The Crisis of Cultures and the Vitality of Values: A Response to Emmanuel Macron’s Declaration of Society’s Need for Religion

  • Datum: –16.00
  • Plats: Gamla torget 6 4219B
  • Föreläsare: Professor Scott Atran Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Institut Jean Nicod, Ecole Normale Supérieure The Changing Character of War Centre, Pembroke College, University of Oxford Gerald Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan
  • Kontaktperson: Magnus Öberg
  • Föreläsning

In this lecture Professor Atran explores French President Macron’s claim that society needs religion in light of rising populism and illiberalism. Can a spiritual revival of our civilizational values and rituals and their potential for eliciting commitment to defense of the common good address problems of violent extremism and radical illiberalism? What does history and research suggest?

French President Macron’s claim that society needs religion is explored in light of rising populism and illiberalism, and failures allied to the forced gamble of globalization. Historical and experimental research indicates that the universal religions have no fixed meanings or essences that drive followers. Religions have adapted over time to many contexts and cultures because core elements are believed sacred and transcendental: that is, non-negotiable, logically inscrutable, empirically unverifiable or falsifiable, and so always open to interpretation under changing socio-political influences. Recent studies in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe suggest that “devoted actors” committed to transcendental causes are those most willing to make sacrifices whatever the costs or consequences so that their values endure.

The times arguably call out for transformative engagement of civil society and government to address problems of violent extremism and radical illiberalism. They call out as well for a spiritual revival of our civilizational values and rituals and their potential for eliciting commitment to defense of the common good represented by them. These need not necessarily be monotheistic or even institutionally “religious,” as President Macron implied, but they do need to be sacred and transcendental. For history suggests, and our research shows, that societies best endure when their culture-binding values and socio-political rituals become, as Darwin noted, “highly esteemed and even held sacred,” transcending and thus engaging commitment  beyond any social contract’s utilitarian considerations.