A Sociology of Religion for Secularism

Joseph O. Baker and Buster G. Smith. American Secularism: Cultural Contours of Nonreligious Belief Systems. NYU Press, 2015. 

Reviewed by István Kamarás OJD

Joseph O. Baker and Buster G. Smith’s book American Secularism, published in 2015, is an excellent work in the sociology of religion, one that addresses a gap in the literature. Few studies have focused on the question of non-religiousness as thoroughly as this one. For readers who connect diminished levels of religiosity with secularization or secularism (and these types even crop up among sociologists of religion), the title of this review may come as a surprise. The title is warranted by the central thesis of Baker and Smith’s book, namely, that secularism and religion are two dimensions of the same phenomenon, or more precisely, they represent two endpoints on a continuum of faith.

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C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity

George Marsden. C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity: A Biography. Princeton University Press, 2016.

Reviewed by Gilbert Meilaender

Lewis biographyA biography of a book may seem like a rather strange beast, but something like that is what Princeton University Press provides in its “Lives of Great Religious Books” series. With this offering written by the well known historian of religion, George Marsden, Mere Christianity takes its place in the series alongside books as different as Calvin’s Institutes, the book of Job, and the I Ching. Given the relatively brief “life” of Mere Christianity–compared, for instance, with the three examples I offered of other volumes in the Princeton series–Marsden prescinds from labeling the book a classic. But when one considers that it has been translated into at least thirty-six languages, and that in the last fifteen years alone it has sold over 3.5 million copies just in English, it is hard to deny that Mere Christianity merits inclusion in the series.

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The Essence of Marriage

by Ádám Rixer

What-Is-MarriageWhat is Marriage? is not a book written primarily to prevent certain types of people from marrying, but rather to shed light on the nature of the institution of marriage. According to the authors, there are two fundamentally different interpretations of marriage, the conjugal view and the revisionist view. The conjugal view presupposes a physical, spiritual and emotional union between a man and a woman, encompassing all essential aspects of their existence, through an exclusive life-long commitment. The revisionist view believes married partners primarily seek emotional fulfillment, and that marriages last only as long as they are emotionally satisfying. In this model, fidelity and sexual commitment last only as long as the “romantic” connection. The revisionist view is therefore held not only by those who support same sex marriage, but also by many who believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. According to the authors this situation makes the defense of traditional marriage necessary.

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Are Hungary’s Churches Confronting Their Communist Past?

by Laura Viktoria Jakli and Jason Wittenberg

Source: evangelikus.hu

Source: evangelikus.hu

Háló 2, a collection of original essays and primary source documents spanning the first half of the cold war, is an important study of Hungarian Lutheran church-state relations under socialism. The collection chronicles the dilemmas faced by leaders of the Lutheran church as they struggled to reconcile the church’s spiritual mission with socialist ideology. The editors focus specifically on two church leaders—Bishop Zoltán Káldy (1958-1967) and Bishop Ernő Ottlyk (1967-1982)—whom the state recruited as informants. The essays and documents in Háló 2 reveal how each of these leaders wielded his authority and managed relations with the state. The overall conclusion is that under their leaderships the church became fully subordinate to the regime.

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Catalan Independence and the Catholic Church

by Krisztina Nemes     

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Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey

Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey

The Benedictines of Montserrat maintain a publishing house, A Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, dedicated to enhancing awareness and appreciation of Catalan culture. The publishing house boasts more than 3000 books in areas such as history, art, language, literature, religion, and music. In addition to monographs, the Abbey also publishes important periodicals. One of these is Qüestions de Vida Cristiana. Founded in 1958, it was the first periodical granted permission to print, despite a general prohibition on publications in the Catalan language. The journal never limited itself strictly to religious themes, but attempted to address topics of contemporary concern from the perspectives of theology, philosophy, literature, and so on. When, in 2013, supporters of Catalan independence formed a living chain 400 kilometers long along the Catalonian border (Via Catalana), the editors of the journal decided to devote their 247 issue (from 2014) to the question of Catalonian independence. Catalans today believe that the right to determine their destiny should be included among the list of human rights. College professors, theologians, politicians, sociologists, writers, and historians express their opinion on this question in the volume. This review considers contributions especially interesting from the point of view of the church and theology.

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