Sacred Worlds: An Introduction to Geography and Religion

By Chris C. Park | Go to book overview

4

DIFFUSION

Religious beliefs and organisations

Persecution is a bad and indirect way to plant religion

Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici (1643)


INTRODUCTION

The religious patterns described in Chapter 3 raise interesting questions about how religions evolve, and what processes are important in distributing them through space and time. At different spatial scales it is possible to both describe and delimit a complex mosaic of religious variations. The global pattern begs fundamental questions about how and when Christianity became so widely dispersed, for example, and about why Hinduism has not been more widely embraced outside India. Maps of national patterns, in India, Britain and the United States, raise more questions than they answer—such as what role is played by immigrant groups in the dispersal of religions?, what factors allow some religions to survive in an area while other religions decline?, and how does religious mixing and enculturation in diverse societies change the original religions and sometimes give rise to new religious forms and expressions?

Such questions of religious dispersal, survival and change are addressed in this chapter and the next. Here we focus mainly on patterns, mechanisms and processes of religious diffusion in an attempt to better understand how religions disperse across geographical space. In Chapter 5 we turn to the dynamics of religious change and review the relevance of factors like religious adherence, the role of ethnicity and migration, the topic of religious persistence, and the eminently geographical issue of religious culture regions.

Any consideration of how religions spread and change must concede the difficulties of distinguishing between religious change and cultural change. As Tyler rightly points out,

many of the major religions of the world have become so inextricably linked with particular racial groups, cultures, political systems and lifestyles, that it is difficult to imagine one without the other. It is hard to imagine Thailand without Buddhism, or India without Hinduism, for

-93-

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Sacred Worlds: An Introduction to Geography and Religion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures ix
  • Tables xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Acknowledgements xiv
  • 1 - Geography and Religion 1
  • 2 - Reflections on Religion 31
  • 3 - Distributions 56
  • 4 - Diffusion 93
  • 5 - Dynamics 128
  • 6 - Religion and Population 169
  • 7 - Religion and Landscape 197
  • 8 - Sacred Places and Pilgrimage 245
  • Epilogue 286
  • Bibliography 288
  • Index 313
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