RELIGIONS, RITUALS AND DOCTRINES
RELIGIONS, RITUALS AND DOCTRINES
The emergence of religious doctrines and institutions are long before the development of modern science. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and the other religious traditions have an important place in the history of humanity. Belief systems are expressed by, holy books, respectable teachers and saints, magnificent arts, glamorous cathedrals, temples and mosques and the means that are regarded as the carriers of the cultural heritage that highlight the philosophy of belief. These religious institutions are a part of the languages, concepts and values that form the civilization and they define who we are. In fact, these oldest institutions of the history of humanity have always challenged those who are against their hegemony. The prophets were elevated due to what they promised. Religion made life meaningful and purposeful, and the Creator promised his slaves an eternal salvation after this troublesome world. They are all based on supernatural sources outside nature. As it is claimed, while science deals with nature, divine reality is both superior to and beyond time and space. Religions have profound effects on education, politics, economy and law. All of the great religions that continued living grew through osmosis. These religions had been adopted by the people that lived in geographically separated regions at least until recently. People’s religious beliefs are generally an inborn state not something based on personal preference. However, some periods of change that were observed at certain times took place through missionaries or invaders imposing a new belief, causing change of religions.
It is necessary to leave a rich heritage to young people for the continuation of religions. Laws of reproduction and marriage or the rituals that arrange all aspects of life consolidate the strength and influence of religion. Throughout history, to question the scared doctrine meant to shake the foundations of the social system. Religions were indoctrinated through customs and traditions; they were supported by laws and became deeply rooted at the level of feeling-belief. The necessity of religion was taken for granted without being subject to any examination. Besides, they were claimed to have surrounded the absolute truth and virtue. During the long history of humanity, cursing sacred things and icons (symbols depicting settled beliefs or institutions) was regarded as subversive. Religious opposition was regarded as a state that necessitated excommunication, banishment or death penalty. Especially in theocratic communities, the power of secular administrators was used to impose religious hegemony.
There is a deep difference between positive science and religious practices in terms of the understanding of reality. Science necessitates an open mind, researching, critical thinking and questioning hypotheses. It is necessary to be independent of biased viewing, prejudices, belief or traditions in order to test a theory or hypothesis healthily. At least, it is hoped to be so. It is necessary to have evidence, and the confirmation of logic and mathematical coherency. Science claims to be universal though it is denied by postmodern critics. It is free of cultural bonds and can be repeated in any laboratory in the world. After the death of the prophets, religions were divided into various sects trying to be superior to one another.
Religion has been criticized by philosophers and scientists since the time of the Ancient Greeks and Romans in the Western world. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicureans and Skeptics opposed the dominant mythologies and proposed the mind as the guide. When Christianity became superior to pagan religions and philosophy schools and was declared as the formal religion by the Emperor Constantine, the situation changed. Augustine rejected philosophical skepticism in the fifth century A.D. and defended that the main duty of man was belief in God. Thus, a period in which religion became dominant during the Middle Age started.
However, beginning from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, when renaissance took place in Europe, there was a radical change regarding the issue. The discovery of the classics that were lost in Europe but were protected by Muslim scholars, for instance the works of Aristotle, became an important milestone in this change. Especially in the twelfth century, in Cordoba in the south of Spain, a very bright period took place. Averroes (1126-1198) defended the autonomy of philosophy by examining the works of Aristotle; thus, the translation of the works into Arabic, Latin and Hebrew became possible. The works of Averroes were burned down by a fanatic person one year before his death. After his death, Muslim scholars rejected his view on the autonomy of philosophy; conservative Muslim theologians quoted from Ghazzali (1058-1111), increased their efforts of free thought and emphasized the superiority of the Quran and hadith.
After this period, the works of Aristotle were transferred to the West. Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) worked on a new theological and philosophical system which allocated some areas both to the mind (natural theology) and to the revelation theology. Aquinas argued that revelation and belief were harmonious with the principles of the mind. Thus, the scientific and metaphysical system of Aristotle started to become the dominant view of the world of thought toward the end of the Middle Age. The scientific world of that period came to the conclusion that this thought system was in compliance with Jewish-Christian holy books.
When modern times started, the written works of the skeptics were discovered again. This situation caused the authority of the church on science to be questioned more. Natural philosophers and physicists used mathematics, observation and experiment not belief and revelation in order to prove the laws of mechanics that were newly formulated. This caused the downfall of the Aristotelian system of thought. The first conflict between science and religion in the West was experienced the most dramatically when Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) was burnt and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was put on home detention because he questioned the religious thoughts of his time.
After the period of cold war ended in the world, the polarizations in global politics changed. In 1993, the definition of the enemy was made again as a defense concept by NATO and the enemy of this new definition was determined as fundamentalism. In the same year, Samuel P. Huntington wrote an article in the “Foreign Affairs” magazine entitled “Clash of Civilizations”; then, he wrote a book on the same issue. These developments after 1990’s, determined the change in the global politics, paradigm transformation and the new frameworks of the politics. While it was being discussed whether the paradigms that are presented are “predictions” or “self-fulfilling prophecy”, a period in which the clash between the Eastern and Western civilization reached the peak in global politics after the attack on Twin Towers in September 11, 2001.
Today, the rise of “Islamophobia” in the Western world and American hostility in the Eastern world made the role of violence in politics distinct. After the hot and cold wars, a new period that can be called “wars of identity” started. The dominant cultural identity trying to be sovereign in the world and trying to protect its own interests through this method became prominent. The support of fear, insecurity and violence among cultures brought about the dynamics of hatred. Mental tendencies that supported violence acts also determined the definitions of security. Modernization elevated the material level of civilization but left its cultural and ethical dimensions incomplete. Torture, slavery, mercilessness and maltreatment started to form a global crime wave. A global crisis that was formed by elements like international mafia, drug cartels, increase in divorces and weakening of families, decrease in social solidarity, ethnic, religious and regional violence, administration by force of arms emerged. Will it be possible to establish the world peace again in a wide range from political terror to social terror, from wars between countries to the clash of civilizations?
In the Ancient Rome, the symbol that was carried at the front in state ceremonies (parades) and that symbolized power and authority was a Roman who carried a bunch wrapped around an axe. The bunch of sticks he held was called “Fascis”. The word fascism was derived from it. This characteristic in pagan culture peaked with Nero. Violence was made sacred in the nations with gods of war. Nero was a person that killed his own mother and wife. Christianity emerged after this period of interregnum, in which people were pulled to pieces by wild animals and were made fight until they died.
The first fascist state where violence and war were sanctified was Sparta. In this system in which war ethics was regarded as a model, man was reckoned to be a species of animal. There was no difference between a brave youth and a fleshy dog. A similar system existed in the administration of the Pharaohs, too. In the state system that had a military discipline, people obeyed the authority without questioning. The wife and the children were to obey the father absolutely. The authoritarian administrative class regarded themselves as a superior race and babies were killed to keep this race pure. The animistic thought in the pagan culture which supported slaves was a characteristic of this period. They believed that nature and everything in the nature had a spirit and soul. This thought developed the beliefs like worshipping idols, sorcery and making things talk.
Pagan culture underwent an important change in the period of Christianity. The concepts of peace and mercy, which are basic ethical characteristics, came to the foreground. In pagan cultures, to shed blood, to cause, to agonize and to torture were regarded as worshipping. To shed blood in order to please gods of war was a necessary deed. The belief of Christianity deemed it as a crime. Christianity, which supported the oppressed spread among slaves first. In the following periods of Christianity, the Church also started to use the oppressive methods of the pagan culture. Christians regarded themselves to be responsible for fulfilling the duty of God in order to make the world a place full of justice and love. With this thought, the Catholic world eliminated the Andalusia civilization. As a matter of fact, the first hospital and university of Europe had been founded by Andalusia Muslims. The greatest weapons of these people who had puritan ethics were to work very hard, to obey the rules, to pay attention to details, to postpone the feeling of pleasure and to leave pleasures to another life. Thus, knights that did not marry and ignored pleasure were raised. The pressure of the church was the motive that encouraged people who loved freedom to migrate to America. After this period, the USA became “the land of freedom”. The seeds of the new period of the history of humanity were sown. When the culture of democracy emerged against the pressure of the church, paganism appeared again.
The puritan ethics which agonized the community and man for the good of the community and man was transformed into fascism in the course of time. Those who defended the philosophy of enlightenment deemed it suitable to replace Christianity by paganism. Thus, pagan symbols started to be used. The thought “we do not need God” of the process of enlightenment and humanism eliminated the feeling of being accounted in man. Having the belief “Inorganic matter created us” due to the influence of Darwinism, humanity produced statesmen like Hitler and Mussolini out of the suitable environment. Contemporary tyrants like Hitler, Mussolini and even Saddam put up their photos and sculptures everywhere and obtained obedience through fear.
When Darwin wrote his book “the Origin of Species” in 1859 and when it was approved by science circles, a new movement started. This book attributed scientific creation to nature. The thought of “the great chain of being” of the theory of evolution was based on reasoning not on experiment and observation. With the arguments of coincidental existence, struggle for life, survival of the fittest and natural selection, it was accepted that nature came into existence on its own and a holy power was attributed to nature. In fact, the understanding that nature is the creative power, that fire, water, air and soil are regarded holy was an extension of the pagan culture.
Social Darwinism put forward the thesis, “favored races in the struggle for life”. The white race was regarded as the favored race and it was stated that the white race could enslave the other races. Thus, racism and war were justified. The concept of eugenics appeared again after the Spartans in the Antique Age. (The famous skull measurements by Hitler are known.) Regarding war as a biological necessity, Darwinism justified racist and military practices and paved the way ideologically for the greatest wars of humanity: World War I and II.
Defending an Aristotelian world order to be established by supermen, Nietzsche stated that concepts like “love, mercy and modesty” prevented the emergence of supermen and that being “belligerent, merciless and harsh” was the greatest power. Opposing the ethical understanding of the heavenly religions, he talked about a “new Caesar that would change the world” based on the Roman and Pagan culture. He formed the philosophy of the war model with his books “AntiChrist” and “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. Therefore, Nietzsche is called “the Father of Fascism”. Hitler adopted Nietzsche’s books as “holy books”. The modernism of the 20th century, which said that the spiritual energy necessary for the world sovereignty could not be attained due to Christianity and therefore returned to the Pagan culture of the Antique Age, was also adopted by some people in Turkey. Historians recorded those who put forward Shamanism to the same end. However, the war model of the antique cultures was not defended; consequently, nuclear weapons emerged as a result of the combination of technology and Pagan culture.
Some intellectuals of American and British origin in the West started to see that the high values of humanity could not be attained through war but compromise and that the solution would be democracy, which was the model of Athens, not the model of Sparta, but such a model did not emerge in the Islamic world. The religion of Islam, which eliminated the Pagan culture in the Arabian Peninsula and the Egyptian and Persian Empires and which introduced peace, compromise and social cooperation instead of war, shedding blood and racism, could not be expressed sufficiently by Muslims. Thus, the West appropriated the values like “freedom, love, mercy and compromise” originated from the heavenly messages to itself. After that, the postmodern age, one of the last phases of humanity started. Only the individual was important. They tried to bring peace to humanity with the following view: “Act together with the group but walk alone.”
Dr. Micheal Welner, who is a forensic doctor and psychiatrist and an academician at New York University, introduced a criterion for the first time in human history. The reason why he developed the criterion was that the number of the bloodthirsty people who despised others and who committed crimes readily increased. It was necessary to make peace ethics settle in democracy. As a matter of fact, Parliament of the World’s Religions published a “Declaration Toward a Global Ethic” in Chicago in 1993.
In the declaration, it was stated that global economy, global politics and global environment were in a crisis and that the world would be a place impossible to live in the way things are going. It was emphasized that there would not be a global system without global ethics and that there was a need for a system in which humanity would live together in peace. Nobody should treat people in a way that he would not like to be treated. All kinds of egoism based on race, gender, class and individuals should be rejected. There was a need for a peace culture that respected life and did not include violence. Not only man but also everything in the world was worth showing respect. There would not be global peace without a just economic system. The trend of the economic and political power should not be toward wild fights of superiority. Greed would lead to fighting and modesty would lead to peace. Every profession should develop its own rules of ethics. The world would not improve without the development of human consciousness.
The ethical doctrine of secular, pagan culture and the ethical teachings of the heavenly culture have clashed throughout history. In this clash, sometimes one culture and at other times, the other culture was the winner. The ego ideal of the doctrine of secular ethics is material interests and the ego ideal of the doctrine of heavenly ethics is to make God pleased. The reference point of the doctrine of secular ethics is power. Social problems are tried to be solved through power, money and social status. The reference point of the doctrine of heavenly ethics is justice. Problems are solved by aiming to attain justice. The solution takes place in favor of the one that is right without being given to the monopoly of the one that has power, money and rank. The life principle of the doctrine of secular ethics is struggle. Life is a fight and everything is permissible for success. The starting point is: “Try to be successful and rich. You do not have to think of anything else at this stage.” A competition that is not peaceful is anticipated. It is possible to be indifferent to the agonies of others. On the other hand, the life principle in the doctrine of heavenly ethics is social cooperation not struggle. The ethic of sharing is proposed within the concept of “giving alms and donation”. A person thinks about his neighbors, the weak and the poor before his own self. In secular ethics, racism and regionalism are encouraged as a social bond. Chauvinism suggests superior race and superhuman. Consequently, it is natural that fights and wars occur. In heavenly ethics, religion and motherland come first as a social bond. These characteristics, which are more suitable for cultural variability, tend to increase the feeling of friendship and decrease enmity. The method used in secular ethics is egocentric individualism. Competition and rivalry sanctify it. Being peaceful and compromising is not heeded. Not being contented and not feeling full are virtually a necessity. On the other hand, the method used in heavenly ethics is limited individualism. Man is free but he is the slave of God. There should be a forbidding one in the conscience of man. Empathic communication is necessary; a person does not live only for himself. He is also a member of a family and community.
War never ended in the history of humanity. However, solidarity is seen more than fighting among animals. Microorganisms complement plants; plants complement animals and animals complement human beings. When a crocodile or lion is full, it will not attack anybody. However, man has the potential of harming even his closest relatives for his personal interests. When the evil powers in us become dominant, our tendencies of war and fighting come to the forefront. When the good powers are dominant, the superiority of compromise and peace are seen. Therefore, it is necessary to see that we need the ethical doctrines that develop our good aspects more in the age of technology.
When we have a look at Islam’s understanding of jihad, we see that “the great jihad” that is present in the teachings of Hz. Muhammad expresses fighting against the evil tendencies in the soul, which is an original viewpoint. On the other hand, it is remarkable that no wars took place in Makkah when he lived there and that in Madinah there were usually wars of defense in places near Madinah. All of the Quranic chapters (113 of them) except one start with emphasis on mercy. It is significant that the theme of the chapter that does not start with emphasis is about the relationships with aggressive enemies. However, it is possible to see that the people who thought jihad could be combined with despotism in the sultanate years of the Islamic civilization express it as aggressiveness. It took place due to moving away from the essence of religion.