In the first half of the twentieth century it was widely assumed that an inevitable process of secularization was under way in Western society, followed by the rest of the world, and that at the end of that process religion would be marginalized or would disappear altogether. However, secularism and its values clearly did not prevail in what seemed to be a struggle between the religious world and the secular world, and religion returned to center stage in a variety of ways. How can this seeming turnabout or crisis in the trend toward secularization and secularism be explained? What are the features of this crisis and how are they linked to characteristics of Christianity and the roots of secularism? In light of the resurgence of religion, must we abandon the concepts of “secular” and “secularization” and consider them too vague, controversial, and context-dependent?
The premise of Secularization and Secularism: Interdisciplinary Perspectives is the understanding that giving up the religion/secularism dichotomy does not mean giving up the attempt to achieve a deep understanding of the processes of secularization. This anthology, which grew out of the work of a research group at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, offers a renewed, critical, multidimensional, and comparative look at the concept of secularism and the processes of secularization. Through a philosophical, historical, and sociological examination by the leading researchers in the field, the book explores the meaning of these categories in the era sometimes referred to as “post-secular.” Some of the articles address the historical and philosophical roots of secularization and secularism from a universal perspective, and some explore the multidimensionality of the phenomenon in the Jewish-Israeli context. The book recognizes the centrality, both real and imagined, of the concepts of secularization and secularism in modernity, and at the same time, the relativity, complexity, and sometimes contradictory meanings of these concepts.