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In What Sense Has Modernity Altered the Way People Look at World Religions?

By Arijah Siddiqui  

Today's time period is a distinguished period of world history that could be easily differentiate from the pre-modern world. Modern identities have been created that enables the individuals to think from a different point of view, but, paradoxically. This sense of modernity provides a platform to the people for their thoughtful self-cultivation. Enforcing modernity is a deep concern that includes all the disciplines and fields in life. Either it be social life, practical life, professional life or religious commodities. Hence, religion is ought to be the most debatable topic among several modern disciplines.

A large number of arguments have been provided on the basis of different theories, that includes an overview of people's perceptions and opinions regarding religion. Religion has always been an ideology of creating identities for individuals. It is a combination of beliefs and rituals for respective people. Modernity and religions forms a great combination as they both are interlinked with each other. In the present world, it is seen that being modern is referred to be modern by appearance rather than the inner characteristics. Moreover, being modern is represented by the clothes one wears, the language that one speaks, the confidence that is built in one. All these aspects lead to being modern in the society, but, this is not only the discourse. Considering all these outer aspects, the individuals forgets its religious values and hence, a decline in religion occurs.

A unified theory was presented by several socialists related to this objectivity. Revolutionary socialists like Karl Marx, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, have spoken about the connection between the mass support for religions and politically, socially and economically experienced realities. They have incorporated the idea of un-secularized thoughts in the society and among the young. All these socialists have stressed upon the fulfilment of religion practices in a very formal and authentic way, however, the basic considered ideology of modernity is not supporting their thoughts.

Modernity has altered the way of people thinking about their religion. People have started living secular lives. Secularism, the theory of non-religious commodities, is now being supported by a large number of individuals, since, they think that living a rational and humanistic life could be suitable for their characteristic of being "Modern". Secularism has gotten an incline as the term modernity is being enforced in the society. This is creating a bridge of gap between the people and the religion. In a multi-cultural world like today, Jefferson's phrase, "wall of separation between church and state" is broadly a highlighted feature of the society. Modernity has brought such a transformation in the society that is clearly an opposition of religious affiliation and identifications. However, it is promoting secular activities in the society that is contributing in the development of no religious affairs and secular identities.

Moreover, it is very visible that the society is progressing through rationalization and modernization. Religion is losing its all charm and authority. No one now cares about the religious values, despite this factor, the role of religion in present modern societies is losing its cultural, ethical, social and practical significances. There are many religious organizations that are working in full swing for the development of societies but, they now have little and less power as compared to the rationalized authorities, governments and socially constructed powers. This decline in religiosity level has resulted in an evil manner of the way people look at world religions.

This thesis of declining religious values is referred as secularization, that is being incorporated by the authorities of today's society i.e. modernity at the top. Modernity has shown different social and rational factors. Macro social structures create difference between the simpler social and economic platforms of the society. Individual institutions are being constructed. These individual institutions are transforming the religious centres into modernized and secular institutes. A change and shift in social powers is being inclined, that is the shift of social authorities from religious centres to the political organizations, hence, religion is losing its value. Transition in mentalities is seen, that is manipulation of individual's mind. Especially the people of West now paradoxically refer to secular huts for their sessions of therapy instead of religious places. They are adapting the secular lifestyle. Religiosity is also bearing the decline in terms of societal level.

Modernity, however, has enforced complete secularization. Complete secularization includes the removal of full holiness and religiosity from the society. This manipulates the people to believe that no holiness will contribute to strong development of the society, which is not an agreeable principle to be honest. Many countries, especially of the Western side, are facing this effect of modernity at a very high degree, whereas, countries which are still in development and belong to third world, are considering religious values as well and hence, they are considered to be orthodox and stone-aged. There are triggered mechanisms, sustainable mechanisms, that are playing their role in this degree of act. They have promoted scientific and intellectual developments that have undermined the religious significances of the society.

Religion and modern life are comparted into two different sections. The sense of modernization is proving that religion and modernity do not hold a bound between one another and are two separate theories. A person can either be religious or modern at one time. A religiously strong person will lack behind in modernity and will be considered as orthodox, whereas, a person religiously weak but confident, will be considered modern and paradox. Such a person will be given more value in the society as compared to the religious one. The phrase of distinguish between the West and the Rest, is authentically proven by this thesis.

Furthermore, modernity has served and is serving till date as anti-religion force everywhere in the world. "[Secularisation Theory is] that process by which religious institutions, actions, and consciousness, lose their social significance" (Bryan Wilson, The sociology of religion. Edward Elgar Publishing, 1982). This definition of anti-religion authority includes the most basic version of reasons to religion's decline due to modernity. A social significance is tied up here. Many strong and confident anthropologists and sociologists have a belief that religion will become obsolete. Roger Finke, 1997, defines one extreme end of this thesis as, "Religion will decline as modernity erodes the demand for traditional religious beliefs" (Roger Finke, Russian Bible Wars: Modern Scriptural Translation and Cultural Authority, 2013). Now the words used in Roger Finke's statement shows the initial basis of religion's decline. The terms of erosion and traditional however, defines the rising of a new era that is individualistic and un-religious. Modernity is moreover leading to the conversion of old transcendent religious systems into modern functioned societies, where the anti-religious forces are fuelling up.

Compart-mentalism, another element of the rising modernity, is causing religion to lose its significance. People have discomforting thoughts of mind that leads them to think differently about the intellectual, private, social, economic life. People try to pick up their lives, employments, systems individually and this causes a neglect towards religion which are without any endorsement of a set of beliefs. Multi-culturists, are seen widely winning over religious intolerance. This refers that no religion can dominate in terms of law and jurisprudence.

Now, it can be transparently concluded that, modernity has badly affected the way people look up at world religions. People have demolished their positive views regarding religions and have altered their way to a complete private and secular way of thinking. They are forming rationalized communities, that is causing a decline in religious values. The believers have started to believe upon non-scientific reasons and explanations. People do not believe in God, but have started believing on rational and secular terminologies. In brief, modernity has led to a negative understanding of religions among the present society.


Batalden, Stephen K. Russian Bible Wars: Modern Scriptural Translation and Cultural Authority. Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Bruce, Steve. The sociology of religion. Edward Elgar Publishing, 1995.


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