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A Newly Re-Enchanted World: Religion in Culture and Politics at the Beginning of the 21st Century   

A Newly Re-enchanted World: Religion in Culture and Politics at the Beginning of the 21st Century David Peritz For the last three hundred years many of the world’s most enlightened thinkers have predicted the beginning of humanity’s first ‘disenchanted’ epoch in which God and organized religion withdraw from the world, leaving us alone to understand nature scientifically and to create morality and meaning for ourselves. At the dawn of the 21st century we witness a rather different reality, a major religious resurgence in societies throughout the world. Internationally, religion has replaced ideology as the most important axis of conflict. At home controversies between religion and science roil our politics. Meanwhile, fundamentalism—forms of faith that deny that sacred texts are always subject to human interpretation—is proving among the most popular and dynamic sources of religious faith. This course tackles issues emerging in the new, multi-disciplinary field of post-secular studies, which starts by acknowledging that traditional forms of religiosity often play an important role in modern societies. The course will focus on (1) the persistence of religion as a main source of practical belief and its relation to ‘secularism’s discontents’ within modern cultures and societies. Finally, while charting religions’ resilience and resurgence, we will also examine their reformation and reconstruction, as the religions that persist and flourish in post-secular social worlds differ profoundly from those that dominated pre-secular societies. Week 1: Modernity, Equality and Tolerance: The Religious Foundations of Modern Values? Week 2: The Nature and Limits of Secularization I: The Significance and Overconfidence of Enlightenment Humanism Week 3: The Nature and Limits of Secularization II: Is Humanism Exclusively Protestant? Week 4: Is Post-Secular Religion Bad Religion? Week 5: Is Political Theology A Lasting Part of the Post-Secular Landscape? Week 6: Tolerance and Intolerance in the Post-Secular World David Peritz has a DPhil in Politics from Oxford University, where his studies were supported by a Marshall Scholarship. He is Co-Chair of the Politics Department at Sarah Lawrence College, and a regular visiting faculty member in the Master of Arts of Liberal Studies program at Dartmouth. He has also taught at UC Berkeley, Harvard, Cornell and Deep Springs, and was a visiting scholar at Erasmus University in Rotterdam and the London School of Economics. His research specialization is modern and contemporary political philosophy, especially contemporary theories of democracy and justice and their relations to issues of diversity and inequality.


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