imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
latest news
best of news




A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List


IMC Network:

Original Cities africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

God is Dangerous

by Ulrich Beck Monday, Sep. 22, 2008 at 9:45 AM

Faith and religion could be a force for peace after militarism and intolerance are excised as false corrupted consciousness. Prejudice could be a stepping stone to the event of understanding, the fusion of horizons (H.G.Gadamer,Truth and Method).

The truth that sets us free is a process, not a cudgel.


Religion always hides a totalitarian core. Five theses of the sociologist and author Ulrich Beck

By Ulrich Beck

[This article published on: Zeit Online 52/2007 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

Christmas is deceptive. The mysteriously empty churches in Western Europe are filled with three-day-Christians. They are casual or occasional believers who consume the religious re-enchantment of the daily routine as a church theater service on the high holidays of Christmas, Easter and possibly Pentecost. But is Christmas still the feast of love? This is also deceptive. Religion can be an invention of the devil. One preaches charity and the next moment hatred and deadly hostility. A totalitarian temptation inheres in all humanity. Here are five theses:

First thesis: Religion makes one characteristic absolute – believing. Measured by this, all other social distinctions and oppositions are insignificant. The New Testament says: “Everyone is equal before God.” This equality, this cancellation of boundaries separating people, groups and societies and cultures is the social foundation of (Christian) religion. As a result, a new fundamental distinction and hierarchy is set in the world with the same absoluteness annulling social and political differences – between believers and unbelievers. The status of persons is generally denied unbelievers according to the logic of this duality. Religions can build bridges between people where hierarchies and borders exist. At the same time they tear open new religion-defined abysses between people where none existed. The humanitarian universalism of believers rests on identification with God and demonization of God’s opponents who are “servants of Satan” as Paul and Luther said. The seed of religiously motivated violence lies in the universalism of the equality of believers withdrawn from unbelievers or persons believing differently: dignity of fellow-persons, equality in a world of strangers. The spreading anxiety is that a new age of darkness threatens as the other side of the failure of secularization. German health ministers warn: religion kills and may not be passed on to youths under 18.

The demonization of the religious other can be illustrated in the so-called mixed marriage war that raged (and rages) between catholic and protestant Christians in the 19th and 20th centuries. This confession fundamentalism that does not want to see and acknowledge other Christians in unbelievers is rejected more and more by active believers. A reversal of the burden of proof regarding ecumenical cooperation occurs here (cf. sociologist Hans Joes).

Second thesis: The question “What is religion?” provokes a euro-centric response. Where religion is understood as a noun, a clearly definable social system of symbols and practices is assumed that builds an either-or. One can either believe or not believe. If one is a member of one community of faith, one cannot belong to another. In this sense it is sensible and necessary to distinguish between Religion” and “religious,” between religion as a noun and religious as an adjective. The noun “religion” orders the religious field according to the logic of either-or. The adjective “religious” arranges the field according to the logic of both-and. Being religious is not based on membership to a certain group or organization. Rather being religious defines a certain attitude to existential questions on the position and self-image of the person in the world. Is there a two-sided or Janus-faced relation between charity and deadly hatred primarily for “religion” and perhaps not for “religious”? Can the violent, monotheistic either-or be relativized, avoided or de-activated through a syncretistic tolerance of both-and?

In western societies that have internalized the autonomy of the individual as a principle, the individual person in ever-greater independence creates little faith-narratives about “his own God” matching “his own” life and “his own” experiential horizon. But “his own God” is not the One God who dictates salvation by seizing history and authorizing intolerance and violence. Are we witnessing a transformation of the monotheism of religion into a polytheism of the religious under the sign of “one’s own God”?

In Japan this syncretistic tolerance is practiced in institutional forms and does not only spread hiddenly in a freewheeling religiosity. The people see no problem in visiting a Shinto-shrine at certain times of the year, arranging marriage according to a Christian ceremony and being buried by a Buddhist monk. The sociologist of religion Peter L. Berger tells of the Japanese philosopher Nakamura who summarized this: “The West is responsible for two fundamental errors. One is monotheism – there is only one God – and the other is the Aristotelian principle of contradiction – something is either A or not A. Every intelligent person in Asia knows there are many gods and that things can be both A and not-A.”

Third thesis: What is the new after religions have overcome seemingly iron territorial and national borders and torn open new abysses between believers and non-believers? The technological communication network and the resulting universal neighborhood of the world lead to the contact and penetration of the world religions and to a clash of universalisms, to an all-pervasive clash of revelation truths and tendencies of mutual demonization of foreign believers whose human dignity is at our disposal. Every believer and non-believing person, whatever their orientation in faith or unbelief, sees himself in the household of believers (or atheists) and puts himself in the state of potential outlawry of unbelievers in the eyes of the religious others. This forced shift awakens vague fears, political antagonisms and conflicts that are religiously charged and could explode in violence.

A new line of conflict between these faith orientations may be very important in the future. Doubts can be seen as a moment of the rescue of religion and the rescue of those resisting doubt and barricading themselves in the fabricated “purity” of their faith. “Hard religions offer very much to consumers,” the theologian Friedrich Wilhelm Graf laments, “a strong, stable identity, a crisis-resistant interpretation of the world and time, orderly family structures and networks of solidarity.”

Fighting the “dictatorship of relativism,” pope Benedict XVI defends the catholic hierarchy of truth that follows a game-logic: faith trumps intelligence. The Christian faith trumps all other kinds of faith (especially Islam). The Roman-catholic faith trumps all other Christian brothers of faith and the pope is the highest trump among the truth cards of catholic orthodoxy.

Fourth thesis: God’s nationalization leads to the naturalization of intolerance and violence. The emphasis on the “substitute religion” of nationalism ultimately trivializes what happened in Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries, namely the “Germanization of Christianity.” Where national stereotypes prevail, tolerance between the religions is the first to die off. The persecution of Jews up to deportation became a “new confirmation of a Jewish fate underlined in the Bible” for the Protestant church, as the church historian Arnold Angenendt summarized. The aggressive accelerating anti-Semitism of Protestant communities obeyed the state-decreed anti-Semitism. Correspondingly there was even “a prohibition on the Christian use of the Jewish star in church services” since 1941. What remained underexposed for a long time was the “methodological nationalism” of the historical disciplines and theologies. In other words, one accepted the standardized friend-enemy division for the nation and religion and excluded the alternatives of transnational and inter-religious tolerance from the horizon of the possible. In this sense, the nationalism of Protestant theologians disfigured the understanding of religion. Up to today this often led to the negative answer to the question about the potential tolerance of religion crucial for the 21st century or not even seriously raising it.

Fifth thesis: Assuming the hope of secularism, the modern age means less religion, is false, the question about a civilized coexistence of hostile world religions is posed with new urgency. How is a type of inter-religious tolerance possible where charity does not mean deadly hatred, a type of tolerance whose goal is peace and not truth?

In “Nathan the Wise,” Lessing drafts a model for this. The enlightened deeply mistrusts the dream of the one truth dreamt by philosophers for a century. Truth never only involves truth but according to Lessing much more, namely humanliness or peace as we would say today. Lessing saw the antithesis between the one truth and the cosmopolitan acknowledgment of many religious truths. However Nathan’s “wisdom” lies in the ploy of following both priorities, namely the absolutist truth of religion and peace at the same time.

The idea was taken up in the 20th century by Mahatma Gandhi and changed into a world-changing policy. Seeing the world, even the world of one’s religion, through the eyes of the other is vital.

As a young man Gandhi went to England to study law. This “round-about-way” into a heartland of the Christian West did not estrange him from Hinduism but deepened his understanding and confession of Hinduism. It was in England on the occasion of an invitation of a friend where Gandhi began his eye-opening study of the Bhagavad-Gita in an English translation. Afterwards he began an intensive study of Hindu texts in Sanskrit. Through the eyes of his western friends, he was moved to discover the spiritual riches of his own Hindu-tradition.

The seed of his cosmopolitan role in India’s liberation movement from the colonial yoke of the English was sown in England, blossomed during his intense studies in his years in South Africa and bore fruits after his return to India in 1915.

The “problem” of Islam is spiritedly argued and debated in “secular” Europe. Under the world battles of religious warriors, the trick of corporative surplus value secretly gains reality and importance. Groups can be intolerant regarding the theology of the other but can work together creatively to realize shared public interests. The theological dogma guardians could learn from this “reason of double religion.” Today the question how far truth can be replaced by peace will decide over the continued existence of humanity. But isn’t the hope for a charity without deadly hostility the most improbable, naïve, foolish and absurd thing that one can hope for?

Ulrich Beck teaches sociology at the University of Munich and at the London School of Economics. His last two books are “Die eigene Gott” (The Nationalized God) and “Weltrisikogesellschaft” (World Risk Society).

Report this post as:

Local News

Change Links September 2018 posted S02 10:22PM

More Scandals Rock Southern California Nuke Plant San Onofre A30 11:09PM

Site Outage Friday A30 3:49PM

Change Links August 2018 A14 1:56AM

Setback for Developer of SC Farm Land A12 11:09PM

More problems at Shutdown San Onofre Nuke J29 10:40PM

Change Links 2018 July posted J09 8:27PM

More Pix: "Families Belong Together," Pasadena J02 7:16PM

"Families Belong Together" March, Pasadena J02 7:08PM

Short Report on the Families Belong Together Protest in Los Angeles J30 11:26PM

Summer 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! J11 6:58AM

Watch the Debate: Excluded Candidates for Governor of California M31 5:20AM

Change Links June 2018 posted M28 7:41AM

The Montrose Peace Vigil at 12 Years M22 8:01PM

Unity Archive Project M21 9:42AM

Dianne Feinstein's Promotion of War, Secret Animal Abuse, Military Profiteering, Censorshi M17 10:22PM

CA Senate Bill 1303 would require an independent coroner rather than being part of police M10 9:08PM

Three years after OC snitch scandal, no charges filed against sheriffs deputies M10 8:57PM

California police agencies violate Brown Act (open meetings) M02 8:31PM

Insane Company Wants To Send Nuke Plant Waste To New Mexico A29 11:47PM

Change Links May 2018 A27 8:40AM

Worker-Owned Car Wash on Vermont Closed A27 5:37AM


lausd whistle blower A11 6:58AM

Website Upgrade A10 10:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 8:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 6:58PM

Change Links April 2018 A01 6:27PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Addendum: Benjamin Tucker American Mutualist: Tucker Did Not Advocate Voting in Businesses S25 11:45PM

OUR HOUSE Grief Support Center Celebrates 25 Years with the House of Hope Gala S24 7:10PM

Against the Rent Madness and For a Nonprofit Orientation! S24 11:56AM

Cybermonde, cyberguerre, cyberespace, cyberterrorisme S24 6:35AM

Paraphysique de psychosomatique S22 6:58AM

Chuck Grassley: Women Abusing, Animal Murdering, Illegal War Supporting Criminal S22 2:58AM

Finance Capitalism and the Digital Economy S21 4:45PM

Muselières syndicales, muselières patronales S21 7:19AM

Jeff Bezos, Amazon, The Washington Post, Whole Foods, Etc S21 2:50AM

Why Choose Nut Milk Over Cows' Milk S21 1:01AM

Antrhopocène, le grand effondrement S19 9:53AM

Abolir l'économie S18 11:18AM

The Dictatorship of Corporations S17 5:26PM

18 Lethal Consequences Of Hunting S17 3:13PM

Paraphysique de l'outplacement déontologue S15 6:51AM

Shopping du bashing S14 8:42AM

After Lehman Brothers, Experts Say Global Financial Crisis Can Happen Again S13 8:28PM

“Animaniacs in Concert!” Starring Voice Legend Rob Paulsen S12 9:30PM

Probabilités de fin d'humanité S12 6:49AM

Florida Area of Migrant Farmworkers Denied Right to Construct Health Clinic near NaplesCIW S11 2:57AM

Steer clear of work morality! S09 12:10PM

The Shortwave Report 09/07/18 Listen Globally! S06 11:23PM

August 2018 Honduras Coup update S06 12:28PM

Brett Kavanaugh Filled The 5th Circuit With Execution Judges S06 6:14AM

Augusta Georgia Woman Gets 5 Year Prison Sentence for Writing About Russians Crime Acts S05 8:29AM

Paraphysique de contextualité S05 8:29AM

Crisis Regulation in Global Capitalism S03 3:39PM

Ex-voto de réification S03 10:24AM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy