The rise of strident movements of religious nationalism seems to signal a resurgence of religion. But such movements can also be read as the last gasp of religiosity as it succumbs to the inevitability of secular globalization. Which is correct? Has religion revived, or is it in its death throes? Part of the issue is statistical: adherence to religion seems to be on the rise in some parts of the world (Islam in Africa, for instance), though on the decline in others (Christianity in Europe and increasingly in the United States) and under attack in China. But part of the issue is definitional: what is meant by religious adherence—social identity or metaphysical belief? Scholarly attempts to define religion are various, though an interesting new definition is provided by the late sociologist Robert Bellah, who described religion as “alternative reality.” With that definition, one can posit that religiosity is a fundamental part of the creative imagination, a constituent of culture as certain as art or music. The question then becomes not whether religion will survive, but in what way it will survive. The popular religious choice of millennials, “none,” may be consistent with the multicultural religiosity of the old Protestant liberals, a tradition now in decline. Liberal Protestants have not disappeared but have transformed into the bearers of a global morality and spiritual sensibility. Hence we may be witnessing the emergence of new forms of spirituality and ethical community that resonate with the alternative reality of traditional religious experience but that have no name and no organization. But these may become the global religion of the future.
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Essay| June 23 2021
Is Religion Dead?
Collections:Special Collection: The Great Questions of Our Time and the Future of the Liberal Order , Section: Culture, Values, and Identities
Global Perspectives (2021) 2 (1): 24887.
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Mark Juergensmeyer; Is Religion Dead?. Global Perspectives 1 February 2021; 2 (1): 24887. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gp.2021.24887
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