Religion in Late Modernity

By Robert Cummings Neville

Subjects: Theology
Paperback : 9780791454244, 300 pages, July 2002
Hardcover : 9780791454237, 300 pages, July 2002

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A well-known theologian and philosopher offers a late-modern perspective on religion, one opposed to the received truths of postmodern religious thought.


Religion in Late Modernity runs against the grain of common suppositions of contemporary theology and philosophy of religion. Against the common supposition that basic religious terms have no real reference but are mere functions of human need, the book presents a pragmatic theory of religious symbolism in terms of which the cognitive engagement of the Ultimate is of a piece with the cognitive engagement of nature and persons. Throughout this discussion, Neville develops a late-modern conception of God that is defensible in a global theological public.

Against the common supposition that religion is on the retreat in late modernity except in fundamentalist forms, the author argues that religion in our time is a stimulus to religiously oriented scholarship, a civilizing force among world societies, a foundation for obligation in politics, a source for healthy social experimentation, and the most important mover of soul.

Against the common supposition that religious thinking or theology is confessional and inevitably biased in favor of the thinker's community, Neville argues for the public character of theology, the need for history and phenomenology of religion in philosophy of religion, and the possibility of objectivity through the contextualization of philosophy, contrary to the fashionable claims of neo-pragmatism. This vigorous analysis and program for religious thinking is straightforwardly pro-late-modern and anti-postmodern, a rousing gallop along the high road around modernism.

Robert Cummings Neville is Professor of Philosophy, Religion, and Theology at Boston University and Dean of the School of Theology. His most recent books include Boston Confucianism: Portable Tradition in the Late-Modern World and the three edited volumes of The Comparative Religious Ideas Project: The Human Condition, Ultimate Realities, and Religious Truth, all published by SUNY Press.


"This is an impressive re-imagining of the history of religion, politics, ideas, world views, and an investigation of the impact of modernity, 'postmodernity,' and late modernity on world praxis. The global 'reach' of this work and Neville's engagement of contemporary and historical situations is profound. A rich but complex gift to the scholarly world. " — Robert M. Garvin, University at Albany, State University of New York