Foundations Course II: Religion and Secularism
On-going debates on the secular and the religious call for a rethinking of the historical, analytical and conceptual frames under which common concepts of these two were conceived. In particular, this rethinking has to integrate changing forms of religious expression and the globalization of religious movements. The secularization thesis arose from particular developments within (Western) Christianity, and it expanded into religions across the world predicated upon secularist ideas. Much of the academic and public discussions alike draw on contemporary developments in and with Christian and Muslim communities in secular and religious contexts. While European models of Christianity in its Western versions seem to have reached a certain dynamic in relation to the secular, Islam and to some extent Eastern Christianity are still seen as normative categories, inherently not open to secularism and emblematically embodied in the question of church/state relation and thus dependent on endogenous, religious explanations for secularism. The course will compare new theoretical approaches and debates, based on newer and ‘classical’ literature and a number of case studies. In this context, and in order to broaden the traditional Western Christian focus, comparison will be drawn to similar issues pertaining to the Eastern Christian Churches and Islam.
The course is conceived in a manner as to achieve the following learning outcomes and goals. Students will:
- be introduced to major theories regarding secularism and religion in general and Christianity and Islam in particular;
- be offered an overview to recent debates about the so-called ‘post-secular’ age;
- be exposed to develop at once an interdisciplinary and comparative perspective on these questions;
- learn to evaluate critically theories and case studies deriving from the study of religion, history, sociology and social anthropology, political thought.
The grade is composed of a) class presentations 30%, b) the Final Paper (50%) and c) participation in class discussion (10%) and leading of discussion 10%. The final paper could be either a research paper or a written exam and it will be assigned by mid-term between professor and student on one of the issues arising from the seminar.