I am a comparative historian of early Christianity who reads widely in and engages in academic forums around new religious movements and popular and local religious forms, both contemporary and ancient. I…
Original essays reflecting on current events, debates in the field, and other public matters relevant to scholarship in secularism and religion.
"It has long been known that Muslims constitute the proverbial public enemy number one for right-wing populists across the Western world. What is new and relatively unprecedented in the Norwegian context, however, is the active embrace and instrumentalization of what Rogers Brubaker has referred to as “Christianist secularism” by Norwegian populist right-wingers in government. Given that Norway happens to be among the most secularized countries on earth by any standard measure developed by classical secularization theory (with steadily declining Christian church membership, attendance, and baptism), what Norwegian populist right-wingers offer is, of course, a culturalized Christianity largely devoid of any substantive content relating to faith."
The matter of the love-hate relationship between psychoanalysis and public life has an unexpected link to the complexities of secularism in the United States. Officially, psychoanalysis has been dismissed as a mode of inquiry into the issues of public life and especially into the states of mind of its actors. This is the result of the famous Goldwater Rule, introduced into the ethics code of the American Psychiatric Association following the 1964 presidential election, when analysts had the temerity to “diagnose” Barry Goldwater without the benefit of having him on their couches.
It would not have taken long for French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan to realize that President Donald Trump has a paranoid vision of the world. This does not mean that President Trump is insane, but rather that he has never left the mental space we all inhabited as toddlers and that we have never entirely forgotten. A glimpse of this place comes vividly to mind when we feel insanely jealous, dismissed, or ignored. But most adults no longer live here day in and day out, because the love we took in as children is usually strong enough to help us fashion an image of ourselves that we can rely upon when we feel challenged . . . . The paranoid structure is not foreign to us because it is a rigid, simplified, and distorted version of the ordinary way we see the world. In that sense President Trump’s behaviors, discourse, and actions are not as erratic as they appear. They follow a logic that we are equipped to understand.
Can we hope for a better society? That is the animating question behind an ambitious project, the International Panel on Social Progress (IPSP). It exists to “harness the competence of hundreds of experts about social issues” and to “deliver a report addressed to all social actors, movements, organizations, politicians, and decision-makers, in order to provide them with the best expertise on questions that bear on social change.” Also modeled on the IPCC, drafts of the chapter reports are available for public comment. These are the collected responses to Chapter 16- Religions and Social Progress: Critical Assessments and Creative Partnerships, gathered from readers of The Immanent Frame. To read the original call for comments, written by coordinating lead authors Nancy Ammerman and Grace Davie, click here.