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Faith as an Option: Possible Futures for Christianity (Cultural Memory in the Present) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 3. September 2014

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"The leading sociologist working today in the German language, Joas is also the leading expert on American pragmatism, a creative pragmatist in his own right, and one of the most prominent interlocutors between American and European social thought. His book offers original understanding of one of the most debated fields in the social sciences, namely the thesis of the secularization of modern societies and the place and future possibilities of 'religion' in Western secular societies. Faith As an Option should challenge the assumptions not only of specialists, but also of the educated public, 'believers' and 'unbelievers' alike." - Jose Casanova, Georgetown University

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Hans Joas is Ernst Troeltsch Professor for the Sociology of Religion at the Humboldt University of Berlin and Professor of Sociology and Social Thought at the University of Chicago.


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Lots of helpful ideas, a few questionable ones 13. Dezember 2014
Von tspencer - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
This book felt a bit more like a “state of my thinking” document than a book (a fact reflected by the somewhat disjunctive title and subtitle), but it is full of interesting and useful theses.

Joas challenges the teleological secularization thesis and offers an alternative “wave” model starting with the French Revolution and ending (for now) with the 1960s. He prefers to think of modernity as a condition of heightened “contingency” rather than one of increased disenchantment or disbelief, and suggests that there is a legitimate form of religious commitment in an age of contingency.

He also reminds us that at the end of the day, “religions” or “civilizations” do not act for themselves, only individual agents do. This is especially important to remember in discussing the relation of religion and violence.

I appreciate his nuance on ecumenicism and inter-religious dialogue. Finding common ground is both possible and necessary, but cannot and should not simply replace the particularity one’s religious experience and religious tradition. This process is necessarily an ongoing balancing act.

I really enjoyed this book at the outset, but had a more mixed reaction by the end. One reason is that he crosses the line (which he comments in the book itself) between a purely scientific voice and the voice of the cultural commentator. In itself, this is fine, perhaps even appropriate. But these transitions in the text need to unambiguous. A second, more important reason is that the Christian future he recommends seems indifferent to some of his own sociological insights. He clearly wants an updated Christianity that is more purely “Axial.” In other words, he privileges a permanently self-critical ethical universalism under the sign of “love.” Although he does not say it, I feel like he is one more German romantic advocating a meta-Christianity as the religious form par excellence, which is little more than a form: a constantly self-revising universalism. The problem is that his own account of the genesis of values and religious commitments in experience, along with his defense of the particular, makes it unclear we would should buy into this ideal, which seems religious empty (like the churches that mostly closely approximate this ideal). It is shorthand for the liberal-democratic state (motivated somehow by “love”) and its international counterparts. It is telling in this regard when, right at the end of the book, he dismisses Catholic sexual ethics out of hand, and rejects the principle of “obedience to church doctrines” (135-36). For Joas, transcendence is a structural implication of religious experience, but is not the source of revelation. Instead, it is the space we imaginatively occupy for purposes of universalist self-critique.
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