Postsecularism is a theoretical concept with roots going back into 1980s. The central idea is that Western Secularism might have come to an end — a proposition with an enormous potential of debate.
The term has been used both to warn of or to herald the end of secularism and the advent of a new religious age: One has interpreted the rise of Fundamentalist Evangelicalism in the Bush era, conservative Catholicism in the eras of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, the late 20th century New Age movements with their branches of quasi religious Esotericisms, and the rise of Islam since the late 1980s as signs of the end of Western secularism.
A second less prominent strand of the debate uses the term rather as one has used the term Postmodernism before, in order to imply that modernity is not just the present state but a historical period one can understand as any other transitional period. Proponents of postsecularism would in that case be able to write about the secularization as a historical development and to distance themselves from it just as we can distance ourselves from the Enlightenment and its numerous facets and factors without returning to the "dark middle ages".
The discussion includes a reevaluation of the history of secularism: Many of the secular institutions are — in a critical postsecular perspective — copies of preceding religious constructs, hence not as secular as one might imagine. 19th-century Positivism is a candidate for such a reevaluation since both its propaganda of a new secular age and its institutions, dogmas and theorems can be interpreted as adaptations of Roman Catholicism. It is a general notion of critics who use the term Post-secularism that Secularism itself has entered a period of crisis, in which it can (so the option to discuss) no longer serve as a historical goal.
A number of popular debates have been associated with the idea of a new era following the age of Western secularism — the debate of a "collapse of the East-West confrontation," the "bankruptcy of materialism and capitalism," "manifest failures of the secular societies," a "fundamental power of the religious and spiritual side in human nature which the secular world is eventually unable to suppress."
Fields of observation have been literature, philosophy, sociology and theology.
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- McClure, John A.. Partial Faiths: Postsecular Fiction in the Age of Pynchon and Morrison. Athens, GA: U of Georgia P, 2007. xi, 209 pp.
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- John R. Betz. After Enlightenment : the post-secular vision of J.G. Hamann (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell Pub, 2009).