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On the Problematic Concept of Religion

Reader comment on item: Two Weaknesses Could Undo the Islamist Movement
in response to reader comment: Misunderstanding of religion

Submitted by Robert (United States), Mar 8, 2016 at 14:05

You and Daniel Pipes raise related issue, but I think you overlook the difficulties in involved in the very notion of Religion, and its relation to Religious Tolerance embodied in such institutions as the United Nations, if only Nominally.

In your opening discourse you make a distinction which overlooks or ignores the fact that Communism and Marxism were not Religiously Neutral in the 20th Century. The fact is that this was, besides a political movement, also an anti-Religious Movement: "religion is the opiate of the masses."

The opposing force to this Soviet Union and Communist China movement against Religion was the mostly Christian West, with it's Religious Toleration that had its birth in the European Enlightenment.

And the critical year is 1917, or thereabouts, when the British, French, and Americans inherit the remains of the tolerant Ottoman, Muslim, Empire. Iran, of course, a mostly American story and not directly related to the Ottomans.

But the rise of Islamism is mostly and Arab and Persian phenomena to the extent that it involves the European Union and the United States. Sub-Sahara Africa is another story that itself requires a separate treatment.

But the global picture involving the Middle East concerns the Clash of Civilizations involving Arabs and Persians who never fully struggle with the notion of Religious Tolerance in which Europeans first granted dispensations to all forms of Christianity, and then, after the Nazi murder of 6,000,000, Jews to were recognized to religious entitlement regarding the practice of their Faith. Islam, by the way, acquired similar recognition, mostly by Default.

This analysis of religion omits the Hinduism and Buddhism of India and China; the former Soviet Union, of course, reverted back to its dominant Christian roots (excluding the sleeping 15% Muslims of the Russian Federation).

What I think the Intelligentsia of world needs to do (including you and Daniel Pipes) is recognize the complexity of the concept of Religion which, in the West, focuses primarily on Christianity, and the Jews of the "Old Testament," when in fact this Religion has, in a sense, a Third Branch: ISLAM, which only now, after 1917, is going through its "reformation" (as in the Protestant Reformation). But there are two other religious "sleeping giants" - in India and China.

Then there is the economic fact that the Sunni and Shia Muslim's roles in the world are enlarged by their accidental possession of Oil Wealth.

So the picture that you depict I think overlooks the more general notion of the status and role of religion in the world; ultimately, the particulars of Islam are not determinative of the ultimate outcome, because non-Muslims are more numerous in the world, as well as more dominant, and they, as outsiders, also play a role as to what form Islam is to take. Notice that the current majority view is that ISIS is to be wiped out - and on this, even Saudi Arabia and Iran agree.

The fact that Jesus allowed himself to be Crucified, while Mohammad was a Warrior and Conqueror who founded the first Muslim Empire, of course is significant. But that does not necessarily mean that Islam will not evolve into truly a Religion of Peace - though it would need to contradict its "original intent" roots of military conquest and subjugation embodied in the word "Submission" [= "Islam"].

Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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