Some Books and Articles Recently Read (May 2019) — Taylor, Houellebecq, MacIntyre

Some things read, with links.

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A 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival Panel: “Faith in 2024”

In 2014, a panel titled “Faith in 2024” was held at the Aspen Ideas Festival. The audio for that panel can be found on Soundcloud here.

Ray Suarez was the moderator for that panel (Suarez’s publications and broadcast list can be found on his Wikipedia page; with regard to his many credentials that earned him a role on this panel, Suarez is the author of The Holy Vote: The Politics of Faith in America among other books). The panel was originally slated to include four people, but ended up only including three:  

1) Molly Worthen, who is currently Associate Professor at UNC Chapel Hill (Molly has published two books as of this posting, the most recent is the topically relevant and well-received Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism),

2) Leon Wieseltier, the now-fallen former literary editor of The New Republic for almost thirty years and contributor to The Atlantic until he fell under the axe of the #MeToo movement in 2017, three years after this panel was held — for Leon’s fall, see first here at Vanity Fair, then (in any order) here at The Atlantic, here at the Weekly Standard, and here at The New York Times for stories (with regard to this panel, Wieseltier is the author of the book Kaddish, which is also an audiobook; he also wrote an obscenely expensive book titled Against Identity that seems to be an expanded version of an article he wrote in 1994 for The New Republic), and

3) Arsalan Iftikhar, a Virginia-based human rights lawyer and media commentator whose website can be found here (prior to the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival he’d only written one book, so far as I can see: Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era; he has written only one other book, so far as I can see, the 2016 publication Scapegoat: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedoms, which received an endorsement from former US President Jimmy Carter; his most recent article is about how Islamophobia is predicted by politics, not religion).

4) The original panel list included Peter Beinart, whom we’ll get to in the next post, but it seems that Beinart could not attend because of a death in the family. Only a few years later, Beinart would take what I imagine must have been some of his working notes from this session –and perhaps even inspired by an ethnic twist on a line of exchange from this session (Iftikhar: “[…] the religious intolerance in America is becoming more entrenched… Suarez: “…even as people are becoming less religious.”)– and turn them into an article for The Atlantic titled: “Breaking Faith“, or, alternatively, “America’s Empty Church Problem”, where he argues that a decrease in religious participation correlates to an increase in more primitive animosities from an ascendant, elemental, and rigid set of in-group out-group formations. 

Back to the Aspen panel. The blurb for the panel is as follows on the Ideas Festival website:

After a rapid increase in their ranks over the last decade, the “nones,” or those who claim no particular religious affiliation, now represent one-in-five US adults. What portrait does this leave us of the future of faith in this country? And how are communities of faith changing internally as they witness the same demographic and generational shifts as the population at large? Will church groups see the same hollowing out of the middle as the political and economic landscapes, with a trend toward both ends of the conservative vs. reform spectrum? 

Below are a set of abbreviations and transcriptions from that panel, with timestamps for the Soundcloud recording of the panel. I have not been exhaustive, but I’ve caught everything that I thought was interesting. If a section is in quotes, it’s nearly exact. If it’s not, fidelity ranges from abbreviation to almost-exact-but-I’m-not-rewinding-that-one-more-time.

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Secularization — Is Christianity No Longer the Norm?

Good summary of the article on secularization as it bears upon conscious affiliation (i.e., explicit commitment), and the benefits of this for everyone. Read the very short article he links to at the bottom, and do yourself a favor and scan the other posts by Ormerod at the top. Ormerod suggest that things, as they are, will remain so “for at least the next 100 years” or something. Optimistic? Perhaps. Christianity is, as one atheist put it, “the stone in the shoe that one cannot quite get rid of”; our present culture has deep roots, and most of us are not aware of the elements of our culture, or their provenance and sustaining springs; it is a live question for me as to whether we ever really become “post-Christian” in anything more than a superficial sense — though if we do, we certainly become post-Christian. To this end, read Blumenberg’s The Legitimacy of the Modern Age, Löwith’s Meaning in History, and Taylor’s A Secular Age to get a better sense of this relationship from multiple angles. Then, of course, there is Nietzsche, together with a host of other authors. One thing is clear, though: secularization is not irreligion or atheism. It is something else. More soon. (But give Imagining Sociology a follow: it’s a classroom resource for a UK teacher, so it’s not as regular as some blogs, but the posts are always brief enough that it’s inexcusable not to follow it, and it’s a quite-profitable read.)

EDIT: the ever-provocative Richard Dawkins tweeted about this phenomenon here (though it might be simply anti-Islam that lurks behind that); Nietzsche similarly thought that Christianity was a buffer for some things that he thought were worse, though I can’t remember where, and can’t find it on a quick look-through.

Sociology with LDV

Here are the key highlights from the article by Peter Ormerod (link below).

  • “Christianity as a default, as a norm, is gone, and probably gone for good,” Prof Stephen Bullivant
  • Ormerod argues that it’s a mistake to assume that under 30s have changed that drastically because there is a significant evidence that they are still willing to wholeheartedly embrace alternatives to religion.
  • Older generations are not completely embracing rationality either because new age movements such as astrology are enjoying a renaissance
  • Linda Woodhead points out that although lots of British teenagers identify that they have no religion, most don’t describe themselves as atheists.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/22/christianity-norm-underground-mystery?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Email

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David Bentley Hart on Heidegger: Modernity-as-Nihilism

(Some scraps while I read and write away at several other, more substantial, pieces.)

Earlier I posted an excerpt from the later Heidegger; I have also posted thoughts from David Bentley Hart (on Marilynne Robinson, of Gilead fame). Wishing to combine the two, we might discover that Hart published an article on Heidegger in February of 2011 (ignore the venue of that link, if it bothers you: the article is worth reading). This is the last time I’ll be posting about Hart for the foreseeable future, though there is much about Heidegger I shall eventually get to here (barring death). Continue reading

Berlinerblau (and Hoffmann): Secularism is not Atheism or Irreligion

There have been no posts this week, as I am taking a break while I finish up finals-related things. I expect to be back to posting by the end of this next week.

In the meantime, I thought it would be worthwhile to share a recent re-post of a 2012 article from R. Joseph Hoffmann’s site inspired by a then-recent 2012 Huffpost article by Jacques Berlinerblau, who wrote a book on secularism. In the video Berlinerblau made and attached to his Huffpost article, he says briefly:

Secularism is a political idea about Church and State relations. It is not a metaphysical idea about the existence or non-existence of God.

The book on secularism spells this political element out more fully (or so goes the video he made for the Amazon.com page, which cites from his book): Continue reading