Bijdragen 67 (3):253-287 (2006)

The key to understanding ourselves and the disenchantment of our world, is in fact the age-old logic of religion. This thesis is at the heart of the thought of Marcel Gauchet. For Gauchet, the growing departing from religion that characterises contemporary Western culture is made possible by the logic of religion itself, through its different historical re-articulations, in close interplay with the logic of the political it has given rise to. In a sense, this logic continues to shape our social universe, but now in a way exactly opposite to its original form. The disenchantment of the world is thus not a movement againstreligion, but on the contrary a movement made possible by religion itself. Christianity especially has played a central rôle in all this: it is, in the famous formulation of Gauchet, “the religion for the departing from religion”. In this article, this whole complex movement is reconstructed in its essential steps: the rise of the state and its revolutionary implications for religion, the growth of the ‘higher religions’ and the dynamics of transcendence, the specificity of Christianity , opening up the possibility of a radically new and now disenchanted articulation of autonomy and heteronomy. Further, the background is examined from which Gauchet’s theory has taken shape , as well as the relation between Gauchet and other ‘theories of secularisation’, such as those of Weber, Blumenberg or Löwith. A critical assessment is made of Gauchet’s ‘political’ reading of religion, of its methodological presuppositions, and of his definition of ‘religion’ itself. Finally, the question is raised as to the future of religion according to this theory, and especially the future of Christianity
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DOI 10.2143/BIJ.67.3.2017726
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