Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Current, Growing Rise of Religion

$240 True Religion jeans
Tonight I'm reading the new edition of Foreign Affairs, which I purchased and downloaded on my Kindle. BTW, the Kindle is amazing!

I'm going to summarize (with maybe some thoughts of my own) Scott Thomas's "A Globalized God: Religion's Growing Influence in International Politics."
  • "Religion is on the rise around the world." I've probably read way too many books and articles and interviews by "the New Atheists" who seem to claim religion is on the demise, not the rise, and atheism is rising. We'll see. Which reminds me of a moment a few years ago when or community's atheist association had their meeting at Panera Bread here in Monroe. I was sitting a few tables away from them. At their meeting there were: 3. Three atheists were yucking it up about how stupid religious people are.
  • Thomas reiterates: "Around the world - from the southern United States to the Middle East - religion is on the rise. It is growing in countries with a wide variety of religious traditions and levels of economic development, suggesting that neither poverty nor social exclusion is solely responsible." I predict - religion will not only not be supplanted by irreligion or the "a-religious," but will always thrive. For one reason, at least I think, the human metaphysical impulse is with us to stay.
  • The current rising of global religion does not mean "religion" or certain religions are true, and irreligion is false. Neither is the opposite the case. If 500 people show up at n international atheist convention we do not thereby have evidence that atheism is true. This is mere sociological data. But it does fly in the face of the very few irreligionists who want irreligion to grow, and cite small growth statistics as evidence of the veridicality and "brightness" of a-religion and a-religionists.
  • "Religion will also incresingly be an urban phenomenon. The growing population in the developing nations will mostly settle in vast, burgeoning, and largely impverished metropolises - areas where religion is spreading. According to conventional wisdom, secularization became an inevtiable par tof modernization with the spread of education, science, technology and prosperity. But these new megacities are havens for religious revivals."
  • Demographic shifts are fueling the current global rise of religion. Christianity "is returning to its roots by becoming a post-Western religion dominated by the peoples, cultures, and countries of the global South."
  • Now note this: "The most dramaic religious explosion in the world today is the spread of Pentecostalism and evangelical Protestantism." Yup. I saw it recently in Kenya.
  • "Pentecostalism and evangelical Christianity appeal across class lines. Their message of God's love, hope, and consolation attracts the occupants of shantytowns in many megacities, and their inspiring themes of forgiveness and personal transformation through a sober, frugal lifestyle blends with middle-class values around the world." A few thoughts: 1) surely the Jesus-message of forgiveness and reconciliation is globally appealing; and 2) let's pray the pernicious prosperity gospel fades away since it's not exactly Jesus-friendly and frugal. See Donald Miller's excellent Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement.
  • "Pentecostals and evangelicals will be a major religious, social, and political force in the coming century." But I thought the "religious right" was fading? It is. But not religion. And global pentecostalism and south-of-the-border evangelicalism is not to be equated with Jerry Falwell's "Moral Majority." For one reason, it is less politically active and more socially involved.
  • And Islam is "experiencing a genuine revival," one that extends beyond extremism. "According to the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, Islam is thriving, with 86 percent of Turks, 90 percent of Indonesians, and 98 percent of Egyptians surveyed reporting that religion plays an important part in their lives." Could be. Yet I cannot help but remember how struck I was when visiting Istanbul by how few seemed to respond to the call to prayer and how many young people seemed to want the materialism of Western culture. Of course that does not mean they are irreligious. If pressed, I suspect most would rise up and defend Allah. But for the most part they would settle for a $240 pair of True Religion jeans.
  • Pentecostal and evangelical Christianity is exploding in China. For example, I personally know of an underground church in China that has, as a best estimate, 400,000 "members." (Dispersed in a gigantic small group network.) It is worth noting that this growth is "almost entirely indigenous." "If Christianity achieves the kind of cultural permeation of China that it has in South Korea - where it has reached over a quarter of the population - it could fundamentally alter China's political fabric."
  • "Northwestern China is now in the grip of an Islamic reawakening."
  • "In Russia Orthodox Christianity is enjoying a revival after 70 years of communist suppression." Thomas has some interesting support for this in his discussion of the political power and respect Russian Orthodoxy has.
I'll stop here for now. Time for bed...