OurIndonesia – The question is this, how did religion resist the continuous attack of secularism since the past two centuries? The answer is not because religion has “supernatural power” or “real truth” just like the claims of religionists that “the truth will defeat the evil.”
“Like religion, secularism too has nine lives.” I heard this beautiful remark from Goenawan Muhammad, Indonesian prominent cultural observer, in a discussion about the future of secularism at Teater Utan Kayu, Jakarta. This expression is a form of optimism and a criticism upon two theories developing in the studies of sociology of religion.
The first theory declares that the world is going toward a point where traditional religions have no more place. The future of man is the future of the secular world, the future of secularism. Almost all western sociologist including Weber, Durkheim, Comte, and Luckmann supported this theory.
The second theory is a response to the first one. This theory declares that the thesis of secularization cannot be defended any longer. Instead of going toward a secular point, the world is now going toward religious revivalism. Several sociologists like Peter Berger, Rodney Stark, and Jose Casanova are in this pole.
Does the classic theory of secularization die so that the world’s future becomes the future of religion, not secularism? I think, the former statement of Goenawan Muhammad answered that. Religion and secularism will not die since both are having many souls.
The question is this, how did religion resist the continuous attack of secularism since the past two centuries? The answer is not because religion has “supernatural power” or “real truth” just like the claims of religionists that “the truth will defeat the evil.”
This is because religion can play its role well vis-à-vis the modern world. Religion has been adaptive to the products of modernity including secularism. There are continuous efforts and process from both religious figure and disciple in order to adapt with the changing circumstance and condition generated by the secular world. A religion declaring its universal teaching has never been resistant toward changes. Rejecting changes, for a universal religion, is rejecting its own universal character.
Islam as a universal religion has declared that it is “appropriate for all times and places (salih li kulli zaman wa makan). This claim keeps Islam to survive. Islam will always observe the progress of others, learn this and imitate this (mimicry).
Muslims in Indonesia for instance, observe and learn about the products of secular civilization like financial system, tourism and media capitalism, then they imitate and give this Islamic identity like Islamic economic, Hajj (pilgrimage) plus several days tour package, and Islamic media. I believe that the future of Islam as well as other religion is laid on the extent of their interaction and adaptation to secularism and the secular world.
This article is originally published in IslamLib.