Photo by Alesia Kazantceva on Unsplash

Are we heading towards adopting the Western Principles?

Plenty of scholars are now of the view that world history would come to an end with the entire world adopting the western principles of Liberty, Equality, and Democracy.

They envision a utopian world, where all citizens of the planet share common beliefs, ideals, and aspirations. As the world is getting more connected each day, this would embark the rise of Globalism and collective interests.

As the world develops further, the Orthodox beliefs of the Fundamentalists would elude and, the world would adopt the western conception of Morality. They(the scholars) claim that this would eventually lead to prosperity and harmony as the world would get unified with individuals sharing common ideals.

As the Cultural Anthropologist Richard Shweder points out, this is an oversimplified view of reality. This view adopts a linear perspective while looking at History, as things move void of any complexity from A to B, then from B to C.

This explanation gets comprehensible once I lay down their narrative-

“Once the world was a place endowed with religious idiosyncrasies, people were blinded with delusion. Ignorance ruled for thousands of years, as a result, the world was a dark place with systematic discriminations. The darkness got replaced with an array of light as science started to flourish. With the scientific revolution, enlightenment came, and religious delusions got replaced with logic and rationality. The western world was the first one to figure this elixir of life, which in turn paved the way for modern liberal democracies.

Now the entire world is about to realize the importance of rationality over superstition and would eventually adopt the western ways of living.”

This school of thought is predominant in academia, with scholars of multiple fields- History, Anthropology, Archaeology, and many more adopting it.

The problem with this view is that it reduces all the phenomenons to such an extent that its soul dies. For instance, religion is ridiculed purely as irrational evil. While scholars like Jordan Peterson and Jonathan Haidt have pointed out the importance of religion in binding societies together. Religion shall be studied from a purely Psychological and Anthropological view, which shows that religious stories consist of patterns of being continually observed since the beginning of human history.

For instance, a rationalist would look at the practice of human sacrifice as an oddity of religion producing unnecessary suffering.

From a Jordanian perspective, human sacrifice can be Psychologically explained, which eventually increases our understanding of human nature, thus helping us understand the phenomenon instead of discarding it as a delusion.

The explanation is as follows:-

Since the beginning of humankind, those who managed to reach the top of the social hierarchy sacrificed something of value to reach their position. These competent individuals sacrificed momentary pleasure to outperform others in the dominance hierarchy. This pattern of sacrifice repeated itself throughout, thus evidently becoming an integral part of many cultures.

Humans have a tendency to exaggerate or take things to the extreme. This observation of sacrifice was patently exaggerated with the view- “Sacrifice promotes success,

What’s the ultimate sacrifice one could make?”

The answer unsurprisingly was human life. Thus the truth about the importance of sacrifice manifested itself in religious stories.

Hence we can see that mythology has its own evolutionary and psychological basis, and the process that leads to its existence is one of high complexity.

Therefore the rationalist view of religion ( which the new atheist movement so keenly embraces) is more of an ideological view than a scientific one.

Sure, religion is fiction but limiting one’s view here leads to a major loss of the understanding of human nature and group psychology, which religious stories offer if looked at from an Anthropological perspective.

The other problem at hand is that the same scholars criticizing religion are stuck in a similar kind of delusion, as Dr. Haidt puts it ‘The Rationalist Delusion.’

In his book, The Righteous Mind, Social Psychologist, Jonathan Haidt made the case that reasoning and logic are not something we do to figure out the truth rather our reasoning serves the role of a lawyer to our instincts.

Our instincts come first, then we use reasoning to defend our instincts. Haidt’s work was greatly inspired by the eighteenth-century philosopher David Hume.

Hume’s statement- “Reasoning is the slave of passions” motivated Haidt to further his research.

Basic Evolutionary theories tell us that the way we experience the world, in terms of morality, disgust, and desires, to an extent got shaped by the long-complex process of Evolution.

Similarly, our ability to reason has developed throughout evolutionary history to help us survive. For instance, In prehistoric times, the hunter-gatherer who deliberated well with his group regarding the share of the hunt outlived others.

We cannot have blind faith in our ability to reason when it is just a tool to help us promote our survival.

“Our minds evolved not to find the truth, but to help us survive.”

Realizing this truth, one can grow out of their Rationalist Delusion. The Scientific Community overestimates our ability to reason. Truth emerges not from an individual’s rationality but collective efforts of the scientific community filled with flawed and biased individuals.

The western-centric utopia of the Humanities scholars presumes religion as unavailing and worships reason. Both of which are reductions. Religion is much more than the belief in the invisible friend, and reasoning is driven by intuitions and is a tool shaped by evolution to help us survive.

Even if we ignore these loopholes, there is another issue at hand.

“Do we even want the whole world to adopt the same principles of Western Morality?”

Europe is the most depressed place on this planet. In 2019, 7.2% of EU citizens reported having chronic depression, a small increase compared with 2014 (+0.3 percentage points). Among the EU countries, Portugal (12.2%) had the highest share of the population reporting chronic depression in 2019, followed by Sweden (11.7%), Germany, and Croatia (both 11.6%)

The French Sociologist Emile Durkheim pointed out that industrialization leads to a rise in suicide rates. We need to be vigilant regarding these trends.

“If the birthplace of western thought is the most depressed place, how do we expect the world to prosper from it?”

Is Global unity possible?

A world where everyone is united with common values sounds appealing as an ideal world, but anyone with a succinct understanding of Social Psychology can ridicule this view in seconds.

Humans are groupish in nature. We are still stuck with our tribal minds, thus group division comes naturally to us.

The entire globe cannot become a unified entity until we experience alien invasion. We need diversity of views. It is the right time to discard our utopian dreams, as the twentieth century has so subtly taught us.