6 December, 2023


Religiosity In Society

By Rajindra Clement Ratnapuli

Rajindra Clement Ratnapuli

According to published literature (Google Search), the principal driving force of religiosity is social dysfunction. Social dysfunction can arise from several causes like poor health care, high violence and homicides, an increasing wealth gap, and a breakdown in law and order. In situations where social dysfunction increases, religiosity increases. Some of the indicators that measure religiosity include belief in God or a universal spirit, infallibility of the religious scriptures, frequency of attendance of religious services, frequency of prayer, and belief in the supernatural. People who cannot cope with day-to-day social problems often turn to religion (divine powers) to seek help (salvation). That feeling could occur in individuals, communities, countries, and generally across the world.

Organized religion is in many ways a major contributor to social inequality and a hindrance to human development. Vulnerable individuals and groups are often marginalized and in extreme cases demonized in the name of religion. To make things worse they are plagued with social inequalities like misogynism, sexism, and racism. 

Christians form the largest religion in the world. There are roughly 200 Christian denominations in the US and a staggering 45000 globally (Ref: Center for the Study of Global Christianity). The institution is visibly fragmented. The fragmentation can be attributed to differences in belief, in-house power struggles, corruption, and organizational misconduct. Many of the fragmented groups now appear to be resurfacing as businesses, big and small. The preaching industry has become crowded and turned into a competitive marketplace. Many spinoffs of religious groups have become fabulously rich, particularly those in North America. Their net worth run into billions of dollars. Some of the preachers and group leaders are also worth millions. Detailed information about these cases is readily available in the public domain (Celebrity network website). Customarily, their assets are expressed in net worth which may not necessarily reflect the money to hand, given that religious teachers and institutions have a multitude of functions to perform, including traveling, writing, lecturing, and counseling. It is interesting nevertheless to study how the assets are accumulated and the lifestyle of the leaders. The consumers of their services are often the followers themselves. For the sake of accountability and transparency, the extraordinarily high assets declared by individuals and religious groups merit rigorous scrutiny as they could otherwise raise ethical concerns among the followers. 

Religious groups and preachers are constantly searching for innovative methods to market their products. A lot of them have little transparency. Many operate with false facades, like charities and educational institutions, and do not pay taxes on their earnings. Other major money-spinning practices adopted by certain groups are faith healing, conversion therapy, and exorcism, which is mere with pseudoscience. There are publications that claim certain religious practices could help curb suicides, drug abuse, and sexual misconduct triggered by mental health issues. More research is required for confirmation: they could be associated with placebo effects. The science behind faith healing is not well established. Everyone knows there is no miracle cure for sickness. Only science and medicine are known to heal ailments. Faith healers nowadays seem to have varying fortunes. One of the most successful faith healers today is a Canadian who reported a net worth of USD 60 million in 2021. 

It is hard to take a puritan stance when dealing with religious frauds and medical quackery. Today many people make a living by engaging in small businesses, mostly under shady conditions. Examples include drug peddling, palm reading, astrology, psychics, small-time stealing, selling fake products, and many more. In the process, some of the actors are likely to operate on the wrong side of the law and commit minor infractions. They are however the small fry in an ocean of big business. To be fair they ought to be exempt from any charges, and forgiven by society for minor offenses. Law enforcement could then go after the big fish – organized crime. Educators, community leaders, and law enforcement bodies could work out the red line between the small fry and the big fish. 

Interestingly, religiosity tends to decrease as prosperity increases (Kazi Stastna: Religion and Prosperity). The US is an exception to this trend. Two impacting conclusions of this paper are (1) there is no situation where a highly religious nation is highly successful socially, and (2) Social-economic indicators are positive in secular societies. Developed countries like Canada, France, Germany, Britain, and Australia register a slowing down of religiosity whereas, high GDP per capita countries like China and Japan appear to be transitioning to nonreligion, atheistic or agnostic.  

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Latest comments

  • 5

    “the principal driving force of religiosity is social dysfunction. Social dysfunction can arise from several causes like poor health care, high violence and homicides”
    That may apply to Afghanistan, perhaps. But how would one explain Saudi Arabia, where health care is excellent, and only the government indulges in violence and homicide?

    • 3

      Is not the difference between the US and Saudi Arabia that the state offers no health care and shares credit for violence and homicide with the underworld.

    • 4

      Mr. Ratnapuli is resorting to a simplistic analysis here. Religion can be part of people’s identities regardless of social conditions. One might argue that in developed societies, the need to maintain a standard of living forces people to put inordinate emphasis on work and the rat race, allowing little time for religion, even as they pay lip service to it.

      People have complex motivations: Vinayak Savarkar, one of the early proponents of Hindutva, was actually an atheist. In the U.S., many rich Jews cling to their religion, as do rich evangelicals.

      • 3

        Despite advanced economies, racism prevails, strongly, in Europe and US.

        • 3

          We shouldn’t forget that only 60 years ago, Australia only admitted “white” immigrants and blacks had separate drinking fountains in the US, while even a Catholic President was unthinkable. Things have changed to the extent that a British minister of Indian descent wants to restrict immigration.

  • 0

    RCR, You have described all the fragmented christian denominations with various flaws and quite rightly too. But the true christian beliefs and practice as taught by the resurrected Jesus to his disciples in Acts 2 onwards, so that they could go to all nations and preach the gospel of his kingdom, as he was going to be with them always, in Mat.28,19-20, has not been even mentioned in this article. In Mark 16,17 Jesus describes signs that follow those who believe like casting out demons, new tongues, serpents and poisons unable to hurt, and laying hands on the sick to release his indwelling Holy Spirit energy to heal the sick. Jesus ascended back to the Father in heaven and said in Acts 1,8, “You shall receive power after Holy Spirit comes upon you”. This happened at Pentecost when the church was birthed .”I am coming quickly” Rev.22,20 is what we wait for.

  • 3

    We talk about religiosity knowing that about 99% Sinhala Buddhist monks are monks. I wonder if they were ordained or entered to live hidden propencities being in a disguised life. There are prima facie evidence to prove that child monks are being abused by their senior monks in temples across the country.

    Many Sinhalese are Buddhists, however they are simply born into the religion.I was born into our sinhala buddhist family, but today, I dont respect sinhala buddhist but buddhists. I cant even see sinnhala budhdists today.. that causes me allergies.
    Most of the people living in that country are far away from the teachings of true Buddhism.
    I think all these could have been protected, if, had lawmakers done their job as sworn in.

    Almost everything as of today, is in shatters. Health, Education, Society, religion, culture and everything. Crimes are on a rise as is the case in Venisula today.

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