Monday, September 17, 2007

Religious Utopias Gone Amuck.

From: ON FAITH Newsweek.

By Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo:

Director, Research Center for Religion in Society and Culture"On Faith" panelist Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo is Professor Emeritus of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College and Distinguished Scholar of the City University of New York. He has written more than 40 scholarly articles and authored nine books, including the four-volume PARAL series on religion among Latinos. more »

Main Page Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo Archives On Faith Archives

Religious Utopias Gone Amuck

“No” the problems of 2007 in the Middle East are not based on religion; rather, these are the results of bad politics. Doubters will howl in protest at my answer, but then some people still believe that the Protestant Reformation was mainly a religious event and not a wrenching sociological change in 15th century Europe.

There is no denying that protagonists, eager to cover over base motives, claim religion for legitimacy. The post-apple-munching Adam and Eve, we are told, sought to blame the theology of a talking serpent for their mistakes, and little has changed through the annals of history. It is not the PRACTICE of religion that is a cause for violence, however, it is rather the IMPOSITION of religion that is the Mother of all Mistakes.

By definition, one cannot impose belief in the sacred numinous, and the Abrahamic religions – to use familiar examples -- uphold this premise as a basic theological principle. But religion has an exterior, social facet to match its interiorized, spiritual conviction. In an effort to control society and human behavior, rulers have supposed that if they force belief behind clearly defined religious boundaries, they can hold onto power. Act follows conviction, they reason, and imposing a single belief pattern on the population will produce conforming behavior. That is a false utopia.The danger in religion is in such an imposed utopia. During the Reformation, rulers opted for either Protestantism or Catholicism – not in order to practice the virtues of Christianity – but to produce conforming social behavior. The argument ran: “If everyone practices religion as we profess it, all problems will be resolved.” That’s utopian. And lest atheists pontificate unduly, let is also be said that it is equally misguided to suggest that all problems will be resolved if NO ONE practices religion.

The atheists of the French Revolution were so bloodthirsty, they even scared Robespierre, the author of the Reign of Terror. The imposition of atheist utopias has a sad history from Stalin and Pol Pot and in large measure has replaced the religious conflicts that dominated world history until the 17th century.

The blame for war is not the lack of belief, any more than it is the fervor of belief: the problem arises from utopian univocality. “My way or the highway” made into draconian legislation.Today’s problems in the Middle East are caused by political figures trying to fight the imposition of one form of utopianism by replacing it with another. It is the tale of a western ruler being upset with the fundamentalism of Islam being used to overthrow cooperative moderates and cut off trade with the west in vital commodities.

The utopian solution is to invade the Middle East, set up permanent military bases and impose western forms of government on an unwilling populace by arguing that their religious values are not as good as western ones derived from Christianity. Such a utopian project is bound to fail and will probably compound the error by setting of a new spiral of utopian impositions lasting centuries.

Did you think this description was about Bush and Iraq? Actually, I was thinking of the 11th century Crusades. Bin-Laden has cited the need for vengeance about the Crusades by replacing contemporary Muslim states with a utopian one modeled on the medieval Spanish Al-Andaluz. And so it goes, fight one utopia with another. But the point is made, I think, that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The way to undercut the religious fundamentalists in the US and the Middle East is to disparage their invocation of a utopia as justification for bad politics. And the best tool against distorted religious teaching is virtuous religious practice. Faith matters when it is put into practice by good works.

Blogger Comment:

1- A great article.
2- It shows well that forced religious Utopia or forced secular Utopia both have failed.
3- The answer to secular or religious tyranny is a democratic Utopia.
4- It is not like Hi guys I have all answers just copy my Utopia project.
5- It is simply we put forward the world problems and we sit down and find the answers. From the consensus of a lot of brilliant people in the world we will find the answers and the real Utopia plan.
6- Prophecies of our religions if we would understand it well had predicted this moral Utopia. Why there are a lot of religions in the worlds that had predicted that because it is the common sense and likely God had inspired us with this prophecies to be ready. In the right time he will lead us to this Utopia.

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