The Religion & Culture Web Forum
Secularism: Religious, Irreligious, and Areligious
Margaret E. Burton Professor of the History of Christianity and Theology
University of Chicago Divinity School
This month, the Clark Gilpin considers “secularism” as a keyword American religious history, contrasting “old” transfer of authority models of with “new” spatial models of the role of religion in American life:
In the transfer of authority model, the secular represents a framing worldview that challenges the religious worldview and, in the modern West at least, supplants religion as the comprehensive interpretive framework. In the spatial model, the central difficulty of modernity is violence sanctioned by differing religious convictions or ideologies, and the secular establishes spaces within which these differences can be negotiated. The earlier model asks about the continuance of religion in the modern world. The more current model is all too aware of religion’s continuance and asks how different forms of religion interact with one another and operate within the modern polity…In what follows, I employ a spatial model of the secular, arising from my reflections on the writings of Asad and Taylor, to point to three “modes of secularism” in American history that I designate religious, irreligious, and areligious.