Conflicts Between Religions in the Public Sphere : The Problem of Validity Claims and Social Integration

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:20
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Jin Woo PARK, Sogang University, South Korea
What is the main role of religion in the public sphere? Scholars have viewed the issue from varying perspectives: functionalists (Parsons) and system theorists (Luhmann) tend to emphasize integrative forces of religion for the whole society, whereas the concepts of public religions (Casanova) and resistant religions (Smith) highlight the tension between church and state. In particular, how are the roles of religion manifested in the public sphere of a post-secular society?

  This research addresses the conflicting roles of religion in the public sphere of Korean society, focusing on the recent case of a tragic failure of public safety (the Sewol ferry disaster on April 16, 2014). Utilizing qualitative methods such as participant observation and in-depth interviews, I selected Catholic and Protestant churches and examined the pro- and anti-government stances that church members took following the incident.

  Each group employed different meaning systems by which they justified the validity of their respective claims – for instance, theodicy versus anthropodicy, patriotism versus humanitarianism, priest type versus prophet type (Weber), and nation-oriented civil religion (Rousseau) versus transcendental-principle-oriented civil religion (Bellah).

  In addition, I found that religion does not remain in the private sector of society, but rather plays public roles both in integrative and disruptive ways. However, the different roles of religion have “elective affinity” with the different goals of a social system. Therefore, how the meaning systems of religion are interpreted in the whole contexts of social systems will color and signify religion’s social implications.