- Series: Cultural Memory in the Present
- Paperback: 184 pages
- Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (September 3, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0804792771
- ISBN-13: 978-0804792776
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,584,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Faith as an Option: Possible Futures for Christianity (Cultural Memory in the Present) 1st Edition
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"Faith as an Option is much more than a descriptive attempt to explain a longstanding scholarly misnomer. Joas also provides an alternative conceptual framework for how modernity and faith can now facilitate and enrich one another." (Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins)
"Joas conducts his inquiry from a historical and contemporary sociological perspective, but one that is appropriately suspicious of sweeping claims and predictions about the course of social history. As he shows through a wealth of carefully researched sources and citations, the notion of secularization is by no means a straightforward one." (John Cottingham)
"This commentary on modern Christianity is a lively and clever critique of both secularization and modernization as master theories of social change . . . Faith as an Option has much to commend it. Joas's argument offers a robust critique of many conventional notions in mainstream sociology. His call to social scientists to face the realities of the day is to be warmly welcomed." (Bryan S. Turner American Journal of Sociology)
"The leading sociologist working today in the German language, Joas is also the leading expert on American pragmatism, a creative pragmatist in his own right, and one of the most prominent interlocutors between American and European social thought. His book offers original understanding of one of the most debated fields in the social sciences, namely the thesis of the secularization of modern societies and the place and future possibilities of 'religion' in Western secular societies. Faith As an Option should challenge the assumptions not only of specialists, but also of the educated public, 'believers' and 'unbelievers' alike." (José Casanova Georgetown University)
About the Author
Hans Joas is Ernst Troeltsch Professor for the Sociology of Religion at the Humboldt University of Berlin and Professor of Sociology and Social Thought at the University of Chicago.
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Top Customer Reviews
Joas challenges the teleological secularization thesis and offers an alternative “wave” model starting with the French Revolution and ending (for now) with the 1960s. He prefers to think of modernity as a condition of heightened “contingency” rather than one of increased disenchantment or disbelief, and suggests that there is a legitimate form of religious commitment in an age of contingency.
He also reminds us that at the end of the day, “religions” or “civilizations” do not act for themselves, only individual agents do. This is especially important to remember in discussing the relation of religion and violence.
I appreciate his nuance on ecumenicism and inter-religious dialogue. Finding common ground is both possible and necessary, but cannot and should not simply replace the particularity one’s religious experience and religious tradition. This process is necessarily an ongoing balancing act.
I really enjoyed this book at the outset, but had a more mixed reaction by the end. One reason is that he crosses the line (which he comments in the book itself) between a purely scientific voice and the voice of the cultural commentator. In itself, this is fine, perhaps even appropriate. But these transitions in the text need to unambiguous. A second, more important reason is that the Christian future he recommends seems indifferent to some of his own sociological insights. He clearly wants an updated Christianity that is more purely “Axial.” In other words, he privileges a permanently self-critical ethical universalism under the sign of “love.” Although he does not say it, I feel like he is one more German romantic advocating a meta-Christianity as the religious form par excellence, which is little more than a form: a constantly self-revising universalism. The problem is that his own account of the genesis of values and religious commitments in experience, along with his defense of the particular, makes it unclear we would should buy into this ideal, which seems religious empty (like the churches that mostly closely approximate this ideal). It is shorthand for the liberal-democratic state (motivated somehow by “love”) and its international counterparts. It is telling in this regard when, right at the end of the book, he dismisses Catholic sexual ethics out of hand, and rejects the principle of “obedience to church doctrines” (135-36). For Joas, transcendence is a structural implication of religious experience, but is not the source of revelation. Instead, it is the space we imaginatively occupy for purposes of universalist self-critique.