The Furies of Indian Communalism: Religion, Modernity, and Secularization

By Achin Vanaik | Go to book overview

3
Religion, Modernity, Secularization

Four Notions of Secularization

Etymologically, the word 'secular' comes from the Latin saeculum, which first meant 'age' or a 'great span of time' or the 'spirit of the age'. Later it acquired another meaning, of belonging to 'this world'. There existed two worlds, the secular and the religious--eternal, temporal and spiritual, each with distinctive practices and institutions. This was the birth within Christian discourse of the notion of relative separation or disengagement. However, it was the spiritual order that ultimately remained decisive. The term 'secularization' emerged after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and originally referred to the transfer of ecclesiastical lands to civic control. By the nineteenth century and in the still powerful flush of Enlightenment values, G.L. Holyoake of Britain coined the term 'secularism' to define an ideology and movement wherein social (and individual) morality, hitherto determined by the transcending principles of religion, were now to be determined by reason, and anchored to the good of man or woman in this life. Agnostic or indifferent to religion, this version of secularism acquired a more atheistic slant through Holyoake's disciple, Charles Bradlaugh. But secularism as a rationalist movement, either agnostic, indifferent or atheistic, soon stalled. It ignored rather than confronted religion or religious discourse.

Capitalist industrialization, the rise of science and of the Enlightenment, the emergence and consolidation of civil society, in short modernity, posed the question of religion anew. How did religion, specifically Christianity, relate to modernity's emergence? What was its place in the new dispensation? 'Religious change' in the West (originary location of capitalist modernity and the secular state) was an incontestable fact and the notion of secularization was the registration of this. Broadly speaking, to this day three notions of secularization have vied, singly or in combination, for controlling emphasis.

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The Furies of Indian Communalism: Religion, Modernity, and Secularization
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Part I 1
  • 1: Introduction 3
  • 2 - Reflections on Communalism and Nationalism in India 29
  • Notes 59
  • Part II 63
  • 3: Religion, Modernity, Secularization 65
  • 4: Communalism, Hindutva, Anti-Secularists 130
  • Part III 235
  • Situating the Threat of Hindu Communalism: Problems with the Fascist Paradigm 237
  • 6: The Communalization of the Indian Polity 296
  • Index 361
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