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Secularity and Globalization
November 4, 2005

The Seminars in Christian Scholarship program at Calvin College will host a timely conference November 10-12.

"Secularity and Globalization: What Comes After Modernity?" is an important discussion to have in the wake of 9/11 says Calvin philosophy professor and Seminars in Christian Scholarship director James K.A. Smith.

"In our current climate - in an 'age of terror' - much popular and journalistic attention has been given to the relationship and tension between globalization and religion," says Smith. "While much of this has focused on links between religion and violence, particularly links between religion and terrorism, there have also been considerations of the role of religion in a world of globalized capitalism. Christianity is no longer a Western religion."

The reality of globalization raises all kinds of important questions, says Smith. Does the particularity of religious commitment foster global terrorism? Is religion somehow inherently linked to violence? And therefore, does secularity - the negation of religion - somehow foster peace? Or is there another side to the story?

Smith says that several schools of thought are emerging with regard to the role of religion in a global world.

"One," he says, "suggests that globalized democracy is the key to securing global peace, but that secularity is one of the conditions for peaceful democracy. A second calls into question the link between democracy and secularity, offering a more deeply pluralist account of community, the market, and the nation-state."

In both cases, however, religion plays a critical role in discerning the way forward.

Smith is thrilled that Peter Berger will be part of the upcoming conference and will deliver a keynote address on Thursday, November 10 that is free and open to all.

Berger is a professor of sociology and theology at Boston University and has written numerous books on sociological theory, the sociology of religion and a leading scholar on secularization. Since 1985 Berger has been director of the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs, a research center committed to systematic study of relationships between economic development and sociocultural change in different parts of the world.

Other keynote speakers will include noted British theologian Graham Ward, of Manchester University, and Canadian geographer Iain Wallace from Carleton University in Ottawa.

Calvin professors also will present at the conference, including David Billings, Janel Curry, Susan Felch, Quentin Schultze and Scott Thomas. Other presenters at the conference include professors from Wheaton and Hope colleges, Cornerstone University, the Institute for Christian Studies, Regent University, the University of Manchester, Syracuse University, Villanova University and more.

See a list of all presenters.