Understanding the New Visibility of Religion

Religion as Problem and Utility

in Journal of Religion in Europe
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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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5

 Cf. David Herbert, “Theorizing Religion and Media in Contemporary Societies: An Account of religious ‘Publicization’,” European Journal of Cultural Studies 14/6 (2011), 626–648, at 632.

7

Nilüfer Göle, “The public visibility of Islam and European politics of resentment: The minarets-mosques debate,” Philosophy & Social Criticism 37/4 (2011), 383–392, at 388.

8

James V. Spickard, “What is Happening to Religion? Six Sociological Narratives,” Nordic Journal of Religion and Society, 19/1 (2006), 13–29.

11

José Casanova, Public Religions in the Modern World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 212.

15

Casanova, Public Religions, 19–39. In later work Casanova has toned down even the connection between modernity and differentiation: José Casanova, “Rethinking secularization: a global comparative perspective,” The Hedgehog Review 8/1–2 (2006), 7–22.

17

Herbert, “Theorizing Religion and Media,” 631.

18

Jürgen Habermas, “Notes on a Post-Secular Society,” Sign and Sight (2008). [http://print.signandsight.com/features/1714, (accessed 16 September 2014); Michele Dillon, “Can Post-Secular Society Tolerate Religious Differences?” Sociology of Religion, 71/2 (2010), 39–56; Steve Bruce, Secularization: In Defence of an Unfashionable Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 203.

22

Lori Beaman, “The Will to Religion: Obligatory Religious Citizenship,” Critical Research on Religion ½ (2013), 141–157, at 146; cf. Gregor McLennan, “Towards Postsecular Sociology?” Sociology 41/5 (2007), 857–870.

25

Bruce, Secularization, 171.

27

Adam Dinham, Faiths, Public Policy and Civil Society: Problems, Policies, Controversies (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); Adam Dinham and Robert Jackson, “Religion, Welfare and Education,” in Linda Woodhead and Rebecca Catto (eds.), Religion and Change in Modern Britain (London: Routledge, 2010), 271–294.

28

Dinham and Jackson, “Religion, Welfare and Education,” 272.

29

Woodhead, “Introduction,” 1; Linda Woodhead, “Liberal Religion and Illiberal Secularism,” in Gavin D’Costa, Malcolm Evans, Tariq Modood and Julian Rivers (eds.), Religion in a Liberal State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 93–116.

31

Woodhead, “Introduction,” 11.

32

Alex Callinicos, Social Theory: A Historical Introduction (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007).

34

Grace Davie, Religion in Britain since 1945 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994); Karen M. Anderson, “The Church as Nation? The Role of Religion in the Development of the Swedish Welfare State,” in Philip Manow and Kees van Kersbergen (eds.), Religion, Class Coalitions, and Welfare States (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 210–325.

36

Dinham and Jackson, “Religion, Welfare and Education,” 272.

38

Dinham and Jackson, “Religion, Welfare and Education,” 276.

43

Ronan McCrea, Religion and the Public Order of the European Union (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

44

Bruce, Secularization, 203.

45

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).

46

Bruce, Secularization, 219.

48

Titus Hjelm, “Introduction: Islam and Muslims in European News Media,” Journal of Religion in Europe, 5/2 (2012), 137–139.

49

Beckford, “Religious Diversity and Social Problems,” 59.

50

Beckford, “Religious Diversity and Social Problems,” 59.

51

Dinham and Jackson, “Religion, Welfare and Education,” 272.

54

Titus Hjelm, “Paradoxes of Religious Legitimacy and Authenticity in an Age of Expediency.” A paper presented at the annual conference of the British Sociological Association, 24 April 2014; Titus Hjelm, “Religion, Discourse and Power: Outline of a Critical Agenda for the Sociology of Religion,” Critical Sociology, 40/6 (2014a), 855–871.

58

David Herbert, “Theorizing Religion and Media,” 633.

59

 e.g. Lynn Schofield Clark, From Angels to Aliens: Teenagers, the Media, and the Supernatural (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

61

David Herbert, “Theorizing Religion and Media,” 627.

63

Jeffrey Hadden, “Toward Desacralizing Secularization Theory,” Social Forces, 65/3 (1987), 587–611.

64

Dinham and Jackson, “Religion, Welfare and Education,” 289.

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