Evolving to individualism

This posting briefly explains two different ways in which the Enlightenment and its fruits in Western societies can be viewed, in relation to the goal of building a Bahai society. It argues that our attitude to the political philosophy of individualism will influence the Bahai communities we build, and suggests that it is possible to see the individualisation of society, individualism and other aspects of the Enlightenment as positive elements of the new order, rather than as signs of the breakdown of the old order.

Introduction

{josquote}One of the most far-reaching changes of the past two centuries has been the individualisation of society.{/josquote}

All of us have a “world-view.” That is, we do not get up every morning and decide afresh what we think of the world, how it should be, how society works, and what things are important. Rather, we view today’s world within a coherent framework derived from our own past, and inherited from those who have gone before us. Our world-view contains experience, values and norms, some of which we have consciously chosen, and also a good deal of inherited wisdom about life and society, along the lines of “early to bed and early to rise,” “the family is the foundation of society,” or “good fences make good neighbours.” Our religions are part of our world-views, and not vice-versa, because we interpret religious teachings within a framework of assumptions about what society is, the role of religion in society, and the relationship of the individual to both. A world-view is an overall view of human history, of where we have come from, where we are or should be going to, and why. It is not a socio-political agenda to be adopted or cast off at will, but a bundle of answers to our most existential questions.

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