chapter  10
Religion in the Contemporary Globalised World: Construction, Migration, Challenge, Diversity
ByPETER BEYER
Pages 21

Over the past few decades, we have witnessed a change of attitude with regard to the category of religion, not just in the academic circles dominated by Western observers, but also in much public discourse in countries as diverse as the United States, South Korea, France, Russia, India, and Canada. Restricting myself for the moment to the academic manifestations, in many disciplines, such as political science, sociology, and international relations, religion has for the first time in a long time ceased to be completely ignored and become a topic that is actually deemed worthy of study over the last couple of decades. In disciplines whose specific purview has always been religion, notably religious studies and the sociology of religion, there has been an important shift in the basic reigning assumptions about religion. Where the former used to treat religion as a domain that was sui generis, if somewhat isolated and set apart from and to some extent at odds with the (modern) social world in which it occurred, there has since the 1980s emerged a strong trend in the discipline emphasizing the embedded and even dependent character of religion in its social, economic, political, and cultural contexts. Critique, if anything, has moved from society to religion itself, even to the point of seeking to deconstruct the category completely and dissolve it into the generally social, cultural, and political (see, e.g., Fitzgerald 2000; McCutcheon 1997). The sociology of religion, in comparison, has deliberately sought to move itself more into the centre of the overall discipline and has in the process abandoned in almost wholesale fashion the secularisation paradigm which once directly or indirectly informed most of its endeavours (cf. Berger 2001; Stark & Finke 2000). Now exceedingly few talk about the inevitable weakening or disappearance of religion, and places like Europe, where institutional religion is quite weak, are the exception (Davie 2003), the rest of the world being comparatively religious.