We have had a lot of posts on ‘reformations’, especially with respect to Islam. At one point we have recommended such, and at another cautioned at the complexity of the situation and the difficulty of repetition/replications. But then, simply adopting the idea as a guiding thought can bring one to study a situation in the light of history and the rise of modernity.
The Protestant Reformation is hard to understand and wasn’t exactly a form of modernization, although it turned out to be that in a number of directions.
The Protestant Reformation shows why it is unfair to castigate Xtianity as ‘unsecular’. The ‘secular’ refers to the way the sixteenth century seemed like a new age arriving (saeculum). We can critique theology and ‘god ideas’ but we can’t claim theism is not ‘secular’. It is gross distortion of the original usage. But the new usage of the term ‘secular’ has already been warped by wrong use. We can change terms. But, atheist or theist, we can’t say that theism is premodern. That overstresses the already considerable confusion with an egregious attempt to make modernity an atheist cult. That’s a sign modernity is slipping away from itself. We could never pin something so specific as atheism to the ‘modern’ as if by definition.
To see the complexity of the modern transition, consider http://history-and-evolution.com/whee4th/chap6_1_1.htm: From Reformation to Revolution: we see that the Reformations take up about a half of the modern transition, slide into excessive warfare, and with the Thirty Years War the energy seems spent as the modern system begins to shift into what we normally consider modernity. But the Reformation continues to mutate (cf. Pietism, the Quakers, etc…) right up to the time of Kieerkegard.
But it is also true that atheism as a modern substream begins to come out of the corners and turn feisty as it expands into modernity. It is not that ‘atheism’ should define ‘secularism’ but that atheism had been suppressed for so long it suddenly explodes as if from the unconscious into the modern.
The link above shows the complexity of the ‘secular’ modern: it produces a truly staggering number of innovations up to the period of the ‘divide’ after which it begins to stabilize (but capitalist economy and technological innovation continue explosively throughout up to the present).
The question of Islam in this context is difficult to analyze. But those who spontaneously attempt to create an Islamic Reformation should be encouraged to do so, but mindful the violence of the first Reformation is a poor model. And the battle against Papacy, which was the core issue, has no analog in Islam unless it is the issue of the ‘religious empire created by Jihad’. These differences will scramble analysis. And Islam is tricky to understand. It is confusing because it mixes the old and the new and was amidst many contradictions an attempt to carry the civilization of antiquity into a new future. Its embedded legacy of sufism is hard to locate let alone understand.
But the issue of modernity won’t go away and I think a realistic account of Islam and modernity remains to be discovered.
The modern transition, as in the link above, is hypercomplex and mixes religion and science, philosophy and literature, democracy and socialism, revolution and capitalist economics. It also predicts or prophesies a future beyond capitalism and this begins in parallel to economic globalization.
The attempt to reduce modernity to scientism has given everything a flat tire and created resistance that is unnecessary. As we examine the history of gloabalization since the early modern we see that ‘modernity’ has been adopted with alacrity in almost every part of the globe. And that includes the Islamic world which was on the verge of what we see in Turkey already in the nineteenth century. But something went haywire and the regressive trends, often amplified by lunatic American imperialists, have turned into a scene of confusion.
In general the idea of modernization tends to backfire: sufi psychology, like the buddhist, is often more advanced than anything in the realm of the psychology of scientism, and this creates still another muddle as the toxic experiments of ‘science dialectic’ cough up one weird notion after another, like oldfashioned behavviorism. A sufi mystic confronting modernization just might think it was nuts.