The old assumption that modernization leads to secularization is outdated. Yet the certainty that religion is an anthropological universal that can only be suppressed by governments is also dead. Thus it is now a favorable moment for a new perspective on religion. This book takes human experiences of self-transcendence as its point of departure. Religious faith is seen as an attempt to articulate and interpret such experiences. Faith then is neither useful nor a symptom of weakness or misery, but an opening up of ways of experience. This book develops this basic idea, contrasts it with the thinking of some leading religious thinkers of our time, and relates it to the current debates about human rights and universal human dignity.
Hans Joas is Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago, where he belongs to the influential Committee on Social Thought. He is also director of the Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies in Erfurt, Germany. Among his recent English books are The Genesis of Values (University of Chicago Press 2000) and Social Theory (with W. Knoebl, Cambridge University Press 2008).