Book Review: Zulhaqem Zulkifli on ‘Religion and the Human Prospect’

Alexander Saxton considers 4 institutions, science and technology, governments of nation-states, the industrial apparatus and religion with its institutional attachments, as potential sources to avert and overcome the impending crises that are to beset mankind. The first, he argues, lacks power to implement its knowledge, whilst the next two are too entrenched in the industrial mechanism to be able to effect any constraints. Saxton proposes religion as a potential source of salvation (Hah!), in the worldy sense, as a consummate unifier for mankind in the trying times to come. Some interesting things that I gleaned from this book is the concept of the crisis of consciousness, where man realises the dangers of nature and the inevitability of his death. Pantheistic/polytheistic supernatural beings were borne from this crisis as a means to cope with it but later found to be insufficient to cope as they were still part or ‘in’ nature; still subject to nature. Hence, Higher Gods, in particular monotheistic ones, came into picture, to tackle nature as they were able to transcend it. Ultimately, it seems that he proposes a evolutionary development of deities, and a fundamental dualistic understanding of man versus nature. Interestingly, Saxton states that religion is not borne from culture but precedes it, a primordial product that is borne of mankind’s first fear.

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