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Charles Gelman
Charles Gelman
Charles Gelman is taking over as Tikkun Daily’s bridge to The Immanent Frame, where he works as an editorial assistant. To see past posts from The Immanent Frame, search for Ruth Braunstein’s name.

Christianity and the crash


by: on December 23rd, 2009 | Comments Off

At The Immanent Frame thirteen esteemed scholars and journalists offer their responses to Hanna Rosin’s December 2009 Atlantic article, “Did Christianity Cause the Crash?” Below is an excerpt from Sarah Posner’s comments:

The prosperity gospel is a lot older than derivatives, credit default swaps, and other byzantine Wall Street “products” that leveled the financial markets. Moreover, the fact that humans – not God – dreamed up these contrivances doesn’t poke holes in the prosperity gospel at all, at least from its adherents’ vantage point. If you believe and sow your seed, God will reward you, even as the secular Masters of the Universe greedily orchestrate a global economic collapse.

Surely the prosperity gospel plays a role in persuading its followers to buy into risky financial schemes, including sub-prime mortgages. (You might not be able to afford this thing, but if you have faith and tithe, your mortgage payments will miraculously appear in your checking account.) But to argue that the prosperity gospel, no matter how prevalent it is in America’s mega-churches, brought enough sub-prime borrowers to the table that it “caused the crash” overlooks how our secular institutions can be just as faith-based as prosperity churches.

Read the entire piece at The Immanent Frame.

Beginning with witness


by: on December 8th, 2009 | Comments Off

At The Immanent Frame, Nathan Schneider interviews Mark Johnson, Executive Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation:

NS: How is the FOR’s religious identity evolving today?

MJ: We’re forced to ask ourselves what it means to do peacemaking in an interreligious—or even a secular—world. There’s quite a bit of anxiety among many people, who are asking, if the community consciously opens itself more broadly to humanists and avowed atheists, what confidence do we have that we will share basic values in common? But you can argue, I think, that atheism or agnosticism or humanism are as much religions as any denomination or sect in terms of having an identifiable set of values and, eventually, sets of rituals that shape how people think about and act in the world. A lot of what we struggle with is simply a matter of words. I love Charles Taylor’s arguments about the emergence of the secular age. We’re also reading Peter Berger and Anton Zijderveld’s very nice new book, In Praise of Doubt. Doubt lies at the heart of the practice of pacifism. You can never know, ultimately, how you’re going to respond when confronted by violence. Absent a total conviction or confidence that you’ll act nonviolently, can you characterize yourself as a pacifist? Part of the conversation that we’re having, also, is about how doubt can create the space for being more accepting of more people.

Read the entire interview at The Immanent Frame.

So you want to be a new atheist


by: on November 20th, 2009 | 5 Comments »

This week at The Immanent Frame, Professor Kathryn Lofton comments on the millennial masculinism of the new atheists:

If you want to be a New Atheist, you are worried a lot. You are worried about the Bible and the Koran, about Talibans and new Inquisitions, about Jerry Falwell and, even more insidiously, Mother Teresa. You’re worried about the candy-covered comforts of hegemony dressed as salvation and you’re worried about mystical communion alone on a countryside ramble. You are worried about belief and practice and leadership and laity. “From the perspective of the new atheists, religion is all one entity,” a New Yorker review of Hitchens explained, and “those who would apologize for any of its forms [...] are helping to sustain the whole.” But the form that worries the New Atheists most isn’t the makings of religion, but what it in turn makes. If you want to be a New Atheist, you have to be worried about the progeny.


Religion, law, and the politics of human rights


by: on November 9th, 2009 | Comments Off

New at The Immanent Frame: Talal Asad and Abdullahi An-Na’im both stand at the forefront of the challenging and constructive exchange taking place today between European and Islamic traditions of political, legal, and religious thought. At a recent event organized by Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, the two scholars traded questions and criticisms concerning the concept of human rights. Moderated by José Casanova, the discussion addressed the intrinsic limitations and historical failures of the language of human rights, as well as its formidable capacity to challenge autocratic and state-centric distributions of power, creating openings for democratic contestation and political self-determination. A short excerpt of the exchange has been posted at The Immanent Frame and a complete transcript is available for download here (pdf). You can also watch video from this event at here & there.

The philosopher-citizen


by: on October 19th, 2009 | 1 Comment »

At The Immanent Frame, eminent philosopher Charles Taylor reflects on the life and work of his colleague Jürgen Habermas:

Jürgen Habermas is known in the world of analytic philosophy primarily as a moral and political philosopher. He has striven against a slide which has often seemed plausible and tempting for modern thinkers, that towards a certain relativism or subjectivism in morals. The difficulty of establishing firm ethical conclusions in the midst of vigorous debate among rival doctrines, particularly when these disputes are contrasted to those among natural scientists can all too easily push us to the conclusion that there is no fact of the matter here, that ethical doctrines are not a matter of knowledge, but only of emotional reaction or subjective projection, that the issues here are not cognitive.


The alternative route which he explored was that which makes the rationality of ethical conclusions a function of the rationality of the deliberation which produces them. A deliberation is rational if it meets certain formal requirements. This is, of course, the route which was pioneered by Kant. But Habermas made a revolutionary change in this tradition. Whereas for Kant the principal criterion of a rational and therefore defensible deliberation was that it was sought universalizable maxims, for Habermas the very notion of deliberation is transformed. Following Kant a lone reasoner can work out what maxims can be the objects of a universal will. But Habermas introduces the dialogical dimension. The ultimately acceptable norms are those which can pass the test of acceptance by all those who would be affected by them.

Continue reading at The Immanent Frame.

Obama and the Dalai Lama


by: on October 16th, 2009 | Comments Off

Today at The Immanent Frame, Professors Robbie Barnett, Cameron David Warner, Carole Ann McGranahan, and Edward Friedman respond to our questions about President Obama’s recent decision to postpone meeting with the Dalai Lama until after his upcoming summit with Chinese head of state Hu Jintao:

What does Obama’s decision say about his strategy regarding the protection of human rights and the competing demands of geopolitical gamesmanship? What do the decision and the strong reactions it has provoked say about the Dalai Lama’s authority as both a religious and a political leader? How does the intrinsic duality of his position play out on the international stage?

Read the responses here.

“Unchurched believers”: on the growth of the “no religion” population


by: on October 1st, 2009 | Comments Off

Over at The Immanent Frame, sociologists Michael Hout and Claude S. Fischer discuss the results of their research on the growing number of Americans professing “no religion.” Hout and Fischer’s study suggests that while institutional affiliation and confessional identification are on the decline, traditional religious belief systems are not. They attribute this dynamic largely to the religious Right’s appropriation of religion as a signifier of identity, leaving centrist and liberal believers out in the cold:

We identified political tension and generational succession as the main sources of the trend away from religious affiliation. In the most recent data – collected in 2006 and 2008, and combined to improve statistical precision – 28 percent of political liberals answered “no religion” when asked what their religion was, compared with 15 percent of political moderates, and 5 percent of political conservatives – a gap of 23 percentage points from left to right on the political spectrum. From these contrasts and other supporting tabulations we concluded that the growing identification between organized religion and a conservative social policy agenda was pushing liberals and moderates with weak attachments away from organized religion.

Continue reading Hout and Fischer’s “Unchurched believers” at The Immanent Frame.

Religious pluralism and civic belonging in the United States


by: on September 25th, 2009 | Comments Off

At The Immanent Frame, Richard Amesbury explores the role of denominationalism in the formation of religious identities and configurations of “civic belonging” in the United States:

[...] what is replacing the conception of the United States as a “Christian nation” is not a post-Durkheimian imaginary but an alternative “neo-Durkheimian” one, which portrays America as a religious nation, understood quasi-pluralistically. This difference between the United States and Europe is due not merely to the absence in the U.S. of an established church – a feature often cited by secularization theorists to explain certain religious dimensions of “American exceptionalism” – but to the presence of an alternative ecclesial structure.


Religion for radicals: an interview with Terry Eagleton


by: on September 18th, 2009 | Comments Off

At The Immanent Frame, Nathan Schneider interviews Terry Eagleton, author of Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate, on the inextricability of religion and politics, and the possibility of constructing an iteration of Christianity relevant to contemporary radicals and humanists. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

NS: Are you urging people to go to church, or to read the Bible, or simply to acknowledge the historical connections between, say, Marxism and Christianity?

TE: I’m certainly not urging them to go to church. I’m urging them, I suppose, to read the Bible because it’s very relevant to radical political concerns. In many ways, I agree with someone like Christopher Hitchens that most religion is fairly hideous and purely ideological. But I think that Hitchens and Richard Dawkins are gravely one-sided about the issue. There are other potentials in the gospel and in the Christian tradition which are, or should be, of great interest to radicals, and radicals haven’t sufficiently recognized that. I’m not trying to convert anybody, but I am trying to show them that there is something here which is in a certain interpretation far more radical than most of the mainstream political discourses that we hear at the moment.

Read “Religion for radicals” in its entirety here.