CFP: Religion, Value, and a Secular Culture 5 & 6 November 2012

Religion, Value, and a Secular Culture

Council for Research in Values and Philosophy (CRVP)

University of Kwazulu-Natal, Durban (South Africa)
5 & 6 November 2012

By the term “secular culture” is meant one which problematizes the foundations for the various religious beliefs that make up the traditions of that society, though the public order may not be
founded on any particular expression in those traditions, of the ethical framing of life together. The shift from a premodern culture is characterized by two central changes: (i) the greater degree of individual freedom. This is recognized as a key value in changing societies and is given expression in the democratic institution of universal suffrage; and (ii) the emergence and prestige of the sciences and of scientific method as the default paradigm of human knowledge.

As the major religious traditions acquired their canonical expression in premodern culture, they do not to any great extent deal with a thought-out response to the major factors or key values which characterize contemporary culture. Thus the first factor challenges the traditions to re-think attitudes to women, to moral rules and values, and to hierarchy; the second factor calls upon religious thinkers and leaders to be involved in dialogue with the sciences and knowledge acquired thereby.

One response to these changed conditions of society has been to remove religion and religious beliefs altogether from public debate. This is then framed solely in terms of individual human rights and the values of equality and tolerance. However, in the absence of any foundation for these rights and values, this framework might itself seem arbitrary and imposed, in particular in a global situation of the interaction of more developed with still developing cultures and economies. A purely procedural democracy and ethical framework might disallow real dialogue on substantive values or with persons.

Not amenable to scientific inquiry strictly speaking. Religious fundamentalism, for its part, sees no possibility of such dialogue, and can be seen, as does Karen Armstrong, rather as a reaction

Papers are invited from any discipline whether philosophical, theological-religious, sociological, psychological, legal, political, and on any issue arising out of these intellectual challenges:

– Developments within religious traditions in response to secularity

– Conflicts and divisions within religious traditions in meeting the new conditions for religious beliefs

– Differing political frameworks for regulating interaction between state and religion

– Legal matters arising from separation of church and state

– Religious traditions as challenging dominant models of secular ethics, in particular a possible bias towards individualism

– The problems of building human community and countering fragmentation in conditions of a secular culture

– Fundamentalism as response and resistance to secularity; recourse to violence

– Secularisation in relation to neo-colonialism

– Responses of particular countries in the face of secularism – South Africa, Turkey, United States, and others

– Secularism depicted and problematized in fiction – Pamuk’s Snow, Dastgir’s A Small Fortune, for example

– Secularism and particular religious traditions – Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, for example

– Romantic love as a theme in religious responses to secular changes – Pamuk, Dastgir, Shutte’s Conversion, for example

– Transcendence in a framework of immanence in the religious traditions

– African traditional thought and response to secularism

– Debates between science and religion – open and closed versions of neo-Darwinism

– Studies of a contemporary writer on these theological themes: Karen Armstrong; Keith Ward; Mustafa Akyol; Mark Johnston; for example; or on the ethical themes: Alisdair MacIntyre, Herbert
McCabe, Marilynn Robinson, for example

– Philosophical frameworks for fruitful dialogue between secular culture and religious traditions: B. Lonergan; Charles Taylor; and others

For more details please contact:

Professor John Patrick Giddy
University of Kwazulu-Natal
South Africa
Email: Giddyj [at]