If you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out editor in chief Drew Christiansen’s discussion of "The Stillborn God,"
with sociologist Jose Casanova
. Mark Lilla’s new books has received a number of approving reviews
, and was excerpted on the cover
of the New York Times magazine. But both our reviewers have serious questions about Lilla’s conception of religion. Fr. Christiansen writes: One of the assumptions driving Lilla’s argument is that the religious impulse is an apocalyptic one, imposing God’s justice by violence. He doesn’t use the term "apocalyptic" until quite late in the book; he prefers "eschatology," but eschatology has many forms, of which violent apocalyptic is only one. He even terms mystical longing, what he calls "spiritual desire", as "eschatological." Even Karl Barth and Franz Rosenzweig, with their other-worldly theologies, are wrenched into the pattern as unwitting progenitors of apocalyptic violence. The result is ultimately a polarized analysis poised between apocalyptic violence and political secularism. Is that a fair assessment? Is all religion, at least by imputation, apocalyptic in Lilla’s view? I am really befuddled by such an obviously learned man’s apparent fear of any (moderate) critical, oppositional role by religion, where there is no fear of violent tendencies in other cultural forces, such as ethno-nationalism, politics and the military. Nor, as John Cornwell points out in his Darwin’s Angel, science too. For those of you in the New York area, Jose Casanova will be discussing
"the meaning of secularization" with Peter Steinfels at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus on December 5. Tim Reidy