Abrahamic Religions: The Necessity of a New Perspective

By Mirmobiny, Shadieh | Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

Abrahamic Religions: The Necessity of a New Perspective


Mirmobiny, Shadieh, Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table


Introduction

On August 31, 2009, "Ayatollah" Khamenei, the "Supreme Leader" of Islamic Republic of Iran, in a speech he delivered to a group of university professors expressed his unhappiness with the fact that two-third of university students in Iran were seeking degrees in humanities and liberal arts. Khamenei stated "many of the humanities and liberal arts [subjects] are based on philosophies whose foundations are materialism and disbelief in godly and Islamic teachings. Instructing those sciences lead to the loss of belief in godly and Islamic knowledge. Teaching those disciplines lead to propagation of skepticism and doubt about the religious principles and beliefs." (1)

This revealing statement is noteworthy in many respects. What the "Supreme Leader" of Iran calls "propagation of skepticism," in the higher education system is known by another name that is critical thinking. Subsequently, there is a direct link between tyranny and lack of critical thinkers. Furthermore, this statement attests that humanities promote a free thinking and educated public that can decide for itself when they are being misled or deceived.

What is most peculiar here however, is that the "Supreme Leader" seems to have forgotten it was due to the works of Medieval Muslim scholars that the arts, philosophy and sciences of the antiquity were delivered to the eager hands of the European artists and humanists and as argued by many, brought about the age of Renaissance. (2) Here lies a contradiction that deserves our attention.

Rasool Nafisi. Another Cultural Revolution? Frontline: Tehran Bureau. September 6, 2009. www.pbs.ora. " Scholars have acknowledged that Islamic Scholarly centers in Baghdad and Spain were influential in collecting, translating, commentating, and ultimately shaping the arts and sciences during Renaissance. See Dick Teresi. Lost Discoveries (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002). It is clear that these Muslim scholars had a different attitude toward the knowledge of the past civilizations.

The Problem and the "Cult of the Expertise" (3)

For centuries, the religious "experts" in all three Abrahamic religions have maintained a tight grip on what should and should not be disseminated among the public; it has been their undisputed perspective and interpretations alone that have informed and shaped people's faith and destiny. Policies inspired by such self-serving interpretations have been divisive and corrupting to say the least; more importantly they have interfered with the congregations' achieving their intrinsic rights. Consequently, one can argue these "experts" have been the greatest obstacle on the path of every man and woman in reaching their true potentials, and all is done in the name of God.

What has enabled the religious "experts" to successfully implement such policies has been imparting delusion in place of real under the guise of this "expertise." Art has particularly been a significant ally to the religious establishments in achieving this goal. In this paper, by drawing parallels from the field of art history and its applicable methodologies, I aim to initiate an open dialogue that actively engages the core principles of the three Abrahamic religions in order to discern the perceived from the real. I will argue the original Monotheism attributed to Abraham and inherently found in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is not mutually exclusive of the ideas of equality, freedom, democracy and civil rights contrary to what the present state of cultures or regions affected by these religions exemplify.

While religion has proven to be most contributory to the development of large scale conflicts throughout history, there is a particular sense of critical urgency in the fragile state in which our world finds itself today, specifically in connection to these three religions. There is reasonable cause for concern that the global community, should the current conflicts not be resolved in an equitable manner, might fall prey to irrationality, despair and mass hysteria, consequently leading to the annihilation of much of humanity and humanity's most valuable achievements. …

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