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Religion and Society

Does the One God Legitimate Violence?

The Gospel of Peace. Despite the efforts of a part of the Western intelligentsia to present the monotheistic religions as intrinsically violent, Christianity’s novelty has paved the way for a purification that is also calling to the other great religions.

Until quite recently, ‘monotheism’ was a term still being used by scholars of the history of religions (but also in socially-communicated learning) to indicate a high level of perfection accorded to the notion of ‘God’. In only a few years, however, ‘monotheism’ seems to have become the codename for the worst kind of religious obscurantism imaginable. In fact, monotheism has been identified as the essential threat to progress for civilizations founded on reason and tolerance.

 

 

The ‘three’ monotheistic religions originating in the Mediterranean area (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) thus appear to be seen automatically (in the sphere of public communications, above all, and essentially on the strength of the abovementioned assumption) as the place where violence shows itself to be rooted in the very concept of God’s dominion. A substantial part of the Western intelligentsia seems to have consolidated a model of philosophy of religion (and a curiously selective one vis-à-vis the historical religions) that specifically sees the idea of the One God as the reason for the radical incompatibility of an openly stated religious belief with the modern institutions of civil society.[1] Some even go so far as to maintain that the return to a polytheistic perspective, instead, could more easily facilitate peaceful relations between religious culture and democratic citizenship. On the other hand, the hypothesis of returning to polytheism (presented as the emblem of a religion that is civil, tolerant and democratic) is so vague[2] – if not downright bizarre – that it is difficult to discern whether it is merely an ironic provocation or something claiming to be a genuine argument. And all the more so because it is generally advanced by intellectuals who profess not to have any kind of religious conviction regarding ‘God’. In reality, such hypothesis is more probably a post-modern variant of the struggle to remove religion from the public sphere. The struggle put up by a reason forced into resignation over the existing radical relativism regarding cultures and one that does not hesitate to go down the path of extolling ancient religious myth (in which it does not remotely believe) in order to keep the Christian culture of the logos (lumped with the ideology of political totalitarianism) out of the game. Not infrequently, this attempt to rule out the cultural legitimacy of believing thought leads, through politics, to genuine ‘fundamentalist’ intimidation regarding the arguments advanced by social cultures and ways of life that differ from the mainstream conformist thinking imposed by the new polytheistic correctness in values.

 

 

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[1] This radicalization has doubtless received a boost of media energy from the historico-genetic thesis defended by the Egyptologist, Jan Assman. In an essay written in 1998, the latter argued that the birth of despotic monotheism coincides with the exclusivity of the first Mosaic commandment, influenced in its turn by Amenofi IV’s concept of monotheism (J. Assman, Moses the Egyptian. The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism, Harvard University Press, 1998).

 

[2] Max Weber, who coined the phrase ‘polytheism of values’, had himself spoken of a substitution of ‘traditional polytheistic paternalism’ with a ‘quarrelsome polytheism of values’. Weber does not take sides but, according to his analysis, polytheistic conflict is a structural condition of society that modernity has accentuated.

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