Authors & Events
Sep 23, 2008
| ISBN 9781400079131
Sep 23, 2008
| ISBN 9780307472717
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Sep 23, 2008 | ISBN 9781400079131
Sep 23, 2008 | ISBN 9780307472717
A brilliant account of religion’s role in the political thinking of the West, from the Enlightenment to the close of World War II.The wish to bring political life under God’s authority is nothing new, and it’s clear that today religious passions are again driving world politics, confounding expectations of a secular future. In this major book, Mark Lilla reveals the sources of this age-old quest-and its surprising role in shaping Western thought. Making us look deeper into our beliefs about religion, politics, and the fate of civilizations, Lilla reminds us of the modern West’s unique trajectory and how to remain on it. Illuminating and challenging, The Stillborn God is a watershed in the history of ideas.
Mark Lilla is Professor of Humanities and Religion at Columbia University. He was previously Professor at the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. A noted intellectual historian and frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books,… More about Mark Lilla
"Sophisticated and compelling. . . . Could not be timelier."—The Wall Street Journal“Introduces the reader to one of the most important chapters in modern history.”—The New York Sun “A lucid book of great learning and shrewd insights into political and religious psychology.”—The Boston Globe"Provocative. . . . Adds nuance and complexity to the intellectual account we tell about the West’s thinking on religion and politics."—The New York Times Book Review
Q: How would you define the term political theology?A: A political theology describes the nature of the good society, based on a divine revelation. It can be contrasted with political philosophy, which does without revelation.Q: Explain the importance of Jean-Jacques Rousseau to the dialog of religion and politics in Western thought.A: Rousseau’s importance lies in his argument that human beings have a defensible need for religion, and that when religion is rationally and morally reformed it ennobles us, rather than debases us. This thought convinced many in nineteenth-century Europe that reformed religion could be reconciled with modern politics, and played a necessary role in the functioning of the state. Q: Tell us why you call America’s relationship to religion and politics a miracle?A: There simply is no other example of a healthy, powerful democracy whose citizens are not only believers, but believers in messianic, ecstatic faiths. Their faiths give them ample reason to ignore the limits of constitutional government, and even resort to violence, but somehow we remain within the bounds of our system of government. Q: Why were the Founding Fathers of this country so hopeful to assert that a theory such as ours could work —in your opinion does it work, will it work in the future?A: The Founders made a wager that if Protestant sects were given a constitutional right to assemble they would not want to risk that liberty by imposing their faith on others. They hoped for a general disarmament, and they got it. What the Founders could not anticipate was the influx of Catholic immigrants in the 19th and 20th century, nor that eventually they, too, would accept the bargain. Nor could they have anticipated Muslim immigration. Q: Do you think the events of September 11th have changed our relationship to religion in this country? A: It obviously has, but perhaps not enough. We remain terribly provincial about the challenge of political theology, exaggerating the danger in the US and underestimating its power in the rest of the world.
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