Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants

Title

Witnessing and Confessing to the Power and Relevancy of Utopic Thinking in the Historical Struggle for a More Reconciled Future Society

Department

Sociology Department

College

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Disciplines

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract

The very act of witnessing and confessing is an essential expression of all world religions and humanistic enlightenment movements. Yet, in saying this, it must be stated that there is a dialectic at work in these very acts. As history has shown, these religious and humanistic movements have often been inverted into the instrumental service of those forces that are the exact opposite of that which these movements envision and advocate. The religions of love, liberation, hope and peace become voices of hatred, oppression, conformity and the blessing of the weapons of war. The enlightenment movements focus on furthering the liberating power and potential of humanizing reason for the creation of a more reconciled future society are turned into means of reproducing the class dominated irrationality of the existing social system. The reality of this dialectic has had tragic consequences for both religion and the secular enlightenment movements, as they both have increasingly been pushed aside, in both modernity and post-modernity, as anachronistic and thus, irrelevant mythologies that are incapable of addressing the increasing crises of modernity. In response to this, this essay raises the question of the contemporary meaning and relevancy of a depreciated notion that for most of the 20th and now 21st centuries has been relegated to the trash heap of history. This all but forgotten concept is utopia: that future-oriented, religious and/or secular critical expression of a society so organized as to put to an end to the horror of humanity's pre-history through the global production and reproduction of itself in all of its structures for the well-being and happiness of all its people, as well as that of nature. As such, utopic thinking in both its religious and secular forms is expressive of the humanistic and humanizing longing that has the potential of creating a historically grounded, revolutionary theory and praxis for that which is not-yet,for that which is other- if not also for the religiously conceived totally Other: the new creation of God - than the globally metastasizing systems of domination, exploitation, suffering and death. Because of its revolutionary potential, especially in the midst of the contemporary globalization of Western capitalist interests and the corollary of military domination and its terrorist consequences, the notion of utopia has been devalued strategically to the realm of culture in the forms of science fiction, video games, and/or narrative apocalyptic projections of the historically experienced horrors of class warfare, experienced particularly in the lives of the oppressed masses, turned into its consummation in a totally administered, instrumentalized, cybernetic, iron cage future society - a dys- or cacotopia. As an expression of resistance and alternative to this strategic historical and systemic debasement of the critical and liberating potential of utopic thinking and concrete action, this study addresses the dialectic of the religious and secular complexities of utopic thought and advocates for its relevancy today in any revolutionary struggle for a more reconciled and humanistic future global totality. As such, this essay traces the expression of such critical utopic thought from the Abrahamic religions' prophetic, Messianic and eschatological proclamations through their migration into modern, secular materialist emancipation movements to the potential of new expressions of such liberation and hope in the 21st century.

Conference Name

Future of Religion: Witnessing and Confessing in Modernity and Post-Modernity

Conference Location

Dubrovnik, Croatia

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