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Secularisation

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Religion in a Global Context

For secularisation theory, modernisation undermines religion. The importance of science and technology in economic development, and the rational worldview on which they depend, are seen as destroying belief in the supernatural. On the other hand, religion may contribute to development, as Weber argued in the case of the protestant ethic (AO2 – Gordon Marshall and Peter Berger). More recently, sociologists have examined what role religion may play in development in today’s globalising world.
Religion and Development
Meera Nanda - God and Globalisation in India
Globalisation has brought rising prosperity to India’s new middle class. Nanda’s book ‘God and Globalisation’ examines the role of Hinduism, the religion of 85% of the population, in legitimating both the rise of a new Hindu ‘ultra-nationalism’ and the prosperity of the Indian middle class.
Hindusim and Consumerism
Globalisation has created a huge and prosperous, scientifically educated, urban middle class in India, working in IT, Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology sectors closely tied into the global economy. According to Inglehart and Norris, these are precisely the people whom secularisation theory predicts will be the first to abandon religion in favour of a Secular View (AO2). 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. Over the past 5 years, only 5% said that their religiosity has decreased whereas 30% said that they have become more religious. The survey also surprisingly found that ‘urban educated Indians are more religious than their rural and illiterate counterparts’. Increased interest in religion has also been reflect in the dramatic growth of religious tourism, leading Nanda to conclude that it is becoming fashionable to be religious.
Instead, Nanda argues that their increasing religiosity is the result of their ambivalence about their newfound wealth. She rejects poverty and existential insecurity as an explanation, because they are not poor. She also rejects the idea that their religiosity is a defensive reaction to modernisation and Westernisation.
Hindu Ultra-Nationalism
Nanda also examines the role of Hinduism in legitimating a triumphalist version of India nationalism. For example, the Pew Global Attitude Survey found that 93% of Indians (more than any other country) agreed with the statement that, ‘Our people are not Perfect, but our culture is superior to others’. Nanda also notes that India’s success in the global market is increasingly attributed to the superiority of ‘Hindu Values’, a view promoted by the media and politicians, along with the idea that Hinduism is the essence of Indian culture and identity.
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 religion. However, as Nanda points out, this is creating a widening gulf between Hindus and non-Hindus minority. Robert Bellah - Civil Religion (A02).
Gordon Reading – Capitalism in East India
The success of capitalism in East Asia (Tiger Economies) has led some sociologists to argue that religion has played a similar role to the one Calvinism played in the development of capitalism in Europe during the 16th and 17th century. Max Weber (AO2)
For example, Gordon Reading describes the ‘spirit of capitalism’ among the Chinese entrepreneur in the Chinese Tiger Economies. He sees their ‘post-Confucian’ values encouraging hard work, discipline, and a commitment to education and self-development Max Weber – Asceticism (AO2). The effect of this value is the same as that described of the Protestant Ethic described by Max Weber in that it leads to economic productivity and the accumulation of Capital.

Peter Berger – Pentecostalism in Latin America
Similarly, Berger argues that Pentecostalism in Latin America acts as a ‘functional equivalent’ to Weber’s Protestant Ethic as it encourages the development of capitalism today in the same away as Calvinism did in 16th & 17th century Europe, demanding an ascetic lifestyle.
Berger agrees with Weber that something like Protestantism is needed to promote economic development and raise society out of poverty. Thus in Chile and Southern Brazil, there is now a growing and prosperous Pentecostalist middle class leading capitalist development. However, Berger underlines Weber’s points that religious ideas are not enough to promote economic development – natural resources are also needed. For example, while Pentecostalism has been growing in Northern Brazil, the region lacks resources in contrast to the South, which is developing rapidly due to having both a work ethic derived from Pentecostalism and Natural Resources.

David Lehmann – Pentecostalism: Global and Local
In the last 5 centuries, Christianity has globalised itself by expanding out of Europe, firstly into South America and Africa. Lehmann distinguishes this in two phases: * Christianity accompanied colonisation and was imposed on the indigenous populations by Conquest (Slave Trade). * Over the last century, it has gained a popular following from countries such as Brazil – By 2000 alone, there were 80 million Pentecostalists in Brazil.
Lehmann attributes the success of Pentecostalism as a global religion with the ability to ‘plug into’ and incorporate local beliefs. Although it preaches a similar message worldwide, it uses imagery and symbolism drawn from local cultures and existing beliefs, especially from spirit possession cults. In this way, Pentecostalism creates a new local religious form, rather than simply replacing it, as the first phase of Christianisation had done. 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 to the poor who make up the vast majority of the religion, using global communications media to spread its message, along with Road Shows and World Tours by celebrity preachers.
Religious Fundamentalism
Anthony Giddens – Fundamentalism and Cosmopolitan
According to Giddens, Fundamentalists are traditionalists who seek to return to the Fundamentals of their faith. They believe without question in the in the literal and infallible truth of the scriptures and that it provides questions for all life’s important questions from politics to family life. They believe theirs is the only true view of the world. They are intolerant, refuse to engage in dialogue with others and justify their views with reference sacred texts rather than rational arguments. They also avoid contact and communication with other groups. Furthermore, they rely on their clergy to interpret the sacred texts and lay down rules that determine their lifestyle.
Giddens notes that the term Fundamentalism is relatively a new one, seeing the growth of it as a reaction to globalisation. Globalisation has undermined traditional social and family norms; there is a breakdown of the nuclear family, increase in divorce, abortion, pre-marital sex, cohabitation and gay rights. In late modern society, there is an increased sense of choice, uncertainty and risk. The attraction of Fundamentalism is the absolute certainty it offers in an uncertain world.
Giddens contrasts Fundamentalism with Cosmopolitanism - a way of thinking that embraces modernity. People justify views in terms of rational logic and evidence, constantly reflecting on and changing views in light of new information (Giddens - ‘reflexive’ thinking). One’s lifestyle is seen as personal choice. Giddens sees Fundamentalism as the enemy of Cosmopolitan thought and Modernity.
However, while Fundamentalists reject modernity, they use modern methods to express and spread their beliefs – For example: the internet, email, televangelism and the ‘electronic church’. Furthermore, Beckford argues that Giddens lumps all Fundamentalism together, ignoring important differences in them (AO2).
Zygmunt Bauman & Manuel Castells – Responses to Modernity
In a similar argument to that of Giddens, Bauman sees also sees Fundamentalism as a response to Postmodernity. Post Modern society brings freedom of choice, heightened awareness and uncertainty. Some people embrace this new freedom whereas others are attracted to Fundamentalism by its claim of absolute truth and certainty (A02).
Similarly, Manuel Castells distinguishes between two responses to Postmodernity: * Resistant Identity – A defensive reaction of those who feel threatened by postmodernism and who then retreat into Fundamentalism. * Project Identity – The response of those who are forward looking and engage with social movements such as NAM, feminism or Environment.
Beckford – Criticisms
BECKFORD (2003) criticises all three on several grounds: * They fixate on Fundamentalism ignoring how globalisation has impacted other religious faiths. * They distinguish too sharply between Cosmopolitan and Fundamentalism movements, ignoring ‘Hybrid Movements’. * JEFF HAYNES – Fundamentalism caused by failure of Elites, not necessarily Globalisation.
Steve Bruce – Monotheism and Fundamentalism
Like Giddens, Bruce sees the rise of Fundamentalism as the traditional response to the threats of today’s globalising world to their beliefs. When they feel threatened, traditionalists develop rigid rules about what to believe and how to behave.
However, Bruce argues that only monotheistic faiths (such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism) will develop Fundamentalists movements. This is because these faiths are based on the ideas that God’s will is revealed through a single authoritative sacred text. Polytheistic faiths do not have a single all-powerful deity or single sacred text.
Two Fundamentals
Bruce thought all Fundamentals faiths have the following in common: Belief in a Single all-powerful God, Sacred Text containing the Word of God, Belief in the Literal truth of the Sacred Texts and a Distrust of intense dislike of Modernity and modern society.
However, as discovered, different Fundamental faiths have different origins. Bruce illustrates this distinction with the examples of the Protestant Christian and Islamic Fundamentals. * The Christian West – Fundamentalism is a response to changes taking place within the society. The New Christian Movement in America is opposed to Divorce, abortion, etc. Its aim is to re-assert true religion and restore it to the public role where it can shape the laws and moral codes of American Society. * In the Islamic World, Fundamentalism is a reaction to changes being thrust upon society from outside. Western values are being imposed through capitalism, e.g. Gender equality, sexual permissiveness and materialistic consumerism.

Cultural Defence
Steve Bruce sees one function of religion in today’s world as that of cultural defence. This is where religion serves to unite a community against an external threat. In such situations, religion has special significance for its followers because it symbolises the group’s collective identity. Two examples of religion acting as Cultural defence are in Poland (Soviet Union) and Iran (Capitalism). They illustrate how religion can be used in defence of national identity in the face of political denomination by an external power.
Poland – 1945 to 1989, Poland was under communist rule (Soviet Union). During this time, Catholic Church was supressed, but for many Poles it continued to embody Polish national identity. Furthermore, it played an important role in the collapse of communism in Poland in the 1980’s through its supports of the Free Trade Union.
Iran – During the 1960/70’s, the Shah embarked on a policy of Westernisation. This included banning the view and replacing the Muslim Calendar. Under these conditions, Islam became the focus for resistance under the Shah’s regime led by clerics (Ayatollah). HAYNES (AO2).
Both Iran and Poland are examples of religion as cultural defence against a perceived external enemy and its local allies (the Shah and the Polish Communist Party) and the transnational dimension is an important element in understanding the role that religion played.
Samuel Huntington – Religion and the ‘Clash of Civilisations’
In recent years, religion has been at the centre of a number of global conflicts. These include the 9/11 Islamist attacks in the US and 7/7 Bombings in London. In the view of neo-conservative thinkers such as Huntington, such conflicts have intensified since the collapse of communism in 1989 and are symptoms of what Huntington sees as a wider ‘Clash of Civilisations’.
Huntington identifies seven civilisations: Western, Latin American, Confucian (China), Japanese, Islamic, Hindu and Slave Orthodox (Russian and Eastern Europe). Each has a common cultural background and history and is associated with one of the world’s great religions. Shared religion creates social cohesion within a civilisation, but can cause conflict between them. This is particularly true today because religious differences have become a major source of identity for three reasons: (1) With the fall of communism, political differences between nations have become less important as a source of identity. (2) Globalisation has made nation states less significant as a source of identity. Religion has consequently become more important because of that. (3) Globalisation has made contact between civilisations easier and more frequent.
A2 Sociology notes that Huntington does not recognise Africa as a civilisation at all. This suggests an undercurrent of racist assumptions in his work (A02).
Religion has replaced the old communism vs capitalism mentality with an us vs them mind-set based on religion. Huntington is an American Neo-Conservative, who sees all of history as a struggle of progress against Barbarism. In 1993 he predicted a growing conflict between the Christian West and Islamic Middle East. He fears the emergence of non-Christian military alliances, and urges the West to re-assert its Christian Identity.
Criticisms – (of Huntington)
Karen Armstrong argues that hostility towards the West does not stem from Fundamentalist Islam, but is a reaction to Western foreign policy in the Middle East.
Jackson argues that Huntington is an Orientalist. He stereotypes Eastern Nations, especially Muslims as untrustworthy and fanatical. This Prejudice can be used to justify human rights abuses.
Casanova argues that He ignores important divisions within civilisations e.g. Shi’a and Sunni.
Horrie and Chippendale suggest that Huntington theory is a very misleading Neo-Conservative ideology that portrays the whole of Islam as an enemy. In fact, 1.5 billion Muslims are not looking to wage Jihad (Holy War) on the West.
Inglehart and Norris– The Real Clash of Civilisations?
The issues that divide the West from the Muslim world are not democracy but sexuality. The support for democratic governments is equally high in the Muslim world as in the West, despite the number of oppressive regimes that have continued to hold power. However, the Muslim world has much more traditional values and attitudes to… These views are heavily drawn from religious sources. I&R that while there has been increasing global agreement to the political ideal of democracy, there’s has not been the same movement towards agreement over self-expression values such as Tolerance of Diversity and Freedom of Speech.

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