01: EnlightenNext is the latest incarnation of the New Age alternative spirituality magazine known as What Is Enlightenment? The change of title, along with its new subtitle, The Magazine for Evolutionaries, reﬂects the magazine’s concern to blend holistic spirituality with evolutionary science.
An editorial in the inaugural issue (December/February) of the revamped magazine deﬁnes an “evolutionary” as one who embraces the evolution of consciousness in areas such as science, spirituality, morality and philosophy. Much about the magazine remains the same, such as its featuring the writings of New Age thinker Ken Wilber and the Dalai Lama. And it is the case that the New Age movement has always tried to mesh its teachings with evolutionary thought. Yet evolution has often been synonymous with the idea of spiritual transformation rather than with Darwinian evolution, which is featured prominently in EnlightenNext.
The issue carries articles on John Haught, a Catholic theologian seeking to reconcile religion and science, as well as a primer on what is known as the integral movement. Integralism is said to be the next step beyond the fragmentation and relativism of postmodernism, as it will unify the various disciplines, practices and teachings promoting cultural and spiritual evolution based around such networks and institutions as the new Boulder Integral Center, the Integral Forum in Germany, and the Integral Institute, the think tank founded by Wilber. A subscription to the quarterly magazine is $24.
For more information, write: EnlightenNext, P.O. Box 2360, Lenox, MA 01240.
02: While the ethnic character of Judaism would seem to be resistant to a market interpretation, Carmel U. Chiswick argues in her new book, Economics of American Judaism (Routledge, $140), that the home-centered nature of the religion in the US, whose adherents have experienced rapid ﬁnancial success, actually lends itself to this approach.
Chiswick applies religious economy theories to a wide range of topics, including Jewish immigration, intermarriage, religious education and American–Israeli Jewish differences by the year 2020. Her basic thesis is that the timeconsuming nature of Judaism (Sabbath observance and other practices) is becoming costly to maintain as the value of time has risen for American Jewish men, women and children. Such challenges have resulted in new innovations in non-Orthodox synagogues, as well as continuing disaﬃliation of singles from the Jewish community. In this new environment, Jewish organizations engage in competition with other groups in reducing time cost, which results in less intensity and quality in Jewish institutions.
A “reverse bandwagon” eﬀect takes place as Jews increasingly abandon time-consuming practices, thereby decreasing the quality for those still engaging in these practices, according to Chiswick. In another chapter, the author ﬁnds that the economic advancement of American Jews makes them in some cases able to combine religious time with family time, creating new kinds of Jewish innovations, such as in the area of family worship and religious education.
Chiswick concludes with an interesting look at how Israeli and American Jews are converging in economic status, making the former more open to American Jewish innovations. But in keeping with the religious economy theory that state monopolies dissipate religious vitality, Chiswick sees less religious diversity taking shape in the Jewish state.
03: Should the world be a wide open ﬁeld for missionaries of all faiths? Should religions spread along free markets, without any limitation as long as they do not infringe laws? While such views would be accepted by many people in the US, they meet with far more nuanced or negative responses in other places across the world, as evidenced by the articles published in an information-packed book recently edited by Rosalind Hacke, Proselytization Revisited (Equinox Publishing, $29.95).
The book started with a symposium on the topic at the 19th Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions in Tokyo in 2005. The result is a 480-page volume with articles from 20 contributors (including RW’s associate editor, Jean-Francois Mayer, who authored an opening overview and comparative perspective). Anti-proselytization cuts across cultures and religions. In the current context, observes Grace Y. Kao (Virginia Tech), proselytizers must increasingly defend the appropriateness of their actions—proselytism tends to become a dirty word, to the extent that many religious groups are eager to diﬀerentiate between what they see as legitimate, proper missionary activities and ethically questionable “proselytism.”
There are diﬀerent types of and and diﬀerent motivations for opposition to proselytization, including secular ones, putting, for instance, the emphasis on the protection of collective identity and integrity of groups. Proselytism may also be seen as a threat to balance in a society. In a chapter on Singapore, Jean DeBernardi (University of Alberta) describes how a state concerned about maintaining religious harmony has developed strict rules on activities that might undermine it. Moreover, several articles show how anti-proselytism represents much more than tension between religions.
Olga Kazmina (Moscow State University) reports how it has occurred along with the politicization of religion and rising nationalist tendencies in postSoviet Russia. There is often a tendency to see (Christian) proselytism as a tool of US/ Western imperialism—although the reality today, insofar as evangelicals are concerned, is that new missionaries always come from the South, as reported in Paul Freston’s (Calvin College) chapter. The role of Koreans has also become important, for instance, in the Asian regions of Russia, as can be seen in an article by Julia S. Kovalchuk (Russian Academy of Science).
The current model of conversion is limited to a Western, Christian understanding, which can at best include Islamic forms in some other cases, write Sarah Claerhout and Jakob de Roover (Ghent University) in their chapter on India. This may also partly explain some of the reactions encountered by missionary activities on the subcontinent, and not only in India.
Stephen C. Berkwitz (Missouri State University) oﬀers an informative analysis on the debate about conversions in Sri Lanka, where it interacts with international interests (US agencies and NGOs want to support the freedom of Christians to spread their faith)— and where both sides, Buddhists and Christians, see themselves as victims. While a majority of the contributions understandably focus on reactions to Christian missionary activities, there are also chapters on Falun Gong, Dhammakaya (a Buddhist movement in Thailand), the followers of the Islamic teacher Fetullah Gülen in Central Asia, reactions to the proselytization of new religious movements in Japan, and the Wiccan use of the Internet. All this makes the volume a rich resource on a topic that won’t lose its signiﬁcance in years to come.
04: Mark Juergensmeyer’s new book, Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State, from Christian Militias to Al Quaeda (University of California Press, $27.50), is a broad survey on the diﬀerent modes in which religious movements opposing national secularism have portrayed themselves in the last decades of twentieth century and the ﬁrst few years of the twenty-ﬁrst.
Global Rebellion’s main aim is to make sense of the standpoint of movements in several parts of the world animated by religious faith that have resisted the secular state without having an alternative government in mind. It a empts to ﬁnd a common ground among diﬀerent radical thinking and action in different religious traditions, while placing them in a wider context of sociopolitical change. The book’s main premise is that the notion of secular nationalism is a Western construct exported to non-Western societies, for whom no clear distinction exists between religion and politics.
The author suggests that the revival of “religious politics” at the end of the twentieth century is a response to the loss of faith in secular nationalism and increasingly global political trends. Juergensmeyer’s analysis is informed by data from dozens of religious movements from Egypt, Iran, Israel, Palestine, Iraq Lebanon, Syria and Jordan in the Middle East; Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Kashmir and Bangladesh in Central and South Asia; and Russia and the Balkan states in Europe; as well as Japan and the United States.
Juergensmeyer considers both secular nationalism and religion as “ideologies of order”— frameworks of thought able to provide coherence and meaning to everyday life. His approach stresses the similarities between religious and national modes of thinking in order to put forward the idea that they are potential rivals. Both of them can imprint order on society, claim to be the legitimate authority and provide moral sanctions, and, more importantly, make decisions about life and death.
Therefore, they both oﬀer a moral order that not only provides meaning, but also commands loyalty and obedience. The line dividing the two has always been thin and ﬂuctuating. The last years of the twentieth century witnessed a decline in the appeal of secular nationalism, due in part to its inability to fulﬁll its promises of justice, peace and equal treatment for all religious minorities (as in the case of Muslim revolts in India and Kashmir against Hinduism) and, more frequently, to the lack of moral standards set by some religious groups (such as Muslims in Iran, Afghanistan or Egypt and Jewish Zionist groups in Israel, the Gaza strip and the West Bank).
So the book points to two rather diﬀerent shortcomings of secular nationalism as the main cause of the development of radical religious challenges. One of them is functional and keeps hope open, since the failure of modern secular states in bringing peace and equality; ending poverty; and providing people with political freedom, decent living standards and fair justice systems can be ascribed not to the secular state per se, but to the ways in which politicians have conducted their business.
Their inability, incompetence or dishonesty are the things to blame, not the secular model itself. The Indian–Pakistani cases ﬁt here, since in both cases the state did not do enough to provide every minority with full rights. On the other hand, Juergensmeyer stresses a deeper, more powerful overarching critique. Christian militias in the US, Hamas militants and radical Zionists share a view of the secular state as not se ing a good enough moral standard for their peoples to live by.
Non-religious states are perceived by these movements as a moral threat to be destroyed. What many of them seem to reject is secularism more than nationalism, although global networks (Jihad International is the best example) have emerged to challenge nation states as well.
— By Marisol Lopez-Menendez, a doctoral candidate in Sociology at the New School for Social Research
05: With China rising as the new economic and political world power in the late twentieth century, Chinese Religiosities (University of California Press, $29.95), a volume edited by Mayfair Mei-Hui Yang, is a response to Talal Asad’s call for a new approach to social science, which has always studied religion, myths and rituals as social manifestations needing interpretation.
The book is also a recognition that there are a plurality of secularization processes and secular ideologies in the modern world. This timely and rich volume contributes to the important question of what made Chinese secularization diﬀerent from the Western experience. This ambitious volume looks at the diverse religiosities in China through the transitions of modernization and state formation, which coincided with the twentieth century.
The volume ably documents the empirical changes that Chinese religious life underwent during the modernization process. The collection of essays by historians, anthropologists, sociologists and religious studies scholars provides a historical background to the vicissitudes of Chinese religious life in the twentieth century, a period of cataclysmic social change, warfare, trauma, poverty and rapid growth of economy in the 1990s. At least two genealogies are stated in this secularization experience: ﬁrstly, the structure of religious-political authority in China’s past; and, secondly, the semi-colonial history of China’s entry into modernity.
The essays cover a wide range of traditions and new religions, including Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Confucianism, Protestantism, Falun Gong, and popular religions both in China and Taiwan However, this volume is somewhat incomplete because other Chinese societies, such as Singapore and Hong Kong, were not included in this research.
— By Weishan Huang, a doctoral candidate in Sociology at the New School for Social Research
06: Religion and Democracy in Contemporary Europe, edited by Gabriel Motzkin and Yochi Fischer, is a new 200-page report by the Alliance Publishing Trust that brings together leading scholars on European religion to focus on the “religious resurgence” and how it relates to social and political processes in the region.
The volume oﬀers a conceptual, historical and empirical examination of religion and democracy in contemporary Europe, covering such topics as secularization, religion and education, the Islamic revival in Europe, changing church–state relations, and religion and youth. In one chapter, Jose Casanova examines the secular identity of Europe and why many Europeans view religion as leading to conﬂict and jeopardizing democracy, while tracing how notions of European integration and democracy had religious roots and still have the support of the various religions.
In another chapter, Detlef Pollack surveys religious change in Europe, arguing that the data still supports secularization, even if there are signs that religion is also changing in more deinstitutionalized directions. There is a chapter on how previous patterns of state regulation of religion are changing under a new cultural and ethical pluralism (exceeding the older religious pluralism), resulting from both a new individualism and immigration. All this can result in a new religious dimension in politics and public life, throwing the various church–state arrangements into ﬂux all across Europe.
The report can be downloaded at: www.neﬁc.org/ documents.php