Can religion change the world?

Can religion change the world

Ryan Schram

Mills 169 (A26)

31 May 2017

Available at


Gravers, Mikael. 2012. “Monks, Morality and Military: The Struggle for Moral Power in Burma—and Buddhism’s Uneasy Relation with Lay Power.” Contemporary Buddhism 13 (1): 1–33. doi:10.1080/14639947.2012.669278.

Hertzberg, Michael. 2014. “The March of the Monks: On the Political Repertoire of Buddhist Monks in Sri Lanka and Myanmar.” In The Great Diversity: Trajectories of Asian Development, edited by Christopher M. Dent and Camilla Brautaset, 103–16. Wageningen, Netherlands: Wageningen Academic Publishers.

Other readings

Adams, Brad. Burma–Crackdown: Repression of the 2007 Popular Protests in Burma. Human Rights Watch. New York, December 2007.

Bellah, Robert N. 1967. “Civil Religion in America.” Daedalus 96 (1): 1–21.

Hirschkind, Charles. 1997. “What Is Political Islam?” Middle East Report.

Religion and semiotic ideology


Liberalism values the message over the code and its context

Many other cultures conceptualize communication in terms of its effects

This is not simply a “cultural” difference in the sense of Us/Them or East/West. To some extent, all cultures have to recognize that communication really happens in the second model. Even if one's ideology places value on the first model, there are still situations in which that gives way to the second.

A claim for debate

Today, I would like to put forward a claim for us to debate:

Historically, religious movements are more effective at achieving social change than any other kind of mass political movement.

We can of course debate the individual terms. Even so, the claim can still be made. Religion has more influence on society than mass participation in politics.

What do you think?

Intersections of religion and politics


Badiou, Alain. 2003. Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism. Translated by Ray Brassier. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.

Bellah, Robert N. 1967. “Civil Religion in America.” Daedalus 96 (1): 1-21.

Hirschkind, Charles. 1997. “What Is Political Islam?” Middle East Report.

Levitt, Peggy. 2001. The Transnational Villagers. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press.

_. 2007. God Needs No Passport: Immigrants and the Changing American Religious Landscape. New Press.

Nation, Carry Amelia. 1909. The Use and Need of the Life of Carry A. Nation. Topeka: F. M. Steves & Sons.

A guide to the unit