01: The combined Spring/Summer issue of the Hedgehog Review is devoted to the topic of “After Secularization.”
A few of the articles tread the well-worn paths of the secularization debate (is religion declining or increasing?), but most introduce fresh approaches and follow the advice of Jose Casanova in his opening essay: “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, the group level, and the societal level.”
Europe has often been called the secular exception to the growth of religion worldwide, but Grace Davie’s article suggests that the continent’s future may be somewhat different. She finds the free market model prevalent in the U.S. growing (if in a different form) alongside establishment modes of faith, such as the Church of England. Religion is also gaining a new public role and visiblity due to the Muslim presence.
Meanwhile, Paul Heelas sees challenges to secular Europe in the growth of New Age spirituality, though secularization theorist Steve Bruce doubts whether such “self-spirituality” has the institutional weight to have much influence. In another article, Slavica Jakelic writes that it is not only Islam with a public dimension, but also the “collectivist Christianities,” represented by the Orthodox and Catholic churches in Eastern Europe that are bound up with national identities and need to be taken into account as the European Union takes shape. She adds that it is the tendency for Europe to currently define itself as the secular alternative to American religiosity, but this ignores the religious challenges already at work on the continent.
Daniele Hervieu- Leger theorizes that as larger religious institutions and loyalties fragment under individualization worldwide, there will be a standardization of spiritual seeking and belief. This greater homogenization of belief may lead to more movement of believers beyond their own religious traditions (creating new connections between various forms of meditation), but it can also generate a desire for new kinds of community where believers create narratives of their own spiritual experiences.
Also in this issue is an article by Olivier Roy on how Islam in the West is not so much posing new problems as much as reflecting fissures between religion and secularism already in place; a wide-ranging interview with Peter Berger on secularization and pluralism; and a bibliography on some of the issues relating to secularization.
The issue costs $16 and is available from: Hedgehog Review, Institute for Advanced Studies of Culture, P.O. Box 400816, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4816
02: The July issue of the American Behavioral Scientist is devoted to religion and immigration. The issue provides interesting accounts of how immigration activism carries a strong religious component even in secularizing societies. An example of this is the article on Catholics in Spain, showing that even as immigration politics have been secularized, the church has maintained a distinctive form of activism on immigration that highlights the deficiencies of political and administrative actors in coping with this issue.
An article comparing France and the U.S. shows how immigration issues allow the church in both countries to assert its identity as a public religion. Other articles include an analysis of the differences between Protestants and Catholic immigration activism, and a survey showing, among other findings, that immigrants less integrated into American society are more likely to attend religious services. For more information on this issue, write: Sage Publications, Inc., 2455 Teller Rd, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320; E-mail: email@example.com.
03: The much publicized findings of the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) are now available in an expanded form in the recently published Religion in a Free Market (Paramount Market Publishing, $49.95).
The book, by Barry Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, is persuasive both because of its method of surveying a large sample (50,000) of Americans who identify and describe their own affiliations and beliefs and its many comparisons with findings from a 1991 ARIS survey. The most notable findings in the recent study was the considerable increase of Americans claiming no religion–climbing from 8.2 percent to 14.1 percent since 1991).
Although this higher figure does not mean a significant growth of atheism or agnosticism (most of these “Nones” still believe in God), Kosmin and Keysar tend to see this development as tending toward European-style secularization. Related to the increase of the Nones are the significant number of Catholics who have dropped out of the church and opted for the “no religion“ category. The book also provides interesting commentary on regional religious differences, the increase of people identifying with the generic Christian label and discarding Protestant identification, and the growing generation gap over religious commitment.
04: After the four hijacked airliners crashed in 9/11 and changed dramatically the political and religious world panorama, scholars have renewed their interest in martyrdom. For obvious reasons, the Islamic tradition has occupied a prominent place in this academic inquiry. The book Witnesses to Faith? (Ashgate, $79.95), edited by Brian Wicker, is one of several efforts to clarify not only the concept of martyrdom but its parallel development within Christianity and Islam.
The book consists of a selection of articles covering a broad array of issues related to martyrdom from a theological and historical perspective. Several of the pieces, though, emphasize the fact that martyrdom is actually a Christian contribution transformed within the Islamic tradition to accommodate the jihad, or holy war, and then outline several other differences between Christian and Muslim martyrdom. Grounded in both Christian and Islamic sources, the book attempts to answer some of the questions unleashed by the September 11th attacks and the continuous use of people as weapons.
Thus, Witnesses to Faith? tackles some of the most difficult perplexities related to the topic: Is suicide a form of martyrdom? Are those who die in battle proper martyrs? Is the use of suicide bombers in fact encouraged by the Islamic tradition? The authors tend to answer no to these questions and the book stands as an effort to counteract what the editor labels as “a false ideology of martyrdom”.
Many of the articles have a hint of the well-trodden notion of popular religious beliefs versus knowledgeable theology and scholarship and tend to focus on the somewhat unintended and non-sanctioned veneration of martyrs as an erroneous and dangerous practice which goes against mainstream Christian and Islamic traditions.
— By Marisol Lopez Menendez, a doctoral student in Sociology at the New School for Social Research in New York.