The Rise of Flexible Devotions in a Changing World

Unlocking the complexities of modern faith, Ariel Corpus Flores challenges the simplistic narrative of declining religious believers. Beyond institutional constraints, flexible devotions and societal dynamics shape a nuanced contemporary spirituality.

The Rise of Flexible Devotions in a Changing World
As we commemorate World Religion Day, let's delve into the complex interplay of beliefs, symbolism, and shifting paradigms.

In an era dominated by scientific rationality, the winds of secularization seem to be sweeping across societies, nudging believers towards a more flexible devotion. Nevertheless, as we delve into the intricate terrain of contemporary faith, we discover that the narrative of diminishing religious affiliation is not as simplistic as it may appear.

Ariel Corpus Flores, a professor at UNAM's Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, sheds light on the paradox of decreasing religious believers globally. Some argue that this shift is a consequence of secularization, a process in which rational explanations gain prominence in an increasingly enlightened society. However, an alternative narrative emerges—one where believers are not abandoning their faith but rather fleeing the rigid confines of institutionalized, bureaucratic churches.

In an interview, Corpus Flores notes the difficulty of capturing these nuanced shifts through conventional censuses that predominantly focus on institutionalized forms of religion. A growing number of individuals, he contends, are seeking more flexible devotions, ones that eschew a singular truth and allow for a more personalized connection to spirituality.

Crucially, the exodus from institutionalized churches is not solely rooted in a loss of faith. Corpus Flores points out that these structures often fail to accommodate diverse sex-gender orientations, leading marginalized groups to forge their own communities of faith. This trend towards flexible creed, he emphasizes, isn't just a statistical blip but a seismic cultural shift, echoing the beat of a different spiritual drum.

One must also grapple with the darker side of organized religion, as complaints of human rights violations, such as pedophilia, rock the foundations of traditional faith institutions. This grim reality becomes a catalyst for believers to abandon established religious structures searching for a more genuine, humane connection to the divine.

Yet, despite these seismic shifts, religion continues to hold sway in the human psyche. Corpus Flores underscores that humans, being symbolic creatures, have an innate need to represent the mysteries they cannot comprehend. Religion, with its rich tapestry of symbolism, provides solace and meaning in a world often perplexing and beyond rational explanation.

As we commemorate World Religion Day on January 15, Corpus Flores reaffirms that, contrary to predictions of decline, religion persists. The paradigm of secularization, championing explanations rooted in science, has been gaining ground for a century. However, religion endures, offering a symbolic sanctuary for those seeking answers beyond the realm of scientific rationing.

The anthropologist argues that religion persists because, at times, science falls short in providing comprehensive answers. Scientific explanations, while invaluable, may not fulfill the existential expectations of individuals or satisfy the deep-seated need for meaning that religion offers through its symbolism.

In a society where conflicting convictions frequently spark heated debates, Corpus Flores delves into the nexus between religion and politics. The clash isn't isolated; it's interwoven with other belief systems, giving rise to fervent debates and, at times, fanaticism.

He reminds us that fanaticism isn't exclusive to religious spheres; it can permeate the secular world as well. When communication breaks down, believers may feel threatened, fostering extremism. Drawing parallels with Islam, Corpus Flores notes that extreme ideologies can arise not only in religious contexts but also within various elements of social life.

Examining the Mexican landscape, Corpus Flores references the 2020 National Population and Housing Census, revealing a decline in Catholicism and a rise in Protestantism and those without religious affiliation. These statistics paint a dynamic picture of shifting beliefs, challenging the notion of a linear decline in religious adherence.

As we navigate the complex terrain of modern faith, it's evident that the decline in religious believers is not a monolithic tale of abandonment but a multidimensional narrative encompassing diverse social, political, and cultural dimensions. On this World Religion Day, as we celebrate common spiritual principles, let's recognize the intricate tapestry of beliefs woven into the fabric of our diverse global society.