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Holy Ignorance: When Religion and Culture Part Ways

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Olivier Roy, one of the world's most distinguished analysts of political Islam, finds in the modern disconnection between faith communities and sociocultural identities a fertile space for fundamentalism to grow. Instead of freeing the world from religion, secularization has encouraged a kind of holy ignorance to take root, an anti-intellectualism that promises immediate access to the sacred and positions itself in direct opposition to contemporary pagan culture.

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Holy Ignorance: When Religion and Culture Part Ways

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Overview

Olivier Roy, one of the world's most distinguished analysts of political Islam, finds in the modern disconnection between faith communities and sociocultural identities a fertile space for fundamentalism to grow. Instead of freeing the world from religion, secularization has encouraged a kind of holy ignorance to take root, an anti-intellectualism that promises immediate access to the sacred and positions itself in direct opposition to contemporary pagan culture.

The secularization of society was supposed to free people from religion, yet individuals are converting en masse to such fundamentalist faiths as Protestant evangelicalism, Islamic Salafism, and Haredi Judaism. These religions either reconnect adherents to their culture through casual referents, like halal fast food, or "deculturate" through "purification" rituals, such as speaking in tongues, which allows believers to utter a language entirely their own. Instead of a return to traditional religious worship, Roy argues we are witnessing the individualization of faith and the disassociation of faith communities from ethnic and national identities. This has placed culturally integrated religions, such as Catholicism and eastern orthodox Christianity, on the defensive, and presents new challenges to state and society. Roy explores the options available to powers that hope to integrate or control these groups, and he considers whether marginalization or homogenization will further divide believers from their culture.

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Editorial Reviews

The Guardian - Richard Phelps

[A] perceptive and thoughtful book.

Times Higher Education Supplement - Keith Kahn-Harris

this extraordinary book's disturbing message - that secularism may be religious fundamentalism's best friend - is worth taking very seriously.

The Guardian
[A] perceptive and thoughtful book.

— Richard Phelps

Times Higher Education Supplement
this extraordinary book's disturbing message - that secularism may be religious fundamentalism's best friend - is worth taking very seriously.

— Keith Kahn-Harris

Religion Watch

The book is an intriguing examination of contemporary religion outside of the usual secularization debate.

Financial Times

Olivier Roy, the outstanding scholar of contemporary religions, has written a book of startling clarity and wisdom. Illuminating trends, issues and movements that had before appeared bizarre or simply antipathetic, he provides us with tools for the comprehension of matters as diverse as coverage of the war on terror to the common individual confusion over one's own beliefs and scepticisms

From the Publisher
"Olivier Roy, the outstanding scholar of contemporary religions, has written a book of startling clarity and wisdom. Illuminating trends, issues and movements that had before appeared bizarre or simply antipathetic, he provides us with tools for the comprehension of matters as diverse as coverage of the war on terror to the common individual confusion over one's own beliefs and scepticisms."—Financial Times

"[A] perceptive and thoughtful book."—Richard Phelps, The Guardian

"The book is an intriguing examination of contemporary religion outside of the usual secularization debate."—Religion Watch

"A highly complex book that critically examines the relationship between religion, culture, and globalization, Holy Ignorance provides theoretical keys to unlocking the riddle of the religious imagination and the 'deculturation' of religious movements in the modern world. Few scholars of religion are as qualified as Olivier Roy to write such erudite work on religious and cultural trends, to contextualize them and to make sense of them."—Fawaz A. Gerges, London School of Economics

"With Holy Ignorance, Olivier Roy moves beyond his established perch as one of contemporary Islam's foremost scholars to train his formidable analytical skills on the question of globalization's broader impact on religion. The result is a tour de force of comparative religious sociology and represents required reading for anyone seeking to understand the relationship between faith, culture, and the market."—Peter Mandaville, George Mason University, author of Global Political Islam


"An erudite account of intricate relationships between religion and other markers of identity, including nationality, socially defined race, language, class, political ideology, generation, gender and sexual orientation."—Times Literary Supplement

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231701273
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 2/21/2012
  • Series: Columbia/Hurst Series
  • Pages: 288

Meet the Author

Olivier Roy is professor of social and political theory at the European University Institute in Florence. His books with Columbia University Press are Secularism Confronts Islam, Globalized Islam, The Politics of Chaos in the Middle East, The Search for a New Ummah, and, with Mariam Abou Zahab, Islamist Networks: The Afghan-Pakistan Connection.

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Table of Contents

PART 1
THE INCULTURATION OF RELIGION
1. When Religion Meets Culture
2. From Civilization to Multiculturalism
3. Religion, Ethnic Group, Nation
4. Culture and Religion: The Divide

PART 2
GLOBALIZATION AND RELIGION
5. Free Market or Domination by the Market?
6. The Religion Market
7. The Standardization of Religion

Conclusion

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