Thoughts on “Holy Wars, Passion, and Religion” by Umberto Eco

In this essay, Eco explores fundamentalism and the need for critical and objective analysis when thinking about this complicated phenomenon. He basically argues that the problem with our approach to understanding fundamentalism is that we look at it from our own cultural perspective and not from the perspective of the society that spawned the fundamentalist movement. He also argues that understanding fundamentalism in other cultures helps us better understand fundamental movements within our own cultures.

Imagine is Muslim fundamentalists were invited to carry out research on Christian fundamentalism (I’m thinking of certain American Protestants, more fanatical than any ayatollah, who would expunge all reference to Darwin from the schoolbooks). Studying the fundamentalism of others helps us understand our own fundamentalism better. Let them come and study our concept of holy war (I could suggest a very interesting reading list, with some recent works), and perhaps they will view the concept in their own countries with a more critical eye. We Westerners have reflected on the limitations of our own way of thinking by describing la pensée sauvage.

(Turning Back the Clock: p. 244)

Our world has become very complicated, and as such, people have a general sense of being lost, as the speed of change continues to increase exponentially. This is the reason, Eco states, that we need to apply critical thinking in all areas of our lives.

But maybe it’s only a sign that in times of great disorientation (and we are living through such a time) no one knows where he stands anymore.

It is precisely in such moments of disorientation that we need to apply the tools of analysis and criticism—analysis of our own superstitions as well as those of others. I hope that these things will be discussed in the schools and not only at press conferences.

(ibid: p. 246)

4 Comments

Filed under Literature, Non-fiction

4 responses to “Thoughts on “Holy Wars, Passion, and Religion” by Umberto Eco

  1. hi, jeff. i am still thinking about your last post actually. it had re-occurred to me that the U.S. is a very young nation in modern relative terms and that might account for it so consistently ‘choosing our gods for the wrong reasons.’ europe, in my experience, just doesnt let an awful lot incite it; they’ve seen so many fads and trends and dictators blow through and over and when change does come, they grasp more easily that as a herd, they are all going to have to adjust accordingly. individuals do not take things personally as a general rule.
    that said, the go-get-em mentality and market place in the states combined with global media certainly seems to be having an exponential effect on a 21st century european’s sense of having and not having.
    really i do think this is a perfect encapsulation: ‘Our world has become very complicated, and as such, people have a general sense of being lost, as the speed of change continues to increase exponentially.’

    ‘…Eco states, that we need to apply critical thinking in all areas of our lives.’
    how many pple could accurately define ‘critical’ as Eco intended it’s meaning?

    • Hah! Brilliant point. I had never considered that the new “critical thinking” has become embracing critical thoughts about those whose ideas contradict one’s established and preconceived ideas.

  2. I used to teach critical thinking to college freshmen. It’s not an easy skill. It includes being able to catch yourself in the act of being closed-minded.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.