Religion in a globalizing world

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №12 - 2020

Author: Kossichenko Anatolij, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor, Chief Researcher Institute of Philosophy, Political Science and Religious Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan

For a long time, the problem of globalization has been in the sphere of increased interest of the world expert community. There are many works devoted to the relationship between globalization and religion. But still, it is this topic, in our opinion, that needs thorough analysis: we see a number of reasons for this. Firstly, religion puts up a powerful resistance to the unifying processes of globalization and especially globalism as the ideological basis of globalization, therefore, special attention should be paid to this phenomenon: why religion does not lend itself well to unification, while all other dimensions of the economic, socio-political and cultural spheres are to the great degree subject to the leveling influence of globalization. Secondly, as it became clear, religion not only hardly lends itself to unification, but essentially opposes it: religion realizes that consistently implemented unification in the religious sphere inevitably leads to the “unification” of religions, to the construction of a single religion, and then to the elimination of religion as such. It is clear that religions cannot take this path. Thirdly, today religion is the only real alternative to globalism both on a conceptual and a practical level. Therefore, no segment of the modern world is experiencing such a powerful pressure of globalization as religion.

The conceptual confrontation between globalism and religion is as follows. Religion saves souls for the eternal life, and in this process every person is important, and globalism unifies everything - it does not need a man in all his personal richness, he interferes with its victorious march, and the more advanced he is, the more dangerous it is for globalism. Globalization is named so because it globalizes everything and everyone. All processes and events, all moves and relationships - everything becomes global: only in this way can globalization support its own global trend. Everything that remains outside the global processes, everything unique, private, deeply personal “lags behind life” and is doomed to disappear. Anyone who is endowed with intuition at least to a minimum, it is clear that the world is held together by its diversity. Diversity is an essential condition for the unity and integrity of the world. Diversity, not unification, makes the world one. If we eliminate diversity, we will destroy the world. Therefore, the all-encompassing striving of globalization for unification is disastrous. But it is unification that is the dominant form of globalization. With such a simple trick, globalism - as the ideology of globalization - forces everyone and everything to become a building material for globalization: if you want to exist, stay in the scope of being - integrate into global processes, find a place for yourself, behave actively in generating new global forms of development, participate in this race.

Religion cannot “succeed” in globalization. As mentioned, the uniqueness of the human soul (the subject of religion) from the point of view of globalism is nonsense. Religious values ​​are a rudiment for globalism. Religious leaders (with rare exceptions), according to the logic of globalism, speculate on the spiritual quest of a man. Religion impedes human progress; this is the dominant attitude of globalism towards religion. Of course, globalism does not express its attitude towards religion so clearly and distinctly, but it is just that. Religion has gained little from the opportunities offered by globalization. For example, globalization expands the possibilities of communication. But religion cannot take advantage of these opportunities, since by expanding the means of communication globalization has emasculated and deprived this communication of the content. Religion is, thus, not a popular subject, except perhaps in scandalous news and fakes. The network space of the Internet is not just non-spiritualized, it is spiritless, even anti-spiritual; moreover, its anti-spirituality is deliberately modeled. The judgment that the worldwide network was conceived and implemented with the aim of destroying the spiritual world of man and society is not without reason.

The ideology of globalism requires constant development and throwing into the global public consciousness of certain ideas that coordinate the advancement of globalization. These ideas should be sufficiently general and attractive for a morally and spiritually weakened person of our time. They should also be catchy, correspond to the level of consciousness of a modern person, be accepted by him as natural and reasonable. These ideas direct humanity in a very definite direction. But the most important thing in these ideas is their content, which degrades society and personality. If these are, for example, ideas directly related to the sphere of morality and spirituality, then they should undermine spirituality: through modern mechanisms of influence on the society, the latter is instilled with the idea of ​​the falsity and insignificance of any spiritual content; traditional, moral and religious values. At the level of ideas, relations in the family, relations between men and women, between the state and the individual, between people, between states are distorted. All this is presented as modern, time-based requirements for a person; supposedly, you can’t get away from this, that’s life. The idea of ​​the inevitability of just such a vision of reality and life in such a paradigm is instilled. So globalization generates, creates, introduces, replicates and affirms the new reality of human existence.

The destructive impact of globalization on religion is not obvious to many. Globalization affects economy, politics, culture - everyone agrees with this. But whether globalization impacts religion, what is the purpose of this impact, whether it impacts it destructively - this is a doubtful statement. Meanwhile, globalization has a most destructive effect on religion. Globalization does not always affect religion in a direct way, openly. Most often, this influence is of an indirect nature: through political and legislative decisions and recommendations of international structures, through decisions and actions of church hierarchs that are anti-canonical for religions, through the transformation of religious norms and innovations in the life of communities of believers.

For example, globalization indirectly affects religion through the economy in the following way. The entire financial and economic sphere under the influence of globalization is concentrated around maximizing profit by any means. At the same time, the economy becomes completely immoral; the desire to maximize profit makes financiers and businessmen of all levels underpay workers for labor much more than it follows from the theory of surplus value. Even Pope Francis, loyal to many negative (from the point of view of religion) processes of our time, stressed in this regard that “In the modern economy, you need to take the initiative into your own hands, since the current economic system wants to subordinate everything to the power of money. This system leads to globalization, which is not good” [1]. Relations of justice and, moreover, morality are completely expelled from the sphere of economic relations. What religious principles and values ​​can we talk about in this case? Religion is completely out of place in a globalizing economy.

The same is true for politics: with an outwardly positive attitude towards religion, politicians neglect it when making the most important political decisions. Consequently, religion is being forced out of global politics. Political leaders also see these conceptual dangers of globalization. Back in 2017, Russian Foreign Minister K. Lavrov focused on the dead end nature of globalization in its current form; in particular, he said: “The world has not become more stable or more predictable. We have repeatedly talked about the reasons for the degradation of the international situation, about the unviability of the concept of unipolarity, about the counter-productiveness of unilateral actions, about the danger of undermining international law and the associated growth of the power factor in world affairs. Today it is obvious that the “liberal” model of globalization, rooted in the early 1990s, and primarily its economic component, focused on ensuring the leadership and prosperity of a narrow group of states at the expense of the rest of the world, has exhausted itself. It demonstrated instability to cope various challenges, inability to effectively cope with numerous problems, although the external slogans seemed to be noble” [2].

Most surprising of all, religion is being eliminated from contemporary culture, which has been subjected to the strongest influence of globalization; and it is precisely religion that lies at the foundation of the traditional, and hence of any culture in general.

Thus, globalization in its most obvious forms: economic, political and cultural, has an extremely negative effect on religion. It is impossible to deny this. But all this is the indirect impact of globalization on religion. Below we will consider in more detail the negative impact of globalization on religion, which manifests itself directly, but before this it should be emphasized that globalization has significantly strengthened and spread throughout the world of the processes associated with secularization as the expulsion of religion from public space; this alone is enough for religion to reject globalism.

There is one more aspect of the problem that we would like to raise in this article. Attention to globalization as to the central and all-embracing process of our time in the past year or two has noticeably decreased in the expert environment; globalization has seemingly receded into the shadows, “rebuilding the ranks”, but remained the leading process of our time. One can see that globalization is, as it were, segmented into a number of other processes that are important for the present, but globalization still remains the context. Globalization is, as it were, complemented by regionalization and localization. The abstractly general in the problem of globalization is concretized at the local level. Often, problems are recognized only at the local level of their manifestation. Globalization in fact proceeds precisely at the “local” level, and only analysis allows us to see the general, the global, the declared specificity of the local.

And wherever certain directions of globalization are actualized, it encounters a conscious or an unconscious, but from this no less clear resistance from religion. Moreover, the resistance of religion is not even as a traditional spiritual system - this resistance can be overcome by increasing pressure: traditional systems are crushed under high pressure on them. Religion demonstrates resistance to globalism on the essential for itself levels: such are the belief in God as the Creator and Maker of the world; the godlike nature of a person, which does not allow him to turn into a being, only consuming material goods and not seeing anything beyond this consumption; freedom and responsibility that are commanded to believers and they try to realize them in life. Along these lines, as well as along others, religion is fundamentally opposed to globalism, and this opposition is unavoidable. Moreover, religion opposes globalism, regardless of the positions taken by the leaders of confessions on these issues. Leaders can compromise due to political correctness, political environment, elite solidarity, economic preferences and many other considerations. And quite often we observe this very behavior of leaders of confessions. It certainly affects the position of confessions on certain issues in connection with globalization and its particular forms of manifestation. But regardless of the positions of the leaders of confessions, religion opposes globalism simply by virtue of the true essence of religion - to be the means of reunification with God. Reunification not with globalization, but with God, and this is the point.

It would seem that religion that, no less than globalization, seeks to unite people on the basis of common belief, should be sympathetic to the processes of globalization, to its goals and objectives, if not to support it, then it can coexist with globalism, at least without entering into confrontation with it. Since its inception, Christianity has built the Christian world across national borders. However, the oecumene was mainly limited to the territory of the Roman Empire, and the apostles preached mainly within this empire. But still, Christianity made the world global (at least spiritually). Isn’t this one of the first attempts of globalization? Yes, Christianity and globalization are striving to embrace the whole world. Why do we assert then that religion is a clear opponent of globalism? It’s because they have diametrically opposite ideologies. Globalization crushes the world under itself, imposes unification on it, leading to the profanation of being and the primitivization of the man. Religion unites believers on spiritually high grounds, although this is not always realized - thereby religion increases the spirituality of a person. As you can see, the differences are fundamental, the content and orientations are directly opposite.

At the ideological level, the confrontation between globalism and religion acts as the opposite of liberal and religious values. Certain confirmation of this fundamental confrontation between the two noted worldview systems can be easily seen in almost any facts and events of our time. For example, liberalism supports the right of women to abortion (this is indeed a natural right in the system of liberalism). And world religions are against abortion, seeing in them a terrible sin - murder. According to the liberal worldview, nothing prevents a woman from becoming a priest - why not, since women and men are equal in rights. And liberal Christianity - Protestantism - permits a female priesthood. Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Islam regard the female priesthood as absurd. Judaism is on similar positions, although recently there have been facts of a female becoming rabbi.

According to liberalism, a person can profess any religion or not profess any, pass from one religion to another, etc. These liberal principles in their projection onto religion are enshrined in a number of international documents and have become a reality of our time [3]. But all world religions prohibit the transition from religion to religion (in a less strict version, they do not approve). Such a transition is to be punished: both in the afterlife, and, often in this current life, facts of death sentences are widely known to Muslims who converted to Christianity (in Pakistan, a number of Arab countries, etc.).

The religious worldview in this sense can be viewed as totalitarian. And globalism presupposes a rejection of totalitarianism, an open society. Liberalism insists on the relativity of truth, on pluralism, on equality of worldviews, while religion proceeds from the absoluteness of the commandments given by God, from the absoluteness of dogmas, from value monism. Liberalism, colliding with religion, enters into the deepest contradiction with itself: it must admit the existence of religion (as one of the worldview systems), but it cannot agree with the absoluteness and eternity of religious truths. Therefore, liberalism distorts the essence of religion (it accepts and approves of a distorted religion), it treats religion as a historically developing phenomenon that must change in accordance with the new reality and new demands of society. When religion does not change its dogmatic foundations (and how can it change them?), it is subjected to harsh criticism from liberalism for dogmatism, “backwardness from life” (from these positions, for example, Islam and Orthodoxy are criticized).

All world religions are extremely skeptical about the ideas of their own development. The strength of religion (if we do not consider here the deep essence of religion - the salvation of the soul for eternal life) - in its adherence to tradition and the dogmas that underlie it. The dogmas of religion can be interpreted for the modern world (mainly for some of their actualization in connection with the newest requirements of the era), but the essence of the dogmas remains unchanged. And this is not related to the subjective desire of believers or leaders of confessions. The truths of religion are absolute; they retain their meaning for all times, because they were commanded by God himself or his prophets. Therefore, religions do not develop in the sense in which everything else develops. Religions are dogmatic not because they do not want to change, they simply cannot do this without sinning against their essence.

Those religious systems that have carried out dogmatic or confessional modernization have lost their connection with Holy Scripture (for example, Protestantism has lost its apostolic continuity and today is being questioned by the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches as a religion of salvation; it is emphasized that there is no grace in Protestantism). The consistent striving of Protestantism to conform to the spirit of the times led to the emergence of the female priesthood and episcopate, to the recognition of same-sex marriage, the permission of abortion, the acceptance of euthanasia, although all this is either not encouraged (as in the case of the female priesthood), or condemned in the Holy Scriptures (as in other innovations mentioned above). Today, in a number of Christian denominations, in order to satisfy the demands of secularism and formal adherence to the ideals of secular values, it is not customary to call God in the masculine gender (gender equality dominant), to celebrate Christmas (the winter, Christmas tree is celebrated), to persecute for blasphemy (the latter is considered a manifestation of freedom) in many European countries, the public wearing of cross pendants is prohibited, etc. The Roman Catholic Church has moved along the path of certain modernization to preserve its influence in the world (the Second Vatican Council in 1962-1965 adopted declarations and constitutions that updated, to some extent, the practice of the Roman Catholic Church), but today it has returned to its former practice in many respects.

Orthodoxy is especially sensitive to globalization. The experience of reforming other Christian denominations, in the course of which they lost rather than gained, convinces Orthodoxy of the need to “stand in the faith”, in allegiance to traditions, in development without damage. Therefore, the attitude to globalization of almost all Orthodox autocephalous churches is wary. And from the point of view of the millennial history of Orthodoxy, the very phenomenon of globalization is not yet extremely significant for it.

So, world religions cannot modernize without losing their essence. The most they can go for is some new formulations of old problems, as long as this is required to convey the truths of religion to a modern man. Religions can develop forms of responses to new demands and new problems that humanity faces, but the absoluteness of religious truth remains unchanged.

Liberalism found a way out of the noted contradiction between the need to recognize the right of religion to exist and the denial of the absoluteness of religious truths. It gave birth to its own understanding of religion. The religion of liberalism is anthropocentric: it is not God that underlies this “religion”, but a man. It is the man who created the “idea of God”, a man who changes and rethinks this idea, adjusts it to himself. The “God” of liberalism, while consistently pursuing a liberal approach to God, is none other than a man himself. But, of course, cultured, educated, possessing a full range of human rights, exalted in his own opinion, proud of himself. The faith of liberalism is faith in a man. Generally speaking, this is not a bad thing. One must believe in a man, for he is the image of God, His beloved offspring. But religions insist that it is necessary to believe in a man who realizes his incompleteness and limitations - then there appears the possibility of a man’s spiritual growth, building a living connection between his freedom and responsibility. Liberalism, on the other hand, calls to believe in a man as he is, and a modern man is obviously weak, damaged by sin and needs to be corrected; believing in such a man is ill considered.

The deep meaning of religion for the human community lies in the fact that any true progress is possible only with a goal-oriented attitude towards something higher. Only by keeping in mind something ideal can you progressively develop. Religion, by introducing God into human relationships, sets a higher bar for these relationships. Therefore, the modern world simply has no other way out of the almost hopeless situation in which it finds itself than a return to God. Individuals, ethnic communities, states - all of them have exhausted their possibilities of building a “bright future” on their natural, godless foundation, as evidenced by the current global crisis of world relations.

There is, however, one condition for the realization of all these possibilities of religion. It is small but difficult to execute. In order to reduce the level of threats in the modern world, relying on the capabilities of religion, it is necessary to reduce the level of sinfulness of the man and the society. Leaders of different religions are talking about this more and more loudly. The voice of Muslim and Orthodox theologians is heard more and more clearly, drawing the attention of the world community to the need to spiritualize the concept of human rights, to increase the moral content of these rights, since a sinful person turns freedom into slavery and uses opportunities for evil. A sinful person cannot dispose of his rights with dignity, for he does not know either dignity or true freedom. Therefore, no matter how banal it may seem, the elimination of world threats begins with the work of each person on himself, with the spiritual rebirth of a person. After all, the problems of the modern world, many of which seem absolutely insoluble today, are ultimately generated by man (who else is doing everything on Earth?), a man who has been lying for so long that he does not believe himself. These problems have reached such a level of complexity and insolubility that they can no longer be solved except by the utmost exertion of forces. But ultimate foundations are the domain of religion, therefore, only religion can solve these problems. Therefore, thinking purely rationally, it is necessary to turn to religion, no matter how unusual it may sound for rational consciousness. After all, what does the confused world lose by turning to the possibilities of religion? After all, other means have practically been exhausted. Let’s turn to these possibilities, especially since, as historical experience proves (and which does not teach a man anything though), in extremely difficult conditions, it is religious reality that becomes decisive.


1. Speech by the Roman Pope Francis to the participants of the Festival of Catholic Social Science. [Electronic resource]. Retrieved from https://www.katolik. ru/mir/ 120832-papa- on 19.06.2018

2. Lavrov, S. The liberal model of globalization has completely exhausted itself. [Electronic resource]. Retrieved from on 12/08/2017.

3. See, for example: 1. Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Article 9. “Freedom of thought, conscience and religion of a person”. [Electronic resource]. Retrieved from 2440800/ 2440800-001.htm on 10.08.2019

4. PACE Resolution 1510 (2006) “Freedom of speech and respect for religious beliefs”. [Electronic resource]. Retrieved from Assembly /% 5bRussian_documents% 5d /% 5b2006% 5d /% 5bJune2006% 5d / Res1510_rus.doc.asp # TopOfPage on 20.01.2020

5. PACE Recommendation No. 1804 “State, Religion, Secular Society and Human Rights”. (2007). [Electronic resource]. Retrieved from Parliamentary_ Assembly/%5bRussian_documents%5d/%5b2006%5d/%5 bJune 2006% 5d/Res1510_rus.doc.asp#TopOfPage on 15.02.2020.

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №12 - 2020

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