Paper proposals due May 1, 2013
After a short-lived belief in the secularization of societies, religion has returned to the political arena with a vengeance. It is one of the most controversial but also determining political issues in today’s world. The majority of contemporary wars and terrorist attacks are religiously laden. The age of theocracies is by no means over. European secular countries are trying to tackle with the issue of religious symbols in the public sphere. Religious words such as blasphemy have reappeared in political vocabulary. While the Lutheran State-Church is reduced to insignificance, in Orthodox countries the Church and the State have entered into a mutual partnership legitimizing each other’s power claims against secular reformists. Overtly secular intellectuals in the West have turned to religious discourses in their quest for tools of cultural and political criticism in order to fight capitalism and neoliberal hegemony. Not Marx or Lenin but the Apostle Paul and Thomas Müntzer are leading revolutionary figures today.
But is religion a reactionary force or does it involve revolutionary potentiality? Or is religion, particularly the Abrahamic religions, fundamentally twofold, originally based on a revolutionary event but developed into a power system of the Church. Or is the very power of the Church based on the fidelity to the revolutionary event in its origin? What about religious doctrines? In the Epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul proclaims that every person should be subject to the governing authorities (Romans 13), while in the same letter he observes that we are “not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). Further, in Acts 5:29 we may read the Apostles’ collective reply to the high priest who charged them not to preach in the name of Christ: “We must obey God rather than men.” Indeed, does not religion open up a transcendent dimension of freedom within the immanence of political order? Or is it precisely this transcendent dimension of freedom – but also that of secrecy (arcana) – that is needed in order to legitimize clerical and political power? Presumably, there is no definitive answer to these questions, for it is quite obvious that we have to take into account historical contexts: it is probable that same religious principles that empower revolutionary militants can be used by the established Churches in order to suppress them. Or is it? This two-day conference addresses these and related questions. Papers may deal with perennial, historical or contemporary issues. Both theoretical and empirical approaches are welcome.