August 5, 2002


Swapping 'Religion' for 'Postsecularism' (PETER STEINFELS, 8/03/02, New York Times)
Is it time for those who study religion and those who preach it to take advantage of an ordinary four-letter word with extraordinary impact? A word that declares something new by declaring something old? A word that conjures up groundbreaking developments in ideas and sensibilities?

The word is "post." [...]

Fierce debates have broken out about why some leading postmodernist and postcolonial theorists often seem to beincomprehensible. Is it because they are working at the far edges of existing notions, or because they are merely bad writers, or because they are actually talking nonsense? So far, those debates have not detracted from the theorists' standing.

What a contrast to many religious thinkers and researchers, who often feel they should be on their best behavior if they are to be respectable members of the academy. They are cautious. They suppress subjectivity. They approximate the impersonal style of science.

Meanwhile, the eccentricities of prose and obscurities of jargon that are tolerated, even welcomed, among the posts suggest a different strategy for achieving both scholarly standing and intellectual leeway.

The lesson is obvious. Those who study, articulate or propound the beliefs and practices by which most of humanity tries to place itself in relationship with the transcendent should post themselves. They should simply drop that old-fashioned word "religion." What they are about, they should announce, is "postsecularism."

Another very good piece from the Times. Does Howell Raines know about this? Posted by Orrin Judd at August 5, 2002 10:49 AM
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