Living as if in paradise turns world into global warming hell

We hosted Prof Güler and chatted on the alternative Abrahamian-Monotheistic religions offer to the humanity.

Living as if in paradise turns world into global warming hell

The message of global warming has already reached the point of a global warning. In the not so distant past, the warning was in the form of words and academic reports; today it has taken the shape of the driest summer in Turkey, extreme heat and desertification in China and floods in the UK.

Problems are solved; catastrophes are bowed to or escaped from. Global warming and related climate change is at the level of a problem yet, but soon it will turn into a catastrophe. Better to eat the bitter lemons now, than to mourn for the sweet old days later.

Problems created by joint negligence of a multitude, needs joint efforts of a multitude to be solved. Global warning against the climate change is necessary not only because its repercussions will be felt globally, but because solution necessitates global awareness and action. Climatologists were the first to realize the danger. Politicians and educationists followed.

Lately, theologians are in the list of mobilized sections of the society. This is not always good news; some theologians love to speculate about apocalyptic prophecies, rather than using their public outreach to educate and mobilize masses towards the solution. Memories of Y2K is still in our minds, where theologians, or rather self-declared prophets of Armageddon, endorsed such a rhetoric that only helped worsen the perceptions of the possible crisis. Some of them even wanted that their apocalyptic prophecies came true!

Global warming is a different case. Respectful theologians all over the world joined the scientists to find and spread the solution to the global threat. Prayers are being organized in different locations. Preachers are warning and mobilizing people against use of products harming the ecosystem. Professor İlhami Güler of Ankara University's Divinity School proposes something that goes deeper; deep into our worldviews and lifestyles. The solution he offers is already pronounced in remote parts of the world.

Chinese miracle of continuous development is coming with its environmental costs imposed upon the whole world. China is second only to the US in producing carbon dioxide and other gases that induce global warming. Understandably Western media, unable and unwilling to cover the wrongdoing of the Americans, directed their cameras to China. The face and words of a Chinese lady that were broadcasted by BBC shocked the Western civilization: "Why are you criticizing us?" asked the Chinese lady: "We are trying to do what you have already done before us. The solution of the problem is in changing the lifestyle that you have created."

Many people may have passed this scene on the BBC screens without noticing that the critique of the Chinese lady related to the very civilization the West is so proud of. One of the spectators of this program was Professor İlhami Güler. Güler thinks that it is not only the post-industrialization technological-economic system that has been created by the West that destroys the ecosystem we are living in, but a belief both in the West and the rest of the world that humanity had no other chance but to embrace this Western model of development. This determinism is also a Western benchmark. We hosted Prof Güler in our Ankara office and chatted on the alternative Abrahamian-Monotheistic religions offer to the humanity.

You are saying that global warming or any other man-made disaster is not only about legal frameworks that govern industrial production processes but also about the lifestyle the West has imposed upon the world. Is this a fair summary of your thesis?

Indeed. There is a consensus about the fact that the ecological equilibrium in the world is disturbed by the Western created industrial revolution. They themselves are voicing concerns that the post-industrial economic system and lifestyle is causing the collapse of the ecosystem, and that the future is even darker than the present. What is lacking in this analysis is the metaphysical-philosophical background of this Western created technological-economic system and lifestyle. Many are unaware of this background and regard the current deterioration of the ecosystem as a natural result of an inescapable economic development strategy. But well-informed philosophers and thinkers of the West are aware that the current situation is a result of wrong philosophical-metaphysical premises about life and universe that Enlightenment and Modernity created. Look at O. Spengler, N. Berdayev, W. Suchbart, A. Toynbee, E. Fromm and M. Heidegger for example. These are names highly critical of the western created lifestyle.

Speaking of the metaphysical-philosophical background we should understand the main difference between the pre-capitalist and post-capitalist worldviews. In the pre-capitalist, pre-industrialization, traditional and religion based period everything we use and have in the nature was regarded as a 'grace' and a 'benediction' of God. Everything, including man, belonged to God; after all He is the creator of everything. But, together with the 'Enlightenment', together with the Church, God and religion started to loose prestige. Secularism brought about a God isolated and forgotten in His on enclave and in the end, Nietzsche was able to declare that "God is dead".

And everything became the possession of man. Isn't this a kind of human god?

Exactly. Together with the Enlightenment, Man took the place of God (Humanism) and the Earth together with everything in it passed to the "hands" of Man. This is not only about ownership. Starting from then on, the source of value creation moved to the side of Man. Whatever man liked became the principle. Whatever man wanted, became ethical. This is very crucial; this anthropocentric worldview gave birth to the Industrial Revolution, to the colonization of a larger portion of the world, to imperialism and to two devastating World Wars. The principle proposition of this era is that the paradise that the religions promised was to be realized here, in this world. Capitalism, Fascism and Socialism are all different derivatives of this principle proposition. The new motto of life was; "Limitless production and limitless consumption." But this motto consumed the nature also.

So you claim that there is a secular religion out there that promotes production and consumption in order to turn this world into a pseudo-paradise. What is the position of monotheistic religions on this issue?

Abrahamian-universal-monotheistic religions are Judaism, Christianity and their last version Islam. The Holy Qur'an makes the definition of blasphemy as ingratitude and taking one's vain desires as gods (Qur'an 45:23), e.g., living under control of unlimited desires. In this modern world we see that appetites are turned into necessities. From a monotheistic theological point this is rise of blasphemy.

If we have to speak about particular examples, like the global warming, or related climatic changes, we have several Qur'anic verses that help us interpret the current situation: "Mischief has appeared on land and sea because of (the meed) that the hands of men have earned, that (Allah) may give them a taste of some of their deeds: in order that they may turn back (from evil)." (Qur'an 30:41) All the natural calamities we are facing today, global warming, climate shifts, environmental pollution and disruption of the ecosystem, all are manifestations of this divine law.

Let's look at verses from the Holy Qur'an: "… and He has set up the Balance (of ecosystem); in order that ye may not transgress (due) balance. So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance." (Qur'an 55:7-9) And another verse says that those who are controlled by their vain desires: "spread mischief through the earth and destroy crops and progeny. But Allah loveth not mischief." (Qur'an 2:205) These verses do not need any further interpretation. Here is the world as the Western lifestyle turned it into, and here are the verses that explain where the mischief is.

But the Qur'an also says that this world has been given to the service of mankind?

These are different things. In Islam we don't have the concept of "absolute possession." This is a Roman law term. It says that this jacket is yours, it belongs to you, and if you want, you can take it off and burn it. In the monotheistic religions, whatever is given to you, is entrusted to you, is given to your custody and you don't have the right to do whatever you want with it. Just like the trusts, we have a responsibility towards the trust by way of our responsibility towards the One that entrusts us.

Can we say the same thing about our bodies? As a fat man, I am not happy to ask this question, but -- am I free to eat junk food as much as I want?

The utterance "my body is mine" is not Islamic at all. In our understanding, our body is given to us by God as a grace; our existence, what we call 'life' is all bestowed upon us as His grace. In reply we are asked to be thankful. There is a mutual presupposition between faith and thankfulness in Islam. Whereas God gave you all these organs and benedictions for you to live, your duty is to be grateful and act accordingly. In the West there is nothing like that; there is absolute disrespect. They regard the individual body as theirs and feel no obligation about it to any outer authority, other than themselves.

You are criticizing the West for its disrespectful use of natural resources, but in Turkey and the Muslim world we see religiously motivated political movements that call for "heavy industrial revolution" to be realized. Isn't this a paradox?

I am not saying that what started in the West is still a Western phenomenon. This is a trend that the whole world is pushed into. Turkey, the Western educated Islamic intellectuals of Turkey, and for the sake of discussion, the intellectuals of the entire Muslim world, are taken into this flux that started by industrialization. Our intellectuals have internalized this worldview also. My critique is not about particular instantiations of this worldview. I am saying that this whole worldview and the world system based on it have to be changed.

The term for economy in the Muslim World is "iktisat." Though it corresponds to economics as a discipline of study, its root meaning related to "saving and using the resources economically." But this modern Capitalist world system is promoting limitless use of resources, limitless production, and limitless desires and providing for those desires.

So Muslims, or more inclusively, the believers of monotheistic religions, are supposed not only to resist this worldview but to engage in a kind of "jihad" against these tendencies?

I cannot agree more. Of course, this is an intellectual endeavor. Unfortunately there are no such thinkers in the Muslim World. Heidegger says that if something trespasses itself, it hides its own essence. This appetite economy is so widespread that even Muslim intellectuals cannot understand its essence; the blasphemous worldview I have been speaking about. So they cannot create their alternative paradigm.

Certain philosophers of the West have realized the devastating implications of this trend back in the 19th century. Toynbee and Eric From warned the West that this lifestyle would lead the humanity to a dead-end.

Are you proposing a kind of Socialist upheaval against the Western capitalism?

No, not at all. As I have already said, Socialism is not an alternative of Capitalism. It is the second postulate of the same worldview. The underlining principle of limitless production and limitless consumption exists in socialism also. It relates only to mode of production. It is true that socialism has a kind of production ethics, but this does not relate to the raw material or the product itself, but to the producing class. By means of the harm man is giving to the earth, to the ecosystem, socialism cannot be an alternative postulate.

I believe that monotheist religions can offer this alternative paradigm. With their belief in God, in creation, in responsibility of man in this world, in that we are to be judged and punished or rewarded in another world, Abrahamic religions can offer a solution. Religion promises us a paradise in another world, where resources are boundless. If you believe in the hereafter, you don't try to create a paradise in this world, you don't try to satisfy all your desires to their limits.

The Holy Qur'an asks frequently: "Where are you going?" We have to ask this question to ourselves in this current situation: Where are we going with this worldview? We need great minds to take us out of this vicious circle. And this should be done before it is too late. I don't know the answer, but I know where the answer is: in monotheistic belief.

Do you foresee a kind of apocalyptic disaster; a repetition of the Flood or something like that?

When you disrupt the ecosystem it turns and takes its revenge. We have persecuted and tortured the nature, and nature doesn't forget. Now, it is her turn. Remember the verse I have mentioned: If you do mischief on land and sea, you will eventually taste some of them.

Divine punishment in this world needs not to be in a miraculous way. God has a way of doing things. Secularists call them "laws of nature"; we call them "sunnetullah" -- the laws of God. If you trespass them, you pay for your deed. And this is not only about natural calamities. The laws of God cover also social relations. If you trespass the laws in social life, wait for the repercussions in the social life. Today, humanity has trespassed the laws of God in the nature, and here we have this ecologic tragedy.

Sunday's Zaman

Last Mod: 23 Ağustos 2007, 10:25
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