chapter  1
18 Pages

Religion as a Grammar of Memory

Reflections on a Comparison between Britain and France
WithDanièle Hervieu-Léger

The collective memory of the religious conflicts of the past still shapes the 'cultural grammar' or 'mental equipment' of present-day France, in at least two ways which again can appear mutually contradictory. The framework for this comparative exercise was the elucidation of the workings of collective memory and its surprising resistance to and capacity to adapt in late modern societies, with their increasingly rapid process of change. Within this interrogation of the mutations of memory, and specifically of religious memory, our scientific trajectories have cut across each other on many occasions. This memory is expressed, first, in a culture of ideological confrontation, pitting one transcendent set of beliefs against another, which is capable of resurfacing at any moment, setting one half of the nation at odds with the other. The huge demonstrations which accompanied the vote legalizing same-sex marriage are a clear example of this tendency.