Times of crisis push human beings, a clannish creature, to retreat into closed societies. Anthropologically, this can be explained with concepts such as pseudospeciation, group narcissism, or parochial altruism. Politically, the preference for closed societies results in our modern world in nationalism or imperialism. Henri Bergson’s distinction between static and dynamic religion shows which type of religion promotes such tendencies of closure and which type can facilitate the path toward open society. Bergson rejected nationalism and imperialism and opted for an open patriotism with its special relation to dynamic religion. Dynamic religion relativizes political institutions such as the state and results today in an option for civil society as the proper space where religions can and must contribute to its ethical development. It aligns more easily with a counter-state nationhood than with a state-framed nationalism. Whereas Bergson saw in Christianity the culmination of dynamic religion, a closer look shows that it can be found in all post-Axial religions. Martin Buber, Mohandas Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy, Abul Kalam Azad, and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan exemplify this claim. After World War II, Catholic thinkers such as Jacques Maritain or Robert Schuman by partly following Bergson chose patriotism over nationalism and helped to create the European Union. Today, however, a growing nationalism in Europe forces religious communities to strengthen dynamic religion in their own traditions to contribute to a social culture that helps to overcome nationalist closures. The final part provides a positive example by referring to the fraternal Catholic modernity as it culminates today in Pope Francis’ call for fraternity and his polyhedric model of globalization that connects local identity with universal concerns.
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