Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

Is Modernity in Conflict with Religion?

The fact is that today our impression is unlike the attitude of our forefathers. If we stare at the starry sky above our head, although, the same light will be reflected in our eyes, which are with the same structure and the stars with the same shape, still we will not think the same as them. Of course, we will no more interpret the sky as a ceiling or stars as light. It is not that somebody has taught us; however, our attitude has been changed with the passage of time.
Willy-nilly, we live in the age of modernity and therefore we are called modern, however, the level of modernity varies from one society to the other. In addition, we are still religious and one will be hardly found to follow no religion. A question arises that isn’t religiosity/spirituality contrary to modernity? Moreover, currently our world is in the process of higher modernization, Can we adopt any type of attitude towards religion?
Well, the people belong to modern age cannot approach religion traditionally. Hence, such individuals are left with only two choices ahead. Whether to fully abandon religion, in such a case they will be deprived of the priorities that a religion carries with and will feel a spiritual vacuum, or to adopt religion in a modern way – let us call this new approach spirituality. The positive function of the religion throughout the history can not be denies, but persistence is that today we need spirituality rather than traditional understanding of the historical religion. In other words, we should approach religion in a way not to be in conflict with the avoidable, but true, and unavoidable elements of modernity. 
One of the major elements of modernity is rationality, and spirituality should be in accord with it. One can also say that spirituality means a rationalized religion not a traditionalized one.
Moreover in modern life, people prefer autonomy to heteronomy. Of course, one likes to decide by his own and abhor being submissive. Hegel believed that whoever be heteronymous s/he will be alienated. Hence, accepting every word with blind eyes will lead to heteronomy.
Secularization is the next element of the modern world. People would like to see the outcome and advantages of an action in the same world. To explain further, religion is supposed to respond the needs of the mundane life rather than attributing each and every result of an action in the next world. Today people expect religion to satisfy their spiritual needs, pacify them, fill them with hope and happiness, give them peace of mind and change their life for better. Dr. Shariati, an Islamic intellectual, says that if a religion does not benefit in the world it will be of no use in the hereafter.
Egalitarianism is also one of the basic elements of modernity. Sanctifying one is no more in use in modern life and everyone is equal in the eye of modernity.
The last characteristic, as modern societies know, is that there are some relationships between religions and their localities. In any religions a set of particular doctrine exists because of their emergence in a particularly historical period, geographical area and especial culture. For example, in Holy Qur’an people are asked to consider “camel” for pondering over the amazement of creation. Camel is used because it was one of the most usual animals in Arab Peninsula. However, in Buddha “elephant” is used to portray things, for the emergence of this religion in India. Moreover, Holy Qur’an describes the beauty of heavenly nymphs (Hoor) as having big and black eyes, it is because such a girl was known beautiful among the Arab men. However, a Japanese poet likens his love’s eyes to the eyes of a hen and therefore feeling proud whereas an Arab poet smolders restlessly for his love’s eyes are as big as the eyes of a cow! Hence, such portrayals are due to the locality of a religion. So to obtain spirituality, the locality of religions is supposed to be put aside. Of course, locality will be changed into universality in our age.
In addition, contemporary people believe that religions have emerged to serve human beings, meet their needs and change their lives for better. Thus, we should use religion to obtain a prosperous life and we are not to serve religion.
Rudolf Karl Bultmann (1884 – 1976), a German theologian, talks of demythologization in modern world. He believes that some myths have been combined with religions which are in contrary with rationality. Bultmann persists that the mythical issues should be interpreted in a way so as to be acceptable for the contemporary men.
For clarification, Bultmann cited the first-century view of the universe in which people thought that the earth was a sphere, with heaven above and hell beneath; in this sense it formed a "three-tiered" universe. He explained that people of that time used this mythical view of the universe to explain the divine in human terms.
Karl Marx was also talking of demystification. He believed that in the past people lived in a mysterious world and now we are supposed to demystify it.
Anyhow, it was not all that was talking about modernity and there are left many things to be said. It can be concluded that modernity does not necessarily threaten our religious beliefs especially if we manage to adopt a new approach and gain spirituality which is not contrary to any religion.