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uni'wissen 01-2012_ENG

­secularization.” “I’ve been working on many proj­ ects for years, but as director of an institute I just didn’t have the time to edit existing drafts for publication. There was a book on the debate I still wanted to read, and I needed the leisure to finish a chapter,” explains Joas. The time at FRIAS now gives him an ideal opportunity to ­finally bring long slumbering projects to comple­ tion. I often suffer from being forced into the con­ fines of a project schedule. Conducting ­research is sometimes a bit like cooking, he says: “Imag­ ine you have several pots on the stove. You stir a little here and add some spices there; at the same time you have to make sure that nothing burns, but you can’t force a dish to finish itself. You have to give everything the time it needs.” Dispensing With Apparent Certainties Joas’ next book, Glaube als Option. Zukunfts- möglichkeiten des Christentums (“Faith as ­Option. Possibilities for Christianity in the Future”), is set to appear in June 2012 – seemingly right after his last one, but actually long since in prepa­ ration. In it he illuminates the current state of ­religion by examining two pseudo-certainties that have long dominated debates on religious policy. The first has to do with the prophesy of nonbelievers since the 18th century that reli­ gious faith will disappear in the course of time and lead to a secularization. Not believing in God was not even imaginable in earlier centuries, but then it became possible to profess oneself to be an nonbeliever. This “secular option,” as the Canadian philosopher Prof. Dr. Charles Taylor has called it, developed out of currents of thought in the Enlightenment. Taylor’s work forms the starting point for Joas’ deliberations. “In the past 20 years the common assumption in the sociology and history of religion that modern­ ization inevitably leads to secularization has practically imploded,” says Joas and asks the logical question: “If modernization isn’t what leads to secularization, then what does?” The second aspect of the book also has to do with a prediction, this time one by the believers: They long thought and asserted that those who did not believe would end up being unhappy. They even predicted that societies without ­religion at all would descend into moral decay. “But the empirical evidence does not support this claim,” says Joas and comes to the conclusion: “We need to speak about faith in a completely differ­ ent way, because we can neither say that it will die out anyway nor that we will become unhappy or immoral if it disappears.” The new book is an attempt to put this idea into practice. A third, no less important part of the umbrella topic “sacralization and secularization” is Joas’ work on the so-called Axial Age. A volume on this topic edited by Joas and the American soci­ ologist Prof. Dr. Robert Bellah is set to be pub­ lished by Harvard University Press in fall 2012. Coined by the philosopher Prof. Dr. Karl Jaspers in 1949, the term “Axial Age” refers to the time between 800 and 200 before Christ, in which the Laws alone are not enough: Human rights also need to be secured through intellectual ­discourse and everyday practice. This painting by Jean-Jacques-François Le Barbier shows the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and was painted in France in 1789. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. “In the past 20 years the common ­assumption in the sociology and history of religion that modernization inevitably leads to secularization has practically imploded.” 26