Ulrich Beck Part II- “A God of one’s Own” –Politics

Continued from Part I- here.

Beck notes that in the era of cosmopolitanism – liberal tolerance that keeps religion out is not the model anymore. Religion is back, but we want it to be moderate enough not to hurt anyone. Beck notes that many in each faith have to learn to civilize themselves, abjure violence, and commit to mutual tolerance.

Beck notes how the Pope functions as an NGO and that the pope was able to criticize Bush in the name of religion for supporting war and sweatshops. Rabbi Sacks is serving some of the same function on a smaller scale.

Beck offers five models for a more civilized religion. He seems to appreciate all of them and encourages all of them.

1. The first is based on Thoreau, an acceptance of religious civil disobedience. Social action disagreements as positive because the disagreements overcome depersonalization and denationalization.

2. His second is the market model, we need to get along to make money.

3. Third is Hans Kung’s idea world ethos- we all accept of the Golden Rule and each religion should stress the Golden rule within their relgion.

4. Fourth, is Gandhi’s religious cosmopolitanism- a combination of syncretism and universal rights and universal reason over ethnicity.

5. Finally, Jurgen Habermas has argued to let each religion argue in the public sphere based on public discourse. It creates a religiously neutral state in which no religion is enfranchised.

I would add to this that Zygmunt Bauman thinks in an era of “willful ignorance” we need at least a minimum of Levinas’ concern with the other. We turn our faces from atrocities around the globe or that our products are made in sweatshops. Tzvetan Todorov thinks we need to stress a positive humanism toward others, knowing full well the fragility of it all. And interfaith encounters are on the upswing around the world as a means of moderation and civilization since much of the intolerance is religious based.

One of Beck’s new points is his observation of the rise of reflexive fundamentalism. In the new cosmopolitan age, fundamentalisms clash in violent ways different than the traditional versions. What are the characteristics of the new reflexiveness.

1. There is a rediscovery of unquestioning acceptance of relgion. The more religion the less self-reflexive questioning in the classroom. For Beck it functions like a strong brand allegiance.

2. There is a totalitarian immediacy of God. Believers offer submission to whatever variant is popular in order to gain a direct line. They replace objective world with the subjective world, and use the language of scientific rationality for religious certainty.

3. There is demonization of believers in other faiths

4. Finally, globalization allows a transnational network and operation

To Beck, I would add Arjun Appadurai’s observations that now we can be tolerate where we live and project out intolerance on a homeland that we visit regularly. His example is Hindu’s who are tolerant in the US and project intolerance onto Kashmir. Appadurai also notes our ability to have small televised flashpoints like Kashmir or Hebron that allow an unnatural focus. He also notes the breakdown of nationalism has lead to a fear of minorities, in which he observes that the “Fear of small numbers” causes a demonization.

Beck wishes us to replace truth with peace. (190-194)
1. Modernity advocated toleration of religion of those I disagree with. They are wrong but I tolerate them. For Beck, this requires a state to enforce it. It needs governmental programs.

2. Another option is to return to the double religion of masses and elite. The elite are taught a universalism- like in the older days- and the masses are left alone. Think Plato, Averroes, or Vivekananda.

3. We should return to Gotthold Ephraim Lessing parable of the ring from Nathan the Wise. We avoid all discussion of absolute truth in the name of peace. We live as if there is no true ring.

4. We should accept God as mediator. To think that God is greater than any one religion, so we cannot totalize our religion. (Rabbi Sacks has this one) Create universalist interfaith leaders.

5. Advocate grassroots co-operation as a form of religious secularism. Encourage people to separate out good works and making the world a better place from dogma. Get people to help one another on economics or climate despite the religious differences.

There will not be a return to people living secular lives in the public sphere.

EJ in his comment on the first post already perceptively noted how hard this will be for Haredim. He also noted the potential reframing for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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