Religion as political utopia

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By GERALDO OLIVEIRA*

The place of religion must be found in cordial intelligence, where utopias emerge

Expressing about religion in modernity, reverses a great challenge given to atheism, especially that coming from the scientistic, technicist and rationalist mentality. Despite science allied to technique, this only considers plausible and acceptable as a factor of knowledge and truth, if the results followed the procedures required by its methodology, which adopts among its criteria for verifying certainty the raising of problems, observation , experimentation and analysis of results. And what about rationalism, whose term originates from the Latin rationalis – which means what follows reason-, only admits as acceptable and trustworthy, if such knowledge does not oppose the analysis and appreciation imposed by reason.

The fact that religion does not submit to scientific methodology and escapes rationality in a certain sense - although it also has its rational assumption -, the modern mentality considers it as superstition and not worthy of trust. Referring to belief in general, Boff (2017) warns that critics of religion were wrong to place it within reason, although it has a rational dimension, but its place is found in cordial intelligence, where utopias emerge.

Thus, the triad of reason, science and technology, which at first had as its intent the affirmation of man in the face of the forces of nature, resulted in a certain way in the destruction of the environment and its symbolic references. Despite this triad, Valadier (1991) points out that, in addition to these consequences for modernity, it also transformed man into a solitary being, as it led him to break with his traditions, with his unique global, political and religious paradigms, which until then , were his references in the pre-modern era. Today, in a modern or post-modern society, plural and which advocates the autonomy of the individual until the last instances, it has left him without a parameter for the orientation of his life, since religion, which in a certain way played this preponderant and defining role, today equals the other forces and social institutions, and even without the decisive influence to help him face the challenges that are placed before him.

However, despite the autonomy of the individual, and the loss of the relevant function of religion in society and in the lives of individuals – especially due to the criticism directed at it, arising from different currents of knowledge in the modern era -, the search for a belief as fundamental and radical response to life, according to anthropologists, in addition to permeating different peoples and historical contexts, it is still present today. Malinowski (1988), referring to religion, highlights that this phenomenon is universal and independent of time and technological advances. According to the aforementioned author, peoples, no matter how primitive they are studied by competent and reliable observers, detected the domain of the profane and the sacred.

It is salutary to highlight the study carried out by Durkheim in his work, Elementary Forms of Religious Life, in which he emphasizes a positive view of religion. In this study, he makes clear the role of religion as a factor of social cohesion and construction of meaning in the lives of those who practice it. The purpose of religion, according to him, is not limited to having objects such as gods, spirits or transcendent beings in their beliefs, since not all religions have extraterrestrial beings in their systems, but to create affinities through rites and ceremonies. And he adds that religion also has the purpose of granting strength to withstand adversity, and means to overcome the forces of evil. He who believes is above the misfortunes of life. (DURKHEIM, 1989).

With regard to the phenomenon of secularization in modernity - a term originated by Weber that designates forms of cultural life not anchored in religion or disenchantment of the world -, Pierucci (1997) points out that this does not mean the end of religion, as predicted by positivists, materialists, rationalists and illuminists. Desacralization means releasing the individual from traditional ties and loyalties, leading him to doubt the sanctity of tradition, and allowing him to experiment with other virtualities.

If, on the one hand, secularization produced a rejection of the past and openness to the new, Oro (2013) points out that religious pluralism in modernity has caused indifferentism and the commodification of religion. Regarding religion as a market, the aforementioned author points out that individuals live in a veritable mosaic of options for religious products, from beliefs, objects of salvation, miracles, dreams, and that allow them to choose according to their needs, without direct and without deep doctrinal knowledge. In this market, the individual supplies his immediate desires, without the weight of family and community tradition, thus generating an ethics that is the result of the miscellany of multiple beliefs. And with regard to indifferentism, its foundation comes from the idea that God is the same, and that for that, the individual is free to assemble his own belief. The consequence of this is the coexistence with nihilism – empty of meaning – and the questioning of their religious convictions.

In order to further characterize the modern world, Oro (2013) makes use of Zygmunt Bauman's concept of liquid modernity, which describes society as volatile, mutable, changing, liquid and diffuse, and where, both social and religious commitments , are superficial, ephemeral, and people seek them out when they are pleasant, exciting and pleasurable. In addition to these characteristics above, (DOWDY apud MÓNICO, 2015) points out that the religiosity of contemporary man is pragmatic, less moralizing, more emotional, private, subjective, polysemic, exoteric or occult, and with utilitarian tendencies of the sacred.

But despite this, another problem in the daily life of religion in modernity, especially in Pentecostal, neo-Pentecostal and Catholic charismatic groups, is the manipulation and capture of the idea of ​​God, as being able to solve social, political and economic ills that afflict them, and the underlying emotional crises arising from multiple factors, including family and social ones.

We know that beliefs, especially those with Christian roots, have a revolutionary and protest discourse, in the face of cruel established powers, and social injustices, and that it is up to the followers, instead of transferring their social hardships to God, or interpreting them as demonic action, or understanding that in a process of conversion the situation is resolved, it is healthy to understand them in the light of belief, and in the face of their religious utopia, of a “new world”, to fight for social transformation, and not to wait for divine intervention. This discourse, normally loaded with an apocalyptic nature – divine intervention –, despite bordering on social alienation and depoliticization, prevents the spirit of struggle, and does not modify the status quo, on the contrary, provides a flag for those who benefit from a more consistent social reality, to continue in their benevolent lifestyle, and indifferent to the suffering of others.

According to Boff (2017), religions carry with them a utopia, that is, in their discourse, they propose a new world that is more harmonized, united, and that all sorts of suffering and crises, including social and economic ones, if possible, are jettisoned and mitigated in coexistence human. Quoting Pascal, the referred author expresses that believing in God is not thinking about God, but feeling from the totality of being, and that religion is the voice of conscience that refuses to accept the world as it is, symbolic and diabolical, and from there, build utopias that aim to transcend and design a new heaven and a new earth. “Religion is the voice of a conscience that refuses to accept the world as it is […] It proposes to transcend it, projecting visions […] utopias that tear horizons […]”. (BOFF, 2017, p.1).

And furthermore, according to the author above, the essence of Christianity does not consist only in affirming the incarnation of God, but in announcing that all the virtualities hidden in man were revealed by the resurrection of Christ, and that, therefore, imposes on us the construction of a society which is based on the new man, where his dignity is exalted.

Similarly, when reflecting on the experience of the absolute or the supernatural, Clodovis Boff (2017) warns that the person awakens the sense of love, freedom and gratuitousness, and the restless heart – “cor inquietum” – as Augustine states, lights up the desire to transmit this experience to another, as well as to build a world similar to the lived and felt experience.

Faced with this reflection, we realize that being willing to fight for a different world, free from injustice and all sorts of denial of the other, does not constitute a mere social political activism, but is fertilized in an experience of life and belief. However, it is worth reiterating that beliefs, except for their purpose of providing answers to the concerns of the human heart, especially the question of death, suffering and the question of origin, also have a contradiction discourse of not agreeing with reality, by believe that another world already here is possible.

Therefore, for religion to establish its prophetic and utopian sign, or rather eutopic – good place, of a new sky and a new earth already – , it is necessary to get rid of the manipulations and instrumentalization carried out by its leaders, and stop being a mainstay for the maintenance of authoritarian and anti-democratic governments, which adopt policies contrary to the interests of the immense population, especially one that lacks the minimum conditions for survival, in a country where, compared to others, it has the worst income distribution in the world, and has the fundamental rights of the population disrespected and denied.

And, moreover, there is an urgent need for constant work on a political basis in which hope can be awakened in the population that it is possible to succumb to this inhuman reality, as has been done in past decades by various churches, progressive groups and men of good will.

With regard to other challenges, which affect not only the national reality, but which have repercussions throughout Latin America, are the growth of different religious groups with Christian roots - not all of them - which, instead of a prophetic and eutopic, embark on a biblical, literal or fundamentalist reading, distorting contexts in order to satisfy their political and economic pretexts. According to philosopher Enrique Dussel, (2019) Brazil and other countries in Latin America have been the scene of interference by the American government, associated with evangelical sects, with the proposal to establish right-wing governments, under the alleged objective of combating communism .

If we continue in this vein, in which religions are transformed into chains of transmission of interests of their leaders, in supporting and supporting governments and their policies contrary to the dignity of the people, we will have no other consequences, if not the annihilation of the utopias that sprout from the heart of man fertilized by religion, as well as the rejection of the beauty and richness of the sacred texts, which not only express, but affirm their dignity and sacredness.

Despite the sorrows, we can still dream of religion, as a political and liberating force, capable of raising hope, and of stimulating the fight against social and economic ills, and everything that depresses human dignity.

* Geraldo Oliveira Master in Social Sciences from PUC-Minas.

 

References


BOFF, Leonardo. Religion as a source of saving utopias. Newspapers in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, 05 Mar. 2017. Available at: http://www.jb.com.br/leonardo-boff/noticias/2017/.

BOFF, Clodovis. Experience of God and Other Spirituality Writings. Sao Paulo, Paulus, 2017.

DURKHEIM, Émile. The elementary forms of religious life. Sao Paulo, WMF Martins Fontes, 2004.

DUSSEL, Enrique. Evangelicals are the new US weapon to strike in Latin America, warns philosopher. [Interview given to] Carmen Aristegui. Diary of the Center of the World, 16 Nov. 2019. Available at: https://www.diariodocentrodomundo.com.br/evangelicos-sao-a-nova-arma-dos-eua-para-dar-golpes-na-america-latina-adverte-filosofo/.

MALINOWSKI, Bronislaw. Magic, science and religion. Lisbon: Editions 70, 1988.

MÓNICO, Lisette. Secularization, (a)theism and religious pluralism in contemporary western societies. Horizonte: journal of studies in theology and religious sciences of the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais. Belo Horizonte, Vol. 13, no. 40, p. 2064- 2095, Oct. /ten. 2015.

ORO, Ivo Pedro. The religious phenomenon: how to understand. Sao Paulo: Paulinas, 2013

PIERUCCI, Antonio Flavio. “Reenchantment and desecularization: the purpose of self-deception in sociology of religion”. New Studies CEBRAP, no. 49 p. 99-119, Nov.1997.

VALADIER, Paul. Catholicism and modern society. São Paulo: Loyola, 1991.

 

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