A God of One's OwnReligion's Capacity for Peace and Potential for Violence
A God of One's Own
Religion's Capacity for Peace and Potential for Violence
Translated by Rodney Livingstone
Religion posits one characteristic as an absolute: faith. Compared to faith, all other social distinctions and sources of conflict are insignificant. The New Testament says: ‘We are all equal in the sight of God'. To be sure, this equality applies only to those who acknowledge God's existence. What this means is that alongside the abolition of class and nation within the community of believers, religion introduces a new fundamental distinction into the world the distinction between the right kind of believers and the wrong kind. Thus overtly or tacitly, religion brings with it the demonization of believers in other faiths.

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

Is what we are experiencing at present a regression of monotheistic religion to a polytheism of the religious spirit under the heading of ‘a God of one's own'? In Western societies, where the autonomy of the individual has been internalized, individual human beings tend to feel increasingly at liberty to tell themselves little faith stories that fit their own lives to appoint ‘Gods of their own'. However, this God of
their own is no longer the one and only God who presides over salvation by seizing control of history and empowering his followers to be intolerant and use naked force.

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  • September 2010
  • 264 pages
  • 160 x 235 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $67.50
  • 9780745646183
  • Paperback $24.95
  • 9780745646190
  • Open eBook $20.00
  • 9780745694665
Table of Contents

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

About the Author
Ulrich Beck is Professor of Sociology at the University of Munich
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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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