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Politics as the New Religion: Understanding the Far Left and Right
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Politics as the New Religion: Understanding the Far Left and Right

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About this Online Live Course

Politics as the New Religion: Understanding the Far Left and Right is a four-week course that illuminates our political moment by exploring how religion, politics, wild theories, and human self-awareness now intermesh.

When does the class run?

September cohort:

  • Wednesday 8 September, 7 PM-8:30 PM
  • Wednesday 15 September, 7 PM-8:30 PM
  • Wednesday 22 September, 7 PM-8:30 PM
  • Wednesday 29 September, 7 PM-8:30 PM

All times are in Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST). If you are in a different time zone, please use a time zone converter to check your local streaming time.

Why should I attend?

Over the past few years, politics has become particularly extreme. Elements of the Left have shifted further leftward, especially on cultural and racial issues, in what has been dubbed The Great Awokening.

Elements of the Right have similarly stumbled their way into more divisive views, showing comical fascination with Q-anon conspiracies and cultish devotion to figures like Trump.

These modern tribes act in quasi-religious ways in spite of secularism growing in popularity, which begs the questions:

  • In what ways are these movements expressions of religious impulse, or perhaps, something darker?
  • Is this occurring despite, or because of, a lack of traditional faith?
  • To what extent are activists (perhaps unknowingly) drawing on Christian theological assumptions?
  • Can humans transcend prevailing religious impulses, or are they too deeply ingrained in us?
  • What does this all mean for the human condition?

These notions are just some of the problems that renowned religious scholar Dr Christopher Hartney will explore in this course. With help from selected readings of Émile Durkheim, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Peter Sloterdijk and others, Christopher will help you better understand the sometimes hidden influence of the tribal, the magical, the mythic and the religious on human nature and modern politics.

What will I learn?

In this class, you will learn:

  • The ways in which extreme movements on the political Left and Right are expressions of religious impulses, or perhaps, something darker;
  • Why these movements are growing in popularity;
  • The extent to which activists are (perhaps unknowingly) drawing on Christian theological assumptions;
  • Whether humans can transcend prevailing religious impulses, or whether they are too deeply ingrained in us;
  • What this all means for the human condition.

Who is the instructor?

Dr Christopher Hartney, Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney.

Christopher Hartney is a senior lecturer in the Department of Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney where he studies and teaches the myths of modernity, religion and violence, civil religion, and new religious systems. His main research focus is on new religions in East Asia and Vietnam in particular. A former editor of Literature and Aesthetics and the prestigious Journal of Religious History, Chris has also edited numerous scholarly editions and has published over 50 peer-reviewed papers.

Course structure:

4x 90-minute sessions, which take place in our virtual classroom over Zoom.

It is a live and interactive course featuring lectures and reading material, Q&A sessions with the instructor, as well as breakout rooms with your intellectually curious classmates.

What is the class schedule?

Week 1

  • Overview of Religion,
  • Definitions of religion (Durkheim, Tillich, etc),
  • Description of traditional religions and their shared themes.

Week 2

  • Left-Wing Religion: The Great Awokening.

Week 3

  • Right-Wing Religion: Conspiracies theories as grand narratives, and
  • The worship of Trump.

Week 4

  • The Future of Religion: Will humans always have the religious impulse? If so, how is that best managed?

What's included?

  • Live online lectures,
  • Live Q&A sessions with the instructor,
  • Zoom breakout rooms for collaboration with other classmates,
  • Downloadable pre-readings,
  • Weekly homework tasks,
  • Downloadable PDF summaries of the lectures and course,
  • Lifetime access to the lecture recordings,
  • A certificate of completion, and
  • The opportunity to make new intellectually curious friends.

Are there any requirements?

All you need is a stable internet connection and a desire to learn.
For more information, please contact us at [email protected]