Theology and Practice
Chapter 1: The Religion–Development Nexus
INTRODUCTION Religious belief is a common human characteristic. Eighty per cent of the world’s population professes religious faith, including 2.1 billion Christians, 1.3 billion Muslims, 950 million Hindus, 400 million Buddhists and 13 million Jews (O’Brien and Palmer 2007). Religious belief is pervasive, profound, persuasive and persistent and is observable in all societies. The premise of this book is that despite this, religious belief has long been ignored in mainstream development paradigms and by development practitioners (both locally and at the international level), resulting in less than optimal development outcomes. The values and attitudes associated with religious beliefs within countries can affect both public policy settings as well as social behaviours (with both positive and harmful consequences possible). This book is specifically interested in the dance between religious belief and development. This dance or interaction is explored by considering the social teaching and sacred texts of the world’s major religions and investigating how development is understood in these religions. Religious belief (or faith) is widely understood as the acceptance of some unseen order and that achieving the highest level of well-being requires a rightful relationship with this unseen order (James 1902). Religious practice involves ‘the worship of a personal supernatural deity, a revealed scripture, a divinely ordained code of laws, and an assortment of institutions and communal structures in which the religion is observed’ (Segal 2009, p. 4). Religious belief is relevant to both social and private realms. Religious belief systems provide a meaning for existence through which adherents interpret...
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