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Religions and Development
It is popularly believed that countries, where religion has major influence in governance, tend to develop slower than those where religious beliefs are not a main influence or consideration. This statement uses the cases of poor and traditionally colonized Christian countries in Southeast Asia, like the Philippines; Russia; and the African countries to support the claim.
The four major monotheistic religions in the world all tend to bar changes in one's life. Their faith or lifestyle does not involve material acquisition and is even hostile to it. They are bound to the wiles and stated will and preferences of an unseen Deity. Their happiness consists precisely in denying their own progress and contentment, the furthering of their blessings and potential. India is a supreme example of this. But this blind adherence to brutal fate and faith is also taken advantage by some opportunists, such as in the case of terrorists and dictators.
Recently, a world conference of non-profit organizations came out with a position that development interventions should not only include the role of the human spirit in touching and catalyzing human motivation into fostering development among peoples. From the study, it can be recognized that religions that genuinely serve rational human welfare and happiness should searched, re-evaluated and tapped into peoples in order to help them help themselves. # comparative look at the list of countries belonging to the Third World order, especially the least developed (LDCs) ones, and the list of developed countries points to a main, and the most probable, difference between them. It suggests that the rate of overall development of a given country is slower when religious beliefs have a direct role in its governance.
One example of an immediate observation and response is that Christians put in more money into the maintenance of places of worship instead of into the alleviation of their poverty (Quaye). The same comment includes the case of Russia which heavily decorates its Orthodox churches with gold and heavy tapestries. Another observation among many others of similar nature is on how the economic, social and technological development and progress of a Southeast Asian country, the Philippines, have been halted and are strongly controlled by its traditional Christian religion (Hilton 2001). The Philippines is a republic, which was discovered by a Portuguese, Ferdinand Magellan, in 1521, and since then, has passed from one foreign dominion to another, namely, Spanish, American, and Japanese, for almost four centuries.
In the updated list of least developed countries in the world, 32 are in the African continent, 4 in the Arab states, 13 in the Asia-Pacific region and 1 in the Latin America and the Caribbean. There are other countries not belonging to this status, but sharing a common ground with these LDCs. Religion is a main force in their governance and personal lives that retards or even contradicts it.
Africa, where the poorest peoples of the world reside, has practiced tribal worship for centuries, chiefly, yourba, ifa and orishas. Development efforts from United Nations bodies and other non-government and private donor organizations have, however, debited the effects of these counterproductive tribal religions on Africa's development. But development efforts have not had significant impact in certain countries in Asia and the Pacific where the four major monotheistic (or one-God) religions are resistant to change and external development interventions. These religions are Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism.
Islam - is the religion of the Muslims. "Muslim" means "submission" to the will of God (Bohlin 2000). It was founded by Muhammad in the 6th century and recorded in the book called the Qur'an. All practicing Muslims in the world go by the 6 Articles of Faith and Four Pillars of Islam.
The first Article teaches that only Allah is God. The second Article subscribes to a hierarchy of Angels, of which the Archangel Gabriel is the highest (Bohlin) and the lowest are called jinns. It teaches that each person has two angels, one of whom records the person's good deeds, and the other, his or her bad deeds. The third Article declares faith in 104 books, the Koran being the final revelation. The fourth is about its belief in prophets, the main one being Muhammad, and among the rest, Jesus. The fifth Article is belief in predestination, whereby both good and evil works of men directly result from the inescapable will of Allah. And the sixth and last is about judgment, whereby those who do more good will be rewarded with Paradise and those who do more evil than good will be sent to hell. The Koran or Qu'aran teaches that men can never gain Allah's acceptance on the basis of deed, but only through obedience of his will and laws. It, thus, governs every act and the entire life of each Muslim.
The Five Pillars of Islam are even more compelling. The first concerns a deeper bond to their God through the loyal recitation of the creed (Bohlin). The second consists of 17 cycles of prayer spread out to five times a day. Before praying, they must wash themselves through specific rituals before they can kneel and put their faces down towards Mecca (Bohlin). The third consists in giving 2.5% of their earnings to the poor. The fourth concerns fasting during the lunar month of the Ramadan, when they are forbidden to abstain from food, water and sex during the day. Muslims are obliged to visit Mecca at least once in their lifetime.
It can be gleaned from the information how their life views, specifically on economic and social development, are established, controlled or hindered by Islam.
Hinduism -- is a diverse religion (Bohlin), covering faiths in a single God or hundreds of them. But they share common beliefs, namely, in an ultimate reality, called Brahman, which represents an impersonal oneness. This teaches that everything is part of the force, the belief that all is one, called monism. All is one and is god, making each of us a god, something that Hinduism says men have forgotten, and thus subjects them to the unrelenting wheel of karma. No grade, no forgiveness and no escape bars believers of Hinduism from their fate, except complete subjection to the series of births and deaths. One is freed only when one truly realizes that his separate identity is an illusion and becomes one with Brahman does his series of rebirths end. That is the only heaven possible for him under this belief (Bohlin). This is the religion of India.
Buddhism - holds no personal God, does not teach particular rites or prayer. Neither does it offer redemption, forgiveness, heaven and there is no final judgment of human beings. Gautama Buddha taught it more as a moral philosophy and ethical way of life than as a religion. Through his own enlightenment, he taught the Four Noble Truths, allcontraindicative of all kinds of progress and openness. The first teaches that life consists of sufferings. The second teaches that suffering comes because of desiring things that are not permanent in nature. The third teaches that, in order to eliminate suffering, desire must be expelled or stopped. The fourth teaches that desire can, in turn be eliminated by the eight-fold path of understanding (of what is impermanent and illusory), right thought (to detachment to all attachments to desire), right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right awareness, and right meditation. Right conduct is central to Buddhism and in achieving the state of extinction - the state comparable with heaven - but where one's essence is finally extinguished along with desire (Bohlin). Buddhism is prevalent in China and Japan.
Judaism - developed along with Christianity from 200 BC. It is also more a way of life and culture that is deeply linked with one's ancestors, rather than to a particular faith. If any, it teaches that God is One. It is the Old Testament Scripture. Those who are distinctively, traditionally Jewish or Orthodox faithfully observe the Sabbath, observe strict dietary rules and d not believe in a Messiah. Just like the earlier mentioned religions, Judaism strongly dictates the decisions of both leaders and followers alike.
The case of India as an argument on the counterproductive nature of religion on a nation's development is often used. India is an extremely poor and slow country. Asceticism, anti-materialism and fatalism prevail in it, because these are essential tenets of the people's faith throughout their lives. Hinduism prevents any outside attempt to change the believers' material or physical state, because poverty to them is viewed as inherent and inherently "good," which they welcome wholeheartedly. Through supreme endurance in the cycle of births and deaths, they are able to accomplish the goal of cleansing through an absolute renouncement of everything material - of progress itself!
Can countries with deeply embedded religious beliefs and lifestyles, such as the above, ever achieve democracy? And is religion a deterrent to development?
Not all religious ends are justifiable or selfless. When Saddam Hussein, for instance, declared a jihad against Iran…[continue]
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