Habermas and the Meaning of the Post-Secular Society: Twin Complementary Learning Processes

Habermas and the Meaning of the Post-Secular Society: Twin Complementary Learning Processes

Michael R. Welton (Athabasca University, Canada)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6086-9.ch002

Abstract

This chapter uses Jurgen Habermas' controversial and contested term “post-secular” to examine how we, the citizens of the world, might live reasonably amicably in a globalized, conflict-ridden world where some form of religious decline has taken place, where globalization has disrupted this decline to some extent, and where religions do, in fact, undergo renewal in modernity. This chapter examines how we might deepen inter-faith dialogue as well as our understanding of how secular and non-secular citizens can speak openly and learn from and with each other.
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Introduction

My goal in this chapter is to use Jurgen Habermas’ controversial and contested term, “post-secular,” to examine how we can live in a globalized, conflictual world where some form of religious decline has taken place, where globalization has disrupted this decline to some extent and where religion does, in fact, undergo different forms of renewal in modernity. In his important article, “What is ‘postsecular’ about global political discourse,” Benjamin Schewel (2014) presents us with seven prominent scholarly approaches to the “post-secular” nature of world societies. Habermas is situated in “Post-secular Approach 7, which states: “Purely secular accounts of human affairs hinder our ability to negotiate and respond to the challenges facing contemporary society” (p. 57). I will focus on Habermas with a few side glances to other perspectives. Schewel makes it abundantly clear that the term has a “constitutive ambiguity and the rapid evolution of contemporary reality” (p. 50) unsettles definitive scholarly declarations.

My argument is that if we are to live together reasonably amicably in a dangerous and conflictual world where a variety of world-orientations (secular and religious) reside uneasily within a global political landscape that could explode in many terrifying ways requires the setting in motion more fully two complementary, intersecting learning processes. First, we will explore some of the barriers and possibilities of deepening inter-faith dialogues. My assumption here is that different religious-communities need to learn together to lay the groundwork for the creation of the larger conversable, just society. Secondly, we need to deepen our understanding of how secular and non-secular citizens can sit at a common table, speaking with one another about the requisites of the good society. At the outset of this daunting task, we must recognize that formidable obstacles exist for the possibility of both learning processes to be complementary. This complex exploration engages Habermas’ thinking on religion and post-secularity as the starting-point framework for this twin pedagogical project that replaces the speechlessness of violence with the amicable building of the conversable world.

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