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Religion and Modernism in the Late Modern World

Neshat Quaiser

By Grace Davie
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2008, pp. 283, Rs. 350.00


The book under review promises to propel a host of questions related to religion, society and self. These questions have acquired new forms, proportions and meanings at a chaotic time. This is the nauseating chaos of politico-communal religionism that has afflicted not only the body politics but also and more importantly the core of the body of the innocence. This has caused the banishment of poetry from social spaces charting a tortuously melancholic landscape. Religion is producing a deeply troubled being. Religion as the defining category in everyday social life is increasingly emerging as an uncritical equalizer in our contemporary social life, acquiring newer shades almost everyday. The religiously defined spaces have fostered a disposition where everything appears as self-evident, damaging critical thinking and practices. Religious identity politics has turned into a battle of survival for conflicting communities concealing internal differentiations of all types reinforcing the existing modes of domination. Religious symbols have been deployed as mechanisms of oppression producing theoretical protectionism of the worst kind.   Religion is almost condemned to operate within the domains of the social, as it is the social world that produces it. Thus, despite its historicity, the ‘sacred’ gets profaned even mundaned. God alone seems to be the uncaused cause and that has put even now the humans in a state of constant bafflement. However, the grammar of religious beliefs needs serious academic self-reflection.   The whole question is also related to how we look at religion, religious groups, and the way they behave in certain situations. In other words, the question that structure, its mechanisms of survival and functions are self-regulatory or interactive—shaping, moulding and getting moulded by each other—remains a central question. In other words, methodologically speaking the internal properties of a social structure alone are not sufficient to analyse a social structure. Similarly, the complex questions related to the structuring principles of universalism and particularlism in world religions have been under discussion for long. Philosophical/praxiological foundations of universalism and particularism and the predicaments associated with them have generated much heated debate. Thus, two oft-repeated ways are suggested for the related question of inter-faith dialogue. Firstly, respect for all religions and secondly different religions be considered as intrinsically linked with each other (for example, the well-known idea of ‘Ittehad-ul-Adyan’—unity of religions—within Islamic discourse), i.e. one religion should lead to the understanding of another religion and the view may ...

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