Finke, Roger and Rodney Stark. The Churching of America, 1776—1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers U. Press, 1992). Sociologists Finke and Stark, from Purdue and the U. Washington, respectively, confirm D.M. Kelley's thesis (Why Conservative Churches Are Growing): "to the degree that denominations rejected traditional doctrines and ceased to make serious demands on their followers, they ceased to prosper. The churching of America was accomplished by aggressive churches committed to vivid otherworldliness" (p. 1). Observing that their view "is not shared by most sociologists of religion," the authors assert that the primary reason "why 'mainline' denominations decline" is "compromise" with culture, and the loss of the church's distinctive identity (p. 237). At the same time, they note that the older sociological view of religion as "psychopathological" (i.e. since Freud) is giving way to a more positive view of religion as "rational" (p. 251). Surprisingly, they find that: "the reduction of tensions with the surrounding culture weakens religious organizations" (p. 255). Contrary to common perception, they also find that "urbanization" actually "increase[s] religious participation," because of the increasing "access" to a variety of church options which cities provide (pp. 204-205)..
The authors conclude: "religious organizations are stronger to the degree that they impose significant costs in terms of sacrifice and even stigma upon their members. Herein lies the key to the trends noted throughout this book. People tend to value religion on the basis of how costly it is to belong—the more one must sacrifice in order to be in good standing, the more valuable the religion" (p. 238).
Fish, Stanley. Doing What Comes Naturally: Change Rhetoric and the Practice of Theory in Literary and Legal Studies (New York: Duke U. Press, 1989); There's No Such Thing as Free Speech: And It's a Good Thing, Too (New York: Oxford U. Press, 1993). A prof. of law and English at Duke U., Dr. Fish is a postmodernist in legal and literary theory. Nietzsche's influence is evident is the following passage from Doing What Comes Naturally: "Must might make right? In a sense the answer I might give is yes, since in the absence of a perspective independent of interpretation some interpretative perspective will always rule by virtue of having won out over its competitors" (p. 10). Like Foucault and Derrida, Fish asserts that all truth claims and literary interpretations are ultimately political.
In There's No Such Thing as Free Speech he denies that 'supposed' laws guaranteeing free speech are clear or well-defined and asserts: "we have never had any normative guidance for marking off protected from unprotected speech… In short, the name of the game has always been politics." Ultimately, Fish embraces a deterministic nihilism: "Hearkening to me will lead to nothing. Hearkening to me, from my point of view, is supposed to lead to nothing… All I have to recommend is the game, which, since it doesn't need my recommendations, will proceed on its way undeterred and unimproved by anything I have to say" (p. 307; cited by Gary Saalman in The Death of Truth, pp. 169-70; 172-73). In A Passion for Truth McGrath explains Fish's peculiar thesis: "Fish argues that all 'truth claims' are simply veiled attempts to achieve political or social power. Debates over 'truth' are thus in reality nothing other than power games. For this reason, Fish argues against the cardinal North American virtue of freedom of speech, seeing this as the freedom to oppress and manipulate" (p. 279, n. 72).
Forell, George W. The Proclamation of the Gospel in a Pluralistic World: Essays on Christianity and Culture (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1973); The Ethics of Decision (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1955).
Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Vintage Books/ Random House, 1965, 1988); The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Vintage Press, 1973) and Power/ Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977 (New York: Pantheon, 1980). Foucault (1926-1984), who held a chair at France's most prestigious academic institution, the College de France, has been widely considered (with Jacques Derrida and Richard Rorty) a leading philosopher of postmodernism. Like Derrida, Foucault was inspired to a large extent by Nietzsche. He equated "truth" with "power," as a tool of the privileged to suppress the underprivileged. In Power/ Knowledge he asserted: "We are subjected to the reproduction of truth through power, and we cannot exercise power except through the production of truth" (p. 132; cited by J. Leffel in The Death of Truth, p. 49). In Madness and Civilization Foucault viewed madness as a complex and ambiguous—yet revelatory—social phenomenon. He examined, mostly through original documents, the social shifts of perspective on madness ("comic" and/or "tragic folly," "unreason," "death of the mind," and "mental illness") from the Middle Ages to the present.
Foucault begins Madness and Civilization by arguing that as leprosy disappeared, society needed a stigmatized substitute to fill the void, and to populate the empty leprosariums: "Poor vagabonds, criminals, and 'deranged minds' would take the part played by the leper" (p. 7). He concludes by asserting: "unreason has belonged to whatever is decisive, for the modern world, in any work of art: that is, whatever any work of art contains that is both murderous and constraining;" "[this] madness is precisely the absence of the work of art, the reiterated presence of that absence, its central void…" (pp. 285, 287). As a true expression of man's dark side, this madness confronts the modern world and calls the world to account: "This does not mean that madness is the only language common to the work of art and the modern world… but it means that, through madness… the world is forced to question itself… the world is made aware of its guilt.. the world that thought to measure and justify madness through psychology must justify itself before madness" (pp. 288-89).
Although he eschewed generalizations, Foucault seemed to believe that the Enlightenment-emphasis upon reason brought with it an unhealthy denial of "unreason," the dark side of the human soul. He concluded his Preface: "What realm do we enter…? A realm, no doubt, where what is in question is the limits rather than the identity of a culture" (p. xi); "In the Middle Ages and until the Renaissance, man's dispute with madness was a dramatic debate in which he confronted the secret powers of the world… In our era, the experience of madness remains silent in the composure of a knowledge which, knowing too much about madness, forgets it.. it is the point where history is immobilized in the tragic category which both establishes and impugns it" (p. xii). Foucault considered madness "both man's ultimate truth and the form of his abolition" (p. 82).
In A Passion for Truth A. McGrath critiques the postmodernism of Foucault and Lyotard with the following points: (1) To dismiss "the notion of 'truth' [as] at best illusory and at worst oppressive… To allow criteria such as 'tolerance' and 'openness' to be given greater weight than 'truth' is… a mark of intellectual shallowness and moral irresponsibility. The first and most fundamental of all questions must be: is it true? Is this worthy of belief and trust?" (pp. 189, 191); (2) "And if [postmodernism] is resistant to having its truth claims tested, it can hardly expect to be taken seriously" (p. 192); (3) "To postmodern suggestions that 'truth is fascist,' or that all worldviews are equally valid, or that something can be 'true for me' but not 'true,' the following questions might be raised. Is Fascism as equally true (or perhaps we should say 'valid') as democratic libertarianism? … Even postmodernism has difficulties in allowing that Nazism is a good thing" (p. 192); (4) "Is not the truth that Foucault's criticism actually rests upon a set of quite definite beliefs about what is right and what is wrong? [e.g.] …throughout Foucault's writings, we find a passionate belief that repression is wrong. Foucault himself is thus committed to an objective moral value—that freedom is to be preferred to repression… [But, according to Foucault's position:] Why is repression wrong?" (p. 194); (5) "As Ben Meyer so devastatingly commented: 'The followers of Nietzsche and Foucault are passionately persuaded that truth is a mere rhetorical device employed in the service of oppression, and say so at length. What, then, is the status of their saying so? We should give them their choice. Is it false? Or in the service of oppression?'" (p. 194; citation from "The Philosophical Crusher," First Things 12 [April, 1991], p. 10); (6) "Even the casual question, ‘Is postmodernism true?,' innocently raises fundamental criteriological questions which postmodernism finds embarrassingly difficult to handle" (p. 195); (7) "Foucault is unable to offer any normative standard by which one might be able to distinguish acceptable social regimes (such as liberal-democracy) from unacceptable totalitarian regimes… [Michael] Walzer argues that, in the end, Foucault must be recognized as a 'moral as well as a political anarchist'" (p. 196; citation from Foucault: A Critical Reader [Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), ed. David Couzens Hoy, pp. 51-68: "The Politics of Michel Foucault").
Fowler, Robert Booth. Unconventional Partners: Religion and Liberal Culture in the United States (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989). Booth argues that: throughout much of American history the churches have "found themselves as completely identified with nationalism and their country's political and economic systems as ever had been known in Christendom" (p. 78). Cited by R. Clapp in A Peculiar People, Booth concludes: "Liberalism is a political system which makes the individual, rather than the community, the primary political unit. It also assumes that truth is ahistorical and acultural and so must be freed of tradition. And largely because it cuts itself off from churchly community and tradition, liberalism features an 'implicit state worship'" (p. 10; Clapp, p. 219, n.3).
Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1927). The Austrian founder of psychoanalysis, Freud (1856-1939) was also one of the leading neurologists in Europe. He published his magnum opus, The Interpretation of Dreams, in 1900. The Future of an Illusion, first published in 1927, is less of a scientific work and more an expression of personal conviction. He asserts that religious beliefs are based upon psychological causes, such as wishes ("longing for the father") and fears (death), and do not require any supernatural basis. In fact, on a single page of this famous text Freud characterizes religion variously as: "neurosis," "illusion," "poison," "intoxicant," and "childishness to be overcome" (p. 88).
This negative view of religion exerted a tremendous influence upon the social sciences which persists today, although there is increasing evidence of a positive reappraisal, especially within sociology (See: R. Finke & R. Stark, The Churching of America, pp. 251-252). In The American Religion, referring to Freud's assertion that "religious doctrines… do not admit of proof," H. Bloom confessed that: "After a lifetime of reading Freud, I am perfectly willing to substitute the word 'psycho-analytic' for the word 'religious' in that passage of The Future of an Illusion. After all, as we have discovered, psychoanalytic doctrines certainly do not admit of proof, and are either illusions or delusions if we literalize them" (p. 35).
Fukuyama, Francis. The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Avon Books, 1992). A widely respected Hegelian political philosopher, historian, and futurist, Fukuyama has served as a consultant for the Pentagon and the Rand Corp., and as a fellow of Brookings—the research institute in Washington, D.C. His central thesis is that "liberal democracy may constitute the 'end point of mankind's ideological evolution,' and the 'final form of human government,' and as such… the 'end of history'"(p. xi). A recurring theme of the book is the essential role which religion has played in this process, e.g.: "it was Christianity that first introduced the concept of the equality of all men in the sight of God, and thereby conceived of a shared destiny for all the peoples of the world… Christianity moreover introduced the concept of a history that was finite in time, beginning with God's creation of man and ending with his final salvation" (p. 56); "the strongest forms of community in the U.S. had their origins in shared religious values rather than in rational self-interest"(pp. 325-326).
Following Hegel, Fukuyama asserts that the Roman Empire fell because if failed to recognize the "rights and inner human dignity" of its citizens: "This recognition could only be found in the Judeo-Christian tradition" (p. 61). At the same time, Hegel called for "a secularization of Christianity," believing as he did that: "God did not create man, but …that man had created God" (pp. 197-198). Drawing variously upon Plato, Hegel and Nietzsche, Fukuyama argues that the primary motivation and "motor" of human history is the "struggle for recognition." He rejects the conclusion that this struggle is entirely self-centered: "Is it not possible that the struggle for recognition reflects a longing for self-transcendence?…It is this moral dimension, and the struggle to have it recognized, that is the motor driving the dialectical process of history" (p. 161). However, this 'moral motor' creates a problem for the secular state. Since "tolerance in democratic societies becomes the defining virtue," religion becomes an "obstacle" when it inevitably "ceases to be tolerant or egalitarian"[e.g. in truth claims] (p. 216). Fukuyama credits Protestantism with attempting to solve this conflict "by making religion a private matter" (p. 216).
Fukuyama believes that "relativism" ultimately undermines democracy: "In a situation in which all moralisms and religious fanaticisms are discouraged in the interest of tolerance, in an intellectual climate that weakens the possibility of belief in any one doctrine because of an overriding commitment to be open to all the world's beliefs and 'value systems,' it should not be surprising that the strength of community life has declined in America" (p. 326); "If nothing can be true absolutely, if all values are culturally determined, then cherished principles like human equality have to go by the wayside as well" (p. 332). Fukuyama concludes that: "Liberal democracies…are not self-sufficient: the community life on which they depend must ultimately come from a source different from liberalism itself…religious communities held together by a common moral code and belief in God" (p. 327).