Chapter Ten: GAIA And Other Global Stoppers

IV. A Tale Of Two Religions

So much has been written about the 'clash of civilizations' between 'Western' Christianity-based countries and Islam that it seems nothing can be left to be said.

How can it be that one thousand years after the Crusades this clash of ideologies still has life in it?

Religions, like nation states, can be seen to be perversions of the 'groupish' nature of humans, which has been sketched in places in previous chapters. Both had real roles in the development of modern human society, but both are now doing more harm than good. The good that religions did stems from their role in the establishment, teaching and maintenance of moral standards. As the human group expanded outwards from the kin-group or village-sized unit of say 150 individuals, who could be provided with moral leadership by the 'Fathers' (the male elders of the tribe), larger-scale institutions were needed to provide moral frameworks for population units numbering in the thousands. This moment can be dated roughly to the time at which nomadic hunting bands began to settle in permanent communities, with technology allowing farming and the construction of settlements, about 10,000 years ago. The earliest archeological evidence for established religion (as distinct from ritual, which preceded it) dates from 7-8,000 years ago.

From that point until the emergence of the nation state, between 1400 and 1700 AD, religions (Gods, temples, churches, priesthoods and their schools) were the moral and ethical underpinning of society. Then, as described earlier, the nation state gradually took over the role of ethical leadership, until by the 20th century, at least in economically advanced countries, the church had largely lost its predominant ethical and educative role, although most Western nation states retained their nominal Christianity – and they almost all still do in formal terms, although the social reality has long since been otherwise.

It's therefore possible for Islamic countries, which if not theocratic as such are certainly much more influenced by religious ideas and have much more powerful priesthoods than do Christian countries, to see countries such as the USA and the UK as being actually opposed to them on doctrinal grounds. That is objectively not the case; but it seems to be so to many inhabitants of Moslem countries. Hence the USA can sincerely view Islamic terrorists as being in some sort the agents of Moslem states, although that is again objectively not the case. And many inhabitants of the Moslem countries probably feel glad about the activities of the terrorists in their hearts; some of them even say so, although their leaders, even the theocratic ones, (almost) never do.

The danger, evidently, from the perspective of a hopeful globalizer, is that the Christian countries' reaction to and defence against terrorism is so severe that it alienates the Moslem countries and their populations to the point that they withdraw from useful engagement with their perceived enemies. Because what is needed is time: time for the ineluctable process of education via the Internet and the other media to change cultural mindsets in the populations of the Moslem countries to accept global religious diversity and to understand that religion – however important it may be any given individual – is no longer a casus belli in the modern world.

Put in those terms, a bad outcome seems unlikely, or is that just Micawber-ish optimism?

The persistence of religious belief at an individual level, most markedly in the USA where it contrasts so strangely (to outside eyes) with the most materialistic society on earth, is easy to understand as a reaction away from the mindless and soulless ethics of the State to a more real, human 'groupish' cultural reality.