Essays Religion And Globalization

Globalization and Religion

James Davidson

Axia College

Globalization and Religion

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 Christianity--and no other religion--would 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


Religion and Globalization: New Possibilities, Furthering Challenges

E-International Relations, Forthcoming

10 PagesPosted: 28 Jul 2014Last revised: 6 Aug 2015

Date Written: July 16, 2014


The relationship between globalization and religion is one with new possibilities and furthering challenges. On the one hand, while religion takes advantage of communication and transportation technology, it is at the same time the source of globalization’s greatest resistance by acting as a haven for those standing in opposition to its power. On the other hand, because globalization allows for daily contact, religion enters a circle of conflict in which religions become “more self-conscious of themselves as being world religions.” This essay argues that the relationship between religion and globalization is complex, one with new possibilities and furthering challenges. However, this essay cannot provide a comprehensive overview of religion and globalization, as the terrain is too vast. Still, it does provide several examples to illustrate the complex relationship between the two.

Keywords: Religion, Globalization

Suggested Citation:Suggested Citation

Golebiewski, Daniel, Religion and Globalization: New Possibilities, Furthering Challenges (July 16, 2014). E-International Relations, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: or

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