From the website of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an announcement of an upcoming event:
Saturday, October 8:”Rethinking Secularism in an Age of Belief”
A Symposium featuring Dwight McBride (African American Studies, Northwestern), Saba Mahmood (Anthropology, UC Berkeley), Gauri Viswanathan (English, Columbia University), and Michael Warner (English, Rutgers). Co-organized with the IPRH.
This event will address some of the most pressing issues of the current political landscape: the apparent global rise of fundamentalisms, the religious underpinnings of empire, and the neoconservative discourse of “moral values.” These phenomena have been interpreted by some as a sign of the “end of Enlightenment.” How should progressive intellectuals respond to this assessment? Should we celebrate the demise of Enlightenment and its normalizing narrative of secularization? Or should we be frightened by the prospect of a post-secular world? In the face of George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden, do we need more or less secularism?
I myself (see previous post) am concerned about the assault on reason and Enlightenment values (values that are as much a part of America’s foundation as is its religious heritage). But “the religious underpinnings of empire”? (Translation: the war against terrorism and Islamofascism, and the attempt — wise or not — to make democratic development possible in the Middle East, is in reality an “onward, Christian soldiers” crusade in disguise.) George W. Bush and Osama Bin Laden, in a macabre parody of moral equivalency? I despair.