Religion in the Twenty-First Century: Anachronism or Instinct? Essay

Religion in the Twenty-First Century: Anachronism or Instinct?
An analysis of various explanations to account for the seemingly anomalous persistence of religion in the twenty-first century.
# 153965 | 0 words | 0 sources | 2014 | CA
Published by on Jul 30, 2014 in Anthropology (Cultural)

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From the Paper:

"In 2005, the furore in the Islamic world over the publication in a Danish magazine (and later in several other magazine across Europe and around the world, and on the Internet) of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed--and the flag and embassy burnings that following in its wake--drew attention yet again to the paradoxical power that religion and religious beliefs continue to exercise on human beings--even in the twenty-first century. Such events raise a serious question: What is it precisely that gives religion its tremendous staying power? How can we account for the persistence of religious beliefs in an age of technology, globalization, science, and space exploration? Surrounded by the "modern" trappings of the twenty-first century, religion seems strangely anachronistic, especially from an anthropological point of view.Two recent social developments in the area of religion are of particular interest: (1) the rise of religious fundamentalism; and (2) the emergence of Neo-Paganism (or what is more commonly known, broadly, as the New Age Movement, though the two terms are certainly not synonymous). Of these two developments, the rise of fundamentalism is by far the more dangerous, whether it be Christian fundamentalism in the United States, Islamic fundamentalism in the Muslim world, or (to a lesser extent) Jewish fundamentalism among Zionists around the world and Hindu fundamentalism in India.
"In analyzing any social or cultural phenomenon, it is possible to apply a variety of competing models to the task of providing an explanation. As a starting point, this essay has chosen to examine the evolutionary model. Other models may be applied with equal success, but with different results, and these models will also be reviewed later in the essay. The quintessential evolutionary model can be found in the thought of James Frazer, who suggested in his classic work, The Golden Bough, that the development of human consciousness can be understood as taking place in three successive stages, beginning with magic, progressing to religion, and culminating in science. While Frazer's evolutionary model has come under attack from subsequent anthropologists, we will, for the sake of the present argument, assume that his model is valid."

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