Essays on Utopian Thought and Practice
Edited By Michael J. Griffin and Tom Moylan
Utopia and the Memory of Religion
← 86 | 87 → VINCENT GEOGHEGAN
Certainly since the work of Ernst Bloch there has been keen interest in the relationship between religion and Utopia.1 This has focused on two main aspects: 1) religion as a resource of utopian material; and 2) religion as a space in which utopian material can be generated. In this context, the relevance of memory should be clear in terms of 1) the nature of religious traditions, and 2) religions as communities of memory. While there are fascinating possibilities in exploring the relationship between the three categories of Utopia, memory, and religion, there are some major problems, and in this essay I want to address elements of both.
Let me begin with religion, and somewhat elliptically with etymology. The gods are absent in the etymology of the word “religion” (see Glare; Lewis and Short; Ahmed; McCarson). The predominant interpretation grounds the word in the Latin root lig which denotes “binds” and “binding” (as in “ligature”). The archaic Indo-European source of this root is suggested by the Urdu-Hindu word lag which means “join,” as contrasted with the term alag, meaning “separate.” That this root lent itself to conceptions of social binding is indicated by the fact that lig is the basis of the Latin word lex (law). The prefix “re” suggests the possibility that bounds might come undone and thus need to be re-established; hence, the Latin word religare (to bind again) is considered by most modern authorities to be at the base of...
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