Religion may seem like a private matter for people, but it has been largely politicised in the public sphere in recent times. Like language and nationalism, religion has been able to mobilise communities and shape the identities of different societies. Various religious groups have fought against institutions for what they believed would be better outcomes of justice and equality. In the midst of economic disruptions and dysfunctional states, religion plays a role in offering sense of peace and meaning which many people seek comfort and solace in.

Read the full article on The Guardian: Belief is back: why the world is putting its faith in religion

“There can be miracles

When you believe

Though hope is frail

It’s hard to kill.”

Lyrics from ‘When You Believe’ in the animated movie ‘The Prince of Egypt’


Religion has different functions in societies. It has largely been debated whether it should be a private matter or be integrated into public discourse. This video below examines how religion has been influencing states. In some cases, secularism has been sidelined as religious leaders give people the ideologies and the means to challenge the state where it has failed in providing for the basic needs of its people.  

At different points in history, some societies have attempted to purge religion from their societies. China has been clamping down on Christianity and Islam to promote traditional values through Buddhism, Taoism and folk religions. The Chinese government has also been drafting new guidelines to control the spread of unauthorised religion online. But many also see this as a means to strengthen the control of the ruling party.

Questions for further personal evaluation:

  1. Should the state have control over its people in their private practice of religion? Why, or why not?
  2. How does religion play a role in your personal life and your society?

Useful vocabulary:

  1. ‘defiantly’: in a manner that shows open resistance or bold disobedience
  2. ‘ostentatious’: characterized by pretentious or showy display; designed to impress
  3. ‘discourse’: a formal discussion of a topic in speech or writing
  4. ‘harbinger’: a person or thing that announces or signals the approach of another
  5. ‘conundrum’: a confusing and difficult problem or question

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