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Heaven Is Empty: A Cross-Cultural Approach to

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In the past few decades, discussions on the role of religion in shaping the interconnections of politics, society, and culture have acquired a particular urgency. Since the end of the Cold War, after 9/11, and even more so with the surge of IS, religion has come to occupy a central position in discourses on the most sensitive aspects of globalization. 2 Popular media, public intel- lectuals, and academics regularly address religion either as the main cause of conflict or as the potential basis for a harmonious intercultural dialogue. In either case, most analyses tend to reify religion as if it were an independent historical subject endowed with agency, and—more or less explicitly—regard it as the foundation stone of collective cultural identities. In other words, once it is redefined more broadly as an essential component of “culture,” religion constitutes a pivotal factor in the study of group attitudes toward politics and institutions, social distinctions, economic behaviors, gender relations, and sexuality. These ideas are so ingrained in Mediterranean and Euro-American worldviews that even openly secular or atheist authors tend to articulate their arguments within ethical and epistemological parameters that reflect the unitary and totalizing bias of monotheism.
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