Americans have a difficult time making sense of secularism in Europe. Why, for instance, do some French citizens see wearing a burkini or a burqua to be in violation of such cherished secular principles as equality or liberty? Moreover, if Europe is so secular why are religious holidays still observed in most countries and religious symbols tolerated in public schools, such as crosses in Italy? Despite boasting the highest rates of atheism in the world, Secular Europe, according to many critics, remains biased towards its Christian past. How are we to make sense of the paradoxes between church and state in secular Europe? This course attempts to deepen understanding of secularism by looking at how scholars have interpreted its historical develop in Europe. Starting with the Enlightenment, we will examine the experience of secularization for modern thinkers and the theories of secularization produced by them. The hope is that on this basis we will be able to better conceptualize and understand debates involving secularism and Church and State in contemporary Europe.
Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins is the Berkeley Postdoctoral Fellow in Public Theology for the 2016-17 academic year. He recently received his Ph.D. in Modern European History from Columbia University. His work primarily focuses on twentieth-century Western European intellectual, religious, and political history with subsidiary interest in American history and religious studies. His dissertation titled, The Other Intellectuals: Raymond Aron and the United States examines Aron’s critical views of various schools of American thought devoted to modernization theory, neoliberalism, and international relations theory. At BCSR Steinmetz-Jenkins will be working on a manuscript titled, Religion and the Left Since 9/11. He has written for The Nation, Times Literary Supplement, Dissent, Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere.