Habermas explores the post-secularist society

In a recent article for the german Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik, which luckily got translated by sightandsign.com, Habermas contemplates about religious developments and tendencies, the tradition of tolerance, multiculturalism and the notion of ‘post-secularism’:

… what interests me in the present context is the question of whether a secularist devaluation of religion, if it were one day to be shared by the vast majority of secular citizens, is at all compatible with that post-secular balance between shared citizenship and cultural difference I have outlined. Or would the secularistic mindset of a relevant portion of the citizenry be just as unappetizing for the normative self-understanding of a post-secular society as the fundamentalist leaning of a mass of religious citizens? This question touches on deeper roots of the present unease than the “multiculturalist drama”. Which kind of problem do we face? …

In this interesting article he begins with a redefinition of the european and some other areas like Canada, Australia, … as post-secularist, for having been secularist before the current development. I purposefully used the word redefined here, as during the text he states that the described secular way – like Europe – had it, nowadays must be described as a ‘Sonderform’ and not vice versa, regarding the development and integration of religious trends and movements worldwide.

A “post-secular” society must at some point have been in a “secular” state. The controversial term can therefore only be applied to the affluent societies of Europe or countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, where people’s religious ties have steadily or rather quite dramatically lapsed in the post-War period. These regions have witnessed a spreading awareness that their citizens are living in a secularized society. In terms of sociological indicators, the religious behavior and convictions of the local populations have by no means changed to such an extent as to justify labeling these societies “post-secular”. Here, trends towards de-institutionalized and new spiritual forms of religiosity have not offset the tangible losses by the major religious communities.(1) …..
…. Nevertheless, global changes and the visible conflicts that flare up in connection with religious issues give us reason to doubt whether the relevance of religion has waned. ….

…. Lately, in the wake of the not unfounded criticism of a narrow Eurocentric perspective, there is even talk of the ‘end of the secularization theory’.(4) The United States, with the undiminished vibrancy of its religious communities and the unchanging proportion of religiously committed and active citizens, nevertheless remains the spearhead of modernization. It was long regarded as the great exception to the secularising trend, yet informed by the globally extended perspective on other cultures and world religions, the United States now seems to exemplify the norm.

From this revisionist view, the European development, whose Occidental rationalism was once supposed to serve as a model for the rest of the world, is actually the exception rather than the norm – treading a deviant path. We and not they are pursuing a sonderweg.(5) Above all, three overlapping phenomena converge to create the impression of a worldwide ‘resurgence of religion’: the missionary expansion (a), a fundamentalist radicalisation (b), and the political instrumentalisation of the potential for violence innate in many of the world religions (c). ….

(read on)

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