Aberystwyth Transitions Reading Group Blog

Next Meeting – 17th Jan – Paul Cloke on Post-Secularism


Our next meeting will be on Jan 17th, quietest spot in the Arts Centre as usual, and we’ll be discussing the following talk by Paul Cloke entitled: ‘Postsecular Stirrings? Geographies of hope in amongst neoliberalism’, available as vodcast or podcast from the link below:


Just to try and quickly translate this into everyday language, it’s basically about how faith-motivated (religious) charitable organizations represent a challenge or at least an alternative to the dominant system of ‘neoliberalism’ (which assumes that freedom of the market is the best way to meet all human needs). I haven’t listened to this all yet but I look forward to hearing why it’s faith-based charities in particular that are seen to be doing this as opposed to all charities. In any case it should give us plenty of food for thought about the role of religion and faith (and might be the most positive thing you’ve heard about religion in a long time).

Film Nights:

Also of note, several of us are planning to see the film Chasing Ice on the 16th. The film is about a photographer’s effort to capture evidence of planetary changes through filming changes in landscapes of glacial ice.


And on the 22nd, a film about the Lammas eco-village in Pembrokeshire, Living in the Future: Lammas will be screening at the Arts Centre followed by a live Q&A session with Jane Davidson, former Welsh Assembly Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing.


4 thoughts on “Next Meeting – 17th Jan – Paul Cloke on Post-Secularism

  1. Fascinating debate around Paul Cloke’s lecture – even thought there was a consensus that it was a bit long-winded and jargon rich! I have some sympathy for the post secualr argument. Without invoking religion, Michaale Sandel’s work on justice comes from a similar place, advocating admitting values and beliefs (back) into political debate. Meanwhile, theorists from Murray Bookching to Habermas and Hardt and Negri have tried to identify a global hetrogenous radical grouping ready to stand togehter against neo-liberalism… As Paul Cloke allows, I think, it’s comfortable enough allowing nice Christian values like care and compassion into politics, they resonate nicely with social democratic values. But how post secular can the politics get beyond Western Europe and moderate Christianity? What happens with pro-life, creationist Christian fundamentalism or other belief systems that, say, oppress women? All the same, I think I agree with Sandel that values are better as an overt part of politics than forced onto the margins…

  2. I still don’t feel completely clear on what this was about. My understanding of secularism is that it meant a separation of church and state. Cloke is talking about charity organizations, i.e. not part of the state, which to my understanding have not been targeted as having to be not religiously motivated. So, is Cloke saying that actually we need to be able to accept religion back into political/state spheres of debate, but he’s doing so via the argument that religion/faith motivates some people to do good just for the sake of doing the good rather than proselytizing, as evidenced by their role in charities? If so, I don’t think I follow from one thing to the other. Also, the counter-arguments that he mentions so flippantly, i.e. not all religions are the same, some people are motivated by religion to do generally anti-social things as well, people can be good and moral without being religious, seem to be pretty significant counter-arguments, and I’m not sure he addressed them sufficiently in the lecture at least (maybe in the article?). I feel left at an impasse with this one.

    However, I do agree with one possibly more abstract point that I think emerges out of this but is clouded by the religion/faith conflation. That is, we need to talk about ethics and moral values more openly. I see this all the time with planning cases. It’s almost like there is an institutionalized taboo on talking about ethical and moral values, even though the whole thing is steeped in values. What things should be allowed to occur in what spaces? What’s appropriate? Our whole culture is full of ethical and moral values and issues so I think it is absolutely right that we acknowledge and debate these. But will we arrive at a position where we could subjugate political decision-making to any kind of religion? I doubt it. I think we are headed in a direction of increased diversity, and maybe this is down to my own inherent suspicion of doctrine of any kind, but I think that’s a good thing!

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