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How religious is the public sphere? A critical stance on the debate about public religion and post-secularity

Jens Köhrsen
Acta Sociologica
Vol. 55, No. 3 (September 2012), pp. 273-288
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23250523
Page Count: 16
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Abstract

Today, there are new approaches in academic debates about religion which enjoy high popularity and engage concepts such as post-secularity, public religion and desecularization. These approaches suppose that religion has an increasing presence in and impact on the public sphere of modern societies, including Western Europe. This article questions these assumptions by arguing that the public presence and impact of religion is widely overstated. An excessively vast definition of religion allows these approaches to identify religion in a wide variety of phenomena in the public sphere. Applying, instead, a more precise definition of religion, it appears that religious actors participate mainly in a non-religious way in the public sphere. Therefore, this article argues that religious actors adapt their public communication to the requirements of a secularized public sphere in which religion assumes a public role only in very exceptional occasions and specific contexts. Finally, the author supposes that the current debates about public religion create a myth of past secularity. This myth wrongly suggests that there was a secular past in which religious actors were banned from the public sphere of modern societies.

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