Rethinking Secularism—with Raimon Panikkar

  • Fred Dallmayr
Part of the Culture and Religion in International Relations book series (CRIR)

Abstract

For a long time, Western society has been defined as secular and modernization has tended to be equated with secularization. Today, however, these notions are suddenly contested. More than a century after Nietzsche’s proclamation of the “death of God,” Gilles Kepel speaks alarmingly of “the revenge of God,” while Mark Juergensmeyer points to the prospect of a “new cold war” inspired by religious motives—a prospect that is often far from “cold” or speculative.1 Having emerged not long ago from European domination, Algeria has been plunged into a bloody nightmare pitting against each other religious “fundamentalists” and a “secular” military and business elite. On a lesser scale, similar feuds are brewing throughout North Africa and the Middle East—incipiently even extending to Turkey, which Kemal Pascha had supposedly made “safe” for secularism. Taking note of the brewing turmoil, many Western observers are wont to adopt a superior, condescending stance (not far from colonial conceit), blaming the conflicts on cultural and economic backwardness. Though comforting, this stance ignores, however, the emergence of similar troubles in the West, especially the rise of a militant religious “Right” bent on salvaging traditional faith from the inroads of secular democracy. Observers with a somewhat longer memory will recall the deep fissures afflicting many Western societies during the nineteenth century, especially the agonies of the so-called culture struggle (Kulturkampf) dividing these societies along religious versus secular lines.

Keywords

Cage Turkey Antimony Stake Clarification 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    See Gilles Kepel, The Revenge of God: The Resurgence of Islam, Christianity and Judaism in the Modern World, trans. Alan Braley (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994)Google Scholar
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  3. 2.
    Gerhard Lenski, The Religious Factor (New York: Doubleday 1961), p. 3. Extending this assessment beyond the confines of sociology, Rodney Stark and William S. Bainbridge reached a similar conclusion: “At least since the Enlightenment, most Western intellectuals have anticipated the death of religion. … The most illustrious figures in sociology, anthropology, and psychology have unanimously expressed confidence that their children, or surely their grandchildren, would live to see the dawn of a new era in which, to paraphrase Freud, the infantile illusions of religion would be outgrown.” See The Future of Religion (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), p. 1. Compare alsoGoogle Scholar
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    C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination (New York: Oxford University Press, 1959), pp. 32–33Google Scholar
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    Gabriel A. Almond and G. Bingham Powell, Jr., Comparative Politics: A Developmental Approach (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1966)Google Scholar
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  11. 5.
    See Robert N. Bellah, Beyond Belie f: Essays on Religion in a Post-Traditional World (New York: Harper & Row, 1970)Google Scholar
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  14. also Richard J. Neuhaus, The Naked Public Square (New York: Eerdmans, 1984). Regarding the sociological debate around the “secularization thesis” compare, e.g.Google Scholar
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  21. 6.
    Ioanna Kuçuradi, “Secularization and Human Rights,” in Bhuvan Chandel and Kuçuradi, eds., Cultural Traditions and the Idea of Secularization (Delhi: Centre for Studies in Civilizations, 1988), pp. 72–73. Turning to the theme announced in her title, Kuçuradi offers a characterization of “the’ secular’ state, the state of our age at the turn of the millennium”: “secular is the state whose law, in the broadest sense, is deduced from, and which is administered in accordance with, human rights.” As an aside, as one might note, the notion of secularization as temporalization does not imply the wholesale submergence of religion in historical flux. Whatever the role of the “eternal” may be, human responses to the calling of faith are inevitably temporal.Google Scholar
  22. 8.
    For some of Panikkar’s prominent writings see, e.g., Die vielen Götter und der eine Herr (Weilheim, Germany: Barth, 1963); Kerygma und Indien (Hamburg: Reich, 1967); L’homme qui devient Dieu (Paris: Aubier, 1970); The Intrareligious Dialogue (New York: Paulist Press, 1978); Myth, Faith and Hermeneutics (New York: Paulist Press, 1979); The Unknown Christ of Hinduism (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1981); The Silence of God: The Answer of the Buddha (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1989); and A Dwelling Place for Wisdom (Louisville, KY: Westminister, 1993). Compare also Joseph Prabhu, ed., The Intercultural Challenge of Raimon Panikkar (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1996).Google Scholar
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    Worship and Secular Man, pp. 28–30, 35–36. Regarding celebrations of heteronomous “exteriority,” the work of Emmanuel Levinas has exerted a particularly strong (and occasionally disorienting) influence. Compare, e.g., Levinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 1960); also his “God in Philosophy,” in Collected Philosophical Papers, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1987), pp. 150–165.Google Scholar
  24. 13.
    Panikkar, Worship and Secular Man, pp. 42, 47, 49–52. Offering a personal reflection he adds: “For me secularization represents the regaining of the sacramental structure of reality, the new awareness that real full human life is worship, because it is the very expression of the mystery of existence. Man is priest of the world, of the cosmic sacrament and we are closer today to accepting this truth also: that he is the prophet of this universe of ours, the celebrant of the sacrament of life and the ambassador of the realm of the spirit” (pp. 92–93). Regarding the “cosmotheandric” perspective see also Panikkar, The Cosmothe-andric Experience, ed. Scott Eastham (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1993). As an aside, one may perhaps prefer to regard the three models of heteronomy autonomy, and ontonomy more as ideal types than strictly as historical worldviews. Compare in this context alsoGoogle Scholar
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  26. 14.
    Panikkar, “Religion or Politics: The Western Dilemma,” in Peter H. Merkl and Ninian Smart, eds., Religion and Politics in the Modern World (New York: New York University Press, 1983), pp. 44–46.Google Scholar
  27. 18.
    Panikkar, Sacred Secularity (forthcoming; a Spanish version is near completion). Regarding the “middle voice” see Suzanne Kemmer, The Middle Voice (Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  29. 19.
    For some of these arguments see Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. Joan Stambaugh (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1996), pp. 49–58, 107–122, 304–306; “Letter on Humanism” and “The Question Concerning Technology,” in David F. Krell, ed., Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), pp. 193–242, 287–317.Google Scholar
  30. 20.
    See Manfred Riedel, “Frömmigkeit des Denkens,” and Jean Greisch, “Das grosse Spiel des Lebens und das Übermächtige,” in Paola-Lu-dovica Coriando, ed., “Herkunft aber bleibt stets Zukunft”: Martin Heidegger und die Gottesfrage (Frankfurt-Main: Klostermann, 1998), pp. 39, 55; also Heidegger, “Philosophische Interpretationen zu Aristoteles” (1922), in Dilthey Jahrbuch, 6 (1989): 197. Compare Richard Kearney and J. O’Leary eds., Heidegger et la question de Dieu (Paris: Grasset, 1980).Google Scholar

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© Fred R. Dallmayr 2002

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  • Fred Dallmayr

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