The Varieties of Secular Experience
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 June 2010
It has become a nearly universal reflex to think about the contemporary Middle East as a region in which secularism is in decline. This is particularly true in countries like Egypt, where the modernist imagination of independence-era socialism seems to have been eclipsed by a grassroots vision of the future as a thoroughly Islamic place, and where the nature of the government's stance with regard to secularism and religion has long been an important question (Winegar 2009; Agrama, this CSSH issue). Since the late 1970s, a decade which saw the Iranian Revolution, the rise of televangelism in the United States, and the beginnings of an extraordinary wave of Protestant conversion in Latin America, it has become popular to produce histories of secularism that will help explain the failure of “the secularization thesis,” the idea that with economic development, the spread of education, and the advancement of Science, religion was a doomed commodity like pounce pots and butter churns. The moral vision of the popular long-running Star Trek mythology, in which humans as a species have given up religion altogether, seems ever more remote the closer its technological vision becomes. Surprisingly durable, religion refuses to wait quietly in the churchyard for people to visit. Instead, it stands on the street corner denouncing bad behavior and calling the world to salvation. But now the street corner is a television broadcasting satellite (or a cassette tape, or a website), and religion's call has succeeded in ways that no Cold War sociologist or political scientist could have imagined.
- Research Article
- Comparative Studies in Society and History , Volume 52 , Issue 3 , July 2010 , pp. 626 - 651
- Copyright © Society for the Comparative Study of Society and History 2010