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Religion as a Globalizing Force

April 7, 2010

Max Stackhouse in The Globalist:

After humanity spread to most parts of the earth and developed distinctive local religions and cultures, some began to find ways to develop links among them. Driven by cultural curiosity, religious zeal, hopes for new wisdom, quests for profitable trade, a desire for adventure, a chance to get away from unhappy situations and a love for the exotic, people found routes of travel between West and East, North and South.

Combinations of material and ideal interests drove merchants and adventurers, monks and literati to develop and use a variety of treks and caravans, collectively called the Silk Road. It joined Turkey with China, with connecting routes in the West to Europe, Arabia and Africa — and in the East to India, Korea and Japan. Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Islamic believers, driven by their universalistic religions, took their faiths to others on these routes.

For centuries, along these routes goods, ideas, gold and pieties were exchanged, and civilizations were enriched. Many died en route, while some gained handsomely. This could be considered the first proto-globalization. Centuries later, new technologies were fostered by the faith-driven view that nature needed both repair and transformation so that life could more nearly approximate the promised New Jerusalem.

At the practical level, caravans were replaced by clipper ships and then steam ships. These accelerated the exploration of new continents and the colonization of new portions of the globe. [More]

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