Faith and Globalization
27 May 2016
Globalization, also at times referred to internationalization, is a concept that has been gaining rapid traction in the contemporary world. There are various perspectives through which internationalization can be explored (Golebiewski, 2014). Regardless of the perspectives, it is evident that globalization brings about significant changes to the political, social, economic and religious features of different parts of the world (O’Hagan, 2005). Through globalization, people from across the globe, having different backgrounds, have been able to effectively interact. A common attribute of the interaction is that people from different parts of the globe get to share their customs, beliefs and values (O’Hagan, 2005). Over time, globalization has been found to result in the erosion of particular cultural practices, and giving rise to others. The impact of globalization on religion has over the past 15 years become more profound. This is especially so as a result of growing terrorism in the world (Ben-Nun Bloom, Arikan, & Sommer, 2014).
Religion has been defined by Ben-Nun Bloom, Arikan, and Sommer (2014) as a system of beliefs and practices. Such practices and beliefs commonly bind people together, through dictating their cultural values and morals, as well as dictating how people interact. Basically this means that religious beliefs and practices differentiate between what is wrong and right (Paul, 2012). Different regions according to Ismael and Rippin (2012) practice different religions, however, globalization is threatening all this because it provides a platform for some religions to exert influence over others, and or spread more rapidly and in the process limiting the progression of other religions. Golebiewski (2014) uses this viewpoint to express that Christianity has been able to grow into a dominant global religion through globalization. This shows that globalization can be beneficial as well as harmful to the wellbeing of religions (Paul, 2012).
Many past theorists tried to explain that people are usually a product of their surroundings when it comes to religion. The principle behind this ideology was that different parts of the world practice different religions. Ferjani (2007) believes that this theoretical perspective has been put to the test by globalization. This is because it is through globalization that various different religions have been able to spread. A good example of this is that Christianity and Islam are the most dominant religions in Africa, yet in the past the region predominantly practiced different traditional religious practices (Paul, 2012). This perspective can be used to argue that globalization lead to the spread of religion, as well as the beliefs and morals associated with the religions.
With regards to religion and globalization in the contemporary world, there is a significant population that regard themselves as being protestant, catholic, Islam, or belonging to any specific religion. Ismael and Rippin (2012) argues that in reality they do not engage in any single practice or doctrine associated with the religion they claim to be a part of. This points out that Freud, 1957; Marx and Engels, 1848/1858; Tylor, 1871; Weber, 1958; and Giddens, 1990 were all right when they determined that religion would eventually erode because it is a fallacy (Ismael & Rippin, 2012). A notable attribute of their opinions is that they did not factor in the concept of globalization. Despite declining religious practices across the globe, religious association among the world population is on a steady increase. This can be explained to mean that terrorism has resulted in a majority of people, associating themselves with particular religions, despite their lack of having practical links with the customs and doctrines of the said religion (May, Wilson, Baumgart-Ochse, & Sheikh, 2014). Terrorism has resulted in growing animosity between different religions of the world. Internationalization has only fueled the rift between different regions because it is usually associated with standardization, yet there are some regions that are highly conservative and rigid (Golebiewski, 2014). This makes them resistant to change and as a result it only fuels the problem of ‘Us and Them’ (Golebiewski, 2014).
Growing global challenges such as terrorism have prompted various individuals across the globe to either associate or differentiate themselves from specific groupings and religions. People across the world have in the recent past become critical of the doctrines, morals and values that are practiced by other religions (May, Wilson, Baumgart-Ochse, & Sheikh, 2014). This has fostered divisions which prompt religious groupings to consider that they are better than other religious groups. According to Ben-Nun Bloom, Arikan, and Sommer, (2014) it is worth noting that politics has fueled the concept of ‘Us and Them’ even further, within the religious realm. The authors explain that this is majorly because religion, like many other social and cultural factors is regional based. This is why specific religions are more popular in particular regions than in others. For example, a majority of the countries in the Middle East are Islamic States, while a majority of the European countries are Christian societies (Ismael & Rippin, 2012).
Religions have become more self-conscious in current times as opposed to the past because communication and transport technologies have increased the manner in which religions are able to spread across the globe (Ismael & Rippin, 2012). When introduced to receptive societies, for instance India and African countries, religion is able to spread. However, when introduced to conservative worlds such as China and the Middle East, inter-religious friction is increased. This aspect therefore enhances the notion that the international system is both beneficial and threatening to religion (Ismael & Rippin, 2012). The United States (U.S) is currently one of the best examples of how religion has been eroded in the modern world. The country is very influential and it is the main trend setter of the world’s popular (pop) culture which is spreading at rapid rates. This poses a threat to the existence and spread of religion and points out that religion can be eroded as fast as it was spread, because the world is increasingly becoming globalised. This idea is fostered by the fact that most of the youths in different parts of the world are embracing pop culture as the standardized culture of the future.
The world is made up of different cultural blocks, each having its own unique set of principles, values and practices. Huntington believed that these differences are the main reasons why the world would one day have to clash, because various civilizations were rigid in that they would not accept change, or allow themselves to be influenced by other civilization (Huntington, Ajami, Mahbubani, Bartley, & Liu, 2010). Though quite relevant, Huntington’s doctrine was one sided. Huntington focused more on the difference between the civilization of the West and Islam without regarding other civilizations such as the Confucius civilization of China. Ismael and Rippin (2012) posit that the differences that exist between different civilizations across the globe have been in existence for centuries. The authors add that the kind of friction or clash that Huntington foreshadowed is made possible by the continued interactions between the civilizations, which are in turn fostered by growing globalization.
According to Huntington, et al, (2010) the best lesson that can be learnt from the cold-war and the immediate post cold war era is that unipolar and bipolar systems of superpower do not work. The world is diverse and its diverse people (civilization) usually consider that their way is valuable to them hence necessary. Having systems where a single or a select few nations are dominant and exert influence over others can only lead to friction and in turn war. Ferjani (2007) believes that using this perspective shows that Huntington’s doctrine of clash of civilizations is not appropriate. The most appropriate doctrine would be individual civilizations having respect for other civilizations (Paul, 2012). For instance, the religious faith of different civilizations is sacred to them and interfering with such faith is disrespectful and it is likely to result in the clash of civilization. The clash of civilization can therefore be avoided when civilizations, whether large or small, respect other civilizations and keep their distance with regards to wanting to influence or control the other civilization. In the contemporary world, religion is at the center of the clash of civilization as the concept of ‘Us over Them’ is rapidly growing, especially between Christianity and Islam (Golebiewski, 2014).
Huntington proposed that having a superpower in the globe is one of the best ways through which the clash can be avoided (Huntington, Ajami, Mahbubani, Bartley, & Liu, 2010). Huntington proposed the United States as the superpower. This idea is not warranted and it is likely to increase the chances of the world experiencing strife in relation to clash of civilizations. May, et al, (2014) believe that history provides succinct education of how superior national power is not warranted because it gets to suppress the individual and national diversity which characterizes the world. The explanation offered by the author is that according to history, each nation which attempted to dominate the entire globe coercively attempted to ensure that their set of values, beliefs and values superseded those of the regions that were under its influence. Examples of nations that achieved the superpower status in the past include the Persian Empire, the Roman Empire and the British Empire (O’Hagan, 2005).
Lessons from past superpowers indicate that there will always be a civilization that will oppose ‘your’ civilization; hence the approach cannot be used to mitigate a clash of civilization (Ferjani, 2007). Based on this perspective, the superpower idea can be considered as the actual clash of civilization. Individual and national differences need to be valued and respected if the clash of civilization is to be avoided. Golebiewski (2014) articulates that there is no circumstance under which great powers should intervene to prevent a clash of civilization. This is because through interfering, the great powers get to directly exert their influence. Instead, the most prudent approach would be to foster mutual respect and understanding among different civilizations to ensure that the values and morals of different civilizations are valued and not interfered with or belittled.
Then, apply those lessons to future policy recommendations for dealing with world’s major religions.
In the past, most religions were highly tolerant of one another. For instance, Islam and Christianity were able to effectively and peacefully spread across the globe. Other religious values and principles such as Confucius and Buddhism were more subtle and they were not able to grow globally at the same rate as Christianity and Islam (Ferjani, 2007). However, in the recent past, the religions have become more aggressive and non-tolerant to one another. Ferjani (2007) believes that this can be attributed to the growing global terrorism which is predominantly associated with the Islam religion. Currently, there is growing hostility between Islam and Christianity in the West. The West which includes North America and most of the European countries have always pride themselves as being liberal (Paul, 2012). Given their liberalism, they have promoted freedom of worship as well as association to ensure that people are able to practice whatever religion they want to (Paul, 2012). This is in sharp contrast to Islam countries in the Middle East. Islamic Middle Eastern countries are not based on nationalistic values. Instead, they are governed by religious values which dictate each aspect of human life, thus limiting notions of pluralism, individualism and democracy (Paul, 2012). It is with this respect that the Islam realm is not tolerant to the influence of other religions or civilization.
The best example of a conservative Muslim State that lacks tolerance is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Regardless of the civilization, outsiders are usually expected to maintain particular behavior that is acceptable to the Islam religion. In the same breadth, products and services that are shunned by the Islamic religion are prohibited in the country (Golebiewski, 2014). There are some products and services that can only be consumed in privacy by non-locals of the region. Any aspect that contradicts the region’s religion is punishable. This way, the region gets to use coercive approaches to limit other civilizations. On the other hand, regions such as the United Kingdom are tolerant (Ben-Nun Bloom, Arikan, & Sommer, 2014). Though protestant Christianity is arguably the most predominant religion in the region, there is freedom for worship and everyone is allowed to practice whatever religion they want provided it does not impede on the rights of other residents. This approach is more cooperative in nature.
It is highly recommended that when dealing with the world’s major religions, mutual respect and understanding is promoted. This gets to ensure that each civilization gets to feel valued and the pride that they derive from being valued makes them more tolerant. When individual civilization differences is acknowledged and respected, then different civilizations will be able to co-exist peacefully. The same goes for the Islam civilizations and their bordering neighbors with whom they are in constant war with. In essence, Huntington doctrine is accurate in that a clash of civilization will continue to loom provided cultural civilizations do not integrate. However what needs to be added into the doctrine is that when the cultures respect one another, the threat would be averted without necessarily integrating the civilizations.
Ben-Nun Bloom, P., Arikan, G., & Sommer, U. (2014). Globalization, Threat and Religious Freedom. Political Studies, 62(2) , 273-291.
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