Global Religious and Secular Dynamics offers a global historical perspective that integrates European theories of modern secularization and competing theories of global religious revival as interrelated dynamics. In the first section Casanova examines the emergence of the modern religious/secular binary system of classification within a critical review of Émile Durkheim’s and Max Weber’s divergent theories of religion. The modern system of classification is contrasted with the pre-axial one, in which all reality was organized according to the binary sacred/profane, and with the post-axial one, which was organized according to the binary transcendent/immanent.
The second and third sections contrast the internal European road of secularization without religious pluralization with the external colonial road of global intercultural and religious encounters, particularly in Asia, that led to the global system of religious pluralism. The final section examines the contemporary intertwinement of religious and secular dynamics through the globalization of the immanent frame and the expansion of global denominationalism.
Fifty years ago, as I was finishing my studies in theology at the University of Innsbruck, Austria and starting my graduate studies in sociology at the New School for Social Research in New York, the theory of secularization was the dominant paradigm through which the social sciences and much of Christian theology were looking at religion in the modern world. In a sense, in the last twenty five years I had to unlearn or at least rethink much of what I had learned as a sociologist of religion in the previous twenty five years.2 This survey article aims to present my revisionist understanding of the role and place of religion in our global secular age.
The theory of secularization had two main dimensions or components. The first was a series of empirically verifiable propositions concerning the evident secularization of European societies that seemed to go hand in hand with their modernization. European societies were becoming increasingly less religious and more secular. The dynamics of European secularization could be measured by three different indicators:
by the long term relative loss of power and prestige of religious institutions, such as churches, when compared with the dominant secular institutions of modern societies, such as nation-states and democratic politics, economic markets, science and technology, mass media, the entertainment industry and consumer culture;
by the general decline in religious practices among the European population, as measured by the falling frequency of church attendance and participation in religious rites of passage such as baptism, confirmation, church marriage and church funerals; and
by the perhaps less pronounced, but nonetheless equally noticeable decline in religious beliefs, in the general belief in God as well as in the more specific beliefs in the concrete confessional doctrines of the various Christian churches.3
A more problematic theoretical explanation, however, was added to these empirically verifiable propositions. The added explanation attributed the secularization of European societies to general processes of modernization, or to a series of what David Martin has called “dangerous nouns of process” such as industrialization, urbanization, individuation, rationalization, education, etc., all of which accompany modernization.4 What could have been a plausible historical narrative of particular European socio-historical developments was transformed into a universal teleological grand narrative of what was supposed to happen to all human societies as they became more modern. The theory of secularization postulated that all modern societies would become less religious and more secular.5
Alas! This teleological projection of increasing secularization and religious decline has not been confirmed by general historical developments around the globe in the last fifty years. The undeniable modernization (or the growth in urbanization, industrialization and education), which has taken place in many non-European societies, in the Americas, in Asia, in Africa, has been accompanied frequently by different forms of religious revival and by religious pluralization rather than by religious decline. It should be obvious therefore, that modernization per se does not produce necessarily secularization. But how can we come to terms with these seemingly divergent historical dynamics and trends? Namely, that modernization in most of Europe was accompanied by drastic secularization, while in much of the rest of the world modernization has been accompanied by religious revitalization?
One cannot possibly address this question in depth without examining more carefully the second dimension of the European theory of secularization. As indicated, the first dimension of the theory was connected with a series of empirical propositions concerning the historical secularization of European societies as they had modernized, which were then projected teleo-logically into a general theory of secularization for all human societies, as they were bound to modernize.6 The second dimension of the theory of secularization, by contrast, was derived from its embeddedness within a general genealogical theory of religion. This general theory of religion, which had its origins in the Enlightenment critique of religion, offered diverse explanations of the socio-anthropological genesis of religion in primitive societies, at the same time that assumed the universal character of religion in all human societies, while recognizing the multiplicity and diversity of its forms.7 The multiple and diverse religions were all supposed to be species of a singular genus “religion.” There was “religion” in the singular as well as many “religions,” which constituted its historical forms.
Consequently, the narrative of secularization could be embedded within a much grander narrative of the history of religion from its origins in primitive societies, through its diverse developments in the great religious traditions, it all ending in modern secularity. The French political theorist, Marcel Gauchet, has offered recently such a political history of religion, as a grand narrative of “disenchantment of the world” culminating in “the exit from religion.”8 From this perspective, the secular is what comes after religion. Phenomenologically, the secular emerges as the natural anthropological substratum that subsists once the added supernatural superstructure of religion has been taken away.9
Global developments in the last forty years have seriously put into question both dimensions of the European theory of secularization, its teleological projection into the global future and its genealogical projection into the origins of human history. Let me make clear that the secularization of most Western European societies remains an unquestioned fait accompli. The secularization of European societies is not in question.10 What has been questioned by recent global religious developments is the teleological projection of European secularization onto the rest of the world.11 This explains why many analysts today, Grace Davie and Peter Berger among them, depict secular European developments as historically exceptional rather than as the presumed general norm for the rest of the world.12 If before, one used the trope of American exceptionalism to explain the deviation of American religious developments from the European secular norm, today people make use of the similar trope of European exceptionalism to signal the European deviation from the supposedly global norm of religious revival.13
Furthermore, new revisionist critical accounts of the modern category of religion have simultaneously put into question the way in which the genealogical account of European secularization was set within a grand narrative of the history of religion as a history of disenchantment. Those revisionist accounts, which have emerged within religious studies and within the new anthropology of the secular, point out that both religion and the secular, as they are generally understood today, are modern categories.14
Both categories only emerged slowly in the course of the 16th and 17th centuries and only crystallized as a modern binary system of classification in the 18th and 19th centuries. Therefore, the category of religion and the reality which it signifies as the other of the secular, rather than being traditional or primitive categories are rather modern novel categories and modern phenomena. Both categories have contributed nonetheless to a new modern binary system of classification of reality, which was unknown before the modern period, but which has now become globalized. The discursive binary system has contributed, moreover, to the social construction of religion and the secular all around the globe. This revised perspective can offer a better understanding of how seemingly contradictory global religious and secular dynamics may be interrelated, and how global humanity is becoming simultaneously more religious and more secular.
1 Emergence of the Modern Religious/Secular Binary System of Classification
My own discipline, the sociology of religion, was established just over a century ago on two radically different foundations. It has as one of its foundations Emile Durkheim’s general theory of religion as the socially sacred. Its second radically different foundation derives from Max Weber’s theory of “world religions” of individual salvation. Only by overlooking its disparate foundations could the sociology of religion pretend to deal with the same singular phenomenon of “religion.”
1.1 Durkheim’s Theory of Religion as the Socially Sacred
Durkheim offers a theory of the elementary forms of religious life before the differentiation of religion and the social, based on the classification of all reality according to the dichotomous differentiation of “sacred” and “profane,” a system of classification which is applicable to so-called “primitive” societies, indeed to all pre-axial societies before the emergence of transcendence.15
Following Durkheim, one may conceptualize “sacred” and “profane” as a general dichotomous classificatory system of reality, characteristic of pre-axial socio-cultural systems, that encompasses within one single monistic ontological order various realms that later will be differentiated into different cosmic, earthly, social and moral orders. All reality, Gods and spirits, nature and cosmic forces, humans and other animal species, as well as the kinship, social, political, and moral orders are integrated into a single order of things precisely according to the dichotomous classificatory system of sacred and profane. The entire system, moreover, is an immanent “this –worldly” one, if one is allowed to use anachronistically another binary classificatory system, “other-worldly” and “this worldly” (or supramundane/mundane), that only emerged with the axial breakthrough, since the very idea of a mundane “world,” as Rémi Brague has shown, emerges first with the axial age.16
In his study of religion, moreover, Durkheim showed little interest in the otherworldly religions of individual salvation that constituted the focus of Max Weber’s monumental work in the comparative study of ‘the world religions.” Yet, Durkheim had no problem applying his theory of the socially sacred to what could be called the modern secular sacred, to his study of secular morality, of modern nationalism and citizenship, and to his theory of the cult of the individual as the emerging religion of secular modernity.17 This already points to the incongruity of trying to equate the pre-axial “sacred/profane” and the modern “religious/secular” binary systems of classification. They cannot easily be superimposed. For Durkheim, religious sacred is whatever is socially and publicly sacred. Private, individual religion, by contrast, is demoted by Durkheim to the category of “magic.” For Durkheim, it is the publicly sacred that determines the religion of any society, and not the differentiated and privatized religions that determine what is socially sacred.
1.2 Max Weber’s Differentiation of ‘Community Cults’ and “Religious Communities”
Max Weber, by contrast shows little interest in what he calls “community cults,” which appear equivalent to Durkheim’s theory of the collective sacred as the symbolic self-representation of the social. Let me quote Max Weber at length from his Einleitung to his comparative studies in the Economic Ethics of the World Religions, which was mistranslated into English by H.H. Gerth and C.W. Mills as “The Social Psychology of the World Religions”:
The primeval cult, and above all, the cult of the political association, have left the individual interests out of consideration. The tribal and local god, the gods of the city and of the empire, have taken care only of interests that have concerned the collectivity as a whole … Thus, in the community cult, the collectivity as such turned to its god. The individual, in order to avoid or remove evils that concerned himself—above all, sickness—has not turned to the cult of the community, but as an individual he has approached the sorcerer as the oldest personal and “spiritual advisor.”… Under favorable conditions this has led to the formation of a religious “community,” which has been independent of ethnic associations. Some, though not all, “mysteries” have taken this course. They have promised the salvation of individuals qua individuals from sickness, poverty, and from all sorts of distress and danger. Thus the magician has transformed itself into the mystagogue … Collective arrangements for individual ‘suffering’ per se, and for ‘salvation’ from it, have originated in this fashion.18
At first, it would seem as if Weber was drawing here a distinction similar to the one Durkheim made between religion and magic. In contradistinction to Durkheim, however, Weber seems to place the original dynamic of the process of religious rationalization in “magic,” rather than in the social sacred. But more importantly, Weber is pointing here to another perhaps irreducible duality of the phenomenon we call religion, this time grounded in two very different types of the social, that could be called the societal social and the associational social, a distinction that is crucial for understanding the dynamics of social change in Weber’s analytical framework.
The two types of religion correspond to two different types of sociation with different membership entry rules. In the case of community cults, the socio-political and the ethno-religious community tend to be co-extensive. Consequently, one is born into community cults and membership in both the societal and the religious community coincides. Following Robertson Smith and Fustel de Coulanges, Durkheim viewed correctly the god of the community cult as the symbolic representation and sacralization of the community. Incorrectly, however, he presented as a general universal theory of religion what in fact turns out to be a particular theory of one of its forms.
Following Weber, by contrast, religious communities, and salvation religions in particular, are constituted in and through the association and congregation of individuals in response to a specific religious promise. Originally, at its inception, the religious community is differentiated from and is not co-extensive with the societal or the political community, although eventually “religious communities” may also serve as the principle of integration of new socio-political formations, as happened historically with Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. Since they release the individual from particularistic, ascriptive and territorial ties, salvation religions are potentially conducive to the formation of universalistic religious communities through processes of ever wider fraternization.
1.3 The Axial Age and “Historic” Religions
The focus of Max Weber’s sociological studies was the new religions of individual salvation and world-rejection which emerged in the middle of the first millennium BC as an intrinsic phenomenon of the so-called Axial Age. Without entering into any of the debates concerning the Axial Age, let me simply state, following Robert Bellah, that the new “historic” religions and worldviews that emerged as part of the phenomenon we now call the Axial Age broke through the cosmological monism characteristic of all pre-axial religions and proclaimed a new, higher, and transcendent realm of universal reality.19
Despite the significant differences in their symbol systems, axial “religions” and worldviews are “dualistic” and “universalistic.” They offer new paths of individual salvation or of ethical self-fashioning, which make possible for the first time “a clearly structured conception of the self” and the conception of “man as such.” What characterizes the axial breakthroughs is precisely the introduction of a new classificatory scheme that results from the emergence of “transcendence,” of an order, principle, or being, beyond this worldly reality, which now can serve reflexively as a transcendent principle to evaluate, regulate, and possibly transform this worldly reality.20
As in the case of the Platonic world of “ideas,” or the Confucian reformulation of the Chinese tao, transcendence is not necessarily “religious,” nor does all “religion” need to become transcendent, if we are allowed once again to use anachronistically another dichotomous classificatory category, “religious/secular” that will first emerge within Medieval Christendom and will later expand into a central dynamic of secular modernity.
In any case, following the axial breakthroughs, the “religious” concern is relocated from the mundane, which now becomes devalued, to a superior transcendent realm. Differentiated religious collectivities and new elites of religious virtuosi and literati, of world “renouncers” and prophetic “denouncers,” appear for the first time.21 The single religio-political hierarchy of archaic society also tends to split into two partially autonomous hierarchies, of “political” and “religious” elites. This differentiation and the new universalist transcendent standards promoted by the new religious and intellectual elites bring a new level of tension and the possibility of normatively legitimated change against traditional “sacred” structures.
One may postulate that every axial breakthrough entails some kind of redrawing of the boundaries between sacred and profane, which may be interpreted as some kind of semantic relocation of the sacred, and may imply simultaneous processes of de-sacralization of some aspects of reality, such as sacred king or cultic sacrifice, and the potential re-sacralization of other aspects. In the case of Ancient Israel, the “Mosaic distinction” entails first a radical exclusive monolatric sacralization of YHWH as the God of the Covenant, and eventually in the prophetic age its elevation to the one and only Holy God, creator of heaven and earth, universal lawgiver, God of History and Lord of all peoples. Such a sacralization of transcendence entails, indeed, a radical de-sacralization of all creatures and of all cosmic and natural forces and, most of all, the demotion of all gods and supernatural beings into “false” idols and demonic forces.
Surely the axial breakthrough in Ancient Greece from the Homeric age to the classical age of Athenian democracy entails an equally radical redrawing of the boundaries between sacred and profane, breaking through the archaic ontological monism. But the dynamics of de-sacralization, the redrawing of the boundaries between various ontological realms and the radical reformulation of myth in the light of theoretical criticism evince significantly different dynamics, dimensions and directions, which I would not characterize as “religious” even if the initial dynamics had “sacred” or “divine” dimensions.
The very tripartite theological differentiation of archaic divine reality into mythike (or the mythical world of the gods), physike (or the cosmic order of nature) and politike (the conventional nomoi of the democratic polis) entails certainly a radical de-sacralization, but its dynamic is not necessarily a “religious” one, and its crystallization is hardly one of a single ontological dualism between “transcendent” kosmos and devalued “mundane” reality.
One observes therefore two radically different axial breakthroughs. Both entail processes of de-sacralization that undermine the archaic monist sacred-profane order. But the dynamics are very different. The Israeli dynamic is “religious” through and through in that by means of the Mosaic distinction it invents a new axial type of “religion.” But the new axial “religion” only found full crystallization in late antiquity with the transformation of Second Temple Judaism into Talmudic Judaism after the destruction of the temple and the end of sacrifice, and particularly with the emergence of two daughter religions, Christianity and Islam.22
By contrast, the Greek process of de-sacralization can hardly be depicted as a process of religious rationalization. Of course, Greek philosophia had strong “religious” elements of theoretic divination that entailed the search of spiritual paths of self-realization, at times, approximating what could be called, following Charles Taylor, transcendent “religious” paths “beyond human flourishing.”23 In this respect, it would also be anachronistic to speak of the Greek axial path as being more “secular,” a modern category that has its origins in a radically different Christian theological system than the Greek one.
1.4 Religion and Secular as Christian Theological Categories
It is important to stress that the modern categories “religion” and “secular” first emerged as Christian theological categories in the process of intertwinement of the Israeli and Greek axial breakthroughs within Latin Christendom. As a Christian theological category, the Latin term saeculum always had a dual temporal and spatial dimension, as is obvious by looking at the equivalent noun in any modern Romanic language dictionary. The word siglo in Spanish or siècle in French has three distinct connotations, two temporal ones, “age” and “century,” and a spatial one, “world.” The concept of “century” as a specific one hundred year calendar unit dividing secular time, as opposed to the more indefinite periodization of “age,” is of relatively recent origin, starting around the year 1300.
One can notice, however, that the two older connotations of saeculum, “age” and “world,” still survive in most modern Romanic languages. Originally the pre-Christian Latin term saeculum only had a temporal connotation, that of an indefinite period of time, as in per saecula saeculorum, a term equivalent to the Greek concept of aeon. Augustine first turned the term into a central Christian theological category, adding to it a spatial connotation. Saeculum, as first used by Augustine, referred initially to a temporal space, this world between the present and the parousia, the Second Coming of Christ, in which both Christians and pagans had to live together and learn to work together towards their common civic goals in the saeculum, in the City of Man.24
In this respect, Augustine’s concept of secularity is very close to the post-secularist principle advanced by some analysts today. It appears similar to the modern meaning of a secular political sphere, that of the constitutional democratic state and that of a democratic public sphere, which is neutral with respect to all worldviews, religious as well as non-religious. Such a conception does not equate the secular with the “profane,” as the other of the “sacred,” nor is the secular the other of the “religious.” It is precisely a neutral space that can be shared by all who live in a not religiously homogeneous or in a multicultural society, which by definition will have different and most likely competing conceptions of what is “sacred” and what is “profane.”25 This was precisely the situation in late Antiquity. Judeo-Christian monotheism had led to a de-sacralization or disenchantment of the pagan sacred. Consequently, the Christians’ refusal to sacrifice to “pagan” gods or to worship the divine emperor earned them the epithet of “atheists.” The Christian sacred was the pagan profane and vice versa.
Augustine’s concept of “secular” was not yet tied to its modern binary opposite, “religious.” This was going to be the work of transformation of late post-Imperial Christianity and of Medieval Christendom. But the principle presupposed already an axial concept of “religion.” Augustine was after all also the author of “De vera religione,” a treaty which challenged Varro’s customary tripartite Latin conceptualization of religion, or divine affairs (res divinae), into theologia mythica, theologia naturalis, and theologia civilis. Varro’s distinction was borrowed from the Stoics and was built upon the Greek axial differentiation of the pre-axial sacred into mythike, physike, politike, which as we indicated broke the ontological-cosmological monism of the pre-axial sacred. Augustine’s concept of vera religio, contraposed to religio deorum, presupposed equally what Ian Assman has defined as the axial Mosaic distinction between axial true religion and pre-axial idolatry, in the same way as Augustine’s immanent earthly or mundane City of Man presupposed the axial transcendent City of God.26
It is important to realize that the post-axial saeculum is not equivalent to the pre-axial profane, in the same way as the post-axial religious is not equivalent to the pre-axial sacred. The important point to stress is that as binary terms “religious” and “secular” are specific Western Christian theological categories, which have no equivalent in other non-Christian cultures, or in Eastern Byzantine Christianity. The binary spatial distinction between “religious” and “secular” emerged first with the elevation of Christian monasticism as the paradigmatic form of “religious” life and with the subsequent canonical differentiation within the church between the otherworldly religious or regular clergy, who inhabited the monasteries as an eschatological space that anticipated the transcendent City of God, and the secular clergy who along with ordinary Christians, that is, the laity, inhabited this world, that is, the saeculum. Indeed the plural terms religiones was first used within Latin Christendom to characterize not multiple “religions,” in the modern sense of the term, but the multiple Christian religious orders.
Eventually, however, with the consolidation of Western Medieval Christendom and the hegemonic triumph of the Christian church, the secular became one of the terms of a dyad, religious/secular, which served to structure the entire spatial and temporal reality of Medieval Christendom into a binary system of classification separating two worlds, the religious-spiritual-sacred world of salvation and the secular-temporal-profane world. The sacred-profane and the religious-secular binary systems of classification became superimposed and the secular became now equated with the earthly city while the religious became equated with the heavenly city.27
It is from this new theological perspective of Medieval Christendom that the modern meaning of “secularization” emerges. To secularize means, first of all, to “make worldly,” to convert religious persons or things into secular ones, as when a religious person abandons the monastic rule to live in the world, or when monastic property is secularized. This is the medieval Christian theological meaning of the term secularization that may serve, however, as the core metaphor of the historical process of Western secularization. This historical process needs to be understood as a particular reaction to the structuring dualism between the religious and the secular world.
1.5 Nordic-Protestant and Southern-Catholic Patterns of Secularization
Even in Western Europe, however, this process of secularization followed two different dynamics, which eventually crystallized into the Nordic Protestant and the Southern Catholic patterns.28 The North American pattern, as elaborated later in the third section, presents a different non-European alternative dynamic. The first dynamic could be characterized as a pattern of internal Christian secularization. It aims to spiritualize all temporal reality and to bring the religious life of perfection out of the monasteries into the secular world, as was done first by the urban mendicant orders.29 It also seeks to transcend the dualism by blurring the boundaries between the religious and the secular, by making the religious secular and the secular religious through mutual reciprocal infusion. This path was initiated by the various medieval movements of Christian reform of the saeculum, gained further institutionalization in and through the Protestant Reformation in all its versions, and has attained its most radical and paradigmatic expression in the Anglo-Saxon sectarian-Calvinist cultural area, particularly in the United States. In the Nordic Lutheran pattern of secularization, for instance, one finds not a clear differentiation or separation of the religious and the secular but rather a peculiar integration, sharing of space, or blending between the two.
A second very different, at times almost opposite, dynamic of secularization takes the form of laicization. It aims to emancipate all secular spheres from clerical-ecclesiastical control and in this respect it is marked by a laic-clerical antagonism, which became exacerbated by the Counter-Reformation and by the absolutist alliance of throne and altar during the ancient regime. The confrontation between “religious” and “secular” spheres is significantly different from the integration one finds in Protestant countries. Unlike the Protestant path, in the Southern Catholic pattern of secularization the boundaries between the religious and the secular are rigidly maintained, but those boundaries are pushed into the margins, aiming to contain, privatize and marginalize everything religious, while excluding it from any visible presence in the secular public sphere, now defined as the realm of laïcité, freed from religion.30 This is the paradigmatic French-Latin-Catholic path of secularization, which eventually found diverse manifestations throughout continental Europe, beyond the Catholic world.
With many variations these are the two main dynamics of European secularization, which culminate in our secular age. In different ways, both paths lead to an overcoming of the medieval Christian dualism of transcendent and immanent realms, through a positive affirmation and revaluation of the saeculum, that is, of the secular age and the secular world, imbuing the immanent secular world with a quasi-transcendent meaning as the place for human flourishing.
These two different patterns of secularization, the Nordic Protestant and the Southern Catholic, are related to different dynamics of de-confessionalization, which in turn derive from the different preceding dynamics of confessionalization of the absolutist state in Lutheran Protestant and in Catholic Europe. Bringing back the analytical distinction between the pre-axial sacred and axial religion, or the distinction between the two types of religion, the Durkheimian socially sacred and religions of individual salvation, may help to elucidate the main differences in the two patterns.
In a similar way as the axial breakthrough was characterized by a certain dissociation of the pre-axial sacred and the new religions of individual salvation, that led to a new relocation of the sacred, the modern process of secularization leads to a new dissociation of the collectively sacred and the individualized religious, and to a new dual relocation of the sacred in the secular public sphere on the one hand and in the individualized and privatized religious sphere, on the other.
If, following Durkheim, one identifies religion with the socially sacred, then by definition religion is the system of beliefs and practices in relation with “the sacred” which serves to unify its adherents into a single moral community, “the church.”31 This church for Durkheim is, however, coextensive with society, which in the modern context would mean “the nation,” rather than with what customarily we would call ecclesiastical institutions or religious communities. Durkheim goes so far as to assert that “individual religion either is simply derived from group religion or is no religion at all but magic.” Indeed, the presence or absence of a church is what helps to differentiate both religion and magic. According to Durkheim, “in history we do not find religion without Church” and “there is no church of magic.”32
From this perspective, the process of early modern state confessionalization and the later process of de-confessionalization, which will be analyzed in the next section, can best be understood as processes of fusion, dissociation and relocation of the socially sacred, of ecclesiastical institutions and of individualized religion.
1.6 Philosophic-Historical Secularism and European Secularization
Besides its spatial meaning as a realm distinct from the religious, there is another meaning of secular, which is linked to what I call “philosophico-historical secularism.”33 This particular kind of secularism understands the secular not as one of two mutually constituted binary poles, religious and secular, or as an optional worldview, belief vs. unbelief, but rather as a post-religious temporal stage. What Taylor calls the naturalization of “unbelief” or “non-religion,” as the normal human condition in modern societies, corresponds to the assumptions of the dominant theories of secularization, which have postulated a progressive decline of religious beliefs and practices with increasing modernization, so that the more modern a society the more secular, i.e., the less “religious,” it is supposed to become.
As elaborated in the next section, secularization in the sense of being “devoid of religion” does not happen automatically as a result of processes of modernization, but it needs to be mediated phenomenologically by some other particular historical experience. Self-sufficient secularity, that is, the absence of religion, has a better chance of becoming the normal taken-for-granted situation if it is experienced not simply as an unreflexively naïve condition, as just a fact, but actually as the meaningful result of a quasi natural process of development. As Taylor has pointed out, modern unbelief is not simply a condition of absence of belief, nor merely indifference. It is a historical condition that requires the perfect tense, “a condition of ‘having overcome’ the irrationality of belief.”34
Intrinsic to this phenomenological experience is a modern “stadial consciousness,” inherited from the Enlightenment, which understands this anthropocentric change in the conditions of belief as a process of maturation and growth, as a “coming of age” and as progressive emancipation. For Taylor, this stadial phenomenological experience serves in turn to ground the phenomenological experience of exclusive humanism as the positive self-sufficient and self-limiting affirmation of human flourishing and as the critical rejection of transcendence beyond human flourishing as self-denial and self-defeating.
In this respect, the historical self-understanding of secularism has the function of confirming the superiority of our present modern secular outlook over other supposedly earlier and therefore more primitive religious forms of understanding.35 To be secular means to be modern, and therefore by implication to be religious means to be somehow not yet fully modern. This is the ratchet effect of a modern historical stadial consciousness, which turns the very idea of going back to a surpassed condition into an unthinkable intellectual regression.
As a summary conclusion to this first section, one could argue that in primitive societies, before the emergence of any religious differentiation, “religion” was diffused throughout the social system. In modern secular societies “religion” becomes again diffused once, as Talcott Parsons argued, its values become institutionalized in social structures, and individual authenticity and self-expression become the main private forms of what Thomas Luckmann called “invisible” religion.36
In between these two, beginning and ending, stages of religious development, one finds the world-historical process of religious rationalization so poignantly analyzed by Weber.37 In this way, religion, while a changing reality, can be affirmed as a permanent social fact that is equally congruent with the pre-axial sacred, with axial transcendence, and with the modern secular order.
The particular Western Christian dynamic of secularization analyzed so far has become globalized through the process of Western colonial expansion. The entire globe now has to contend with the same binary religious/ secular system of classification. But, as will be shown in the following sections, the modern categories of religion and secular have been incorporated diversely throughout the globe, while entering into dynamic tension with the many different ways in which other civilizations had drawn boundaries between “sacred” and “profane,” “transcendent” and “immanent,” “religious” and “secular.” I would like to reiterate that we should not think of these dyadic pairs of terms as being synonymous. The sacred tends to be immanent in pre-axial cultures. The transcendent is not necessarily “religious” in some axial civilizations. The secular is by no means profane in our secular age.
2 The Internal Road of European Confessionalization and De-Confessionalization: Secularization without Religious Pluralism
As already indicated, the secularization of Western European societies, understood here simply as the drastic and progressive decline in religious beliefs and practices among the European population, is a social fact that is not in question. What is questionable is the theoretical explanation of European secularization as the necessary result of processes of modernization. Since, as was pointed out, modernization in many parts of the world in the last fifty years has not been accompanied by a noticeable religious decline, but rather by different kinds of religious revitalization and the proliferation of religious pluralism, one needs to put into question the assumption that modernization necessarily leads to secularization.
Thus, we need to examine two different questions. Firstly, if modernization per se cannot serve as a blanket explanation for the unquestionable secularization of European societies, what could serve as a more parsimonious and concrete explanation of European secularization from a global comparative historical perspective? Relatedly, and this would be the second question, given that modernization and secularization in Europe was not accompanied by dynamics of religious pluralization, how can one account for the fact that modernization in much of the rest of the world is accompanied by religious pluralization with limited secularization?
To answer both questions I am going to build upon Peter Berger’s last formulation of his own revisionist theory of secular modernity. In his book The Many Altars of Modernity, Berger proposed to change the focus of analysis from secularization to pluralism.38 He argued that modernity does not produce necessarily secularization. What it does produce inevitably is pluralism, specifically two diverse kinds of pluralism, namely religious pluralism and secular-religious pluralism. My own succinct response to Berger is that European modernity produced secularization without religious pluralization, while modernity in much of the rest of the world produced religious pluralization without much secularization.
In Berger’s own words, “the new paradigm should be able to deal with two pluralisms—the co-existence of different religions and the co-existence of religious and secular discourses.”39 This is crucial, in my view. We need an argument that is able to account simultaneously for this dual form of modern pluralism. We need to account, first of all, for religious pluralism, that is, for the emergence of a global system of religions which I call global denominationalism. But we also need to account, additionally, for secular-religious pluralism, that is, for the emergence of differentiated but co-existing religious and secular spheres, both in social space and in the minds of individuals.
Berger’s new paradigm, however, is still embedded unnecessarily within a theory of Western modernization that views modernity itself as the carrier or catalyst of both types of pluralism: multi-religious pluralism and secular-religious pluralism. Countering Berger, I would argue that, European modernity is certainly the carrier or catalyst of the second type of modern pluralism, the secular-religious one, but not of the first one, multi-religious pluralism. As the exceptional process of European secularization amply demonstrates, European modernity per se does not contribute to religious pluralism. We need an additional factor or analytical framework to understand the emergence of a global system of religious pluralism, and this in my view has to be a theory of globalization, a globalization that both precedes Western secular modernity and continues in an accelerated and transformed manner after Western secular modernity. We need, in other words, to differentiate analytically our theories of globalization from our theories of Western modernity, or rather we need to develop less Eurocentric theories which can embed our theories of Western modernity within a much broader and complex theory of globalization.
Global religious pluralization emerged before Western secular modernity in the early modern era of global interreligious encounters that accompanied the early modern European colonial expansion, before global Western hegemony. Subsequently, religious pluralization has become accelerated in our contemporary global age to such an extent that it is beginning to transform in the process also the heartlands of European secularization.
We need a theory that is able to account simultaneously for the intertwined European roads of internal European secularization without religious pluralization and of external global European colonial encounters with the religious other, which prepared the ground for the formation of the global system of religions. As will be shown in the next section, the external European road of global expansion is the one that served as catalyst for the formation of global religious pluralization. European modernity leads to secularization but not necessarily to religious pluralization, at least not within European nation-states. Globalization leads to religious pluralization but not necessarily to secularization. The intertwinement of both processes is what produces the combination of the two types of pluralism and the simultaneity of global religious and secular dynamics.
In order to emphasize the intertwinement of the two European roads, the internal one of homogeneous confessionalization, leading to religious decline, and the external one of global colonial intercultural encounters with the religious “other,” leading to religious pluralism, I propose that we take 1492 as the symbolic date marking the beginning of both processes.40 The choice of 1492 as a crucial date may also serve to complicate both the dominant narratives of Western secular modernity and the dominant narratives of globalization.
On the one hand, 1492 marks the decision of the most “Catholic Kings” to expel Jews and Muslims from Spain in order to create a religiously homogeneous realm. In this respect, it marks also the beginning of the European-wide process of early modern confessionalization of state, nation, and people based on the principle cuius regio eius religio, that served to organize the Westphalian system of states throughout continental Europe.
On the other hand, as the date of the discovery of “the New World,” 1492 is also the symbolic marker of the beginning of the European global colonial expansion initiated by the Iberian monarchies. The Iberian colonial expansion, the Portuguese one into the East Indies and the Spanish one into the West Indies, made possible the connection of the Old World of Afro-Eurasia and the “discovered” New World of the Americas, linking the East and West “Indies,” thus forming for the first time one truly global world in novel transatlantic and transpacific exchanges. In this respect, the early modern phase of globalization constitutes literally “the first globalization.”41
Most importantly, early modern “reformed” religion, whether Lutheran, Calvinist or Catholic, can hardly be understood as a “traditional” form of religion, complicating theories of modernization based on a simple dichotomy between “traditional” and “modern” institutions and structures. It was the outcome of a prolonged disciplinary process of confessionalization led by national churches under state sponsorship.42 This disciplinary process created new types of religiously homogeneous societies throughout continental Europe, a homogeneously Protestant North, a homogeneously Catholic South and three bi-confessional societies in between, Holland, Germany and Switzerland, each characterized by their own patterns of internal territorial confessionalization, based on confessional “pillars,” Landeskirchen, or cantons.
Indeed, the “reformed” character of early modern religion challenges the basic assumption of every modernization theory that is based on the transition from “traditional” Gemeinschaft to “modern” Gesellschaft. Only a secularist modernist understanding, which views every form of religion as “traditional,” could have characterized the religion that resulted from the disciplinary reformations of the early modern absolutist state in conjunction with state churches across Europe as “traditional” in any meaningful sense of the term.
Taking seriously the religious transformations brought about by early modern processes of confessionalization opens up the possibility of explaining the exceptional character of European processes of secularization not in terms of general processes of modernization, but rather in terms of the particular European historical dynamics of confessionalization and de-confessionalization.
Europeans tend to take processes of secularization for granted because in modern European historical developments three different dynamics appear intrinsically interconnected as aspects of one single process of secularization. Those three different dynamics are: firstly, the functional differentiation of the modern secular spheres of constitutional states, market economies and scientific knowledge production from the sphere of religion; secondly, the privatization of religion that seems to accompany this process of differentiation; and thirdly, the general decline of religious beliefs and practices.43
Since in Europe the three processes of secular differentiation, privatization of religion and religious decline appear historically interconnected, there has been the tendency to view all three processes as intrinsically interrelated components of a single general teleological process of secularization and modernization, rather than as particular and contingent historical developments.
Within European discourse the secularization of the European state is usually understood as a felicitous response to the religious confessional wars of early modernity. But in fact, the religious wars of early modern Europe and particularly the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) did not lead, at least not immediately, into the secular state but rather into the confessional one. The principle cuius regio eius religio, established first at the Peace of Augsburg and reiterated at the Peace of Westphalia, is not the formative principle of the modern secular state, but rather that of the modern confessional territorial absolutist state. Nowhere in Europe did religious conflict lead to secularization per se, but rather to the confessionalization of the state and to the territorialization of religions and peoples.
In this respect, ethno-religious cleansing stands at the beginning of the process of formation of the early modern confessional state. In the same way as the formation of a Catholic Spain required the expulsion or the forceful confessionalization of Muslims and Jews, the formation of a homogeneous Protestant Northern Europe required the expulsion or forceful confessionalization of Catholic minorities and the formation of a homogeneous Catholic Southern Europe required the expulsion or forceful confessionalization of Protestant minorities.
What made the religious wars almost inevitable in Western Europe was not so much the supposedly intrinsic intolerance and fanaticism of “religion,” as emphasized by secular accounts. It was rather the ingrained conviction, inherited from the Constantinian establishment and shared equally by ecclesiastical and political elites, that there could possibly be only one single Christian “church” within the same political territory. Even those Christians who honestly sought peace and concordia among the warring Christian communities could not envision the political possibility of religious pluralism.44 Only the sects, who abandoned the ecclesiastical model of a confessional state church, also rejected the political model of absolutist state control of religion implicit in the formula cuius regio eius religio. But the Christian “sects” in turn had to abandon Europe and find refuge as immigrants in the Americas.
The Westphalian settlement, implemented throughout continental Europe, outside of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, solved the problem of religious conflict by the elimination of religious pluralism through the enforcement of religious homogenization. European secularist self-understandings tend to attribute the difficulties of accommodating religious pluralism to the intolerant character of “religion” itself, without reflecting upon the extent to which early modern processes of state confessionalization may have affected, if not determined, posterior secular developments.
The story of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is illustrative in this respect. At the very moment when every continental European state was assuming an absolutist, confessional form, which led to the persecution and expulsion of religious minorities, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth constituted an interesting exception. The so-called “Republic of Nobles” made room for the coexistence of the three main branches of Christianity, because there was a Polish Catholic szlachta, a Prussian Lutheran szlachta, and a Ukrainian Orthodox szlachta, represented jointly at the Sejm. Moreover, this was the time when the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth became the refuge for all religious minorities, which had to flee the process of enforced confessionalization. Radical sectarian minorities such as the Moravian Brethren and Hungarian Unitarians, but also Jews from across Western Europe and Muslim Tatars from Crimea, all found refuge in the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, at least temporarily.45
Most telling in terms of long-historical developments is the fact that nowhere in Europe was the absolutist principle cuius regio ejus religio significantly altered by the change in sovereignty from the monarch to “the nation” or to “the people” with the fall of the ancient regimes. Similarly, there is no evidence anywhere in Europe that mass democratization linked to universal suffrage was accompanied by some kind of incipient religious pluralization. Until very recently, until the arrival of non-European immigrants, European societies remained uniformly religiously homogeneous societies, without any evidence of statistically significant religious conversion. The only significant religious change, in this respect, has been the massive move from belief to unbelief, without religious pluralization. Consequently, the process of European secularization can best be understood as a process of de-confessionalization: of states, nations, and individuals.
But returning to an argument already initiated in the previous section, one can distinguish between the Nordic pattern of soft de-confessionalization, which can be characterized as “belonging without believing,” that is, secularization without unchurching, and the more radical de-confessionalization of the Catholic South that accompanies laicist unchurching.
Bringing back again the analytical distinction between Durkheim’s concept of the socially sacred and Weber’s religions of individual salvation, may help to elucidate some of the differences in the two patterns. One could argue that the modern process of European secularization leads to a dissociation of the collective sacred and the individualized religious, and to a new dual relocation of the sacred in the secular public sphere on the one hand and in the individualized and privatized religious sphere, on the other.
In the Nordic Lutheran pattern, notwithstanding all the significant differences between the various Nordic countries, one finds a loose fusion of ecclesiastical institution (the Lutheran Church), of state and of nation. In the early modern process of confessionalization, the church became an administrative unit of the secular (sacred) state, which in some cases, as in Norway, even today still falls under parliamentary (popular-national-democratic) regulation and supervision. The socially sacred in Durkheim’s sense of the term was relocated to the secular sphere of the state and of the nation.46
Luther’s theology re-assembled the dualism of the Augustinian two kingdoms theory in novel ways that led to relocations of the sacred, the religious, and the secular.47 Most importantly, and this is the key difference with the laicist Southern-Latin pattern, the core dualism between the religious clergy and the secular laity was dissolved by mutual infusion, so that, in Witte’s formulation, “Luther’s doctrine of the priesthood of all believers at once ‘laicized’ the clergy and ‘clericized’ the laity.” The “clerical” office of preaching and teaching was secularized, becoming just one secular vocation like any other, while the traditional “lay” offices now became “forms of divine calling and priestly vocation.”
In the process, the “church” was transformed also radically. A new dualism emerged between the ecclesiastical institution, which as visible church is just part of the saeculum, that falls under the Law of the earthly kingdom, i.e., of the state, and the invisible church of the eschatological communion of the saints. In the process, the “true religion,” the Kingdom of God, of Love and of the Gospel, mutates into a religion of inwardness and migrates to the individual conscience, giving birth eventually to pietist movements on the margins of the ecclesiastical institution, which prepared the ground for the modern cult of the individual and the sacralization of human rights.48
Secularization, or soft “de-confessionalization, “ means in this context three different but interrelated dynamics: a) continuing adherence to the national church which remains under the jurisdiction of the national sovereign; b) drastic decline in religious beliefs (confessional faith) and practices (ecclesiastical rituals); c) interiorization of a modern individual spiritual realm which becomes the authentic space of the sacred. Naturally, there can be deep tensions between the three domains of the religious-secular-sacred, that is, between a) the democratic national collective (the civil religion); b) the ecclesiastical Lutheran church; and c) the individual inward conscience. But there is no radical chasm or schism between the three.
The Southern Latin Catholic pattern evinces a very different dynamic of dissociation and relocation of the social sacred (state and nation), the ecclesiastical institution (the Catholic Church), and the religion of the individual. The process of confessionalization under the absolutist ancien regime was based on a close alliance between throne and altar. But the transnational structure of the Catholic Church and papal supremacy did not allow the kind of integration and fusion of church and state one finds in the Nordic Lutheran pattern, even under caesaro-papist Gallicanism. When it happens, the secularization of the state takes place through a radical break with the church, which forcefully resists dis-establishment. The schism here leads to a protracted chasm, indeed to a kind of prolonged civil war within the social sacred, between a new republican laicist civil religion and the old national Catholic religion.
The Latin-Catholic path of laicization is marked not by integration but by civil-ecclesiastical and laic-clerical antagonism. It maintains rigidly the boundaries between the religious and the secular, but pushes those boundaries into the margins, containing, privatizing and marginalizing everything religious. When it breaks the monastery walls, it will not be to bring the religious into the secular world, but to laicize them, dissolving and emptying their religious content and making the religious persons, monks and nuns, civil and laic before forcing them into the secular world. De-confessionalization of state, nation, and individuals here means assertive anti-Catholic unchurching.
Denmark represents the paradigmatic case of a European society with one of the lowest rates of religious belief and practice accompanied by still high rates of confessional affiliation in the national church, the Church of Denmark. In this respect, to be Danish, to be Lutheran, and to be secular, are one and the same thing. This contrasts with the Southern Catholic pattern (France, Belgium and increasingly Spain, but not so much Portugal or Italy) of radical secularization and laicist de-confessionalization. The secular is understood here in drastic laicist, anti-clerical, and often anti-religious terms that demands assertive unchurching. Spaniards in post-Francoist Spain, who took the resisting Catholic Church to court in order to get their names erased from the church’s baptismal registry, which had served as official state birth certification, may serve as a vivid illustration of this assertive de-confessionalization.49
In my essay, “The Religious Situation in Europe,” discussing the significant variations in patterns of secularization within Europe, I argued that those could not simply be explained in terms of levels of modernization. Different dynamics in church, state, nation and civil society, associated with different patterns of confessionalization and de-confessionalization, could account better for the differences one finds, for instance between the more secularized East Germany and the more religious West Germany, between the more secularized France and the more religious Italy, or between the more secularized Czech Republic and the more religious Poland.50
Yet, notwithstanding all significant differences, European patterns of secularization share similar paths from homogeneous religion to homogeneous secularity without noticeable dynamics of religious pluralization, other than the more hidden dynamics of religious individuation which Thomas Luckmann has characterized as “invisible religion.”51 At the level of individual consciousness, moreover, Europeans usually experience this process of de-confessionalization and the accompanying individuation as a process of temporal liberation from ascribed confessional identities. Phenomenologically, Europeans tend to experience secularization not so much as a process of spatial differentiation within their consciousness of coexisting religious and secular modes, a phenomenon which, according to Berger, would correlate with the differentiation of religious and secular spheres in society. Rather, Europeans tend to experience secularization as a historical process of religious decline, that is, of temporal and spatial supersession of the religious by the secular. The secular is not simply a spatial sphere which emerges and coexists along with a newly differentiated religious sphere. Phenomenologically, for most Europeans, the secular is what comes “after religion,” replacing and superseding it.
As already indicated in the previous section, this is the secularist moment of a philosophical conception of history tied to the Enlightenment critique of religion that understands the secular as a post-religious temporal stage. In my view, it is this peculiar historical combination of the dynamics of de-confessionalization jointly with this secularist stadial consciousness that accounts best for the unique pattern of European secularization without pluralization.
Outside of Europe, by contrast, in much of the rest of the world, both the dynamics of confessionalization and de-confessionalization as well as the secularist stadial consciousness are usually absent, even though, as we will see in the next two sections, in many post-colonial situations modernizing elites as well as the modernizing state developed strong secularist projects. What one finds much more frequently is religious pluralization and religious-secular pluralism with milder secularization.
One could add that theories of secularization in Europe have actually functioned as self-fulfilling prophecies, insofar as large sectors of the European population have taken the assumption of the progressive secularization for granted, as the inevitable consequence of progressive modernization. The postulate of progressive religious decline has become part of the modern European definition of the situation with real consequences for any kind of church religiosity.52
Once the secular nation-state took over from churches and ecclesiastical institutions their traditional historical function as community cults, that is, as collective representations of the imagined national communities and of the collective memory, churches also lost in the process their ability to function as religions of individual salvation. Crucial is the fact that individuals in Europe, once they lose faith in their national churches, do not bother to look for, or actually look disdainfully upon alternative salvation religions.
In a certain sense, the explanation lies in the fact that Europeans continue to be implicit members of their national churches, even after explicitly breaking away from them. This peculiar situation explains the lack of demand and the absence of a truly competitive religious market in Europe. The culprit is not so much the monopolistically laziness of churches protected by state regulations, as the American supply-side theory of religious markets tends to argue, but rather the lack of demand for alternative salvations religions among the unchurched, even in the face of new enterprising but generally unsuccessful religious suppliers.
Moreover, in Europe the model of religious homogeneous uniformity was transferred to the modern secular nation. Modern European nationalism is grounded in the same logic of uniform homogenization, as if the imagined community of the nation were a secular translation of the imagined community of the national Christian church. Not surprisingly, “the Jewish question” reemerged again and again throughout continental Europe with every transformation of sovereignty and with every modern nationalist mobilization.
In Western Europe, the arrival of “guest workers,” immigrants and refugees from the entire globe has reopened the question of the transformation of post-national European democracies under new conditions of religious pluralism. I purposefully bring “the Jewish question” in the formation of the European secular state to memory, because the “Muslim question” throughout Europe today guards deep structural similarities with “the Jewish question” in the European historical past.53 European analysis of the difficult problem of integrating immigrant Muslim communities into the European nation-state, a problem shared by all European states and all European nations, too quickly attributes the problem to the nature of the fundamentalist character of Islam, which supposedly seems unable to accept the modern differentiation between state and religion. While partially valid, such analysis fails to take into account the ingrained difficulty of European societies to accommodate religious pluralism.
The analysis so far has tried to show that particular historical patterns of confessionalization and de-confessionalization offer a better explanation of the internal variations in patterns of secularization one finds within Europe than levels of modernization, or than the alternative American paradigm of free and competitive religious markets. As a final illustration of the thesis let me conclude by offering a brief analysis of the divergent religious and secular dynamics one finds today in four post-Soviet societies, namely in East Germany, Poland, Ukraine and Russia.
Soviet-type regimes combined extreme forms of philosophico-historical secularism and political secularism. Atheism was established as state ideology, while museums of atheism celebrated the stadial ascent of man from primitive superstitious religion to scientific socialism. Politically, communist states tried to eradicate any form of organized religion, exercising close surveillance of religious institutions as well as of private believers in an effort to enforce secularization from above.
A comparative look at post-Soviet transitions offers the opportunity to examine what happened to religion once state secularism was lifted. Indeed, a comparison of East Germany, Poland, Ukraine, and Russia shows similar transitions from anti-religious secularist states to somewhat more benevolent or neutral secular states. But the ensuing religious and secular dynamics in the four neighboring countries are surprisingly divergent.
2.1 East Germany
East Germany, a predominantly Protestant country, indeed the historical land of the Lutheran Protestant Reformation, presents the most evident successful case of state enforced secularization from above.54 While in 1949, 80 percent of East Germans declared some religious affiliation, twenty years later, by 1969, the proportion of East Germans with some religious affiliation had dropped to 29 percent. In fact, East Germany was the only European society in which in 1981, at the time of “die Wende,” a majority of the population, 51 percent, identified themselves as “atheists.”
What happened to religion in East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall? Practically there has been no religious change and no significant religious revival.55 A majority of the population still claims to be atheist and East Germany remains, “the world’s most secular society.”56 While in most other spheres (education, income, consumer culture, political culture) one finds increasing convergence between East and West Germany, there is very little convergence in the religious sphere. The two main German churches, the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Roman Catholic Church, have experienced no significant growth in East Germany, despite the corporatist privileges they have under the Federal Republic. There also has been no significant growth in new religious communities, despite the active proselytizing efforts of many new religious suppliers. The growth in supply in this case did not lead to a growth in religious demand.
One could say, using the Weberian expression, that the East German population apparently remains religiously “tone deaf.” As David Martin already pointed out, in the case of East Germany one finds “no secularization in reverse,” belying the expectations of many that religion would fill the ideological and moral vacuum after communism.57 Yet, modernization theory also cannot explain why East Germany is much more secular than the undoubtedly more religious and more “modern” West Germany.58 Different patterns of confessionalization and de-confesionalization in both parts of Germany offer a better explanation.
East German evidence puts into question any notion of a general global de-secularization, but also any socio-anthropological theory of “homo religiosus,” as well as any functionalist theory postulating the need of religion for moral and social integration. It rather confirms Charles Taylors’ and Hans Joas’ thesis of a secular age in which both religious faith and radical secularity emerge as equally viable modern “options.”59
2.2 Catholic Poland
Catholic Poland, as is well known, represents the opposite picture of being one of the most religious societies in the world, seemingly unaffected by the failed project of communist secularization: over 90% of the Polish population believe in God; 87% of the Polish population identify themselves as “Catholic,” the rest being divided between “other religion” (5%) and “no religion” (7%).60 The picture remains basically unchanged 30 years after the post-Communist transition. To be sure, there has been a significant drop in religious practice from the extraordinary levels of practice during the Solidarity and Martial Law periods. But church attendance in Poland still remains unusually high, hovering between 40% and 50% of weekly church attendance.61
The basic puzzle in the case of Poland is how to explain the seemingly absence of “secularization”: before communism, during communism, and after communism.62 First of all, one must take into account the fact that there took place a radical change in the religious-confessional-denominational structure of Poland in the 20th century, from being one of the most religiously pluralistic societies of Europe to being one of the most homogeneously religious societies after WWII. The exceptional dynamics of religious pluralism of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth continued during the partition between Prussian, Russian and Austrian Poland. In 1900, before independence, the denominational/confessional composition of the population in the Polish lands was the following: Roman Catholics (55.5%), Greek Ukrainian Catholics/Uniates (14.5%), Orthodox (14.2%), Protestant (6%), Jews (11.7%). After World War II, however, in Communist Poland, as a consequence of the Holocaust, of the change in territorial borders with East Germany and the Soviet Union, and of the massive relocation of ethnic populations enforced by the communist regimes, the Polish population became overwhelmingly Catholic, over 92 percent. Roughly the same proportion remains today.
Such a demographic transformation has of course reinforced the identification of Polish nationalism and Catholicism that emerged in the 19th century in the struggles against the partition. In this respect in the case of Poland, Catholic confessionalization, that is, the fusion of Catholic faith and Polish national identity, is a relatively late modern phenomenon. It happened, moreover trough processes of mobilization from below against foreign states rather than through state coercion (cujus regio ejus religio). Thus, the identification of religion and nation is not a traditional, pre-modern phenomenon, but a modern one, putting into question the correlation assumed by the secularization paradigm between tradition and religion on the one hand, and modernization and secularization on the other. Polish society has become more religious and more homogeneously so, as it has become more modern.
The fusion between Polish nation and Catholic faith was actually reinforced by the mobilized resistance first against Nazi and then against Soviet rule. The expectation was that “normalization” after communism would set in and that Polish “exceptionalism” would disappear. Catholic Poland was expected to undergo similar processes of secularization, as did Catholic Ireland and Catholic Spain.
Yet, there has been no drastic secularization in post-Communist Poland despite the institutionalization of a secular non-confessional democratic state. There has been certainly some de-confessionalization of the nation, as the Catholic Church has lost hegemonic control of the public sphere. According to the 2017 Pew Survey, 70% of Poles affirmed that “religion and government policies should be separate,” 65% indicated that “religious leaders should have no influence in political matters,” while only 25% indicated that “government should support the spread of religious values beliefs.”63 Most significantly, there has been a pronounced liberalization and pluralization of moral norms in the public sphere, particularly with respect to sexual and gender norms, in clear divergence from the official moral doctrines of the Catholic hierarchy. For instance, only 47% of the Polish population and 42% among young adults indicated that “homosexuality should not be accepted by society.” In fact, of all post-communist societies, except for the Czech Republic, Poland shows the greatest acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.64 Yet this de-confessionalization of state, nation, and public and private morality has not been accompanied by drastic unchurching or secularization. The Polish pattern of high Catholic religiosity without religious pluralism defies both the assumptions of the European paradigm of secularization as well as the American paradigm of competitive religious markets. For both paradigms, Poland remains “exceptional.”
2.3 Multidenominational Orthodox Ukraine
Ukraine is the only European country that has basically broken with the European model of “church” and “sect,” that is, national majority religion (or bi-confessional national religions) and religious minorities, and has developed a much more pluralist religious field, akin to American denominationalism.65 The combination of a plurality of competing national “churches”: Ukrainian Orthodox Church- Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), Ukrainian Orthodox Church—Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), Ukrainian Autocephalous Church (UAOC), and Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC), along with the dynamic growth of evangelical Protestant religious communities (Baptist and Pentecostal), and the presence of significant Jewish and Muslim (Crimean Tatars) minorities, all under the constitutional framework of a non-confessional secular state, has contributed to the development of a truly free and competitive religious market in which all religions appear to thrive.
The trends are very clear and point to a continuous dynamic of religious growth. From 2000 to 2010, the proportion of “believers” within the Ukrainian population increased from 57% to 72%, while the proportion of “unbelievers” declined from 12% to 8%, the proportion of the “unsure” declined from 22% to 11%, while the proportion of “atheists,” which was always low, dropped even further from 3.2% to 1.4%. In terms of denominational distribution the numbers have remained basically unchanged since 2010. The proportion of “Orthodox” has remained stable at ca. 70% of the Ukrainian population. It is the affiliation among the three Orthodox denominations (UOC-MP, UOC-KP, and UAOC) that had been constantly in flux, and most recently was drastically altered by the unification of the UOC-KP and the UAOC along with some sectors of the UOC-MP into the newly established Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU). On January 5, 2019, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople signed the Tomos, officially recognizing OCU as a canonical autocephalous Orthodox Church within the territory of Ukraine.
According to the most recent survey, conducted in January 2019 following those events, 70.7% of respondents identified themselves as “Orthodox.” Of those, 43.9% claimed to support the new unified Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), 15.2% claimed affiliation with the UOC-Moscow Patriarchate, while 38.4% were still undecided and claimed to be “simply Orthodox.”66
The denominational identifications of the remaining non-Orthodox respondents (29.3%) was the following: “simply Christian” (8.8%, a figure which is likely to include significant numbers of Orthodox as well as Protestant), Greek Catholic (6.9%), Protestant (ca. 2%), Roman Catholic (1.3%), “other” (1%), “no religion” (9.5%).
In terms of institutional resources, the competitive denominational field has also stabilized, but with a tendency to steady growth in all denominations (Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Roman Catholic, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and other) and in all categories (number of religious communities, ministers, Sunday schools, etc.). In this respect, Ukraine appears to confirm the main premises of the American paradigm of competitive religious markets. But it is not state deregulation alone which accounts for such unique development, since state deregulation elsewhere throughout the region has not brought either religious pluralization (Poland) or religious growth (East Germany).
Denominationalism has emerged in Ukraine after independence for particular historical reasons, which guard some similarity with the original emergence of denominationalism in the United States after independence:
The competition of de facto existing national churches which were hegemonic in different geographic areas and therefore none of them was in a position to become the officially established national church;
The active mobilization of religious minorities: Baptists, Pentecostals, Mormons, Jehovah’s, Jews, Muslims, and new religious movements for free exercise;
The interests of state making elites in maintaining “no establishment” and “free exercise of all religions,” rather than privileging any particular church over others.
It is the particular patterns of confessionalization and de-confessionalization, unique to Ukraine as a borderland between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, and between geopolitical powers (Prussia, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires) which best explain religious dynamics in Ukraine. We may take developments in Western Ukraine, the most religious and the most pluralistic region of Ukraine, as extreme yet paradigmatic illustration of the changing historical patterns of confessionalization and de-confessionalization in all of Ukraine.
At the time of the Union of Brest (1595-96) within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the diocese of Lviv served as a main Orthodox stronghold against the “Unia.” In fact it was “orthodoxy” that served as the rallying cry of the first expressions of Ukrainian national identity under the Cossack Hetmanate. But eventually, once Galicia was incorporated into the Austro-Hungarian Empire under the Partitions, the Greek Catholic Church became the hegemonic confession among Ruthenians/Ukrainians, determining the ethnic boundaries between Greek Catholic Ukrainians and Roman Catholic Poles.
However, in so far as Greek Catholic Galicia served as the Piedmont of modern Ukrainian nationalism at the end of the 19th century, the Uniate Church became a destabilizing factor in the formation of Ukrainian Orthodox confessional identities. The formation of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church during the Bolshevik Revolution marks the first modern attempt at Ukrainian confessionalization independent of the Moscow Patriarchate, but such a project could not possibly succeed under Soviet communism.
With the incorporation of Western Ukraine into the Soviet Union and Stalin’s liquidation of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in 1945, there took place a forced Orthodox re-confessionalization of the entire Western Ukrainian population under the Moscow Patriarchate. Under Soviet rule, the Russian Orthodox Church became de facto the only legally recognized religious confession in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, as well as most other religious communities, could only survive by going underground.
With the belated introduction of Gorbachev’s liberalization, the UGCC was officially reestablished in Western Ukraine in 1989. A majority of Western Ukrainians reverted to the Ukrainian Catholic Church, but large numbers “opted” for Orthodoxy in one of the three denominational versions which now became available: UOC-MP, UOC-KP, UAOC. The seven oblasts of Western Ukraine form not only the most religious region of Ukraine, but also the most competitive and the most pluralistic. Indeed, it serves as stronghold of all major Ukrainian Christian denominations: Orthodox, Greek-Catholic, Roman-Catholic and Protestant. Western Ukraine comprises just 15% of the population of Ukraine, but is home to 40% of all its religious communities.
Besides the various branches of Eastern Christianity and Catholicism, Ukraine has also had an active Baptist presence since the 19th century. Indeed, Ukraine had the largest Baptist communities in all of Europe and served as the Bible Belt of the Soviet Union, and as the base for transnational evangelical missions to all post-Soviet republics.67 There has been also an equally remarkable growth of Pentecostal congregations in Ukraine since independence.
In the same way as the UGCC has served as a destabilizing factor in the formation of Ukrainian Orthodox confessionalism, the dramatic growth of Ukrainian Protestant denominations has played a destabilizing factor in the identification of modern Ukraine with the Christianity of Kievan Rus. While Greek Catholics and Protestants together may constitute only 10% of the Ukrainian population, on any given Sunday there may be as many of them in church as there are Orthodox faithful, although the Orthodox population is six times larger.
The revival and growth of Jewish religious communities and of Muslim communities, particularly of Crimean Tatars, has also contributed to greater pluralization beyond Christianity. This in turn has facilitated the acceptance and the legalization of other non-Christian communities and new religious movements (RUN-vira, Hare Krishna, Buddhist, etc.). No church or religious community in Ukraine can claim to represent the majority of the population. This denominational pattern of religious pluralism, akin to the one that emerged in the United States, has now been institutionalized in Ukraine, the only case in continental Europe.
There has been some momentum towards unification of Ukrainian orthodoxy within the newly established and canonically recognized Orthodox Church of Ukraine under the young Metropolitan Epifanius. Besides the few bishops, lay intellectuals and over 300 parishes of the UOC-MP, which have already joined the new church, some additional sectors of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, until now affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate, may also join the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine in the future. But large numbers of Orthodox bishops, priests and faithful are likely to remain affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate.
For the foreseeable future, we can anticipate the presence of three churches in Ukraine, all three claiming to be the rightful heir of the Church of Kievan-Rus, and all claiming the title of Metropolitan of Kiev and All-Rus for their leaders. Those three churches or denominations are the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church associated with the First Rome, the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine associated with the Second Rome (Byzantium), and the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine associated with the Third Rome (Moscow).
2.4 The Russian Federation: Orthodox Confessionalism in a Multinational Context
The Russian Federation has undergone a complex transition from a secularist to a not fully secular state. Soviet scientific atheism and the enforced secularization from above had been almost as successful in Russia as in East Germany. While we do not have reliable figures, the levels of affiliation in the Orthodox Church, the levels of religious belief, and the levels of religious practice were extremely low at the beginning of glasnost.
In this respect, compared with East Germany, there has been a dramatic religious revival in Russia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. But compared with Ukraine the revival is weaker and less continuous and the religious dynamics are very different, with lesser pluralization and with a tendency towards “orthodox” re-confessionalization. The 1993 Constitution declared that the Russian Federation was “a secular state” guaranteeing religious freedom. But the Preamble to the 1997 Federal Law “On freedom of conscience and on religious associations” added the recognition of “the special role of orthodoxy in the history of Russia and in the origins and development of her spirituality and culture.”
Historically, the process of confessionalization of the Russian state and of its subjects developed in similar ways to simultaneous processes in Western Europe, on the Westphalian model “cuius regio eius religio.” As an imperial state, however, Russia had to become per force a multi-religious regime, which organized itself in terms of ethnic confessionalization: Slavic Orthodox, Jews, Turkic Muslims, Mongolic Buddhist, Siberian shamanistic, etc.
This is the model that the Russian Orthodox Church has tried to reconstruct after communism in alliance with the imperial claims of the Russian state as the successor state to the Soviet Union. Despite its constitutional self-definition as a “secular” state, the Russian state makes de facto clear distinctions between three types of religion:
Russian Orthodoxy under the Moscow Patriarchate, which is privileged as the “traditional” religion of all ethnic Russians, indeed of all East Slavic peoples.
The other historical “traditional religions” of Russia: Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and other ethnic Christians, which had a historical presence within the Russian empire, are legally recognized today and have a constitutional claim to free exercise.
All other “new,” non-traditional and non-historical religious communities in Russia, which are either hindered by cumbersome processes of legalization and local permits or are under close state regulation and surveillance, insofar as they are viewed as “foreign” agents and therefore as a threat to national security.
One can witness since the rise of Putin as President in the year 2000 a growing alliance between the authoritarian imperial project of the Russian state and the canonical claims of the Moscow Patriarchate over all the territories that belonged to the Russian Empire before the Bolshevik Revolution. In terms of its religious dynamics, the Russian Federation is de facto a highly pluralist multi-religious field, but one which evinces increasing orthodox re-confessionalization and tight state regulation of confessional religious groups rather than competitive denominationalism or free exercise.
We do not have fully reliable date on religious affiliation, but data from the Levada Public Opinion Surveys point clearly to an increasingly growing trend of identification of the Russian population with orthodoxy, from 31% in 1991 to 69% in 2011. Yet, the self-identification of the majority of the Russian population as “Orthodox” does not denote the traditional meaning of allegiance to the true faith and the right “doxa,” but rather the modern confessional identity as members of the Russian Orthodox nation, as a typical form of “belonging without believing,” also present in Nordic Lutheran countries.
The data on actual practice point actually to an almost unchanged situation since the fall of communism, without any evidence of an authentic religious revival. The levels of religious practice have remained basically unchanged. From 1991 to 2011, weekly practice has hovered unchanged around 3%, while monthly practice has also remained unchanged around 4%. Only occasional practice, attending religious services at Christmas, Easter and rites of passage, has grown dramatically from 18% in 1991 to 40% in 2011. Similarly, the proportion of those who “never” attend church has decreased accordingly from 67% to a still relatively high 47%.
In conclusion, we have examined the very different religious dynamics of four post-Soviet secular societies. East Germany and Poland show practically no religious change after the transition: Lutheran East Germany shows no evidence of religious growth despite the previously enforced communist secularization, while Catholic Poland shows no evidence of drastic religious decline despite the high rates of religious life under communism.
Ukraine and Russia show clear evidence of religious revival after communism, but with very different dynamics and in different directions. Ukraine evinces a pattern of religious de-confessionalization towards open denominationalism with increasing religious pluralization and dramatic rates of religious growth. Russia evinces a pattern of increasing Orthodox re-confessionalization in the direction of state protected hegemony and more moderate signs of religious revival.
Clearly none of the competing general paradigms (modern secularization, economistic theories of competitive religious markets, or global de-secularization) can account for those diverse post-communist religious dynamics. I have put forward the argument that only a comparative historical analysis that pays attention to the particular historical patterns of confessionalization and de-confessionalization can begin to account for these remarkably divergent religious trends.
If one can find such divergent modern religious and secular trends in such similar neighboring post-Soviet Eastern European societies, one should expect to find even more divergent modern religious and secular patterns around the globe.
3 The External Road of Colonial Encounters: Formation of a World System of Religious Pluralism
As already indicated, 1492 can be chosen as the symbolic milestone or point of departure of two divergent European roads: the internal one of secularization without religious pluralism, which has been analyzed in the previous section, and the external European colonial road of intercultural and interreligious encounters with “the other,” leading to global religious pluralization.
The Iberian global colonial expansion was legitimated formally by the legal fiction of the Roman Pope’s jurisdiction over all non-Christian lands. The 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas drew an arbitrary meridian line giving Spain possession of all the newly “discovered” lands within the western hemisphere, while Portugal claimed possession of all the lands to be discovered within the eastern hemisphere. Of course, no other country accepted such a juridical fiction, and other European powers would soon follow the Iberian powers in their competitive global colonial expansion. But nonetheless, it was on the basis of such a “Catholic” fiction that the colonization of the “New World” or the formation of the Portuguese Estado do India—a vast maritime empire extending from Brazil, throughout Africa, all the way to Goa and Macau—, took place.
One needs to distinguish two different types of colonial encounters. There was, on the one hand, the conquest and colonization of the “new World,” in the Americas, where the Iberian “conquistadores” were able not only to colonize the indigenous population, but also to impose their spiritual conquest through enforced Catholic confessionalization.68 However, one needs to take into account the fact that confessionalization in the New World was more superficial than in Catholic Europe, and could not erase completely the deep substratum of native Indo-American or of imported Afro-American religions. This may be one of the reasons why, unlike in Latin Europe, modernization in post-colonial Latin America has not been accompanied by widespread secularization but rather by increasing religious pluralization.
Throughout Asia, however, the first colonial encounters in the early modern era took a very different dynamic. Only in the Philippines, and to a lesser extent in the Portuguese colonial enclaves of Goa and Macao, could the Iberian colonizers reproduce the “new world” model. This was the high era of “gunpowder empires” in Asia.69 The European powers were not in a position to subjugate any of the Muslim empires (Ottoman, Safavid, or Mughal), nor the Chinese empire, nor any of the kingdoms of East, South, or South East Asia. In this respect, it was an era of globalization and of colonial encounters before Western hegemony. This in itself makes those encounters particularly relevant as we are entering a new age of globalization after Western hegemony.70
The early modern era was the golden age of global Catholic missions, two hundred years before the beginning of global Protestant missions at the end of the 18th century.71 The encounters between Catholic missionary orders, which accompanied the Iberian conquistadores, and non-Western peoples and cultures are particularly relevant. Although they only emerged in 1540, several decades after other Catholic religious orders had established already their missions in the Americas, in Africa and in Asia, I am going to focus on the Jesuit encounters, because the Jesuits became pioneer globalizers avant la lettre.
One could argue that the Society of Jesus was the first organized group in history to think and to act globally. For over two hundred years, from their foundation in 1540 to their papal suppression in 1773, no other group contributed as much to the growth of global connectivity between East and West, and North and South, as well as to the growth in global consciousness.72 The virtuous feedback between the global network of Jesuit missions and the global network of Jesuit colleges made it possible for the Jesuits to become pioneer globalizers.73
The Jesuit “catholic” missionary impulse had naturally, as a matter of course, the hegemonic purpose of universal conversion to the true Catholic faith. As stated in the Formula of the Institute, their 1539 foundational charter, Jesuits took an oath “to travel to any part of the world where there was hope of God’s greater service and the good of souls,” in order to minister to “the Turks or any other infidels, even those who live in the regions called the Indies, or … any heretics whatever, or schismatics, or any of the faithful.”74
It was clearly a universal mission to global humanity and it indicates that global mobility was encoded culturally into the make-up of the Jesuit order from its inception. Surely, the Jesuits initiated their mission with the traditional and customary distinction between vera religio, “the true Christian faith” or “Catholic religion,” and all others: Christian “schismatics” and “heretics,” Jewish and Muslim “infidels,” and the remaining “pagans” and “idolaters.”
In this respect, Jesuits never challenged the discriminatory distinction between “true” and “false” religion. Yet, what makes Jesuit global missionary practices particularly relevant is the fact that, under certain “circumstances,” their controversial method of “accommodation” took a form which we would call today “nativist inculturation.” One should avoid, of course, anachronistic interpretations of early modern Jesuit practices from our contemporary global perspective of cultural and religious pluralism. Nevertheless, Valignano’s method of accommodation points to a formula of globalization that rejects unidirectional Westernization and opens itself to multicultural encounters and reciprocal learning processes.
In some cases, what began as a one-way mission of Christian evangelization that assumed the exclusivity of Christianity as “the true religion” and the superiority of Christian European culture turned into a mutual intercultural and inter-religious encounter, which “under certain circumstances” transformed the missionary as well as the native. In fact, the more Jesuit missionaries were on their own and in the peripheries, without the support and protection of the Iberian colonial powers, the more favorable became the circumstances for an open-ended non-hierarchic interaction and a genuine dialogue. Particularly in the encounter with the multifaceted “religions” of Asia the old catch-all category of “pagan,” “heathen” or “infidel” began to collapse and a new plural system of what later would be called “world religions” began to emerge.
In the following, I am going to offer illustrations from the well-known Jesuit encounters with the culture and “religions” of Japan and China. But one could extend the same analysis to the encounters of Roberto de Nobile with Hindu Brahmans in Madurai, to the encounters of Hyppolito Desideri with Tibetan Buddhism, or to Jesuit encounters with the Guaraníes in the Paraguay Reductions or with many other native American cultures from Quebec to Tierra del Fuego.
Francis Xavier and the Jesuits arrived in feudal warring Japan in 1549 sponsored by the Portuguese Padroado. Yet, once in Japan, the Jesuit padres were able to go were Portuguese merchants and soldiers had no access, starting a process of cultural and religious encounters that shaped what has been named “the Christian century” in Japan.75 The high number of Japanese Christians, which are estimated anywhere from 300,000 to 1,000,000, from all walks of life, from the highest daimyos to the lowest outcasts, in itself was significant. More significant, however, was the impact that the encounter with Catholic Christianity had on Japanese culture and on the determined effort of the Tokugawa regime to repress and to exterminate Christianity and to erase any memory of the previous encounter in order to construct an authentic Japanese culture purified of any hybrid accretion from the Christian West.
Sengoku Japan was undergoing at the time a radical transformation from a feudal “Country at War” to a centralized absolutist state and the Kirishitan played an important catalyst role in this transformation. From a comparative historical perspective, what is striking about absolutist state formation in Japan is the role played by the ethno-religious cleansing of the Christian minority, by anti-Christian state ideology and by the confessionalization of the entire Japanese population through the Buddhist and Shinto temple registration system first introduced in 1635. The state-enforced disciplinary effort continued through the institutionalization of the “Christian aratame” practices through the second half of the 17th century, after Christianity had been wiped out, requiring Japanese to “prove” that they were not Christian. As the Japanese historian Kiri Paramore points out, “the establishment of this system represented much more than just an instance of anti-Christian activity: it established an institutionalized system of social control extending to the entire population, a system of control that continued to function until the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the late nineteenth century.”76
Actually, the persecution of Japanese Christianity happened after the expulsion of the Jesuits padres. Similarly, the state-enforced anti-Christian measures to erase any memory of the Christian century were implemented after all Japanese Christians had been exterminated, had apostatized, or were driven underground. In this respect, the anti-Christian measures had the character of a negative confessionalization, in order to homogenize the entire Japanese population, making them authentically “Japanese.” Later interpretations, by Japanese as well as by Western scholars, have taken this Tokugawa Japanese ideology for granted, as an explanation for the ultimate failure of the Jesuits and of Christianity in Japan, as well as a justification for the radical isolationist policies of Sakoku (“closed Country”) Japan introduced by the Tokugawa. It has been interpreted as the need to protect Japan not only from a foreign and un-Japanese religion, but from Western colonialism. Catholic Christianity had to be rejected naturally as a dangerous foreign body, which, besides being an inferior and questionable form of Christianity, was essentially “other” and therefore ultimately unassimilable without undermining Japanese culture and Japanese identity.77
The argument presupposes that “national” Japanese culture and identity were already fixed and not subject to change at the time of the colonial encounter with European Catholic culture. One could offer the alternative hypothesis that Japanese culture at the time was rather fluid and open and that the construction of Christianity as the radically “other” played a crucial role in the process of constructing a Japanese national identity. This identity now could be projected onto the remote pre-historical past of Japan as a unique, particularistic, unchanging and unchangeable Japanese essence.78
Striking about the Christian century is not so much the number of Japanese converts, and the extent to which Japanese seemed to be open to a radical change in religious identity. More interesting appears to be the fact that the material, textual and pictorial evidence that remains from the Christian Century, mainly in Western archives because Japanese archives were cleansed of any Christian presence, shows how fluid, open, and hybrid Japanese culture was at the time. Japanese art, particularly painting, fashion and dress codes, food, language and even the most Japanese of rituals, the tea ceremony, all appear to have been transformed significantly by the encounter between the Jesuits and Japanese culture.
One could interpret the ensuing isolationist Sakoku policies as the first proto-typical anti-colonial and anti-imperialist fundamentalist nativist rejection of Western globalization. The problem with such interpretation is not only that more recent revisionist histories have questioned the radical fundamentalist character of the Sakoku isolationist closure, but more importantly that it implies an anachronistic reading of the fear of Western colonialism before Western hegemony, at a time when neither the Portuguese nor the Spaniards were in a position to colonize Japan.
In fact, it was a time when Japan was initiating an aggressive expansionist maritime policy, under Toyotomi Hideyoshi, which anticipated later excursions of pan-Asian Japanese imperialism. The attempt to invade Korea twice (1592-98) with Japanese armies, some of them led by Christian daimyos carrying Christian standards of Christ and the Virgin Mary, as well as other Japanese excursion overseas, proved ultimately abortive and were reversed by the Tokugawa Sakoku policy.
The historian C.R. Boxer discounted the military threat to Japan represented by the Iberian colonial powers and offered an intriguing counter-hypothesis. In fact, were it not for the reversal in Tokugawa state policy, he argues that “the Japanese, whether peacefully or otherwise, would have established themselves in the Philippines, Indo-China, and in parts of Indonesia by the turn of the seventeenth-century; and they would, in all probability, have been able to share in the fruits of Europe’s industrial revolution, for several decades before they actually did.”79 Global history could have been radically different. Such “what if” conjectural historical hypotheses can play an important role in challenging dominant modernist, teleological and Euro-centric assumptions concerning historical processes of globalization.
We tend to assume, somewhat erroneously, a certain teleology of the systemic structures of globalization carried by capitalism and by Western colonialism. But in fact, early modern globalization from the 16th to the 18th century did not carry yet global systemic structures, economic, political or cultural. It was a globalization better characterized by globally “connected histories.”80 It was a globalization before Western hegemony, based on global encounters between cultures and societies, which in Asia at least were still relatively equal.
Jesuit accommodation to Asian cultures reflects precisely such a relative symmetry. Certainly, Jesuits were convinced of the superiority of Christianity over other religions. Yet, this was not translated, as will happen in the 19th century, into a perception of the superiority of Western culture tout court. In fact, some of the more open-minded Jesuits recognized that Japanese culture was in many respects superior to their own European cultures. Alessandro Valignano’s method of accommodation was based on the realization that Jesuits could never succeed in their mission to convert the Japanese to Christianity, unless they themselves made an effort to adopt a Japanese habitus. This does not need to be interpreted, however, in purely instrumentalist terms. It was also expression of a true openness to the culture of the other, grounded in a genuine respect for that culture.81
The history of modern Japan can be interpreted differently, if one takes into account this early modern global encounter with the Jesuits. Japan represents the first non-European absolutist state that, without imitating the West, nor consciously following the principles of Hobbes’ Leviathan, developed nonetheless a pattern similar and parallel to the European confessional states. The Tokugawa state itself was non-confessional and, in this respect, could be characterized as “secular.” Yet, it introduced a policy of confessionalization of its population by enforcing the registration of every Japanese subject in Buddhist or Shinto temples that was akin to the European parish registration system. Again, what was important was not that everybody had to become Buddhist, but that everybody had to become Japanese, as defined by the state. The aim of the anti-Christian state crusade, which continued for a century after the expulsion of Jesuits and other Catholic missionaries and after Japanese Christians had ceased to exist publicly, was not the establishment of Buddhist “religion” per se, but the Japanization of the population. Buddhism was only a national instrument of Japanization. After the Meiji restoration, the Japanese state easily switched from Buddhism to nationalist Shinto in order to enforce an even more rigid policy of Japanization, while renewing its anti-Christian ideology.
It was during the Meiji restoration when the modern Western concept of “religion” became incorporated into Japanese consciousness through the neologism shukyo. It was an old term with the signification of a Buddhist “sect,” which now was used to translate the clause on freedom of religion demanded by the Western colonial powers in their “unequal treaties.”82 Shukyo or “religion” in modern Japan has the connotation precisely of a particularist sectarian group. For that very reason, the Meiji regime insisted that Shinto was not a religion but simply Japanese national culture. Therefore, it could be enforced legitimately by the state, without jeopardizing the freedom of religion demanded by Western powers, since the Japanese state was ready to tolerate all kinds of particularistic sectarian “religions,” while establishing Shinto as the state-enforced confessional national “culture.”
The Jesuit encounter with China represented obviously a very different type of colonial encounter. China was a large empire, stable and relatively pacified, governed by a civil imperial bureaucracy of cultured literati. Yet, the Jesuit method of accommodation was introduced also with relative success, first under the Ming and later continued under the Qing. It is important to stress again that “accommodation” was not simply a cunning strategy devised by European Jesuits. The practice emerged out of the intercultural encounter itself. In Japan as well as in China, their local friends, the first Christians, taught the Jesuits the need to go “native” and to accommodate the local culture if they wanted to succeed.83 It was his friend and disciple Chü Ju-k’uei (or Chü T’ai-su) who first convinced Matteo Ricci of the need to abandon the habit of a Buddhist monk, which he had adopted at first upon entering China with Michele Ruggieri, and to assume instead the habitus of a Mandarin scholar (ju).84
The ultimate goal of Ricci and the Jesuits who followed him was to penetrate the imperial court of Beijing and to convert the Chinese emperor. The Constantinian model of imperial conversion from above was taken for granted by European Catholics. Yet Ricci realized soon that he himself would need to become first Chinese before the Chinese could possibly become Christians. It demanded an arduous enterprise of double translation, of translation of Latin texts and of European culture into Chinese and of translation of Chinese texts and Chinese culture into Latin and into European culture.85
Ricci himself, through his own sinicization, was the key to this collective enterprise in which European Jesuits as well as Christian Confucian scholars (ju) participated. Ricci’s translation of Euclid’s Elements into Chinese, his Treatise on Friendship, introducing famous aphorisms from Greek, Latin and Christian authors into Chinese, his Catechism T’ien-chu shih-i (True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven), and his World Map “of the myriad nations of the earth,” fusing Western and Chinese cartography, are some of the most famous contributions by Ricci to this collective translation enterprise.86 The effect of the translation of Chinese classics and culture first into Latin and then into European languages and cultures, mediated primarily by the China Jesuits, was probably even more crucial for European historical developments.87 Ricci and other Jesuits played a crucial role in what has been called the “manufacturing” of “Confucius” and Confucianism, or at least in their significant reception in 17th and 18th century Europe, as well as in the origins of Western Sinology.88
It is important to stress that this dual and reciprocal process of inculturation, which crystallized in a novel form of Confucian Christianity or Christian Confucianism, was the result of synthetic collaboration and intercultural dialogue between European Jesuits and Chinese scholars such as Yang T’ing-yün, Li Chih-Tsao, and Hsü Kuang-ch’i, widely known as “the Three Pillars of Christianity in China.”89 Jacques Gernet, the great French sinologist, famously argued that those Chinese scholars were not truly “Christian” because they did not know the true European Christianity. Moreover, for Gernet the whole encounter was based on a fundamental misunderstanding between two supposedly incommensurable cultures and conceptions of “religion.”90 But Gernet’s evaluation is based on a post-Enlightenment secularist conception of Christian “religion” and on a modern essentialist conception of Western and Chinese civilizations as fixed and radically different totalities.
Ricci’s account of Chinese religion and culture and its reception in Europe was to prove particularly relevant. A well-known paragraph from Ricci’s 1584 letter to Juan Bautista Roman, may serve as illustration. I am going to translate freely from the Italian-Portuguese-Spanish “creole” frequently used by Jesuits in East Asia. Ricci writes:
Let me say a few words about the religions and sects of China, without being too precise, since there is no religion in China and the small amount of cult that exists is so intricate that even their own religious people cannot give a good account of it. Leaving aside the Moors (Muslims), which I do not know how they got here, the Chinese are divided into three sects: one is called heguia (Buddhists), the other cilitan (Daoists) and the most celebrated is the one of the literati, who normally do not believe in the immortality of the soul, make fun of the assertions of the other two, and only give thanks to heaven and earth for the benefits they receive, but do not pray for salvation in the afterlife.91
I have placed in italics the various references to the different “religious” phenomena to indicate that the terms religion, religions, religious at the time, at the end of the 16th century, were still unstable and did not yet have the precise meanings which they would acquire later towards the end of the 18th century.92 The Jesuits at the time throughout their global missions used interchangeably such terms as faith (particularly in reference to the Holy Catholic Faith), religion (mostly when referring to the true Catholic religion, de vera religione), teachings or doctrinas (to refer to both orthodox Christian doctrines and heterodox ones, such as those of Christian heretics and sectarians, Christian schismatics, the doctrines of Jewish and Muslim infidels, and pagan and idolatrous doctrines), and laws (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, etc.). Cult refers to sacred, often “idolatrous” “rituals,” not to the modern meaning of a dangerous “cult” that owed to be outlawed for public protection.
The assertion, “there is no religion in China,” obviously only means there is no true religion. “Religiones” in the plural at the time usually referred not to “religions” in the modern sense of the term but to the multiple Catholic religious orders (Benedictines, Franciscans, Dominicans, etc.). Analogically, Ricci is going to refer to the various “religions,” orders, or “sects” he has found in China. The reference to “their own religious people” is also to the various orders of religious virtuosi. Besides the Moors, the name given to Muslims at the time in Southern Latin Europe, who Ricci clearly does not view as part of Chinese religion, he identifies the three Chinese teachings (sanjiao) or “sects,” as Buddhists, Daoists, and literati. The literati are not yet identified as Confucians, or followers of the teachings of K’ung-fu-zi, the name which Ricci and the Jesuits would use later for K’ung-zi, the more common Chinese name of the Sage, which they turned into the Latin Confucius.93
Already in his early encounter with Confucian teachings, Ricci realized that the literati do not “believe” in the immortality of the soul or in salvation in the afterlife, look down upon Buddhist and Daoist teachings as “superstition,” and practice no “idolatrous” rituals, other than thanksgiving to heaven and earth. Clearly such teachings do not fit the category of pagan idolatrous religion. Indeed, they seem more like a proto-secular moral teaching, analogous to the moral teachings of ancient Greek and Latin classic authors, such as Socrates, Cicero and Seneca, which Jesuits had incorporated into the Christian Humanism they were spreading in Jesuit colleges throughout the world through their Ratio Studiorum, the Jesuit liberal arts curriculum.94 If Cicero could be inducted as a “saint” in Jesuit colleges, the more so, Ricci was convinced, could Confucius be venerated as a saint. Ricci was soon recognized by his Chinese peers as a scholar of the Chinese classics, provoking both great admiration for his erudition and virtue, but also great animosity for his relentless attacks on Buddhism and his attempt to purify the reigning Neo-Confucianism from the atheist materialism, which Ricci viewed as a later accretion and as deviation from the ancient teachings.
In a letter of 1609 to Francesco Pasio, a fellow Jesuit, Ricci writes:
In ancient times they [i.e. Chinese] followed the natural law more faithfully than in our own countries. And 1500 years ago, this people was not inclined to the worship of idols … On the contrary, the books of the literati, which are the most ancient and authoritative among their writings, do not adore anything but heaven and earth and the Lord of both. And if we examine these books, we will find little therein against the light of reason and much that is in conformity with it […] and we can hope in Divine mercy and that many of their ancient sages were saved by their observance of the natural law with the help that God would have given them on account of their goodness.95
Leaving aside the accuracy of Ricci’s interpretation of Confucianism and his negative view of Buddhism and Daoism, two things become evident from these passages. First, in their encounters with the religious other the Jesuits are confronted with forms of religious pluralism, which could not easily be fitted within the traditional taxonomies of “false” pagan or idolatrous religion. Secondly, Ricci appears to characterize the Chinese as “anonymous Christians,” if one may borrow the category developed later by the great German Jesuit theologian, Karl Rahner. Indeed, in their recourse to natural law and the light of reason in order to account for the nature of this religious pluralism, the Jesuits initiate in fact a form of inter-cultural and interreligious encounter that takes place without reference to revelation. In a certain sense, one finds here the seeds of the two types of pluralism, identified by Peter Berger, namely, multi-religious pluralism and secular-religious pluralism.
In retrospect, re-examining the Jesuit encounters, we can certainly assume that the Christian impact on China was probably much less relevant and certainly less lasting than the Chinese impact on Christian Europe. The Jesuit translation and introduction of Chinese culture into the European public sphere, particularly as it was mediated through the Chinese Rites controversy, played a crucial role in shaping what became the Enlightenment critique of religion, and in this respect affected European processes of secularization.96
Crucial was the distinction introduced by the Jesuits in China between “religion” and “culture”; between, on the one hand, universal Christian religion, which per se is non-European, and therefore can become inculturated in any and all particular cultures, and, on the other, those components of the particular religious cultures which are idolatrous, and therefore cannot become Christianized. Those idolatrous components of culture have to be rejected. However, those components of culture that are not idolatrous, that are “civil” rather than “religious,” are neutral and therefore can become Christianized. Confucianism, as interpreted by the Jesuits, was viewed not as an idolatrous religion, but as a humanist culture, a natural morality, and a civil cult or ritual. Unintentionally, once the distinction was incorporated into European debates, it signaled the beginning of the breakdown of the monotheistic distinction between “true” and “false” religion on which the entire structure of Christendom had been based.
The distinction between religion and culture was at the core of the Chinese Rites controversy.97 Other Catholic missionaries (Dominicans, Franciscans), and the curial officers at Propaganda Fide rejected the Jesuit interpretation of the Chinese Rites as cultural, civic rites, insisting that they were idolatrous religious rituals which Chinese Christians had to reject.98 However, the European philosophes, Voltaire among them, accepted the Jesuit distinction, but turned it against them, against Christianity, and against all revealed theist religions. Having learned from the Jesuits that Confucianism represented a kind of deist natural religion before revelation, they gladly affirmed those elements of the Chinese rites which the Jesuits interpreted as civic customs, not as religion, to insist that this is what was needed in Europe, a deist natural religion based on civic customs, while rejecting the supernatural theist superstitious rites of revealed Christian religion. Confucian culture was indeed superior to Christian religion. This explains the Chinese craze of the European Enlightenment and deism. They could recognize the superiority of Chinese Confucian culture over European Christian culture.
Ultimately, the Jesuit project of globalization failed, or rather it was defeated by competing projects of global Catholicisms. There were first the competing projects of imperial national Catholicisms sponsored respectively by the Portuguese, Spanish and French monarchies. But more importantly the Jesuit global missionary project was ultimately defeated by the alternative project of global Catholic Romanization promoted by the Pope, by the Roman Congregation De Propaganda Fide and by other Catholic religious orders.
In the 19th century with the triumph of Western colonialism and secular modernity, the European attitude towards China and all “oriental” cultures radically changed. Now the hegemonic military and technological superiority of industrial capitalism and political and economic liberalism proved the superiority of modern Western civilization over traditional “oriental” Asian cultures and justified the imperial “White Man’s Burden” and its mission civilisatrice.
It was during this second Western hegemonic phase of globalization that the binary “religious/secular” system of classification entered East Asia. It did so with the unequal treaties, all of them demanding free trade and Western colonial access, through foreign protectorates or through outright colonization as in French Indochina, as well as freedom of religion for Protestant and Catholic missionaries. The particular way in which the categories of “religion” and “secularity” took root in modern Japan have been well studied.99 But similar problems of translation, semantic reconfigurations of religious and secular discourses, and radical transformations of the pre-existing “religious fields” became a common phenomenon in all projects of modernization across East Asian societies.100 The continuing difficulties in the classification of Confucianism within the religious/secular binary system are also well known.101
3.3 Religious Pluralization in the New World: the United States
America was the continent where the internal European road of confessionalization and the external colonial road of interreligious encounters became intertwined. It is worth remembering that the New World, particularly the American colonies, became a refuge for all the religious minorities forced to migrate by the dynamics of ethno-religious cleansing connected with processes of European confessionalization. Besides being the home of native Amerindian religions, America also became the home for African religions brought by the transatlantic slave trade. American developments, in this respect, stand at the crossroads of both dynamics, of external processes of globalization and of internal processes of modernization, as is evident by the fact that the American Revolution is intrinsically connected also with the European Enlightenment.
In line with the argument presented in the second section, the United States offers a third dynamic of secularization, which differs from the European patterns of de-confessionalization, while sharing some elements with both, with the Nordic Protestant and with the Southern Catholic patterns. Actually, one could argue that the U.S. pattern radicalizes both of them. With laicist France, it shares a secular separationist model of disestablishment of ecclesiastical religion at the state level, while radicalizing the Protestant model of blurring the religious and secular boundaries in society. The key to the American model is the dissolution of the ecclesiastical national church institution and the proliferation of the sectarian model of free voluntary religious associations without any state interference.
Indeed, it is important to emphasize that the United States did not have an established national church nor did it go through a process of confessionalization. Consequently, the process of American secularization does not entail a process of de-confessionalization or unchurching. On the contrary, secular modernization in the United States is accompanied by religious revival and by “churching,” which however denotes affiliation in any of the many different kinds of religious denominations, but not adherence as in Europe to a confessional territorial church.102
Moreover, the dual constitutional formula of no establishment and free exercise guaranteed the development of denominationalism as a system of free and open religious pluralism in society, based on the sectarian non-ecclesiastical model of religious association. American secularism was born not as a strategy of state control of religion, but rather as a means of protecting religious pluralism without privileging any particular denomination. The legal secular principle of formal equality of all denominations tends to undermine not only the traditional European distinction between church and sect, but also the one between orthodoxy and heterodoxy, that is, the axial distinction between true and false religion. In this respect, the United States remains the first and the single paradigmatic case of the simultaneous development of the two types of modern pluralism, religious-secular and multi-religious. In this respect, Berger’s thesis is correct, American modernity produces both types of pluralism, in contradistinction to European modernity that produces religious-secular dichotomous pluralism without religious pluralization.
3.4 Quebec and Brazil as Post-confessional and Post-Catholic Societies
A comparison of Quebec and Brazil, two post-confessional post-Catholic societies in the “New World,” should help to illustrate the two divergent patterns of modern secularization without religious pluralism and of modern religious pluralization with mild secularization.103
Up to the 1960’s, Quebec had been a homogeneous confessional Catholic society, arguably the region with the highest levels of religious belief and practice not only in Canada, but in all of North America. In one single generation, as a consequence of “the quiet revolution,” Quebec underwent a drastic process of secularization. State, nation, and the population of Quebec became de-confessionalized. The new secular government of Quebec not only took over from the Church the now secular spheres of education, health care and most social services, but most importantly it supplanted the Church as “the embodiment of the French nation in Canada.” Religious practice and affiliation plummeted and today Quebec is arguably the most secularized region of North America.
A population which had been previously homogeneously Catholic had become in short order homogeneously secular and post-Catholic. As in Western Europe, the only dynamic of religious pluralism was brought in by the new immigrants. Paradoxically, as indicated by the “Report of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on Reasonable Accommodation of Minorities,” laicist assumptions now prevalent among the post-Catholic population are an important source of tensions with the new immigrant religious minorities, particularly with Muslims, in Quebec.
Since the 1960’s, Brazil has experienced its own quiet secular revolution. Brazil has also ceased being a confessional Catholic society. But de-confessionalization of state, nation and population has not led to drastic homogeneous secularization but rather to an explosion of religious pluralism of all kinds. Brazil remains the largest Catholic society in the world and a dynamic center of global Catholicism. But, simultaneously it has become a dynamic center of global Pentecostalism and a dynamic global center for the transformation of Afro-American religions.
Not only Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s global cities, but also such traditional towns as Ouro Preto in Minas Gerais exhibit increasingly pluralist religious dynamics. One finds divergent Catholic trends, from liberation theology to thriving charismatic communities. The explosive pluralization of Brazilian Protestantism is even more striking, from historical denominations to Evangelical and Pentecostal congregations of all kinds, including Neo-Pentecostal mega-churches. Afro-Brazilian religious movements, such as Umbanda and Candomblé, are undergoing also dynamic revivals.104
Additionally, one finds new Amer-Indian religious movements and immigrant diasporas communities of all kinds—Jewish, Muslim and Bahá’í, Christian Middle Eastern, Eastern Orthodox, and Greek-Catholic, Japanese Buddhist and Chinese Taoist—, as well as new Brazilian syncretic cults, such as La Comunidade Espírita O Vale do Amanhecer near Brasilia or O Templo Ecuménico Espírita de la Legion de la Boa Vondade en Brasilia. Moreover, permeating all religious phenomena in Brazil one finds the ubiquitous, syncretic and protean espiritismo.
While Brazil may be an extreme case, similar stories of expansion of religious pluralism accompanying modernization, urbanization and democratization are happening throughout Latin American societies since the 1960s. To understand this new dynamic of religious pluralization in Catholic Latin America, which is so different from the drastic pattern of secularization of Latin Catholic Europe, one needs to take into account the fact that the process of forced state confessionalization in colonial Latin America was never as comprehensive or intensive, as was the case in post-Tridentine Latin Catholic Europe. Underneath the officially enforced Catholicism or blended in syncretistic fusion with it, Amer-Indian and Afro-American religiosities were able to survive.
Arguably, this blending of official Catholicism and unofficial popular religions constitutes the source of the pervasive religiosity of the Latin American peoples. Even under the intolerant eyes of the Inquisition, Iberian colonial culture showed a surprisingly irreverent respect for religious tolerance.105 Moreover, most Latin American societies also became in the 20th century open immigrant societies welcoming immigrants not only from European countries but also increasingly from the Middle East and from Asia. Most importantly, the Enlightenment critique of religion and the premises of the theory of secularization affected perhaps Latin American intellectual elites, particularly in the Southern Cone and in Mexico, but they had lesser effect on the Latin American masses. Consequently, unlike in Europe, the premises of the theory of secularization never served as a definition of the situation in Latin America, and thus did not become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The 2014 Pew Research Report, Religion in Latin America. Widespread Change in a Historically Catholic Region, the most comprehensive and reliable survey we have, confirms the continent-wide character of this process of religious pluralization accompanying modernization in Latin America.106 It documents a process of continuous and ongoing Catholic de-confessionalization, accompanied by the explosive growth of Pentecostal Christianity in practically every Latin American country, along with the relative weakness of the secular option, and the initial expansion of religious pluralism into “other” categories, beyond Catholicism and Protestantism.
4 The Intertwinement of Religious and Secular Dynamics in Our Global Age: Global Denominationalism and the Globalization of the Secular Immanent Frame
We have examined first the emergence of the modern religious/secular binary system of classification, followed by a discussion of the parallel internal road of European secularization and the external road of colonial intercultural and interreligious encounters which led to the formation of the global system of world religions. In this final section, we want to examine the ways in which secular and religious dynamics are becoming intertwined everywhere through the globalization of the secular immanent frame and through ongoing process of interreligious mutual recognition, which I call global denominationalism.
The immanent frame, a concept developed by Charles Taylor, refers to the emergence of the modern institutional structures of democratic states, economic markets, scientific institutions and mass media, all of which are secular and immanent, that is, without any vertical transcendent referent, and thus function etsi deus non daretur, as if God would not exist.107 The expression goes back to Hugo Grotius’ attempt to ground a system of international law without any divine or transcendent referent. In this respect, the early modern Westphalian system of states was a secular one. Each of the states assumed absolute sovereignty vis a vis the other, even if each of them was also simultaneously a confessional state, in the sense that they enforced the religious confessionalization of their subjects.
The first truly modern secular state, however, the United States of America, was born as a secular state without any previous process of confessionalization. It was based, from its inception, on a “wall of separation” between church and state, instituted by the dual clause of the First Amendment, which prohibited any religious establishment at the state level, while protecting the free exercise of each and all religions in civil society. As the history of the United States shows, however, separation of church and state does not mean the separation of religion and politics, and the secularization of the state can go hand in hand with periodical religious revivals of all kinds within society.
Similarly, as frequent critiques of global financial capitalism remind us all the time, capitalist markets also function as if God would not exist, even though some of the global capitalist tycoons, in the United States or in many Muslim countries, may be religious believers. Similarly, American scientific institutions, which as we know have produced a majority of Nobel Prizes in the natural sciences since World War II, also function etsi deus non daretur. Yet, some of the scientists may possibly be believers and certainly large sectors of the American population may believe in “creationism,” in the same way as other sectors of the American population may believe in “Darwinian evolutionism.” In other words the global secular immanent frame is compatible with all kinds of religious dynamics at the individual as well as the institutional level.
Throughout my work, I’ve insisted on the need to differentiate between three dynamics which to Europeans at least appear as intrinsically interconnected aspects of a single process of secularization. Those three dynamics are: a) the institutionalization of the immanent frame through the emancipation and differentiation of the secular spheres of states, markets and science from religion; b) the privatization of religion; and c) the decline of religious beliefs and practices.108 In European developments, these three dynamics appear indeed intrinsically, rather than contingently, interrelated. Perhaps, this was the price European Christianity had to pay for its role in what Marcel Gauchet calls “the exit from religion,” that is, in the institutionalization of the secular immanent frame.109 But, I repeat, within this immanent frame all kinds of religious and secular dynamics are possible.
Indeed, in the rest of the world, the globalization of the immanent frame is not necessarily accompanied by “the exit from religion,” that is by the privatization and decline of religion. It may be accompanied, rather, by all types of religious transformations, in different directions, as the religious/secular binary system of classification that emerged within Western Christianity enters in dynamic transformative interaction with all non-Western systems of classification, pre-axial as well as axial.110 All the religio-cultural systems, Christian and non-Christian, Western and non-Western, have been and continue being transformed through these global interactive dynamics. Let me offer as illustration a brief comparative analysis of some of the divergent religious and secular dynamics in post-colonial China and post-colonial India.
China has had a long and relatively continuous state system with some persistent patterns of state regulation and management of religion. The relations between state and society in China for more than 2000 years have been significantly different than those of the West. Indeed, the very division between state, church and society, upon which both the concept of “civil society” and the separation of church and state are based in the Christian West, are hardly applicable to China. The plurality of autonomous and competing corporatist structures, such as pope, emperor and kings, feudal lords and bishops, autonomous townships and burghers, all claiming their different rights and privileges, while contesting them in separate courts, which are the institutional antecedents of the modern system of democratic state and civil society in the West, were also unknown in China.
For a much longer period of time and for a much larger territory than any Western state, the Chinese imperial system administered a highly effective system of domestic social order based on Confucian moral principles of harmony, shared by state officials and local elites, and on political principles of welfare and surveillance with relative low levels of coercion. But the imperial system collapsed at the end of the 19th century, unable to meet the challenges of various domestic rebellions and the foreign pressures of the unequal treaties imposed by European powers and the Sino-Japanese war. In this respect, there was a radical break in China between the ancient imperial regime and the modern republican nationalist state in all its forms, republican, nationalist (Kuomingtang), and communist. Nowhere was this break more radical perhaps than in the field of “religion.”111
Indeed, it would be more appropriate to use the expression “religious field” to characterize the broader construct within which “religion” and “secularity” are dynamically and interactively situated. Following Peter van de Veer, one can best understand the “modern” religious field as a structural field of syntagmatic relations of which the main “modern” linguistic expressions are religion and secularity, but also magic (i.e. superstition) and spirituality.112 Each of these categories must be understood in relation to the others. Their interrelation determines the religious field in any particular context.
Properly speaking the modern term “religion” (zongjiao) was introduced in China first at the end of the nineteenth century, as a neologism modeled after the Japanese term shukyo, to render the Western concept of “religion,” with the similar connotation of sectarian group. Yet, following Mayfair Yang, one can distinguish four different phenomena constituting what retrospectively could be called the broader religious field in late imperial China.113
There was first the imperial state cult and orthodoxy, including reverence of Confucius and Confucian doctrines, which combined jisi (sacrifices and reverences) and jiao (teachings). In this respect, the Chinese state could be characterized, following John Lagerwey, as a “religious state” with “sacred” legitimacy.114 But simultaneously, it can also be characterized as a “proto-secular” state with the authority to organize the religious field through its power to define “orthodoxy” and “heterodoxy.” Indeed, it has been the prerogative of the Chinese state since ancient times to distinguish authoritatively between the “upright” order (zheng), orthodox teaching (zhenjiao) or right path (dao) and the evil, “crooked” forces of chaos (xie), heresy (yiduan), heretical sayings (xieshuo), heretical doctrines (xiejiao) and heterodox ways (zuodao). The distinction between “orthodoxy” and “heterodoxy” has been in this respect always constitutive of the Chinese political and religious system.
There was, secondly, the realm of village or community religion, the so-called Chinese “folk” religion, which was in some respects continuous with the state cult, but had also its own distinctive characteristics. It was this realm of community religion that in the modern republican era became characterized as “superstition” (mixin), another modern Western neologism forming a dyadic relationship with zongjiao, and which became the target of modernizing reformers and radicals from the early twentieth century on.
Thirdly, there were the licensed religious traditions of Buddhism (fojiao) and Daoism (dajiao) which had a weak institutional form by the end of the imperial system as the providers of ritual services for ordinary people. But many of their rites and ideas had also been incorporated symbiotically into community religion. Those were the religions which along with Islam (Hui jiao) and the Western Christian religions proper, Protestantism and Catholicism, were incorporated into the five officially recognized or legitimate “religions” (zongjiao) early on in the Republican era, which have continued to enjoy “freedom of religion” during the People’s Republic, although all of them were severely repressed for decades under Communist rule.
Finally, there were the numerous popular religious societies or sects (huidaomen), many of which were informed by the syncretism of the three religions or teachings (sanjiao; Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism) and many of which had also a redemptive program to “save the world” (juishi) and transform the self. Falun Gong or the numerous societies of the Qui Gong movement can be viewed as contemporary versions of such religious societies.115
The post-imperial state with its progressive goal of modernizing Chinese society and the nation, in order to free itself from Western colonial domination, introduced a radical reorganization of the traditional Chinese religious field through administrative regulation.116 The state was made “secular” by abolishing the imperial state cult. But in addition the state became pronouncedly “secularist” through aggressive intervention in the sphere of religion by drawing new modern administrative distinctions between a) “religion” (zongjiao), which could be tolerated under strict state control, and b) “superstition” (mixin), as well as c) “reactionary sects,” “secret societies” and “evil cults” (fandong huidaomen and xiejiao), which could be violently repressed.
Five “religions” (Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Protestantism and Catholicism) are today officially recognized by the state and are, at least formally, protected by the constitutionally recognized “freedom of religion.” But all five religions function under strict state regulation, after having been reorganized into centralized national religious institutions modeled after the European pattern. Religious diversity is in this respect severely circumscribed within the officially recognized religion. Every other form of religion is in principle illegal, must lead an “underground” (dixia) existence and is subject to repression.
One fateful consequence of the narrowing classification of zongjiao was the dissociation of Confucianism from the sphere of “religion.” Indeed, while in the Western academy, Confucianism continued to be considered one of the major “world religions,” along with Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc., in China it ceased to be a religion.117 Moreover, since Buddhism and Taoism also have a relative small number of formally affiliated members in China, the ultimate result of the administrative regulation of zongjiao has been that the official classification leaves out the majority of the ethnic Chinese (Han) population as “secular” and non-religious. Indeed, with the exception of Taoism all other four official religions (Buddhism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism) can easily be depicted from a nativist nationalist perspective as “foreign” and un-Chinese.
As Peter van der Veer has shown, under the slogan “Smash Temples, Build Schools” “superstition” (mixin) has been repeatedly repressed through violent iconoclastic modernizing campaigns which began with the May Fourth Movement and culminated in the Cultural Revolution.118 Every form of folk religion, superstition, and magic became an efficient sign of national “backwardnes” to be blamed for “the national humiliation.” The traditional mandarin elitist Confucian suspicion of folk religion and superstition became fused with Western secularist and atheist scientistic ideologies in a particularly virulent combination. Today, the violent anti-superstition campaigns have been lifted and one can witness a revival of community religion, particularly in Southern China. But the widespread anti-religious secularist bias persists throughout China, particularly among the elites. Indeed, after a certain relaxation, anti-religious state policies have been reinforced under the rule of China’s President Xi Jinping.
Indeed, the Chinese secular-religious field remains closer to the European secularist model than to the American one or, as we will see, to the Indian one. China is one of the few non-Western countries in which a stadial secularist consciousness has become dominant. It identifies religion with backward tradition, while science, secularity, and irreligion are identified with modernity and progress. Yet, after six decades of forced secularization from above, combining brutal repression and atheist indoctrination and propaganda, the results have been mixed and ambiguous at best. On the one hand, the Chinese population remains “secular,” on the surface at least as little religious as the most secularized Western European societies. But on the other hand, like many post-Soviet societies, China has also been experiencing a remarkable religious revival throughout the entire field, from Buddhism and Daoism to Christianity and Islam, but also a revival of Confucianism and all forms of popular Chinese religion.119
The swift and brutal reaction against any perceived threat to the one party state rule, as shown by the violent repression directed at various times against “splitist” Tibetan Buddhists, “terrorist” Muslim Uighurs, members of the “evil cult” Falun Gong, or underground Christian churches, would seem to indicate that the Chinese state still reserves for itself the right to define the boundaries between orthodoxy and heterodoxy and to repress heretic deviations violently. In this respect, Chinese state secularism blends seamlessly modern Western traditions of ideological secularism and etatist laïcité with ancient Chinese models of sacred rule and centralized state administration of society.
In contrast to China, the Indian model of secularism appears much closer to the American model. Both are governed by similar principles of no establishment and free exercise, although the principles of state neutrality and religious freedom are interpreted rather differently. Both societies are explicitly non-secularist, in the sense that the states as well as the respective cultures respect, and actively protect and promote religious diversity and religious pluralism. Indeed, the protection of religious pluralism, and particularly the protection of the rights of religious minorities, is in both cases the ultimate rationale for a secular state. But the Indian model of religious pluralism, based on categorical group identities or “communalism,” is markedly different from the radically individualist American model.120
Unlike the Chinese modernizing elites, which in their struggle against Western colonialism rejected every form of Chinese religion, the Indian modernizing elites in their anti-colonial struggle against British imperialism opted for the mobilization of all Indians religions. In this respect, all religions of India today are not traditional residues but rather, as we saw in the case of Poland or the United States, they are outcomes of modern mobilizations and of modern religious revivals.
Yet, while American religious revivalism is radically individualist, Indian revivalism is primarily communalist. Religious survey research in the United States shows that over a third of the adult American population has changed their religious affiliation since childhood, without apparently unsettling social or political life. This would be utterly unthinkable in an Indian context in which religious conversions are radically unsettling and politically highly contentious. The beginning paragraph of Gauri Viswanathan’s illuminating study, Outside the Fold, frames most succinctly and poignantly the striking differences:
In its most transparent meaning as a change of religion, conversion is arguably one of the most unsettling political events in the life of a society. This is irrespective of whether conversion involves a single individual or an entire community, whether it is forced or voluntary, or whether it is the result of proselytization or inner spiritual illumination. Not only does conversion alter the demographic equation within a society and produce numerical imbalances, but it also challenges an established community’s assent to religious doctrines and practices. With the departure of members from the fold, the cohesion of a community is under threat just as forcefully as if its beliefs had been turned into heresies.121
Each of the sentences is significant because it reveals fundamental differences between Western Christian and Hindu conceptions of “religion,” as well as crucial differences between the socio-political structures of pluralism in both cultures. There is no doubt that religious conversion of single individuals and entire communities has been an unsettling political event in the life of Indian society from the British colonial period till the present. The debates in Bengal in the 1820’s between Ram Mohan Roy and Joshua Marshman, later reenacted by John Muir and the pandits between 1839 and 1845, already exposed the fundamental differences between Christianity and Hinduism as religious “beliefs” versus philosophical teachings, and as individualist salvation religion versus dharma.122
These theological-philosophical disputes could not be separated, moreover, from the asymmetrical power dynamics of the imperial encounters between Western Christian civilization and Indian Hindu civilization. It was above all the conjoined universalist claims of Christian religion, Enlightenment rationality, and Western science that provoked the Indian particularist response of the rational superiority of Hindu dharma over Christian religion, and the spiritual superiority of Eastern wisdom over materialist Western scientific knowledge.123 Peter van der Veer has shown how this colonial response was radically different from the Chinese one, shaping the very different dynamics of Indian and Chinese secularism in their attitudes towards tradition, superstition and religion, science, and the role of the state in modernization projects.124
Moreover, once the British colonial administration had fixated and solidified the boundaries of caste and religious communities, religious conversions did indeed alter the demographic equation of the anti-colonial projects of Hindu and Muslim nationalism, contributing to communalist violence that culminated in the trauma of partition.125 Mass conversions of “depressed classes” to Christianity became particularly unsettling in the context of the anti-colonial Indian nationalist project, prompting Gandhi to advocate the prohibition not only of conversion but of missionary work as a whole. Gandhi’s understanding of satya reiterated the basic Hindu non-exclusivist position that all religions express a search for the Truth and as such they are all equal. It is on the basis of the equality of all religions and the equal respect which all of them deserve that proselytism becomes offensive. This is the high philosophical ground.
Nationalist particularism added a more down to earth rationale. Countering the arguments of Christian universalism, Gandhi retorted that “every nation’s religion is as good as any other. Certainly India’s religions are adequate for her people” and “India stands no need of conversion from one faith to another.”126 Most importantly, in the face of the anti-colonial struggle against British rule, mass conversion of harijans to (Western/British) Christianity amounted if not to national treason, certainly to abetting the enemy, undermining the principle of swadeshi. India needed not only economic and political self-reliance, but also religious self-reliance.
Christianity, in Gandhi’s view, was somehow un-Indian, imposed upon the people against their will, indeed, the religion of the oppressors. Hindu-Muslim unity, by contrast, was of utmost importance for the project of Indian independence and Gandhi never expressed any view of Islam as an un-Indian religion. But Hindu nationalism would later most easily extend the logic of the argument to Islam. Indeed, the series of acts of Hindu “personal law” passed in the mid-1950s made a clear distinction between the native Hindu religions of India (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism) and the “foreign” religions of India (Islam, Christianity, Parsis, or Judaism). Much of this legislation was directed at proscribing the conversion of the Scheduled Castes to non-Hindu religions, particularly to Christianity and Islam.127 The same rationale was later applied to the Scheduled Tribes, making their conversion/incorporation into Hinduism legitimate, while their conversion to Christianity or other non-Hindu religions was deemed illegitimate.128
Hindu apologists always reiterate the argument contrasting the Hindu majority religious outlook, which expresses tolerance and respect for all religious beliefs, with the exclusivist outlook of a minority religion like Christianity, “which denounces all religious beliefs except its own and is determined to ‘convert’ others.” Equally relevant is the fundamental contrast between “natal” religions, such as Hinduism or Judaism, which stress the duty of members to keep the identity they are born with and to protect the religious heritage of their forefathers, and “born-again” religions like Christianity which stress the inalienable right of the individual to select the religion of their choice. While internally Hinduism may be the most tolerant, diverse and pluralist of religions, to such an extent that the very categories of orthodoxy and heterodoxy become meaningless, externally crossing communal boundaries and departing from “the fold” become acts of heresy and apostasy.129
This brief comparison between China and India shows how the globalization of the immanent frame, particularly through the institutionalization of the modern nation-state, may lead to very different religious and secular dynamics. Indeed the patterns of state secularism and state management of religion are significantly different throughout the world in all religious traditions.130
In previous sections, we have contrasted three significantly different patterns of religious/secular dynamics within the Christian West. The Nordic-Scandinavian model is one of relative fusion and collaboration between the religious and the secular, between the ecclesiastical institution of the Lutheran state church and the secular national civil religion. The French republican model of laïcité is grounded in a radical model of separation and confrontation between the religious and the secular, between the ecclesiastical Catholic Church and the republican national civil religion. In the American model there is separation, but not confrontation between church and state, and there are diffused boundaries and reciprocal mutual influences between the religious and the secular, between the religious denominations and the national civil religion.
One can find examples of similar patterns of collaboration, confrontation, and mutual influence of the religious and the secular, practically anywhere in the world and in all religious traditions. Within the world of Islam, for instance, Morocco offers a long evolving pattern of collaboration somewhat similar to the Nordic establishment model. Turkey, at least under Ataturk, offered a model of religious-secular confrontation, which had some similarities with the French laicist model, although there was no radical separation of state and “religion,” insofar as the Turkish secular state took over the official management of Islam.
Post-colonial Senegal, while adopting from France also the discourse of laïcité, added to it the qualifier, laïcité bien entendue. Secularism, rightly understood, means that the task of the secular state is not to either privatize Islam or to impose an official model of state Islam, but rather to respect and protect the intra-religious pluralism of Muslim Sufi brotherhoods without privileging any of them, while also respecting and protecting non-Muslim, primarily Christian, religious communities. In this respect, Senegalese secularism is more akin to the American model.131 Indonesian secularism, as reflected in the civil secular principle of Pancasila, also resembles more the Senegalese and the American model, than the Moroccan or the Turkish ones.
It should be clear by now that everywhere, the global expansion of the immanent frame leads to the institutionalization of different kinds of secular regimes, which become interconnected with different religious dynamics. It should be equally obvious that when people around the world use the same category of religion they actually mean very different things. The actual concrete meaning of whatever people denominate as “religion” can only be elucidated in the context of their particular discursive practices. But the very fact that the same category of religion is being used globally across cultures and civilizations testifies to the global expansion of the modern secular-religious system of classification of reality which first emerged in the modern Christian West.
While the religious/secular system of classification of reality may have become globalized, what remains hotly disputed and debated almost everywhere in the world today is how, where, and by whom the proper boundaries between the religious and the secular ought to be drawn. There are in this respect multiple competing secularisms, as there are multiple and diverse forms of religious fundamentalist resistance to those secularisms.
Paradoxically, the global institutionalization of the secular immanent frame becomes the very guarantor of the post-axial secular/religious system, which guarantees the equal, non-hierarchic free exercise of religion to all forms of religion, pre-axial, axial and post-axial. Indeed, what characterizes the contemporary global moment is the fact that all forms of human religion, past and present, from the most “primitive” to the most “modern” are available for individual and collective appropriation. Equally relevant, moreover, is that fact that increasingly they must learn to coexist side by side in today’s global cities. This contemporary social fact tends to put into question all teleological schemes of religious rationalization and development which tended to place “primitive” and “traditional” forms of religion as older human cultural forms to be superseded by more modern, secular, and rational ones.
While nationally, religious dynamics are mainly conditioned by particular forms of secular regimes and by different patterns of state management of religious freedom and religious pluralism, at the global level we are clearly witnessing the emergence of what I call global denominationalism.
It is the proliferation of de-territorialized transnational global imagined communities, or global ummas, encompassing the so-called old world religions as well as many new forms of hybrid globalized religions, such as the Bahais, Moonies, Hare Krishnas, Afro-American religions, Falun Gong, etc., that I call the emerging global denominationalism. Of course, they compete with many other forms of secular imagined communities as well as with modern nationalism. The emerging global denominationalism, in this respect, includes religious as well as secular denominations.
By denominationalism, I mean a system of mutual recognition of groups within society. It is the name we give to ourselves and the name by which others recognize us. Indeed, distinctive of the American system of religious denominationalism is the fact that it is not state regulated, that it is voluntary, and that it is a system of mutual recognition of group identities.
The process of constitution of a global system of “religions” can best be understood as a process of global religious denominationalism, whereby all the so-called “world religions” are redefined and transformed, in contraposition to “the secular,” through interrelated reciprocal processes of particularistic differentiation, universalistic claims, and mutual recognition. As Roland Robertson has emphasized, universal particularism and particular universalism are intrinsically interrelated and inherent to processes of globalization.132 Each “world religion” claims its universal right to be unique and different, thus its particularism, while at the same time presenting itself globally as a universal path for all of humanity. Like internal denominationalism in the United States, global denominationalism is emerging as a self-regulated system of religious pluralism and mutual recognition of religious groups in global civil society. Global denominationalism emerges through a process of mutual recognition of the particular and universal claims.
Returning to Durkheim’s theory of the sacred, one could argue that “the cult of the individual” and the sacralization of humanity are emerging as a global civil religion. In this context, Durkheim was simply following a long line of Enlightenment prophets, Saint-Simon and Comte being the most prominent among them, who had assumed that a new religion of humanity would sooner or later replace the old theo-centric religions. The triumph and global expansion of human rights principles seem to confirm part of their visions. What none of these prophets could have anticipated was the fact that, the old gods and the old religions, whose death Durkheim announced, would gain new life by becoming the carriers of the process of sacralization of humanity.133
Of those human rights principles the right to religious freedom is probably paramount. But the fact that religious freedom is becoming a universal aspiration does not mean that religious freedom means necessarily the same thing everywhere. It may mean different things in different countries, in different cultures and in different religious traditions, and these different meanings may be in conflict with one another.
The individualist principle of free exercise of religion may be in fundamental tension with the collective principle of the free exercise of the religious culture of one’s own group. Global public opinion surveys show that the overwhelming majority of the population in every religious culture, Christian as well as Jewish, Muslim as well as Hindu, affirm that freedom of religion is very important to them. In this respect, one may speak of a growing global consensus over the principle of free exercise of religion. Yet, it is obvious that Christians and Jews, Hindus and Muslims may have very different cultural conceptions of what the free exercise of religion may entail.
Clearly, the ongoing process of mutual recognition of all religions and of mutual recognition of the religious and the secular is not smooth and may be accompanied by violent conflicts between religious groups as well as between religious and secular world-views. It is all part of the global struggle for universal-particular, human mutual recognition.
It is an open empirical question, which should be the central focus of a global sociology of religion, how these ongoing global processes of secularization, sacralization, and religious denominationalism, which we have analyzed so far, are mutually interrelated in different civilizations, sometimes symbiotically, as in religious nationalist fusions, or in the religious defense of human rights, but often antagonistically, as in the violent conflicts between the sacred secular immanent norm of freedom of expression and transcendent theistic norms over “blasphemy.”
In the first section we examined the emergence of the modern religious/secular binary system of classification, in contraposition to two previous binary systems of classification: the pre-axial one in which all reality is organized according to the binary sacred/profane, and the post-axial one represented by medieval Christendom, which was organized according to the transcendent/immanent binary system of classification. In the second section, we examined the internal European road of secularization through dynamics of confessionalization and de-confessionalization. In the third section, we examined the external road of European colonial expansion and the intercultural and inter-religious encounters, which produced the contemporary global system of religious pluralism. In the final section we examined the ways in which secular and religious dynamics are becoming intertwined everywhere through the globalization of the secular immanent frame and through ongoing process of interreligious mutual recognition, which I call global denominationalism.
A mode of conclusion let me reiterate once again that global humanity is becoming simultaneously more religious and more secular, but in significantly different ways, in different types of secular regimes, in different religious traditions and in different civilizations. The adoption of a global perspective switches the focus from methodological nationalism and the dynamics of state secularization it entails to the paradigm of religious pluralism which accompanies processes of globalization.
The contemporary discourse on globalization is almost singlehandedly focused on dynamics of economic globalization under a single world capitalist system and on the technological revolution in mass media, Yet, the globalization of the Westphalian system of nation-states has been and continues to be as crucial for processes of globalization as the development of the world capitalist system. Both dynamics of globalization have always been simultaneously in tension and in symbiotic relationship. The contemporary world-wide nationalist-populist backlash against the perception of a runaway capitalist globalization is a manifestation of this permanent tension. The analysis of the intertwinement of global religious and secular dynamics has attempted to show that religious globalization and the formation of a pluralist global system of religions has always been an intrinsic component of historical processes of globalization. From the first globalization in the early modern age to our contemporary global age, the globalization of religion has proceeded both in tension and in symbiotic relation with both, with the formation of a world capitalist system and with the globalization of the world system of nation-states.134 Any theoretical as well as historical discussion of processes of globalization that fails to take into account these intertwined and interdependent dynamics must per force be an incomplete one.
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This text is based on the 2018 Cadbury Lectures, delivered at the University of Birmingham on May 14-18, 2018.
Cf. Casanova 1994; Berger 1967; Dobbelaere 1981; Luckmann 1967; Martin 1969; Wilson 1966.
Martin 2011, 5.
Cf. Bruce 1996; Pollack 2003; Wilson 1985; Turner 2011.
Cf. Luckmann 1980; Casanova 2006. The frequent references to my other publications has the purpose of pointing to more extensive elaborations of the arguments presented here as well as to more extensive bibliographic references.
Charles Taylor has characterized those narratives as “subtraction stories.” Cf. Taylor 2007, 26-27; Casanova 2010.
Cf. Martin 1978; Casanova 2009; Hervieu-Léger 2000; Davie 2000.
Cf. Berger 2008: Davie 2002.
Cf. Smith 1963; Asad 1993; Smith 1998; Beyer 2006; Nongbri 2013.
Cf. Durkheim 1973a, 1973b, 1992.
Weber 1946, 272.
Cf. Bellah 2011; Bellah and Joas 2012; Eisenstadt 1986; Arnason, Eisenstadt, and Wittrock 2005.
See Casanova 2012, for a critical discussion of Bellah’s theory of the Axial Age and further elaboration of the argument presented here.
See Casanova 1994, 12-17 for a more extensive elaboration.
Cf. Casanova 2014; Martin 1978.
Taylor 2007, 90-99 and passim.
Durkheim 1995, 44.
Taylor, A Secular Age, p. 269.
Cf. Casanova 2008; 2009.
Cf. Parsons 1963; Parsons, 1974; Luckmann 1967.
Weber’s theory of religious rationalization appears throughout his work, in his Collected Essays in the Sociology of Religion, as well as in Chapter VI, on “Religious Groups (The Sociology of Religion)” in Economy and Society Vol 1, 399-634. The most systematic statement appears in his Zwischenbetrachtung, translated as “Religious Rejections of the World and Their Directions,” in Gerth and Mills 1946, 323-359.
I choose 1492 as a symbolic starting date rather than 1500, the date chosen by Charles Taylor in A Secular Age, because the second date marks a purely internal development within European Christendom. In contrast, I want to emphasize the internal dynamics of ethno-religious cleansing associated with European early modern state formation in order to produce religious homogenization and the external dynamics of early modern global colonial expansion.
Cf. Gunn 2003; Gordon and Morales 2017; Kelsey 2016; Robertson 2003; Baily 2004; Hopkins, 2002. The analytical framework for the analysis of globalization presented here is predicated on the analytical distinction between three phases of globalization: the early modern phase of globalization, from 1492 to 1780, before Western hegemony; the modern Western hegemonic phase of globalization, from 1780 to 1960s; and the contemporary phase of globalization, our contemporary global age, from the 1960s to the present. Throughout the history of human societies one can find processes of “archaic” or proto-globalizations. But globalization proper begins with the age of discoveries and the first circumnavigations of the world, which first made possible both global connectivity and the growth in global consciousness which is expressed in global maps.
Casanova 1994, 19-39.
Cf. Jobert 1974; Dembkowski 1982.
This is an argument powerfully made by David Martin throughout his work. Cf. Martin 1978, 2002a, 2002b, 2005, 2011.
Casanova 2015. This was the Laudatio delivered on the occasion of the reception of the Abraham Geiger’s Prize by German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, at the Jewish Museum in Berlin on December 2, 2015.
“East Germany: The World’s Most Secular Society,” in Martin 2011, 149-164.
Martin 2001, 85-104.
Pew Research Center 2017, 5.
Casanova 1994, 92-113, and 2003b.
Pew Research Center 2017, 97, 98, 100.
Pew Research Center 2017, 106-108.
The survey was conducted from January 16 to January 29, 2019 jointly by the reputable Research Center Socis; Kyiv Insternational Institute of Sociology (KIIS) and the Razumkov Center, which has been conducting regularly public opinion surveys in Ukraine for decades. It had a significantly large representative sample of 11,000 interviewed respondents, from all regions of Ukraine (with the exclusion of the population of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, which was annexed by the Russian Federation, and the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. https://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/community/social_questioning/74551/ The website of the Religious Information Service of Ukraine (RISU), https://risu.org.ua/en/index, which is based at the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in L’viv, has information and data on all religious communities of Ukraine from the 1990s to the present. The Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute (HURI) has launched a new module, HURI MAPA, visualizing the religious landscape of Ukraine in 2015-18. The weblink: http://harvard-ga.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=2fa308aa641d43139d3a5b5b59081a5a.
See footnote 41 on “the first globalization.”
Loyola 1970, 68.
Paramore 2009, 55.
Robert Bellah’s and Shmuel Eisenstadt’s theories of Japanese culture as “pre-axial” feed on such a modern national Japanese myth.
Boxer 1951, vii.
Cf. Subrahmanyam 2004; Gruzinski 2004; Bertrand 2011.
Ucerler, 2016; Ucerler 2009; Tamburello et al. 2008.
Rule 1986, 16-18.
Jensen 1997; Mungello 1977 and 1985.
Gernet 1985. The fact that Christianity entered Korea through the mediation of the writings of those Chinese Confucian Christian scholars, without the direct intervention of Catholic Western missionaries, and that Korean Catholicism survived and persevered despite its brutal persecution in the early 19th century, offers the most telling refutation of Gernet’s thesis. Cf. Yu 1996; Choi 2006.
Corradini 2001, 48-49.
Smith J.Z, 1998; Smith W.C, 1963.
Standaert 1999, offers some critical clarifications in this respect challenging the simple thesis that the Jesuits “manufactured” Confucianism.
O’Malley 2016; Maryks, 2016.
Tacchi-Venturi 1913, 385.
Cf. Rubiés 2005; Mungello 1991.
Cf. Mungello 1994; Rule 2004; Standaert, 2012; Županov and Favre 2018.
Cummins 1993; Županov 1999.
Eggert and Hölscher 2013. Beyer 2006, offers a good historical reconstruction of these processes. My analysis however places less emphasis on theories of functional differentiation, while putting greater emphasis on early modern intercultural encounters.
Pew Research Center 2014.
Taylor 2007. Taylor wrote the manuscript the year we spent together at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin as part of the working group, “Religion and Contingency,” convened by Hans Joas. For an early analysis of the globalization of the immanent frame, see Casanova 2009d and 2010. The first is a German translation of the Ganguli Memorial Lecture delivered at the Center for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi on December 6-7, 2009, with the title “Western Christian Secularization and Globalization.”
Cf. Casanova 2009d and 2010. The first text is a German translation of the Ganguli Memorial Lecture delivered at the Center for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi on December 6-7, 2009, with the title “Western Christian Secularization and Globalization.” See further, Bilgrami 2016.
Goossaert and Palmer 2011, offers the best study of the transformation of the Chinese “religious field” from the end of the imperial regime to the present.
van der Veer 2014.
Goossaert and Palmer 2011.
Cf. van der Veer 2014; Goossaert and Pqlmer 2011.
Yang 2012 and 2018.
Cf. Bhargava 1998 and 2007. The contentious debates on Indian secularism in the 1990s inaugurated the contemporary world-wide debates on secularism.
Viswanathan 1998, xi.
van der Veer 2001.
van der Veer 2014.
Cf. Gilmartin and Lawrence 2000; Nair 2011; Khan, 2007.
Kim 2005, 28.
Shah and Carpenter 2018.
Künkler, Maddley and Shankar 2018.
Robertson 1992; Robertson and Chirico 1985.
Cf. Strenski 2004; Stamatov 2013; Volf 2015.