Category Archives: Book Announcements

Research Report: “Religion in Public Life: Levelling the Ground”, by Grace Davie

It is a commonplace, nowadays, to say that religion has returned to public life. And like most commonplaces it is partially true. Religion is most certainly present in public life in new and highly visible ways but to imply that religion was once nowhere and is now everywhere is seriously misleading.

We need instead to enquire into the factors that have brought about the current shift in perspective. That done, we must examine in detail the different – and at times contrasting – ways in which religion manifests itself is the very varied segments of society that we deem to be public.

In this report, sociologist of religion Professor Grace Davie draws on her 2016 Edward Cadbury Lectures to explore the ‘return’ of religion to public life, analysing a series of ‘levels’ – local, metropolitan, national, and global – and considering why and how we have got here, and what the future holds for religion in Britain. 

The report is available for download at https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/research/2017/10/28/religion-in-public-life-levelling-the-ground

Grace Davie is Professor Emeritus at the University of Exeter. She is author of numerous works on religion and society, including Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox (2015, 2nd edition).

New Book: The i-zation of Society, Religion, and Neoliberal Post-Secularism

The i-zation of Society, Religion, and Neoliberal Post-Secularism

Possamai, Adam

https://www.palgrave.com/br/book/9789811059414#aboutBook

This book explores the elective affinity of religion and post-secularism with neoliberalism. With the help of digital capitalism, neoliberalism dominates, more and more, all aspects of life, and religion is not left unaffected. While some faith groups are embracing this hegemony, and others are simply following the signs of the times, changes have been so significant that religion is no longer what it used to be. Linking theories from Fredric Jameson and George Ritzer, this book presents the argument that our present society is going through a process of i-zation in which (1) capitalism dominates not only our outer, social lives (through, for example, global capitalism) but also our inner, personal lives, through its expansion in the digital world, facilitated by various i-technology applications; (2) the McDonaldization process has now been normalized; and (3) religiosity has been standardized. Reviewing the new inequalities present in this i-society, the book considers their impact on Jurgen Habermas’s project of post-secularism, and appraises the roles that various religions may have in supporting and/or countering this process. It concludes by arguing that Habermas’s post-secular project will occur but that, paradoxically, the religious message(s) will be instrumentalized for capitalist purposes.

New Book: “An Introduction to Swaminarayan Hindu Theology”

Book Announcement:

An Introduction to Swaminarayan Hindu Theology by Sadhu Paramtattvadas (Cambridge 2017) is a constructive presentation of Swaminarayan theology and an important text for Swaminarayan and Hindu studies. Swaminarayan (1781-1830) developed a theology, ethical discipline, and reform movement that continue to guide followers in India and abroad, notably in East Africa, UK, Europe, and North America. Swami Paramtattvadas’ Western education at Oxford (Professor Gavin Flood, doctoral advisor) and classical Hindu studies in India enable him to present this important Hindu theology with academic rigor, depth and clarity. His introduction is a valuable and accessible resource for comparative theology and interreligious dialogue.

http://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/religion/buddhism-and-eastern-religions/introduction-swaminarayan-hindu-theology?format=PB#332ISrRiM8CVviCG.97

Francis X. Clooney, SJ
Harvard University

Raymond Brady Williams
LaFollette Distinguished Professor in the Humanities emeritus
Wabash College

New from Springer: “Politics, Religion and Political Theology”

Allen Speight and Michael Zank (Eds.)

  • Wide range of disciplinary perspectives in the humanities, political theory, history, law and religious studies
  • One of the few volumes on political theology current with both a broad construal of the topic as a whole and specific discussions of key concepts such as conscience, secularism, and toleration
  • Contemporary investigation of political theology in light of thinkers influenced by the three major monotheistic traditions

This new volume gives discursive shape to several key facets of the relationship among politics, theology and religious thought. Powerfully relevant to a wealth of further academic disciplines including history, law and the humanities, it sharpens the contours of our understanding in a live and evolving field. It charts the mechanisms by which, contrary to the avowed secularism of many of today’s polities, theology and religion have often, and sometimes profoundly, shaped political discourse. By augmenting this broader analysis with a selection of authoritative papers focusing on the prominent sub-field of political theology, the anthology offsets a startling academic lacuna. Alongside focused analysis of subjects such as conscience, secularism and religious tolerance, the discussion of political theology examines the tradition’s critical moments, including developments during the post-World War I Weimar republic in Germany and the epistemological imprint the theory has left behind in works by political thinkers influenced by the three major monotheistic traditions.

Springer Publications co-sponsors the RC-22 Ivan Varga Prize for New Generation Scholars

New from Springer: “Discourses of Religion and Secularism in Religious Education Classrooms”

Author: Karin Kittelmann Flensner

  • Analyses discourses of religion that predominate in non-confessional Religious Education in Sweden
  • Discusses Religious Education based on empirical examples
  • Illustrates how secularism is expressed and becomes hegemonic in the classroom practice of Religious Education and discusses implications of this in a pluralistic society

This book answers the question on how students and teachers talk about religion when the mandatory and nonconfessional school subject of Religious Education is on the schedule in the “world’s most secular country” To do this, it analyses discourses of religion as they occur in the classroom practice. It is based on findings from participant observation of Religious Education lessons in several upper secondary schools in Sweden. The book discusses different aspects of the role and function of nonconfessional integrative Religious Education in an increasingly pluralistic, multireligious, yet also secularized society, at a general level. It looks at the religious landscape, different perspectives on school subjects, various models and the development of Religious Education, and discourses of religion of a secularist, spiritual and nationalistic nature.

Religious Education is a school subject that manoeuvres in the midst of a field that on the one hand concerns crucial knowledge in a pluralistic society, and on the other hand deals with highly contested questions in a society characterized by diversity and secularity. In the mandatory, integrative and non-confessional school subject of Religious Education in Sweden, all students are taught together regardless of religious or secular affiliation. The subject deals with major world religions, important non-religious worldviews and ethics, from a non-confessional perspective. Thus, in the classroom, individuals who identify with diverse religious and non-religious worldviews, with a different understanding of what religion could be and what it might mean to be religious, are brought together. The book examines questions raised in this pluralistic context: What discourses of religion become hegemonic in the classroom? How do these discourses affect the possibility of reaching the aim of Religious Education which concerns understanding and respect for different ways of thinking and living in a society characterized by diversity?

Springer Publications co-sponsors the RC-22 Ivan Varga Prize for New Generation Scholars

New from Springer: “New Religions and State’s Response to Religious Diversification in Contemporary Vietnam”

Authors: Hoang, Chung Van

  • Is the first work in English to comprehensively cover new and indigenous religious groups in post-Renovation Vietnam
  • Takes an interdisciplinary and comparative approach to study three distinct new religious groups
  • Gives a voice to religious minorities that are often the victim of stereotyping, misunderstanding, and punitive treatment
  • Brings together discussions of changing State-religion relations in Vietnam and in East and Southeast Asia in light of the thesis of multiple-modernities

This book approaches newly emerging religious groups through the interplay between religious and non-religious spheres in the specific context of Vietnam. It considers the new religious groups as a part of religious reconfiguration in Vietnam caused by intensified interactions among these spheres. It explores changes of relationship between religions, and changes between the religious sphere and the political, economic and public spheres in contemporary Vietnam. Specifically, it traces trajectories of religious development in relation to politico-economic changes in this rapidly modernising nation. It tests a hypothesis that at least some new yet unrecognized new religious groups have a positive/ active role in modernisation rather than a negative/reactive role.

To this end, the book draws on a number of research approaches and methodologies in an effort to provide readers with a multi-faceted understanding of Vietnam’s new religious groups. The research is interdisciplinary in orientation, drawing on sociology and anthropology. It is also comparative in that it bases its argument on a consideration of three distinct new religious groups in Vietnam. The research is also qualitative and ethnographic in that it drew on some of the techniques associated with participant observation during a sustained period of fieldwork amongst the three religious groups.

The concept of religious reconfiguration developed in this book provides a framework for the study of religion in Vietnam which opens the way to further analysis from a comparative perspective. Meanwhile, an emphasis upon religious reinvention which addresses processes of remaking, transforming, legitimating and accommodating can be useful for research into New Religious Movements elsewhere in Asia. A research in the challenges of new religions could act as a catalyst for interdisciplinary studies based on detailed empirical study of religious diversity and of religious freedom by other scholars. It is hoped that this research might help to give a voice to religious minorities that are often the victim of stereotyping, misunderstanding, and punitive treatment.

The book is suitable for post-graduate students and social researchers who are interested in religious revival, religious diversification, State-religion relationships, and State’s regulation of new religions. 

Springer Publications co-sponsors the RC-22 Ivan Varga Prize for New Generation Scholars

New from Springer: “New Atheism: Critical Perspectives and Contemporary Debates”

Editors: Cotter, Christopher R., Quadrio, Philip Andrew, Tuckett, Jonathan (Eds.)

  • Considers the place and impact of the New Atheism in contemporary social and intellectual life
  • Tackles a contemporary, contentious phenomenon by examining the significance of the debate from a variety of perspectives, presenting the best-rounded scholarly account of the New Atheism to date
  • Collects the work of international, highly renowned scholars from different disciplines and features interdisciplinary and innovative approaches

Whether understood in a narrow sense as the popular works of a small number of (white male) authors, or as a larger more diffuse movement, twenty-first century scholars, journalists, and activists from all ‘sides’ in the atheism versus theism debate, have noted the emergence of a particular form of atheism frequently dubbed ‘New Atheism’. The present collection has been brought together to provide a scholarly yet accessible consideration of the place and impact of ‘New Atheism’ in the contemporary world.

Combining traditional and innovative approaches, chapters draw on the insights of philosophers, religious studies scholars, sociologists, anthropologists, and literary critics to provide never-before-seen insights into the relationship between ‘New Atheism’, science, gender, sexuality, space, philosophy, fiction and much more. With contributions from Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom, the volume also presents diversity in regard to religious/irreligious commitment, with contributions from atheists, theists and more agnostic orientations.

New Atheism: Critical Perspectives and Contemporary Debates features an up-to-date overview of current research on ‘New Atheism’, a Foreword from Stephen Bullivant (co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Atheism), and eleven new chapters with extensive bibliographies that will be important to both a general audience and to those conducting research in this area. It provides a much-needed fresh look at a contentious phenomenon, and will hopefully encourage the cooperation and dialogue which has predominantly been lacking in relevant contemporary debates.

Springer Publications co-sponsors the RC-22 Ivan Varga Prize for New Generation Scholars