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The globalization of religion

December 14, 2009

Richard Dawkins’s heart leaps up as high as any Romantic poet’s when he beholds a rainbow. But he has taken issue with Keats’s complaint that when scientists “unweave” a rainbow they spoil it. Mike King in Postsecularism ripostes that Dawkins is trying to “arrogate to science what is the proper domain of a quite different human impulse – the poetic and mystical”. The reason why the rainbow moves us is that it is “unexpected, vivid, and set, like music, against the counterpoint of landscape, whether natural or man-made in its specificity”. This domain of spirituality, to which belongs our sense of interconnectedness and the “grandeur of life” evoked by the rainbow, is, according to King, autonomous with regard to science. He accepts Stephen Jay Gould’s proposition that religion and science are “non-overlapping magisteria”, though he would add a third magisterium, that of the arts. He rejects “monoculture of the mind” as symptomatic of both religious fundamentalism and ultra-scientism.

All the books under review reflect the withering away of the “secularization thesis” that prevailed in sociology thirty years ago. The first four address the phenomenon of militant atheism, while the fifth, by Michael Jackson, may be seen as an attempt to sidestep the problem formulated by Gould. more

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