The Freedom to Do God's Will: Religious Fundamentalism and Social Change

The Freedom to Do God's Will: Religious Fundamentalism and Social Change

The Freedom to Do God's Will: Religious Fundamentalism and Social Change

The Freedom to Do God's Will: Religious Fundamentalism and Social Change


Under the auspices of top international commentators, The Freedom to do God's Will considers the global impact of fundamentalism on religious traditions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam. With special reference to human rights issues, women's rights and the influence of social factors, it brings a new dimension to a field of study often dominated by purely religious or political perspectives, whilst challenging received ideas about the violence and conservatism of fundamentalist movements. Illustrated with original case studies, the ten investigative essays from a multicultural panel of experts, each with specific local and academic knowledge of the faiths and issues they discuss, offer an intimate and highly specific portrait of why and how fundamentalism occurs.


At the end of 2001, after the attack on New York City and the Pentagon, no one will doubt that a volume on religious fundamentalism and social change holds, at the very least, the promise of potential relevance. a decade or so before, that would not have been considered all that obvious - at least not by all. For instance, at the Institute of Social Studies - the venue for the conference and expert meeting from which this book arose - academics had for almost 50 years studied societal development and change typically from a perspective that is covered by the label 'structuralist' better than by any other. It is only recently (actually, in 1999) that, with the help of two Dutch development agencies (CORDAID and ICCO) and one international ngo (the World Council on Religion and Peace), a first Chair in the 'superstructural' field (as one might call it) of Religion, Human Rights and Social Change was established. It was under the umbrella of this Chair that the conference was organized.

The conference brought together scholars and practitioners from a variety of disciplines: history, political psychology, religion, anthropology and law/human rights. in itself that is a significant and powerful mix. What is at least as important as this disciplinary diversity is the variety in the cultural and religious backgrounds of the participants. Among the contributors were authors coming from the 'worlds' of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. That, today, strikes us as rather soothing: most of the current debate, at least in the major media, appears to look at world dynamics as if it could be reduced to a dialectic involving (post-Christian) modernity versus Islam (or parts thereof).

I would like to thank the organizers of the conference and the editors of this volume for their foresight, and for enriching the readers, and especially the iss community, with their ecumenical approach.

Hans Opschoor
Institute of Social Studies
The Hague

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