Post Judeo-Christian Society and The First Global Clash of Ideas
That we are moving into a post Judeo-Christian society demands that we look back at history, and see where this society is coming from.
Pre-Judean society did not make a distinction between creator and created. Egyptian, Mesopotamian and native American societies all personified the world. So if you asked them why the river took the route it did, or why it rose and fell every year, they would say that it was because the river decided to do so. And the entirety of existence was all therefore one. It’s perhaps the only real ‘grand unified theory’ of everything in history. There were gods, but many of them, and often existing within a kind of governmental system. So people accepted governments and despots as natural parts of reality. Forms of government were not discussed in a scholarly manner, because the way things were was seen to be the way they must be. It is perhaps no coincidence therefore, that societies with a history of this kind of thought became more inclined to tolerate dictatorships as the centuries wore on.
Why did society enter the Judeo-Christian phase? And why did it not in Native American society? Much of it was down to monotheism. For the first time in history societies began to distinguish between created and creator. Politics came to be the way it was not because it was the only way to be, but because religion was deemed to be truth, and government should emulate the truth. Native America did not change because the Bering Straits were long since closed, sealing off communication between the two major landmasses; and because only in one landmass did Judean thought and philosophies spread. That’s a grossly reductionist argument I accept, since this largely neglects the different path followed by eastern civilisations. But nonetheless it has been primarily theology that has shaped our ways of thinking throughout human history.
Indeed, ask yourself what was democracy to Ancient Greece. Rule by the people, yes; but not as we view it today. In fact the reason why democracy was so revolutionary at the time was not because it contradicted rule by an elite, but rather because its opposite was rule by god. Although the ‘divine right of kings’ is a relatively more modern concept, theology was always the major basis for civilisation. In Judeo-Christian society rulers were seen to have been chosen by God, whereas even in Ancient Greece and pre-Christian Rome (both of which were polytheistic), government also mirrored their theological beliefs.
One of the major differences between these polytheistic and monotheistic societies was as I mentioned before, that the latter made a distinction between creator and created. This is significant because in a sense we are returning to this state today, in which ever growing numbers of agnostics and atheists no longer separate the world into creator and created. Everything is once more together as it was before the advent of monotheism.
The major difference however, is that for the first time in history we are starting to see the end of using theology as a justification for the way we make civilisation and government. Huntington was right in a sense to label modern day tensions as ‘clashes of civilisations’. But further than that this is the first truly global clash between progressive and conservative forces. The progressive forces want to see a world that is no longer justified primarily on theological grounds, whereas the conservative forces wish to abide by tradition. It’s not about being for or against religion; simply the extent to which religion shapes human society.