Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
- W.B Yeats; ‘The Second Coming’
Yeats’ words were indeed prophetic for an age which is marked by terrorism unleashed in the name of religion. 9/11 and President Bush’s post declaration of the War on Terror as a holy crusade recognized the division of the world into two distinct and opposing religious forces. Thus, the present day strife is the clash of civilizations, perhaps the heralding of the Second Coming: the ultimate battle between Anti-Christ and Christ.
Globalization is an important phenomenon which has transformed the world in a global village. There are a variety of reasons behind globalization; religious idealism, supremacy of race, political advancement, economic gain, and the desire for adventure.
Throughout the course of history, conquests of ancient civilizations against one another and media and technology all have played an important role in globalization. Yet the role of religion in globalization is the most important and intriguing because of its diversity. Samuel P. Huntington was not far from truth in his article ‘The Clash of Civilizations’ when he presented the analysis that after the Cold War, a dramatic change in people’s identities and the symbolism came about when global politics started getting refined along cultural lines. It is true that people seek to define themselves in terms of religion, language, history, values, customs and institutions, but religion has become the most defining characteristic of civilizations in the present era.
Religion’s role in globalization and its relative significance and force has varied from time to time but its influence in shaping the world history and humanity’s destiny has always been crucial. The earlier crusades between the Muslims and Christians over holy lands were based on territorial expansion and defined the paradigm between the two religions. However, today’s globalization through religion is more psychological and ideological in nature. The medieval crusading spirit has not only prevailed but has become deadlier. The rise of Judaism in the form of modern Israel also hints at how deeper the conflict amongst religions has become. The recent attack of Israeli forces against a Gaza aid fleet is an example which highlights the confrontational nature of religions and cultures.
Today’s global village is more interconnected but more diverse in realms of culture and religion; hence, the possibility of conflict has multiplied. We are now living in an increasingly polarized, dangerously divided and volatile world, because the believers of every major religion are justifying the use of violence for their cause.
Near about every day, terrorists of diverse nationalities mastermind an attack on a location in another land from a distant site, which cause extensive bloodshed, chaos, and mayhem. Images of carnage, blown up body parts, cars and buildings, tanks and drones are beamed into our houses regularly and form a staple part of our media consumption. Since the world is a global village after all, news travels as fast as lightening – the nature of which is sadly disturbing. Periodically, videos surge from mysterious locations, in which one bearded man or another gloats and claims responsibility of the attacks and pledges to unleash more violence. These broadcasts again become a justification of counter attacks, military actions, embargoes, and insurgency. Hence, technology has now become a mere tool in guerilla warfare and terrorism; media a mouthpiece; humanity is the casualty; and truth is a mere lip service amidst all this. There is a thin dividing line between the insurgent and the oppressed. Religious fanatics and zealots are intolerant of even minor theological differences and are capable of killing their own brethren, the followers of the same faith. Extremist attacks on civilians in shape of bombings in Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan bear testimony to this. Hence, one must emphasize that when religion becomes a globalization force, and then there is a possibility of a clash not only among civilizations but also within them.
How can the global life be made meaningful and coherent, and above all, peaceful in an increasingly and dangerously polarized world? Does religion promote only violence and extremism? Is the future of the human race doomed in a religiously polarized world? These are some of the questions we end up asking ourselves everyday when we see the widespread violence, social and religious unrest and strife around us. Hence, there is an increasing need for a pluralistic global society, which embraces and celebrates diversity rather than confronting and challenging it. The key to this conflict lies within religion: its cardinals of peace and harmonization. It is true that religion has led to bloody conflicts and provoked radicalism and fundamentalism, but it has also promoted peace, charity, and forgiveness. Whenever natural disasters strike, it’s the global community that comes to the aid of the afflicted, putting aside their religious differences. Examples maybe few, nevertheless they are there. Figures like Pope John Paul II, the Prophet (PBUH), Jesus, Mahatma Ghandi, the Dalai Lama, and Martin Luther King, Jr. have promoted peace and harmony not only through their teachings but also by setting personal examples of forgiveness, nonviolence, and charity. Hence, there is an increasing need for the globalization of religion on the basis of peace, religious harmony, and spiritual development of humanity. The Second Coming can also be defined as the dawn of a new era where the religions of the world co-exist in peace and harmony in a global village.
It is true that what is written in destiny is unalterable and history tends to repeats itself. It is an unalterable truth that the world civilization is to end sooner or later; through ice or fire, as Robert Frost envisioned. The nations of the world however have to contemplate how they need to go down in history and be remembered as. Abu 'l-'Ala al-Maarri, an eleventh century Syrian poet rightly commented, “The world is divided into two sects, those with religion but no brains / and those with brains but no religion.”