"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reza Aslan on Cosmic War, Globalization & Religion

"A cosmic war is a religious war. It is a conflict in which God is believed to be directly engaged on one side over the other. Unlike a holy war - an earthly battle between rival religious groups - a cosmic war is like a ritual drama in which participants act out on earth a battle they believe is actually taking place in the heavens. ... We humans are merely actors in a divine script written by God."
 
~ Reza Aslan in the introduction of Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization.

A few things I wanted to note and then I have questions for you below. I'd love to read your thoughts so please share!


In cosmic wars such as the 9/11 events, the battle is, as the terrorists noted, for the sake of God. "A cosmic war transforms those who should be considered butchers and thugs into soldiers sanctioned by God." (pg.5)

"It is easy to blame religion for acts of violence carried out in religion's name, easier still to comb through scripture for bits of savagery and assume a simple causality between the text and the deed. But no religion is inherently violent or peaceful: people are violent or peaceful."  (pg.4)

Aslan claims that "religion is a stronger, more global force today than it has been in generations."  He discusses whether secular nationalism and its failure "to live up to its promises of global peace and prosperity" along with the atrocities committed by "unabashedly secularist ideologies"  are reasons for this while stating that "globalization has radically altered the way people define themselves, both individually and as a collective.  Across the globe, secular nationalism is beginning to give way to new forms of nationalism based on ethnicity, tribe, and above all religion.  ... Indeed, in many parts of the world religion is fast becoming the supreme identity, encompassing and even superseding ethnicity, culture, and nationality."  (pg. 10,11)

Aslan claims that we need to "strip the conflicts of our world of their religious connotations; we must reject the religiously polarizing rhetoric of our leaders [think "us vs. them" or "if you're not with us, you're against us" and seeing things purely in black and white, good and evil with no middle ground] and of our enemies; we must focus on the material matters at stake; and we must seek to address the earthly issues that always lie behind the cosmic impulse."  We must "bring their cosmic war back down to earth, where it can be confronted more constructively. Because in the end, there is only one way to win a cosmic war: refuse to fight it." (pg. 11,12)


While the term "globalization" may be somewhat new and mean something different (e.g. "interconnectedness of national interests," and the rise of global media and technologies so people know more about one another), the practice has been going on since the first people left Africa in search of more food and resources for survival.  The ages of empires and colonialism allowed countries to "cross-pollinate their trade, communication, and cultures across vast distances with fluidity and ease." But the greatest "single force" that has moved globalization forward is religion, "which has always sought to spread its message across the boundaries of borders, clans, and ethnicities."  (pg. 18)

QUESTIONS -- answer them all or pick and choose

1. How concerned are you with the threat of a cosmic war?  Do you think the author's views concerning cosmic war are over-the-top (exaggerated), too little too late, not even the tip of the iceberg or what? 

2.  Have you been concerned with the polarizing efforts of political and/or religious leaders or individuals? Or is this something you've never heard of until now?  How seriously do you take such people?

3. Do you live in fear of terrorist attacks? Do you think the government and media (and maybe others) perpetuate this fear mentality too much or do they not realize the enormity of the threat and, therefore, not give us enough warning?

4. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being I'm not fearful at all and 10 being it consumes my mind nearly every day:  how fearful are you about a terrorist threat?  Why?

5. What do you think of globalization?  Do you agree with the author about empire building, colonialism and religion being examples of globalization that have gone on since the earliest of times?  How do you think those things differ from the current understanding of globalization?

6.  Do you agree with Aslan's statements about people, not religion, being violent or peaceful?  Why or why not?

7. Besides the terrorism of 9/11 what are other examples of people who claim to do things "for the sake of God" when in reality they probably should be labeled butchers and thugs?


8.  Aslan writes:  "Indeed, in many parts of the world religion is fast becoming the supreme identity, encompassing and even superseding ethnicity, culture, and nationality."  -- How alarming is this to you?  Do you tend to identify yourself in a similar way? Do you notice this as a growing trend? Is this a bad thing?

9.  Do you agree that secular nationalism has failed and people are once again becoming more religious? Does this seem true where you live?  

10. Aslan states that we need to strip things from religious talk and bring issues back down to earth where they should and need to be addressed.   What issues do you think are important to confront in this down-to-earth way?




Any other thoughts or comments?

10 comments:

Jasmine said...

I think we need to be careful and not focus on the negative religious aspects, because I think religion has the power to convert people from good to bad in a way that nothing else can, and with a longevity and power than nothing else can.

I am not worried about cosmic war or global war - because it's largely outside of my control and whatever happens, happens. Yes, there are currently religious societies who are warring and causing problems and we are well aware of that, however there are also many disbelieving people who plunder countries, burn rain forests, use child labour, rape, murder, plunder and pillage as well. We have the evil sex trade, alcohol, drugs, violence, fraud, adultery, lust - I mean, SO many things. It's easy to point to one group of people who are angry and say: "look - they are causing trouble in the world" because they are loud and they are explosive and scary in their threats.

But more scary is the people who have no respect for God or his creations, who are abusing the planet, buying and selling women, polluting the air, destroying rain forests, using slaves or slave labour, colonizing through finance, Nazism, Nationalism - these are more likely to kill us all than a small group of radicals. Money and capitalism kill and abuse more people than terrorists could ever achieve.

Peace,
Jasmine

Amber said...

1. How concerned are you with the threat of a cosmic war? Do you think the author's views concerning cosmic war are over-the-top (exaggerated), too little too late, not even the tip of the iceberg or what?

I'm not sure that the author's distinction between cosmic and holy war exists. If two religious groups are fighting each will always believe that God is on their side and against their enemy. Depending on your belief and understand of free will we might always just be considered actors in the divine script. I sort of think that Aslan is splitting hairs with this cosmic vs. holy war thing.

2. Have you been concerned with the polarizing efforts of political and/or religious leaders or individuals? Or is this something you've never heard of until now? How seriously do you take such people?

I am concerned with the efforts of certain people within certain groups to polarize and perhaps even radicalize others. It's the lead up to so much hate and distrust and it makes us unable to work with one another on any real level because we're always concerned with what the 'other' will gain and we will lose. I would love to be able to laugh off certain of these people *coughglennbeckcough* but the scary part is that you can't because there are people out there for whom their every word is manna from on high.

3. Do you live in fear of terrorist attacks? Do you think the government and media (and maybe others) perpetuate this fear mentality too much or do they not realize the enormity of the threat and, therefore, not give us enough warning?

No. I mean, what is living in fear going to do? I've lived in fear and constant anger before (on a much more personal scale, of course) and a) it's exhausting and b) does you no good. It doesn't stop the bad thing from happening. All it can do is stop you from living your life. Stop you from experiencing good things because you're afraid to go outside. I think that some factions of the gov/media/etc feed the fears that people feel naturally. Why would they want a nation full of frightened people? Because people who are scared will readily agree to things that those who aren't wouldn't. It's so much easier to get the nation behind wiretapping and illegal detention if they're living in constant fear that their neighbor is going to walk up one day and blow them up or shoot them if these measure aren't taken. Never mind that it infringes on civil liberties. It's for our own good. Really. The government and people need to be aware but that doesn't equal driving fear into them every second.

4. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being I'm not fearful at all and 10 being it consumes my mind nearly every day: how fearful are you about a terrorist threat? Why?

1. Because, again, what good would it do? I don't live a generally high risk lifestyle anyway and if while I'm living my life something happens to me what good would being afraid of it before hand do? We just recently had a man in Florida who took a school board hostage because his wife had lost her job. He stood there and held them all at gun point. He actually shot at them (thankfully he missed) before being gunned down by a security guard and then taking his own life. Do you think that if those board members had been worried about something like that happening that it would have made the actual occurrence not happen? Be less terrifying? No. Living is a dangerous business no matter how you do it.

Amber said...

long comment was too long. Here's pt. 2:

5. What do you think of globalization? Do you agree with the author about empire building, colonialism and religion being examples of globalization that have gone on since the earliest of times? How do you think those things differ from the current understanding of globalization?

I kind of think it's a terrible idea. Given that the 'globe' was much smaller in peoples understanding until fairly recently, yes I would say that colonialism, empires and religion could all be construed as globalization. But they all happened on much smaller scales because the technology didn't exist to make a truly 'one world' anything. Nowadays we think that we can unite the world and have one this or that but we don't (mostly) intend to have the people give up their cultural identities or worship our gods, etc.

6. Do you agree with Aslan's statements about people, not religion, being violent or peaceful? Why or why not?

Religions don't kill people. People kill people. A sacred text, on it's own, cannot do anything. A set of religious laws or ideas, on their own, can do nothing. They are not alive and cannot act on the world without the participation of living human beings. And each person will take into their faith and their reading of their sacred texts what they have within themselves. Are they violent people? Then they will see violence. Can they overcome that through the people who see peace? Sometimes. It depends on if they will listen. But yes, I'd agree that it's the people within a religion who are violent or peaceful and not the religions themselves. Sacred texts are kind of like Rorschach's - you see a reflection of your own mind.

7. Besides the terrorism of 9/11 what are other examples of people who claim to do things "for the sake of God" when in reality they probably should be labeled butchers and thugs?

People who murder abortionists or bomb clinics. Those who denigrate and bully people who are different from themselves - sometimes to the point of death.

8. Aslan writes: "Indeed, in many parts of the world religion is fast becoming the supreme identity, encompassing and even superseding ethnicity, culture, and nationality." -- How alarming is this to you? Do you tend to identify yourself in a similar way? Do you notice this as a growing trend? Is this a bad thing?

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I guess it depends on how the majority of the people are coming down who identify in this way. Are they good, peaceful people who will see the peaceful side of their faith and implement that in the world? Or are they judgy and wanting to impose their morality on others who may not share their faiths? Or are they violent and evil?

9. Do you agree that secular nationalism has failed and people are once again becoming more religious? Does this seem true where you live?

It's something of a cycle, actually. You have a religious 'generation' and then their children rebel against the failures of their fathers by being less religious. And then those children rebel by being religious because their parents' irreligion didn't work. And so on. I haven't noticed people being more or less religious around here, but we tend to view religion as a private matter anyway so unless they have a parade or something I'm not sure if we'd notice.

10. Aslan states that we need to strip things from religious talk and bring issues back down to earth where they should and need to be addressed. What issues do you think are important to confront in this down-to-earth way?

The rights of people no matter who or where they are. I think so many issues boil down to a view that these 'others' whether they be of a different race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or anything are bad and wrong and don't deserve the same rights as us 'normal' people.

Wafa' said...

1. How concerned are you with the threat of a cosmic war? Do you think the author's views concerning cosmic war are over-the-top (exaggerated), too little too late, not even the tip of the iceberg or what?
i am not concerned but it's scary if such things will happen. And i guess it's his job to scare us but it's a reality that might and might not happen according to us " people, human being of the world"

2. Have you been concerned with the polarizing efforts of political and/or religious leaders or individuals? Or is this something you've never heard of until now? How seriously do you take such people?
YES, especially here in my country.I don't take them seriously but not everyone is as smart as me ;)


3. Do you live in fear of terrorist attacks? Do you think the government and media (and maybe others) perpetuate this fear mentality too much or do they not realize the enormity of the threat and, therefore, not give us enough warning?
Nope, i don't. I don't if they make it alive but if they, then it's a very stupid move. And we need to do something else useful so the media might concentrated on instead of keeping fear alive.


4. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being I'm not fearful at all and 10 being it consumes my mind nearly every day: how fearful are you about a terrorist threat? Why?
1. I can not worry about something that might and might not happen, So..


5. What do you think of globalization? Do you agree with the author about empire building, colonialism and religion being examples of globalization that have gone on since the earliest of times? How do you think those things differ from the current understanding of globalization?
i would feel happy if globalization was something like people of the world lives in peace and harmony with each other, respecting and understanding each other's heritage and religion. i guess.


6. Do you agree with Aslan's statements about people, not religion, being violent or peaceful? Why or why not?
completely. cuz i lived it first hand and still :)


7. Besides the terrorism of 9/11 what are other examples of people who claim to do things "for the sake of God" when in reality they probably should be labeled butchers and thugs?
all kinds of terrorism in India.Egypt. And all kinds of attack on civilians in Palestine and Israel.
Anyway, i am with the peace approach of everything.


8. Aslan writes: "Indeed, in many parts of the world religion is fast becoming the supreme identity, encompassing and even superseding ethnicity, culture, and nationality." -- How alarming is this to you? Do you tend to identify yourself in a similar way? Do you notice this as a growing trend? Is this a bad thing?
VERY. I hate to be identified as a Muslim only and tend to stray away from such people. or any who only identify themselves based on their religions. it's bad and sad, too.


9. Do you agree that secular nationalism has failed and people are once again becoming more religious? Does this seem true where you live?
No, it didn't but there are many reasons why people are going back to religion such as poverty and illiteracy.


10. Aslan states that we need to strip things from religious talk and bring issues back down to earth where they should and need to be addressed. What issues do you think are important to confront in this down-to-earth way?
politics in general. Everything that relates to daily life. Everything.

:)

observant observer said...

1. How concerned are you with the threat of a cosmic war? Do you think the author's views concerning cosmic war are over-the-top (exaggerated), too little too late, not even the tip of the iceberg or what?

Perhaps the term cosmic war itself might only come from a perspective of certain group of religion thinking that they were acting on behalf of God to fight the other. In this case, when two groups collide, one was thinking that he was doing something on behalf of God, while the other was just thinking they were doing something for the sake of the safety or survivor of its own people, or any other motive. I'm just pointing that there's no way the Christians would wage a war or would have a religious base to wage a war on defending God or doing God's will.

2. Have you been concerned with the polarizing efforts of political and/or religious leaders or individuals? Or is this something you've never heard of until now? How seriously do you take such people?

It has become a tendency over the time here in Indonesia, we have heard too many times that certain groups are complaining that they have given too much while the other has given less, etc etc. Collective jealousy has played a lot with this problems and no one would like to be blamed and no one would like to give in. And certain individual or leader was/is just too eager on pointing this matter as to gain popularity.

3. Do you live in fear of terrorist attacks? Do you think the government and media (and maybe others) perpetuate this fear mentality too much or do they not realize the enormity of the threat and, therefore, not give us enough warning?

Of course no...while the terror has become a real threat here in Indonesia, especially towards the Christian (many reports nowadays have shown the up coming threat over Christmas celebrations), it shouldn't make us fearful since fear is the root of evil. We should remember that the Lord himself have assured us not to be afraid. We should be vigilant but at the same time not to be taken as the hostage of fear. Faith is also believing that God is also taking care. Well, it's not like saying that God have played a certain role that many efforts of individual bombing (like what happen in Sweden or in NY) had not succeeded, but well, it might also possible that God was acting on guard....who knows?(But, don't ask me question why God was not on guard at 9/11 or the Bali bomb or the Marriott Jakarta bomb...really, we might see something positive come out of it... ). And I believe that most Muslims here are condemning the terrorist attack too, so the many elements of the society will be on guard too. So for number 4: I'm not at all scared - 1 point only.

5. What do you think of globalization? Do you agree with the author about empire building, colonialism and religion being examples of globalization that have gone on since the earliest of times? How do you think those things differ from the current understanding of globalization?

Yes, I agree it happened so in the past. Not only for Abrahamic religions but the Eastern religion as well, like Hinduism and Buddhism did spread as part of "globalization" efforts. If not, I don't think Indonesia would have been majorly Hindu previously and later became Muslim majority. As for the current globalization; I certainly think that even though the world has been demographically shaped as what is today and won't change much until several decades in the future, the globalization effort of religion is not the same as what we have in the past. The major factor will be economic and social motive, religion is just the riding/additional factor. I don't think you will see certain group wage war to expand the religion, riding the motive of expansionism of power like in the past with the motive to save the people from hell...that will sound ridiculous.

observant observer said...

6. Do you agree with Aslan's statements about people, not religion, being violent or peaceful? Why or why not?

Well since I believe that religion is man made of course to me it only reflects what people think or thought of God. So whether religion is peaceful or not, I tend to see the fruit of which the people who live with it as the answer. Action speaks louder than words.

7. Besides the terrorism of 9/11 what are other examples of people who claim to do things "for the sake of God" when in reality they probably should be labeled butchers and thugs?

In my case since it's to rampant here in Indonesia: the religious leaders who steal from their people, saying they are working for God, instead they work for money and fame.
Or people who think of themselves too high and think that God must have loved them more since they have done this and this and that, and look down on the other...

8. Aslan writes: "Indeed, in many parts of the world religion is fast becoming the supreme identity, encompassing and even superseding ethnicity, culture, and nationality." -- How alarming is this to you? Do you tend to identify yourself in a similar way? Do you notice this as a growing trend? Is this a bad thing?

This is a bad thing according to me, while I'm not saying that I'm not proud of my Catholic background. I mean if you identify yourself as from certain nationality, it's understood that you are going to see yourself helping your own fellow people who live near you or achieving certain national goal together. Or if you identify yourself with certain ethnic, it's understandable that you're going to make sure that your ethnic root and culture will survive in the current "globalization" to add to the richness of world heritage (though ethnic bad custom can be challenged)....but to see yourself more as belonging to certain religion affiliation? Let's just hope that when someone mentions his/her religious background, he won't see that he's more right or the other are more right, he's the chosen people, loved more by God while other is not etc etc....that's the bad thing of identifying yourself with religion I can think of. You don't pick your ethnicity or nationality, but religion is something that you can choose. So it's kinda tricky to see more yourself identify with religious background.

9. Do you agree that secular nationalism has failed and people are once again becoming more religious? Does this seem true where you live?

The failure of secularism has to do with inability to manage justice and the motive of certain people to widen the gap to take advantage of it, and religion is a very strong vehicle.
I certainly see that in the previous generation Indonesian people are more "liberal", they see themselves as more Indonesian with more ties on ethnic background, but now people are becoming more stricter in religious custom. I don't know why, perhaps it has more to do with the awareness of becoming different than what the modernity has to offer. You know at certain level, people might get sick with the "globalization" forces especially offered much by the west media.

10. Aslan states that we need to strip things from religious talk and bring issues back down to earth where they should and need to be addressed. What issues do you think are important to confront in this down-to-earth way?

To me , the issues of equality of people no matter the background is still important. Then the issue of the future of the world regarding the sustainability of the earth. There are also the issue of the wealth and the poor nations, we still have to help each other regarding distribution of resources. Well, there's so much else thing to do then to fight for the religion. If you fight for God, it can only mean that you fight for humanity and human.

Susanne said...

Jasmine, I appreciate your comment! I agree with most everything you said and Aslan actually mentions the atrocities of many secular ideologies. I agree that ideally religion would make "bad people" into "good ones," however, the scariest sorts are often those who *think* they are the religious/good guys yet they do awful deeds. It's like their bad deeds are OK because they are doing it for God. I've never heard a true secularist say they are plundering and pillaging and raping and murdering because God told them to. It's like adding "doing this for God" makes an evil thing OK when it doesn't. Evil is evil and it's actually crazy to bring God into it as if He is offering His approval for your crimes. Thanks much for what you added!



Amber, I loved reading your answers and laughed at your coughing! ;) I agree about living in fear and how it's really wasted energy and such. I also agree that the gov't uses it to control us...make certain things be OK due to our need to feel secure. I don't live in fear of terrorists. I just don't. I think God can protect me if He wants and if not,what can I do to stop it? If He has promised to be my Father and take care of me, why not just trust Him?

Interesting point about religions and secularism being cyclical. I really enjoyed your thoughts on that. LOL @ the parade! :)

Loved your answers - thank you!

Susanne said...

Wafa', yay, you answered too! Allllllll right!

"YES, especially here in my country.I don't take them seriously but not everyone is as smart as me ;)"

Hahahaha! Yes, that's so true! I just laughed at how you said that! :D

Really loved your answers even though I didn't comment on them all. I just enjoy learning how people think so thanks much for taking time to answer these. It's always great to hear from people in other countries and your answers were very thought-provoking to me. :)



OO, good! I always love reading your replies as well. :)

"I'm just pointing that there's no way the Christians would wage a war or would have a religious base to wage a war on defending God or doing God's will."

Welllllllllllll, if they were following Jesus, you are right. BUT if you recall the Crusaders of Europe how they DID use a religious component to their fight for Jerusalem, you can see where people will say they were fighting a holy war.

Uh huh...I hear you on the collective jealousy comment. I didn't even think of the Us vs. Them aspect of material things like the rich and poor. Great example!

I love what you said about not being fearful because God told us not to be afraid. Wonderful point. I try to keep this in mind when I am tempted to let fear rule in my mind.

" You don't pick your ethnicity or nationality, but religion is something that you can choose. So it's kinda tricky to see more yourself identify with religious background."

Not everyone seems able to choose their religion though. I've heard of many born into a certain faith who didn't really have a choice in the matter. I enjoyed your perspective on this question, by the way.


"You know at certain level, people might get sick with the "globalization" forces especially offered much by the west media."

That's an interesting perspective. Maybe they think it will destroy their culture and make cultures blend too much when they want to keep them distinct? Hmmm, that's something to consider. Maybe some believe we are forcing globalization on them! Hmmmm!!

Wow, you all had such EXCELLENT comments! THANKS SO MUCH!! Really,I learn much from your feedback!

Lat said...

Where's my comment? It was right after Wafa! Oh maannnn! :)

Well it's more of less what the others have stated.The book sounds interesting!

Susanne said...

Oh no, Lat! Did Blogger eat your comment? Rats!!!They usually show up in my e-mail even if they don't post here (which has happened about twice). Thanks anyway! :)