Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Future of Secularism

5/9/2012—Secularism needs its own annual conference. Readers of this blog know that I am working on a series of questions of the future of secularism around the issue of religion and the Constitution. But think of some of the other questions a conference could take up.

Secularism and the economy. A New Marxism is beginning to emerge. See Erik Olin Wright’s Envisioning Real Utopias. It is secular to its core. But in contrast, there is the religious critique of capitalism—think Pope Benedict, for example. And there is the religious critique of socialism—there was a post just yesterday at CLR Forum concerning Jean-Marie Guenois’s blog post on Catholic Social Thought and Socialism. How much of this religious critique can be captured by secularism? None? All? The New Atheists say nothing about the economy.

Secularism and rationality. While secularist groups praise rationality in such events as the Reason Rally, psychology and brain science undermine such pretension. We are all irrational and that is not a bad thing.

Secularism and spirituality. A friend says that the real hallowed secularism is Tiantai Buddhism. Here we have a great rationalist tradition deeply grounded in a kind of horizontal transcendence. No supernaturalism here—or materialism either as usually understood. Another way that might rescue secularism from its flatness.

Secularism and peace. Here at least the New Atheists had something to say. The source of conflict in the world is religion so we have to get rid of it. I doubt this but it’s worth exploring.

Secularism and ethics. Is everything relative and culturally determined? Or is there something enduring? And where do human rights fit in?

Secularism and Jurisprudence. Secular legal thinking begins and ends with John Rawls. Not too much there in my view. There are new religious critiques of this foundation that seem promising and not out of secular reach.

And this is just for starters.

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