Relevance of Religion
A few years ago it was possible to say with some confidence that ‘religion is dead’. Few would probably feel quite so comfortable in making such an assumption.
Recently issues in the news, such as ISIS, the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris in January 2015, the rise of religious nationalist movements across many countries in the world, all of these have left us with a conclusion that it is not so religion after all to pronounce the death of religion. Whether we like it or not, there is still a lot of religion going on in the world.
The issue is not so much to worry about whether it is alive or dead, but rather to get a better understanding of the many ways in which things we call religion are part of the world in which we live.
Thus we can ask questions about the changing roles of religion in contemporary societies. For example, is there a process of ‘secularisation’, of the decline of religion, going on, and if so, is there any way of knowing where this will go?
As societies develop does religion become something different, or do people do new things with religion.
Is religion part of modernity or is it opposed to it? What role does religion have in the processes of globalisation, and how is globalisation itself spread and enhanced by religion? How do new media impact on religion, and again vice versa – how are media themselves developed and changed by the influence of religious groups and religious practices?
And how can we make sense of the particularities of the contemporary world in terms of the historical legacies of particular religions. How has the world we live in been shaped by particular religious ideas, by events in the past that were rooted in religious issues. Even if religion may have a lesser social role today in certain countries, much of the language we speak, the values we have, the laws we live by, and the institutions that structure our lives have all been impacted by religion and religions in so many different ways. And how does diversity – at the international, the national, and the local levels – create religious issues in the contemporary world?
There is a lot here to unpack, and so in this fairly introductory podcast I will just take some of the main highlights of these issues and give some initial pointers to where they might take us.