RVP International Conferences

About RVP Regional Network Publications Annual Seminars International Conferences Board Members Associate Membership Newsletters Support Contact


Invitation to an International Conference

 Religion, Value, and a Secular Culture


University of Kwazulu-Natal

Durban, South Africa

November 5-6, 2012





By the term "secular culture" is meant one which problematizes the foundations for the various religious beliefs that make up the traditions of that society. The public order may not be founded on any particular expression in those traditions. The shift from a premodern culture is characterized by two central changes: (i) the greater degree of individual freedom. This is recognized as a key value in changing societies and is given expression in the democratic institution of universal suffrage; and (ii) the emergence and prestige of the sciences and of scientific method as the default paradigm of human knowledge.


As the major religious traditions acquired their canonical expression in premodern culture, they do not to any great extent deal with a thought-out response to the major factors or key values which characterize contemporary culture. Thus the first factor challenges the traditions to re-think attitudes to women, to moral rules and values, and to hierarchy; the second factor calls upon religious thinkers and leaders to be involved in dialogue with the sciences and knowledge acquired thereby.


One response to these changed conditions of society has been to remove religion and religious beliefs altogether from public debate. This is then framed solely in terms of individual human rights and the values of equality and tolerance. However, in the absence of any foundation for these rights and values, this framework might itself seem arbitrary and imposed, in particular in a global situation of the interaction of more developed with still developing cultures and economies. A purely procedural democracy and ethical framework might disallow real dialogue on substantive values or with persons.


Papers are invited from any discipline whether philosophical, theological-religious, sociological, psychological, legal, political, and on any issue arising out of these intellectual challenges:

- Developments within religious traditions in response to secularity

- Conflicts and divisions within religious traditions in meeting the new conditions for religious beliefs

- Differing political frameworks for regulating interaction between state and religion

- Legal matters arising from separation of church and state

- Religious traditions as challenging dominant models of secular ethics, in particular a possible bias towards individualism

- The problems of building human community and countering fragmentation in conditions of a secular culture

- Fundamentalism as response and resistance to secularity; recourse to violence

- Secularisation in relation to neo-colonialism

- Responses of particular countries in the face of secularism - South Africa, Turkey, United States, and others

- Secularism depicted and problematized in fiction ? Pamu's Snow, Dastgir's A Small Fortune

- Secularism and particular religious traditions - Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, for example

- Romantic love as a theme in religious responses to secular changes - Pamuk, Dastgir, Neale's Conversion, for example

- Transcendence in a framework of immanence in the religious traditions

- African traditional thought and response to secularism

- Debates between science and religion - open and closed versions of neo-Darwinism

- Studies of a contemporary writer on these theological themes: Karen Armstrong; Keith Ward; Mustafa Akyol; Mark Johnston; or on the ethical themes: Alisdair MacIntyre, Herbert McCabe, Marilynn Robinson

- Philosophical frameworks for fruitful dialogue between secular culture and religious traditions: B. Lonergan; Charles Taylor; and others.


Venue and Accommodation


The conference will be held at the Glenmore Pastoral Centre, 10 Donlene Crescent, Glenmore. The centre is situated in Durban opposite the Howard College campus of the University of Kwazulu-Natal, and 20 minutes from the beachfront.


Accommodation is available for up to 60 people in double room or single rooms. Cost of accommodation and three meals, plus teas, is at the very reasonable rate of R806 per person per day (approx. $100).


Abstracts and Papers


If you want to participate, please send abstracts by mid-August. You will be notified of acceptance of your abstract by end of August. Full papers must be submitted by September 30, 2012.



Professor Patrick Giddy

University of Kwazulu-Natal

Durban, South Africa















(all the materials on this website are copyrighted © by the council for research in values and philosophy)

Gibbons Hall B-12, 620 Michigan Avenue, North East, Washington DC, 20064; Telephone: 202/319-6089; Emaiil: cua-rvp@cua.edu; Website: www.crvp.org