Skip to main content

Religious, rightist puritans rely on 'godly' ideas, nationalism to exercise authority

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*

The principles and ideological commitments in politics, culture, religion and social practices breed culture of puritanism both in its progressive and regressive forms. The transformation of society to lead an exemplary life is the core in the politics of puritanism as a movement of divinity. Both right wing reactionaries and left-wing radicals use puritanism like applied theology to the concerns of their followers.
The confident control of individual conscience and sanctification in the name of purity is central to this gradual and subtle process of puritan socialisation. Such puritan praxis shapes individual rights, liberties, duties and obligations for the society, state, community and family in different stages of history.
The puritan provocations change with the change of time, place and public opinion but certain unchanging core doctrinal elements of puritanism continue to exist in spite of growth of science and technology. In the idea of purity of race, religion, gender, sexuality, caste, language, region and nationalism, the puritans use core doctrinal elements to appeal to public for its legitimacy.
The purity and coherence between thoughts and actions are central to the core of puritanism, which individuals and communities tend to practice as daily discipline in matters of all forms of relationships and interactions. Puritanism as an ideological force has influenced religious, cultural, political, secular, liberal, conservative and radical trends in the society.
The religious, right wing and reactionary puritans have relied heavily on the idea of god and nationalism in their effort to exercise political authority, influence government policies and control the state by forming informal and voluntary associations with missionary spirit. It is the idea of god and religion that works as the core and heart of puritanism.
Religions provide ideological foundation to puritanism as an ideology of conformism, which emphasised on ‘work is god and god is truth’ for salvation. Such a narrow puritan essence has helped to hinder working class abilities to embrace emancipatory ideals of their own consciousness from their own work and workplace.
Further, the religious puritanism has destroyed the organic relationship between the ‘work’ and ‘worker’ by converting it into a contractual language of ‘‘Covenant of Works’’ and the ‘‘Covenant of Grace’’ in Christianity. The spiritual relationship between the ‘work’ and the ‘worker’ was further destroyed by asking for desire free work (niskama karma) in Hindu religion as outline in the Bhagavad Gita.
All major world religions follow this pattern of theological arguments, which are adopted by puritanism and its advocates. Any deviation is regarded as sin; a path towards hell and blind following is sacred; a path towards heaven.
In this process, the glorification of god, complete surrender to work, unquestionable truth and morality become the core of right-wing puritanism that helps to domesticate individual freedom, individual labour and community space in the service of power; rulers, industrialists and capitalists.
Similarly, the radical sectarians and democratic dissenters have also reconfigured puritanism as a revolutionary ideology of counter culture led by marginalised communities to transform existing social, political and economic order. The mechanical understanding of historical transformations and conceptualisation of revolutionary processes follow certain outdated and unchanging narratives like puritans.
Glorification of god, complete surrender to work, unquestionable truth and morality are core of right-wing puritanism that helps to domesticate individual freedom
Class struggle as a revolutionary project need to get away from the orientation of puritanism. Class struggle often demands political and ideological manoeuvres within different contexts. It is an adultery of ideas, people and strategies to uphold working class values and interests.
The revolutionary organisational structure, its mechanisms and style of functioning need to get away from everything that disciplines individuals and their creativity abilities. The idea of disciplining is the core of puritanism that drags revolutionary processes into the reactionary puritan path.
The individuals find themselves in an environment of disorientation; be it in religious congregations or in revolutionary political projects. Puritanism provides simple and readymade answers to higher questions guided by puritan morality. In this way, puritanism and its frameworks create a theological understanding of human life and natural world. Puritanism discourages individuals for scientific scrutiny and inquiry into existing knowledge and its advancement.
The re-emergence of religious puritanism and its right-wing avatars are product of this larger philosophical terrain, which is concomitant with capitalism and its hegemonic control over individuals and communities. The domesticated labour is a central requirement for the growth of capitalism.
The religious puritanism can only create conformist and subservient individuals. Therefore, capitalism promotes authoritarian and religious right-wing force in politics and society to nourish conformist and domesticated individuals, who live with limited resources with unlimited manufactured desires.
The gap between reality and desire is so vast that individuals fall in line to fulfil the gaps in their life. Puritanism itself is a desire that exploits such a situation of unnecessary emptiness created by the capitalist system to control individuals and communities.
Puritanism fortifies the spirit of capitalism and ensures the survival of unequal economic relationships based on social and religious morality. The religious foundations of puritanism shape everyday lives by controlling our choices and freedoms in the name of morality devoid of any substance and materiality.
Puritanism as a movement, it has sanctified the ruling classes virtues as natural social and political order. The ideas of subordination, hierarchy, exploitations and inequalities are normalised within puritan frameworks of divine order.
In this way, puritanism is a detrimental ideology, which is against progressive social and political transformations. It is within this context, it is important to reject all forms of puritan ideals to pave a clear path for scientific inquiry for the advancement of knowledge for social and political change.
---
*Glasgow University, UK

Comments

TRENDING

Arrest of Fr Stan Swamy: UN makes public letter seeking explanation from Govt of India

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Government of India (GoI), three senior United Nations (UN) officials – Elina Steinerte, vice-chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues – have said that the arrest of veteran activist Father Stan Swamy in October 2020 marks “the escalation of harassment the human rights defender has been subjected to since 2018.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Farm laws 'precursor' to free trade deal envisaged by US corporates to allow GMO

By Rajiv Shah Did the Government of India come up with the three farm laws, first rushed by promulgating ordinances in June 2020, to not just open the country’s agricultural sector to the corporate sector but also as a precursor to comply with the requirements of the United States for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as envisaged by the outgoing US president Donald Trump?

Modi govt 'implementing' IMF-envisaged corporate takeover of Indian agriculture

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak* The surge of wealth of Indian billionaires and the Modi-led BJP government’s onslaught on poor, marginalised and farmers continue to grow simultaneously as masses face annihilating pandemic of coronavirus. There is 90 % rise of Indian billionaire’s wealth over last one decade. It is not accidental.

Differing from Ambedkar, Kancha Ilaiah holds a 'different' theory of caste system

By Banavath Aravind* I was introduced to Kancha Ilaiah’s work when I was about 20 years old. He was then in the midst of a controversy for a chapter in his book "Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution", which termed the Baniya community as social smugglers. During many of his debates, I had come to notice his undeterred fighting spirit in trying to bring up certain fundamental social issues that were hitherto undiscussed. I eventually came across some of his works and started reading them silently. I’m deliberately stressing upon the word ‘silently’ here, as this was the kind of silence particularly associated with sensitive social issues like caste, religion, etc. But, as I write this essay, I feel silences on sensitive issues should be broken. Ilaiah opened up an entirely new debate that had the vigour and strength to counter the systemic Brahmanism. His methods of research were also novel in terms of going back to the roo

New trend? Riots 'expanded' to new rural areas post-2002 Gujarat carnage: Report

A VHP poster declaring a Gujarat village part of Hindu Rashtra  By Rajiv Shah  Buniyaad, a Gujarat-based civil society organization, engaged in monitoring of communal violence in the state, in a new report, “Peaceful Gujarat: An Illusion or Truth?” has said that a “new trend” has come about in communal violence in the state, where the parts of Gujarat which didn't see communal riots in 2002 are experiencing “regular bouts” of communal violence.

Fr Stan's arrest figures in UK Parliament: Govt says, Indian authorities were 'alerted'

London protest for release of Stan Swamy  By Rajiv Shah Will Father Stan Swamy’s arrest, especially the fact that he is a Christian and a priest, turn out to be major international embarrassment for the Government of India? It may well happen, if a recent debate on a resolution titled “India: Persecution of Minority Groups” in the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament is any indication. While Jesuits have protested Fr Stan's arrest in UK and US, the resolution, adopted in the Parliament, said, “This House has considered the matter of persecution of Muslims, Christians and minority groups in India”.

More than 5,200 Gujarat schools to be closed down, merged, says govt document

RTE Forum, Gujarat, releasing fact-sheet on education By Our Representative A Gujarat government document has revealed that it is planning to close down 5,223 schools in the name of school merger. The document, dated July 20, 201 was released by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, Gujarat. It shows that the worst-affected districts because of this merger are those which are populated by marginalized communities – especially tribals, Dalits and minorities, said RTE Forum’s Gujarat convener Mujahid Nafees.

Consumption pattern, not economic shock behind 'poor' child health indicators

By Neeraj Kumar, Arup Mitra* The findings of the latest round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted in 2019-20 covering 22 States/UTs under Phase-I  present a somewhat disappointing picture of children’s health in India. Majority of the experts, based on prima facie evidence, just highlighted the deteriorating sign of child health in terms of increase in proportion of stunted and underweight children in most of the phase-I states/UTs over last two rounds of NFHS (2015-16 to 2019-20).

A new fad in India, coding-for-toddlers culture needs to be 'nipped' in the bud

By Aditya Pandey* We are all aware of the dire consequences of subjecting young kids to intense academic pressure from an early age. In India, we have coaching institutes like FIITJEE and Resonance offering programmes for 6th standard kids to prepare them for “NTSE, IJSO, PRMO and other Olympiads”. The duration of these programmes is around 175 hours – hours that could've been spent playing games and making friends instead.