Beyond Religious Freedom: The New Global Politics of Religion 1st Edition, Kindle Edition
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From the Back Cover
"The defense and violation of religious freedom are intensely politicized but poorly understood. Hurd provides an important intellectual and practical service with this thoughtful and well-researched examination of the issues."--Craig Calhoun, director and president of the London School of Economics
"In this brilliantly argued book, Hurd shows why the stakes are very high and the dangers very real when governments set the standards for religious practice.Beyond Religious Freedom is intellectually courageous and deeply grounded in religious as well as political theory. There is simply no better guide to the contemporary global religious landscape."--Robert Orsi, Northwestern University
"In this important book, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd shows how the suffocatingly tautological language of policymakers today constructs religion and religious freedom as both problem and solution in the context of myriad challenges facing the world community. Mobilized alternatively to underwrite good religion on behalf of an agenda of reassurance and to thwart bad religion on behalf of an agenda of surveillance, religious freedom is repeatedly discovered to be the indispensable condition for peace in our times, always available to short-circuit understanding of complex social situations."--Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, author ofThe Impossibility of Religious Freedom
"Beyond Religious Freedom tackles a crucial topic, is compellingly structured, and has a powerful and highly critical line of argument. I learned an enormous amount from this fascinating book."--Christian Reus-Smit, author ofIndividual Rights and the Making of the International System
"This is a compelling, stimulating, and original book. Hurd argues that powerful Western democracies promote religious freedom in other societies in ways that privilege standard, recognized religious groups and marginalize personal religious or cultural practices that don't fit the model. Beyond Religious Freedom deals with a timely, politically charged topic in a thoughtful and well-informed way."--Jack Snyder, author ofPower and Progress: International Politics in Transition--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
- Publication Date : September 1, 2015
- File Size : 2220 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print Length : 212 pages
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B00WAM17FI
- Publisher : Princeton University Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2015)
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray for Textbooks : Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #845,821 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Populations and governments historically alternate between periods of enlightened thought and often oppressive religiosity and theocracy. Governments have moved into new territory by undertaking to define and actively defend what is termed “religious freedom,” for believers and nonbelievers alike. Given this fact, in spite of a plethora of heterodox views and practices along a continuum of belief, Beyond Religions Freedom undertakes an exploration into what is meant by “‘religion’ as an explanatory category,” and subsequently, a reconsideration of “how we look at religious freedom and religious persecution.”
In the introduction, the reader is confronted with this fact that is so obvious, it is jarring to realize we have largely been oblivious to it; the term “religion” is not so sweeping as we have given it credit. It truly defies definition and cannot possibly represent the disparate multitude of belief systems, lived practices and ethnic associations worldwide.
In the preface, Hurd gives us actual numbers as a sample of the distortion and propaganda leading to, and from, advocacy for religious freedom and religious rights when “a politics defined by religious difference, privilege (sic) forms of religion favored by those who write laws, control resources, and govern societies, and marginalize other modes of belief, being and belonging.” The number she adduces is from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. In an effort to showcase supposed prejudice against Christians, they recently published the number of Christian martyrs as 100,000 annually when, arguably, the number of people who actually died because they were Christians, was just a tiny fraction thereof.
In her introduction, she goes on to give us a concise overview of her process and conclusion. In order to understand the “drive to operationalize” religion and the consequences thereof, she develops three related arguments. First, she considers how constructs of religious rights are being packaged into political projects and delivered around the world. Second, she analyzes, through the lense of history and politics, the attempt at incorporation of a concern for religion, as a supposed self-evident category, into global politics. Third, she explores the relation between international projects relating to religious rights and the social, religious, and political contexts in which they are deployed. She focuses on the lacunas created between sanctioned religion and lived religion.
Hurd separates the idea of religion into three separate admittedly somewhat “arbitrary and porous,” but nonetheless very helpful categories: expert religion, lived religion and governed religion. Aided by these heuristics, she objectively “seeks to open the study of religion and global politics up to a broader social and interpretive field.” The conclusion she draws is that “neither religions nor religious actors are singular, agentive forces that can be analyzed, quantified, engaged, celebrated, or condemned--and divided between good and bad. To rely for policy purposes on the category of religious actor is, rather, to presume a certain form of actorship motivated by religion that is neither intellectually coherent nor sociologically defensible.”
Hurd begins her discussion with an interesting dichotomy known as the “two faces of faith,” the idea that religion is simultaneously the problem and the solution. Using the Sahrawi refugees in Southwestern Algeria as a real life example, she highlights some programs that strive to protect “peaceful religion” and project it internationally and other programs, even sometimes the same ones, which strive to suppress “intolerant religion.”
She then breaks down what can be meant by international religious freedom, how it manifests, especially in North America and Western Europe, as an institutionalization of external religious rights promotion, and the consequences thereof.
Next, she moves into religious engagement, including deploying chaplains as well as engaging certain and specific religious institutions and éminences grises and not others. The argument is that government-sponsored religious outreach activities are not, and cannot be, evenhanded efforts to bring religion back in “to international relations to compensate for its alleged exclusion or to secure its free exercise.”
An extended case study of the Alevis of Turkey, “explores the implications of adopting religion as a category to draw together individuals and communities as corporate bodies that are depicted as in need of legal protection to achieve their freedom:” minorities under law. The creation of this category “creates a world in which citizens are governed as religious subjects, contributing to the consolidation of a social order in which groups are distinguished by perceived religious differences creating apostates and insurgents on the margins of legal religion.”
The final chapter looks beyond religious freedom; it delves into religious violence, intergovernmental efforts to contain it and the folly thereof; and it again proposes thinking otherwise about religion. “The religion that is chosen for protection under modern law, the religion that is subjected to state and international legal administration, does not, and cannot, exhaust this vast and diverse field of human goings-on.”
Hurd is an academic and her overall style reflects that. Her dialectic is necessarily repetitive as she builds her case. Far from tiresome, this reinforcement helps the reader navigate and absorb the text. She also enables perspective and better comprehension and elicits empathy, by substantiating her arguments with real life examples.
Religious freedom is important but implementation is confounding. Can and should governments just step out of the way and let people have their lived experiences, or do minorities need protection and, if so, how is that accomplished without promoting one group while marginalizing others? Are distortions meant to curry government sympathy and favors, like the inflated numbers of the CSGC, avoidable? What about the problems caused by multiple and diverging exogenous categorizations of complex groups like the Alevis? Since the global religious landscape is so vast, encompassing autochthonous and imported religion, strict orthodoxy as well as fluid syncretism, belief and nonbelief, and cultural traditions and practices that defy definition, incorporating politics, art, media and popular culture, what is “religion” anyway?
Hurd’s thesis is a vital one and in need of further investigation. We should be stepping back and asking the proper questions, the questions Hurd rightfully proposes we must; “Which activities in the vast sea of human affiliations and actions are designated as religious and primed for engagement, partnership, and dialogue, and which are not? Whose version of which religion is under scrutiny? Which authorities speak in its name, and on whose behalf? What is the relationship between these authorities and the individuals and communities in whose name they allegedly speak? How do researchers account for the practices of individuals that may have tense or nonexistent ties to such institutions or authorities? Conversely, how do researchers consider those who have ties to many simultaneously?”
Much of the world, either due to complacency or ignorance, has unconditionally accepted “religion” as a category no longer in need of analyzation and Western “religious freedom” as a panacea. Hurd illuminates quite clearly the inherent danger in persisting, guided by this illusion. Anyone concerned with truly protecting the rights of all humankind must read this book and pass a copy to their government representative.