REL 106 Spring 2015 Is God Dead? Secularization in the Modern World

In 1966, Time magazine published an edition titled "Is God Dead?", alluding to Friedrich Nietzsche's famous proclamation that "God is dead." The Time edition examined the growing number of people in the United States who proclaimed disbelief in organized religion or in God. Today, one in five people in the United States identify as "none" when asked about their religious affiliation. This trend is one important component of what has come to be known as "secularization." At the same time, however, the idea that religion is increasingly disappearing or becoming irrelevant has been significantly challenged by the rise of the "religious right" in the United States, as well as Islamism, Hindu nationalism, and many other religious revival movements across the globe. This course will take a theoretical and global comparative perspective to understand the nature of secularization in the modern world. Has secularization taken place or not? What does it mean to say we live in a secular society? Is it the case that "Western" society is secular whereas the rest of the world is not? The course will answer such questions by beginning with broad historical narratives and theoretical accounts that propose various interpretations of secularization as a historical process (focusing primarily on Peter Berger, Steve Bruce, Jose Casanova, and Charles Taylor). The remainder of the course will then explore a variety of case studies from the Americas, the Middle East, India, and East Asia to nuance and complicate those theories and narratives. We will explore how the very idea of secularization presupposes a constructed notion of ┬┐religion┬┐ and will think about the implications of that secular-religion binary.
Class Format: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: active participation, two short essays (4-5 pages), in-class mid-term exam, and final project
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Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preference: prospective Religion majors
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Divisional Attributes: Division II
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Enrollment Limit: 25
Expected Enrollment: 10
Class Number: 3995
REL 106 - 01 (S) SEM Secularism in the Modern World Division 2: Social Studies Zaid Adhami
MR 1:10 PM-2:25 PM Schapiro Hall 141 3995
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