A God of One's Own: Religion's Capacity for Peace and Potential for Violence

A God of One's Own: Religion's Capacity for Peace and Potential for Violence

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By (author) Ulrich Beck, Translated by Rodney Livingstone

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  • Publisher: Polity Press
  • Format: Paperback | 264 pages
  • Dimensions: 152mm x 226mm x 22mm | 381g
  • Publication date: 22 September 2010
  • Publication City/Country: Oxford
  • ISBN 10: 0745646190
  • ISBN 13: 9780745646190
  • Edition statement: Translation
  • Sales rank: 213,426

Product description

Religion posits one characteristic as an absolute: faith. Compared to faith, all other social distinctions and sources of conflict are insignificant. The New Testament says: 'We are all equal in the sight of God'. To be sure, this equality applies only to those who acknowledge God's existence. What this means is that alongside the abolition of class and nation within the community of believers, religion introduces a new fundamental distinction into the world the distinction between the right kind of believers and the wrong kind. Thus overtly or tacitly, religion brings with it the demonization of believers in other faiths. The central question that will decide the continued existence of humanity is this: How can we conceive of a type of inter-religious tolerance in which loving one's neighbor does not imply war to the death, a type of tolerance whose goal is not truth but peace? Is what we are experiencing at present a regression of monotheistic religion to a polytheism of the religious spirit under the heading of 'a God of one's own'? In Western societies, where the autonomy of the individual has been internalized, individual human beings tend to feel increasingly at liberty to tell themselves little faith stories that fit their own lives to appoint 'Gods of their own'. However, this God of their own is no longer the one and only God who presides over salvation by seizing control of history and empowering his followers to be intolerant and use naked force.

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Author information

Ulrich Beck is Professor of Sociology at the University of Munich

Review quote

"A volume with more than enough ideas to inspire the study of religion for the foreseeable future. The author's acclaimed individualization thesis is put to work in the context of an emerging debate concerning the cultivation of humanity: one between believers in various forms of religious universals, and a form of cosmopolitanism which acknowledges that variety is the spice of life. Whatever the 'god of one's own' owes to universalism, Beck's controversial argument is that the most effective god of one's own lies with non-essentialist, relatively modest and sceptical, cosmopolitanism realism." Paul Heelas, Lancaster University "This new book from one of Europe's leading thinkers is a welcome, thoughtful engagement with the prominence of religion in the contemporary world. Writing as an unabashed sociological secularist, but one who refuses the simplifications of typical ideas of secularization, Beck explores religion's contradictory potentials, patterns of individuation and group identity, and the relation of religion to the "crisis of European modernity". Beck should inspire other sociologists and secularists to think harder about phenomena they too often ignore." Craig Calhoun, New York University and President, Social Science Research Council

Back cover copy

A life of one's own, a room of one's own, a God of one's own: in the context of Western modernity, where the ethic of individual self-fulfilment has become a powerful current, religious faith, where it exists, has been channeled through the prism of one's own life, experience and self-knowledge. The individual uses religious experiences to construct his or her own religious shelter, making decisions about faith rather than simply deferring to the institutionalized religions into which he or she was born. But faith - whether individualized or expressed within the framework of institutionalized religion - opens up a chasm between believers and non-believers and casts doubt on the ability of the religions to bring about peace. Today, argues Beck, our world has a chance of surviving only if the many faiths succeed in civilizing themselves and committing themselves to the principle of mutual tolerance.Hence the central question that will decide the continued existence of humanity: How can we conceive of a type of inter-religious tolerance in which loving one's neighbour does not imply war to the death, a type of tolerance whose goal is not truth but peace?

Table of contents

Acknowledgements Chapter I The diary of 'a God of one's own': Etty Hillesum. An unsociological introduction II The return of the Gods and the crisis of European modernity. A sociological introduction III Tolerance and violence: The two faces of the religions IV Heresy or the invention of a 'God of one's own' V The cunning of unintended consequences: How to civilize global religious conflicts. Five models VI Peace instead of Truth? The futures of the religions in the world risk society Bibliography