August 30, 2016

Modernity and the Death of God

The following are class notes taken during Professor Purvi Parikh’s Modernity and the Death of God.

16 08 30

Religion is acknowledgement of a guiding entity separate from that of the individual, be it a collective soul, nature, God, gods, goddesses, idols, or doctrines.

Hi! I enjoyed learning about Religions of India last year with you and decided to declare a Religion Studies minor, which is why I am taking this class. I am a Media & Communications major and hope to incorporate this knowledge into my future work as a journalist and documentarian. — ███ Littrell

16 09 01

Assumptions of modernity:

Modernity has a long history of being defined in different ways:

Kants idea of immaturity relates complacency with doctrine.

16 09 06


Approaches to religion:

16 09 08

Conceptual, normative, and explanatory issues complicate religion.

Protestant Reformation:
(16th century)


Secularism is necessary for direct-access democracy. There are two forms:

  • Common ground—based on beliefs.
  • Independent ethic—based on reason.

Seek the overlapping consensus.

Citizenship: equality, freedom, individualism.

16 09 13

Secularism does not ensure tolerance.

16 09 15

Secularization and religious revival.

Secularization Theory:

  • Structural differentiation
  • Privatization of religion
  • Decline of religion

Rise of new religious movements in the 1980s.

De-privatization of religion.

Public role of religion in modernity:

  • Start new debates.
  • Take public stands.
  • Critique modern values.
  • Don’t impose norms or agendas.
  • Mobilize on the basis of issues.
  • Outcome dense matter. (?)

16 09 22

Talal Asad asserts that religion is constantly changing and is an important part of public debate, contrary to popular secular belief.

16 09 27

Asad asserts that human rights are inherently connected to civil rights.

16 09 29

Sabr (صَبْرٌ): Endurance, perseverance, persistence.

Agency, freedom, resistance to subordination.

16 10 04

Perspectives on agency:

  • Conventional: Capacity to act from one’s will in the absence of authority.
  • Saba Mahmood: Capacity for action enabled by subordination.

16 10 06

  • Peace of Westphalia (1948)—The result of warring among Christians brought state sovereignty and religious freedom.
  • Ottoman Empire (1299-1922)—The decline of the Ottomans led to English state recognition through secular statehood.
  • Treaty of Versailles (1919)—Developed nation-states and the notion of the minority.

16 10 13

The Impossibility of Religious Freedom:

Lived religion, religious vs secular, public vs private, dogma, pluralism, mainstream vs personal, thought vs action, orthodoxy vs orthopraxy, first amendment, high vs low iconography, credibility, authority.

16 10 18

Religious freedom is impossible because it would require a universal definition of religion.

16 11 03

16 11 08

  • Wendy Brown—Tolerance is not freedom
  • Depoliticization, personal ethic vs political discourse, post-9/11
  • Substituting emotional vocabulary for political problems (?)


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