Robert Hunt – Religion Is the Problem

There is a lot of talk these days about Islam and its supposedly evil foundations. Many Westerners are feeling threatened by the mere existence of Islam and Muslims. Strangely enough, some of these claim to be followers of Christ, who taught us to love our enemies, be them real or imagined.

Robert Hunt, a Methodist professor of theology in the US has traveled a lot in Muslim countries and has an intimate knowledge of the problem, both in the East and in the West.

I quote here below, for your attention, a few paragraphs from a recent post on his blog on the Patheos platform.

* * *

“I also want to say that Islam, beyond the exaggerations, points the finger at something real: under the guise of freedom, in the West we tend to ridicule religion. In the days of his visit in Lebanon, the Pope spoke of violence in words and in deeds. If we want to free the world from violence, we must also free ourselves from the violence of words, from this strong way of offending religion. Unfortunately, the Christians of the West are submissive and unresisting in the face of insults to Christianity.” (Samir Kalil Samir, writing in the AsianNews and reported from Beirut on 9/23/12)

the exploitation of civil religion as a tool to achieve or secure political power by an emperor, king, or dictator is quite comprehensible. For the pre-modern state religion, whether it was Christianity or Islam or Buddhism or some Vedic cult, was an important symbol of the unity of the state and society, a source of social mores, an explanation of and justification for the existing hierarchy, and was thus a bulwark of state power. It was natural that the state supported and protected this civil religion, arguably for the good of all those who lived within it and benefited from its religious, cultural, and social cohesion.The problem in this system, a problem that animated the turn from pre-modernity to modernity, was the way in which this alliance of state power and civil religion constrained personal freedom of conscience.

In a modern understanding, the task of the state is NOT to protect the civil religion, its institutions and its symbols, and with it the cohesiveness of society. The task of the state IS to protect the freedom of individual conscience, and necessarily following that the freedom of individual expression.

We are facing a conflict two visions of society:  One in which the state is the defender of a civil religion which insures personal meaning and social order. And another in which the state is regarded as the defender of personal freedom of conscience and expression.  In one vision, it is institutions which have rights and responsibilities.  In another, only individuals; sovereignty, indeed, abides in the people.This conflict isn’t driven by whether or not Arabs and Muslims easily take offense, or tend toward violent behavior, or some other supposed distinction. It is driven by different understandings of what it means to be fully human and to know one’s self as fully human.

The future of all our societies will depend on how conflicts between these groups are managed, if not resolved, and on the common understanding of the human person that emerges in our increasingly global culture. In the meantime we should not expect that mutual knowledge will lead to mutual understanding and respect, or even acceptance. The differences are profound, the stakes are high, and the good fences that might make good neighbors are falling faster and faster.

You may read HERE the entire article.


Author: DanutM

PhD in theology Director for Faith & Development Middle East & Eastern Europe Region World Vision International

2 thoughts on “Robert Hunt – Religion Is the Problem”

  1. Good insights. Whether Robert knows it or mot, consistent with religions unifying role in pre-modern societies as described by Girard. Individualism is likely to be the death of Western society.


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