Utopia is a word that came into English vocabulary after the writing of a 1516 book by Sir Thomas More. Its etymology is from a Greek phrase for “no place”; ou for ‘no’ and topos’ for ‘place’. In More’s book, Utopia is a fictional island in the Atlantic where there is no suffering or poverty. But in practical sense, there is no place totally free of suffering or a community where everyone is equally comfortable. It is not possible, hence Utopia is an ideal state that cannot be realistically achieved, as long as human beings are diverse in thinking or activity.
However, since man is instinctively a creature of desires, it is inherent in our nature to seek Utopia. It is why we make governments and topple governments, it is why religion plays a fundamental part in many people, and it is why we innovate and envision – the basis of creating. Before humanity reached this age, the visceral part of man to seek Utopia is in faith, giving birth to piety. Superstition was rife and religious myth or legends were pillars holding the belief in a place of joy, a place where evildoers are punished and believers are rewarded. Religion became so important that wars were fought for it and people were murdered for questioning that Utopia.
Subsequently, manuscripts that were smuggled out of Egypt during Christian persecution, but found their way into the Islamic Caliphate in Baghdad, produced scholars in alchemy or chemistry, Greek and ancient mathematics and mysticism filtered into Europe and led to the European renaissance, which was also persecuted by the Roman Catholic and driven underground to exist secretly as fraternities. This too later became a Utopia as scholarship was promoted by Jesuit and religious scholars, until religion and state went separate ways than welded together in the Pope or Caliphate.
Many students from middle-class homes in Europe pursued university education and this led to rebels like Karl Marx or radicals like Albert Einstein, even pioneers like Copernicus or Pasteur. This brought us to the birth of a new Utopia for humanity, Communism. Capitalism was more odious to the hoi polloi before than now when there was child labor in the West and there was no middle-class between the owners of industry and the poor laboring workforce. Communism became ideal for every baroque or grassroots revolutionary, promising a Utopian society where there is equality and justice. Yet, that too like others gone before, did not fulfill man’s yearning.
Now it is Islam again. The days when communist revolutionaries tackle injustice and inequality that are rampant in the Capitalist-West influenced world today. Now many people find Islam alluring, most especially those in search of bearing. Religion is generally a Utopia for many people and this is what ISIS is exploiting, just as equally as ‘Men of God’ are growing as fast as immoral Christianity.
Bottom-line of it all, Utopia is the desire of man for change, for justice and equality, which can never be perfectly attained as long as human beings are diverse and individually imperfect. Jesus and so many masters have said it since ancient times, the kingdom lies within you. But we keep looking without. It is until each of us, taps into the resources in him would he truly find his Utopia, irrespective of his belief or social background. Nothing that man offers as Utopia is faultless, from religion to social bodies. A look at what religion offered was the revolutionary struggle of African-Americans, just as the communist struggles in the jungles of Latin America.
Today, the dynamism required to change the status quo is recruiting foot soldiers as seen in renewed demands for justice by African-Americans, the Arab spring, surprising elections in the US and Europe, and Africans requiring visionary leadership – not politicians, etc. And since communism, education and such means idealists stir revolutions for Uhuru (freedom in Swahili) have failed man, religion is the last hurdle.
There is a rising keenness for religion these days because it is easier to live in an ideal for Utopia, than live in reality and the harshness that comes with it. This is why pragmatic nations often execute more than religious societies. However, between Christianity and Islam, despite being both idealistic faiths, while Islam is more ideal for a revolutionary today like in the seventies, Christianity has become part of the corrupt system the materialism of the West offers. The negative side makes ISIS appealing to young men and women in the US, Africa, and Europe. The positive side is the increasing number of mosques and Muslims in UK and America who are wise to know that true revolution is an inner struggle or jihad. It is a kingdom within where you are free from suffering or anxiety that the world and its materialistic illusions distorts the mind/soul.