Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

Cimino & Smith, “Atheist Awakening”

This October, Oxford University Press will release “Atheist Awakening: Secular Activism and Community in America” by Richard Cimino (University of Richmond) and Christopher Smith.  The publisher’s description follows:

Atheist AwakeningSurveys over the last twenty years have seen an ever-growing number of Americans disclaim religious affiliations and instead check the “none” box. In the first sociological exploration of organized secularism in America, Richard Cimino and Christopher Smith show how one segment of these “nones” have created a new, cohesive atheist identity through activism and the creation of communities.

According to Cimino and Smith, the new upsurge of atheists is a reaction to the revival of religious fervor in American politics since 1980. Feeling overlooked and underrepresented in the public sphere, atheists have employed a wide variety of strategies-some evangelical, some based on identity politics-to defend and assert themselves against their ideological opponents. These strategies include building and maintaining communities, despite the absence of the kinds of shared rituals, texts, and laws that help to sustain organized religions.

Drawing on in-depth interviews with self-identified atheist, secularist, and humanist leaders and activists, as well as extensive observations and analysis of secular gatherings and media, Cimino and Smith illustrate how atheists organize and align themselves toward common goals, and how media-particularly web-based media-have proven invaluable in connecting atheists to one another and in creating a powerful virtual community. Cimino and Smith suggest that secularists rely not only on the Internet for community-building, but on their own new forms of ritual.

This groundbreaking study will be essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the growing atheist movement in America.

Eng, Ruskola & Shen on China and the Human

David L. Eng (U. of Penn.), Teemu Ruskola (Emory U. School of Law) Shuang Shen (Penn. State. U.) has posted China and the Human. The abstract follows.

China is everywhere in the news. Most stories seem to fall into one of two categories: accounts of China’s astounding economic development, and reports of equally astonishing human rights abuses in China. Paradoxically, as it turns into a global economic powerhouse, China’s relationship to political freedoms and rights appears to stand in an almost inverse relationship to its economic success. To make sense of the contemporary political moment, this essay examines the politics and histories of China and the human. At the same time, it constitutes a critical introduction to a special double issue of the journal Social Text on the same theme. The special issue, consisting of eleven essays and a visual dossier, considers the problematic conceptual, political, historical, and cultural relationship between Chineseness and humanity. By juxtaposing “China” and “the human” as two discrete categories, this introductory essay does not assume either concept as a pre-given object of knowledge. Rather — together with the other essays in the volume — it examines both China and the human as set of relational, differential, and contrapuntal events, in specific historical and geopolitical contexts.

The introductory essay provides a conceptual and historical map for this inquiry, in a comparative context that examines Euro-American, Chinese, and transnational itineraries of the human and their global crossings. It analyzes China’s potential to undo the universalizing claims of Western idealized norms of the human, while refusing to re-essentialize a Chinese otherness as an alternative perspective. More specifically, the essay interrogates the domination and limitations of the universal human while tracing alternative cosmologies and discourses of Chinese humanism and anti-humanism, informed by Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism, as well as other religious and political traditions. It also examines Marxist and Maoist conceptualizations of the human from transnational perspectives, and finally it considers the status of the human in contemporary China, defined increasingly as a bearer of a set of political and legal rights. What humanity means in China today — and in the world — and what it will mean in the future, is part of an ongoing struggle over the meaning of the past and the politics of the present. This essay offers “China” as a methodology in itself, rather than simply an object of inquiry.

Geroulanos’s “An Atheism That Is Not Humanist Emerges in French Thought”

A “humanist” or even “secular humanist” view is sometimes, perhaps even often, contrasted with a “religious” perspective.  But in An Atheism That Is Not Humanist Emerges in French Thought (Stanford UP 2010), Stefanos Geroulanos (NYU, History) investigates the thought of early to mid-twentieth century French intellectuals and teases out the development of an atheism which was distinctively non- or even anti-humanist.  The publisher’s description follows.  — MOD

French philosophy changed dramatically in the second quarter of the twentieth century. In the wake of World War I and, later, the Nazi and Soviet disasters, major philosophers such as Kojève, Levinas, Heidegger, Koyré, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Hyppolite argued that man could no longer fill the void left by the “death of God” without also calling up the worst in human history and denigrating the dignity of the human subject. In response, they contributed to a new belief that man should no longer be viewed as the basis for existence, thought, and ethics; rather, human nature became dependent on other concepts and structures, including Being, language, thought, and culture. This argument, which was to be paramount for existentialism and structuralism, came to dominate postwar thought. This intellectual history of these developments argues that at their heart lay a new atheism that rejected humanism as insufficient and ultimately violent.

 

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