How does religion impact on the notion to be human, and the notion of society, particularly in Christianity and Islam? The endless spectrum of questions raised: from morals and ethics, community values to spreading the word of ‘God’ to others; this explores the competing goals of people, their belief systems, and the positive and negative consequences that can trickle through society.
When considering these thoughts, the scope narrows to what is expected from the individual and how religion will provide the societal foundations to achieve said expectations; and if at all will the goals of the religion’s credo be achieved successfully. Will the polar extremes of fundamentalism and secularization take over, or will there remain a balance permitting the individual to strive for religious understanding and attainment?
Islam and Christianity Threaten Current Societal Values
What is anticipated from the individual in terms of their faith, and what the outcomes achieved in society are, can eventuate into unexpected realms dependent on the various interpretations placed on religious practice. Although Christianity and Islam have creeds governing how one should conduct their life with respect to others, racism and other forms of discrimination can and do occur, thus contradicting societal values already in place.
How society should support this way of life and maintain the notion of the human person within these boundaries is not always straightforward. What Christianity and Islam infers for their followers is the expectation to uphold values within a set realm; this gives way to a myriad of implications for the followers’ destiny in either religious context, including how to attain salvation and succeed on Judgement Day after death.
The Creation of Fundamentalism – From Ku Klux Klan to ISIS
The practice of Islam, for example, adheres specifically to the teachings of the Qur’an, using centuries old scripture and traditions entwined with a legalistic society bound by strict ‘divine’ law. For the notion of person and society of Islam, the religion is cultural. Ritual salat (prayer) is engaged in, dominating life as the means to reach God or Allah, to achieve a move from darkness into light.
The media’s representation of the modern-day notion of Islam, however, is purveyed as a suppressor of individual rights at the expense of community. Although Islam modernists attempt to reconcile this issue in the face of an encroaching western secularization, schisms are created in response – better known as fundamentalism.
Fundamentalism is more prevalent in Christianity and Islam than in other world religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. Christian white supremacy movements such as the Ku Klux Klan in the United States, promote racial and religious divides within the notion of society; and Islam’s current fracture to ISIS in the Middle East sees moderate Muslims and Christians alike treated as the enemy.
Those belonging to the more moderate lines of Christianity and Islam contend with these fundamental approaches to religion and the social impact it has on their communities by Imams of Islam and Christian evangelists countering fundamentalist violence and condemning the behaviour publicly. For the individual, social persecution in the form of group violence, racial vilification or Islamophobia may take place, challenging the core tenets of their faith.
In postmodern times, the “too secular” argument suggests that current fractures within Christianity and Islam are a sign of the person wanting to return to the older, more traditional values of the religion. But what does this mean for the Christian and Islamic fundamentalists?
Fundamentalism is said to be employed to “replace existing structures with a comprehensive system emanating from religious principles and embracing law, polity, society, economy and culture.” This term was coined traditionally to relate to Protestants in the 1920s who fought to preserve the basic tenets of their religion, and has later been widely applied to other religions of similar intent.
For Christian fundamentalists during this time, critique of the Bible was reconciled with Darwin’s evolution and secular modernity rather than with God, and challenged religious creed and life. The notion of what it was to be Christian was under scrutiny.
Christian fundamentalism was also witnessed into the late twentieth century, when Protestants separated “non-Christians” from Christians and included those of the Jewish faith and Catholics; with the Ku Klux Klan later adding blacks to the list.
For the outcast Christians it meant segregation, racism, slavery and an overall bigotry. For Christian fundamentalists, restoring the religion to its former glory meant fulfilling the ‘word of God’ by selectively applying specific sections of the Bible to the entirety of society to maintain a purist view.
Comparatively, for Islamic fundamentalism, the notion of upholding cultural Islamic society revolves around the restoration of faith. This belief is said to stem from past European and Western imperialism, and self-blame. God’s “wrath” is displayed through imperialism, when the Muslim fails to “obey divine law,” and alternatively, when they obey Allah then “great empires and civilizations” are created to reward their strength.
Not unlike Christian fundamentalism, where one belief is taken to override another in the name of returning to more inherent traditional values, Islamic fundamentalism does the same. Allah is the centre of Islam for every Muslim, and some experts maintain it as an obsessive behaviour.
However, Islamic fundamentalism takes what is considered mainstream Islam a step further for the human person, placing political and social consequence of extreme faith and worship on the doorsteps of society while segregating the moderate Muslim who disagrees.
Christianity and Islam both shape the morals and ethics of the person for good or worse, providing a road-map of scripture, tradition, and ritual, claiming to help them reach salvation after death.
However, fundamentalism within Christianity and Islam also tends to occur when stringent core beliefs are threatened, particularly by western secularization. It is important to regard how the individual’s notion of self within a religious context to preserve tradition can lead to extreme forms of faith that ultimately impact and shake the core concepts of society.