Religious conservatism as a chance or constraint for progress?

In a secularized world, religion is often negatively connoted and liberal forces tend to see religion as a boundary for a liberal world. One argument which is often brought forth is the alleged radicalism of believers and the normative character of churches which is said not to be according to our times anymore. As such, the engagement of religion in society is seen as a burden for unfolding one’s own freedom and right to make choices. But in fact, I think that this liberal view is one-sided insofar as it dismisses the positive character which religion has for the society: “[R]eligion is very essential and there would be no progress and development in this world without religion, because the great scientists and discoverers were very religious people, and until now, every UN Secretary General followed a religion or had a kind of spiritual/ religious belief. People who have a belief seem to have the faith in making a change, the hope to do something for this world, and they do have visions for this planet and their religion helps them” [Timo Schmitz: The role of revelation and reason in finding εὐδαιμονία. In: Timo Schmitz: A Divinely Way to Philosophy, Vol. 2. Trier & Vachendorf: Graf Berthold Verlag, 2022].

This goes to every society, because the major world religions had an impact on shaping its moral outlook. Christian ethics include a guaranteed day for rest, honoring one’s own family, prohibition of killing, prohibition of giving wrong testimony, and the protection of property. In Judaism, the collective body of religious law from the Torah is called Halakha, which includes 613 commandments which are a compass for the believer. Hindus generally agree that non-violence (ahimsa), self-restraint (dama), non-stealing (asteya), inner purity (saucha) and truthfulness (satyam) are major ethical principles [Gupta, B.: Bhagavad Gita as Duty and Virtue Ethics. In: Journal of Religious Ethics, 34 (3), 2006, pp. 373-395]. So would the laws of the state function if we took away its metaphysical foundation? And would the society still be functional if the welfare institutions of the churches vanished? “The social function of churches shall not be underestimated. Thus, a society without religion would be a cruel one, because man would be lost in a jungle world” [Schmitz, 2022].

As Ellen White once stated truthfully: “It is faith that connects us with heaven and brings us strength for coping with the powers of darkness” [Ellen G. White: The Ministry of Healing, 1905, Chapter 4]. And one can ask now: But what is with those who do not believe in Heaven? Do we have to force them to adopt our views? Of course, we ought to give everyone the freedom of religion and consciousness, and therefore, any insistence on a teaching as the exclusive one is the root of extremism, because it splits the society rather than unifying it, and therefore, engaging in dialogue is the seed of harmony: “God who created us would not give us reason and the possibility to choose our belief, if he wanted everyone to believe in one and the same” [Schmitz, 2022].

But those who believe in a heaven shall have the possibility to do so and even bring their belief in the midst of society. It is a form of outcasting others to state that one shall believe at home what one wants without giving the possibility to express one’s view in public discourses and advertise for one’s view in politics, as long as politics is not bound to a denominational belief. If a society wants to be in harmony, then everyone has to be involved, which means that also the worries of the believers towards a secular society have to be taken serious and they have to be addressed, same than the rights of the liberals who choose to live a secular life. Only if the demands of the society as a whole are balanced are we able to overcome societal division!

Belief is something very strong, and as such a very strong connection with the divine nature with whom the believer connects. It brings him strength to cope with problems and deal with finding morally right choices. There is no moral politics without religion, as a politician has to be aware that he is not only responsible for his choices in front of his people (and if they cannot sue him then he has nothing to worry), but he is also responsible in front of God. If the politician does not fear God anymore, he might use his power for his own benefit, because he forgets that he will be judged in the end as well, and that there is no way to flee this judgment! As such, religious conservatism is a chance for politics to remind them in a secular society that the worldly power is limited, but the realisation of this very insight leads to unfolding one’s vision for a better world to hand over the Creation to the next generation in a better state.

Timo Schmitz, 24 March 2023


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