The Role of Religion in Solving Crises of the Modern Western Materialistic Civilization
By: Muhammad Sa‘idi-MihrAmir Divani
That which we have discussed in complete brevity is only a small aspect of the problems and dead ends that modern humanity faces. Now, let us look anew upon the questions we posed at the beginning of this chapter and ponder their answers. In our opinion, the only correct answer to all these questions is a negative one.
During the last few centuries, modern humanity has taken quick and hasty steps to insure the elimination of religion, humanization of all divine aspects of their being, and desecration of all things holy. Then they drunkenly bellowed throughout the world of their independence and self-sufficiency from religiousness and belief in God and arrogantly declared the end to the era of religion and religious spirituality.
Now, at the periphery of the twenty-first century, it has come time to awaken from the deep sleep of negligence that has embraced us for centuries; discern the oasis from the mirage; stop endeavoring towards our doom; stop driving through the byways of aberration; open an aperture towards the light; and clear the visions of our eyes and hearts.
A comprehensive account of all that religiousness can do to solve the crises of modern humanity necessitates extensive research and a lengthy volume. Nevertheless, what we can say in brief is that, even if we cannot say all, at least a large portion of these crises will be eliminated through humanity’s return to the bosom of religion and their connection with religious spirituality.
Religion and the Knowledge Crisis
According to religious teachings, the methods that humans use to obtain knowledge are not limited to sensory input and experience; rather, divine revelation, and reason (especially universal reason that can cognize metaphysical issues) are also complementary sources for human understanding. By relying on these complementary sources, humanity can realize a more solid and complete set of truths. By disclosing unerring truths about God, humanity, and the world, religions based upon revelation provide us with a secure pillar of understanding and wider horizons for thought.
Many truths—such as metaphysical issues or truths about the past and future of the world—can never be realized through sensory experience. Our need for knowledge about these issues can only be fulfilled through divine revelation. In the thought process of a religious person, religion and reason attain a blessed and productive union; reason reinforces the theoretical principals of religious beliefs and religion, by breaking the barriers of metaphysics, reminds us of the limits of reason and prepares the way for humanity’s ascent to higher apexes. Intuition of divine truths—that has various forms and arises through one’s deep connection with religious spirituality—establishes a secure foundation for humanity’s beliefs and frees them from the clutches of absolute skepticism and cognitional bewilderment.
In brief, it is always possible for religious people to harbor the windswept ship of their thoughts, which has been caught in the maelstrom of bewilderment and skepticism, at the calm shores of faith [‘īmān]. Naturally, by this assertion we do not mean that religious persons are instantly freed from bewilderment.
This is because the domain of metaphysics at least, is a confusing domain—the highest forms of bewilderment pertain to the miracles of prophets and Gnostics. Actually, we mean that persons who open themselves to religious guidance never feel absolute bewilderment in such a way that they become bereft of all reliable intellectual footholds. Religious wonderment is harmonious with faith and absolute certitude towards God, as opposed to modern cognitional bewilderment that negates all certainty and trust.
Religion and Moral Crises
Religion has always been a strong supporter of ethics and thus a significant amount of religious teachings are related to ethics. The link between religion and ethics is so deep that some essentially regard religion and ethics one and the same. The foundations for religious ethics cannot be found in social conventions, utilitarianism, or hedonism; however, by perfectly defining the connection between humans and their Creator and between humans and perfection and true beatitude, religion shapes the divine foundations of moral norms.
Of course, the role of religion in ethics is not limited to providing religious teachings based upon divine principles regarding the essence of humankind. The teachings concerning the absolute knowledge of God and His ceaseless and everlasting supervision upon the thoughts and actions of humans establish the most secure executive guaranty for moral regulations, in both personal and social aspects of ethics.
Religion and Mental Crises
Doubtless, portions of the theoretic principles of modern mental crises have resulted from humanity’s inverted ideology towards their essence, faculties, abilities, and ultimate destination (telos). According to modernist thought, humans are creatures that, like all other creatures, have risen out of the heart of nature and have reached their current state through biological evolution; moreover, their only conceivable destination is material advancement and further domination over the natural world, whereas the religious ideology towards humanity is completely incompatible with this perspective.
Religion draws a different picture of humanity’s genesis and journey’s end. The human race, which is God’s chosen and special creation, has unlimited capacity and the ultimate purpose of its creation is advancement in spirituality and intimacy with the divine Oneness. It is clear that such an ideology can result in a completely different confrontation with crisis—including spiritual and mental crises—producing elements.
For example, by virtue of this ideology, humans can endure even the most difficult troubles in life because they regard them as preparatory measures for reaching their ultimate destination. Such persons, while battling their problems and endeavoring to reach their goals, feel satisfaction and contentment in the depths of their soul concerning the outcome—whatever it may be—because they regard it as divine decree.
One’s faith towards religious teachings about God, humanity, his genesis and destination (eschatology) has an important role in preventing and curing mental abnormalities. Moreover, many psychologists and psychoanalysts have confirmed this role. For instance, Carl Jung (1875 – 1961), the prestigious Swiss psychoanalyst, has declared: “Among all my middle-aged patients…there was not even one whose problem was not the problem of finding a religious ideology towards life. Surely the reason for all of their illnesses was that they lacked that which living religions of all ages present to their followers; none of them was truly able to recover without recovering their religious beliefs.” (Carl G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, p. 284).
Yea, persons who have faith in the divine destination of their souls never feel meaningless or causeless. Those who believe in the existence of the Sublime God and His divine qualities—Power, Mercy, Absolver of Sins, etc.—and trust in Him, never despair. Those who calm their heart through remembrance of their Beloved God are less troubled by anxiety and stress. The loving connection of humanity and God never leaves much room for feeling loneliness and isolation; rather, whenever the sorrow of worldly isolation overcomes such people, they relieve it with fellowship with their Beloved.
Religion and the Technology Crisis
The technology crisis originates not from its essence, but from its ungovernability. Even though the fact that humans have the ability to build machines and utilize them is inherently a type of perfection and virtue, the true plague of technology is in the construction of anything that can possibly be constructed and utilization of these constructs in any way conceivable without establishing reasonable restrictions.
As we have indicated, the report card of modern humans—who do as they please—shows that they have uncontrollable avidity and unending voracity towards building and utilizing machines, such that social conventions and political commitments cannot limit this urge. Consequently, there is need of an alternative restrictive factor.
We believe that religious teachings—provided that they become the governing factor in people’s actions—can easily restrain the ‘demon’ of technology. By displaying the true status of humanity within the universe, its strengths and weaknesses and its rights and obligations, religion sets the conditions and limits for utilizing machines.
Religious individuals do not consider their perfection to be in absolute utilization of technology; therefore, they acquiesce to a set of limits and rules. For example, according to religious ideology, exercising restraint in consumption of energy is obligatory, even where there are seemingly unlimited energy resources and, in contrast to several modernist views, energy usage in itself cannot be considered a sign of advancement or an indicator of development.
Basically, according to religious ideology, domination over nature is not a value as such; rather, it is a tool for bringing out humanity’s divine potentials and this purpose must establish the manner of machine utilization and draw the limits for technology. When in religious texts it is said that the world is the dominion of humanity, this does not mean that individuals are able to act without restriction; on the contrary, they are limited to the conditions and specifications defined in religious teachings. Religion regards the world as a divine proof and blessing; therefore, it deems the world worthy of respect and veneration. In various religious teachings, observing the rights of plants and animals is ardently advised.
In short, for religious humans, spiritual values have first priority and thus, while they regard technology advancement as an ideal, they endeavor to utilize it for moral and humane objectives, and if at any time they realize that this “preliminary” does not serve their purpose, they sacrifice the preliminary for divine purposes. Religious humans, as opposed to modern humans, never foster the motive of godhood over the Earth; rather, they regard themselves as the vicegerent of God on Earth and therefore consider themselves responsible for the preservation and maintenance of their natural surroundings.
Thus far, we have presented a short narrative of the lengthy adventures of the human race in the modern era. We believe that modern crises and fundamental problems, some of which we have described in short, shall sooner or later reveal unto humanity the mirage-like truth of modernism and result in their endeavoring to return to religion and religious spirituality.
As might be expected, in the meantime, religious people have a great responsibility. Two of the most basic duties of all religious intellectuals and those who are sympathetic towards their religion are: Analytic examination of religious references in order to deepen and extend religious knowledge
Presentation of life-giving religious teachings in a modern form, albeit preserving their originality, in a manner that can answer the diverse needs of modern society