not so much about the future of real phenomena like religions. It is conducive to economic development and maybe. but it’s also very important in terms of China. The questions about which religious traditions and institutions are conducive to economic growth and democracy are very important. You get it in anthropology. if you will—between modernity and various traditional cultures. Certainly the French sociologist Emile Durkheim had the same notions. systematic works. Our Institute is twenty years old now. That’s a question of life-anddeath importance in terms of the Muslim world. about what their political institutions are. as about the future of the study of such phenomena.” You look at these people. and if you break down the Protestant ethic into its behavioral categories. He died in 1921. What are the questions we need to be asking now that we are not asking? One very important topic is one that you raised a little while back of multiple modernities and what are the viable syntheses—viable economically. all of these things. and much of the work we’ve been doing out of this Institute has to do with this. in developing societies. My mental title for that project was “Max Weber is alive and well and living in Guatemala. politically. Weber is important in terms of his notions of the Protestant ethic. so that seems to me an extremely important thing to look at. but they act like the Puritans that Weber was describing. I want to ask about your predictions. but when we started. so I would argue on the basis of a good deal of data that Pentecostalism is a modernizing force. all kinds of other people have gotten in. delayed gratification. saving. It’s not a question of the Russian soul. although it’s less clear. So that’s a lasting legacy of Weber which I think is highly relevant. 158 . etc. directed by David Martin. one of our first projects was on Pentecostalism in Latin America. You get this in American sociology. they’re as relevant today in much of the world. The other has to do with Weber’s heritage..

presenting the kernel as the true tradition—without even realizing what they’re missing. A person who lives in a taken-for-granted traditional world can afford to be quite tolerant. so that’s another very important area of research. “Look. suggest that contemporary radical Islamists simply take the “de-territorialized” kernel of the faith and jettison the cultural husk.” That is very different from traditional religion. In that sense. how you should live. you have a much more ambiguous situation. That means that religious belief and religious life become much more vulnerable. Every fundamentalism responds to that vulnerability and says. 159 . If half the population is basically shut out of economic and public life. or in the extreme case. Some scholars. Radical Islam is a modern phenomenon in the sense that every fundamentalist religion is a modern phenomenon. traditional Islam or any other. which is in part because of the minimal character of its demands to change one’s life.” There are some cases of this. I would say every fundamentalism is a modern phenomenon. It allowed some particular cultural context to flesh out its precepts. It was a reaction against modernity. most notably Olivier Roy. an attempt to restore certainty. its ease of translation. but if you look at the Muslim world as a whole. One of the strengths of Islam historically has been what we might call its portability across cultures. join us and you will no longer be uncertain as to who you are. even if you take the original meaning of “fundamentalism” in American Protestant history. And many movements that can be described as fundamentalist have used modern techniques of communication very effectively. “Fundamentalism” used for Islam or Hinduism or Judaism is a little iffy. It doesn’t threaten us. We talked earlier about the changes in religion in terms of not the what. Some scholars argue that the kind of radical Islamism that has appeared in Europe and the Middle East is a distinctly modern. The one who doesn’t share that world is interesting.berger interview With Islam. You have to convert him or you have to segregate yourself from him. and the one who is outside your community of belief is a threat. but if you’re going to use the term—and we’re probably stuck with it—I would define it rather narrowly as an attempt to restore the taken-for-grantedness of the position that has been challenged. it’s not very good for economic development. but the how. what the world is. like somebody who believes the earth is flat. or as we discussed earlier. maybe even amusing. But when you are dealing with an attempt to restore a certainty that has been challenged. because it has a very distinctive American Protestant meaning. Very crucial to this is the role of women. liquidate him. distinctly Protestant kind of Islam because it has become detached in crucial ways from the local cultural contexts within which Islam always found itself. chances are you can’t afford to be very tolerant. it’s a much more ambiguous picture. I’m not saying there are no possibilities of a Protestant “ethic. but it couldn’t have happened before modernity.

T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S U mmer 0 6 Al Qaeda escaped Afghanistan and is now living on the web.” and that has meant a tremendous trivialization. but as I understand my own work. I think something very similar happened in political science and anthropology—not in economics. and European sociology basically followed the American lead. Then in the 60s and 70s. These are monumental failures. the whole issue of secularization: I think I would have gone 160 . I would say sociology has become a pretty depressing field with individuals and some centers doing good work. Hardly anyone predicted them. though the economists are so captive to their particular vocabulary and conceptual machinery. a theological form of inquiry. I believe in value-free science. I’m an orthodox Weberian. How do you understand the relationship between these two? Does one of them emerge from the other? Do you think of them as written for two fundamentally different audiences. or do you conceive of them as two parts of a larger and at least roughly coherent whole? I’ve never had any problem with this. and still is. and. in a different way. we really should have been thinking about that”? I wrote an article some years ago about four highly significant developments of the postWorld War II period which were not anticipated by social scientists and which even in retrospect they have great difficulty in explaining: the collapse of socialism. broadly construed. So between trivialization and ideology. and even in retrospect people have difficulty explaining them. and the explosion of religious movements all over the world. and science became propaganda. The basic principle was. I would say they come from an abandonment of asking the big questions which gave birth to sociology as a discipline. I think what I’ve written may be wrong. “Wow. you had an ideological.” where you have the ambition to be like physicists. The older one is methodological. Those are four highly significant events of the twentieth century. the cultural revolution of the late 60s and early 70s in the West. and where do the failures come from? Well. That goes back to the 50s in American sociology. neo-Marxist ideological wave overcoming the field. two large projects: your sociological inquiries. in terms of sociology. You have. the meteoric rise of East Asia. it is value-free. “that which cannot be quantified cannot be studied. too. This is what I’ve heard terrorist experts say. The Ayatollah Khomeini came to power through cassettes. it may be biased here and there. As far as sociology or social science is concerned. For example. Do you have any intimations about what scholars who study these matters are more or less completely missing today? Are there large questions that twenty or fifty years from now we’ll look back on and say. at least. they can’t deal with anything that doesn’t fit into that. What is the modern world? What are its basic forces? That failure has two rules. And that’s pretty awful. I’ve called it “fetishism of method.

This is not the only hat I wear.berger interview through the same conceptual journey if I had been an atheist or a Buddhist or whatever. as a private individual—about the character of society or the direction in which society may be going? And what hopes accompany those worries? I don’t know how to answer that—my worries are not terribly unusual. Well. Yes. I don’t think there are any great biographical revelations to divulge here. Those are very unoriginal worries. and I have considerable confidence in the ingenuity and innovativeness particularly of American society to deal with its problems. as a concerned citizen. As a young man I wanted to be a Lutheran minister and then decided this wasn’t for me. Indeed. much more so than after 9/11. and we’d find ourselves in a different world the next day. I pursued both of them. In terms of hopes: so far Western democracies have managed to solve their problems with reasonable efficiency. If you took a modern social scientist with all his paraphernalia and dropped him in the center of Europe at the beginning of the sixteenth century. and there are other such possibilities. but that’s unlikely. What about long-term things? What could happen in the course of this next century? I don’t know. One hopes. and it comes out in my publications. why not? I mean. Sociology I stumbled into more or less by accident and then got intrigued with these questions intellectually. would he have predicted the Reformation? I doubt it. He also plays jazz. some people are lechers and stamp collectors. You could have an orgy with stamp collectors. Are those two incompatible? Apparently not. 161 . Now. though in a rather heretical way—I’ve written on that. Let me ask you about what sorts of large-scale worries you have—as a scholar. too. Just think—a single nuclear act of terrorism in America or Europe. So here are two quite different interests. but obviously there are catastrophic scenarios that are possible. since I have very intense religious interests and define myself as a Christian. One is worried about nuclear terrorism. I was interested in religion before I even knew that sociology existed. about new pandemics of one sort or another. and some are uncomfortably possible. particularly with Mozart. I don’t see any problem in that. about environmental degradation. a cousin of mine in Austria is an accomplished classical musician. I don’t find myself terribly pessimistic about the future of this society. After all. so—what’s the phrase that Rumsfeld loves—stuff happens. but they manage to do these things at different times.

Thomas Jefferson: Writings. Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. By looking to the past. Yet. 1996) 145–6. New York: Metropolitan.. Mark D. 2004. Freethinkers boldly enters into today’s turbulent debates over whether the American government has authentically Christian or secular origins. S. this fact has been obscured.” wrote Thomas Jefferson in a private letter in 1822. answers to this driving question have been a long-standing feature of how Americans construct narratives about the nation and its path in the world. June 26. and its noble and essential contributions at every stage of the American experiment. See also the forthcoming work of Johann Neem on Jefferson’s conception of religion and his philosophy of history. Buckley. Today most Americans are not Unitarians.B o o k reviews Jacoby. Her core argument is that secular thought formed the root origins of American democracy. Gaustad. many histories of the United States have sought to establish that the nation had Christian roots that ought to endure. efforts to find “belief ” in founding texts represent a cherry picking of phrases that grossly distorts the nominally Christian rhetoric emerging from the deist and Enlightenment rationalist beliefs of many of the founding generation. see also Thomas E. . in contrast. “who will not die an Unitarian.” Only four years before his death. In her important and timely new book. Sworn on the Altar of God: A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.1 Jefferson’s prediction was mistaken. In Freethinkers she therefore argues that it is “past time to restore secularism. 1822. to its proper place in our nation’s historical memory” (11). she contends. emphasizes culture. Dreisbach. On Thomas Jefferson and civil religion. Merrill D. 1984) 1458–9. journalist Susan Jacoby grapples with the history of secular thought in the United States and the fate of Jefferson’s much heralded reason-based beliefs. Hall. ed. and Jeffrey H. Freethinking secularists who attained significant influence on the nation and its direction often 1 162 have been vilified or otherwise veiled. ed. the author of Virginia’s landmark Statute for Religious Freedoms clearly envisioned the nation’s path as one toward a Christianity based on reason rather than pure faith and denominational dogmatism. “The Religious Rhetoric of Thomas Jefferson.” The Founders on God and Government. Often ideologically driven. J. Comparative religion scholar Diana Eck. Jacoby attempts to illuminate contemporary debates about the proper role for religion in the public square. Edwin S. Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. Mark Noll and George Marsden assert that “Christian nation” arguments are overstated. Contemporary works that attempt this project or seek to deny it are plentiful. Susan. Daniel L. Peterson (New York: Library of America. 2004) 53–82. Morrison (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield. She asserts that the nation on the whole has Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Waterhouse. “I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States. Since the providential account of George Bancroft in the nineteenth century.

S. as people of faith easily negate secularists and their views by portraying them as atheists and agnostics. Brown. The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven: Yale University Press. The philosophy of “freethought” pivoted on the belief that judgments about religion should be based on reason and evidence from the natural world rather than on tradition. “Freethinking” itself is a term derived from a phrase that first appeared in the late 1600s and flourished into a philosophical movement in the nineteenth century. liberty. or 2 received or revealed truths. 2001). yet seem less noble somehow. Marsden. Hatch. she says. History of the United States. which shaped the rise of the U. George M. and happiness. the remarkable level of religious pluralism and tolerance across American society. Secularists—a term which she uses interchangeably with freethinkers—pursue liberty-based goals. regardless of their views on the existence or nonexistence of a divinity. if vague. America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln (New York: Oxford University Press. 163 . Nathan O. According to Jacoby. Mark A. rather. 1989). It conjures up that most vaunted of American principles: “freedom”—freedom to think. 2002). or simply as godless heathens.B ook reviews always been Christian. A New Religious America: How a “Christian Country” Has Now Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation (New York: HarperSanFrancisco. and to pursue life. Eck. was a rationalist approach to fundamental questions of earthly existence—a conviction that the affairs of human beings should be governed not by faith in the supernatural but by a reliance on reason and evidence adduced from the natural world. What they shared. 2003). to assemble. (4–5) See George Bancroft. as a democratic Christian nation. Noll.2 Given the charged atmosphere in which these debates take place. The term is powerful. Diana L. to speak. as unprincipled. Jacoby was wise to select “freethinkers” for her title. 1834). freethinkers ran the gamut from the anti-religious to the devout. from the Discovery of the American Continent (Boston: Little. Historian Nathan Hatch adds early politics to this pluralist position by arguing that there was a “democratization” of American Christianity from the earliest days of the Republic. yet what makes it unique today is not the persistent power of Christianity but. Jonathan Edwards: A Life (New Haven: Yale University Press. authority.

“[w]ith its refusal to invoke any form of divine sanction.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S ummer 0 6 The book opens with a telling anecdote about the present state of religious politics. “their values are simply grounded in earthly concerns rather than in anticipation of heavenly rewards or fear of infernal punishments” (10). “The religiously correct version of American history. Freethinkers moves from the revolutionary era through the present to chronicle the development of American secularism and explain how we “got here. As their model. President Bush consoled the nation by invoking religiously informed language while standing beside representatives of several major religions. continued to uphold formal. Among those . Basing his words on the famous passage from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. “[S]ecularists are not value-free. Jacoby recovers and sympathizes with the relatively forgotten lives and stories of the heroes of secular thought. President Bush chose Washington’s Episcopalian National Cathedral to issue an ecumenical address four days after the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. Jefferson. it would become the template for the secularist provisions of the federal Constitution” (19). Indeed. With this as a springboard. Washington. It “is impossible to overstate the importance” of Virginia’s 1786 Act for Establishing Religious Freedom because “much to the dismay of religious conservatives. Having thrown off the chains of British rule. “the Constitution went even further than Virginia’s religious freedom act in separating religion from government” (29). Adams. This signaled a profound break from the tradition of separation of church and state. and Franklin Roosevelt would not and did not do such things (even after a direct attack on the United States). Madison. “Americans lived no longer in an age of faith. established religions and oaths for public officials well after the ratification of the Constitution in 1788. To bind citizens within the nation. “has never given proper credit to the central importance of the Enlightenment concept of natural rights—or to the anticlerical abolitionists who advanced that concept before the public—in building the case against slavery” (70). such as Massachusetts. Many members of the founding generation were concerned that “established” religions—even at the state level—would act to the detriment of the republic as a whole. Many state constitutions commingled religion and government in the pre-Constitution period. Jacoby takes pains to demonstrate that a robust Enlightenment rationalism undergirded the objectives of many framers and signers of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. even the vaguely deistic ‘Providence. these states were in the minority. secular values seemed more likely to connect citizens than religious beliefs.” Jacoby contends.” Recovering this story is no mean feat. “but in an age of faiths and an age of reason” (34). quite a few. the founders consciously 164 selected Virginia.’” Jacoby argues convincingly. However.” Jacoby insists.” Jacoby proclaims. Developments such as crafting a Constitution without reference to God and enacting statutes of religious toleration did not represent unalloyed good done by those of the freethinking persuasion. Thus. Jacoby informs her readers.

What the five-time socialist candidate for president. authored what became the American Revolution’s most iconic patriotic tract. the renowned revolutionary. Paine also penned the less well-known and much maligned pamphlet The Age of Reason. In perhaps the best chapter of the book. and Robert Green Ingersoll. Paine. We have found that man is the only source of political power. Not many were moved to reject religion outright. but also religious beliefs of many kinds. Freethought as a philosophy never fully sustained an organized movement in America.B ook reviews in the pantheon are: Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Kennedy. Common Sense. former abolitionists. that rapidly became the nation’s best-known freethought organ. An outstanding insight Jacoby develops from this period is to show the connections developing between atheists. Eugene Debs. William Lloyd Garrison.” who notably hoped that “we have retired the gods from politics. The influence of such papers was amplified by the audiences reached by an array of speakers. but a good number seem to have been persuaded to make a case for a continued and strengthened secularist approach to public affairs. suffragists. for whom “truth is older than any parchment”. radicals. This was no quixotic act. the so-called “Great Agnostic. socialists. according to Jacoby. Walt Whitman. not authority for truth”. He went on to propound a misguided expectation that “a revolution in the system of government would be followed by a revolution in the system of religion” (35). and labor activists—all of which helped to make freethought a viable belief system from 1875 through 1914. and that the governed should govern. university professors. which sold an astonishing 500. like Ingersoll. founded in 1875.” Jacoby notes the subtle influence of freethought in the public expressions and actions of a diverse set of American luminaries such as Benjamin Franklin.000 copies in the mid-1770s. Freethinking was a way of looking at the world and making judgments about religion that is probably best understood as a cohesive cluster of ideas that can be only loosely defined as an intellectual movement. If there was a prime mover in the constellation of American freethinking stars. Abraham Lincoln. Paine attacked not only the ecclesiastical and monarchic hierarchies in The Age of Reason. and Darwinists around the turn of the twentieth century. such as the Truth Seeker. although Jacoby asserts that it “flowered into a genuine social and philosophical movement…fraught with ambivalence” (4). Lucretia Mott. In this era “freedom of religion meant just that—the freedom to believe in and practice one’s creed.” Jacoby shows the importance of networks of newspapers. Jacoby concludes that it was Thomas Paine. Mark Twain. It did not mean that particular religious beliefs were exempt from public criticism or even from public ridicule” (172). had in common (apart from 165 . the famous abolitionist. and John F. published in 1794.” who said that “every form of religion which has breathed upon this earth has degraded woman”. Clarence Darrow. suffragist and author of the “Woman’s Bible. the ardent feminist whose personal motto was “truth for authority. “The Great Agnostic and the Golden Age of Freethought.

which “could hardly do more to demonstrate its commitment to pulverizing a constitutional wall that has served both religion and government well for more than two hundred years” (353). But this methodology does not permit a wider view of the historical context in which Jacoby’s central individuals acted. who in the late 1950s and 1960s championed a highprofile cultural battle to remove prayer from public schools. Freethinkers could stand more of what it calls for: a critical examination of what it means to be “secular” and to have an “influence” on society. L. Some of the “prominent” freethinkers were more marginalized than this account of their lives and actions would suggest. This narrow focus on freethinkers like Paine and lesser knowns such as Ingersoll is advantageous. what values and strategies should secularists advocate today? Jacoby argues that the intellectual offspring of the freethinkers should learn from their forebears. contemporary secularists must move beyond the defense of a godless Constitution separating church and state. If they want to change minds. Beliefs cannot promote themselves: “Values are handed down more easily and thoroughly by permanent institutions than by marginalized radicals who. After the “golden age. Yet in the years after World War I these connections were not enough. To be prominent is not necessarily to be influential. a number of prominent conservatives. The civil rights movement is yet another example of the importance of religious values animating social change. Jacoby deploys a host of post-Scopes legal battles over the establishment clause as her primary evidence of secular thought at work in the period leading up to the present. such as the irascible journalist H. rather than direct legislation or lecture circuits.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S ummer 0 6 agnosticism) with Ingersoll and Darrow was a “deep commitment to the liberties enumerated in the Bill of Rights” (180). such as political philosopher Leo Strauss. juridical review and resolution. have been both passionately conservative in their politics and also ardent non-believers. Freethought as any sort of coherent movement began to lose momentum. So. and those of other political stripes.” freethinkers worked toward achieving the secularization of American society through the instruments of the “procedural republic”: namely. To sway hearts and minds. but she lacks the public figures and largescale historical events to fully support her argument. yet in the past Social Gospel advocates such as Washington Gladden and Walter Rauschenbusch clearly do not conform to such a generalization. Yet particularly in the twentieth century. The one major exception was Madalyn Murray O’Hair. Overly rational arguments stand in sharp contrast to the successful faith-based emotional appeals of the current Bush administration. Jacoby also often casts devout believers as thoroughly conservative in their politics in the modern sense. . even if they change minds in their own generation—as the abolitionists did—are often subject to remarginalization in the next” (103). Mencken. Jacoby seems to suggest that to be secular is to take a liberal political-philosophical 166 position. “secular humanists must reclaim passion and emotion from the religiously correct” (363). It makes this narrative engaging and adds cohesion.

but also a warning to secularists.D. She concludes that it is time to confront the unexamined assumption that religion per se is. One thing is clear: a better sense of the importance of secularism in the past is essential if we are to enlighten our current public dialogue in the present. But rationalist skepticism certainly is embedded in the fundamental mechanisms of American democracy and society. 2005. He is working on a dissertation project on isolationism and internationalism during the Progressive Era. David Martin has been one of the leading scholars of secularization theory since the 1960s. Martin laid out a careful historical sociology of secularization that maintained the limited and highly particularized nature of this cultural process. Martin. And there was no systemic religious revolution to go with government transformation. For him. one of the key factors for understanding how religion fares in the modern world was “social differentiation.” or the increasing autonomy of social spheres. the establishment of the Church of England in that country has no comparison in the United States. Martin updates this theory through a compilation of articles and lectures that outline the directions in which he has moved since his general theory. Social differentiation refers to the tendency in modern society for social spheres to be less and less integrated. candidate in the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia and a doctoral fellow at the Center on Religion and Democracy. which is why one finds so much variation not only in the West. London: Ashgate. For example. but also beyond to the rest of the world. Even then he doubted that secularization would be inevitable or that secularism would become universal. To return to the example. the separation of church and state is a fundamental manifestation of social differentiation in the modern world. In his magnum opus. To this end. as Paine believed. and always must be. Freethinkers is a good place to start. (358) We may not all be Unitarians. In his new work. On Secularization: Towards a Revised General Theory. On Secularization. Martin once again voices his skepticism towards secularization as grand narrative and 167 . a benign influence on society….B ook reviews Jacoby offers not only a historical challenge to those who believe God is and has always been part of American governance. A General Theory of Secularization (1978). David. in Chile. as Jefferson supposed. they must first stop pussyfooting around the issue of the harm that religion is capable of doing. a different balance altogether has been struck. This dynamic has played out differently in different societies. For secularists to mount an effective challenge to the basic premises of religious correctness. Christopher McKnight Nichols is a Ph.

Of particular interest for Martin are Islam and Christianity and how one accounts for the differences between these faiths in their encounter with the modern world. helps to explain why Pentecostalism actually welcomes in and encourages the individualism and social differentiation of modernity. The dynamics of religion and modernity play out differently in Western Europe. Martin brings attention to the ways in which different religions mobilize believers. “through the mobilization of whole populations”. faiths vary by their implicit approach to pluralism—ranging from “voluntaristic” to “communal. secularity is anything but uniform.” with individuals respected for their capacity to choose. Even in Europe—the one place where the traditional notion of secularization has seemed to be at work—there is great variation: secularity in Berlin and secularism in Paris look and feel different. Asia. it simply manifests itself differently in different contexts. Latin America. and Africa. as in the rest of this book. as he first argued in 1965. Likewise. Here. Pentecostal Christianity. Eastern Europe. Martin is more suggestive than systematic. for example. secularism does not translate from the elites to the masses. Martin argues that 168 . because they are in fact different realities. Even from casual observation. enters it factionally and individually. Voluntaristic pluralism is most clearly understood as the “supermarket of beliefs. In Latin America and Turkey. the mass migration of Muslims to Europe is changing the reli- gio-cultural landscape of Europe in fundamental ways. as Martin first demonstrated in Tongues of Fire (1990). and the fate of specific faith traditions remains far from clear. by contrast. Like others.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S ummer 0 6 implicitly reiterates his argument that just as there are multiple modernities. with elites and masses divided on the question of religion. it is evident that religion has far from disappeared. The classic example of this is the acceptance of “religions of the book” by certain Islamic empires. The latter. In the United States. To take another example. For example.” Communal pluralism is characterized by the interaction of homogenous communities with each other. “through the mobilization of subcultural and individual self-consciousness” (144). Islam enters the modern world collectively. It is not that secularization theory is untrue. there are also multiple secularizations. including Adam Seligman (Modernity’s Wager) and Charles Taylor (Sources of the Self ).

169 . This paradox. is internal: “it is dangerously open-ended to a degree which threatens its own viability and ability to reproduce” (169). Martin maintains that while religions are still sending out missionaries. Christianity’s main challenge in the modern world. For Christians. because social orders are derived from sacred orders. While Islam does not have this latter problem. which in Martin’s theological understanding should exist between Christians and power. To the extent that such a paradox is manifested in the West. And what are we to make of these religions in our increasingly globalized condition? While Martin does not answer this question conclusively. In fact. it remains to be seen what such communal mobilization will look like in our globalizing context. he does suggest the ways in which the twenty-first-century market culture will impact Christianity and Islam. Emily Raudenbush is Research Associate at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. the most efficient means of evangelism is simply for globetrotters to carry their message with them. there “surely is a clash of civilizations” (198). he does provide critical concepts and insights for scholars of religion to grapple with such questions in the future. the “already” and the “not yet” of the kingdom of God have a profound impact on Christian.B ook reviews voluntaristic pluralism is historically a product of Western Christianity. according to Martin. Martin’s new book brings into relief some of the critical sociological questions about religion in our day. A good book is in part measured by the degree to which it provokes questions. The starkest differences between religions are seen in their various relationships to power. In other words. is fundamentally different than the triumphalism of Islam. opening up space for religious faith to be newly proclaimed? While Martin does not provide a systematic theory to address all of these questions. and derivatively Western. What sources of social cohesion are Europeans left with as religious sources continue to be weakened? What will the relationship of Islam to modernity become in different parts of the world? In what ways has secularization actually revitalized religious practice. a tension exists between the City of God and the City of Man. the individualism of market culture is potentially corrosive to Islam as Islam reproduces itself collectively. social and political thought. This way of reproducing faith lines up very well with Christian individualistic mobilization. this relationship is straightforward in Islam but paradoxical in Christianity. In Martin’s conceptualization.

suggesting that the theory had been wrong and that it was the simple-minded creation of secular hopefuls wishing for a godless future.” The secular age had arrived. wasn’t there something to it? Kevin M. Secularization theory seemed to be in tatters. Things did not turn out as these advocates had envisioned they would. and it became a chief preoccupation of social scientists and theologians of the 1950s. His current book project is entitled Making Pluralism: Catholics. The tone of many of these critics was just as self-righteous and triumphant as the theory’s proponents had been two decades prior. or even if it can be generalized. This has been especially troubling for social scientists. Schultz Today. 60s. Countries like the United States were witnessing something of a return to religion during the last quarter of the twentieth century. Europe and America seemed to be throwing off the shackles of that old-time religion.bibli o g rap h ic review Secularization: A Bibliographic Essay Kevin M. This glaring problem led to a flood of criticism in the 1980s and 1990s. Is it simply—as the “classic theorists” of secularization said a century ago—that when a society becomes modern it becomes secular too? Does modernity necessarily imply secularity? There is certainly something appealing to the formulation. Continued religiosity became a nagging problem. and the Decline of the Melting Pot in Postwar America. but nobody is quite sure how to generalize it. Jews. the rise of the secular city. and 70s. and the general triumph of secularization theory. becoming increasingly secular as they became more and more “modern. who make a living configuring large-scale theories of society that propose to have predictive capabilities. But still. most people think that something has happened regarding the importance of religiosity in everyday life since the nineteenth century. Schultz is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Virginia’s Center on Religion and Democracy. many of whom quickly became busy celebrating the death of God. 170 .

that one cannot help but wonder if the social scientists are trying a bit too hard. The idea that Western societies have moved away from religious or divine authority dates back to the 1600s. there is an evolutionary cast to the idea: as people “advance” technologically and scientifically. bureaucratization. Norman. is there anything left of classical sociology? Do all large sociological theories need to be left behind? The answers to these questions hinge.bibliographic review Reconfiguring what is left of secularization theory has been one of the major projects of historical sociologists during the past decade or so. of course. And one senses a bit of anxiety that if the whole theory turns out to have been bunk. Emile. what might fall away next? And if rationalization. see Birnbaum and Lenzer’s edited volume. modernity. Sociology and Religion: A Book of Readings. on what secularization means. There is great irony in the fact that the word is Weber’s. they no longer need the magic of the past to offer explanation or meaning. and urbanization. secularization theory emerged at roughly the same time as the field of sociology. 1858. eds. For an excellent anthology of many of the key texts on the early sociology of religion.” His phrase about the increasing “disenchantment of the world” has come to signify all that secularization could mean: the decline in importance of things mystical. who might just see it as yet another example of the glaring flaw of the social sciences (namely. 1915. its disregard for history). Classical Theories of Secularization At its most basic. Furthermore. and Gertrud Lenzer. August. New York: Calvin Blanchard. Those following Weber claim that rationalization and the scientific perspective made belief in the supernatural impossible. rationalization. Along with bureaucratization. n Comte. 171 . but they are also complex—so complex. secularization constituted a basic part of what it meant to be modern. then the life and times of secularization theory will be turned over to historians. with religion falling victim to the power of science. in fact. Their new theories are filled with possibility. but it was Weber who in 1910 gave us the term “secularization. and secularization all need each other to survive? If secularization is tossed aside as an unreliable component of what it means to be modern. following Durkheim. religion becomes less and less important to that society. Is it too far fetched to think that sociology. n Durkheim. n Birnbaum. the classical theory of secularization contends that as a society becomes increasingly modern (usually as knowledge expands through the processes of scientific rationality). New York: Macmillan. because he was no positivist and in fact has been the single most important figure in describing the worldly significance of religion in modern sociology. which was. preoccupied with the meaning of modernization and crafting the theory of modernization. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall. Others. The Positive Philosophy. have stressed the decline of control by religious institutions over the important institutions of society. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life: A Study in Religious Sociology. and urbanization prove unreliable predictors too. Either way. 1969. at root.

n Marsden. 1948. One can find this definition of secularization in nearly every dictionary in Europe. 1992. n Sommerville. Sigmund. Protestantism and Progress: A Historical Study of the Relation of Protestantism to the Modern World. 2002. n Dahrendorf. Ralf. The Soul of the University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief. Max. George M. New York: International. J. The Principles of Ethics. eds. Secularization as Individual Disbelief From the late nineteenth century to the present. 1904–5. n Marsden. MA: MIT Press. Jürgen. the same transfer in many Catholic countries after the French Revolution). “Secular Society Religious Population: Our Tacit Rules for Using the Term Secularization. C.2 (1998): 249–53. The Future of an Illusion. 1975. and Frederick Engels. This kind of secularization was usually a direct result of the rise in authority of scientific reason. 1999. n Marx. Karl. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. The Secularization of the Academy. n Spencer. despite the fact that this is the most forgotten usage of the term. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. 1911. More specifically.. Boston: Beacon. New York: Penguin. it meant the confiscation of some of the Catholic Church’s property after the Reformation (then. 1959. Cambridge. Herbert.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 37. 1897. several institutions like the state and the university were “secularized. George M. n Weber. 1928.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S ummer 0 6 n Freud. Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society. 1962. 1994. New York: Norton. n Troeltsch. over the course of the nineteenth century. Manifesto of the Communist Party. and Bradley J. Ernst. 1958. Institutional Secularization Secularization’s first widely accepted meaning was essentially the process of separation of church and state. the word “secularization” has gained the most traction by signifying a decline in religious practices within modern societ172 . and do not take into account today’s most common usage of the term. and hence its occurrence within academies of higher learning has been most noted (and studied).” meaning they were no longer controlled by formal religious bodies. n Habermas. Longfield. Indianapolis: Liberty Classics. Since these definitions are dissimilar. 1848. readers should consult the article by Sommerville for clarifying the definitional problems. Along similar lines. New York: Oxford University Press. 1978. New York: Oxford University Press.

New York: Basic. Thomas. Harvey. Stephen L. Turner. they all acknowledged that secularization theory seemed to be holding true. Febvre. Susan. religion would occupy a smaller and smaller part of our lives. Nevertheless.” Sociological Analysis 48. New York: Macmillan. 1967. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. n Cox. however. 1967. n Berger. James. Mencken. Religion and the Decline of Magic. 2004. New York: Macmillan. 173 . n Dobbelaere. Garden City: Doubleday. n Luckmann. Thomas. The Invisible Religion: The Problem of Religion in Modern Society. n n n n Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Owen. From a sociological perspective. Lucien. 1975. suggesting that previous eras were more religious than they really were. The Problem of Unbelief in the Sixteenth Century. 1942. The Secularization of the European Mind in the 19th Century. n Chadwick. Peter L. suggesting that some variety of secularization had arrived but that religion had not yet been dislodged from being a primary source of moral authority. Keith Vivian. n Asad.bibliographic review ies. New York: Scribner. Luckmann) were more careful in their deliberations. there is a small collection of good books that offer historical grounding to the rise of unbelief as a “live option” in the realm of epistemology. “Some Trends in European Sociology of Religion: The Secularization Debate. MA: Harvard University Press.2 (1987): 107–37. 1966. this idea was revived forcefully at the beginning of the twentieth century by thinkers as diverse as Robert and Helen Lynd and H. the classical theorists and their champions) created straw men out of the past. 1971. From an intellectual perspective. Jacoby. The Culture of Disbelief. Talal. 1982. Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. Without Creed: The Origins of Unbelief in America. working out secularization theory was largely a 1960s phenomenon. Some (such as Wallace) advocated this position forcefully. 1985. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. There is considerable evidence that those who proclaimed a rise of disbelief in the modern world (that is. n Carter. 1993. Nevertheless. New York: Metropolitan. Without God. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. Karel. Second Generation Theoreticians Voltaire and Hume were perhaps the most famous philosophers to assert that religion was a mere holdover from the pre-scientific age and that as scientific knowledge expanded. Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. Cambridge. Secular City: Secularization and Urbanization in Theological Perspective. L. Others (Berger. a celebration of the secular city with the understanding that modernity and secularization were proceeding along just fine. 1993.

T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S ummer 0 6 n Wallace. . “The Concept of Secularization in Empirical Research. 1972. David. allowed for numerous scholars to critique the critiques in an attempt to rebuild secularization theory. Bahr. Religion in Secular Society: A Sociological Comment. Caplow. 1966. Unsecular Man: The Persistence of Religion. R. Martin.” Penguin Survey of the Social Sciences. 1965. But by the 1990s. if secularization is defined as the decline of religious beliefs and practices in modern societies. J. Perhaps most surprising was Peter Berger’s reversal.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 6 (1967): 207–20. DC: Ethics and Public Policy Center. critiques of secularization theory proliferated. is not so easy to prove. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. n Asad. Critics of Secularization Theory Early critics of secularization theory (Shiner. ---. cultural secularization (the transformation of mythic and symbolic markers). New Brunswick: Transaction. Gould. Stanford: Stanford University Press.3 (1999): 249–73. n Wilson. 2003. Peter L. Rodney Stark and Andrew Greeley were some of the more persistent critics. often using polling data in the U. All Faithful People: Change and Continuity in Middletown’s Religion. the theory of secularization is bunk. Modernity.” Sociology of Religion 60. Talal. C. Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Society. Rodney. Greeley. “Towards Eliminating the Concept of Secularization.P.. Bryan R.. 2003. 169–82. et al. these critics were mainly looking at behavioral data and did not consider institutional secularization (as in the marginalization of religious institutions from a reality-defining role). which. it became evident that religion just wasn’t going away. Islam. Robert N.S. Theodore. Chadwick. 1985. Larry. “Secularization. New York: Harper. n Berger. Martin. Shiner. n Bellah. New York: Random House. Religion in Europe at the End of the Second Millennium. New York: Schocken. The central claim of the critique is that. Religion: An Anthropological View. Howard M. as their ammunition. Baltimore: Penguin. F. Greeley) were mostly ignored. 1966. The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World n n n n n n 174 Politics. London: Watts. Of course. from being one of the most thoughtful advocates of secularization theory in the 1960s to flatly stating in 1999 that the “whole body of literature by historians and social scientists loosely labeled ‘secularization theory’ is essentially mistaken” (2). it turns out.I. Andrew M. Formations of the Secular: Christianity. Not only has religion persisted (and the evidence is incontrovertible) but the theory also implies that the past was more religious than today. Stark. 1983. A. or social secularization (faith as a source of social solidarity and division). as we will see. Ignorance of these aspects of secularization complicated these critiques and. and Bruce A. 1999. Ed. ed. Washington.

n Cox. 30 September 1984: 41–71. Scott Appleby. “American Jews Rediscover Orthodoxy. n Bulka. 1983. n Freston. 2002. Evangelicals and Politics in Asia. And indeed. is why there is so much religion in the U. Reading: Addison-Wesley. Mary Jo. Attempts to Formulate a New Theory Not everyone is ready to give up on secularization theory. some of the most thoughtful of the critics (Martin) have pulled reversals similar to that of Berger. The rise in awareness of these manifestations served as perhaps the final nail in the coffin of secularization theory. Some (Bibby. at least in its original formulation.” What really needs explaining. The Glory and the Power: The Fundamentalist Challenge to the Modern World.. David. Finke and Stark) have suggested that because most of the critics work in the U.S. Philadelphia: Temple. Weaver. Martin E. Martin. In fact. Natalie. Oxford: Blackwell. Philip. Merideth. they contend. If the world was presumably becoming more and more modern. Harvey. New York: KTAV. Dimensions of Orthodox Judaism. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. ed. American Evangelicalism: Conservative Religion and the Quandary of Modernity. and R. and R. Boston: Beacon. religion was supposed to be going away. The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. Tongues of Fire: The Explosion of Protestantism in Latin America. Oxford: Blackwell. or to shift the definition of secularization by emphasizing different aspects of what secularization means. 1995. Pentecostalism: The World Their Parish. The tactic of the “new believers” is to salvage the idea behind the theory but to soften its predictive capacity. Scott Appleby.. 2001. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hunter. more orthodox religions were growing. Fire From Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the 21st Century. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2002. challenges to secularization theory are merely utterances of “American exceptionalism. Jenkins. Fundamentalisms and Pentecostalism proliferated throughout the world. Marty. 1995. Being Right: Conservative Catholics in America. The problem was that it wasn’t.. 1992. Paul. Reuven P. Pentecostal Catholics.bibliographic review The Rise of Orthodoxy and the Persistence of Religion The secularization theory received another series of blows from scholars examining the rise of orthodoxy and the persistence of religion in a global context. 175 . and to do so they use “supply-side theory”: religion persists because supply can easily adapt to demand. 1990. 1983.” The New York Times n n n n n n n Magazine. James Davison. ---. McGuire.. n Gittelson. Africa and Latin America. 1982.S.

Princeton: Princeton University Press. we can begin to understand historical differences in the processes of secularization. Christian. Oxford: Blackwell. and Berger in 1967). Wilson. A General Theory of Secularization. 1985. Berkeley: University of California Press. Stark. and William Sims Bainbridge. and Cult Formation. Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide. Oxford: Blackwell. Public Religions in the Modern World. Smith. and Rodney Stark. The Churching of America. Roger. scholars have pointed out that many of the strongest advocates of secularization theory are European (Luckmann. Powers of the Secular Modern: Talal Asad and His Interlocuters. and thus secularization is a uniquely European phenomenon. Once we accept variation and change. 1776–1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy. Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion. .” Social Forces 72. Some (Norris and Inglehart) have argued that the “European exception” is attributable to the generous welfare states in Europe. 1987.” where no single rule holds true for every society. and Ronald Inglehart. Interests. Revival. and Roger Finke. Finke. The Future of Religion: Secularization. and Conflict in the Secularization of American Public Life. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Seligman. some scholars (Chaves) have tried defining the problem away by limiting the definition of secularization to the decline of religious authority (but not individual belief ). 2004. Casanova) who have gone a long way toward forcing us to reconsider what we mean by secularization and whether we aren’t better off thinking in terms of “multiple modernities. Berkeley: University of California Press. Rodney. 1978. The most persuasive attempts to recreate a theory have come from those (Martin. José. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1994. Dobbelaere. Adam. 2003. the Self. Norris. eds. 1988.T he H edgehog R eview / S pring & S ummer 0 6 On the other side of the Atlantic. n Bruce. and Charles Hirshkind. The Secular Revolution: Power. 2002. New York: Cambridge University Press. Modernity’s Wager: Authority. Casanova. Fragmented Gods: The Poverty and Potential of Religion in Canada. Mark. Berkeley: University of California Press. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. David. Reginald Wayne. Martin. “Secularization as Declining Religious Authority. n Bibby. Meanwhile. 2006. which have created security and therefore limited demand for religious bodies. and Transcendence. extant nowhere else in the world.3 n n n n n n n n n 176 (1994) 749–74. 2000. Rodney. Stark. Pippa. God Is Dead: Secularization in the West. Steve. Toronto: Irwin. David. Scott. 2000. n Chaves. ed.

present-day theorists of secularization agree that modernity can be defined in numerous ways and that the original inception of secularization theory needs complicating. and Daniel V. A. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. Olson. ed. 1998. Steve. n Bruce. Perhaps it is time to take the tools created by the critics and the re-formulators. 1992. work out the history of what has happened concerning religion in each “modern” society. n Swatos. 2000. eds.bibliographic review Books on the Secularization Debate At the very least. Religion and Modernization: Sociologists and Historians Debate the Secularization Thesis. The Secularization Debate.. 177 . Secularism and Its Critics.. William H. see: n Bhargava. Jr. Rajeev. ed. Perhaps there is yet to arise a new theory of secularization? For useful guides to the modern debates. New York: Oxford University Press. then come together in ten or twenty years and see what we come up with at that point.






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and “The End of the West” Slavica Jakelić Islam in European Publics Nilüfer Göle Interview with Peter Berger .IN THIS ISSUE Rethinking Secularization José Casanova Is Europe an Exceptional Case? Grace Davie Secularization and the Impotence of Individualized Religion Steve Bruce Challenging Secularization Theory Paul Heelas In Search of Certainties Danièle Hervieu-Léger Sellers or Buyers in Religious Markets? Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart French Secularism and the “Islamic Veil Affair” Talal Asad Secularity without Secularism David Novak American Religion and European Anti-Americanism Thomas Albert Howard Islam in the West or Western Islam? Olivier Roy Secularization. European Identity.