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Religion on a global scale. Responding to Change . Time was…. Religion was an extension of the community. Deities, saints, and religious figures were local patrons. Rituals and traditions were those of the community.

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religion on a global scale

Religion on a global scale

Responding to Change

time was
Time was…..
  • Religion was an extension of the community.
    • Deities, saints, and religious figures were local patrons.
    • Rituals and traditions were those of the community.
    • The community and/or the extended family, not the individual, was the primary focus of society.
    • Even official religions had myriads of local variations determined by custom and practice.
    • Heavy emphasis on local heroes, religious figures, holidays, etc.
    • One learned the religion through growing up in it.
institutional worship
Institutional worship
  • Religious, local, and national leadership was intertwined.
  • Religion, ethnicity, community, and family often overlapped.
  • Religious officials were usually branches of the state. To disagree with the religion was a form of treason.
  • Religious knowledge was in the hands of a select group of trained clergy and scholars who interpreted the faith for everyone else.
official conversion
Official Conversion

If religious conversion took place, was often at an official level—the state itself embraced the religion and the people were expected to follow.

Examples included.

  • The Roman Empire’s conversion to Christianity on the 4th century CE/AD
  • The conversion of the Persian Empire from Zoroastrianism to Islam in the 8th century CE
  • Russian conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy in 10th century.
  • In 1600s Europe, agreement that the religion of the monarch (Protestant or Catholic) was the religion of the land.
changing times from 1500 onward
Changing times from 1500 onward
  • Colonialism blended customs, traditions, and peoples.
  • Industrialization and urbanization resulted in massive migrations of people, bringing their own traditions with them but also without the supporting structure that village life provided.
  • Since 1700s, rise of science challenged established religious traditions.
  • Freedom of religion emerges as an acceptable part of society, allowing movements that would have been otherwise crushed to exist.
growing tensions
Growing tensions
  • People feel disconnected from older ways, often seeking a more personal, individual connection with the sacred.
  • Older established religious traditions look out of date compared to the changes around them.
  • Social and communication patterns emphasize a streamlined version of religious practice that is more “portable.”
new emphases
New Emphases
  • Emphasis on the individual’s experience with the sacred over participation in traditional rituals.
  • Ordinary individuals with the proper spiritual direction have as much or even more authority than official and/or educated religious leaders
  • Concern with getting back to the basics of the faith that the current tradition has gotten away from or muddled with added meaningless traditions.
  • Embrace of emotion, joy, and sense of personal mission as outlets for religious response. Simply reciting creeds or participating in rituals is not enough--the person has to truly believe.
the paradox
The Paradox:

Many such movements criticize modern society with its secularism, consumerism, obsession with pleasure, indifference to poverty and oppression, and celebration of the individual above the needs of the community.

Yet, many movements use the features of this society to get the message across:

Selling individual spirituality and salvation (it’s about YOU and YOUR relationship with God or the divine)

Using the latest media and popular culture forms to convey and express this spirituality

Phrased in the language of going back to tradition or preserving “old time religion” while involves selecting certain features of the older ways while rejecting others.

american style spirituality
American-style Spirituality
  • “Going to regular worship” = “being religious”
  • Tends to be an expression of identity and a social outlet
  • Expressed through causes and issues rather than theology. So supportive of the religious ideal that many tend to assume the ideal situation is currently in place. For example:
    • In the 1950s 4/5 of Americans believed the Bible to be a revelation from God but 53% could not name even one of the first four books of the New Testament.
  • Blends the two images of America as a place of religious freedom and the “New Israel” into a single view that also is merged with strong sense of patriotism
christianity evangelicalism
Christianity: Evangelicalism

- A personal conversion experience in which a person chooses Christ and receives a changed view of life in the process.

- An obligation to share this message with others and help them make a similar commitment.

- Often functions in a worship setting that includes praise hymns about this relationship with Christ

- Preaching that centers on the conversion experience, and usually involves an altar call at the end of the service

- A sense of being part of a Christian community that is in some way different from the surrounding society.


A religious movement within Christianity that emphasizes a person being filled with the Holy Spirit as a distinct presence rather than a general sense of “spirituality.” The infilling results in a person receiving certain spiritual gifts including speaking in tongues, healing, and prophecy.

religious modernism
Religious Modernism
  • Has taken many forms but tends to emphasize the role of science and contemporary understandings as making certain aspects of belief and practice unnecessary or incorrect.
  • Tends to reject the miraculous elements or the belief that all practices are divinely commanded. Instead, embraces a view that the core of all religion is about affirming love, tolerance, and compassion over judgment.
examples of modernism
Examples of Modernism
  • Deism 18th century—God is the clockmaker who sets up rules but is otherwise uninvolved.
  • Biblical Criticism—sees the Bible as a human document that with parts that are more or less accurate. Especially noted among German theologians in the 1800s.
  • Unitarianism—sees Jesus as ethical teacher but human.
  • Reform Judaism—Kept the ethical teachings of Torah while left it up to the individual to decide how or whether to maintain many of the traditional religious practices.

A religious approach that seeks to preserve what it considers the basic beliefs of the religious tradition, usually including a literal interpretation of Scripture, against perceived attacks on beliefs and practices from those within the faith community and from the outside culture.

the origins of christian fundamentalism
The origins of Christian Fundamentalism
  • Emerged as a response to religious modernism
  • Fearing that religion was getting away from its basic truths
  • Funded by organizations such as the Moody Bible Institute and the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA).
  • Resulted in a series of pamphlets in the 1910s called “The Fundamentals”
principles of the fundamentals
Principles of The Fundamentals
  • Deity of Jesus
  • Sin and the need for atonement
  • Bible is without error and correct on all matters.
    • Evolution became an issue because it rejected a literal reading of Genesis
    • Also a challenge to Social Darwinism in favor of all humans being created in the image of God.
recent developments christianity
Recent Developments: Christianity
  • In North America, decline in traditional Protestant groups (Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian, etc.) in favor of growth of Evangelical and Pentecostal groups.
  • Growth of Evangelicalism in Latin America at the expense of Catholicism.
  • Decline of state churches in Europe with Africa becoming the new center of energy for the Christian world.
  • Powerful message focuses on individual’s faith journey. It’s about YOU.
  • Emphasizes change in one’s life both spiritually and physically. “Gospel of Prosperity” says that if you are open to God’s will, God will bless you in this life as well as the future.
  • Lively, engaging worship that adapts modern cultural trends and features.
  • Portable faith. Not rooted in local traditions.
  • Helps bring sense of purpose and meaning to the rootless, turbulent, often unpredictable world around us.
  • More demanding of a change in one’s life. Costly faith implies a greater reward.
  • Populations in Africa and Asia are surging with those of North America and Europe are stagnating and even declining.
  • Conservative traditions almost universally favor larger families, resulting in more people born into those traditions.
  • Evangelical traditions offer community for people who are mobile and rootless.
  • Pentecostal groups, with their emphasis on faith healing, offer alternatives to populations with little access to health care, especially in the developing world.
african christianity
African Christianity

Includes emerging leadership in global movements such as the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church. Challenges western leaders over issues of theology and practice. Non-Europeans now far outnumber Europeans in many of these traditions.

African religious leaders emerged out of the missionary activities of the 1800s and early 1900s but have become local leaders and formed their own movements.

Includes large numbers of independent religious movements as well such as the Kimbanguist Church, founded by Simon Kimbangu (c1887-1951). The Kimbanguist tradition now numbers over 5 million members.

neo traditionalism

Some Jews, Hindus, Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims (and others!) seek to re-establish the role that their traditions once had. Can be connected to strong senses of ethnic pride, independence movements, or nationalism.

A in world where things are changing so much, a nostalgia for an earlier time when things were stable, “people knew right from wrong,” and “people respected their elders” seems very desirable.

islam wahhabism
Islam: Wahhabism

Islam has had similar movements, often as a reaction to staid official practice.

The most significant one of recent centuries is that promoted by Muhammad Ibn Abd Al Wahhab (1703-1792). Became the preferred version of the Saud family of Arabia.

Saw Islam’s tradition of saints and local practice as un-Islamic.

Sought to purify Islam by getting back to the core of the time of the Prophet Muhammad.


Rise of Wahhabism in Islam, connected to Saudi leadership. Emphasize this as a reforming—getting back to the roots of Islam.

Often at odds with established governments, which have often been tied to the West or the Soviet Unions, were undemocratic, had military dictatorships, and leadership largely indifferent to the problems of the people.

Muslim Brotherhood movement, with figures such as Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) argued that modern Muslim societies were really more akin to the paganism of Arabia before Muhammad. Brotherhoods and other charitable organizations are also involved in social issues, thus fusing their world view with social service programs, making them very popular with the poor and disenfranchised.

and so
And So…..
  • Rodney Stark suggests that faiths that demand more from their members grow more. Others say that faiths that thrive know how to adapt to modern life.
  • Far from dying out, religion is alive and well on the world stage.
  • The process continues….