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New synthesis? How?

Reader comment on item: Can Islam Be Reformed?

Submitted by Jason Pappas (United States), Jul 1, 2013 at 23:01

The modern period, 1850 to 1950, was a time in which secularism was dominant. This is true in the West as well as the Orient. Fundamentalist religion was seen as a backwards rural phenomena as secularism dominated urban areas and learning centers. The 1970s saw a revival of religion in both the West and Islamic worlds as the failure of communism, the dominant secular regime, made religion publicly acceptable. Jimmy "born-again" Carter wore his religion on his sleeve; Menachem Begin replaced the secular-socialist Labor Party; and Khomeini replaced the Shah.

Both Western Christian (as opposed to Orthodox) and Jewish religions were forever changed by 800 years of modernization which couldn't be reversed even for the most fundamentalist of believers. Islam had little more than a century of modernization that could easily be reversed; but even here you point out that the Islamic Revival maintained modern totalitarian dispositions acquired from the West. Orthodox Christianity also had a limited modernization and serves as a mid-point between Western Christian and Islamic traditions. Its revival (in Russia) has severe problems.

What is needed for your aspiration of a new "modern synthesis" is a new modern secular model. Without a vibrant and explicit western secularism, what is there to inspire such a synthesis? If we can't straighten our own house and stem our own decay, it is doubtful that we can rally others. Your prescription is sound but the prerequisites aren't there.

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