Monday, March 18, 2013

Diversity and conformity

We went to the last in the series of lectures by Gabriella Liscko, who spoke about the many different kinds of dati leumi (national religious) groups.  It occured to me that the Jewish people are so splintered into so many different divisions and colors, that it is a wonder that we stick together.  No doubt this has been part of our problem in the past.  Judaism has no central authority, like for example Catholicism has the Pope and the whole administration in the Vatican.  Although Protestantism and Islam also don't have a central supreme figure, Islam used to have the Caliph, who exercised temporal and religious power, but that was long ago (although Islamists want to bring it back).  But then I realized that it is precisely the reason why we Jews need a State of our own, so that sovereignty and civil laws ensure that we all live under one umbrella and ultimately obey the same laws, ultra-orthodox (haredi), religious (dati), secular (hiloni) and in between.   
There was a time before the enlightenment when everyone was a believer, there was no alternative, although there were then also many sects.  But, once it became possible in the 19th century to be secular, this portion of the population in the western world grew rapidly.  Now, most people are no longer believers, nor adherents of a particular religion. In most western countries the proportion of religious is about 30% and decreasing. Nevertheless, believers represent a majority of those engaged in religious conflicts, particularly amongst Muslims and between Muslims and others (Jews, Christians and pagans). We can attribute a large proportion of the wars and related deaths to differences in religious beliefs, the "my god is better than your god!" syndrome. 
In society there are opposite and opposing trends, the trend towards religious diversity and conflict or sectarianism and the trend towards secular conformism and peaceful coexistence under a civil authority. Most of the conflicts in the world have a sectarian origin, such as in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Mali, and so on. It is impossible to foretell which of these trends will be dominant, but it will likely be the acceptance of all religious faiths to coexist peacefully under secular authority.  But, before we get there, unfortunately much blood will be shed throughout the world. 


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