“Religion is highly pragmatic, despite its otherworldliness. It should not only transform us, but it should also transform the world. Religion should make a difference. And as soon as it ceases to be effective, it will be changed.” Karen Armstrong
In the Qur’an verse above, the angel Gabriel is teaching the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), that Allah will not change the condition of a people for the worse, for they bring upon themselves their worsening condition by the making of their own choices. Additionally, the Qur’an reports, there are guardian angels walking before us and behind us who assist us when we make the intentional choice to move on the Straight Path.
Karen Armstrong writes that religion is no longer transforming the world, such that our world needs a spiritual refreshing or revival, “But suffering, fear, violence, and despair are the prime conditions for such a renewal.” As the angel Gabriel teaches the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), “Whenever We are gracious to man, he goes away haughtily, but, as soon as evil touches him, he turns to prolonged prayer (41:51)[The use of “We” in the above verse is the angel Gabriel speaking for Allah as well].
Allah sends Messengers to warn humanity, and to turn believers back to the straight path, as well as reaching unbelievers — for Allah wants no one to be lost. However, when civilizations live in a time of abundance, inevitability submission to God decreases, while the worship of various idols increases. An idol doesn’t need to be the worship of another god, but placing any person or thing above the worship and acknowledgment of Allah parallels the same concept — worshiping at the altar of anything other than Allah.
Material abundance is a much greater spiritual risk than living in a state of want, and counter-intuitively, those believers who have little, are more likely to thank Allah for the little they have. When in a state of want, everything in life has more value, and inversely when living in a state of abundance, value decreases proportionally. Additionally, over-abundance produces a lack of sensitivity to other’s suffering, as well as inattention to one’s spiritual life.
Ever since the onset of the technological age, humanity has been putting itself at greater spiritual risk by its focus on the external, as opposed to the internal, intuitive parts of the brain. The use of technology enables communication to be instantaneous via social media, allows for excessive use of video game playing by children, and places undue emphasis on the material world. Our civilization is characterized by instant gratification. Due to the plasticity of our brains, over development can occur in the areas of the brain that resists the more intuitive, reflective thinking needed for spiritual/moral development.
Ernst Von Lasaulx (1805–1861), German Philosopher, theorized that civilizations follow a pattern of decadence whereby no matter the initial pattern of development, the society or culture eventually decays, typically in a 2000 year cycle. According to Lasaulx, this is evidenced by a reduction in cultural innovation and creativity, reduced morality, and a transformation of monarchical or republican types of governments to tyranny and military dictatorships. “When all the potentialities have been realized, all the purposes achieved, the inner energy which propels a culture wanes and declines.” Religious indifference increases, and rational morality gives way to sensuality and materialism. Political insanity evidences the “exhaustion of political vitality.” Family life decays, national debt rises and then as a result, national bankruptcy. “Bureaucracy increases and the military virtues disappear.” (Stephen J. Tonsor, Journal of the History of Ideas, The Historical Morphology of Ernst Von Lasaulx)
However, in spite of Lasaulx’s negative projections, he proposes that decay “must be reconciled with the evidence of religious improvement, of progressive revelation, of a steady development and unfolding of religious ideas.” Lasaulx believes that religions will influence culture in a positive manner at the very lowest point of decay, in which there will then be increased spiritual activity.
According to Armstrong, our technological society has created immense globalization which must move towards “global consciousness.” Because of globalization, she goes on to state that there must be movement away from the “individual self as an absolute value” towards acceptance of “others” to displace the self from the center of our worldview.
“Our challenge is to develop this insight and give it global significance…everyone on the planet is our neighbor.”
It certainly appears that civilizations display different levels of moral development, and in confirming Lasaulx’s hypothesis of decay, even indicates moral regression as we are seeing in our culture today. This is evident in our culture by increased violence, sexual immorality, overall injustice, and increased racism and intolerance. Religion, as Armstrong states, should be culturally transformative. Armstrong as previously mentioned believes that pain and suffering will be an importance impetus to increasing spirituality, and with that the increased understanding of seeking global peace. However, our respective Scriptures indicates a strong pattern of turning away from God, and then God bringing about calamity to turn humanity back towards him. In the present time, some of us are in puzzlement and confusion regarding the current state of affairs — why is chaos increasing, and what can be done to change the apparent path of destruction. Perhaps, it is not within human capability to stop such a steep slide downhill, but as previously shown in history, this will take God’s intervention.
Pray for God’s direction and intervention, pray for renewed spirituality within ourselves and the world, pray for increased wisdom, pray for a turning away from the material world towards the spiritual world. Pray.