Jessie Yancey-Siegel

Globalization and Religion The interplay of religion and globalization over the years has been and currently is a controversial and contested subject. Many say that globalization is a relatively new phenomenon, only having emerged in the last century. Yet, religion, a major facet of life for every culture and area of the world, has been spread from continent to continent for centuries and has become truly "globalized". As Sudhir Kale puts it simply in his article Spirituality, Religion, and Globalization, "the earliest knowledge to traverse national borders has mainly been of the spiritual kind" (Kale, p. 96). Through immigration and the inter-connectedness of society, religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism have been spread throughout the globe. This same force of globalization has both aided in the spread of and poses a threat to religion. Along with this threat generated by globalization have come conflicts between proponents for globalization and their religious counterparts. Many factors have affected the global spread of religion. Imperial and colonial endeavors of multiple countries incorporated a desire to spread religious ideals in the colonized country. For example, the Spanish exploration of South America was marked by a strong motivation for the spread of Christianity. British imperialism in Africa aided in the spread of Christianity within the continent. Islam was spread throughout Southern Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East, and other regions by Muslim Conquests as well as Arab traders. Another force in the spread of religious beliefs, particularly Christianity, is the distribution of missionaries throughout parts of Asia, South America, Africa, and other

. which was born out of the Western society. For example. as it plays an important role socially. A person's identification with a religion plays an important role in the construction of a new "cognitive map" through which the individual can locate themselves in the confusing and multidimensional setting generated by globalization. One negative effect of globalization is deterritorialization. p. culturally. 103). this rise in popularity of Eastern religion is due in part to changes in immigration laws in the 1960s that admitted more Eastern missionaries into the country. religion can be seen as an avenue of reterritorialization. the Christian Evangelical Movement. Key components that have defined all world religions such as sacred time. and politically in the world. Kale explains that the indistinguishability of national borders (due to globalization). In terms of the United States. "poses a threat to the traditional collective identities of many people. it becomes harder to identify with a certain ethnic group or region. monks. The exchange of eastern and western religious ideologies is a dynamic that is widely studied. Islam. and mullahs. and Hinduism. p. which in turn causes them to turn to religion to reclaim those identities" ( of the globe. deterritorialization also poses a threat to religions themselves. This 'export' of religious ideologies has been aided by the exchange of religious figures such as priests. In this age of increased migration and cultural imperialism. Yet. has been widely outsourced to the East. In this way. In terms of east to west. The presence of Western missionaries in Asia has led to the spread of Western religions in the East. 98). compared to thirty percent in 1970 (Kale. as well as eastern religions such as Buddhism. eastern spiritual practices such as yoga and meditation have been introduced and popularized in the Western world. Seventy percent of Evangelical churches are in non-Western countries today.

other aspects of globalization strengthen religion. The Evangelical branch of Christianity is one example of a religious group that has harnessed the power of the television to spread its beliefs and connect its followers together in the form of "televangelism". at the same time. religion has lost some of it's power and influence. will be the outcome of modernization and globalization. Technology. and people face a threat of extinction by globalization. Place and nation once bound religious followers together. which has become more advanced and critical to societal development in our globalized world. Many religious followers have become reconnected through modern forms of communication. as it provides a way for people to identify with a particular group in an time . Secularism is a whole new ideology that can be defined as. Many believe that secularization. Social networking websites such as Facebook and other online spaces provide a way for a community of believers to converse and share virtually. and the newest development of the internet. the term "globalized religion" refers to the possibility that particular religions are no longer identifiable with a specific ethnic group or nation. Meanwhile. due to the spread of scientific knowledge and the light of reason. In fact. but in this globalized world that is becoming more difficult to do. At times throughout history. "being separate from religious or spiritual connection or influence" (Dictionary. Clearly. such as radio. different aspects of globalization have either positive or negative effects on religion. has aided in this crisis posed to religion. Yet. a process that would led to the eventual extinction of religion. maybe even as a reaction to globalization. The largest and most significant threat to religion in terms of globalization could be considered to be secularism. the absence of physical connectedness causes followers to become more isolated and privatized. it continually resurges as a strong force.

and revivalist Hindus (Kurth. in response to the growing Western influence in many countries with traditional Muslim ties. Suite101. Islamist extremist and fundamentalist groups in particular pose a large threat to Western society. influencing the younger generations in non-western countries. it is becoming more of a universal and globalized religion. As the United States becomes a stronger force of cultural imperialism. well-known as being the terrorist organization responsible for . with followers all around the globe. promoted primarily by the Western World. yet. Al Queda. 21% are converts to Islam (Benlafquih. neo-Confucians. p. The idea of secularism has been strengthened in the past two decades though. These groups tend to see the United States as the promoter of globalization leading to secularization. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and is second largest to Christianity. the the population of Muslim converts is growing in the West. as they continue to become world-wide and inter-connected through forms of communication brought about by globalization. secularism is becoming more of a threat to religious groups and those seeking to preserve their religious cultural Many people tend to identify Islam solely with Arabs. a small subset of the religion. has responded in a more violent. of those 35%. Yet. The majority of Muslims are not extremists and simply practice the religion. most notably Islamist extremist groups. In the U.S. native-born Muslims comprise 35% of the American Muslim population. Secularization leads to activities and feelings in opposition to the United States and the West in general. signifying the clash of ideologies and cultures brought about by globalization. and specifically the United States. 5). aggressive manner in the form of terrorist groups. Ironically.of loss of identity and migration. Many resistors to globalization and anti-globalization activists have been those of religious groups.

Works Cited . This paradox will be interesting to observe in the coming years. and those who wish to hold onto their traditions and practices will play out in many interesting ways. and other products of globalization. p. 122). As our world seems to continually "shrink" due to the forces of globalization. transportation. The conflict between those who seek to modernize and advance the world through globalization. religion will continue to face many challenges as well as opportunities. Al Queda and other terrorist networks believe that western modes of modernization have failed to end poverty in the Middle East and have promoted secularism. international banking systems. seek to globalize a "pure" and "authentic" form of Islam. The terrorist groups rely on modern communication. the leader of Al Queda. This process is known as "Jihadist Globalism.the September 11th attacks on the United States. rather than religion in their own societies (Steger. is a group that has formed partly in response to the increasing westernization of Islam-dominated societies. and his followers." and is actually contradictory to the beliefs of terrorist groups who claim to be fighting against the forces of globalization. Osama Bin Laden.

March 24. James. 7. Trinity Press International. Benlafquih. 2000. 2008. 6. <http://americanaffairs. Steger. Sudhir. Web. 2009. . "Spirituality. 24. Roland. Globalization. Religion. 2009. Robertson. 3. 103." Journal of Macromarketing.7 (1999): 5 4.reference. Kale.92 (2004): 92. Manfred. God and> 5. Kurth. 2. <http://dictionary. December 2. December 1.suite101." Dictionary. Harrisburg." Foreign Policy Research Institute. "Religion and Globalization. "American Muslim Statistics. and Globalization. 2009. New York: Oxford University Press.cfm/american_muslim_statistics>." Suite101. "Secular. Christine.1.

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