Religion in a Global Context

Religion in a Global Context

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  • Created by: Natasha
  • Created on: 18-01-10 14:00

Religion in a Global Context

  • for S theory, modernisation undermines R
  • the importae of science and technology in economic development, and the rational worldview on which they depend, are seen as destroying a belief in the supernatural
  • on the other hand, R many ocntribute to development, as Weber argued in the case of the Protestant ethic
  • more recently, sociologists have examined what role R may play in development in todays globalising world

God and G in India

  • G had brought rapid economic growth and has seen India become a more important player on the world political stage
  • it has also brought rising prosperity to some, notably Indias new MC
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Hinduism and Consumerism

  • G has created a huge and prosperous scientifically educated, urban MC in India, working in IT and biotechnology sectors closely tied into the global economy
  • these are precisely the people whom S theory predicts will be the first to abandon R in favour of a secular worldview
  • yet as Nanda observes, a vast majority of this class continue to believe in the supernatural
  • a survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies 2007 found that Indians are becoming more religious
  • increased interest in R has also been reflected in a dramatic growth of religious tourism, such as visits to shrines and temples
  • Nanda notes that it is becoming fashionable to be religious and to be seen to be so
  • another feature of this MC relgiiosity is that they are attracted to what were once low status village gods and goddesses worshipped the poor
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  • Nanda examines what motivates the sophisticated urban MC'es to continue to believe in miracles and supernatural beings.
  • Nanda argues their increasing religiosity is the result of their ambivalence about their newfound wealth
  • this ambivalence stems from a tension between the traditional Hindu belief in renunciation of amterialism and worldy desires, and the new prosperity of the MC'es
  • modern versions of Hinduism therefore legitimate the position of the MC and allow them to adjust to globalised consumer capitalism

Hindu ultra-nationalism

  • Nanda also examines the role of Hinduism legitimating a triumpalists version of Indian nationalism
  • Nanda notes that Indias success in the global market is increasingly attributed to the superiority of Hindu values, a view constantly promoted by the media and pollution, along with the idea that Hinduism is the essence of Indian culture and identitiy
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  • in this Hindu ultra-nationalism, the worship of Hindu gods has become the same as worshipping the nation of India, and Hinduism has become a civil R
  • however, Nanda points out, this is creating a widening gulf between Hindus and non-Hindu minorities
  • Hinduism has also penetrated public life, so that the supposedly secular state is increasingly influenced by R, for example, in educations Hindu sciences such as atrology are being taught as an academic subject and being used to predict earthquakes and natural disasters
  • meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence is sponsoring R&D of weapons and devices with magical powers mentional in the ancient Hindu tects.

Capitalism in East Asia

  • China has become a major global industrial power
  • the success of Capitalism in East Asia has led some sociologists to argue that R has played a role similar to the one Calvinism played in the development of capitalism
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  • for example, Redding describes the spirit of capitalism among Chinese entrepreneurs in the tiger economies
  • he sees their post-confucian values encouraging hard work, self-discipline and a commitment to education and self improvement
  • the effect of this value systm is similar to that of Protestant ethic, in that it leads to eocnomic productivity and the accumulation of capital

Pentecostalism in Latin America

  • Berger argues that Pentecostalism in Latin America acts as a functional equivalent to Webers Protestant ethic, because it encourages the development of capitalism today in the same way as calvinsim did in the 16th and 17th C Europe
  • Latin American Pentecostalists embrace a work ethic and lifestyle similar to that of calvinists
  • like calvinsim, Pentecostalim demands an ascetic way of life that emphasises personal discipline, hard work and abstinence from alcohol
  • in this way, it encourages its members to prosper and become upwardly mobile. Berger concluded that Pentecostalism has a strong affintiy with modern Capitalism
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  • Berger agrees with Webet that something like Protestantism is necessary to promote economic development and raise a society out of poverty
  • this process can be led by an active minority with an ethic of this worldy ascetism, such as the Pentecostalists
  • however, Berger underlines Webers point that rleigious ideas alone are not enough to produce economic development- natural resources are also needed
  • for example, while Pentecostalism has grown in northern Brazil, the R lacks resoruces and remains backwards
  • by contrast, the south, whcih is developing rapidly, has both a work ethic derived from Pentecostalism and the necessary resources

Pentecostalism: global and local

  • in the last 5 C, Christianity has globalised itself by expanding out of Europe, first into South America then Africa
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  • Lehmann distinguishes between phases in this expansion
    • first phase - Christianity accompained colonisation and was imposed in the indigenous populations by conquest, often forcibly suppressing local Rs
    • second phase - over the last C or so, it has spread because it gained a popular following from below.
  • Lehmann attributes the success of Pentecostalism as a global R in part to its ability to plug into and incorporate ideal beliefs
  • although it preaches a similar message worldveiw, it uses imagery and symbolism drawn from local cultures and existing relgious beliefs, especially spirit possession cults
  • Pentecostalists attack such cults as the work of the devil, but their ministers will conduct exorcisms to rid people of evil spirits
  • by doing so, Pentecostalism accepts their existnece and this validates local traditional beliefs, while at the same time claiming to give believers access to a greater power, that of the Christian Holy Spirit
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  • in this way, Pentecostalism creates new local relgious forms, rather than cimply replacing existing local beleifs with an imprted one, as the first phases of Christisation had done
  • in Africa, this had led to the Africanisation of Christianity rather than the total disappearance of indigenous Rs
  • as a result of this ability to adapt to local customs and establish a local identity for itself, Pentecostalism shows considerable local diversity in different parts of the world
  • Pentecostalism has also been successful in developing countries because it is able to appeal particularly yo the poor who make up the vast majority of the population, and because it uses global communications media to spread its message, along with road shows and world tours by celebrity preachers

Religious Fundamentalism

  • in a global context, the issue of relgious fundamentalism has emerged as a major area of media and political ocncern in recent decades, notably in relation to international Islamic terrorism
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fundamentalism and cosmopolitanism

  • according to Giddens, fundamentalists are traditionists who seek to return to the basics or fundamentals of their faith
  • they believe unquestionably in the literal and infallible truth of scripture
  • fundamentalists believe theirs is the only true view of the world.
  • they are intolerant and refuse to engage in dialogue with others, and they justify their views by reference to dogma and sacred texts rather than rational argument
  • fundamentalists tend to avoid contact with others who think differently
  • Giddens notes that the term fundamentalism is a relatively new one, an he sees its growth as a product of a reaction to G, which undermines traditional social norms concerning the nuclear family, gender and sexuality.
  • in todays late modern society, homosexual individuals are constantly faced with choice, uncertinty and risk
  • the attraction of fundamentalism and its rigid dogmatic beliefs is the certainty that it promises in an uncertain world
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  • it is a retreat into faith based answers and away from the globalising world that demands traditional reasons
  • Giddens contrast fundamentalism with cosmopolitanism - a way of thinking that embraces modernity and is in keeping with todays globalising world
  • cosmopolitanism is tolerant of the views of others and open to new ides, constantly reflecting on and modifying beliefs in the light of new information.
  • it require people to justify their views by the use of rational argments and evidence than by appealing to sacred texts or tradition
  • cosmopolitan R and spirituality emphasises the pursuit of personal meaning and self-improvement rather than submission to authority
  • Gidden sees fundamentalism as the enemy of cosmopolitan thoght and mdoernity
  • however, while fundamentalists detest modernity, they use modern methods to express and spread their beliefs - for example, the Internet.
  • Giddens identifies fundamentalist versions of several major Rs, including Islam, Christianity and Hinduism
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responses to postmodernity

  • Bauman sees fundamentalism as a response to living in postmodernity
  • post modern society brings freedom of choice, uncertainty and a heightened awareness of risk, undermining the old certainties about how to live that were grounded into tradition
  • in this situation, while some embrace the new freedom, others are attracted to fundamentalism by its claims of absolute truth and certainty
  • similarly, Castells distinguishes between two responses to postmodernity:
    • resistant identity - a defensive reaction of those who feel threatened and retreat into fundamentalist communities
    • project identity - the response of those who are forward looking and engage with social movements such as feminism and environmentalism
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  • Beckfor criticises Giddens, Bauman and Castells on several grounds:
    • they distinguish too sharply between cosmopolitanism and fundamentalism, ignoring hybrid movements
    • they are fixated on fundamentalism, ignoring other important developments - includinf how G is also affected non-fundamentalist Rs such as Catholicism
    • Gidden lumps all types of fundamentalism together, ignoring important differences between them
    • Giddens description of fundamentalism as a defensive reaction to modernity ignores the fact that reinventing tradition is also a modern, reflexive activity
  • Haynes argues that we should not focus narrowly on the idea that Islamic fundamentalism is a reaction against G
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Monotheism and fundamentalism

  • Bruce sees the main cause of fundamentalism as the perception of religious traditionalists that todays globalising world threatens their beliefs and lifestyle.
  • when they feel threatened, traditionalists may develop rigid rules about what to believe and how to behave
  • however, Bruce regards fundamentalism as being confined to monotheistic Rs - that is, those believing in a single almighty god - such as Judaism, Islam and Christianity
  • polytheistic Rs that believe in the existence of many gods, such as Hinduism, are likely to produce fundamentalism
  • in Bruces view, this is because monotheistic Rs are based on a notion of gods will as revealed through a single, authorities sacred text sch as the Bible,
  • this is believed to contain the actual word of god and it lays down specific rules for believers to follow
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  • by contrast, polytheistic Rs lack a single all-powerful deity and single authoritative texts, so thereis much more scope for different interpretationg and none have an over-riding claim of legitimacy or absolute truth.
  • for example, Hinduism has been described as being more like a collection of Rs than just one
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2 fundamentalisms

  • in Bruces view, while all fundamentalists share the same characteristics such as belief in the literal truth of the sacred text and detestation of modernity, different fundamentalist movements may have different origins
  • in particular, some are triggered by changes taking place from the outside
  • Bruce illustrates the distinction with the example of Protestant Christian and Islamic fundamentalisms:
    • in the west, fundamentalism is most often a reaction to change taking place with a society. for example, the New Christian Right in America has developed in opposition to family diversity, gender equality and abortion rghts. its aim is to reassert true R and restore it to the public role
    • in the Third World, fundamentalism is usually a reaction to changes being thrust upon society from outside, as in the case of the Islamic revolution in Iran. it is triggered by modernisation and G, in which Western values are imposed by foreign capitalism or by local elites supported by the west
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cultural defence

  • Bruce sees one function of R in todays world as that of cultural defence
  • this is where R serves to unite a community against an external threat
  • defending the community against a threat often gives R a prominent role in politics
  • two examples of R as cultural defence from the late 20th C are Poland and Iran
  • they illustrate how R can be used in defence of national identity in the face of political domination by an external power
  • in both both cases, therefore the role of R has to be understood in a transnational context
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  • from 1945 to 1989 P was under communist rile, imposed from outside by the SU
  • during this time, the Cath Chu was suppressed and the church did not always challenge the communist regime openly
  • it actively supported the solidarity free trade union movements in the 80s that brought about the fall of communist.
  • thereafter, the church regained public role and has had a significant influence on P politics
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  • western capitalis powers and oil companies had long had influence in Iran, including involvement in the illegal overthrow of a democratic government to install a pro-western regime headed by the Shah or I
  • change was imposed rapidly and from above, often causing great suffering
  • under these conditions, I became the focus for resitance to the Shahs regime, led by clerics such as the Ayatollah Khomeini.
  • the revolution of 1979 brought the creaton of the Islamic Republic, in which clerics held total power and were able to impose Islamic Sharia law on the country
  • however, Haynes argues that the Iranian revolution was not typical of politics in the Middle Eat, in that the mullahs (religious leaders) led it

both Iran and Poland are examples of R as cultural defence against a perceived external enemy and its local allies and the transnational dimension is an important element in understanding the role that R played

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R and the clash of civilisations

  • in recent years, R has been at the centre of a number of global conflicts
  • these include the 9/11 Islamic attacks in the USA and subsequent bombings in Madrid and London
  • in the view of American neo-conservative thinking such as Huntington, such conflicts have intensified since the collapse of communism in 1989 and are symptoms of what Huntington sees as wider clash of civilisation
  • most civilisation are larger than a single nation. each has a common cultural background and history and is closely identified with one of the worlds great Rs
  • shared R creates social cohesion with civilisations, but can cause conflict between them
  • this is particularly true in todays globalised world, because religious differences have now become a major source of identity for 3 reasons:
    • fall of communism - political difference between nations have become less important as a source of identity
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  • G has made nation-states less significant as a source of identity, creating a gap that R has filled
  • G makes contact between civilisations easier and more frequent, increasing the likelihood of old conflicts re-emerging

in Huntingtons view, religious differences are creating a new set of hostile us and them relationships, with increased competition between civilisations for economic and military power, e.g in the Middle East

Huntington sees history as a struggle of progress against barbarism. he believes the West is under threat, especially from Islam, and predicts growing conflict between the west and the rest

he fears the emergence of new anti-western military alliances, for example, Confucian and Islamic civilisation, and urges the west to reassert its Christian idetity

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  • Jackson sees Huntingtons work as an example of orientalism - a western ideology that stereotypes Eastern nations and people, as untrustworthy and inferior and serves to justify exploitation and human rights abused by the west
  • Casanova argues that Huntington ignores the important religious divisions within the civilisations he identifies
  • Horrie and Chippindale see the clash of civilisation as a ghostly misleading neo-conservative ideology that portrays the whole of Islam as an enemy. in reality, only a tiny minority of the worlds 1.5 billion Muslims are remotely interested in a holy war against the west
  • Karen Armstrong argues that hostility toward the West does not stem from fundamentalist Islam but is a reaction to western foreign policy in the Middle East
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the real clash of civilisation?

  • using data from the World Values Survey, Inglehart and Norris conclude that the issue that divides the west from the muslim world is not democracy but sexuality
  • they find that support for democracy is similarly high in both the west and the muslim world, but there are great differences when it comes to attitudes to divorce, abortion, gender equality and gay rights.
  • while western attitudes have become more liberal, in the muslim world they remain traditional
  • Inglehart and Norris comment that in the last decade democracy has become the political ideology to gain global appeal, but there is no global agreement about self-expression values, such as tolerance of diversity, gender equality and freedom of speech.
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Kim Hall


Whats S & R?



I think it's Secularisation or Secular and Religion or Religious. 

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