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Forms of Humanism and Religion

Session Chair: N.N. | Monday, August 24, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

Petra Klug

The Religious Normation of Nonconformist Individuals: A Blind Spot in the Study of Religion

Religion is often defined through its meanings for adherents, as it is thought to unite “into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them” (Émile Durkheim). The religious normation of nonconformist individuals is often missed in this implicitly emic perspective. But religion has an impact on nonbelievers, too. In societies with strong religious populations or governments, religion influences many areas of public and private life. Religion creates power relationships, especially when it is implemented in political processes, or when majorities stand against minorities, be they religious or nonreligious. I refer to this as ‘religious normation’, will illustrate this concept with some examples of discrimination against atheists in the United States. The US is a religiously pluralistic country and claims freedom of religion, but the American definition of religious freedom has not always included the right to not believe.

Jimmy Emanuelsson

What qualifies as a faith community? The state, the Swedish Humanist Association, and the Category of Religion

The Swedish Humanist Association, a member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), has several times applied for the status of a registered faith community in Sweden. The applications have been refuted with different motivations: the Humanist Association did not organize worship activities, nor could they be defined as a community for religious practices. Of interest are also the consequences of the application process; it caused tensions within the group between those in favor of viewing Humanism as a world-view and those who disliked this approach, because for the latter group, this was “no better than becoming a religion”. As we can see here, different actors use the category of religion in different ways to forward their interests. Examining the material at hand gives us an opportunity to study discourses on religion in legal and political texts, as well as in social groups and their negotiation of identities.

Natalia Buryak

Erich Fromm about Humanistic Potential of Religion

Fromm distinguished authoritarian and humanistic religion. Authoritarian religion is created by an idea, according to which a human must obey to the external force, main virtue here is docility, and main sin is recalcitrance. In Fromm’s view obedience to the future power gives a person chance to get rid of loneliness and own boundedness. By the act of submission a human being loses independence and integrity, which are inherent to him or her as to an individual, but finds the sense of safety and security due to the dismay and striken fear. Humanistic religion on the contrary is concentrated on a person and its capabilities, it orients an individual on independence, faith in self-reliance and self-actualization. It underlines the value of human personality, its right on fortune and freedom. The purpose of a person in such religion is the achievement of the greatest force, but not the greatest powerlessness, not submission but self-realization is a virtue.

Sarwar Alam

In Search of God, In Search of Humanity: Vilayat-e-Mutlaqa of Hazrat Delaor Husayn Maizbhandari

Bangladesh emerged as a nation-state in 1971. One of the fundamental principles of the Constitution of this nation-state is dharmanirapeksta or religious neutrality, popularly understood as secularism. Long before the country’s political adoption of this principle, Sayyid Delaor Husayn, the third Shaykh of the Maizbhandariyya tariqa,preached an ideal called jatidharmanirbisese, an ideal identical to the political concept of dharmanirapeksata in upholding the universal value of humanity in lieu of religious identity. Grounded in the Qur’an and other sufi genres, Husayn elaborated this concept in a doctrine called tawhid-e-adyan or unity of religion. In this paper, I argue that Husayn’s understanding of Islam was counter-hegemonic against the exclusivist perception of Islam that was propagated by both the ruling elites and the ulama. I also argue that he searched for God, one Who not only transcends the conventional understanding as the Supreme Being, but Who also manifests Itself in humanity.


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