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.
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.
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.
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.
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.