Religion scholar Professor Naomi Goldenberg, who is visiting Britain in April 2012, here outlines her hypothesis that religions can be productively thought of as 'vestigial states'. She considers this to be one way of de-essentialising, demystifying and deconstructing the category of 'religion'.
The recent disturbances in England show that fundamental issues concerning the legitimation of government, social justice, and societal stability need to be addressed ever more urgently, says Professor Richard Roberts. He argues that scholars of religion should not simply remain reluctant but paid tools of an industrialised system of defective socialisation that initiates students into informed passivity, but rather the source of a truly critical discourse that broadens the imagination and enhances personal agency.
If the modern secular state has depended for its conceptualisation on the related concept of 'religion' as a private right of faith in unseen mystical powers separated from the state, then so have those modern discourses which construct “political and socio-economic forces”, and are thereby in danger of reifying them, says Timothy Fitzgerald. He assesses some key arguments in Scott M. Thomas's widely praised book The Global Resurgence of Religion and the Transformation of International Relations: The Struggle for the Soul of the Twenty-First Century.
Academics at the University of Stirling, and the beliefs and values think-tank Ekklesia, have teamed up to promote a new research agenda and blog entitled Critical Religion, which aims to put hot topics under a careful spotlight.
With the 'Critical Religion' agenda and blog, says Michael Marten, the intention is to question the category of 'religion' - but then, rather than just holding it to suspicion, or blame, or discredit, or incredulity – a growing tendency among certain public intellectuals, even if against the tide of global demographics – to examine the issues involved from a positive critical standpoint.
In different ways, Religious Studies and theology, says Professor Richard H. Roberts, have the capacity to make intelligently accessible ways of doing things that are as ancient and as important to humankind as the making of music.
Students and lecturers are warning that theology and religious studies departments in British universities could be under threat due to cuts in higher education funding. Bangor University will this year accept new theology students for the last time, while staff at Birmingham have warned that they will consider strike action to resist compulsory redundancies.