Religion and Humanism

Until recently, it was widely assumed in the West that the whole world was becoming ever more secular, and that religion would fade away or become a purely private matter as people embraced the rational, scientific worldview associated with liberal democracy and the market, or more radical humanist alternatives. But religion has not only resolutely failed to disappear: in recent years it appears to have made a comeback, sweeping the developing world and increasingly sparking controversy in the West. Debates rage about veils, religious hatred, creationism and so on. Religious extremism, and more generally ‘faith-based politics’ are seen as a threat to secular liberalism. Meanwhile, religious communities often feel under siege, with their values not recognised or respected by wider society.

The chief critics of religion today are not revolutionaries and reformers, but scientists and other rationalists – the so-called New Atheists – seemingly bewildered by people’s willingness to believe without evidence. Whereas progressive critics once argued that religion breeds passivity, detractors now worry that it inspires a little too much political activism and fosters conflict. With the political significance of religion and atheism seemingly in flux, the meaning of ‘humanism’ is up for grabs. These reviews and articles explore the shifting debate about religion and humanism as expressed in popular culture and the arts, as well as books and current affairs.

Monday 23 January 2006

Gem of the Ocean

Tricycle Theatre, London

Here, the subject of slavery spans concepts of faith, religion, freedom, reason and law. Paulette Randall’s powerful production elicits terrific performances from this repertory cast. By maximising the impact of humour, drama and pathos - the ingredients of any great play, Randall sustains her audience’s focus.

Monday 21 February 2005

A permanent state of contradiction

The Paradoxical Primate, by Colin Talbot

Drawing on a wealth of literature from areas as diverse as management theory, economics and sociobiology, Talbot attempts to construct a pluralist view in the spirit of EO Wilson’s Consilience, in which the human mind is considered neither as a blank slate nor as entirely socially determined.

Friday 1 October 2004

The trouble with being human these days

Identity, by Zygmunt Bauman

The demise of social ‘narrative’ has not led to greater individual freedom, but to unreflective conformism to what is considered to be human nature.

Sunday 1 February 2004

Imagining the Soul

Rosalie Osmond

Like the contemporary self, the mystical mind which believed its soul would last for eternity was not a rational mind, yet that soul also reflected a progressive human trait which has been lost in our contemporary times – the sense that humanity at least shares some common interests.

Friday 5 December 2003

You’re so vain, you probably think this book is about you

Therapy Culture and the Therapistas

Frank Furedi’s Therapy Culture is neither an attack on the counselling profession nor on what they dismiss as ‘self-help’ culture, but a critique of our diminished view of humanity.

Saturday 1 March 2003

Judaism and Enlightenment

Adam Sutcliffe

Adam Sutcliffe’s basic argument, that Enlightenment thinkers had a confused attitude to Judaism, is made abundantly (and repeatedly) clear over the course of this scholarly and highly readable book.

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A collection of essays edited by Culture Wars editor Dolan Cummings

Institute of Ideas with Bishopsgate Institute: Secularism 2008 Series

The resurrection of religion: Moving beyond secularism or losing faith in politics?
Alex Hochuli interviewed Catholic sociologist François Houtart about religion, secularism and radical politics.

Political Theology
A journal of religion and politics

British Humanist Association

Christian think tank

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