Should We Be Scared? the Return of the Sacred and the Rise of Religious Nationalism in South Asia

Georges Dreyfus

in Crediting God

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780823233199
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823233212 | DOI:
Should We Be Scared? the               Return of the Sacred and the Rise of Religious Nationalism in South Asia

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The last two decades or so have seen a spectacular transformation in the perception of the importance of religion in the contemporary world among Western intellectuals. Whereas religion was previously dismissed as irrelevant and kept apart from more respectable objects of intellectual discussions, it has emerged as the focus of numerous, though not always well-informed, discussions. This surge in interest follows a worldwide resurgence of religion in the modern world that even the most hardened secularists find hard to deny. This phenomenon is obvious, but what are less so are the reasons for this rise and the dangers that it represents. One of the explanations often proposed is the thesis of the return of the sacred, the irruption of tradition in a world that had forgotten its sacred roots. This chapter argues against this hypothesis, showing that the resurgence of religion is not a return of the repressed past but a function of contemporary developments, particularly of the loss of vitality of some of the fundamental narratives of the Western Enlightenment and of their institutional expressions within the new global context. To illustrate some of the political implications of the rise of conservative religiosity, it focuses on South Asia where religious resurgences have led to the rise of religious nationalisms. These ideologies have been adopted by large political movements, which have attempted to impose it as state ideology, with particularly destructive consequences. Far from being limited to South Asia, these developments illustrate some of the possible dangers associated with the contemporary religious resurgence, which may be far from benign, contrary to the arguments made by some of the more perceptive scholars of religion.

Keywords: religion; religious nationalisms; South Asia; political movements; conservative religiosity

Chapter.  10595 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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