ISSN: 1522-5658
Volume 18 (2016)

Religion and Identity [ Supplement 13 ]

Edited by Ronald A. Simkins and Thomas M. Kelly, Creighton University


Taylor and Dummett on the Rushdie Affair

Paul Cliteur, University of Leiden, The Netherlands
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Prophets, Demons, and Witch Hunts: American Spiritual Warfare as Scapegoat Ideology

Steve Snow, Wagner College
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

A Secular Nation under God's Protection: Brazil's Porous State Secularism and the Problem of the Differentiation of Value Spheres

J. E. Chemin, Çağ Universitesi, Mersin/Tarsus, Turkey
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

Civil Religion and the Bush Doctrine of Preemptive War: Revisiting the Civil Religion Hypothesis During the War on Terror

Aaron Q. Weinstein, Brown University
[ Abstract ] [ Article PDF ]

The famous twentieth-century philosophers Charles Taylor and Michael Dummett have both commented on the Rushdie Affair. This article analyzes their criticism of the British author Salman Rushdie and tries to demonstrate the relevance of this criticism against the backdrop of the massacre in the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris on January 7, 2015. Unfortunately, two great philosophers of our time do not give us guidance here. The world is confused, our political leaders are confused, and great political philosophers are confused. This is important, because if freedom of expression, thought, and religion are to survive in this world, it is necessary to defend these freedoms.
The New Apostolic Reformation – a right-wing Christian organization whose leaders are privy to revelations from God and keenly interested in partisan politics – is part of a long tradition of anti-subversive movements in the United States. The NAR aggressively blames perceived national problems on hidden enemies, and theories of scapegoating therefore form a useful lens through which to view this movement. The NAR has close connections to political elites, who benefit from the demonization of their opponents. Spiritual warfare, a continuous martial struggle with Satan and his legions, is the central feature of this movement's scapegoat ideology, which taps into a deep current of American political culture. The NAR is part of what Richard Hofstadter terms the "modern paranoid style," as it asserts that American government is quietly controlled by the conspiratorial evil enemy.
In Brazil, religion influences many aspects of the everyday life of most citizens. But despite this ubiquity, Brazil has favored a strong separation between church and state. Whilst these two realities are by no means incompatible, I ask the question: in a society where religion is ubiquitous, how does state secularism function? As I attempt an answer, I discuss some of the meanings associated with the term "secularism," whilst critically engaging with the idea underpinning much of our sociological understanding of secularism, namely Max Weber's differentiation of "value spheres." I ground the more theoretical part of the argument on the much-publicized "shift" from Catholicism to Protestantism that has occurred in Brazil in the past three decades. I argue that this shift is forcing a more fluid relationship between Brazil's secular and religious spheres. As a result, the institutional and constitutional boundaries between these spheres could be considered porous. This insight reveals a Brazilian-style state secularism that is more inclined toward accommodation than conflict.
Scholars have struggled to offer a concise definition of "American civil religion" (ACR). This article proposes a narrow definition in order to test whether civil religious views can be associated with opinions on a specific foreign policy: preemptive strikes during the War on Terror. Drawing on extant literature, it develops a four-fold definition: belief that (1) America is a beacon of freedom; (2) God specially blesses America; (3) America is exceptional; and (4) America should promote democracy abroad. Data from a 2008 survey indicate that those believing America is blessed and exceptional are statistically more likely to support preemption. There is no statistical evidence that Americans who believe the nation is a beacon of democracy support preemption more or less than other Americans. Finally, the "export democracy" hypothesis is not statistically significant and also runs counter to expectations, suggesting further research is necessary.