Do Religions Create Their Own Empires? (RELS 348)

The actions and impacts of religion have been highly controversial throughout history, and people take very strong, differing stances on it. In Michiko Kakutani’s article “Almighty Empire With a Global Reach,” The New York Times, March 30, 2009, Kakutani is commenting on the beliefs and ideas of the book, “God is Back” by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge. The book suggests that religion is becoming more popular, and people are becoming more religious in the era of modernity, while Kakutani believes that the author’s have had some great oversights. The book gives the perspective that “the surge of religion is being driven by the same two things that have driven the success of market capitalism: competition and choice”[1]. That as the world modernizes there will be a continuous religious revival and that religion will create its own form of empire, a ruling, stand-alone body within nations.

Kakutani disagrees with much of what they because he argues that the authors use one-sided evidence, and this view of religion is very Christian-North American centered, and not an accurate view of the world as a whole. Kakutani argues that this perspective completely ignores a large portion of the world, and religions where many people do not have a choice of religion, in places such as the Middle East. However, I would argue that in these nations where there is no choice of religion, and where there is dictatorship type rule by religious groups, that this also results in a religious empire.

Additionally, throughout history there have been many revivals of religion, and cultures adapt to these revivals. Modern day North America is not the first time that religion has become hugely important in people’s lives. It is just one revival of many throughout history.

Religion is so intertwined in peoples lived because it forms the base of their worldview, and whether it is a choice or an assimilated belief it impacts an individuals life. Religion, whether by choice, or by force is such a large institution that is has the chance of having so much influence that it can create real physical empires, or else empires of thought that are within nations.


[1] Kakutani, Michiko. “Almighty Empire With a Global Reach,” The New York Times, March 30, 2009

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