Coordinators: Helena Vilaça [ Fac. Letras, Universidade do Porto / Instituto de Sociologia-UP ] Joaquim Costa [ Universidade do Minho / Centro de Estudos de Comunicação e Sociedade (CECS)] Donizete Rodrigues [ Univ. da Beira Interior / Centro em Rede de Investigação em Antropologia (CRIA)]
The problem of post-truth confronts us with a dilemma. It is based on what is, at first, a virtuous dynamic: information is abundant, free, instantaneous communication, served by instruments that promote both the association of people who share opinions and the debate of different or opposing opinions, in order to approach all people in the public space, in the sense advocated by Habermas.
We quickly discovered that the course of things took us to another scenario. Elective associations gave rise to tribes (Magnani); the debate gave way to confrontation; dialogue yielded to the comfort of those who support us; the critical and delayed argument collapsed before the compulsive reaction of the new media, always excited by the excess of information and emotion.
Religion has not gone out of this world, nor could it be. If we think of "non-religious" issues, such as: migration, security, terrorism, election campaigns, legislation on ethical issues related to privacy, we conclude that it is impossible, on these topics, to leave religion aside. The social networks do not leave it aside. Nor do think tanks. In fact, the most dynamic religious groups have significantly adapted to new technologies and social networks, establishing virtual communities and offering religious services online. The very concept of community i s transfigured and individualized religion acquires new spaces of expression, deprivatizing itself, as Jose Casanova has pointed out.
The post-truth theme is particularly sensitive to the domain of religions because, with the exception of churches and religious groups that have embarked on a liberal theology or a worldview and have internalized postmodern relativism, most are advocates of an absolute of truth. Sometimes this facet of the religious is understood as synonymous with the inability of an exercise of rationalization and coexistence with different visions of the world, be they religious or secular. How to include these groups in the public sphere and how to establish communication platforms with them? It is up to sociology to go beyond hasty assessments sustained in partial visions of religious realities.
In fact, the great challenge of sociologists is here. To what extent do the "algorithms" present in the General Call of this Congress refer to restricted circles of specialists, made of publications that are not accessible to the general public, not to mention circles or even publics? How to spread what we investigate without contributing to the excessive noise of information that surrounds us?
Portugal, even though it is not at the forefront of religious meetings, is not in an isolated bubble. We have migrations; we have religions with strong ethnic and/or national brand. And we also have the effervescence of social networks in their plots of post-truths. Let us take advantage of our Congress to discuss the matter, with the sensible controversy that must characterize us; true and not post-truth polemic.