Roles of religions
Appiah Kwameh, through his article “ The Case for Contamination” points out and analyzes the varied ways through which globalization is taking place. In his article, he uses a wide range of extensive instances that depict how contaminated the world is becoming. By referring to the world as contaminated, Appiah simply refers to the mix-up of traditions and values which eventually interfere with the good morals and practices that our ancestors left us. He reflects on the intrusion of globalization and modernity into our traditional, timeless rituals due to the pressure of conformity on the world to realize uniformity. Appiah reflects over the gradual transformation that takes place in different cultures and religions of the world in manner that clarifies and makes his points be weighty. However, Appiah remains open-minded and the influences of religion, even his, do not influence his opinion. Using an informative tone, the reader is given the freedom to choose between globalization or modernization and traditions and authenticity. Though, Appiah uses modernization or globalization as the his base of argument, he unreservedly expresses points on the power of leadership, the ultimate message to people to respect each other’s religion and the message of freedom of choice to the readers.
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In Appiah’s view, the cultural change phenomenon is traversing all the institutions and aspects of the societies. With his own examples drawn from Ghana, where he is a native, he explores how assimilation of different cultural aspects takes place. While in Ghana, Asante, Appiah is shocked at some alien traditional customs that are observed by his fellow natives, Ghanaians in attempts to cope with the standards of living in the 21st century. People do use technological gadgets like mobile phones, putting on western suits. In his opinion, Appiah comments his people for remaining rooted in the traditions of their fore-fathers. However, he is keen to notice the connections that his people established with the west. He points out at the president of the republic of Ghana as a vivid example of the product of this relationship; he is a graduate from oxford and a catholic as well. He also notices the very many young Ghanaians who are working as immigrants in United States, Japan, London and other big cities of the developed countries. He does recognize the cultural purists i. e. those advocating for the maintenance of the pure traditions and values. Nevertheless, this advocacy of the purists conforms not to the globalization or cosmopolitanism ethics. Appiah says that the only object that is appropriate in moral concerns as far as cosmopolitanism is concerned is just an individual and not a whole tribe, people or nations.
Appiah says that though we are all citizens of this world, the world itself is not anywhere near to cosmopolitanism. He adds that cosmopolitanism will be realized when homogeneity will mean artificiality of the superficiality of the people’s cultures. Appiah it is very ordinary to find people change in their own ways; as they wish. However, in the personal changes, some may be disliked while others can still be liked. Here, he uses an example where the global economy influence can be problematic only to those must adjust in order to fit well. However, the same global economic influence can be so exciting and very acceptable to those who are well placed in the society and don’t feel the impact of the economic pressure. In religion, he says, for instance, though it can generally appear outwardly that Christianization is successful, it is possible that there are some of its aspects that are not accepted at an individual level. This is what he refers to as the modernization, where people can be so independent and rationally stand their grounds.
Roles of religion
Appiah uses this article to portray the roles played by religion in the society from two perspectives. First, Appiah sees religion as any other cultural artifact that can be subjected to change. In this perception, Appiah sees religion as artifact of culture that can undergo change at each time such transformations take place, different responses, some good, some bad, are evoked. In this sense, Appiah is saying that religious cultures are just like any other cultures which can change. Thus just like any other cultural changes which are subjects to increased globalization, religious cultures can also change due to ideological globalization. Thus, religion plays a role of an aspect of culture; just like dressing, language and foodstuff. Therefore, religion affects change and as a result can be liked or disliked by a section of the people. Though this is the case according to Appiah, I would like to differ with him a little bit. Looking at most religions of the world, there is substantial evidence that they have upheld their traditions and cultures. Most religions are very rigid to changes especially those that tough their fundamental beliefs.
According to Appiah, just like cultural diversity is acceptable in our societies, diverse religious cultures are accepted too. Nevertheless, any pressure that can be enforced in attempts to create just one culture is not acceptable in the society. This happens this way because homogeneity and cultural diversity that is man-made traps man from developing to higher heights. This can also be due failure to cause maturation of man’s moral, aesthetic and mental potentials. Eventually, artificial cultural diversity cannot lead to happiness in the society which everybody is yearning for. In response to this, I would not concur with Appiah since religion cannot be artificial. From various religious experiences that people have, it is largely accepted that religious revelations are mystical and cannot be understood why they do take place and how. If it is possible that culture can be individual based, why do people of different races and backgrounds have the same mystical experiences spontaneously? Can religious cultures be equated to social cultures simply because they can conform to some aspects of globalization? I totally disagree.
Secondly, Appiah says that religion can play a destructive role in the society and thus can be very dangerous. Appiah cites the idea of a universal utopia of the neo-fundamentalist where a group of people could be having a common agenda. He says that this idea could possibly be the problem to the human race. In his view, religious utopia shows a pretense in the shared ideas and belief in human dignity (2006). He says that behind this pretense however, there are possible ideologies which can initiate war against people who could be crossing their path. He sees this to be similar to the imperialist attitude about culture. These are as well similar to the ideologies people who advocated for the universality of humanity like Pol Pot, Marx and Mao. Though Appiah is taking this perspective, I feel that he is taking his assumptions too far. It is not a must a religious movement to be composed of many people. In addition, the conviction that people get in order to join religions is always individual based. He had stated clearly that outwardly, a religious movement can be seen as successfully accepted yet some parts of aspects of the same religion, though from an individual’s view, may not be accepted. it is true that religion has its own culture which can also change but this should not be a tool of soiling the good name of religion in our midst.
There is cultural freedom in our societies and thus people can subscribe to any culture of his/her choice. However, in this cultural freedom which is based on the political, religious and economic and circumstances, people’s autonomy should always be a priority. In respecting people’s independence, we will be creating room for otherness. This ‘ otherness’ is as a result of people’s different opinions, structures, aims amongst other differences in life. Though religion is found in the boundaries of culture, we should also remember its innate nature. Through its innateness, religion has remained thriving and with their doctrines awakened for centuries. This innate nature has seen religion define knowledge, truth, and acceptance amongst various aspects of a harmonious life.
Cosmopolitanism in religion is already a rooted idea and is being used in the spheres of various international agencies including the United Nations, several foundations as well as organizations. For a very long time, there was the imperialism of the state-church reigning. Thus, whatever the state approved was approved by the church. This led to the establishments of kingdoms and empires. This was during Stoicism. These impacted a lot the political and the social landscape which continued to change until the time foe humanism, in the 15th C. after humanism; it was the period for reformation and enlightenment in the 16th C. This is the period that broke Christendom hence ushering people into the modern society. Possibly, there could be a civilization phase which is emerging after the technological revolutions. If so, then, this phase could be in harmony with cosmopolitanism. Though cosmopolitanism is advocating for one culture, realization of this in the political culture may take to conform to this. In religion however, there is a religious culture which fosters global terror and can also stumble the realization of this phase fully.
Kwame A. Appiah. The Case for Contamination: The New York Times. January 1, 2006. Print.