Denison Journal of Religion


Bror Welander


Welander examines the instability that modernity creates in life. By studying the work of sociologist Peter Berger, Welander explores some of the most important questions spawned by modernity. Traditional societies boasted a high understanding of normative values, frequently through religious institutions, whereas modernity, characterized by industrialization, urbanization, technological innovation, bureaucratization, and globalization, lacks those common, binding principles. Economic, social, ideological, and technological changes have also resulted in a new level of pluralism. While one or two societal institutions previously were able to rule society's consciousness and stabilize morality, now hundreds of thousands of institutions vie for power. Overloading people with options makes it impossible for them to choose among them, and all the institutions find their power questioned and diminished. Therefore, subjectivity rules the modern context. Each individual is required to create his or her own identity without any significant help of institutions, making identity crises far more prevalent. There have been two primary responses to deal with the crisis inspired by pluralism: relativism and fundamentalism. Moral relativism proclaims that there can be no absolute truth: everyone's beliefs are equally valid and equally untrue. On the other hand, fundamentalism proclaims the superiority of one option over all others. While this gives certainty to the group that believes in one option, it frequently makes for civil unrest. Neither of these reactions to pluralism answers how to find certainty in pluralism. Welander argues that while no easy answer appears to be forthcoming, it is of the utmost importance to continue to question and study responses to modernity because an unawareness of the implications of modern society will continue to result in frequent crises and conflicts.


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