In the book Occidentalism: the West in the Eyes of its Enemies, how do authors Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit define religious Occidentalism as opposed to secular occidentalism?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Occidentalism is the perception of Western culture and ideals as seen through the eyes and biases of other cultures; this perception is often negative, or at least critical.

In Occidentalism: the West in the Eyes of its Enemies, Buruma and Magalit discuss how modern Occidentalism has become more and more focused on resistance to Western ideals of materialism and building wealth; while the commonly stated goals of Western culture are to promote peace through innovation and prosperity, the Occidental view is that these goals are an alternative to God and spiritual worship. Secular Occidentalism is focused on the cultural ideals, examining and criticizing Western culture from a non-religious perspective; a negative secular view is not rooted in religion but rather in the social, economic, and cultural aims of Western Society. In contrast, Religious Occidentalism focuses on Western culture as inherently flawed and even evil specifically because of these societal ideals; the goals of Western culture are seen in a negative light right down to the core beliefs, because these beliefs are seen in direct opposition to non-Occidental systems.

Religious Occidentalism tends to be cast, more than its secuar variations, in Manichaean terms, as a holy war fought against an idea of absolute evil.
The struggle of East and West is a Manichaean struggle between the idolatrous worshipers of earthly matter and true worshipers of the godly spirit.
(Buruma and Margalit, Occidentallism..., Google Books)

Manichaeism is a defunct religion founded in Persia in the 3rd Century A.D. (Buruma and Margalit) which taught that there is a foundational struggle between an ideal of "good" and "evil;" this struggle is at the root of all conflict in the world. The Manichaeist view is therefore used to justify Religious Occidental views of the West, as it rejects materialism and embraces spirituality. The authors show that Religious Occidentalism views Western materialist culture as inherently evil and unclean.

Religious Occidentalism therefore desires the destruction and re-imagining of the Western World at its very core, while Secular Occidentalism only seeks to improve the West by criticizing its flaws and informing its people of the "correct" way of thinking.

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