Six short reflections contribute to an ongoing conversation about the value of history to any analysis of secularism, religion, and the interactions between the two.
Does it matter if you are Muslim? Lately it seems to matter very much. By drawing our attention to the presumptions embedded in the term “Muslim,” Elizabeth Shakman Hurd’s essay and Cemil Aydın’s book aim to help us think our way out of Islamophobic patterns of thought. As both scholars point out, these patterns run deep across the ideological spectrum. At the heart of both arguments is the concern that contemporary political discourse accords an exceptional status to Islam as a totalizing ideology (as opposed to a mere religion), and to Muslims as a transnational body of believers united in their worldview and political aims.
What is reality? This is a question historians and philosophers can ask together. Let me use it to ponder the story under review, in which immanence is retrieved from secularization as a history in its own right, one whose telling will uncover resources for thinking in the present. This is a history on the more mobile end of the spectrum. But unlike secularization, there might be real stakes and risks here, both popular and scholarly. The tone is not only one of, Look what we might do with Western theological thinking on the wane. If only it was on the wane, or was not. It is also, Did you not realize there has been another story all along? Nietzsche knew it, though he was no born-again pagan. Leo Strauss knew it, Augustine knew it, Baruch Spinoza knew it, and so on: choose your own adventure. Knew what?