Long deemed to be “privatized” or marginalized in a context of “secularization”, religion has returned to the center of politics and societal macro-conflict, if it ever was out. With a comparative focus on Christianity and Islam in Western Europe and North America, this course looks at religion as foundational, society- and civilization-making force and as contemporary political actor seeking to influence law and public policy. Among the issues to be discussed in this course is the classic comparative-historical sociology of religion by Max Weber; the linkage between “religion” and “politics” as concepts and realities; the meanings and empirical varieties of “secularism” and “secularization”; the relationship between religion, democracy, nationalism; and a comparison of the Christian Right in the United States and of Islam in Europe as contemporary challenges to the secular state.

 

This course follows closely the instructor`s recent book, The Secular State Under Siege: Religion and Politics in Europe and America (Cambridge: Polity 2015). Apart from this book, students will read some of the best recent (and some classic) writings in the sociology and politics of religion, which helped the instructor to navigate the field.

 

Note: The focus of this class is mostly on developments in Western Europe (historically: Latin Christianity) and the United States. This simply reflects the instructor`s competence (or lesser knowledge about other regions of the world). However, students are actively encouraged to draw comparisons with and inputs from their own regions of interest and competence, even in class! The insight (hopefully) gained about “Western” developments may thus help to sharpen the sense for variations and similarities with “Eastern” (or “Southern” etc.) developments.