Advertising portfolio

I am launching a new album on Flickr in which I uploaded and will upload all my advertising materials!

I’m looking forward to growing it and improve with each work.

Advertising Portfolio, Flickr

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My new way of procrastinating is reading retail companies reviews on websites like indeed, glossador, etc. Now all fun and games but I’m genuinely wondering if the upper management of the reviewed firms actually go through them as well. I mean, seriously, there are quite some useful reviews and that way maybe they’d find the truth about how people feel while working for them. And then if they’d read maybe they’d do something to improve and so people wouldn’t resign so fast or they would actually smile to customers.

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“We have entered an age of fear. Insecurity is once again an active ingredient of political life in Western democracies. Insecurity born of terrorism, but also, and more insidiously, fear of the uncontrollable speed of change, fear of the loss of employment, fear of losing ground to others in an increasingly unequal distribution of resources, fear of losing control of the circumstances and routines of our daily life. And, perhaps above all, fear that it is not just we who can no longer shape our lives but that those in authority have also lost control, to forces beyond their reach” – Judt, T. quoted in Cuperus, 2011, taken off Cantle, T, 2011.

 

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Commodified selves and religions

Ever wondered what happened to our spiritual sense? Well, the Aberdeen University course of Religion and Culture (SO4058) does make you think about it quite a bit. I’m choosing not to change too much for this work because any strong alteration might alter the meaning and core idea within the explanation. The problem is whether religion became an item on supermarkets shelves. Meaning, do we genuinely consume religion? Did we somehow brand religion and refer to it as we do to Nike, Apple, or Vodafone? Do we choose to believe in some part of a religion because it matches with our values? But what about the people who shape their values on those of the religion they partake to? In a sense, we are now looking at a perfectly arranged chaos, that is our society, thus the following chapters will attempt to show one paradox of religion today.

Introduction

To begin with, because there is a fairly clear-cut between the social significance of religion, religion as such, the amount of people who take religion seriously, and how seriously everyone takes it (Bruce, 2002: 3), because religion is a sensitive subject and understood in various ways by various people/societies, an attempt to define it for this essay is required. Durkheim (2001: 25) calls it a system of ideas and practices. He argues (2001) that “the Gods also need man; without their offerings and sacrifices, they would die”. Therefore, religion “is the determination of human life by the feeling of a bond uniting the human mind to the mysterious mind…” (Reville, 1881: 34) and it aims to express not what is exceptional, but what is constant and regular (Durkheim, 2001: 30). Thus, religion is an indefinite (supernatural, mysterious, etc.) defining the lives of billions of people. Religion promoted the idea that someone/something is watching and eventually caring for you, but also requires people to behave in an exact standard. It is scheduling people’s lives by giving a course of doctrines and indoctrination of rituals. It also opens a door for misunderstandings when the different beliefs come in contact with each other and this can go to an extent of killing ‘in the name of God’. For example, in Hinduism there is no prohibition on killing, saying that “may be inevitable and necessary” (W. Menski, 2007: 5).

This essay does not intend to reveal the truth of religions, nor their exact history, as there might not even be one. But it is relevant to mention and motivate why this work is written from the perspective that religion is internally sourced (human-made). If we assume that religion is man-made, religious indoctrinations would be sourced within humanity, which only suggests a phenomenon of self-teaching. Although, if the negatives (the wars, the sacrifices at any level, the indoctrination and ignorance, etc.) are taken into consideration, morality is easily questioned. Therefore, religion as man-made is a sensitive topic and as much morality as is taught (to be human/humane), various arguments and violent acts happened because of the same teachings – the issue is the difference in practice and understanding/misunderstanding. If a one and only religion would govern the world, then it could be argued that there is a holy truth, but the multitude of beliefs and differences in ‘requirements’ highly suggests that societies themselves created these systems. If we assume that religion would not be man-made, then it means it is God-made/Gods-made, etc. How would so many Gods (the different religions and mystical ‘beings’) create a single world and if they did, why don’t we all believe in the same multitude, why do we split beliefs so much?

All in all, the following chapters intend to explain what the world we live in looks like, how ourselves as individuals evolved by the affect of consumerism and what is left from the traditional way of religious practices and beliefs.

 

Cultural hybridisation

 Harvey (1989: 240-154) argues that in postmodern societies, space was understood as concrete locations: for most individuals the risk because of war at that time was too high, thus people preferred to remain in their fixed locations. Moreover, until the 1850s, the movement of both goods and people was extremely slow, unreliable, and highly expensive, but with the afterwards rapid development of vessels (super-freighters), the exchange became affordable from all perspectives. Therefore, one could argue, globalisation was starting to show right after the mid-twentieth century. A modern nation-state system can also be dated around the 17th Century. That began the political aspect of globalisation. This is highly relevant because it lays the path for consumerism, for a world of trades of any kind (goods, services, and people). But taking a closer look at the societies today, it can be fairly argued that the world is by far homogenous or ruled by a singular standard. The world today is rather a hybridisation of businesses, politics, economies, and culture. The phenomenon that takes place is glocalisation. Roland Robertson (1997) claims that “[glocalisation] means the simultaneity – the co-presence – of both universalising and particularising tendencies”. This raised an interdependence between countries and challenges multiculturalism. Moreover, it spreads rationalisation, that is the process of organising life by instrumental considerations, is what Weber in quoting Schiller calls “the disenchantment of the world” (Bruce, 1996: 181).

Another factor into glocalisation is that communities lost structure through the ease of movement and thus mobility created the “anonymous world of the city” (Bruce, 1996: 182). The concept of Diasporas shall be introduced here as well, “[People] constitute a diaspora if they … come to share a common fate with their own people, wherever they happen to be” (Cohen and Kennedy, 2007: 55), referring to a group of people that ‘come together’ based on their nation, no matter where they moved in the world. This is, by Bauman’s three-steps of modern migration, the current and full flow of gathering, which raises issues within the ‘unbreakable’ bond between identity and nationality, the individual and his/her physical proximity and cultural identity (2011: 35-6). Although Sachs (1992: 102) claims that “[a] global monoculture spreads like an oil slick over the entire planet’”, these groups do not live self-sourcing, they integrate within the welcoming society and slowly become a part of it. “For the first time”, Bauman argues (2011: 36), “the ‘art of living together’ has become an everyday problem”. Thus, Rowe and Schelling’s hybridisation definition is accurate and includes the core of the phenomena: “the ways in which forms become separated from existing practices and recombine with new forms in new practices” (1991: 231).

This century is hosting a world of glocalised, hybrid cultures where individuals are free to choose the traditions they follow by either keeping their nationalities or adopting or mixing them. Because of the given freedom through laws and separations between the churches and states, the same liberty of hybridisation exists within religious beliefs.

The New Age for a hybrid world

 More and more people declare themselves Christian but, if asked, have beliefs such as the horoscope or Feng-shui. This gives a connection with the pick’n’mix approach within a spiritual supermarket (Lyon, 2000: 74). Consumerism (religious or otherwise) has become a cognitive and moral focus through systematic management (Lyon, 2000: 79). The constant interaction between individuals of different backgrounds (political views, religious beliefs, behaviour standard) combined with the mass consumption phenomenon that occurs and strengthens on a daily basis, makes possible the creation of hybrid societies. It creates new forms of behaviour standards, much more complex political perspectives and acts (a decision no longer affects that one country), and last but not least complex religious beliefs. Specifically, both the aforementioned anonymous city and rationalisation gave way to the emergence of new religion (Bruce, 1996: 182).

The individuals of today constantly “try on” new experiences (clothes, items, services, beliefs), trying to construct their selves distinct from others, yet seeking approval from the relevant lifestyle and symbolic membership (Lyon, 2000: 79). And that is what new religious movements are designed for. To ‘make us happy’, to support us in fulfilling our human potential, “a sense of well-being has become the end, rather than a by-product of striving after some superior communal end” (Rieff, 1973: 224). A lot of people claim some conventional religious position, but most of them add to it different other elements. For some people, it may be only an entertaining an idea, while for some it can escalate to a new sense of belief in a personalised religion (Bruce, 1996: 201). Therefore, as supposed earlier, beliefs today can be ‘picked up from a supermarket’. The New Age Beliefs and Practices are an important supply for this ‘supermarket’. Fewer and fewer people adopt traditional religions, i.e. fully Christian dogma, therefore most individuals, as argued, make use of the multitude of information and chose to believe what better suits them.

The New Age became popular within the 1980s. It is focused on ‘self-discovery’, ‘spiritual growth’, and ‘enlightenment’, the latter having the meaning of ‘reaching light’ and not the scientific beginning. Its roots are in Buddhism and Hinduism which have recently been Westernised; new agers vocabulary include ‘God’ and ‘Universe’, but ‘cosmic consciousness’ and ‘cosmic mind’ mostly, because when they state ‘God’ they refer to ‘Force’, ‘Energy’, and do not use the biblical sense. The new age exists via media such as newspapers, magazines, CDs (cassettes), and ‘lectures’. Considering, spirituality abandoned the idea of a main Holy Book (such as The Bible, The Koran, or others) and spreads itself around various sources. New-age-spirituality.com (2015) quotes “New Age Spirituality steps in to fulfil the need of something … that the material world alone cannot offer”, but it is sociologically interesting how it survives through beliefs in mostly the supernatural in an era of scientific research and proof. It has become popular in the West even if its roots are in eastern religions because, as the western popularity reached modernity, it commenced to search for ‘ultimate answers about life’. Because the material world looked discouraging after two world wars and the atomic bomb, people looked for faith in the spiritual realm. Moreover, due to the same reason and because the church was rigid, individuals looked for freedom, freedom which was given through the idea that the soul lives more lives, that the spirit is what matters, that there are a thousand possibilities, and no one can be wrong. But this is not the sole ‘attraction’ for the pick’n’mix practitioners, simple living with people of different cultures, thus different beliefs have an impact on an individual’s behaviour. Becoming co-workers of friends with people of various background, individuals come in contact with different perspectives on the world as well and involuntarily think about and perhaps adopt some points of view.

In this times of the 21st Century, it is impossible to argue that ‘doing something’ would be wrong, the society adopted the New Age’s idea of ‘I have my truth you have yours and we can both be right’, but that has a limit when put under analysis. Being so eager to express themselves in such a high consumerist society with so many options, it can be argued that people adopt false pretences and practices.

 The self

 Aforementioned interactions and attention to how one behaves within a multicultural place make people put a great emphasis on symbolism. Symbolism is all that our consumerist culture is reduced to. What car, is it cheap or expensive, is it sports car or family built? What smartphones one owns? Why that brand of smartphones? The clothes that people wear tell part of their personality as we dress to express (and impress, but impress by expressing ourselves most of the times), etc. All that our society interacts with is a symbol of and for something. It is highly relevant to mention that these symbols are tools to show what an individual is supposed to be within a specific environment. This need and requirement of expression are why symbols in the 21st Century are the core of existence. Brands are creating their identity which then the consumer adopts by purchasing into it. When one wears a brand or drives specific cars, some values are shown, those of the brand. Buying into Volvo (advertised as the safest car) gives a sense of responsibility, a precautious individual. Buying into Innocent (UK juice company) shows health-oriented thinking, an individual who values the natural, fair-trade and the organic production.

Trying so hard to choose the ‘right’ value to express in a certain situation, or being asked to show a certain value in a situation, people become the actors of their own life. Symbols are shaping societies and actions rather than individuals making symbols out of and for a specific action. People constantly check in and out of situations, verifying their behaviour and regulating their actual way of being in order to satisfy the community they are in. This is the complexity of selves and made up minds which will be explained in the following paragraph. The connection between this constructed self and religion as a commodity in the 21st Century are intense.

Individuals have, as Goffman (1959) argued, multiple selves on the stage of the society and within his/her own existence. He talks about a backstage of lives, where individuals are considering, building, and analysing themselves, and different social situations (stages) where they act themselves. Moreover, the social circumstances and reactions help the backstage process of analysis and construction of one’s self, what today marketers call reference groups (e.g. rockers refer to rockers’ groups). The individual is a “shadowy chooser” (Douglas, 1977: 63) who runs through situations and ‘tries on’ self-presentations from a variety of complex roles. Individuals commonly know they cannot just decide what to be (Douglas, 1977: 65), but that they have to be in constant check with the reactions they receive and re-choose themselves on a constant basis. People have to accommodate their selves to multiple realities where they have to act different roles.

Following with the consumerist society, it becomes easier and easier to play different roles as there are many more tools available, but in the same time, within this globalised hybrid world, the roles become more and more complex as well. The multiplicity of one’s self has become unavoidable and socially required (e.g. business behaviour, family behaviour, types of friendships behaviour, etc.), with more and more rules for actions and rules of thinking. Issues such as racism, sexism, discrimination, etc. are heavily fought against and deeply asked of people to think in specific ways towards them. Opinions, to some extent, are ready-made and sent to individuals to adopt. The self in the 21st Century is complex, continuously tempered with, and never fully accomplished. Today there is a need for multiple plays and constant checking to what is newly asked in terms of behaviour. The ‘easy’ existence in one form is long passed. Societies today are made by multiple various selves that are built up, used, changed, and abandoned (‘make-over’ is a state where someone drastically changes in behaviour and thinking and ‘becomes a new person’).

One could argue there is a spread of plastic selves for the exact reason that individuals are taking on so many roles and are adapting them so fast that they (the individuals) get lost between multiple personalities (no reference to the disorder). Even if one claims that his/her true self is, for example, with their close family, say, husband/wife, it can be argued that it is still a play, a deeper and longer living role, yes, but a role. These plastic selves do not mean ‘fake’ in the sense of untrue or not believed in, they mean, just as dolls, movable and changeable commodities. This play of selves is active at an emotional and spiritual level as well. One cannot argue contrary to the fact that one’s self is emotive and of spirit, thus an easy transfer to another spiritual realm is quite fast. That said, religion is emotive (subjective, sensitive, emotional) and of spirit as well, shaping and being shaped by one’s personality. Yet we did establish that the personality of one’s self is unrealistic, as there are multiple versions of one’s self.

A short conclusion to all that is mentioned in the last chapters is quite required. The idea at this point through the work is that religion is man-made (the perspective of the essay) and individuals have multiple selves (roles) which implies multiple ways of thinking, thus religion itself is adaptable to the multiple selves, which is showed and helped out by the New Age Movements.

 Commodified selves and religions

To some extent, because of the extreme practices of consumerism, people are taught to buy, sell, express themselves via possessions, any that would be, and through other people, that is friends, partners, and groups. Aforementioned are the reasons and outcomes concerning gadgets representing ourselves and clothes showing ‘who one is’, which, if taken as seem through societies, do result into the fact that the selves themselves are commodities, changeable when needed or wished. The relevance of all to religion should have now taken shape.

Individuals create themselves to fit into different boxes that they are supposed to or want to fit, and while the level of freedom is lifted, religion has indeed become a voluntary box. It became one reference group, a choice coming from identification with the beliefs. Individuals are free to roam around the Religious Supermarket and walk away with any item. That is, just as with the self, a commodity.

Because of its commodification, religion became more than beliefs and practices. It offers a gate for political advantage. Although set in stone that the state and religious entities are separated, interferences are still happening, mostly in Eastern Europe. Not necessarily direct political parties that take part in religious-related events, but by the declaration of belief, thus gaining the trust of religious voters. In Romania, for example, this is a certainty, as that society is more religious than others. Statistically, Romania seems secular and the rise of atheism is extremely high, but the surveys do not reach everyone, not older people who live in the country-side by the rules there were decades ago (traditional doctrine-like lives, the Church still being the centre of the village, the pastor the most ‘respected’ person, schools near the church, etc. Therefore, politically, it is highly important to relate to these traditionalist living villages, the pope is who advises people on politics, etc. Adding that most Eastern European countries have high rates of corruption, the equation simplifies. In countries like UK, Germany, France, or Switzerland, religion is far from political spheres, therefore a conclusion such as religion in the traditional sense is still alive would not satisfy due to the rapport. Nonetheless, there are various sayings, as a clarification on these matters cannot be easily made, not in a short informational essay, concerning the rise in terrorism-related to religious matters. These, some would argue, are politically fired and only clothed into religious movements for ‘protection’. As far stretched as it seems, arguments have been made and conspiracy theories are flooding the world, but no actual conclusion has been made, thus the idea of religion as a simple clothing item for politics stays just that, an idea. But again, an interference between the ‘sacred’ of Durkheim and politics today does exist in some settings.

 Conclusion

The commodification of religion, then, is still left under a question mark, yes, religion is a choice and it can be self-constructed. The self is a commodity, then what can something made by a commodity be? I would argue, religion is an item waiting on shelves in the hope someone may ‘buy’ it, but in the same time, the traditional settings of religion happen to still exist (South Africa, India, Japan and China, Eastern Europe). ‘The self’ in discussion in the previous paragraphs is a commodity under the same circumstances, namely developed countries. In undeveloped or underdeveloped countries, the self, paradoxically, is still a commodity, but because individuals do not give it that much attention as their primary activity is to survive, then it can be claimed that the self, there, is traditional and understood as ‘given’, ‘pre-set’, ‘unchangeable’ etc. Therefore, religion itself would be commodified in the West and slightly evolved but traditional in the Eastern World.

This issue of commodification is highly philosophical; this essay cannot come up with a clear-cut conclusion. As any other philosophical matter, there is actually no conclusion. There are ideas, weaker or stronger arguments, but the core of these writings are debates left open for the understanding of each individual. Thus, I find it fit to leave my understanding as the final point. Religion is an internal process and what is shown of it (events, sacred buildings, clothes, public practices, etc) is a commodity. Like the self, the backstage and the various shown roles; the backstage is as close to being ‘deeply real’, while the roles are checked over and over again, changed, adapted, etc. Religion, the internal belief, not matter if is a mix taken off the supermarket of religions or the traditional Catholic, Orthodox, Buddhist, etc, is close to ‘deeply real’, while the public practices are a commodity, as they suppose individuals adopting the role of being religious.

 

 Bibliography

 Bauman, Z. (2011) Culture in a Liquid Modernity, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

  1. Bruce, S. (1996) Religion in the Modern World: from cathedrals to cults, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  2. Bruce, S. (2003) Religion in the Modern World: God is Dead secularisation in the West, Oxford UK: Blackwell Publishing.
  3. Cohen, R. and Kenned, P. (2007) Global Sociology. Birmingham, UK: Palgrave McMillan.
  4. Douglas, J. D. (1977) ‘Existential Sociology’ in Douglas, J. D. and Johnson, J. M. (1997) Existential Sociology, Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.
  5. Durkheim, E. (1912) in Cosman, C. (2001) The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, Oxford UK: Oxford University Press.
  6. Goffman, E. (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, New York, USA: Random House Publishing.
  7. Harvey, D. (1089) The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change, Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
  8. Lyon, D. (2000) ‘Shopping for a self’ in Lyon, D. (2001) Jesus in Disneyland, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
  9. Menski, W. (2007) ‘Hinduism’ in Morgan, P. and Lawton, C. A (2007) Problemy etyczne w tradycjach sześciu religii. Hinduizm, buddyzm, sikhizm, judaizm, chrześcijaństwo, islam (Polish translation of the first edition of Ethical issues in six religious traditions),Warsaw: Instytut Wydawniczy Pax, pp. 27-98.
  10. New Age Spirituality: About. Available at: http://new-age-spirituality.com/wordpress/about. (Accessed: 22nd 2016).
  11. Reville, A. (1881) Prolegomenes a l’histoire des religions (Critical introduction to the history of religions), Paris, France: Fischbacher.
  12. Rieff, P. (1973) The Triumph of the Therapeutic, London, UK: Harmondsworth Penguin Publishing.
  13. Rowe W., and Schelling, V. (1991) Memory and Modernity: popular culture in Latin America. London, UK: Verso.
  14. Robertson, R. (1997) ‘Comments on the Global Triad and Glocalisation’ in Globalisation and Indigenous Cultures, Tokyo: Institute for Japanese Cultures and Classics, Kokugakuin University.
  15. Sachs, W. (1992) ‘One Wold’ The Development Dictionary, London, UK: Zed Books. p. 102-115.

 

 

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Motivation is something people usually have, but sometime you lose it on the way and they say that ‘to make you reach for your aim, all you need is a push’ … Almost perfect, but whoever pushes you better makes sure you’re at the edge of a cliff.

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I’m 22 y/o and I failed at life.

I’m 22 y/o and I’ve already missed my chance at a life of success and actual well-being. This is not going to be an article with references and smart-sayings, this is going to be the reason for itself – the reason why it’s not going to be ‘academically approved’.

I’m 22 and lost the chance to life a while ago, but I realized it a couple of days ago and my first reaction was ‘but I’m young’. And it hit me: I’m not young. I’m too old already to have a successful life. This century destroys us, gives us depression and anxiety, phobia of ourselves. We’re living in a world which only promotes the geniuses who make a successful life until they are like 30 with titles like “he/she started at 16 to…” and I’m like wow… I’m not undermining their work and all, but they are a handful of people while the rest of us is left in the unknown, is left swimming in a pool of depression- and anxiety-pills because we’d never be good enough for this world… when we’re actually the good ones. Geniuses are the rare thing.

When did we stop thinking that being 25 is still young and we still have a life in front of ourselves? When did we stop realizing that we cannot be mature enough before what, 27? Since when did we stop knowing that you’re at your best in your 30s?! …. We didn’t? Then why do we feel like there’s nothing out there for us? Why do we always have to check with someone if we do something? Since when cannot we decide on our own? Why? Because we need support in failure. That is true, but how can we massively fail at 20 y/o? There’s no such thing as failing at 20, it’s trying and not managing, but he- ho, there’s so many years ahead, it’s not an actual failure – yet we all feel like the world’s against us. And the world is against us. That’s what’s sad –

They all say, man, the world’s not against you, it’s not like anyone does something to you. Well no, no one actually does something to you – but everyone as a whole does! As a whole, guys, the society is so fucked up that we require so much experience from a 25 y/o that he/she’s never gonna have – like yeah, I want you to be like 35 but 30 years of experience, please. This used to be a joke, sarcasm, something –  it’s not, it’s reality and it actually hurts. You wake up like “yeah, man I’m in uni and I will do something with my life” – then you realize that wherever you want to go (postgrad job, master, etc.), they all need stuff that you couldn’t have achieved: good grades are achievable. But then: internships, whatever jobs, I wouldn’t know what societies and all that… How is that for fair? Because it’s not like some internship or any job and any society, na-ah, they have to be like massive, top-ranking whatever, which guess-fucking-what: require experience already! You’re 23 trying to actually start a life and what you can actually do is grab a chair, a rope, and get a room.

The point is that everyone needs prof that you’re worthy of their environment, degree, whatever, but no one really wants to stand as proof. Like “hey, yeah, I know I’m good, I want to be good, but no one really lets me prove myself so what the fuck am I going to do?”. Well I’m telling you what: you get a job in retail, go up to management, and suck it up, because you weren’t a 16 y/o genius. That is exactly what you do unless you have some friends in some positions and they’d help you with documents that would stand as ‘proof of being worthy’ even if you maybe aren’t.

Seriously, it cannot be just me who feels it. And if it is, someone wake me up to the reality because this is not fun.

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How to encounter the yada yada about how useless sociologists are – the two parts of sociology and how to reason. Numbers. It’s the numbers, … people.

It’s serious issue for us sociologists and sociologists to be that we encounter such figures yelling their science-based degrees at us. This sort of people are unavoidable and they always go yada yada on the more or less same lines: “Oi, what you study there is like trying to understand what is just straight-forward in the world and you do something that you call research but then you say you cannot really reproduce the same outcome because you’re unreliable, and then you call yourselves social scientists – yada yada – there’s not even the smallest bit of science in your sociology – yada yada – you’re worth nothing”. Maybe they don’t really undermine the work so much as in my example, but we all know someone who thinks we’re useless human beings pretending to do some science of the people and managing to know nothing reliable for the future to come. And they are right to some extent. I do believe that, when it comes to parts of sociology, we end up studying a lot to only become almost useless human beings. I do now feel the rage in most of you reading. Bear with the explanation to come.

Sociology itself can be a lot but not useless, by the very fact that sociology shows you how the world works and it also explains it to you. What these people say is that why would anyone try to explain what’s reality when everyone sees? Firstly, not everyone sees it. Your reality is different than other (societies vs. societies) and then how well do you actually globally know the cultures? Then again, here comes the Google fan who goes about, obviously, searching online. I’m particularly fascinated by these geniuses who think they can go Google everything and understand the lives of other just too well from a simple click and read – and they can Google it, but how did the data go to Google to store it, well, guess Google’s AI just made it up, eh? But then again, I understand their point. The fact that some of them go rude on sociologists is another thing, but not all do – some are genuine believers of the fact that doing sociological research is like researching fish in an aquarium – intentionally didn’t say sea or ocean.

So it goes, we feel offended anyway and we try to explain to them that sociological research is of very much use and we try to show cast some political research so that they will understand it’s important. And they still say that “well it did work this time, what about the next?”, and we cannot really lie so we’re trying to nicely defend ourselves while admitting that indeed we won’t have the exact same outcome, not only because people will change, but there are various factors around the world like economy in a country might affect voting in another country and so on, because there is a huge network of influence etc.; and while they believe everything we say, they will end up saying the same yada-yada about how we’re useless because they won’t understand what explaining the social world means and that explaining it results in predicting it. Scientists, for the record, explain the social world better than sociologists – that is my opinion based on actual results. Scientists do those nature-related tests like maths goes some way, physics goes some way, chemistry is straight forward it either burns the whole town down or it works, etc., it’s practically out there for them in a way in which they only have to throw their hand in the world, grab whatever’s there, test, and there you have it. Then they go mixing their findings and they-know-what they find. It’s not easy, but it’s there in some form or another. Social sciences, though, do indeed shove their hand in the world and pick up something and test, but meanwhile the world changes a bit, so they have to think well while they get their hand out and look at what they grabbed, they have to take into account what sort of changes happen and then only test the reality they have with the hypothetical change and find out what is happening. So social scientists have a blurry start even before they actually start the testing. They did, social scientists, find a way to trick the confusion, and they called it qualitative research. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with the word ‘quality’ itself.

Qualitative research is funny to look at because they never gave itself a definition, they could only say what it isn’t. Why? Because it’s a lot of things around a human being entering a society and spying on them – well, researching them, but sometimes the fellows don’t know they are being researched. Yes, it is legal. So in 2014 Denzin and Lincoln said that “It [qualitative research] has no theory or paradigm that is distinctly its own, nor does it have a distinct set of methods or practices that are entirely its own”. This qualitative research is highly entertaining because it’s about acting. Ethnographic research functions somewhat like this: a man/woman wants to know what happens in the closed circle of society ‘x’, then they inform themselves about it, then they try to penetrate it. The fun part is the way they go in it: do they announce that they are going to research that environment, do they just spy the environment (from the inside)? Both are legal and both work, the latter even better because it shuts any possibility that someone will play their role somehow specifically in order to ‘help’ the results of our researcher’s study. The debate whether or not to claim your research is huge and has nothing to do with the article here. If you want to look into it, it’s called overt/covert research and there are characters who say it’s immoral to research people without their knowledge of it and the other way round – the interesting bit is that even if you penetrate a circle and announce you are a researcher, the circle is active and changes so at some point during research someone will surely not know who you are, why you are there, etc. But again, this is another story.

Ethnography is all sorts of fun: researcher gets to talk to their subjects a lot (oh, and they are not called ‘subjects’ really, because they are our fella human beings, not rats in a lab – but no, they are subjects), researcher gets to feel his/her subjects’ lives, the interaction goes above and beyond the hypothesis of research. I am not trying to undermine qualitative researchers’ work, but what they have is a fact and an explanation for the fact – one single fact, no overall conclusion like “if the environment is x then the subjects do y, but if the environment is z then well, let’s get in there and find out!”. That’s it – that’s where they cannot go further. And that’s why our counterpart full-time scientists that annoy us with their repetitive results are right! Indeed, my fella sociologists and sociologists to be, qualitative research is vague, is straight forward in conclusions, and only brings the obvious above the water. Yes, results are deep and data is rich, indeed. Quick explanation: if the researcher announces his/her presence as it is, then the behaviour of subjects will change and the researcher cannot know the exact difference. If the researcher doesn’t announce his/her presence not only is it slightly ethically incorrect, but he/she will not have the opportunity to ask some questions which as a researcher you can, but just as someone there would feel more or less ridiculous (such as personal data or some personal background on someone, etc). Thus, the researcher using ethnography cannot grip the whole story no matter how much he/she tries.

Moreover, ethnographic data cannot be reproduced. It is straight-forward why and as I am addressing these arguments to both science-based individuals and to sociologists both parties know what I mean. You cannot reproduce instability, and qualitative research is highly unstable – even if one would research the same (sub-)society twice he/she won’t have the same results because, first of all, people change, situations change, rituals (habits, routines)  don’t, but then qualitative research wants to get a grip of the feeling of being part of a (sub-)society, not only the process of its existence because that process can be found by studying laws and unwritten laws of some community. Therefore my argument ends, this is why I do believe that social research can be useless to some extent.

But to some extent only. Studying social science you also have a quantitative research method which does have something to do with the word ‘quantity’, because everything is based on numbers – isn’t that reassuring? This is the science in sociology. Quantitative research, as put by Alan Bryman, is described as entailing the collection of numerical data, a deductive view of the relationship between theory and research, an objectivist conception of social reality. Quantitative research is pretty tight to Durkheim’s idea of social facts, as Prof. Bernadette Hayes would also admit. Durkheim says that the society is a fact, not a continuously changing chaos (obviously he uses more elevate terms, but that would be the idea). Now, Durkheim is almost right, but as I also tend to trust psychologists, I would define society as a long-term chaotic exchange of psychological traits between individuals, where the psychological traits are influenced by sociological facts, and the sociological facts are constructed by the psychological traits. I should now make some sense of it. Durkheim on social fact: “manners of acting, thinking and feeling external to the individual, which are invested with a coercive power by virtue of which they can exercise control over him”, that is factors influencing the individuals without their will and happening external to any psychological trait. The chaotic exchange means that individuals’ personalities change and are influenced by reference groups – but this happens in no predicted way, as we cannot penetrate each individual’s mind (yet), can we? Psychological traits are features of personalities e.g. introvert, shy, talkative, inclined to black humour, optimist, etc. These traits are influenced by social factors because, counting psychology, humans are influenced by surroundings – as easy as that, they change their mentality in order to fit the environment, may they want or not, it subconsciously happens. But these social facts don’t just exist out of the blue, they had to come in place somehow and we all know how many debates there are on how the world appeared and I am completely rejecting to start another one, but the social facts are functions of the society which cannot exist with the actual society, can they, and the society was born because of individuals gathering, thus Durkheim’s social facts are the product of individuals’ psychological traits and ways of thinking. You have today social facts which go about regardless of my or your existence, but they weren’t independent of the population at the beginning, because the population gave birth to them – at least that’s my theory based on psychology. You cannot have a group without individuals, can you? Then again, the society is indeed a chaos, but very well planned chaos, and it even makes sense to claim that – beauty of sociology, making sense of nonsense. That it actually is, quite frankly, the very best easy definition of this field of study.

Back on track, then. Let’s take Durkheim as a non-questionable entity and give his social facts full credit (he did a pretty good job to convince us he’s right, didn’t he?). Then we have all the other sociologists who try to have theories about, basically, how the social facts work, right? Well then. These social facts are caged in theories. Marx believes that revolution is the answer and that for him is a social fact, no matter what, the lower classes revolts to the upper class, and the cycle goes. Society itself (individuals, groups) are chaotically changing. Then what must be done is testing if these not-Durkheimian social facts actually exist. Then what quantitative research does is gets a theory, thinks at which (sub-)society it relates to, and tests it. The researcher samples the society (number of subjects of the society, if possible the whole), then addresses various very deeply thought questionnaires, or engages with the subjects in such way to probe the theory. For example, if Pavlov worked with humans, he could sample 4000 human beings (or whatever big number you think of) and conduct the same experiment he conducted on the dog. The results would be the same, by the way, because there is research done on humans as well, but more ethically – they did not cage the individuals. That would be quantitative research. The results would be (all numbers made up!) 70% of the individuals salivate when hearing the bell, but the results variation is +-10%, which proves theory right (basically the answer is between 60 and 80% of people, because you have a standard deviation to your variation around the mean). You have a number of random people from a (sub-)society and then you eliminate subjectivity and then you have the same conditions for everyone, so you can relate an experiment to the next if you want. Then you have all the mathematically proven correct equations which give away society’s trend of acting in the situation of study. The idea is that you do statistics for the test. And you have these numbers telling you how many people do what, how accurate your numbers are and, most importantly, because you have numbers, you can keep track through years and then you do some more statistics and you can finally predict how will your (sub-)society act next time some situation arises, and you can have so many empirical indicators (variables) as you want, thus being able to give accurate answers and explanations for how and why do people do something and whether they will do the same thing sooner or later considering, yes, the changes that may apply to some variables, but those changes can themselves be predicted by adding some other variables. It is reliable and most importantly it can predict the next thing to come. And that’s why sociology isn’t useless.

I know that this article is more about how sociology is useless rather than useful in terms of number of words let’s say, but that is exactly the proof: you don’t need yada yada in sociology. The science backing up sociology is straight forward and in how many words can one explain that using statistics in the right way is very clear? I know that there’s lies, big lies, and statistics – but that’s an expression applicable to journalists – and so goes the circle of hate: scientists dislike social scientists, social scientists dislike journalists (distorting stories), journalists eventually dislike photographers (distorting stories or even not distorting them!), photographers might dislike uhmmmm the guys who voice-record, ….  Etc. Point is there’s always someone or a sub-group who will undermine the work that you do! The important thing is that you shall deeply know what you do and you shall also be able to explain why you do it.

Well, I do my job because I love it and if you chose the job you love you’ll never work a day in your life (Confucius) , but I also know how to explain why I love it – there’s no such thing as I love it just because I do, there’s empirical evidence to sustain your love for something. But this is another story.

Bibliography:

Bryman, A. (2016). Social Research Methods.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Aron, R. (1967). Main Currents in Sociological Thoughts 2. p. 21-108. Great Britain: Penguin Social Sciences.

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What is so interesting about New Religious Movements?

First of it all, NRM. New Religious Movements, as you’d easily find on Wikipedia by a quick search, are movements concerned with freedom of individuals in the sense of “it’s all true for you, but not for me”. The adopters of these are people who strongly believe that the God(s) are within the individual and thus each person can be right, no matter the discrepancies between one-another. In a way it does sound like a fairy-tale where everyone is happy with themselves and the other, a society of understanding and because each of them know the ‘rightness’ within all, then they all get along and all that. Also referred to as ‘the new age’, it’s focused on ‘self-discovery’, ‘spiritual growth’, and ‘enlightenment’, the latter having the meaning of ‘reaching light’ and not the scientific beginning. Its roots are in Buddhism and Hinduism which have recently been Westernized; new agers vocabulary include ‘God’ and ‘Universe’, but ‘cosmic consciousness’ and ‘cosmic mind’ mostly, because when they state ‘God’ they refer to ‘Force’, ‘Energy’, and do not use the biblical sense (Rochford, J. M.). They exist via media such as newspapers, magazines, CDs (cassettes), and ‘lectures’. Considering, spirituality abandoned the idea of a main Holy Book (such as The Bible, The Koran, or others) and spreads itself around various sources. It is pretty obvious to exist in different forms as it is a mix-up of beliefs that different between themselves a lot. New-age-spirituality.com quotes “New Age Spirituality steps in to fulfil the need of something (…) that the material world cannot offer”, but it is sociologically interesting how it survives through beliefs in mostly the supernatural in an era of scientific research and proof, and all how it manages to function. Because the material world looked discouraging after two world wars and the atomic bomb, people looked for faith in the spiritual realm. Moreover, due to the same reason and because the church was rigid, individuals looked for freedom, freedom which was given through the idea that the soul lives more lives, that the spirit is what matters.

To me it’s particularly interesting what new religions actually are, and I will go through that as much as possible for the first part of the article. Obviously, as you hypothetically just read on Wikipedia for the first sentence I wrote, they believe in so many things that I couldn’t possibly reach out to all, but I made a list, ‘best of NR’, and it goes as follows. New Age can be said to develop through various astronomical cycles which can be astrologically identified; this is a concept borrowed form Theosophical Doctrine (Hanegraaff, 1996: 303). A common belief is that humanity enters or entered the Age of Aquarius, which should be “New Age of love, joy, peace, abundance, and harmony […] the Golden Age heretofore only dreamed about” (Melton, 1992: 19). Moreover, it would be established through human agency, although some adopters of ‘new age’ beliefs would say it will happen through extraterrastrial forces or  spirits (Heelas, 1996: 74). New Age is also differently envisioned; the ‘moderate’ perspective says the Age of Aquarius relies on societal improvement, through converging science, mysticism, and alternative medicine, but also ending the violence of any kind, growing a healthier environment, and conferring international co-operation. Other people see the New Age through a fully utopian vision, namely “Age of Light”, human beings evolving to total spiritual beings who experience unlimited love, bliss, and happiness (Hanegraaff, 1996: 341-343).

This all sums up to: new agers believe that the world goes through astronomical phases and we’re supposed to already have entered the most beautiful phase (did we, really?! Is this as good as it can get?). Moreover, they also claim that this phase is ‘announced’ by anything, really, be it real or supernatural. Another thing the new agers believe in is healing. Not the medicine-like healing as in take medicine or go for surgery, but the pseudoscientific medicine. The belief states that health is the natural form for the human beings’ existence, and illness is the disruption of natural balance (Hanegraaff, 1996: 46-47). It’s true that illness isn’t seen as a positive feature by anyone’s eyes; though, ‘New Age’ therapies attempt to heal the general concept of ‘illness’, which include physical, mental, and spiritual. Considering, the concept of ‘personal growth’ is of great importance. Hanegraaff (1996) roughly categorized the forms of healing in two, as he explains that various authors of New Age Spirituality use different terms to refer to the same things. The first category is Human Potential Movement (HPM) which is related to psychedelic cultures such as hippies and ‘Summer of Love’. The HPM evolved as a counter-cultural rebellion towards mainstream psychology and organised religion – it’s not itself a religion, but a psychological philosophy and framework (Puttick, 2004: 399). The idea is that the Western society supresses massive human potential and that the heeling consists of gaining access to parts of themselves [individuals] that they have alienated; thus HPM is related to individuals reaching as a whole their full potential and gain meaning to their lives (Hanegraaff, 1996: 48-49). Closely related would be the shaman consciousness idea, which argues that the shaman would be an expert in ‘altered states of consciousness’ and adopts them to reach personal healing and growth.

A second category identified by Hanegraaff is the holistic health. This began around 1970s out of the free clinic movement in 1960s and had direct relation to the HPM. These emphasise the idea that the individual is a holistic, with an independent body of mind and vice-versa, and a spirit for the healing process is integrated within the powers of the universe (Hanegraaff, 1996: 54). Some of the holistic healings include acupuncture, chiropractic, yoga, kinesiology, homeopathy, and other forms of bodywork, meditation and visualisation, psychic healing, herbal medicine, or chromotherapy, and also reincarnation therapy (York, 1995). Pseudoscientists are believed to focus healing energy and effect positive results. Chromotherapy is therapy through colour. It is said that chromotherapists use light in the form of colour to ‘balance the energy’ lacking from a person’s body.

This bit translates to: you’re hurt? No worries, go pray in your way! Because there are people out there who just hoover their hands over you and you’re all back to 100% functioning. And not only, there are people who just think of it (distant healing) and you’re healed. And they also use colours in some specific way; I do understand acupuncture though, it makes sense, stabbing yourself in the right places (it actually makes sense exclude my sarcasm). I wonder, didn’t find out, are there people who actually don’t do surgeries and pill-taking but only go for these pseudo-healings? Are they mutated with some sort of hugely advanced self-healing cells – is that you, Wolverine? [Note] I am completely aware they would heel their souls. The issue is not that some people believe that they can have their soul heeled, the problem is that they both go for these supernatural healing ideas and also for the actual scientific medicine to get actual real scientific healing and it can only look to me as cognitive dissonance [/Note]. But the most of them all is reincarnation therapy. I love this one, must admit, I think I was either a cat or a sloth, but the first is more probable just because I can go pure evil sometimes. So if I’ve been a cat , what kind of sins could I be freed of in this life – not catching some particular mouse.. or trying to take over the world? As many unappropriated jokes as I would do, the question is still if they actually take into account you might have been a flower! What sins could it have? If you’ve been a person in all of your past lives (yes, you had more!), then yes, I can go past the resurrecting memories from the unconscious and think of various sins that you’d be freed of; but the main issue that I have with it is that at some point someone will go for this reincarnation therapy and they will find out they have been a leopard, lion, sheep (or that’s what they would be now?), mouse, cat, etc., you get the idea I’m trying to underline.

New Age is a constant trial of creating “a worldview that includes both science and spirituality” (Drury, 2004: 9). Even though it seems that the new age movements reject science, it employs terminology and concepts borrowed particularly from the new physics; moreover, a couple of new age authors come with backgrounds of professional scientists (Hanegraaff, 1996: 62-62). However, ‘new age science’ is a pseudo-science, or best explained by Hanegraaff (1996: 64), Naturphilosophie (Ger., the philosophy of nature). The scope is to discover the nature of the divine and establish the scientific base for the religious beliefs. Given that the new age rejects the dualistic good and evil, the negativity exists for the individual to ‘learn the lesson’ and enable them to advanced spirituality. There is no sin and guilt for the new age (reference to abode idea of reincarnation therapy and it ‘treating’ guilt), as it believes those to hinder spiritual evolution. The movement practically emphasises the cult of positive thinking, although its forms vary. The belief in reincarnation ‘ensure cosmic justice’, but many New Agers manage to separate reincarnation-related concepts and karma as it would be an outer concept, and believe more of the latter. This still assures cosmic balance, although there is no system enforcing punishment for past-life actions (Hanegraaff, 1996: 286). The last idea points to the murdering of science and cherry picking in order to have the end one specifically needs. [Note] Cherry picking – selecting only the results in favour of the result one needs, leaving aside the contra-arguments, or selecting only one encounter so that the result is that one expects and needs to use for further action [/Note].  What is nice to note here is that New Agers don’t do as some Christians do, completely rejecting science. Adopters of new religions are aware of science and praise it in a way, take from with what suits them – which in a way falls in place, because don’t we all at some point use something only because it suits us at some point but ignore anything else about it (see some book you’d use for an essay in university when you only read that useful chapter than completely hide the book back on its shelf, it’s almost the same situation).

Financial prosperity is an issue seen by the New Age proponents; various books have been published to establish the New Age centres, those geld spiritual retreats and classes aimed for business people, and the New Age groups developed training for conducting businesses as well (Heelas, 1996: 62-65). For example, IBM, AT&T, and General Motors welcomed New Age-related seminaries hoping they would increase productivity and efficiency throughout the workers, although what actually happened is that employees claimed this as an assault to their original religious beliefs or that this damaged their psychological health (Rupert, 1992: 127-133). New Agers such as Michael Fox criticise the aim for profit of the movement, claiming it as lack of social consciousness. Regardless, the New Age movement is seen to suit the modern society for its encouragement to individuals to behave as a consumers: they choose spiritual practices on grounds of personal preference. This is very interesting because for as much soul-healing they go for, financial prosperity is at home with them. As few individuals that actually have an interest in NA (see further paragraphs), a lot of people buy at some point some book related to them just for curiosity or because the title sounds good. Not New Age by definition, but I bought a book “The Art of not giving a f*ck” some months ago and I love it – point is: self-teaching books, ideas of how to live a peaceful life with yourself, no matter what that is and in what ways you achieve it – as long as is still moral – and this moral is what everyone considers moral, really, brought to modernity through religion (reference last article), not killing one another and ‘being a good citizen and a good person in general’ – that’s as broad as it can get but each of us knows what that is, because it differs a little bit from society to society. So the new agers are only people who want peace of mind, aren’t they. There is nothing wrong (as in psychological moral-immoral and consequences of both) with it! It’s not irony nor sarcasm, it is nothing wrong with it, I desire peace of mind and balance in my life as well, but the means I use to achieve them are slightly different. I, for one, don’t really want to resurrect from my memory the cat I’ve been in my past life to catch that particular mouse in this life so that my peace of mind would be fully achieved, I just want to end up in this world where I think I deserve by analysing what I am capable of and trying to find a place within these societies.

Fascinating as it might have been for you to read my article until now, I know I didn’t really underlined why NA is so much sociologically interesting. They are interesting for any of us until now. The first idea is that we all know what we’re talking about before we label some specific topic. I would claim we already know what we talk about. Therefore, why would I be interested in New Religious Movements as the sociologist I aspire to be? Demographics of the New Age were studied and drawn to two thirds of participants being women, showing a tension between commodification and the empowerment of women (O’Connor, 2011). The New Age movement could be found in the US, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zeeland in the mid-1990s, with problematic membership as many individuals did not identify themselves as such. However, some participants of the New Age identify themselves as Jewish, Christians, Buddhists, or atheists (Pike, 2004: 25). Sutcliffe (2003: 200) defines the New Age participant as “a religious individualist, mixing and matching cultural resources in an animated spiritual request”. Heelas (1996: 118-119) argues that individuals involved in new age spirituality could be categorized in three: the first group who dedicates themselves to ideals, mostly workers in the ‘field’ of the movement, the “serious part-timers” group who nevertheless spend much of their free time in the rituals of new age, and the “casual part-timers”, the group who occasionally involves themselves in the activities of new age. First of all, religion in general is to be organized either as a Church or denomination (both hierarchically proven), as a sect, or as a cult. The latter is defined by Troeltsch as “a small loosely knit group organized around some common themes and interests, but lacking a sharply defined and exclusive belief system” (1976). Alike the denomination, the cult is tolerant with, and understanding of, its own members (Bruce, 1996). Therefore, the new age movements can only be organized as a cult for their tolerance and diversity. Moreover, the new agers can only be cultic for they lacking the ability to argue between them and, therefore, they need an easy-to-come-easy-to-go system; they are individuals deeply convinced that the truth lies within each person and reality differs from one another. Their organization is sociologically interested because new age is an ‘one-and-only’ case of full tolerance amongst its members and, as their truth-related belief, they accept and cannot argue with individuals of other religion for they would say ‘well, it is true for them’. Excluding the discrepancy between some of their beliefs and the technological advancement of the 21st Century, the new age movement looks from an analytical perspective a mostly positive feature of the society as it only encourages and reproduces morally-accepted values.

It is interesting that the individuals are not huge in number and new agers don’t have a society even comparable with Christians or Buddhists or any others existing today. It’s sociologically interesting that as religious as the USA still is, New Religious Movements did not cover or got people to convert that much; while in the secularized Europe New Religious Movements have such a small chance that one can be blind to it. Asia again is not a fan of New Age Movements, Hindus will stay that way, Buddhists will remain Buddhists, it’s unlikely they will convert to a new age idea in the conditions of today’s secularization. This is the actual interesting fact, what is the impact of new religious movements? Do they have any real chance? But these questions are already answered: because of the small number of adopters and small chance of others converting, the impact is not big nor particularly globally relevant; and they might have a chance, but new religions will not take the statistical digits that other religions lost.

 

[Note] This is adapted from an official submitted essay to the University of Aberdeen for the course Religion and Society, 2016 [/Note]

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Religion does play an important role in cultural transition, focused on UK

Society is shaped by religion among just other few things, therefore a definition of what this is talking about seems required: [religion is a set of] “beliefs, actions, and institutions predicated on the existence of entities with powers of agency (that is, gods) or impersonal powers or processes possessed of moral purpose (the Hindu notion of Karma, for example), which can set the conditions of, or intervene in, human affairs” (Bruce, 2002). The main changes that transferred most of the societies from religiously-ruled to what we would meet today (secularization) is modernization. Modernity begins with, and means the, questioning and somewhat rejection of tradition, the enforcement of individualism and formal equality, and belief in inevitable social, scientific, and technological progress (Foucault, 1975: 170-77). Note: not the entire world is secularized, but there is a globalized secularization manta (Peter Berger) – this will be discussed with another occasion soon enough. The idea of cultural transition is by far not from the past. Various migrants movements are still highly active even within European countries. Just thinking about why Hungary actually built a wall in 2015 proves the point (border barrier as it is nicer called). But the article will be mostly focused on the UK.

The Pakistani Muslims began to fluidly migrate to Britain around 1950s to satisfy the power of labour. Relating from 2001 statistics, there were 650,516 Pakistanis who identified themselves as Muslims. The ONS predicted then for 2005 a growth of approx. 200,000 Pakistani Muslims. In order for all the individuals to integrate in the new society, they had to face change in the perception of the reality: the different manners of living in general had to ‘turn’ the into British citizens. Therefore, the only way in which one can preserve their traditions is by getting together with other alike. Being religious since before moving, Pakistani Muslims had to reconstruct their environment in Britain, which was harder than presumed because of discrimination via stereotyping. According to the 2001 Census, 98% of the British Pakistani are Muslims, that including those born in UK. Key religious organizations have been set up for a better integration, that would be the UK Islamic mission, The British Muslim Forum, The Union of Muslim Organisations, the Islamic Society of Britain, and the Young Muslims (London: Department for Communities and Local Government, 2009: 1.3). These all to prevent losing cultural and religious identity, yet concern mostly the first generation of migrants, although, as seen from the existence of ‘Young Muslims’, in-Britani born Pakistani preserve their traditions and nationality via religion as well.

All this makes perfect sense for the first generation, maybe the second one as well, but what happens, though, after a couple of generations? It is shown by surveys that cross-border marriage within the ethno-religious group help to keep the religious identification (Phalet et al., 2008). That means, individuals usually keep themselves within their specific group to preserve its features for generations to come. We need to keep in mind that we talk about immigrants, individuals whose spouses will be schooled in, in this case, Britain. When being educated, individuals are bound to interact with the environment as of the country instead of that created by his/her family. One more piece of the chain up, we therefore see that secularization is taking over tradition/religion. It’s not implied that religion would not be practiced anymore, but it loses importance in everyday life. “The well-educated were a minority among Muslim immigrants. Their lower religious involvement now is likely to be related to the fact that elites are relatively secular in some countries of origin, such as Turkey” (cf. Guveli, 2011).

An issue to the above idea would be that, on the same fact that they are religious, these groups, Muslims or any other, need their religious traditions kept and, for most of them, that means clustering to have the possibility to, for example, have the day off work when they celebrate a religiously-based event. An example can even be Christians, both orthodox and catholic Christians celebrate Easter, yet a week differs between the dates (usually). Also, a given example are the Jews of northern London, who all live in specific areas, not because anyone would (still) discriminate them, but because they feel the need to continue their traditions and for that they need a closed functioning circle which allows them to look like, act like, and act when and as their tradition is.

Another reason for which migrants cluster can be the simple understanding. Britain is also host country for Nigerian students or young workers who seek profit in order to return home. In Hunt’s interview in 2002, a 22 years old female claimed that “It is not always easy to settle here from another country. God is always here and the church is always here even when I have no money or a job”. The idea that they are not alone and are being understood is also why these people attend the church, 49% of those asked “why did you chose your present Church” answered that they ‘felt like home’; it is also mentioned in Hunt’s interview how the Pentecostal Church did change its face for the younger generations, therefore it is easier to claim membership – “The church is geared to young people. It is not unnecessarily restrictive (…) The Church allows young people to express themselves in their own way” (Jeniffer, 20 years old). Moreover, Pentecostals asked if by ‘believe’ they meant Christian beliefs answered “Yes, that’s part of it. The gospel and all that. But also shared aspirations and hopes”. One of the answers also explains the above ideas in just a few sentences: “People like to continue with the same set up, and with people of a similar background to themselves” (Jennifer, 20 years old).

Considering the Muslims in UK, the RCCG and the examples of Jews, religion itself as a belief means almost the same as it meant in their home-country, but as migrants and considering cultural transition, it does mean a lot more because it affects all parts of their lives: their interactions, their daily-life goes around the traditions which, most of them, are religious. As Hunt writes, “in terms of their social purpose, the new churches [RCCG] are (…) double-coded, they reflect the developments in Nigeria, and function in a constructive way for West Africans in what is (…) the experience of the alienating environment of British society”. On the other hand, there are secularized individuals who aren’t a part of the group, live further away and adopt the destination’s country life-style, but statistically they don’t consist the peak. Through modernisation and constant brutal technological and scientific process, religion loses ground, but those are not the contra argument. This is because nor science nor technology contradict religion, but explain and extend physical phenomena and, therefore, religious explanations lose ground.

“The fundamental assumptions underlying them [technology and science] which we can summarily describe as ‘rationality’ (…) make it unlikely that we will often entertain the notion of the divine” (Bruce, 19969: 51). For example, on April 5th 2007, The St. Petersburg Declarations quotes “We are believers, doubters, and unbelievers, brought together by a great struggle, not between the West and Islam, but between the free and the unfree. (…) We say to Muslim believers: there is a noble future for Islam as a personal faith, not a political doctrine; to Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’is, and all members of non-Muslim faith communities: we stand with you as free and equal citizens; and to nonbelievers: we defend your unqualified liberty to question and dissent.” (Center For Inquiry, 2007). Moreover, the National Secular Society published in 2016 an article written by Maajid Nawaz, which quotes: “Instead of integrating with wider society, many Muslims in Britain turned in on themselves, integrating more with their co-religionists globally while pulling away from the society into which they were born. (…) As a country we ended up living together, apart”. This information does indeed prove the existence of secular Muslims, but deeply it only shows how cultural transition is so much influenced by religion: even when a group of people declare themselves secular they still need to ‘fight’ religious effects on their own migrant group and on the society they integrate into.

Because of the drastic and rapid technological and scientific development, cultural transition has many ways to happen throughout a workplace, a university, but the migrants who attend one of the two have to be integrated in a more various social life. This can happen in a way or another depending on how secularized the individuals are, but, for example, as some religions interdict consuming alcoholic beverages, those people will not socialise with other over a pint of beer at the end of the day. Socialization over work and university-related duties is hard for people who are bound by their tradition to act in different ways that the country they arrived in and, therefore, clustering happens, in the same time, cultural transition has a hard time to become accomplished. The religious rituals such as attending services once per week, or gathering together for prayers, etc., serve as opportunities for migrants to spend time with people pf their own background. Therefore, religion is important for cultural transition as it has a socializing effect, not only due to the individuals’ beliefs.

 

[Note] This is adapted from an official submitted essay to the University of Aberdeen for the course Religion and Society, 2016 [/Note]

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Why do people believe the things they believe?

First and foremost, ‘belief’. Belief is related to two main thing: about-self-belief and individual belief. The first is such as the belief on individuals in themselves when they plan ahead with one year. ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ Firstly, alive, and that is taken for granted and unquestioned when thought about, although we are all aware of how highly fragile human beings are. One harder hit and that was us for life. Individuals are supposed to believe that they make it through some specific event, that they will achieve their set goals, whichever they would be. This is grounded in psychology and less in philosophy. The human mind is programmed to do things, but it will not do a thing unless it thinks it can. And that is belief. Belief in self comes, psychologically, from proof. It also comes from the religious ‘God(s) believe in me’ and other versions, but this will be discussed in the second part of the article. The proof one needs to believe is result. One could wish to touch the moon yet there is no real chance of that, and thus socialization made sure to teach us. Belies in this sense of personal existence comes from, and even when it was not called such, rational knowledge. Societal conduct teaches children what they can and cannot do and leaves everything up to choice indeed. Traditional societies had people believe in themselves even though everything was sort of pre-set and unchanged (if your family’s ‘business’ was growing potatoes, you’d be growing potatoes no matter what because you wouldn’t be aware of anything else). Their beliefs were more tamed, accorporated by religion; again, see the discussion in the next part of the article. These about-self-belief are what encourage and support life. Having time passed and societies growing in complexity, individuals could afford more.

Even if industrialization took over and institutionalized life so that humans became objects in production processes, the growth and availability of knowledge, combined with the lie of freedom, let people have various self-beliefs such as ‘When I grow up I want to be…’, ‘I hope I will achieve…’. Mostly these aims could be reached, but now they are almost easily achieved in a way or another for the society kept changing until the point when the division of labour, complexity of bureaucracy, and moral society life grew all so much that the lie of freedom escalated a couple of levels. Humanity is at a point where indeed individuals can choose their path, if they afford it (reference to economic status), can choose their religious belief, if they afford it (societal strings such as the Indian political party who claims its secularity yet disregards any non-Hindu Indians and persecutes them), can choose their romantic partner, if they afford it (see sexual rights, homosexuality issues in various countries); the point is, individuals can choose as long as they afford it and there lies the lie of freedom, as one can choose, if. The price is not even money, although they make the world go round (reference to Simmel’s modernity), but is the hard-working and not-questioning state in which statistically most of us find ourselves in. Society today needs this about-self-belief more than ever, therefore it will not disappear. Not only because is naturalized (see next paragraph for explanation), but because society became so complex that it’s needed that individuals do not question too much, do not search too much, yet in the same time, they do. Science took the most important place because it gives the knowledge, and not only “knowledge is power” (Bacon, 1597), but individuals are supposed to have it in order to get specialised and serve somewhere in the dramatic division of labour. Politically, people are supposed to have belief in particular parties so that the world is continuous in the system – the lie of freedom is essential for it prevents the revolution which Marx himself was implying that should happen. The society today must continue in its belief and the powerful parties ensure it for it is essential that this

All these are written from the perspective of humanity constructing their social being, part of which are their beliefs. Beliefs themselves are a human product that undergoes in time to become ‘natural’. This phenomenon, of specific ideas becoming to feel real and outer human although they are humanly created, is explained with much clarity by ethnomethodologists and phenomenologists. The very first idea to be stated is that people are attentive and wide-awake for their here-and-now and do not pay much attention to habitual every-day life things. Inglis (2012: 87) exemplifies it very clear through the ‘I am taking the bus’ statement. Everyone knows what a bus is, yet no one particularly plans to travel by it – only when the bus is late does an individual start to think ‘Oh, bus isn’t here. I am late for work. What am I doing?’, therefore providing his/her wide-awake-state with here-and-now planner thoughts. The second idea to be stated is that any belief is human made. The key to beliefs-construction is social interaction, the process in which human actors create reality ensuring it’s meaning by shared identification (Simmel); that is, as Bruce (1996) would argue, a society can deeply believe in and worship a squid (yes, squid) if one can find unanimity within the society and, most importantly, lack of contact with the outside. If one plays god, he than can do successfully do it by creating a society in vid, meaning no contact with other societies shall be allowed, so that the individuals in experiment can share and procreate specific given data. The slightest contact with the outside turns their strong belief to fragile ideas that can be changed (Bruce, 1996).

How does, though, the society create its own beliefs through? Again, no one can (yet?) righteously go back in time and find out how some belief appeared, but experts would tell us that it is all psychological. Well, they are right, the human mind is complex enough to give birth to ideas that touch the supernatural and put them as part of the human life – now all who read thought of God and Gods, but, more or less, pseudo medicine touches the supernatural and still requires individuals to believe in it. The fact that the latter slightly touches some scientific explanation is absolutely no argument to destroy the fact that it is supernatural. The more individuals will definitely be cured of illnesses by, for example, acupuncture, the more God and Gods become real. As practically all the philosopher and social scientists claimed, Gods, supernatural existences, are no more than individuals’ conscience to moral lives. Religious beliefs are born for two reasons: 1. To confer a way of organizing the society (this article is not expected to analyse the usage of religion through history within various societies), and 2. To set in humans’ minds moral standards by which to live (again, this article is not supposed to analyse how tragic the reality turned out). Given these two, having individuals believing in Divinities that dictate good and wrong seemed profitable to keep the societies to a standard of living.

Throughout history, not only did religion dramatically switched the scenes and became a tremendous institution that judged, discriminated, and terrorized humanity, but also humanity forgot that itself created religion; it became naturalized in their spirit (see the example of the bus, the wide-awakeness in the here-and-now). Meanwhile, have had analysed societies and societies dramatically changed themselves and went from highly agricultural arrangements to the capitalist chaos we do not even meet today. Some fascinating reason for capitalism is the Protestant reformation which emphasised the idea of individualism (in the eyes of God) and therefore reinforced egalitarianism and practically raised the beginning of alienation by letting individuals act for themselves mostly and lose the sense of society as a tight unity. Secularization became a thing as the effect of modernization, but the latter couldn’t be possible without religion; Weber attributes to the Reformation facts such as the democratisation of knowledge, and is very well based, as the reformation did indeed try to purify Christianity of the supernatural and therefore rationalize the beliefs. Weber also says that the reformation is its own grave-digger, for the reformation encouraged the idea that the material world is self-governed and ordered, which allowed individuals to forget God(s) and left science to be the embodiment of rationality. Secularization, then, is not brought by philosophers and the scientists did not even existed in their ‘real’ form in that time, but it was brought by the subtle but deep changes in the social structural support of religion. Societies became more and more complex for the industrialization and the huge ‘era’ of Fordism. Considering Marx, people were more and more alienated from life itself, from their work, from their ones’ alike, and from themselves mostly; routine gained access into people’s lives and daily diaries registered ‘going to work. Sleeping. Going to work. Repeat’, which practically stopped individuals from, for example, practising religion at certain times, or even spend time with one another. Romantic partnership became a simple ‘living with someone’ rather than a ‘having a life with someone’, the difference being that, the first only implies actual habiting, while the second implies constructing a common ground, a common routine, why not, a common anything.  Religion became a consumer product for people could afford to choose whether they believed or not – the bureaucracy (the no. 1 reason for which religion appeared) was already covered by appointed institutions, and the moral life (the second reason for which religion appeared), was now reinforced by law institutions to which various rules were added in order to comply the capitalist society that has been built. Having in the complexity of societies growing even more, individuals came in contact with various other beliefs (see the idea of squid-worshiping society), therefore it has been harder and harder for them to only admit and commit to their ‘old’ belief. Even hearing that someone thinks different than you unconsciously makes you wonder, therefore religion lost importance in people’s lives and became individual choice, but individuals continue to believe in religious ideas and will do so even if in smaller and smaller number. This is because religious belief gives a sense of morality being awarded by, for example, going to Heaven. Psychologists would say this is the concept of positive punishment (a kid given a candy each time he/she says ‘thank you’ versus the negative punishment, a kid slapped each time he doesn’t say ‘thank you’).

To sum these parts up, beliefs in terms of religion appeared  to construct a structured reality and faded in time for other institutions took their role. There is no actual proof even by claim that science ever tried to ‘demolish’ religion, religion itself declined because science explains the bits that religion put under mystery (Bruce, 1996). Moreover, religion has history, as straight forward and obvious it can be sad – tradition says religion is there and is so much naturalized in the mind of people that perfect atheists wouldn’t exists without religion. There is no such thing as society today without religion and religion did, does, and will affect humanity. As far in time as one can think, religious beliefs will fade for the lack of religious knowledge, but there will always be historians who would awake ideas, psychologists who would use a concept, sociologists who would analyse its workings on then past societies. As any other event and fact of the society, religion and religious beliefs are transcendent from generation to generation, yet transformed by each and given forward different and for different purposes than receive.

The overall conclusion is then that beliefs, any that would be, are both social constructs and habits naturalized and more or less rationalized and as long as the human brain will function in the almost same way as it did until now, any belief will continue its existence, may it be rational or mystical.

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