RELIGION IN THE TWENTY FIRST CENTURY
Reading Due: Chapter 13 and the handout that defines Spirituality.
This chapter assesses the state of religion as a whole at the beginning of this current century and focuses especially on how the many religions presented in this book understand their place in the global religious landscape. You will look at religious based violence and terrorism, the relationship between religion and politics and movements of interfaith understanding. In you written assignment and discussions, talk about what you have learned about religions and religious movements of early centuries and compare them to those of this current century. Have violence and terrorism always had a place in religion? Has there ever really been a separation of church and state? Discuss the current tread to understand oneself as being “spiritual” as opposed to “religious and what this designation implies. Responses are to be turned in as assignment with grading via points.
Hello writer you have the overview of chapter 13, below
Chapter 13 RELIGION IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
This final chapter assesses the state of religion as a whole at the beginning of the twenty-first century, focusing especially on how the many religions presented in this book understand their place in the global religious landscape, the phenomenon of religion-based violence and terrorism, the relationship between religion and politics, and movements for interfaith understanding. The goals of the chapter are to:
- examine select aspects of religions around the globe today
- grasp how religion is affecting human life now
- ponder the impact religion may have on humanity in the twenty-first century
Unlike earlier centuries, in which regions were relatively isolated from one another, historical and technological advances have brought different parts of the world in closer contact. Regional and national economies have become part of an integrated global network. Social and cultural connectivity is also increasing. Immigration also causes intermixing of cultural traditions. The intermixing or overlaying of cultures is a factor of immigration as well as economics. Both factors are affecting how people experience their religious traditions.
Until the Iranian revolution of 1979 brought Islam to the fore as a potent social force, many intellectuals believed that the whole world would eventually secularize and religion would become irrelevant. In popular culture, there have been a spate of books criticizing religion, which would have been unthinkable even fifty years earlier. But secularism also refers to the separation of church and state that many nations have adopted. Many religions are undergoing a resurgence in spite of secularism, either in their home regions or elsewhere. Political secularism is being threatened by politicized religious pressure groups.
No one religion dominates the globe presently. Even the largest of the world religions, Christianity, consists of thousands of forms. Religions have moved out of the places of their origins into new locales. In virtually any major city, multiple religions are represented. For example, in Russia, there are not only Russian Orthodox Christians, but also Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, shamanists, and followers of new religions. This section also provides a discussion of the following italicized subtopics.
Hardening of religious boundaries
Though an uncontestable fact, religious pluralism is not welcomed everywhere. A hardening of religious boundaries in some areas is observable. This can be expressed by denying the validity of other religions. Governments may fund some religions but not others, and ban others outright. Some countries have introduced registration requirements to track new religions, and some governments have passed laws banning particular religious symbols. Legal jurisdiction has become a prominent religious issue, and involves questions about the ruling power of a country’s majority religious faith over a minority faith. A tragic phenomenon in some previously communist countries has been the unleashing of centuries old hostilities between different religious groups, as in the former Yugoslavia. The twentieth century emphasis on materialism and secular values fanned the flames of fundamentalism, spurred on by social and technological changes and the values associated with modernism such as individualism, change over continuity, efficiency over traditional skills, pragmatism and profiteering. Some fundamentalists seek to change the dominant secular culture while others choose to withdraw.
Religion after 11 September
The September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States caused polarization along religious and ethnic lines. In the United States, hate crimes were committed against Muslims and people thought to be Muslims. Al Qaeda selectively cited passages from the Qur’an to legitimate its militancy. Many fundamentalist groups divide the world into two camps of good and evil. Such oppositional standpoints make violence almost inevitable. If another group has been deemed evil, and that belief is justified by one’s understanding of religion, then to kill members of that group becomes a religiously sanctioned act. Some may be surprised to learn that the perpetrators of suicide attacks, including the September 11 hijackers, were well-educated, from relatively well-off families. The author stresses that, “whether state sponsored or incited by militant extremists, violence finds no support in any religion.” Members of many mainstream religions have spoken out against fundamentalist violence; some argue that the problem is not so much a “clash of civilizations” as “clash of ignorance.”
Religion in politics
The link between religion and politics will continue to be important; in many countries, political parties are linked with particular faiths and legitimate their agendas as defense of religion. This trend propels people interested in power rather than spirituality towards leadership roles. Both al-Qaeda and the Bush administration have proclaimed global politico-religious agendas, which some observers believe to have led to an increase rather than decrease in terrorism. Separation of religion and state is a defining feature of modern democracy, though religious symbols and beliefs may be deeply ingrained within a society to such an extent that they influence policy. Some religious cultures, such as Islam and Sikhism, view the combination of religion and polity as a positive goal. In a historical speech to the Muslim world in Cairo, United States President Barack Obama spoke about resolving tensions between Islam and the West. Obama and his wife are themselves examples of contemporary pluralism. They are Protestant Christians, but their family backgrounds include Christian, Muslim, and Jewish ancestors.
Interfaith dialogue is a contemporary movement gaining momentum. Even though religious boundaries harden in some areas, in others the boundaries are opening up and welcoming different forms of the religious response. Interfaith dialogue is global in nature and expresses the willingness of believers committed to all religions to gather, investigate their differences, and to understand and be enriched by each other’s ways to the divine. Some note that similar principles, such as the “Golden Rule,” appear in all the world’s religions. Contemporary scholars have questioned the absolute authority of scriptures, seeking instead to understand them in their historical and cultural contexts. This section also includes discussion of the following italicized subtopics.
Responses to other faiths
With contrasting views, there are several different ways in which people of different religions may relate to each other. Exclusivism is the view that one religion, and one religion only, is true and valid. Consequently, other sacred paths that diverge from the tenets and practices of the one true faith are judged as false and erroneous. Inclusivism is yet another response to other faiths. In this approach, other religions are not seen as false or as threats. An inclusivist relationship may attempt to create a single world religion. Another variation would be a religion that asserts that it is broad and rich and deep enough to encompass all other faiths. Still another variation of inclusivism is when one religion envisions itself as the culmination of all previous religions, such as when Islam claims that it is the completion of the Western monotheistic traditions. A third response to other faiths is pluralism. This means that individuals affirm their own deep faith commitments, but believe that doing so does not necessitate taking a polemical stance toward other religions. This view inquires into other faiths by asking their members how they wish to be understood. Pluralism does not view diverse religions as false or threats; however, unlike inclusivism, pluralism does not attempt to form one world religion or subsume other traditions under the sphere of one religion.
Ecumenical conferences initially involved related religions that attempted to agree to disagree, such as Judaism and Christianity. Interfaith organizations now try to bring together representatives of as many faiths as possible. In 1993, many interfaith meetings celebrated the one-hundred year anniversary of the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago. As the interfaith movement has progressed, some have proposed an organized global gathering of faiths that might function in an advisory capacity to international organizations such as the United Nations. But such an effort raised difficult questions. Which religions should be represented (and which forms of a religion given that most have many branches and offshoots)? Should new religious movements and indigenous religions be included? Should the representatives reflect the patriarchal structures of most religions, or also include women and the poor? In addition to such global efforts, local community interfaith projects are common. The Internet, furthermore, conveys the efforts of many organizations to provide accurate information about a variety of religions to help overcome ignorance and intolerance.
Religion and social issues
Among the pressing social issues emerging across the planet and involving religions are stewardship of the environment, population development, racism, violence, education, health care (and the HIV/AIDS pandemic), poverty, injustice, governmental oppression, and weapons of mass destruction. One implication of this chapter section is that despite the immense religious pluralism of today, the religions of the planet are unified in their interest in, and advocacy of, social morality extending to others and their precious environment. More specifically, Hindus and Muslims are attempting to halt the spread of violent, immoral, cynical mass media communications; Buddhists are heading efforts to ban landmines; Muslim and Christian delegations at the 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development advocated strong positions against abortion and forced population control. They took equally strong stands on behalf of health care for women, education, and just economic development.
Issues of sexuality and reproductive rights are increasingly controversial in many religious groups. Reproductive restrictions, such as bans on abortion or an end to reproductive cloning, are suggested by some groups. Some groups take a hostile stance against homosexuals.
Religion and materialism
Universal religious principles, such as prohibitions on harming others, lying, stealing, usurping other’s rights, greed, etc., have been overshadowed by the expansion of capitalism. The rampant materialism of the twentieth century has spawned various simplicity movements, fueled by bestseller books advocating a return to spirituality instead of single-minded pursuit of wealth and career advancement. The author’s assessment of the current situation is pessimistic: “. . . at the beginning of the twenty-first century, power-mongering, self-interest, and corruption are at the forefront of political activities; honesty, altruism, service, harmony, justice, and the public good are not the primary motivating forces in most government actions.”
Religion and the future of humanity
The author speculates that because the world is sick, it is perhaps ready to be cured. There is a global increase in interest in religion, and some religious leaders see the present as a period of darkness before the dawn.