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Globalisation and Religion Essay

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Secularisation theory has argued that modernisation has undermined religion. The importance of science and technology on economic development and rational worldview on which they depend on are seen as destroying the belief in supernatural. However religion can contribute to development, but most recently sociologists have examined what role religion may play in development in today’s globalising world.

This can be seen in India. Globalisation has brought rapid economic growth and has seen India become a more important player in the world political stage.

It has brought prosperity to some, notably the Indian middle class. Nanda shows that 85% of India is Hindu and this is where globalisation has taken place. Globalisation has created a huge and prosperous, scientifically educated middle class working in IT, pharmaceuticals, etc. These are who secularisation theorists say will be the first to abandon religion.

However Nanda sees a vast majority of this class continue to believe in the supernatural. A study of developing societies in 2007 shows that Indians are more religious and only 5% claim their religion has declined in the past five years.

It also found that urban areas are more religious that rural areas. Nanda goes as far to say that it is becoming fashionable to be seen as religious.

She examines what motivates this. Nanda rejects poverty and existential insecurity as a reason for their belief because they are not poor. She also rejects the idea that their religiosity is a defence mechanism to modernisation and westernisation. She argues that their religiosity is to do with their ambivalence to their new found wealth. This has helped to see the relationship between globalisation and religion, as Nanda points out that globalisation has increased the religiosity in India.

She also examines the role of Hinduism in legitimating a triumphalist version of Indian nationalism. From a survey it found that 93% of Indians believe they have a superior culture to others. Nanda notes that the Indians’ success in the global market have attributed to Hindu values. These are constantly promoted by media and politicians. Ultra nationalism, worshiping Hindu gods and India itself has become a civil religion.

In recent years the East Asia tiger economies such as Korea and Singapore are now becoming industrialised. Also China has become a major global power. Sociologists argue that this success is because of religion acting similar to Calvinism. Redding sees their post Confucian values as encouraging, similar to the protestant work ethic. Similarly Berger argues that Pentecostalism in Latin America acts as a functional equivalent to Weber’s protestant ethic. He says that they embrace the work ethic and lifestyle of Calvinists aspect of life which in result its members continue to prosper.

However Berger underlines Weber’s point that religious ideas alone are not enough to produce economic development. He says that natural resources are also needed. For example while Protestantism has grown in northern Brazil, the religion lacks resources and remains backwards. By contrast, the south, which is developing rapidly, has both a work ethic derived from Pentecostalism and the necessary resources. Christianity has also become globalised.

Lehmann says that it has done this by accompanying globalisations, imposed my indigenous population and in the past 100 years it has spread because of its popular following. The symbols and imagery from local cultures attributes to their success. They attack cults and perform exorcism, and accept and validate beliefs. This has contributed to the relationship between globalisation and religion as it shows that religion has helped countries to develop and using the idea of protestant ethic in Latin America gives a valid explanation as to why they have grown.

A further link between globalisation and religion is explained through fundamentalism. Fundamentalism has a response to globalisation and related trends. Giddens’ describes fundamentalists as traditionalists. He sees that this is a relatively new term and sees its growth, as a production of and reaction to globalisation. He claims that it has undermined traditional norms and values. They say that religion offers certainty to a now uncertain world due to the choice which people have.

A contrasting view to this however is Beckford. He criticises fundamentalists for ignoring other important developments, including how globalisations also affects non fundamentalist religions such as Catholicism. Giddens’ groups all types of fundamentalism together, ignoring any differences between them.

Jeff Haynes argues that we should not focus narrowly on the idea that Islamic fundamentalism is a reaction against globalisation. For example in the Middle East, conflicts caused by the failure of local elites to deliver on their promises to improve the standard of living are often the fuel that drives fundamentalism. This evidence argues that globalisation has undermined traditional religious beliefs.

Religion has also created a cultural defence whereby religion serves to unite communities against external threat. In this situation religion has a special significance for its followers because it symbolises the group or societies collective identity. There are two examples of this from the late 20th century and those are Poland and Iran. It has created war and terror such as the war in Iraq. Therefore the effect of globalisation on religion is a ‘clash of civilisations.’ Huntingtons’ view is that religious defences are creating a new set of hostile ‘us and them’ situation as there is an increase in competition against cavitations for economic and military power. An example of this is the 9/11.

Although there are some critics such as Jackson who believe it is a western ideology that stereotypes nations. Also Armstrong argues hostility towards the west does not stem from fundamentalist Islam but to western foreign policy in the Middle East. This shows that’s due to globalisation is has increased religiosity but has created friction between countries. This has had a negative effect in the world.

Overall globalisation has brought rapid economic growth and has seen India become a more important player on the world political stage. It has also increased Indians religiosity which is shown in Nandas’ argument which she also says this relationship is because of the optimism about the opportunities globalisations will bring and the result of the ambivalence to their new found wealth. But also like Huntington says, both religion and globalisation has created a ‘clash of civilisations’ and created both war and terror. In conclusion this relationship between globalisations in religion is good as it has helped countries such as India in the economy and has increased their religiosity. However it could also be argued that it has created friction between religions and in result has had a negative impact on the world.

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