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A God of One's Own. Religion's Capacity for Peace and Potential for Violence

  • ID: 2249515
  • Book
  • August 2010
  • 264 Pages
  • John Wiley and Sons Ltd
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A life of one's own, a room of one's own, a God of one's own: in the context of Western modernity, where the ethic of individual self–fulfilment has become a powerful current, religious faith, where it exists, has been channeled through the prism of one's own life, experience and self–knowledge. The individual uses religious experiences to construct his or her own religious shelter, making decisions about faith rather than simply deferring to the institutionalized religions into which he or she was born. But faith – whether individualized or expressed within the framework of institutionalized religion – opens up a chasm between believers and non–believers and casts doubt on the ability of the religions to bring about peace. Today, argues Beck, our world has a chance of surviving only if the many faiths succeed in civilizing themselves and committing themselves to the principle of mutual tolerance.

Hence the central question that will decide the continued existence of humanity: How can we conceive of a type of inter–religious tolerance in which loving one's neighbour does not imply war to the death, a type of tolerance whose goal is not truth but peace?
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Acknowledgements ix

I The diary of a God of one s own : Etty Hillesum. An unsociological introduction 1

II The return of the Gods and the crisis of European modernity. A sociological introduction 19

III Tolerance and violence: The two faces of the religions 47

IV Heresy or the invention of a God of one s own 93

V The cunning of unintended consequences: How to civilize global religious conflicts. Five models 137

VI Peace instead of Truth? The futures of the religions in the world risk society 164

Bibliography 201

Index 220
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"Beck does not claim to have found 'the' answer to religious conflict. What he does demonstrate very effectively is that one way of avoiding a polarised and terrifying future is to find hope in the mdoern world's many ironies, paradoxes and complexities"

New Humanist
, four star review

"A volume with more than enough ideas to inspire the study of religion for the foreseeable future. The author's acclaimed individualization thesis is put to work in the context of an emerging debate concerning the cultivation of humanity: one between believers in various forms of religious universals, and a form of cosmopolitanism which acknowledges that variety is the spice of life. Whatever the 'god of one's own' owes to universalism, Beck's controversial argument is that the most effective god of one's own lies with non–essentialist, relatively modest and sceptical, cosmopolitanism realism.". Paul Heelas, Lancaster University

"This new book from one of Europe's leading thinkers is a welcome, thoughtful engagement with the prominence of religion in the contemporary world. Writing as an unabashed sociological secularist, but one who refuses the simplifications of typical ideas of secularization, Beck explores religion's contradictory potentials, patterns of individuation and group identity, and the relation of religion to the "crisis of European modernity". Beck should inspire other sociologists and secularists to think harder about phenomena they too often ignore.". Craig Calhoun, New York University and President, Social Science Research Council
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