Guest lecture with Birgit Meyer: "Religion and / as heritage: Recycling the Christian Past in the Netherlands"

Across Northern Europe, Christianity is on the decline. Established churches, especially Protestant and Catholic, are losing members on a massive scale.

Photo of Birgit Meyer

Professor Birgit Meyer, Utrecht University

About the lecture

In the Netherlands, currently 49 percent of the population claims to be part of a religious group. In public debates, this development is often taken as an index of increasing personal freedom and a liberation from the straitjackets imposed by religion.

This view is entertained not only by people distancing themselves from the Christian past, but also vis-à-vis religious others – especially Muslims. The achieved freedom from religion, cherished by those who left Christianity behind, often stands in tension with the legal freedom of religion guaranteed by the constitution and the human rights.

There is a clash between a “culturalist secularism”, according to which religion in general and Islam in particular should withdraw from the public domain, and a “constitutional secularism” that protects the rights of Dutch Christians, Muslims, and members of other faiths. Much research on religious plurality in European societies focuses on how the arrival of relatively recent newcomers in the religious field is regulated and debated, identifying regimes for ordering how religion may, and may not, be present in a secular society. The fact that the accommodation of religious newcomers frequently is construed to create frictions indicates that the modes of regulating, protecting and “tolerating” religion on the part of the secular state and society are challenged. This conundrum is the context for Birgit Meyer’s talk on religion and / as heritage in the current Netherlands.

About Birgit Meyer

Birgit Meyer is Professor of Religious Studies at Utrecht University. She was trained as a cultural anthropologist and worked on lived religion in Ghana for more than 20 years. Studying religion from a global and post-secular perspective, her research aims to make sense of the shifting place and role of religion in our time, and to show that scholarly work in the field of religion is of eminent concern to understanding the shape of our world in the early 21st century. Among her recent publications are:

Published Sep. 17, 2019 11:31 AM - Last modified Sep. 19, 2019 8:29 AM