Between Secularisation and Reform: Religion in the Enlightenment
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Within over a decade a shift of interest could be observed, among scholars of early modern philosophy, towards the radical Enlightenment as that tendency in the eighteenth-century thought which, due to its apparently progressive character, would be most relevant for our contemporary social and political context. One of the key features of this movement would consist in the undermining religion and religious institutions leading up to what is nowadays regarded as secularisation of the social and political spheres. Yet, this picture of the Enlightenment as a source of ideas furthering secularisation can be challenged in favour of a more nuanced outlook on which the critique of religion would aim at reforming religious institutions and reconceiving their role in the public sphere, rather than eroding faith.
The attempt at a reform of religion can be traced back to as different movements and milieus as the Polish Socinians, the Dutch followers of Spinoza, the English deists, the German neologians and rationalists, including Immanuel Kant, and the French Catholic enlighteners (e.g. Claude Yvon). What these diverse ‘reformers’ share is a programme of rationalising religious faith, manifest, for instance, in new interpretations of Christian Scriptures: as a book which contains a universal moral doctrine justifiable within the limits of reason alone or even a book which encourages the identification of reason and the divine.
But how should we understand these attempts at reforming religion by rationalising its core contents? In light of what we know about religions nowadays, is it even a plausible enterprise? Are the arguments of rationalists with regard to religion philosophically coherent or do they consist in eclectic combinations of mismatching elements? Can relations between reason and religion be construed in such a way that the former would avoid the accusation of encroaching on the domain of the latter? Can rationalisation make religion compatible with the scientific worldview? Can there be a thing like rational religion, given that, for many apologists and critics of religion alike, faith is not compatible with reason? Last but not least, to what extent have the attempts to rationalise religion influenced the forms of religiosity? We intend to discuss these and related questions at a workshop following a lecture by Prof. Jeffrey D. Burson (Georgia Southern University).
Everyone interested in participation in the workshop as a presenter is requested to submit an abstract of max. 500 words, related to the topic of the workshop, as well as a short bio note, by 30 June 2020 to the email address of the organisers:
Notifications of acceptance will be sent by 15 July 2020. Participants accepted to the workshop as presenters are expected to prepare an approximately 40-minute talk to be followed by a 20-minute Q&A session. Participation without presenting is also possible upon sending an expression of interest to the organisers. There are no conference fees but the organisers cannot offer funding for travel and accommodation expenses of the prospective participants.
Please note that due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the event can be moved to an online platform or delayed until 2021.
October 4, 2020, 9:00am CET
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#Religion, #Enlightenment, #Rationalism