Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Nuancing the Post-Secular

Three things that the religious turn mentioned below, so far as I can tell, does not mean:

1.  Academia's religious turn does not mean that the prejudice against religion in higher education has gone away.  In fact, the new situation might intensify this prejudice among those who are particularly uncomfortable with, unprepared for, or even angered by recent developments.  The new interest in religion is in no way universal.  New books emphasizing the secular could be added to the ones I listed, even if they are not as numerous.  As I suggested, the interest in religion is one facet, albeit a rather significant one, in a much more complex condition, which it is beyond the powers of a blog to reveal.

2.  Academia's religious turn does not mean that religious academic communities - Christian colleges, for example - are automatically ahead of the curve.  At its best, Christian academia functions as a haven from anti-religious prejudice where serious scholarship can occur (hence guild standards still apply).  At its worst, Christian academia offers a haven from broader academia's more serious standards as well; and there is no reason to think that wider academic interest in religion will somehow remedy that situation.  But should such standards be held to (without forsaking the "emic" edge), the new scenario could put certain religious academic communities ahead of the curve, provided they invest the necessary resources into research in addition to teaching, thereby both exploiting and enhancing the current situation.

3.  Academia's religious turn does not mean that a scholarly emphasis on religion is entirely new.  How can scholarship that claims to seriously study human culture consistently ignore, dismiss, explain away or suppress a phenomenon as massive as religion?  Yet in many sectors it did.  Consequently, the religious "turn" is in some ways a return to normative scholarship, an inevitable fraying of a calculated prejudice which it took a great deal of energy to uphold - energy than many are simply tired of expending.

That is all, dear readers.