The impact of Globalization, Immigration and Internet on Religion
The impact of globalization, immigration, and internet on religion
The notion of spirituality is multifaceted. In the contemporary world, it entails factors, such as practices of the spirit, mind, and body, the new age, and so on (Giselle & Woodhead, 2007). This is so because of globalization, migration, and the internet. As people become more socialized through these three social elements, religious practice, values, beliefs, and cultures are shared across the globe. Subsequently, the concept of religion has changed beyond a set of beliefs people arrive at by reflection. According to Kinnvall (2002),, it has been transformed into a set of symbolic system, which conveys human identities and maps out their sociocultural boundaries. Accordingly, it marks significant moments through rituals and offers a robust mechanism for sociological, political, and economic tension. Globalization, immigration, and internet have increased the discourse on different forms of religions and religious beliefs across continents.
Religion and globalization are significantly related, whereby the former depends on the latter to thrive and flourish (Azzouzi, 2013). Globalization was advanced with the evolving trade routes leading to the colonization of Africa, Asia, and America. According to Kinnvall (2002), colonialists made religion an integral part of their agenda. It is featured in major historical conflicts, and most recently, the upsurge of modern terrorism (Kinnvall, 2002). Especially with the advent of communication and transport technologies, as well as the media, globalization has led to deterritorialization and distortion of geographical boundaries and space. Due to globalization, cultural differences have been flattened, local customs and beliefs eroded, and secular capitalist way of life spread. As posited by Azzouzi (2013), the world has subsequently become a small village in which peoples, cultures, and identities interact with each other. For one thing, religion is not immune to these events and their burgeoning impacts. Even so, Azzouzi (2013), notes that despite of the broken boundaries, religion is still confined within their respective homes where they originally emerged and their shrines still exist. However, with globalization, the inner natures of religions have been spread out, contributing to new global phenomenon.
Because of globalization, there are several trends, which have emerged and are currently affecting religion. These include secularization, fundamentalism, and conservative offense. Globalization has secularized religion by integrating different societies, cultures, beliefs, and values into religion. For instance, pagan practices and rituals such as the use of statues have been integrated in the Christian circles (Kinnvall, 2002). Apparently, the society has become more secularized such that religion is becoming less and less important. Instead of religion transforming pagans, pagans are transforming the formerly religious people. Notably, religion has transformed from spiritual institutions to privatized business institutions (Kinnvall, 2002). Houtman and Aupers (2007), explain that educated people have become more spiritual, but this has weakened the original tradition of community into deeper layers of the self. Globalization has also contributed to fundamentalist religious beliefs, which strive to spread their values across cultural hegemonies (Lehman, 2002). According to Lehman (2002), people tend to spread beliefs inscribed in their holy texts as well as the personalities and values of their key religious figures with the aim to bring global change and introduce a new culture in the world. This has contributed to extremist fundamentalist behaviors such as religious conflicts. Religion based conflicts have increased over the past decades. From the Dark Age period, to the current religious cleansing in different parts of the world, religious wars continue to be on the rise (Kinnvall, 2002). Jihadism is the most recent extreme fundamentalist ideology, which has contributed to terrorism.
Globalization has also influenced different cultures that have significant impacts on religion. These cultures include romanticism, occultisms, therapeutic cultures, and feminism. Romantics emerged as a result of urbanization, industrialization, and modernization, and played an imperative role in the rise of spirituality (Giselle & Woodhead, 2009). They stop up against reason and science in support of artistic and emotional expression. To achieve these, romantics stressed the need to establish God in nature. More so, they played a significant role in the introduction of occult. According to Giselle and Woodhead (2009), individuals within the Christian fraternity began to participate in secret rituals and magic. This group of spiritual people espoused the concept of human will and mind as they drew their ideologies from other Western traditions, which were mainly pagan (Giselle & Woodhead, 2009). As such, the aforementioned pagan practices and rituals in turn found their way in churches. Another important culture that affected religion is the therapeutic culture. Due to globalization, the concept of psychoanalysis and other therapeutic schools pf thought spread out across cultures. It was believed that psychotherapy would assist people in their spiritual growth (Giselle & Woodhead, 2009). Specifically, this is because it involved the body, mind, and spirit practices, which are ascribed to entail spirituality. As a result, these schools of thought fused with religion to develop new approaches to assist people with their wellbeing. Movements such as the American Association of Christian Counselors subsequently emerged (McMinn, 1996). According to McMinn (1998), the aim of the members of the fraternity is to integrate responsible psychology, Christian theology, and spiritual growth. Finally, the concept of feminism has also transformed religion in a significant way. Religions, such as Christianity and Islam, were originally patriarchal. Women only played a backseat role in religious activities (Giselle & Woodhead, 2009). Even so, feminist activists have championed for women to contribute in spiritual activities. Today, churches, for instance, have female preachers. In addition, radical feminist movements that espouse witchcraft (Wicca) and feminine goddesses, such as Isis, emerged.
In a study conducted in the UK, the findings deduced that thousands of Muslims had moved in the UK because compared to other European countries, it was more sympathetic to the Muslims (Jones, 2009). Subsequently, this immigration has increased the proportion of non-Christian faiths in the Christian Western countries. For instance, more than a quarter a million of Muslims of Pakistani and Bangladesh origins live in Britain, a population, which was twice the population of Oxford; Somali-born Muslim population have also surged in the country (Jones, 2009). As at 2009, Jones (2009) reported, Britain hosted more than one million Muslim immigrants. Research on immigration often consider and incorporate religion as a fundamental component of immigration adaptation and assimilation. Massey and Higgins (2011), used statistics from the New Immigrant Survey to assess the religious practices and beliefs of new immigrants in the US. They established that compared to American Christians, Christian immigrants were more Catholic and Orthodox than Protestant, and that these Protestant immigrants were more likely to be evangelical Christians (Massey & Higgins, 2011). What is more, those new Christian immigrants were also paradoxically less Christian, with only 20 percent reporting some other faith. Being minorities, these new immigrants use their religious belief to fit in the new society and advance their religious missions of winning converts.
As a result of immigration, the world transformed into a world-system with competing and conflicting religions (Azzouzi, 2013). For instance, different religious groups, especially the minority faiths began to agitate for their recognition. Even so, this was also accompanied by their suppression along racial lines. For instance, in the US, Hindu immigrants subscribing to Hindutva values desire to be recognized and awarded full rights in a country that structurally privileges the whites and considers Hindu immigrants as less-white minorities whose only capacity is to fuel the growth of Hindu supremacist factions in the country (Falcone, 2012). According to Falcone (2012), this minority group argues on the premise that Christian and Muslim immigrants in their motherland, India, have been assimilated into the vision of India as a Hindu state. Meanwhile, in France, Muslim intellectuals have championed for religious authority and political legitimacy (Bowen, 2004). Even so, their attempts to establish a national recognition of their faith in Paris have been met with internal, structural frustrations. Undoubtedly, the traditions and beliefs of such new religions that differ from the UK born populations have also been opposed by the new immigrants, thereby brewing conflicts. For instance, immigrants are more conservative about the role played by women and homosexual clergy in the Church (Jones, 2009). Security concerns, such as terrorism have also been associated with religion, thereby bringing intense differences between immigrants and natives (Kinnvall, 2002).
Religion has also been transformed into an element for bridging the religious divides. The religious and spiritual differences between the immigrants and the natives are highly intense. Just to point out a few, the US hosts Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus, who some are strong believers, while others are somewhat secularized and profess only nominal devotion to their ancestral faith (Massey & Higgins, 2011). According to Massey and Higgins (2011), this latter group tends to be close to one another and the natives in light of their values, beliefs, and behaviors. On the other hand, the devout believers and faithful participants in ancestral religious beliefs tend to be quite distant from each other and the natives in light of their values, beliefs, and behaviors. Subsequently, as a result of immigration, religious practices and responsibilities have become more intense in the US. For instance, religion is used to mediate between the immigrants and the host, and thus considered as an imperative spiritual capital to advance the immigrant interests in the host nations (Massey & Higgins, 2011).
Immigration has also transformed how faiths perceive missions and outreach programs. According to Stetzer (2014), the US is currently being introduced to new secular cultures providing Christians with the opportunity to share the gospel. In the early 20th century, for instance, the American population was mainly Christian and believed those in Asia, who did not know Christ were lost (Stetzer, 2014). As such, immigration of Asians to the Christian nations was perceived as an opportunity to spread the Gospel. Christians used this avenue to demonstrate the love of Christ for immigrants as human beings and teach the principles of compassion for both Christians and non-Christians. Furthermore, immigration of other students from other religions to Christian countries made a significant impact in the establishment of evangelism in universities. As noted by Stetzer (2014), it is not surprising today to find Asian-American Christians in the US.
Over the years, millions of people have pursued discussions, comprehension, and dissemination of spiritual knowledge, and this has taken place across the globe. Historically, ‘holy men’, such as prophets, popes, shamans, Pharisees, facilitated spreading of religious message and so on. Even so, during the 15th century, the spread of religious messages changed following the printing of the Christian bible; it is for this reason that the Christian Reformation movement was launched shortly after (Kinnvall, 2002). The printing press facilitated a new method of gathering information, allowing people from a wider geographical span to access and comprehends information. Apparently, the internet has permitted the same thing today by multiplying millions of religious information to an extent where it is nearly unmanageable. Raviz (2014), estimated that the number of adult internet users had increased from zero in the 1990s to 80 percent in 2010. These people have access to religious content on blogs, online forums, news websites, and official religious websites. It is imperative to state that while there is significant religious support on the internet, the same platform has also set up a footing for religious critics.
Evidence by Larsen (2001), shows that the internet has assisted in enhancing the work of religious communities. According to the study, 27 percent of people claimed that their spiritual lives had been improved through the cyber space, while 83 percent of respondents who took part in the study asserted that their spiritual lives were improved through websites and emails (Larsen, 2001). Through web presence and facilitating discussions via the internet, religious congregations have fastened bonds within their factions, reestablished networks with former members, and for the most part, expanded their missions on a global scale. Today, spiritual congregations largely sell, broadcast, and publicize their content online. It provides them the opportunity to expand their reach and convey their beliefs to both current and potential converts, as well as critics.
Accordingly, the internet has opened how people think, allowing those with like mind and differing opinions to debate their positions. Ravis (2014), reported a reduction in religious upbringing by up to 20 percent as a result of the internet. That means that children who are born in the present generation are less likely to be affiliated to any religion. Critics of religion have subsequently emerged, challenging the supposed spiritual benefits of religion, especially against those who purport their religion is superior than others. For instance, critics have argued that theist religions and scriptures are not divinely inspired, but mainly man-made (Dennett, 2006). Lim and Puntam (2010), on the other hand, argued that religion only came in as a source of comfort to human suffering, and did not promote sophisticated reasoning in humans. Other critics have maintained that religion is only a mental delusion with sequential harm to individuals. Such critics have further contributed to a reduction of religious believers and increased the proportion of non-believers in the society today.
Indeed, globalization, immigration, and the internet have transformed the discourse of religious matters and beliefs in the world. Globalization was advanced with the evolving trade routes and contributed to the thriving and flourishing of religion with cultural differences flattened, local customs and beliefs eroded, and secular capitalist way of life spread. Consequently, globalization secularized religion by integrating different societies, cultures, beliefs, and values into religion. It has also contributed to fundamentalist religious beliefs, which strive to spread their values across cultural hegemonies. Other cultural differences that spread across the world, such as romanticism, occultisms, therapeutic cultures, and feminism, have significantly eroded religion. Meanwhile, research on immigration often consider and incorporate religion as a fundamental component of immigration adaptation and assimilation. Consequently, the world transformed into a world-system with competing and conflicting religions as well as religion transforming into an element for bridging the religious divides through various programs. Apparently, the internet has permitted the same thing today by multiplying millions of religious information to an extent where it is nearly unmanageable. Evidence shows that it has assisted in enhancing the work of religious communities via selling, broadcasting, and publicizing religious content online. It internet has also promoted free thinking, allowing those with like mind and differing opinions to debate their positions, subsequently contributing to a reduction of religious believers and increased the proportion of non-believers in the society today. Over the next decades, religion will be a foreign element, especially for the forthcoming generations.