Saiya, “Weapon of Peace”

“Weaponization” is all the metaphorical rage these days when it comes to the rights of religious freedom and free speech. Critical uses of the metaphor are legion: most people tend to use it when they want to describe the deployment of these rights as “harmful”–or as somehow like physical assault. But sometimes people speak of “weaponization” in positive terms. Recently I read a law review article in which a law professor at a prominent school was speculating about whether it was possible to “weaponize” free speech to advance the politically progressive causes he favored (he did not think so).

And here is a new book that speaks of religious freedom as a weapon, but also in positiveWeapon.jpg terms: Weapon of Peace: How Religious Liberty Combats Terrorism (CUP) by Nilay Saiya.

Religious terrorism poses a significant challenge for many countries around the world. Extremists who justify violence in God’s name can be found in every religious tradition, and attacks perpetrated by faith-based militants have increased dramatically over the past three decades. Given the reality of religious terrorism today, it would seem counterintuitive that the best weapon against violent religious extremism would be for countries and societies to allow for the free practice of religion; yet this is precisely what this book argues. Weapon of Peace investigates the link between terrorism and the repression of religion, both from a historical perspective and against contemporary developments in the Middle East and elsewhere. Drawing upon a range of different case studies and quantitative data, Saiya makes the case that the suppression and not the expression of religion leads to violence and extremism and that safeguarding religious freedom is both a moral and strategic imperative.

Lanier, “Torah for Living”

9781481309820I’m delighted to close out this week’s book posts with this forthcoming volume from Baylor University Press, Torah for Living: Daily Prayers, Wisdom, and Guidance, by Mark Lanier. Mark has been a faithful friend of our Center and has hosted both me and Marc for talks at the amazing Lanier Theological Library in Houston. The lecture I gave at the library in 2014, on Mideast Christians, was one of the best experiences of my academic career.

The publisher’s description of the book follows. Congratulations, Mark!

A trial lawyer by trade, a Christian by heart—author Mark Lanier has trained in biblical languages and devoted his life to studying and living the Bible. Living daily with the demands of his career and the desire for a godly life, Lanier recognizes the importance and challenge of finding daily time to spend in God’s Word. His study of the first five books of the Bible—the Torah, the Law—has brought Life to his life.

In Torah for Living, Lanier shares a year’s worth of devotionals—one for each day of the year. In each devotional, Lanier reflects on the biblical text, relates the text to the struggles facing faithful readers of the Bible, and concludes with a prayer for the day.

 

 

Moon, “Putting Faith in Hate”

9781108442374Why do we protect free speech? My colleague, Marc, argues in his current draft that Americans, historically, have protected free speech on one of two theories. On the first, we protect free speech in order to promote individual expression. On the other, we protect free speech in order to advance the public welfare. These two conceptions can lead to different results in particular cases. Take hate speech, for example. If one thinks free speech is about promoting individual expression, one would give speakers a great deal of leeway, even when their speech insults others–on the basis of religion, for example. On the other hand, if one thinks free speech exists to promote the public good, one would be less inclined to allow speech that injures the dignity of third parties, at least without some compelling reason.

A forthcoming book from Cambridge, Putting Faith in Hate: When Religion Is the Source or Target of Hate Speech, addresses the regulation of hate speech in liberal democracies today. The author is Canadian law professor Richard Moon (University of Windsor, Ontario). The publisher’s description follows:

To allow or restrict hate speech is a hotly debated issue in many societies. While the right to freedom of speech is fundamental to liberal democracies, most countries have accepted that hate speech causes significant harm and ought to be regulated. Richard Moon examines the application of hate speech laws when religion is either the source or target of such speech. Moon describes the various legal restrictions on hate speech, religious insult, and blasphemy in Canada, Europe and elsewhere, and uses cases from different jurisdictions to illustrate the particular challenges raised by religious hate speech. The issues addressed are highly topical: speech that attacks religious communities, specifically anti-Muslim rhetoric, and hateful speech that is based on religious doctrine or scripture, such as anti-gay speech. The book draws on a rich understanding of freedom of expression, the harms of hate speech, and the role of religion in public life.

 

“Christos Yannaras” (Andreopoulos & Harper, eds.)

9781472472083From Routledge, here is a collection of essays on the work of Christos Yannaras, one of the most important Orthodox Christian theologians working today: Christos Yannaras: Philosophy, Theology, Culture. In the Orthodox world, Yannaras is known for his skepticism about much contemporary human-rights discourse, which, he believes, is too heavily influenced by Western individualism. His work is therefore a challenge to easy assumptions about the universality of international human rights–a topic we will address at our Tradition Project meeting later this year in Rome.

The Routledge collection is edited by Andreas Andreopoulous (University of Winchester, UK) and Demetrios Harper (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki). The publisher’s description follows:

Christos Yannaras is one of the most significant Orthodox theologians of recent times. The work of Yannaras is virtually synonymous with a turn or renaissance of Orthodox philosophy and theology, initially within Greece, but as the present volume confirms, well beyond it. His work engages not only with issues of philosophy and theology, but also takes in wider questions of culture and politics.

With contributions from established and new scholars, the book is divided into three sections, which correspond to the main directions that Christos Yannaras has followed – philosophy, theology, and culture – and reflects on the ways in which Yannaras has engaged and influenced thought across these fields, in addition to themes including ecclesiology, tradition, identity, and ethics.

This volume facilitates the dialogue between the thought of Yannaras, which is expressed locally yet is relevant globally, and Western Christian thinkers. It will be of great interest to scholars of Orthodox and Eastern Christian theology and philosophy, as well as theology more widely.

Scruton, “On Human Nature”

9780691183039Sir Roger Scruton delivered the keynote address at our second Tradition Project meeting in New York, in 2017. You can see the video of his address over on the sidebar and on our Videos page. Princeton University Press has just released the paperback edition of Sir Roger’s latest work, On Human Nature, a naturalistic argument for the uniqueness of human nature. Humans are unique, on this view, not because we bear the image of God, but because we have the unique capacity for self-reflection. Whether Scruton avoids Christian metaphysics because he does not believe, or because he thinks his work will be more accessible to contemporary readers without them, I don’t know. Sir Roger’s work is always interesting and worthwhile, though, and this looks to be no exception. The publisher’s description follows:

In this short book, acclaimed writer and philosopher Roger Scruton presents an original and radical defense of human uniqueness. Confronting the views of evolutionary psychologists, utilitarian moralists, and philosophical materialists such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, Scruton argues that human beings cannot be understood simply as biological objects. We are not only human animals; we are also persons, in essential relation with other persons, and bound to them by obligations and rights. Our world is a shared world, exhibiting freedom, value, and accountability, and to understand it we must address other people face to face and I to I.

Scruton develops and defends his account of human nature by ranging widely across intellectual history, from Plato and Averroës to Darwin and Wittgenstein. The book begins with Kant’s suggestion that we are distinguished by our ability to say “I”—by our sense of ourselves as the centers of self-conscious reflection. This fact is manifested in our emotions, interests, and relations. It is the foundation of the moral sense, as well as of the aesthetic and religious conceptions through which we shape the human world and endow it with meaning. And it lies outside the scope of modern materialist philosophy, even though it is a natural and not a supernatural fact. Ultimately, Scruton offers a new way of understanding how self-consciousness affects the question of how we should live.

The result is a rich view of human nature that challenges some of today’s most fashionable ideas about our species.

Lake, “Progressive New World”

9780674975958-lgLast week, Columbia Law professor Philip Hamburger presented his new book, Liberal Suppression, to the students in our law and religion colloquium. Philip argues, in that book and others, that much of 19th and 20th Century Progressivism was animated by an anti-Catholic ideology–or, more precisely, by an ideological reaction against traditional, authoritative communities, of which the Catholic Church was seen as a prime example. It’s a provocative argument nowadays, but it really shouldn’t be. The Progressives themselves would not have found it so. Of course Progressivism opposed tradition, especially tradition that seemed to stand in the way of science and human fulfillment–that is, to say, in the way of Progress. The name of the movement itself makes this clear.

A forthcoming book from Harvard, Progressive New World: How Settler Colonialism and Transpacific Exchange Shaped American Reform, argues that the Progressive Movement had racist roots as well. Again, this is a provocative claim today–but it would not have been so to the Progressives themselves. Many of them, like Woodrow Wilson, were quite open about their racial attitudes. The author is historian Marilyn Lake (University of Melbourne). Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

The paradox of progressivism continues to fascinate more than one hundred years on. Democratic but elitist, emancipatory but coercive, advanced and assimilationist, Progressivism was defined by its contradictions. In a bold new argument, Marilyn Lake points to the significance of turn-of-the-twentieth-century exchanges between American and Australasian reformers who shared racial sensibilities, along with a commitment to forging an ideal social order. Progressive New World demonstrates that race and reform were mutually supportive as Progressivism became the political logic of settler colonialism.

White settlers in the United States, who saw themselves as path-breakers and pioneers, were inspired by the state experiments of Australia and New Zealand that helped shape their commitment to an active state, women’s and workers’ rights, mothers’ pensions, and child welfare. Both settler societies defined themselves as New World, against Old World feudal and aristocratic societies and Indigenous peoples deemed backward and primitive.

In conversations, conferences, correspondence, and collaboration, transpacific networks were animated by a sense of racial kinship and investment in social justice. While “Asiatics” and “Blacks” would be excluded, segregated, or deported, Indians and Aborigines would be assimilated or absorbed. The political mobilizations of Indigenous progressives—in the Society of American Indians and the Australian Aborigines’ Progressive Association—testified to the power of Progressive thought but also to its repressive underpinnings. Burdened by the legacies of dispossession and displacement, Indigenous reformers sought recognition and redress in differently imagined new worlds and thus redefined the meaning of Progressivism itself.

Behr, “Social Justice and Subsidiarity”

The late Fr. Robert John Araujo and I had a long-simmering, never completed, project together on an English translation of Luigi Taparelli d’Azeglio’s Saggio Teoretico di Diritto Naturale. We got through several initial sections of it, but not much further I’m afraid. Taparelli was a Jesuit scholar who greatly influenced the thought of Pope Leo XIII, and was an important thinker in the development of the Catholic social thought of the 19th century.

Here is a new book by Thomas C. Behr on Taparelli, Social Justice and Subsidiarity: Luigi Taparelli and the Origins of Modern Catholic Social Thought (CUA Press), that looks like aTaparelli very interesting study of Taparelli’s ideas and influence.

Luigi Taparelli, SJ, 1793-1862, in his Theoretical Treatise of Natural Right Based on Fact, 1840-43, presents a neo-Thomistic approach to social, economic, and political sciences grounded in an integral conception of the human person as social animal but also as rational truth seeker. His conceptions of social justice and of subsidiarity are fundamental to modern Catholic social teaching (CST). His work moves away from traditionalist-conservative reaction in favor of an authentically human, moderately liberal, modernity built on the harmony of faith and reason. He zealously deconstructs laissez-faire liberal ideology and its socialist progeny in scores of articles in the Civilta Cattolica, the journal that he co-founded in 1850. His arguments figure prominently in the Syllabus of Errors (1864) of Pius IX.

Though a moderate liberal himself, his reputation as anti-liberal reactionary and defender of Papal temporal sovereignty is the chief reason why Pope Leo XIII later sought to quiet Taparelli’s contribution to the foundations and pillars of modern CST that began with the restoration of Thomistic philosophy in Aeterni Patris (1879), and the “”magna carta”” of modern Catholic social teaching, Rerum Novarum (1891). Pius XI relies heavily on Taparelli’s concept of subsidiarity in Quadragesimo Anno (1931), and sought to advance interest in Taparelli studies. However, Taparelli’s eclectic philosophical orientation and writing style have been a considerable stumbling block. In this present book, Taparelli’s ideas are evaluated both for their philosophical character but also in their historical context. Taparelli’s theories of the just society and ordered liberty, are as timely nowadays for reasoned political and ethical discourse as ever. The book includes an appendix of translated portions of the Theoretical Treatise of Natural Right Based on Fact that relate to subsidiarity.

Kors, “Naturalism and Unbelief in France: 1650-1729”

Here is an absolutely fascinating new book concerning a particular feature of French KorsChristian culture and learning in the early modern period of the late 17th and early 18th centuries–the hypothetical atheist, which challenged and served as a counterpoint to, but was included well within, the traditional Christian intellectual world. That is, atheism was not an underground concept that disrupted established Christianity from the outside, but, in the author’s view, very much at the center of French Catholic debate, thought, and education.

The book is Naturalism and Unbelief in France: 1650-1729, by the eminent intellectual historian, Alan Charles Kors (OUP).

Atheism was the most fundamental challenge to early-modern French certainties. Leading educators, theologians and philosophers labelled such atheism as manifestly absurd, confident that neither the fact nor behaviour of nature was explicable without reference to God. The alternative was a categorical naturalism. This book demonstrates that the Christian learned world had always contained the naturalistic ‘atheist’ as an interlocutor and a polemical foil, and its early-modern engagement and use of the hypothetical atheist were major parts of its intellectual life. In the considerations and polemics of an increasingly fractious orthodox culture, the early-modern French learned world gave real voice and eventually life to that atheistic presence. Without understanding the actual context and convergence of the inheritance, scholarship, fierce disputes, and polemical modes of orthodox culture, the early-modern generation and dissemination of absolute naturalism are inexplicable. This book brings to life that Christian learned culture, its dilemmas, and its unintended consequences.

Mould, “Against Creativity”

In one of his better known essays, Tradition and the Individual Talent, T.S. Eliot argued that the act of artistic creativity is of necessity always an act of the subjection and integration of the individual artistic talent into the existing deposit of the artistic past. There can be no true creativity without the immersion of the self into the corpus and community of past creation. But there is another view of creativity as utter rejection of the past in favor of the completely novel, the blazing of a trail all of one’s own. And that view of creativity, it may be fair to say, is the one that predominates today. Creativity as the plowing of fresh snow that has never before been touched by human hands. It is a view that has become a model today not only for artistic activity, but also for the ordinary working person. One hears frequently about “creativity” as a corporate virtue, for example, that requires setting oneself off from the herd of other workers through some stroke of genius or brilliancy. One certainly hears about it as an academic virtue. But is there a downside to the valuation of creativity, understood in this sense?

A new book argues against this view of creativity as destructive of the possibility of Creativitycommunity and, in turn, of genuine human flourishing: Against Creativity, by Oli Mould (Random House). Whether the issue really is “neoliberal appropriation” or instead some deeper explanation, the book looks well worth exploring.

Everything you have been told about creativity is wrong.

From line managers, corporate CEOs, urban designers, teachers, politicians, mayors, advertisers and even our friends and family, the message is ‘be creative’. Creativity is heralded as the driving force of our contemporary society; celebrated as agile, progressive and liberating. It is the spring of the knowledge economy and shapes the cities we inhabit. It even defines our politics. What could possibly be wrong with this?

In this brilliant, counterintuitive blast Oli Mould demands that we rethink the story we are being sold. Behind the novelty, he shows that creativity is a barely hidden form of neoliberal appropriation. It is a regime that prioritizes individual success over collective flourishing. It refuses to recognise anything – job, place, person – that is not profitable. And it impacts on everything around us: the places where we work, the way we are managed, how we spend our leisure time.

Is there an alternative? Mould offers a radical redefinition of creativity, one embedded in the idea of collective flourishing, outside the tyranny of profit. Bold, passionate and refreshing, Against Creativity, is a timely correction to the doctrine of our times.

Fieschi, “The Age of Populism”

The surge in populist politics–of both the right and the left–in recent years Fieschihas left many academic commenters scratching their heads for causes. What explains the rise of populist politics and the rejection of what is sometimes described as “elite” culture? Here is a new book that explores these questions, The Age of Populism: Representation and Its Discontents, by Catherine Fieschi (Columbia University Press).

Populism, or the political ideology that pits the people against elites, has become a significant feature of mature democracies in the twenty-first century. The rise of populist parties on the right and the left, that appeal to a broad electorate—variously described as “disillusioned”, “left behind,” or “just about managing”—is proving a powerful and disruptive force. Commentators have been quick to explain the success of parties such as UKIP and France’s National Front and the election of Donald Trump as the appeal of populism.

In this book, Catherine Fieschi looks beyond definitional issues to examine why populism and populist parties have become a feature of our politics. Populism’s appeal, she argues, needs to be understood as a response to the fundamental reshaping of our political, economic, and social spheres through globalization and the digital revolution. She shows how new dynamics unleashed by social media—the fantasy of radical transparency, the demand for immediacy, the rejection of expert truth and facts, and the imperative of continuous involvement—have been harnessed by populism, enabling it to make inroads into the political landscape that hitherto would have been unreceptive.

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