Winning Hearts

May 5, 2007

American sociologist Amitai Etzioni (2007) argues that Western opinion makers are ignoring the potential of moderate religious beliefs and enriched secular humanism to respond to global transcendental questions that human rights discourse alone does not provide. The West is “falling behind in the global clash of belief systems.” Etzioni claims that the rest of the world is embracing religion in a spiritual surge while Western leaders of thought perceive religion to to be a threat, particularly to the Enlightenment project.

Rather than treating religion, as so many enlightened people do, as a relic of the past, long on passion and short on reason, the enemy of progress and freedom, the West will best learn to differentiate between moderate, civil religious interpretations and violence-prone, fundamentalist ones. The first kind address key transcendental questions that concern our obligations to one another and our cosmic destiny, while seeking to persuade people rather than to coerce them to abide by the religious tenets (Etzioni 2007a).


Etzioni, Amitai. 2007a.”The West Needs a Spiritual Surge” >> Amitai Etzioni Notes. March 6, 2007.

Etzioni, Amitai. 2007b. L’Occident aussi a besoin d’un renouveau spirituel.” Le Monde. 7 avril.

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Does the West Need a Spiritual Surge?” >> Speechless. May 4.

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