This article examines recent debates about the ‘return of religion’ to the European public sphere. It argues that there is widespread confusion between religion being more visible and religion having more impact on contemporary societies. The article asks what the 'new visibility of religion' means, how religion is contested and renegotiated in the public arena—or rather, in different publics—and what the effects of these struggles are on society, state and religion itself. It does so by providing an analytical overview five distinct approaches to the new visibility of religion: desecularization, de-privatization and post-secularity; the effects of ‘welfare utopianism’ on public religion; religion as a social problem; religion as expedient; and the mediatization or publicization of religion. The article concludes that what we are witnessing is a ‘secular return’ of religion, where religion is relevant for public discourse only by virtue of being either problematic or useful.
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Lori Beaman, “The Will to Religion: Obligatory Religious Citizenship,”Critical Research on Religion½ (2013), 141–157, at 146; cf. Gregor McLennan, “Towards Postsecular Sociology?” Sociology 41/5 (2007), 857–870.
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Mehdi Hasan, “What the jihadists who bought ‘Islam for Dummies’ on Amazon tell us about radicalisation,”New Statesman, 21 August 2014. http://www.newstatesman.com/religion/2014/08/what-jihadists-who-bought-islam-dummies-amazon-tell-us-about-radicalisation, (accessed 17 September 2014).
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