Tell myself who I am

Source: The Nation-Society. By Javier Martínez Cortés (a professor emeritus of Sociology of Religion at the Seminary of San Damaso). 25/03/2012.


Decirme a mí mismo quién soy

Against the prophesied, the christian religion not only tends to be confined to the intimate level, but it appears in the public sphere. And, what is more dangerous, in political partisanship.


From a theoretical point of view, Sociology has tended to speak of the religion (in a generic way), perhaps by a desire to make general provisions. Also from the Sociology there is to say today that this desire to generalize is remarkably ineffective: there is no religion as a magnitude of society, but religions, and each one carries its own tag that prevents make it one. And its own mode of being socially present. The only empirical evidence unifying combination is that the wavelength of the historic religions is far superior to that of the civil institutions (including States). This must be done to the sociological gaze prudent and distrustful to their own statistics at the moment. All less to prophesy the future.

If the religions we pass to the christian religion in particular, in western societies modern, we already have the experience of a future prophesied-and not fulfilled-the disappearance, or at least his exile to the interiority of private. Prophesied from different points of view: that of marxism (religion is nothing but “the sigh of the creature oppressed”), and today periclitada sociological theory of secularization (radical and inevitable) by the income of the companies in the processes of modernization.

The mere passage of time has distorted both of these prophecies. Today the christian religion tends not to be limited to the mere intimate level (although necessary), but that makes its appearance in the public sphere. And what is more dangerous —to the authenticity of the christian, given his claim to universality— in the realm of political partisanship.

The non-reduction of the religious to the pure intimacy is sociologically explainable because religions are neither purely private, nor vacuamente public: they are essentially community-based. Have their penetration in human intimacy, but also their requirements of advertising: awareness, ethics, and worship of God, or their gods. Religions satisfy a need: to produce identity. An identity very different, yes, but that meets a need especially modern in the heterogeneity of cultural contacts. We tend easily to forget the complexity of our technological development. But it is a profound need: to tell myself who I am.

This emergence of community in public places us socially, and makes the factor a christian as a political instrument in western democracies (limited to christianity). See the presidential campaigns in the united STATES.

It would not be reckless sociologically the suspect that the political —an instrument of power— can adulterate the christian. (The attitude of Christ himself, the Gospels attest to, with their rejection of messianism political could serve as a admonition in the religious sphere). What if it appears, before the recent events —in a democratic society in the globalised information— it is “the sigh of the creature oppressed” are not inclined towards the religious. Tilts toward the desire for transparency, to the public information and non-mediatized, to critique —and the disappointment— of the institutions that do not meet the purposes that they themselves enunciated. In this desire for transparency of the social and the religious converge today non-believers with christian believers.


Javier Martínez Cortés is professor emeritus of Sociology of Religion at the Seminary of San Damaso.

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