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The Globalization Reader, 5th Edition by John Boli, Frank J. Lechner

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Introduction

Long before the current phase of globalization, religious communities globalized. From northern India, adherents inspired by the Buddha carried his vision of spiritual enlightenment and personal discipline to many parts of Asia, ultimately linking millions of people, from Japan to Afghanistan. Later, followers of Jesus Christ instructed by St Paul carried the Christian gospel of salvation from West Asia to North Africa as well as parts of Europe. Relative latecomers among the world religions, followers of the Prophet Muhammad globalized Islam perhaps even more dramatically in a short period, spreading the Koran and its teachings from the Arabian heartland as far east as what is now Indonesia and as far west as Spain. Each religion had its own kind of mobile messenger, each its own universal message, and each its own impulse to include new adherents. Each created a translocal community among physically distant strangers who nevertheless shared a common identity. To varying degrees and in varied forms, each community also organized its adherents, with the Roman Catholic Church standing out as perhaps the oldest and strongest of the religiously specialized organizations deliberately focused on a global mission. In religion, globalization is nothing new.

Of course, religious globalization did not stop in antiquity. Islam continued to make inroads in southern Europe into the 1600s. Allied with European powers, the Catholic Church spread its influence in the Americas. ...

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