Religion and Globalization   /   Summer 2002   /    Articles

Globalization and Religion

Peter L. Berger

Globalization is a worldwide process, driven by economic and technological forces. It brings with it a multitude of social and political developments, some benign, others anything but benign (as recent events have made clear in a compelling way). But globalization has also had massive consequences in the area of culture, including the central cultural phenomenon of religion. It is this latter phenomenon that is the subject of this paper. Given our present situation, it is tempting to concentrate on the manner in which religion serves to legitimate the most horrendous acts of violence (and perhaps tempting to agree with those Enlightenment thinkers who saw all religion as a very bad thing). Let me suggest, however, that this would lead to a very distorted picture. Religion is above all a constituent in the ordinary lives of millions of ordinary people far removed from acts of violence. In order to get the picture right, we must cultivate a measure of detachment from the screaming headlines of the day, difficult though this is in our present circumstances.

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