Religious and Secular Views on Endtime
Mellen Studies in Sociology S. No. 42
Discussion of significant changes in conditions of human living are part of today's context. A salient construct for grasping these issues is "endtime," or narrative transformation of the current situation into religious or secular contexts. This book builds on a sociological approach to cognition, emotions, and constructions of time to show the motivational force of endtime thinking and identity. Six narratives are summarized to illustrate the transformative power of religious narratives by contrast with a scientific and a philosophical narrative. Religious narratives begin with acts of faith in texts and worldview. Membership in faith communities excludes those who do not believe and projects different futures for believers and non-believers, one saved and the other not. The following summaries illustrate the exclusivist power of such transformative narratives: Catholic Papal discussion of the Millenium; premillenial dispensationalist fundamentalist Protestant texts; rationales for the group suicide by members of Heaven's Gate at Rancho Santa Fe; and Osama bin Laden's religious legitimations of suicide-martyr terrorist actions.
Scientific narratives, by contrast, rely on empirical indicators and public discourse. Any competent person can participate in these narratives, and the world they describe applies to all humans and relevant terrestrial systems. Scientific narratives are inclusivist epistemologically and consequentially. Summaries of empirical aspects of environmental issues and of a philosophical reflection on the current state of the world illustrate the inclusivity of secular transformative narratives. Finally, each person is responsible for choosing a narrative both to believe and to enact. Only those that are empirical and inclusive offer a possibility of this-worldly hope.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
"Andrew Weigert combines a multi-faceted sociological perspective with Meadian interactionist social psychology to create an analytical framework for the study of time, specifically end times. His analysis centers on the power of conceptions of what he refers to as "endtime" in contemporary struggle between "adherents of particularist salvation and those who hear a universalist call to fulfilment" (p.174). The book is both a scientific treatise designed to help us understand one source of the dangers of the times in which we live, and an apologia for the spirit of hope that inspires his work." - (From the Commendatory Preface); "In his new book Andrew Weigert directs our attention to Endtime Thinking as a social phenomenon that must be taken seriously. Most scholars know at some intellectual level that present-oriented consumption, quick-results politics, apocalypse-fixations, and suicide-futurisms threaten human survival and, when tied to exclusivist identity dynamics, imperil social civility as well. But because the sociology of time has been a speculative venture of such grand theorists as Georges Gurvitch and Pitirim Sorokin social scientists have not in the past made the seriousness of Endtime Thinking a reality in the everyday praxis of social science. Andrew Weigert focuses on real issues, as befits his stature as a senior scholar rather than an incipient careerist seeking recognition in some already-established scientific discourse. Thus his work is innovative in the best sense, taking the intellectual resources of the scientific treasury and putting them to good use to address a significant problem. Just as the sociology of crime is general sociology applied to a specific phenomenon, the sociology of Endtime Thinking begins with a statement of general sociology. Weigert does this concisely, using mostly symbolic interactionist and phenomenological frameworks. Then he dwells on the different facets of Endtime Thinking, showing that, like crime, problematic Endtime Thinking is constructed no differently from other restricted forms of thinking. Just as bricks can be used to build a library or a prison, world-construction can lend itself to enabling benign or malignant time-orientations. Weigert's call is for responsible selves, selves formed in dialogue with the humans who are really fellows, not ones artificially divided into those to be taken into account and those to be ignored or treated as non-persons. He would not have human identity obscured by narrower identities. He is challenging the masters of rational culture to see the limits of instrumental ratiocination and to aspire to reasonableness. The state of the world in which humans have weapons that would destroy humanity is itself a new condition that demands new interpretations and identities for a responsible self. Consequently, this is a book to be heard as much as read, heard in the sense of arousing the energies of thought and action for a response to a challenge. The call is particularly relevant to intellectuals, who have the power to make reasonable the discourse in which motives and identities emerge." - Anthony J. Blasi, Tennessee State University"