Globalization has been one of the most controversial topics in the

contemporary human society. This is especially considering the differing
views on the effects that the phenomenon has had on the human society,
and especially with regard to the authenticity of cultures of different
parts of the globe. Needless to say, a wide range of modifications have
been visited upon the varied cultural aspects of countries. Indeed,
globalization has enabled languages and customs of different societies
to spread to other parts of the globe, thereby allowing for the fusion
or merging of the same. In addition, it has allowed for the smooth flow
of goods and services thereby giving individuals the capacity to attain
goods and services that they previously could not obtain. A case in
point is the possibility of finding KFC, Coca-Cola and even mobile
phones in almost every part of the world. Of particular note is the fact
that globalization has enabled individuals from different parts of the
globe to be familiar with cultures from other parts of the world,
thereby enhancing their understanding and comprehension of the same
(Rothstein 14). Nevertheless, as much as the phenomenon increases the
opportunities for individuals in a particular region, it also results in
the mixing or blending of cultures, consequently resulting in the
deterioration of distinctive cultural variations. In addition, there are
other negative aspects of globalization touching on economic equality,
deterioration of the nation’s individual sovereignty, as well as other
devastating effects on the environment. However, questions have been
raised as to the role of religion as far as globalization is concerned.
In the article “The Case for Contamination”, Kwame Anthony Appiah
explores the globalization of the world and uses numerous extensive
examples to outline the manner in which the globe is becoming
contaminated. “Contamination”, in this case, underlines the aspect
of having the authentic cultures and way of life passed down by the
ancestors damaged and destroyed by the mixture of the numerous
innovative or creative traditions and values. In this analysis, Appiah
describes the measured transformation or modification of the numerous
religions and cultures. However, he is open-minded in his personal
opinion and does not seem to carry the influence of religion. As much as
the main theme in his analysis if globalization, he inadvertently
conveys ideas pertaining to the power of leadership, freedom of choice,
as well as the ultimate message pertaining to respect for other
religions. It is worth noting, however, that Appiah has been an ardent
advocate of cosmopolitanism, which is essentially a global ethics that
has the sole aim of establishing shared values and universality as a
common denominator or determinant. In the article, Appiah uses
descriptive narrative technique to underline the fact that cultural
assimilation takes varied forms. In his hometown, Asante in Ghana,
Appiah comes across exotic traditional customs that fellow-Ghanaians
observe, even as they exhibit signs of contemporary 21st century living
such as the use of technological gadgets such as wristwatches and
cellphones, and wearing suits. Indeed, as much as the Ghanaians still
have their roots in traditions, they have established links with the
Western culture as seen in the case of the Ghana president who is not
only a catholic but also a graduate from Oxford. He takes particular
note of the opinions of cultural purists who advocate for the
preservation of the unspoiled traditions and cultural values. This
attitude, however, is not in conformity with cosmopolitanism or the
ethics of globalization. Appiah opines that the appropriate moral object
concern In Cosmopolitanism revolves around the individual rather than
entire tribes, nations or peoples. Every person is a citizen of the
world. However, the world is further away from cosmopolitanism in
instances where homogeneity only underlines artificiality or
superficiality in the cultural changes. In his examination of the varied
forms of religions, Appiah underlines the fact that religions can be
used as tools of oppression of the entire society or parts of it, or
even a source of redemption.
First, religion has played the role of an oppressor or used to oppress
certain portions of the society. This is especially the case for the
treatment that is levied against women in religions such as Islam. It
goes without saying that women are not considered to share the same
platform with their male counterparts, in which case they are treated in
a different way. Indeed, a large number of Islamic countries in the
world are yet to allow their women to participate in varied activities
such as voting or driving (Beyer and Lori 36). In fact, they have their
modes of dressing controlled, not to mention the manner in which they
relate with other people especially members of the opposite sex. Their
functions, activities and areas of operations are restricted to the
domestic world and would not have any freedom to work outside their
houses. Of particular note is the severity of punishments that are
levied against women when they are perceived as wrong. For instance,
Mullahs in Nigeria not only inveigh or advocate against polio
vaccination but also sentence adulteresses to death through stoning
(Appiah 5). In other countries such as India, the same religion calls
for the burning of wives to death in instances where they fail to make
dowry payments. However, it is worth noting that this has been
undergoing gradual changes especially in the Islamic countries thanks to
the effects of globalization (Rothstein 17). There has been increased
popularity of women who have stood against oppression in the face of
dangers especially in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, often with
detrimental effects. This has not only resulted from the increased
interactions between the cultures of these people and their more
liberated ones in other countries such as the United States (Rothstein
23). Indeed, the entry of the internet and mobile phones has allowed for
increased openness and increased interactions, which has opened up space
for these women.
In addition, religion has severally been used in the propagation of
cultural imperialism, where certain cultural aspects are seen as
superior to others. This is especially the case for the entry of
Christianity in African countries. Of particular note, according to
Appiah, is the fact that the entry of Christianity spelled doom for
traditional ways of life as the Africans who wished to join the new
religion had to abandon their old ways (Appiah 2). As much as the
converts had the freedom to think for themselves and could decide what
aspects to retain and what could not be retained, or even what they
could adopt from the missionaries and what could not be adopted, the
missionaries were highly against such retention. This notion was
essentially rooted on the belief that everything that did not conform to
the teachings espoused by the missionaries was wrong and inferior, and
had to be abandoned.
On the same note, religion has been used as justification for wars and
intolerance among nations and societies. Indeed, some religions have
underlined the fact that any individual that does not subscribe to their
teachings is not worth of wrong and not worthy of living. This may be
seen, for instance, in the Thirty Years’ War that ravaged Central
Europe up to 1648, as well as the Peace of Westphalia, when the Catholic
and Protestant princes from Sweden to Austria struggled against each
other leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Germans in the
battle. There was also the first Bishops’ War in 1639 all the way to
the end of the English Civil War in 1651, where the Protestant Armies
were fighting against the armies of a Catholic King, resulting in the
extermination of about 10% of the population (Appiah 4). This may have
emanated from the intolerance that these religions propagate. Appiah
notes that the enforcement of a single vision of universal truth would
only result in blood bath in the world. In the contemporary world,
religious imperialism and intolerance may be seen in the case of Islam,
whose calls for jihad are interpreted as an actual warfare met against
the United States.
Lastly, Appiah sees religion as playing the role of a cultural artifact
that has the capacity to be modified or undergoing change and evoking
varied responses from its audience. This underlines the fact that
religious cultural change is no different from any other cultural change
that results from the increased or enhanced globalization of ideas.
Religion plays roles similar to those of other cultural aspects such as
customs, dress and language, with different people having different
ideas about the changes that it effects. In this regard, he underlines
the acceptable nature of religious traditions, while noting that the
cultural change process that results in the creation of a single
cultural mode would be unacceptable. Homogeneity and artificial cultural
diversity may, in essence, be an entrapment that hinders the evolution
of human beings to higher natures (Beyer and Lori 56). Diversity, on the
other hand, would be more conducive to the nature of man in the
achievement of the maturation of his moral, aesthetic and mental
potentials, not to mention the attainment of their fair share of
happiness in life.
In conclusion, globalization has resulted in the contamination of the
uniqueness and authenticity of varied cultural aspects. Indeed, various
cultural practices have been blended together resulting in the
elimination of certain aspects and the adoption of new ways of life.
Religion, in this phenomenon, has been primarily used as a way of
oppressing certain portions of the society and even redeeming some.
Indeed, some religions have been propagating intolerance of diversity
and instead calling for universality. This has resulted to numerous
deaths as was the case in the religious wars in the 17th century. On the
same note, religion has been a tool for fundamentalism or imperialism
especially considering that the entry of varied religions in countries
such as Africa spelled doom for some of their practices as they opined
that only the practices that were in line with their teachings were
acceptable. Lastly, there have been instances where religions have been
tools of oppression as is the case in Islamic countries where women are
relegated to the unimportant spheres of life.
Works cited
Appiah, Kwame Anthony. The Case for Contamination. New York Times, 2006,
web retrieved from HYPERLINK
“http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/01/magazine/01cosmopolitan.html?_r=0”
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/01/magazine/01cosmopolitan.html?_r=0
Rothstein, Mikael. New Age Religion and Globalization. Aarhus: Aarhus
Univ. Press, 2001. Print.
Beyer, Peter, and Lori G. Beaman. Religion, Globalization and Culture.
Leiden: Brill, 2007. Print.
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