Returning To Religion: Why A Secular Age Is Haunted By Faith

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Jonathan Benthall

Returning To Religion: Why A Secular Age Is Haunted By Faith

Tuesday, May 15, 2018 - 18:45

How can one explain the resurgence of religion, even in a western context of rationality, postmodernity and scientific endeavour? The persistence of religious expression has compelled even diehard secularists, or proponents of the 'secularization thesis', to rethink their positions. Jonathan Benthall explains precisely why societies are not bound to embrace western liberal rationality as an evolutionary inevitability. He shows that the opposite is true: that where a secular society represses the religious imagination, the human predisposition to religion will in the end break out in surprising, apparently secular, modes and outlets.Concentrating on what he calls 'para-religion', a kind of secular spirituality that manifests itself within movements and organisations who consider themselves motivated by wholly rational considerations, Benthall uncovers a paradox: despite themselves, they are haunted by the shadow of irrationality. Arguing that humanitarianism, environmentalism, the animal rights movement, popular archaeology and anthropology all have 'religiod' aspects, his startling conclusion is that religion, rather than coming 'back', in fact never went away. A human universal, the 'religious inclination' underlies the fabric of who we are, and is essential for the healthy functioning of any society.

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Next evening class

Chris Knight

A Plains Indian Myth: When Women Lost Their Power
Tuesday, March 26, 2019 - 18:45
Daryll Forde Seminar Room, Anthropology Building, 14 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW. Tube: Euston Square. map

'The Wives of the Sun and Moon' is one of the key myths of Claude Levi-Strauss' monumental study, Mythologiques. This evening will begin with a story-telling followed by a workshop and class discussion to decode the message of the myth. Originally, according to the Arapaho Indians of North American Plains, marriage was not a fixed state but a periodic alternation between one kind of relationship and another, a once-a-month honeymoon followed each month by divorce and re-union with kin. Everything started going badly wrong when hunting and gathering gave way to gardening, the lunar calendar gave way to a seasonal/solar rhythm - and womankind became subject to wedlock as a permanent state.