V. I. Melnikov
One of the options of such a general approach to religion’s study is a closed system method (CSM), as one of the supplements to the closed system theory (TCS) [50, 62].
According to CSM the study of religion has to be conducted in surroundings-object coordinates. In this case religion, understood as a world’s perception of a spiritual and world-outlook character, being an object, is based on unproved faith in existence of some transcendental essence influencing the life of both particular people and society in general.
Religion as an object exists in all complex of the factors influencing its condition and changing its essence. This complex of factors, such as any environment in TCS, causes origination, development, degradation and extinction of both particular confessions and religion as a global phenomenon as a whole.
First of all the following factors of the above-mentioned complex can be mentioned.
1.1. Existing, initial, practiced form of religion, level of its development and organization, informational influence.
2.1. Negative or positive psycho-emotional condition of personality (level of discomfort, crisis condition, uneasiness, fears, despondency, loneliness, dissatisfaction with one’s social standings, feeling of despair, depression, lack of self-confidence, lack of changes for the better, need for spiritual and emotional defense and the opposite conditions).
2.2. Mentality, national traditions, interests, customs, age.
2.3. Personal, domestic, political, scientific world outlook, thinking manner, fashion, system of values, depth of religion doctrines’ adoption.
2.4. Cultural level, education, upbringing.
2.5. Personal sensory-emotional, intellectual and spiritual development.
3. Social and political
3.1. Social and political structure of the state and religion (type of power and governance, predominant world outlook, ideology, stratification, mutual relations, political processes, communication).
3.2. Social and political situation and tendencies in the world (political structure and regimes, polarization of forces and economy, unification, disintegration and creation of new governments and unions, consolidation of production forces and ideologies, trade, conquest, international cooperation, world globalization, migration processes, integration).
4.1. Conditions of life (city, village, level and way of life, basic professional education, work).
4.2. Level of development of knowledge (science and technology), correlation of emotional, sensory and rational perception of the world.
4.3. Informational influence.
– sources of information (environment, media, literature, films, missionaries, work, relatives, acquaintances, friends, neighbors, ardor, leisure-time, lecturers, accidental sources);
– sources of receiving (watching TV programs, reading, research, communication, observation, study, passive and active, personal initiative, intuition);
– the way in which the information is received (sensory, emotional, logical, graphical, symbolical, encoded);
– the way of storage, processing and use of information (by subconscious, conscious).
4.4. Extreme and stress influence related to the risk for life and health.
– personal (accidents, disasters, serious illnesses, death of relatives, psychic traumas, conflagrations, prison, misadventures, captivity and other extreme situations);
– public and political cataclysms (revolutions, wars, conquests, occupation, acts of terrorism, genocide, crisis etc.);
– natural (earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, tsunami, tornados, droughts and other natural disasters).
The role and level of influence of each of the above-mentioned factors are not consistent and depend on the general situation in states and world in general as well as religion’s situation. Besides, there are the factors of alternating-sign action and factors acting constantly in one direction.
The factors acting constantly for a long period of time and in one direction are the most important and effective for the use of religion’s condition and perspectives for change; such factors determine the fact of its origination, development and extinction.
Among them the following aggregate factors can be named.
1. Development and unification of social and political order of the countries of the world.
5. Scientific and technological advance and living standards’ imrprovement.
6. Intellectual and rational development.
7. Unification of conditions of life, education and world outlook.
Joint long-term (hundreds and thousands of years) action of these factors must inevitably lead to harmonization of the world outlook, both general and religious, both of some groups of believers and confessions in general. Improvement of the quantity and role of information, scientific and technological advance as well as intellectual level of development and rational thinking leads to the degradation of the religious thinking’s role in life, of both particular people and society in general.
Consequently, regardless of what we require, joint actions of the complex of these factors will result in approximation of the positions of separate confessions and decrease of the level of their opposition. Although there exist forces trying to oppose the above-mentioned tendencies, and the processes under discussion are long-term and contradictory, such an approximation can be hindered for hundreds and even thousands of years unless the society exerts direct influence upon these processes.
Simultaneously the process of degradation of religion positions’ in general will probably take place, possibly in a proportional time periods.
The other group of factors increasing the positions of religion is also acting in this direction. Among such factors the following can be named: negative psycho-emotional condition, social, political and natural cataclysms. Some factors possess dubious meaning, sometimes strengthening and sometimes weakening religion. Among such factors are informational influence, fashion, social and political situation, mentality, traditions, migratory processes.
Substance and significance of these factors can be significantly changed as a result of particular conditions. In some cases one-two or three factors are dominant. For instance, social and political factors (adoption of Christianity in Russia), union of the Slavs, mentality and the existing religions. While in the formation of a complex of religions of China and Indonesia not less that fifteen factors participated [35, 111].
Origination of many new non-traditional religious [35, 71] trends during the past two centuries directly relates to the destruction of many previously formed conceptions and world outlooks in this period (including systems of values) during turbulent times of revolutions, wars, economical and spiritual crisis, re-division of the world, scientific and technical and informational outbreak taking place simultaneously with democratization and liberalization of ideology, freedom of faith and religious liberty. During this process significant rearrangement of the many factors’ influence took place .
A great amount of various acting factors are a main reason of simultaneous existence in the modern world of many religious concepts and kinds. They vary in the initial doctrines’ systems, organizational structures, scale, number, territorial circulation, level of development etc. They exist in the way of different confessions, trends, schools, sects and other religious formations. As a rule, several different religions coexist in one state and in one territory, more often conflicting than supporting and understanding one another.
A different level of religiousness of believers (as well as unbelievers) ranging from a blind fanaticism incompatible with life to a militant atheism also depends on the existence of some combination of factors. The main reason for this is heterogeneity of a religious knowledge. There is a deep stratum of subconscious ascending to natural sources of emotions’ and senses’ nature, spontaneous and intuitive presentiment and imagination. At the same time there are subsequent later developments connected with a substance of a particular confession and its varieties. The later are penetrated into the subconscious as the result of upbringing or converting into a given denomination. Not a single child is born with a formed specific confession in mind. Nevertheless all of us have an inclination to perceive the world irrationally. It is probably not possible to inherently eradicate this natural irrationalism without breaking something important in our control system. At the same time subsequent extraneous irrational features in the form of nurtured religious conceptions are imbedded into us to a lesser extent and are more liable to change by various factors’ impact. This determines a level of religiousness and a concept of faith. It can also assist in correction of religious world outlook in the direction needed by the society, in particular elimination of aggression, irreconcilability, intolerance and mutual hatred of believers of different confessions.
In any case a complex of acting factors determine the origination, development and extinction of religions. A possibility to influence any religion depends on a correct appraisal of the quantity and significance of the acting factors.