Post Mortem

God marketized in a globalized world of religion

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 11/28/2019 11:32:53 AM IST

 During the fourth quarter of the 20th Century and through the first decade of the 21st Century, globalization as a concept and working principle dominated the world at large and was widely used as a buzzword amongst the nations of the world. Across borders, politicians, policy makers, academics, researchers, students and intellectuals were intensely speaking, researching and interrogating about globalization and its impact on the global financial system, global economic order and the people and communities in particular. Although its usage in relative terms is by and large waning, globalization as a functional and conceptual category continues to dominate in some political and academic quarters and parts of the world. However, globalization in recent years continues to have profound influence on religion, which was not the case earlier. 

In today’s changing templates of political economy, religio-cultural and social landscape, globalization has assumed entirely a new meaning and format. The fissures and maneuvers of politics around the globe have diametrically and radically transformed the ways with which globalization used to be conceived, understood, analyzed and evaluated. The current parlance signifies a new variable and variance that stands between those who used to represent conservative and far-right ideologies and political parties and systems that pervades the socio-political, religio-cultural facets believe in the market-fundamentalism, free-market and free-trade arrangements. Emergent new variable negates the borderless and seamless globalization that implies that nation-states have borders and territorial demarcations and so crossing of labor across borders. It clearly shows a radical shift in their understanding and perspective.

While on the other, those belonging to liberal political ideologies, left and far-left politics subscribing to state/governments’ intervention in economies and functioning of economics believe not in the fundamentals of market mechanisms and thus oppose globalization when it comes to its functioning in economy. They firmly believe that the states/governments have to intervene in the affairs of economy and regulate economics and should not be left to the fundamentals of the market. Hence, political terrains are candidly polarized on grounds that on the one hand protectionists and populists want to protect their laboring classes, economic growth, borders, strict monitoring of immigrants and migrants, trade and goods and services and by all means want to protect their economies and labor, industries and host of others for which they vociferously oppose globalization and say it is no more relevant. 

Globalists contend that free-market economic order where trade, labor and capital should move across the borders and let the laws of economics be left to the free market and forces of the markets. They say that there should not be any more control of the movement of labor, capital and goods and services. But, we are witnessing is that the emergent variable is torn by those contesting ideologies pitched in diametrical opposition and are polar opposites. Those believe in closing their borders prohibits, entry of goods and services and justify their actions by saying that globalization did not benefit their economies, rather helped the immigrants, foreigners and migrants which in turn robbed the livelihood of the local populace. So by opening the trade walls has not in any ways helped the countries’ labor and economies, rather slowed down leading to rise in unemployment. Technological revolution and scientific innovation are the major aspects that accelerated the rhythm and contours of change and thus added more fillip to the current fiasco. Most advanced countries kept growing at alarming pace creating all sorts of economic asymmetries within and between of the two-third of countries of the world. 

We keep observing in particular majority of the highly industrialized, technologically advanced and digitalized countries, the political templates have drastically been changing to building of walls, sulking to aggressive nationalism, protectionist tendencies and arms twisting, bulldozing by withdrawing from international agreements and covenants. It has given rise to xenophobic tendencies. Far-right ideologies and political parties have taken over by whipping out the emotions of the people who by and large have taken pride and getting subsumed. For instance, the party at the Centre, a far-right Hindu nationalist party wants to achieve its dream of making India to $5trillion economy and to realize it is all out in wooing foreign investors to boost Indian economy as part of economic globalization. 

When it comes to political-religio-cultural fronts, it is entrenched on the philosophy that Hinduism ought to become the de facto religion of the secular Indian state—a strategy to make the country to a Hindu state(rashtra) based on Hindu culture and way of life which as part and process of globalization—globalization of religion and homogenization of culture. The new variable that we observe in recent times is that the forces of globalization are gradually transforming world religious movements and religions getting attuned to fundamentalist political ideologies that prevail in the nation-states. Further, in a number of cases we observe that religious leaders and organizations subscribing and show their allegiance to political parties and ultra-conservative ideologies. This is undoubtedly the new variable which is gaining momentum within the contours of the whole gamut of globalization. 

As times pass by, religions have to move along with the changing times retaining its essential characteristics, features, principles, theologies and tenets. Is it possible and feasible? Therefore, religion keeps evolving and should be dynamic in order to survive sustain and thus be relevant to the changing times. In the midst of complex political and ideological configurations and permutations, nowadays religiosity has to the fore which is closely intertwined with superficiality, giving credence to outward performances and appearance of its adherents. This is what happening right across in all the religions. Take for instance, in India, Hindu religiosity is intensely webbed with feelings of national pride, traditions, civilization and culture and all these facets have been absorbed into it. It promotes the supremacy of the self and thus demotes the other as inferior or subordinate promoting binaries pitching infallibility of the belief system to which she/he subscribes. 

Globalization has pervaded and permeated into all the crucial aspects of religions and in the process the basic tenets and values being kept aside that reveal that religiosity seem to have taken over the core values of religion. Extreme conservatism has crept into almost all the religions that have led to all forms of religious aberrations invoking religious fundamentalism. If we go back to the world histories we have read that the role played by religions in different epochs of history such as crusades, conflicts, killing and devastations. Semitic religions and others such as Hindu and current format of Buddhism basically have the tendencies to globalize. Religions those that are dynamic have started to spread beyond its geographical boundaries from Indian to global. As against this background we need to analyze and evaluate religion.

Let us turn again to history. Contours of civilizations over centuries keep changing from one epoch to another. In that, forces of globalization tend to influence by creating solid impetus on civilizations that impinges on the changing templates of religion. Religions in tune to the changing contexts keep changing assimilating certain features and formats and in the process jettisoning those traditions and customary habits that comes in the way. At the same time retention of the core values and principles adhered and not compromised. The classic example is what we have been experiencing in recent times in the country. The ways with which Hinduism is interpreted and used as means for political gains and ends of the current dispensation shows that the basic tenets of Hinduism is being tampered with, distorted and misinterpreted. 

The politics of Hindutva is centered on “Hindu civilization”, its understanding of way of life, interpretations of history, culture, customs, usages and traditions. All these factors have infused “nationalistic pride” of being Hindus nationalistic fervor. Hinduism is thus interpreted and approached with grandeur evoking religio-civilizational consciousness coupled with emotive pseudo religious pride. All these keep pushing its adherents to religiosity that warrants public display. It is connected to religiosity leading to erroneous display in public with all sorts of political aberrations. The growing Hindu middle-class in particular is insulated with religiosity that ticks national pride and also gels with globalization adding (pan Indian identity) and this constituency is moving towards global identity. Further, globalization has pushed Hindu middle class segment with economic prosperity. Pseudo religiosity has added Hindu nationalistic fervor. 

Prosperous Hindus are gradually moving from the basic fundamental tenets of Hinduism to something which is ritualistic superficial forms of pseudo Hinduism. What we have been witnessing in recent times are fissures in the society that mirrors religiosity of the present—be it any religion. Adherents of religion are gradually moving from the basic foundational tenets of religion to religiosity (external artifacts and material conceptions). It is at this juncture, can we blame—religion or globalization? Both are intrinsically linked with each other in this phase of globalization. Religion keeps evolving in tune to the changing times. Similarly the contours of globalization have been constantly changing in the last hundreds of years and thus pervaded into the societal facets. In its project religion is also a part. The current phase of globalization religiosity with all its aberrations manifests in materialistic terms. 

Religiosity demands externals observances because rituals are part of and globalization translates for profit maximization. Hinduism like Christianity is now gradually getting globalized. For instance, for religious purposes even cow dung cakes are exported to the United States of America. Religion in a globalized world is gradually drifting away from its basic tenets and religiosity is commoditizing and marketizing God. To substantiate, take for instance any Christian or Hindu festivals or rituals or celebrations or whatever everything turns out to be in material formats and forms. Globalization is using religiosity as its tool to commoditize and marketize for profits. What is t be done? Should be get rid of religion? Or is it possible to do away or change the contours of globalization or just live with them till they gets waned? They continue to co-exist and complement each other. They do have their historical antecedents, personal, communal and societal significance and carries lots of relevance as they permeated and thus pervaded into the lives and existence of majority of people in domains of existence.

In such a paradoxical scenario BR Ambedkar pragmatically thought about when he too might have confronted with similar questions that Homo sapiens face and experience in their day-to-existence that “Some people think that religion is not essential to society. I do not hold this view. I consider the foundation of religion to be essential to life and practices of society.” BR Ambedkar and others who view positive side of religion say that religions per se unites and pursues peace and harmonious living, sharing love and happiness, treating everyone equally with dignity, dispensing justice and fairness, promoting humanity, igniting truth, endure temperance and humility. These are the salient features and basic fundamentals of all religions. As times go by adherents of religions moved away from these principles and ethical moorings. 

Credo of religions are gradually diminishing and thus ebbing out and its place has been filled by religiosity. Religiosity is converting the basic yearnings, hops and aspirations of the adherents into materiality. Spirituality of religions is now turned out to materiality of religiosity. Religiosity is at present the credo that thrives on: “Mammonizing the Divine and Divinizing the Mammon”. Religiosity is currently manifests in the forms of consumerism, materialism and thus infuses commodity fetishism. It captures humans’ yearnings for “prosperous life” “here and now” and promises to translate their hopes and aspirations. Therefore religiosity pitches its doctrine of “materiality” and grounds its matrix on exteriorities and artifices on material things. Pseudo spirituality and religiosity have penetrated in diverse ways that gives damn to values such as how to live and lead good life. 

Take professionals in any profession such as politics, religious priests, bureaucrats, CEOs of corporations, medical and education and others, barring just a few many have developed an attitude of care a damn to ethical dynamic of means and ends. Many view ends as an important realizable category in order to achieve and realize something that assures “good life” and so, go all out employing all sorts of means. Likewise the world we live is groaning due to the absence of ethical values and total bankruptcy of values in all societal segments. In each and every segment of human existence, organs of state, institutions of governance big and small is contaminated with corruption, hatred, money laundering, lynching, power abuse and greed. 

Dr. John Mohan Razu

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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