The AQA Specification states students need to know about the relationship between globalisation and religion. This post is a few thoughts on whether globalisation has resulted in the decline of religion or not!
Religious motives were a fundamental part of early globalisation
- The Spanish conquistadores colonised The Americas in the name of God and were often accompanied by missionaries who tried to convert natives. Many of the towns and cities are named after Christian saints, showing the influence of Christianity.
- The Protestant Pilgrim Fathers came to the Americas seeking freedom from religious persecution in Europe.
- Many of the first people to contact traditional peoples all over the world were religious missionaries.
- However, early globalisation (or conquest) was always about more than just religion and in time, economic and cultural globalisation seem to have become increasingly secular.
More recent globalisation may have undermined religion
- Technological innovations in travel and communications have underpinned globalisation, which have been accompanied by an increasing ‘scientific outlook’. Some sociologists argue that science undermines religion.
- Economic globalisation has involved increasing rationalisation and differentiation, both of which seem to undermine the role of religion in societies.
- Some aspects of cultural globalisation, such as the growth of consumer culture seem to undermine religious values – with some churches being converted into homes and shops in the West.
- One aspect of globalisation is more contact with other religions – when there are many religions, it undermines the authority of those religions which claim to have a monopoly on the truth, such as Christianity and Islam.
However, globalisation doesn’t necessarily undermine religion
- Huntington argues that religion has become more important in ‘civilizational identity’ as other sources of identity are undermined. As a result, globalisation, which brings cultures in closer contact, makes religion more important as a source of identity and conflict.
- Karen Armstrong argues that the perception that Western Imperialism is undermining religion has led to the increase of religious Fundamentalism.
- Monopoly of truth religions might be in decline, but more postmodern religions may be taking their place – such as New Age religions.
- Globalisation may have increased the prevalence of the scientific worldview globally, but science is not necessarily incompatible with religion.