Chapter Nine: Language And Other Cultural Markers

VIII. Religion

What is the globalization of religion? Does it mean the globalization of ethical structures? That is happening through globalized rule-making bodies such as FIFA, the WTO and alternative reality worlds, which tend to follow strictly groupish models.

Culturally speaking, religions are dead meat in 'Western' countries. It doesn't look this way in the USA; but this is just a 'lost generation' looking for spiritual sustenance in a morally barren world. The urge to affiliate is so strong that people will do all kinds of nutty things like becoming scientologists or terrorists if they are not offered more satisfying alternatives. There weren't too many terrorists in 1400, since the media and public opinion, which are the proximate targets of terrorists, didn't exist. There were criminals, outlaws and roving bands of opportunistic soldiers, it's true, but most of them just didn't believe in anything, which is a different problem (we still have it). Goya. Actually, believing in nothing and believing in nutty religions are about the same – they are both responses to an ungrounded world.

In most non-'Western' countries, including of course Islamic states, religion retains its primary ethical significance; but this has to be seen as a corollary of the stage of development of the societies concerned, and is likely to change rapidly as the Internet and other types of media make inroads into popular education in such regions.

Although religion has lost its efficacy as a store and provider of morality in many parts of the world, it still provides necessary psychological support for large numbers of humans. The leaders of major Western democracies continue to need to put themselves forward as practising Christians, regardless of their true beliefs. And the outraged reaction to Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, published in 2006, much of it no doubt hypocritical, shows that religion is still a no-go area for social reformers.

The picture will look very different by 2030, and religion can be assumed to have a rapidly diminishing contribution to make to human culture during the first half of the 21st century. It is important to stress, as ever, that ethics and morality need to have a very high profile in human life; it is simply that they will be delivered in other ways.