“Seven Ways of Looking at Religion”
Sunday, May 6, 2018, 2 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. U.K; 8 p.m. Western European)
In May the Wilmette Institute is offering just one Web Talk, but it is one for which you will want to clear your calendar and sign up soon. Dr. Ben Schewel will make his first appearance in the Wilmette Institute’s Web Talk series on May 6, talking about his book 7 Ways of Looking at Religion, which is also the topic of his presentation. We think his talk will help you carry on meaningful conversations with friends and family. You can sign up for the Web Talk right now.
In his talk about “Seven Ways of Looking at Religion,” Ben will review seven ways that scholars have theorized about the nature and future of religion. Perhaps the most famous one is the “secularization narrative,” the theory that, as people become better educated and scientific, religion will wither away, and society will become more secular. The rise of fundamentalism around the world over the last forty years has largely refuted this theory. Others ways of looking at religion include:
- the “renewal narrative” (the theory that each religion periodically goes through a season of renewal),
- the “transsecular narrative” (the theory that each religion is responding to the challenge of modernity)
- the “postnaturalist narrative” (a scientific approach that looks at religion as a modern phenomenon and its contribution to social change)
- the “construct narrative” (the theory that religion is a social and political construct and not an independent phenomenon)
- the “perennialist narrative” (the theory that religion is a deeply ancient, unchanging response to transcendence)
- the “developmental narrative” (the theory that religion is evolving over time; progressive revelation is an example of this one).
Ben sees strengths and weakness in all seven of the narratives and argues that scholars need to develop a better overall narrative for explaining religion.
Dr. Benjamin Schewel’s credentials are impressive. He is a Fellow in the Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain at the University of Groningen and an Affiliate Scholar at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. He is also a Research and Policy Officer at the Bahá’í International Community’s European Office. He received a PhD in philosophy from KU Leuven and has also held visiting positions at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Utrecht, and Addis Ababa. In his research, Ben concentrates on questions concerning religion and history. His book, entitled Seven Ways of Looking at Religion, was published by Yale University Press in 2017. He is currently working on another book for Yale University Press, entitled Encountering the Axial Age.