- The Twenty-first Century Confronts Its Gods: Globalization, Technology, and War
This edited volume is dedicated to Harold Coward, who was founder of the Centre for Studies of Religion and Society at the University of Victoria, and its director from 1992 until his retirement in 2002. The majority of contributors teach at Canadian universities, and their essays reflect Coward's notion that religion should be approached in an interdisciplinary way.
The introduction provides chapter summaries, as well as a discussion of the fundamental principle informing the essays presented here, that we must peel away much of the rhetoric of modern Western society and see things as they really are. Thus, for example, we should question whether world events really support Francis Fukuyama's contention of the 'end of history' and the triumph of Western democratic ideals. Similarly, we should explore more critically Samuel Huntington's notion of the 'clash of civilizations' and seek to understand the consequences of his position when we view it more particularly as a rationale for the national security concerns of the United States. The authors in this volume take very seriously Huntington's more general observation that religion is central to understanding the twenty-first century. However, their contributions emerge out of the observation that when we view things as they really are we are confronted with the paradox of unprecedented economic integration and cultural homogenization mixed with unrelenting cultural and religious factionalism.
The chapters in part 1 explore the assumptions that inform modern Western technological society, and that are now being propagated globally. David Hawkin explores the origins of modern technological society and suggests that our belief in the value of the natural world has been replaced by the divinization of human life and the quest for goods. Conrad Brunk argues that modern notions of risk assessment that are integral to global capitalism are based on the liberal belief in individual autonomy and equality, a view that might not be shared by all communities and societies. Rosemary Ommer uses the case of the cod fisheries in Atlantic Canada to illustrate her contention that free-market economics cannot deliver global prosperity and human well-being. Jay Newman defends new media technologies, especially television, suggesting that charges of idolatry brought against televangelism, for example, are more properly conceived of as bibliolatry, because it is the message and not the medium that is the [End Page 463] problem. David Loy suggests that much of the conflict in the world today is caused by a clash of values between traditional religions and the secular religion of modern Western culture that drives globalization.
The chapters in part 2 deal with war within the context of the world's major religions. Timothy Gorringe discusses the definition of terrorism and concludes that claims of religiously motivated terrorism are not justified. Andrew Rippin discusses the problem of Muslim identity, emphasizing the historical consequences of the tension between political and religious leadership, suggesting that many Muslims see the values associated with modernity as a threat to their religion and their way of life. Eliezer Segal uses the story of Phineas in Numbers 25 to explain how Judaism seeks to limit religious violence, by emphasizing free and rational discussion over against passion and subjectivity, when it comes to conflict resolution. Ronald Neufeldt examines the relationship between state and religious identity, using the case of Hinduism, and makes the point that there is no monolithic position on violence within religious traditions. Robert Florida explains that even though Buddhism advocates pacifism as something to be nurtured on an individual level, Buddhist states have often had to defend themselves, or, as has been the case in Tibet, actively engage in violence against oppression. Michael Hadley suggests that redemptive violence is the most dominant religion in modern society, and that much of the rhetoric that we observe coming out of the United States, particularly, is highly soteriological and based on the idea of peace through war.
For the most part, this is a coherent and interesting collection...