The question of religion is at the centre of not just sociology and philosophy, but also political theory. With respect to sociology, it can be said that modern sociology emerged precisely through an attempt to make sense of how social order was forged from a religiously sanctioned social and political matrix, and how in turn religion itself had been sublimated and transcended through the development of profane structures of subjective, interpersonal and worldly interaction. At the heart of sociology is the notion that the modern social order emerged through the dual processes of privatization of religion and the disenchantment of a world that had been rendered profane and thus both knowable and manipulable by humans. For Émile Durkheim and Max Weber, social solidarity takes the place of religion, and an ethos of frugality and industry becomes a secular version of religious orientations and practices. For most social theorists after Marx, Durkheim and Weber, the modern social order is predicated on the secularization of both the social and natural worlds that entailed and anticipated the eventual withering of religion. With respect to philosophy, it can be said that there has been no philosopher who has not grappled with the question of the dependence of philosophy on religious notions. From Plato through Derrida, and of course up to Habermas, the question has been posed in terms of the possibility of a dialogue, or subterranean co-dependence, between Athens and Jerusalem, where each is a metonym for reason and faith respectively. One of the distinctive aspects of the Western philosophical tradition is precisely this millennial dialogue between faith and reason. Even as sociology anticipated the eventual abolition of religion, philosophy continues to have an ever intense
dialogue with religion and theology. With respect to political theory, religion has been and continues to be a major point of reference. There is no theory of the state that does not address the ways in which political power emerged through the secularization of religious institutions. As with Plato’s Republic, which formulated the need of what we now call a “civil religion” for the stabilization of the social order, so with Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Locke, as well as G. W. F. Hegel and Immanuel Kant, who all linked the possibility of an autonomous political order to the separation between church and state, the privatization of religion, and the development of institutions that made space for the fact of religious pluralism.