In today’s globalising world, does religion or define does the the


individual define religion?


In today’s globalising world, does religion define the individual, or does the individual define religion?

The answer to such a question is extremely complex and involves a variety of diverse and seemingly disparate issues.

Secularism and Secularization covers the issues surrounding the theory of apparently diminishing religious practice and posits the idea that the theory has no real foundation and looks at the differences between a variety of secular definitions and how and whom these might influence.

Foundationalism and Hermeneutics looks at the contemporary influence exerted by historical personalities who were responsible for establishing a number of religious traditions and if they truly were responsible their beginnings and how this bodes for the evolution of religion in the future.

Politics, Jurisprudence and Ethnic and Cultural Identity examine the role of religion in social change and religious politics and how this relates to sources of authority in a variety of regional and cultural contexts.


Economics and Commodity looks at the issue of economics and capitalism in religion and the consequences of its influence whilst Difference and Liberalism discusses the effects and influence of religion in the light of contemporary democratic freedoms. Representation in Popular Culture and Popular Media looks at the role of figures within the media industries and how they influence perceptions of religion through media representation.

Finally the conclusion will attempt to briefly draw together a number of strands and produce a flow chart that represents the mechanisms involved in the evolution and adaptation of religion over time.

Secularism and Secularization Secularization theorists assert that secularization is an ongoing and growing phenomenon, particularly in the West. However, though the theory may have some standing amongst academics and continues to influence those for whom the processes inherent in globalization run hand in hand with a decreasing need for religion, the growth in religious politics and increasing numbers of people converting to various religious traditions around the world cannot be ignored. However, the privatisation and de institutionalisation, in the West particularly, of personal approaches to religion would seem to run hand in hand with the conversion to some of the major institutionalised religious traditions (Halliwell, 04.04.04, Newspaper


Articles and Texas Islam, 10 April 2004, TV). Additionally there are some religious ideologies being used in regions usually considered as secular. For example: The EU in its bid to insert a Christian clause in to the EU Constitution asserting that Europe is intrinsically Christian (Ahmed, 09.05.04, Newspaper Articles)

The USA where, it is asserted, the Christian Right, and some Dispensationalist adherents, maintain a distinct presence exerting political power and heavily influencing political decision making (Aaronovitch, 15.01.03 and Hanford, 09.08.04, Newspaper Articles, and Evans, 2004).

In Israel the influence of the haredim on and involvement in Israeli State politics and the acquisition of power by playing the minority card in the formation of coalition government designed, in part, to undermine both the secularist and the Reform/Liberal movements. A paradigm shift had allowed some of the haredim to move out from a sequestered form of religious practice when Kook the Younger and his followers evolved the view that even secular elements of the modern state were God’s tools (Armstrong, 2003, pg. 261).

Conversely in some countries not considered as secular the opposite seems to be the case in the development and evolution of


political power, India for example. For some Western observers the predominant confusion lies in the difference between Gandhi’s Democratic pluralist religious secularism and Nehru’s Democratic non religious secularism. Gandhi’s view was that India is intrinsically a religious country and that the reigns of political power should be held not by any one religious tradition but that there should be a religiously inclusive pluralistic approach to Government. Nehru’s approach was perceptibly different in that he felt that religion should be kept out of politics altogether and that the democratic secular ideal was the paradigm most suited to the divisive issue of India’s religious communal interests (Tully, 2003, TV). In the context of India today both influences are still felt and though this is predominantly in a political context there are those who have adopted Gandhi’s approach to religion (and politics) within the milieu of contemporary post Colonial Hinduism.

In the UK the fastest rise for one A level examination category has been in Religious Studies, a reflection perhaps of the constant presence of religious issues in the media (BBC News, Internet, accessed 01.10.04) and though church attendance has fallen dramatically research has shown that at least two thirds of those questioned responded that they ‘have a sense of spirituality’ (Bates, 18.09.04, Newspaper Articles). This would certainly seem to be born out by the BBC’s research which pointed to that fact that when asked about God the figures for belief were low but when asked


about other forms of spirituality the figures indicated that some sort of belief increased dramatically (BBC, 2004, TV). With religious issues at the forefront of today’s worldwide press coverage religion, via this type of media, certainly could have an influence on the individual.

Westerlund asserts that overall there is a worldwide increase in the involvement of religion with politics pointing out seventeen cases where the influence of religion in politics is on the increase (Westerlund, 2002) and influencing the individual either favourably or otherwise.

Foundationalism and Hermeneutics If this question had been asked in an historical context the answer might have been a much more simplistic ‘yes’ since from a foundationalist viewpoint a number of religions have been supposed to have been established on first principles by historical individuals; Buddhism by Sakayamuni, Christianity by Jesus, and Islam by

Mohammed. On reflection each of these religions did not really emerge from first principles but were themselves underpinned by extant religions at the time. Buddhism on Hinduism; Buddhism is considered by some distinct from Hinduism only because it does not acknowledge the authority of the Vedas (Cross, 1994, pg. 2), Christianity on Judaism; commentators suggest that in it’s beginnings Christianity was perceived as a Jewish sect (Fraser,


07.02.04, Newspaper Articles), and Islam on both Christianity and Judaism. Herein lies the argument between foundationalism and hermeneutics, which is as relevant today as it was in the past (Ross, Internet, accessed 23.05.04). Foundationalism aside the individuals who ‘founded’ the worlds major religious traditions still hold sway over the religions they established, though obviously through a hermeneutical lens, and will continue to do so in this way in perpetuity.

Politics In this context the dynamics of change can be seen as occurring as a result of effective and/or influential individuals well placed and well educated enough and with an ability to manage and manipulate the representation of religious interests which end up bound up in a religious-political process. The point that religion is entirely and inescapably bound up with the political process is one with which both Gandhi (Tully, 1992, pg. 5) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Wurst, Internet, accessed 18.03.04) agree. The fact that this may take the form of direct and/or indirect dissension and critique of political government by independent and/or semi independent religious authorities as well as direct involvement in the political processes of government only serves to emphasise the point, a case of religion influencing the individual through the socio-political process.


For religious traditions political expediency can sometimes outweigh historically established processes as in the case of Iraqi Shiites under Moqtada el Sadr in Iraq, who previously would have abjured politics, an historical legacy that emerged from the various fates of the twelve occulted Imams. With Sunni Islam, whose historical political authority resided with the Caliphate until the demise of the last Ottoman Caliphate system under Attaturk, there seems to have been a shift during this transitional phase to various sources of political authority and domination by powerful ruling houses, as with the House of Sau’ud in Saudi Arabia.

Christianity would certainly seem to be a major influence for the West, particularly in the USA and though in the UK the authority of the Church is in decline the seats of the Bishops in the House of Lords is still an historical legacy that may yet have to be addressed. Yet the Church still plays an important part in social justice since its political involvement has become deconfessionalised, as with Nahdlatul Ulama in Indonesia (see ‘Abdurahman Wahid and Nahdlatul Ulama’ in Ramage, pages 45-74), and has found it’s voice in critique of Governmental policies for social justice and change.









contemporary world in ways which are becoming ever more apparent with the influence of the still extant manifest destiny of the USA and what may eventually prove to be the failure of the re-


emergent US green belt policy towards Islam with a back lash against colonial zones of influence in the Islamic world, the Islamic imperative mood translated into political aspirations for a purer Islam throughout the Arabic world, the ‘failure’ of Islam in the face of the defeat of the Arabs in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, historical green belt policies as a legacy of the Great Game in Central Asia, Islamic desires in the context of Zionist aspirations supported by the USA and in some cases Dispensationalist Right Wing Christians, Hindu Nationalism, Sikhist moves for an independent Khalistan, contention over the legacy of arbitrary Colonial boundaries for contemporary Iranian-Iraqi Shiite populations, Partition in India and the tensions between Hinduism and Islam in South Asia, Ambedkar and the mass conversion of Untouchables to Buddhism in India, Iranian theocratic resistance to democratic parties, the regional split between Northern Muslims and Southern Christians in Nigeria, moves by the EU to insert a clause into the EU Constitution extolling the ‘Christian’ nature of the European Union (Ahmed, 09.05.04, Newspaper Articles), representation of Rama at Ayodhya and the rise of Hindutva politics and the contention over Ayodhya as Muslim or Hindu, the Kosovan crisis and the historical regional domination by Ottoman Islam with the conversion of Kosovan Albanians and the Kosovan Grand Vizier’s atrocities which resulted in the battle of Nandofehervar (now Belgrade), the battle lines drawn between Rangers and Celtic – Scottish football divided along religiouspolitical lines, and the Protestant-Catholic divide in Northern Ireland.


The list goes on and on and without a doubt the influence of religion on politics and as a consequence communities and individuals is largely as a result of historical ethno-religious boundaries and loyalties. Religious representation as an adaptive mechanism seems therefore to have been born out of political necessity and that the future of the relationship between religion and politics and sources of religious authority and their entanglement with political power is rooted in the legacies of the past.

Jurisprudence There are also one or two contemporary National religious-political institutions that rely almost entirely on a theocratic structure, Iran for instance, through the governance of the Supreme Jurisprudent, or Faquih; Ayatollah Khomeini was the first, and self appointed. The Supreme Jurisprudent is representative of the power of the Hidden Twelfth Imam and deemed therefore infallible, his decisions irreversible (Cole, 2000, pgs. 192-197). Though tempered by modern democratic movements the influence of Khomeini on theocratic processes and Islamic fiqh (legal interpretation) and therefore Iranian Shiite Islam itself, still echo in contemporary Iran.

Within the overarching framework of Islam there are differing approaches to textual interpretation and representation.


From a Sunni perspective the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence were established by the late 14th century emerging from the teachings of elite scholars (Rippin, 2002, pg.88), individuals whose legacy had, and still has, a profound effect on the interactive process of Islamic jurisprudential science, or fiqh, and the hermeneutical re-interpretation of Islamic law.

As can be seen the influence of faqih, ulama and the interpretation of Qur’ān, Hadith and sunnah in the Islamic legal process is one of great importance and exerts significant religious influence over the adherents of both contemporary Sunni and Shiite Islam and as a consequence, though with differences in a regional and

jurisprudential scholarly context, individual Muslims.

Another modern theocracy is the Vatican City, governed by the Pope or Holy See, who, combined with the Roman Curia form the legally recognised government of the Roman Catholic Church. In a position analogous to that of the Iranian Shiite Supreme Jurisprudent, the Pope assumes, through the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, the position of supreme apostolic authority and his proclamations are therefore held to be fixed and unchangeable (, Internet, accessed 23.05.04) a consequence of which is that his decisions are said to hold for all Roman Catholics. In this case an individual, the Pope, influences both other individuals and the religious tradition of Roman Catholicism.


Ethnic and Cultural Identity If the media and Government social policies and projects are anything to go by social issues and as a consequence, or because of, their sense of identity, the interaction between Islam and politics and social change have never been more apparent, in both global and regional context. Yet for Muslims the evolution, adaptation and change of their beliefs and interactions with global, regional and local politics and social change are intrinsically tied in with their fundamental identification with Islam from a global emic perspective, and at the same time with their regional and local national, ethnic and cultural identity. In particular this applies to subsequent generations in immigrant Muslim communities where a sense of identity with Islam can sometimes conflict with the process of acculturation (Choudhari, 07.04.04, Newspaper Articles). However, this is not as much of a one way process as might be at first perceived and as represented by the media with lesser newsworthy issues such as the influence of the issue of Human Rights on religious political authority in Islam as can be seen in a recently issued proclamation outlining thirty-two decelerations of

advancement and development in Iranian Government policy thirteen of which directly affect the status and protection of women (Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 2004, pgs. 2-3).


Religions are influencing individuals in the West with increasing conversions to some of the major religious traditions which have been culturally and traditionally perceived as outside of the Western historical cultural Christian milieu as with Islam (Texas Islam, 10.04.04, TV) and Buddhism (Halliwell, 04.04.04, Newspaper Articles).

Not only does diversity exist between faiths but within faiths and this diversity exists at a variety of levels; regional-communal, nationalnationalistic, International-Global, and Trans national where the complexity of cultural concerns, political and socials interests amongst a diversity of faiths are mediate through political and social mechanisms that have been developed to manage them. For instance Li Kwan Yew’s Secular religious pluralism in Singapore where religion was promoted as a shared cultural anchor rather than allowing more religiously divisive issues to flourish (Brown, 1994, pgs. 95-96), and Soekarno and Soeharto’s Neo Patrimonialism in Indonesia based on pre Islamic, jahiliyyah, cultural values (Brown, 1994, pgs. 117-118). Examples of individuals influencing religions from within the political process.

The USA has its own share of religious-ethnic issues amongst which is the rise of the Nation of Islam which is intimately linked to the issues of African American ethnic politics. In this instance the African American ethnic identity seems to have been determined as the


basis upon which has been built a mixture of radical Islam and the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, though when combined with Islamic imperatives the movement becomes substantially more radicalised. Ethic needs influencing choice of religion and

consequently religion influencing a radical political stance (Gardell in Westerlund, 2002, pgs. 48-74).

In some cases there has been an historical convergence of ethnic and cultural identity within the context of religion. Gandharan Hellenistic and Indian Buddhist iconography (Marx, Internet,,

accessed 01.10.04), Western representations of the Buddhist iconography as with statues of Buddhist Bodhisattvas produced by the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (Jyoti, 2002, pg. 144), Bon religious iconography adapted to represent Tibetan Buddhist deities, Christianity and the emergence of a Caucasian Christ (AD317: Video 2, Band 1), Jesus as represented by Zeus in Byzantine religious art (Romer, 1997, TV), the Christian inheritance of Egyptian representations, via Helleno-Roman iconography, of Isis suckling her son Horus which emerge as the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus (Zabern, 1999, pg. 56), and last but definitely not least, Margaret Thatcher emerging as a Daoist Deity of Wealth (Palmer, 1996).


If the previous evidence is anything to go by it would seem that dynamically evolving human communities, alongside routes of commerce and communication affect religious representation in a way that seems to parallel the merging of cultural and religious beliefs with ethnically based representational styles. As a

consequence of which subsequent generations without the benefit of historical empirical evidence to the contrary eventually assume the idealistic representation as foundational in its contemporary milieu which in turn becomes the historical iconography on which future representations of religious imagery will eventually be founded.

Economics and Commodity The availability of spiritual and religious choice as a consequence of globalization and technology, in particular the Internet, would seem to fit in with the assertions made by the rational choice theorists that the privatisation of religion gives those so inclined a wider choice in the market place. Economics and commodity in the context of religion is not just limited to the purchase of religious paraphernalia, goods and services, collectables and museum pieces, and access to a larger variety of traditions. It is also apparent in the processes at work within religions themselves. Prosperity religion for an example, the ideal of the protestant work ethic and global capital, the new evangelical prosperity religions, the Catholic prosperity ideologies of Opus Dei, status advancement and church attendance in the USA,


capitalist uses of new age and spiritual management disciplines (see Woodhead and Heelas, 2000) all contribute to the issue of religious economics and would seem to indicate a dialogue between the ideologies of the economics of globalisation and religious aspirations. Religious proscriptions can sometimes have a devastating effect on both those within the tradition from whence the decree came and externally. For example; with the ruling in Israel by Orthodox Jews that hairpieces from India were not considered kosher and their importation was stopped (Vallely, 21.05.04, Newspaper Articles) which has devastated the Jewish wig industry worldwide upon which all practising Jewish women rely; and historically in Iran with the issue of a fatwah to ban tobacco smoking to destabilise Western economic interests in the region based in the tobacco industry (Cole, 2002, Internet, accessed 01.10.04).

Islamic Coca Cola has been produced to compete with the original Coca Cola and perceptions of the economic dominance of the West, and the USA in particular (Everyman, 2004, TV) and there are more and more banks facilitating mortgages and lending for Muslims based on Shari ‘a law (Evening Standard, 23.09.04, Newspaper Articles).

Spiritual tourism is on the increase with pilgrims from all over the world travelling to sites of major interest and pilgrimage such as


Dharamsala for Buddhists, Varanassi and the Kumbh Mela for those professing the Hindu faith whether Hindu’s of descent or (an anathema to Hindu’s of descent) ascent, Mecca for Muslims on the Haj, the Golden Temple for Sikhs, Santiago de Compostela, Lourdes and Vatican City for Catholic Christians, Puttaparthi for Sai Baba devotees, and so on. It’s not until one delves into the issue that a surprisingly large industry with all of it’s associated economic benefits comes to light. So in a way in this case religion and the economics of the global travel industry are intertwined and when seen from this perspective religion definitely influences the individual, particularly in the choice of commodity or broker.

Difference and Liberalism One need to look no further than the current debate on sexual orientation and religious authority in the Anglican Church to see just how intense the interaction can become between individual, and by extension community (in this case the gay and lesbian identified Anglican community), and religion and how this process can begin to define the evolution, adaptation and change that can occur within the overarching umbrella of a tradition; in this case a tradition within the tradition of Christianity; the Anglican Church (see Pritchard,

19.09.04, Newspaper Articles). Additionally in this particular issue dissension is apparent in a regional context with regional Anglican authorities in the Far East, Latin America and Africa lining up against the acceptance of homosexuality within the Anglican Christian









Reinterpretation, adaptation and change in Christianity has and is occurring as a consequence of this issue with the formation of lesbian and gay identified church communities and with the emergence of new forms of liberal denominations such as the Metropolitan Church and the Catholic identified Dignity.

This paradigm shift in social perspectives has resulted in the emergence of a variety of sexual orientation related traditions, some newly emergent, some based on hermeneutical interpretations of older traditions and many with a basis in Jungian analytical psychology, yet all with the an underlying theme of liberalisation and with quite distinct founders; a good case for the influence of individuals on religion in the context of both religious interpretation and reinterpretation. Amongst the most influential are; Jungian focused Thompson, Hopcke, Walker, Kramer and Baldwin; for Christianity, Boyd; Ram Dass and Harvey for Hinduism; and Williams and Hall as contemporary spokes people for the Native American same sex spiritualities. Hay, a prominent and influential individual in the context of Gay spiritualities, was instrumental in founding the Mattachine Society (a precursor to a modern, predominantly secular, Gay Liberation movement), a potentially civil religious order, with its roots in the medieval French Mattachiné, a troupe of masked jesters and troubadours whose origins hark back even further to the Roman rites of Saturnalia; a new religious


movement perhaps and one which has influenced the emergence of a quasi religious Gay movement, that of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Hay subsequently founded the Radical Fairie

movement, more spiritual focused pagan type of gay movement (see Thompson, 1995 and 1987; Hopcke, 1989; and Johnson 2000).

Contemporary post second wave Feminism in Islam would currently seem to be in a unique position, one which allows increasing access to educational opportunities that facilitate the exploration of the complexities of Islamic jurisprudence and challenge claims based purely on the contemporary power dynamic of a patriarchal view of Islam (Hosseini, 2003, Lecture). This post second wave religious feminism is not restricted to the Islam but is spreading globally through modern communications and is affecting worldwide and regional religious establishments and challenging the purely patriarchal interpretations of religious traditions in practically all of the religious traditions. This is helped partially by the interaction between religious authorities and Western women who have not been inculcated with the cultural patriarchal traditions associated with the traditional lands associated with the origins of some of the more patriarchal religious traditions and who challenge religious teachers from ethnic and cultural backgrounds in a way that women of the same ethnic and cultural background might not. Resistance to change has a tendency to radicalise as with Sujata’s Vahini (army) in Indian Buddhism who challenge what is perceived to be men’s


irresponsibility to their religious responsibilities and by extension the family, caste, patriarchal attitudes and women’s lack of education (Barnes in Sharma, 2002, pg. 57). In South Africa women’s rights in Islam have been heavily influenced by the battle against apartheid the consequence of which has been the ability to elicit and engage the help of male Muslims through the sense of shared struggle against apartheid (McDonough in Sharma, 2002, pg. 186). Here it would seem the individual, in this case women, are influencing religion.

In one region in Indonesia the gender disparity, equality, matriarchal and patriarchal issues is turned on it’s head with the historical cultural matriarchy of the Minangkabau in Western Sumatra ensuringing the dominance of women in different regional type of Islam (van Reenen, et al, 1996). Pre Islamic cultural values also permeate and underlie other regionally, ethnically and culturally diverse Indonesians and their understanding and practice of Islam. The Bugis for instance have five genders, women and men who are attracted to each other, women who are attracted to their own gender, men who are attracted to their own gender and a male transvestite priesthood (Blair and Blair, 1996, Video).

Patently issues of gender and liberalism are having an influence on religion not only through a hermeneutical re-examination,


reinterpretation and representation of the fundamentals tenets of religious sources of textual authority, as with Islamic Jurisprudence, but also through challenges to established institutions, such as the Anglican Church where a recent paradigm shift finally led to the ordination of women, and the Buddhist clergy where the reinstitution of ordained women has yet to take place outside of Taiwan (where Buddhist women’s ordination lineage remains unbroken). Overall it can be said that in the case of difference and religious liberalism it is the individual that is influencing religion.

Representation in Popular Culture and Popular Media The influence of those in prominent positions advocating for particular religious traditions via the globalisation of modern popular culture and through popular mediums is self evident. Some promote the religious traditions of their choice.

Table 2: Religious Promotion in the Media Popular cultural figure Popular Medium Religious Tradition Source

George Music Hinduism Harrison, The Beatles and Ravi Shankar Madonna, Demi Music, Cinema, Kabala Moore, Britney Theatre Spears & Michael Jackson Harrison Ford, Cinema Buddhism

Shankar (1999) Isreal21c in Internet, Halevi, 09.06.04, Newspaper Articles Purify Mind ,


Richard Gere

John Cleese Cinema and TV Buddhism and Joanna Lumley Lynne Franks Fashion and Buddhism couture Mel Gibson Cinema Christianity

Internet, Richard Gere Productions, Everyman (2004) TV Cherniak (2001) DVD Franks (1998) Glaister, 20.02.04, Newspaper Articles Coffey, 18.02.04, Newspaper Articles

John Travolta, Cinema Kirstie Ally and Tom Cruise


(*Table 1. Note: Nick Drake, a contributory dramaturge to the screen adaptation of His Dark Materials at the National Theatre in London, stated that Pullman was not anti Christian but anti Clerical (Drake, 2003, in Interviews)).

Whilst others provoke controversy Table 1: Controversies in the Media Popular cultural figure Popular Medium Religious and issue Tradition Hinduism Source Deepa Mehta, Internet Drake, 2003, Interviews*, Sierz, 12.12.03, Newspaper Articles Fraser, 07.02.04,

Deepa Mehta’s Cinema Fire Lesbianism

Philip Pullman’s Theatre Christianity His Dark Anti Religious Materials Institutionalism, Anti Clerical

Mel Gibson

Cinema Anti Semitic



Newspaper Articles Manipulation of popular media is another route by which some traditions and their adherents try to influence individuals. According to one journalist (Donegan, 25.07.04, Newspaper Articles) in the USA the Christian Right are doing their best to censor what can and cannot be viewed by audiences.

It is not just cinema, theatre and television that are involved in the representation of religion and exert an influence on the individual. Printed material such as books and pamphlets as well as art and architecture can provide mediums of representation and

interpretation that can exert influence in the context of an individual’s perception of religious traditions. Currently controversy rages in India with a fervent anti Islamic feeling permeating the mass media with attempts by the Hindu Right to influence India’s religious history; of architecture for instance, where claims are made that many Islamic buildings were designed and built by Hindus (Ramesh, 26.06.04, Newspaper Articles) and a critical review of the influential Indian writer V. S. Naipaul on his failure in his writing to recognise Islam’s contribution to India (see Dalrymple, 20.03.04, Newspaper Articles). Gupta asserts that ‘a large part of the mass popular media in India today has a symbiotic relationship with the Hindu Right’ (Gupta, 2002, pg. 4). This can be used not only to reach Hindu communities geographically dislocated from India but to


manipulate communal violence in India. In post Mughal and post Colonial terms this sometimes expressed by negating the general media as tools of Christianity and Islam (Sharma, 2001, pg. 145), and of the Eurocentric economic dependency of ‘third world’ cinema (Shohat, 2001, pg. 30).

Other media avenues such as museum exhibitions can bring historical religious representational art such as paintings, books and statuary to light in a contemporary context such as; Pre Raphaelite painting as a response to Darwin’s perceived scientific reductionism (Conrad, 15.02.04, Newspaper Articles); Encounters: The Meeting of Asia and Europe 1500-1800 at the Victoria and Albert Museum (Mishra, 11.09.04, Newspaper Articles); The Silk Road: Trade, Travel, War and Faith (Dalrymple, 19.06.04, Newspaper Articles) and the controversy over the ownership of treasures from around the world held in museums (MacGregor, 24.07.04, Newspaper Articles) though the question remains for some exhibitions as to whether it should be classified as art or as funtional religious paraphernalia as with the Sacred Spaces Exhibition staged by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2000 (Bowman, et al, 2003, pgs. 17-19) and the St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art (Bowman, et al, 2003, pgs. 34-38 and AD317 Video 1 Band 1). Whilst one might be expected to think that for an iconoclastic Islam this is not an issue, since for Islam God cannot be represented by


imagery, it still remains a concern as to how the world of Islam is represented through the media.

There is absolutely no doubt that the popular media is suffused with religious imagery; Kushner’s Angels in America for instance, makes considerable use of religious metaphors with the presence of Mormon characters and images of angels and heaven (Nichols and Kushner, 2004, DVD); Tsai Chih Chung’s series of comic books illustrating some of the more difficult concepts of Buddhism and Eastern philosophy (Chung, 1994); and Karen Armstrong’s books on religion which have proved so popular that one book in particular, Buddha (Armstrong, 2002), was listed on the New York Times Best Seller’s list. There are also many spiritual supermarket focused books for the spiritual seeker such as The Spiritual Tourist (Brown, 1999), A Fortune Teller Told Me (Terzani, 2002), Holy Cow (Macdonald, 2004), the Empire of the Soul (Roberts, 1994) and The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment (Losada, 2001).

The media world abounds in religious imagery and whilst much of it is culturally misappropriated, Native American, Hindu and Buddhist religious paraphernalia as decorative art for instance and advertising and branding using religious terminology such as Nike and Mazda, the simple fact that it is there would tend to indicate the influence of religion on the individual either appropriated to serve as a function of


globalisation (selling products) or as a way of promoting and influencing religious choice.

Conclusion The question was ‘In today’s globalising world, does religion define the individual, or does the individual define religion?’

1) Religion has no objective existence without the existence of human beings so by logical deduction yes, individuals define religion since it is a subject-object relationship that exists between the individual and religion

2) Religion defines the individual by virtue of the mechanism of dynamic and evolving representations by individuals as sources of authority

3) The mechanism by which this is achieved is what might be termed an algorithm of relationship between the individual and religious tradition where contemporary perceptions of religions are rooted in the ‘continuity’ of the past yet continue to evolve, adapt and change through the process of historical hermeneutical interpretation (see below. Diagram 1: Flow Chart: Religion, Modernity and Change)


4) Undoubtedly prominent individuals also have an influence on spiritual and religious choice and potentially interpretation and misinterpretation including established religious leaders and authorities, those from the popular culture, and popular media

An attempt to show the complexity of relationships between the various factors affecting and influencing religions today are numerous and complex. An attempt to illustrate them is shown below and includes two examples that illustrate the difference between emic and etic perspectives.


Emic perspective Paganism Wicca Theosophy Shamanism ‘NRMs’ Hermeneutical Lens of the Victorian Fin de siècle

Privatisation of religion

The past (Tradition & Continuity, Core beliefs & principles)

Pluralism, Religious Democratic Secularization

Interpretative hermeneutical lens (Adaptation & Change)

Etic perspective

Cross Over between science and religion

Sources of authority (Text, Orthodoxy Orthopraxis Jurisprudence) Politics) Representation (Text, Media, Internet, Images, Film, Political, Popular Culture, Popular Media figures)


Modernity Science

Belief Identity Culture Popular Culture Adaptation Change Politics Traditions Scholars Language Experience

Opt out from Institutional Religion

Community (Culture, Religion, Identity, Regional, Transnational, Global)

Individual (Identity)

Atheistic secularization

Modernity Globalisation Technology Science Secularization Social Change Pluralism & Diversity Human Rights Feminism Liberalism Ecology Post Communist Post Colonial Human Rights Democracy

Belief Identity Culture Adaptation Change Politics Traditions Scholars Language Experience

Civil Religion

Diagram 1: Flow Chart: Religion, Modernity and Change



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Trevor Skingle - PI U6431382 Course AD317 - 2004 Course Essay – Option 2


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