In today’s world of continuous growth and expansion, the lines of religious borders are becoming blurred. According to Merriam Webster, globalization is defined as the development of an increasingly integrated global economy marked especially by free trade, free flow of capital, and the tapping of cheaper foreign labor markets (2007).
The exponential growth that businesses are experiencing is forcing corporations to expand into international territories at a rapid pace. With the growth of these companies comes an interesting dynamic of religious blending. During global expansion, oftentimes employees are transferred overseas, bringing their culture, lifestyle, and religious beliefs with them.
This is one small part of the grander effects of globalization. The blending of cultures caused by globalization over the past few decades has fostered an environment of increased religious intolerance. While at one point, religions were strictly separated by geographical borders, the religious landscape has drastically changed over time. Blending cultures, ethnic groups, political beliefs, as well as religions has created a new type of society.
This society has become much more diverse in terms of backgrounds and beliefs. Ellingson says, “Globalization and modernization has further resulted in increased contact between people of different religion, language and ethnicity” (Ellingson, 2004) When societies merge, they adopt and incorporate the new culture into their fold. Mogensen speaks about the blending of societies, stating that the consequences of globalization are leading toward a society of more religiously diverse countries (2006).
With this diversity comes increased conflict and intolerance. In countries such as the United States of America, cultural diversity and religious freedom are important concepts. The United States has often been called the “melting pot” of the world, freely allowing immigrants from all backgrounds and incorporating their religious beliefs. Radhakrishnan reports, “Among the major religions of the world Christianity accounts for one-third (33 per cent), followed by Islam (22 per cent), Hinduism (16 per cent), Buddhism (6 per cent), and Confucianism (4 per cent)” (2004).
This blend of world religions has come from the affects of globalization. Ellingsen further discusses the blending of religions, stating that globalization has not only increased contact between people of different religious backgrounds, but also people of different languages and ethnicities (Ellingsen, 2004). This merging has led to increased numbers of religiousconversions. Denmark, for example, has seen an increased number of conversions between religions (Mogensen, 2006). While religious diversity is prevalent due to the effects of globalization, some argue that globalization fosters religious segregation.
Ellingsen (2004) states: While the optimists are confident that the process of globalization and modernization will lead to prosperity and peace – or in other words “a global village”, in part by diminishing the relevance of religion, other scholars take the quite opposite view – arguing that the modernization and globalization process make people feel more insecure and alienated, increasing the importance of traditional values as well as the level of hostility. As a result we will be witnessing a resurgence of religion and religious clashes.
Ellingsen’s viewpoint is shared by others as well. Incidents such as the terrorist attacks on America’s World Trade Center are often blamed on religious intolerance. Radhakrishnan refers to the attacks as “a counter-blast against globalisation (sic)” (2004). He further states that George Bush, a ‘born-again Christian’ referred to the ‘retalitory strikes’ againts Afghanistan as a ‘crusade’ (2004).
Commenting on the Iraq conflict, Radhakrishnan (2004) states: The Bush-Blair blitzkrieg in Iraq with utter impunity and scorn to the UN and international opinion, the effect of which on Islam, Islamic World, Islamic fundamentalism, and Islamic psyche has yet to unfold, is one of the many crude, cruel, hideous, and horrendous manifestations of this fast unfolding US “usurpation” of the third world countries on the pretext of crushing (religion-linked) terrorism.
This holds true for the backlash that United States citizens of middle-eastern descent experienced after the same event. One current example is expressed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. On the HUD website, it states, “Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, persons who are, or are perceived to be, Muslim or Middle Eastern or South Asian descent have reported increased discrimination and harassment, sometimes in connection with their housing” (2007).
Radhakrishnan further discusses this issue, saying, “While on religion and globalization, it is important to know whether globalization unites or divides religions; results in newfangled religions; and has a direct nexus with fundamentalism and religion-linked terror” (2004).
Furthermore, in regard to the religious tolerance in the United States, Fredericks (2007) states: (W)hile it is true that the United States of America was founded on the sacred principle of religious freedom for all, that liberty was never intended to exalt other religions to the level that Christianity holds in our country’s heritage. Our Founders expected that Christianityand no other religionwould receive support from the government as long as that support did not violate peoples’ [sic] consciences and their right to worship.
They would have found utterly incredible the idea that all religions, including paganism, be treated with equal deference. As for our Hindu priest friend, the United States is a nation that has historically honored the one true God. Woe be to us on that day when we relegate him to being merely one among countless other deities in the pantheon of theologies.
While the current religious-based conflicts are causing significant disruptions across the globe, the future is alarming. Based on the trends of religious conflicts, the end is not in sight. Ellingsen states, “conflicts over identity are not a new, but rather a continuing trend” (2004). Religious conflicts are growing amongst nations where the government is of different religious backgrounds than the attackers. Ellingsen (2004) provides the following chart to illustrate: Number of Armed Intrastate Conflicts by Type, 1946-2002
Society has not completely adopted a high level of tolerance for world religions. However, the effects of globalization are slowly changing the political and religious climate around the world. As nationalism and globalization progress, the unification and tolerance of blended societies will increase. Radhakrishnan states: You, and I, and everyone else have two options:
Promote religious tolerance the right of people to hold religious beliefs that are strange to us, without hindrance or oppression. To continue living in a world saturated with religious intolerance. We will then experience more religiously-based-wars, terrorism, and civil disturbances, as we have seen recently in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cyprus, India, Kosovo, Israel, Macedonia, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sudan, etc.
The ultimate cause of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was religious hatred and intolerance. It s your decision to make. What kind of a world do you want for yourself and your children? (2004).
In an ever-growing environment, globalization is helping to produce and increase commerce. Globalization increases industrialism and economic growth in areas that were previously under-developed. With the increase of free-trade and utilization of cheaper foreign labor markets, third-world countries have increased employment rates and boosted economies. However, globalization has a downside as well.
The increased blending of social and religious groups has led to many religious conflicts. These religious conflicts stem from religious tension and intolerance caused by the mixing of the groups. The current landscape is one of many conflicts that have claimed a large number of lives in the name of religion. Religious conflicts are on the rise, and the current trend only indicates that more are coming. Globalization will continue to grow economy in foreign markets, but this growth comes at an extreme price, conflicts in the name of religion.
(2007). Response to concerns about housing security following september 11, 2007. Retrieved September 15, 2007, from U.S. department of Housing and Urban Development Web site: http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/library/sept11.cfm Ellingsen, T. (2004). The resurgence of religion in the age of globalization. Constructing World Orders. Fredericks, J. (2007). Dialogue of solidarity in a time of globalization. Buddhist-Christian Studies, 27. Juergensmeyer, M. (2005). Religion in Global Civil Society. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Mogensen, M. S. (2006).Tolerance and the new pluralism towards a post-secular society with religions in the public square. The search for mutual understanding. Radhakrishnan, P. (2004).Religion under globalization. Economic and Political Weekly. 1403-1411.