Friday, December 22, 2006

Academics tend to describe the spread of religious belief as a social phenomenon. But maybe, at its core, we're dealing with something more accurately described as "viral."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just don't buy the viral concept.
For one thing the map implies that religion didn't exist prior to the spread of the "new" religions. Of course it existed. Its just that populations were sparse and religious beliefs were at great variance with one another. Missionary work aside, the spread of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam was largely due to a) an acceptance by the head of state, who then declared the religion a national one...b) an invading force imposing its own beliefs on its conquests. Either way the suppression of existing religious practices was guaranteed. I'm not too sure of the situation with Hinduism, but I strongly suspect that if politics wasn't a factor, then the expansion of civilisation itself might have been responsible.
The other thing is that just because a set of beliefs is declared the state religion it doesn't follow that the entire populace are suddenly converted. Pockets of "heretical" belief would most certainly have continued in secret.
The map is deceptive on another count. The state religion in England for example is Church of England, therefore Christian, but within a 12 mile radius of where I live there are several synagogues and a Talmudical College, a Buddhist temple and a Buddhist monastery, and several mosques. The point being that the map shows the state religions rather than a true picture ;)