Globalizing God: Religion and Peace in the Social Sciences

EDITORIAL, 12 Apr 2010

#107 | Johan Galtung

Glasgow, British Sociological Association, Presidential Event:

I will try to connect the five terms in the theme handed to me, starting from the end, the social sciences, making the round twice, one for diagnosis, one for therapy.

The social sciences are offsprings of the Western state system of 1648 and secular enlightenment a century later; both waning with Gaia, regions, nations, civil society, localism, globalism, humanism, religions vexing.  They reified state-country as unit of analysis exploring the human condition, and rationality resident in individual Western minds as a tool.  A foggy North Sea island constructed economics as privatized saving, competition and exploitation, not a Pacific island blessed by nature as preserving and sharing.  The leading economics was that of the leading island.  And thus it was that geography was marked-marred by straight borders drawn by Anglos overdosed with Euclidean geometry from Eton-Harrow.

In a world thus divided, peace was reduced to competing state interests; sometimes at war, sometimes fragile balance, always judging Self by good intentions, and Other by bad capabilities.  Social sciences saw the world as seen from the state angles, propagated by their twin brothers, the media.

Religion, re-ligare, relink, with that out there, tat tvam asi, promised union, with a god up there, or in nirvana. There was the soft reading that god is immanent in us all, and the hard reading of a transcendent god with Chosen People and Promised Land, like the Puritans exported from East Anglia via Leyden to the Plymouth Rock; or the Wahhabs a century later with the same message for Arabia.  Two extremisms against each other, one profaning Arabia 1915-45-91, one doing 9/11 2001.

God was the name for the sacred, for that union “out there”, killed in the West with a secularism that offered materialist individualism, consumerism, egoistic cost-benefit with anomie and atomi(zed) social tissue, and an afterlife limited to a golfing-gardening retirement.  God became individualized human rights-democracy and globalized markets.

Globalization took the form of foggy island economics: the world as borderless island, even open for finance economy speculation with toxic derivatives ($4.2 trillion traded/day). The epicenter had left City of London for Wall Street.

With 125,000 dying daily from hunger and curable diseases.

Ugly.  We try a second sweep, multi-angle, leaving value-free weberism aside (how would you like a doctor mining you for data but refusing to treat you, being “value-free”?).

We do not know what a globalized science of the nature-production-consumption cycle, drawing on human experience from all over in time and space, not marred by Western true-false dilemmas, adding daoist-buddhist yin/yang tertalemmas, will look like.  But it will not be foggy island economics alone.

Sociology will have to come to grips with humanity as the unit of analysis, aggregate to the global, not to be confused with comparative sociology.  It will draw on epistemes from all corners, with no Aristotle-Descartes-Hume-Locke monopoly.

An intellectual landscape called Peace shows up: chaotic, with fractal geometry, a Trauma Past, a Conflict Present, a Future of Projects.  Three key tasks: Conciliation, Mediation, Construction.  But the social sciences segmented knowledge and fragmented the world. We must be transnational, with a world view from above, mapping parties and goals, testing goals and the means used for legitimacy (human rights being one standard).

And we need much creativity to make a potential, more accommodating reality; a new empirical reality.  We must be more transdisciplinary, drawing on all the wisdom acquired.  And translevel, letting insight from, say, the interpersonal inspire the inter-state and inter-regional, and vice versa.

Unwillingness to distance oneself from past errors spells weakness.  Look at Western intrusions into Muslim lands and remember: the perpetrator has short memory; the victim never forgets.  Like 1915–Sykes-Picot, 1945–Roosevelt-Ibn Saud, 199l–using Arabia as a base. Like seeing piracy off Somalia’s coast but not predatory fishing and dumping of toxic waste.

Religions are not for or against war or peace; readings are; hard, exclusive readings favor war; soft readings are inclusive, as from a Spinoza, a Buber, the Quakers, the Sufis; favor peace. Softies all over the world unite, and have dialogues with your hard brothers and sister!  Have faith in sacred beyond individuals, like Gandhi’s unity of humans, the Zulu ubuntu, the buddhist unity of life.  Spirituality and rationality need each other.

A Golden Rule: the daoist “suffer the sufferings of others, enjoy the joy of others”.  A Silver, egocentric Rule:  Do unto others etc. — minding G.B. Shaw’s warning, their tastes may be different.  A Bronze, negative, Rule: Do not do etc.

God has to globalize and should have done so before the stock exchange.  Hard readings lead to intolerance or grudging tolerance.  Badly needed: respect and curiosity; dialogue and mutual learning.  There is so much wisdom!  Select!  Eclect!   Go beyond state-territorial and national-cultural borders, and transcend those jealously guarded borders in the mind, between disciplines and religions.  Je prend mon bien ou je le trouve; do not compartmentalize the longing for insight and union.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 12 Apr 2010.

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8 Responses to “Globalizing God: Religion and Peace in the Social Sciences”

  1. Thomas Mitchell Glen says:

    I am most glad that Jesus did not speak like this to his disciples.
    Kindly concerned,

  2. But he did… in the soft read not the hard read.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Salman R. Al-Abbasi. Salman R. Al-Abbasi said: GLOBALIZING GOD: RELIGION AND PEACE IN THE SOCIAL SCIENCES by Johan Galtung, 12 April 2010 – […]

  4. Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra says:

    I think everybody should read this. The universal approach to human lives transcending narrow caculations will reduce human sufferings at least by half. That ‘God has to globalize and should have done so before the stock exchange’is really something which urges all of us to be inward looking and make the world a better place to live.

  5. Akifumi Fujita says:

    Thank you for the very inspiring and courageous statement,a voice heard from the globalized mind extended infinitely over time and space. For him,it seems to me, there exists one globalized science of nature-pruduction-consumtion cycle, not compartmentalized into divided social sciences as they are at present. They will have to be combined. For him peace is an intellectual landscape with a Trauma Past, a Conflict Present and a Future of Projects. The force that drives the humans into the sphere of peace is spirituality and rationality combined in the form of peace studies. In my understanding, peace studies are a means to integrate specialized and fragmented social sciences. I want to learn more from him in this respect. Thank you very much.

  6. […] originale: GLOBALIZING GOD: RELIGION AND PEACE IN THE SOCIAL SCIENCES Archivi associati a questa […]


  8. Francesca D'Abramo says:


    You must abandon everything you have, but have on your person the passport.
    Who knows if even when one dies, they’ll be asked for the passport to cross the threshold of… everybody will know where to go.
    The passport says “who I am”. My surname, that’s what I am. It says that I come from a family called D’Abramo. But then I think, with respect to my identity – did my father create me by himself?
    The name, yes that’s what I am. Tells that I’m Francesca. So I think that all the people called Francesca are my equals, a manufactured product, a stamp of guarantee. The identity Francesca eats, sleeps, drinks, thinks and moves in a very special way, different from the Elena.
    Date of birth: 4, August 1980. If I would have been born on the 3rd or the 5th I wouldn’t be the same… but then, were all the other Francescas born the same day as well? Something here isn’t lining up.
    Oh, but there is one last element that will help me to clearly define my identity: citizenship.
    I’m Italian, that’s what I am. So, I just need to observe all and only Italians to define my identity. Italians, we all think the same way, we are a community of identical individuals, with the same preocupations, the same dreams, the same fears and aspirations. We all look at each other and the world around us in the same way, right? Or not? Wait a second…
    All the Italians or just the women? I belong to the sex F, so it’s written on my passport.
    All the italians or only the ones born in Moncalieri?
    And then what will I do about the expiration date? 1, June 2015. By then I’m not sure that I’ll continue to be the same person I am today. Do I expire that June first? My identity will be re-discussed and there will be a Police commissioner to the Minister who will decide for me. This Authority will confirm whether or not I should still hold the characteristics that define my identity. This is important, otherwise they won’t let me “pass-the-port”, they won’t let me move and travel around the world as I would like. It would be dangerous to go around ignoring my identity.
    But I ask my self, in order to “pass-the-port”, wouldn’t it be more dangerous if instead of ignoring my identity, I didn’t know how to sail? Interesting that nobody asked me or have asked themselves:
    Do you know how to sail?
    Do you know how to live?
    We are. We are living beings.
    We feel emotions, so many that sometime we can’t even recognize them, and yet, so often we are moved by them. Happiness, sadness, joy, pain, rage, compassion, fear, love. We are living beings and we discover those like us, around us, live. Millions of beings different for their skin colour, their stature, eyes colour and hair, but in the end equal. We all have a body, a soul, a brain. Chance makes that everyone receives the gift of life in a different place of the planet. Then we meet with a community that has lived there for some time and has organized itself under common codes. We learn a culture…
    Some would like to define culure as unique and specific, closing it and confining it into spaces called States, drawn on maps by lines called frontiers. No, my identity goes beyond the frontier, beyond the State, beyond the culture.
    Do we respect all others human beings, nature and animals?
    Do we know how to dialogue and solve our conflicts without using violence?
    Do we know how to listen?
    Do we know how to love?
    This is the path I walk to find my identity and I recognize myself in the people I meet who know how to respect, dialogue, listen and love. It doesn’t matter if they are Armenian, Israeli, Palestinian, French, Argentinian, Somali, Russian, Australian or Moroccan. It doesn’t matter if they speak chinese, arabic, hindi, spanish, english or norwegian. It doesn’t matter if they pray Buddha, Allah, Jesus, Krishna or nobody.
    We won’t ever be “identical”, but rather wonderfully different within the big community in which we “identify” as human beings. Free from fears and prejudices we’ll be finally able to travel in a world where peace will reign, everywhere. No more abuse of power, no more “strongest law”.
    People call me Francesca, I can tell lots of stories of work I have being doing, people I have met, places where I have lived, food I have eaten. Who am I?
    A human being. A being of peace.