Lecture

11 January 2009

Mythic Narratives of Secularism and Religion

lectures by Sven Lutticken, Kenan Malik, Markha Valenta

Time and again, it seems that voices in the media proclaim a dualistic clash between the West, the Enlightenment, and secularism on the one hand, and resurgent religious fundamentalisms on the other. For a long time, many citydwelling Europeans believed that religion would inevitably continue to decline; modernization was seen as inextricably linked to secularization. Today, the rebirth of religion is neither a mere illusion nor an unproblematic reality—rather it may be a myth, or a family of myths, that shape reality together with competing secularist myths. Paradoxes abound. Couldn’t it be said that both militant secularists and “Enlightenment fundamentalists” effectively sacralize “the secular” itself? And haven’t monotheistic religions at times functioned as instruments of secularization, not least in the Reformation? As philosopher Marc De Kesel has written, monotheism’s paradox is that it is a critique of religion manifesting itself as religion. This session reflects on various religious and secular narratives, attempting in the process to open up possible futures beyond that of a zero-sum “clash of civilizations.”

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