The social function of religion is to explicitly codify the unspoken social contract.
In theocratic countries, the population has accepted a restrictive social contract – and any attempts by outsiders – aka Western Christians is an attack on the religion of the country, since it’s the religion that defines their culture and social structures.
People who were dissatisfied with the social contract of their country’s culture immigrated – when Europeans populated the Americas – there was an explosion of religions as population groups were remote from each other.
When population increased and religions overlapped, there were groups of people driving changes to the social contract in many directions – women suffragettes, the sexual revolution starting in the 50’s with rock n roll which caused a rift between teens and adults because Elvis, coming from a social strata where there was no difference between white and black people, showed middle class white American teenagers that they weren’t any better than their black counterparts – this made the civil rights movement of the 60’s for black people possible – Elvis also showed blacks that there was no reason for them to not be treated the same.
To Elvis, this equality was natural and not an intentional concept he brought to national attention – Elvis just wanted to be middle class – to make enough money to take care of his parents and family. Elvis was not the rebel he was portrayed as – Elvis wanted to join the establishment that he was socio-economically unable to join as a child – and after he was economically part of the establishment, he continued to be rejected for his class background and southern roots.
What Elvis showed the artists who followed him was that art is a means of social change – and Bob Dylan and the entire counter-culture arts scene created art to challenge conventions – and they were granted “artist” status with all the street cred that entailed – and Elvis, without whom it would not have been possible – was never included in the emerging culture that he created. Instinctively, the next generation rejected the parent Elvis generation of artists.
Elvis remained an outsider to the establishment and the anti-establishment – which, in a way, gives him the most artistic cred – since he basically died from fame – he truly suffered the ultimate for his art – and continues to be misunderstood 30 some odd years after his death.
Social change is only possible with social clash – one group of people expresses dissatisfaction with the status quo and there are a variety of paths to bringing about change – some form militias and use violence, others public protests, others infiltrate the establishment (which can be government, business, churches, artworld, grassroots activism), and others stand as far away from the status quo and use the social structures – ie legal system – to bring about change.
The most successful employ many of the techniques and best of all, each group is able to build on the groups before.
This is why the gay community appears to have made such fast advances in a short time period and with not a lot of violence.
The larger mainstream community sees the inevitable and resists the change less with each group. Women’s ability to vote was hard fought and won – but women’s equality is a battle that continues, despite equality under the law.
Black rights dominated the ethnic minority discussion and the avenues available to the white women of earlier decades were not available to this community – so they splintered and undertook a multi-pronged front to create social change – from the impassioned reasonableness of Martin Luther King to the violent intimidation of Malcolm X to the elegance of Rosa Parks.
Gays and lesbians had long been major players in music, movies and theatre – so the struggle for inclusion and dignity that were protests in the 70’s and legal challenges in the 80’s really began with major motion pictures from the 1920’s German film Pandora’s Box (the Bridget Jones of the day) with protagonist Lulu being the first obvious on screen lesbian – and set the tone for lesbian stories for decades as Lulu is murdered by Jack the Ripper.
Aside: It was funny to me that this film is one of the most dissected film in classes, yet no one else seemed to catch that the movie takes place after WWI, yet Lulu is murdered by Jack the Ripper, as the character is identified in the credits – and Jack had long disappeared before WWI.
Changing the social contract has to come from within that contract – change cannot be imposed from outside – unless there’s a multi-generational plan for occupation.
This is the core of why America is not as liked as they think they should be. From the American POV, they are bringing freedom and technology – from the countries receiving this dubious largess – it is cultural imperialism.
I think it underscores that change must come from inside – since it is largely advances in western medicine that has allowed the global population boom.
Countries that were, for all intents and purposes, pre-industrial, were not culturally or psychologically prepared for the massive changes industrialization would bring. What we tend to ignore is that many countries today were largely in the metal eras of technology when the Industrial revolution changed production, where the jobs were and altered the family structure.
For the first time in global history, we have a huge elderly population, more people live in urban not rural areas, and habitat destruction and massive changes to the landscape from open pit mining, to damned rivers to bulldozing the Everglades and other swamp areas to create arable and livable land; the agricultural run off of fertilizers and pesticides causing havoc with many wildlife species and algae blooms at river mouths exhausting the water’s resources by overpopulation and leaving a water desert behind.
No other species in Earth’s history has remade the globe in their own image for their own intentional purposes and with so many unintentional results owing to our shortsighted greed and lack of knowledge.
Other animals live in an area and move to the next valley or pond when the one they were in gets too poopy, but not humans – we have left ourselves no where to move and we are opposed to even slowing down the industrial impact never mind cleaning anything up in a meaningful manner.
And, it’s sadly ironic that is it largely religious driven groups that oppose any change to business and industrial practices – possible some with a Pollyanna motivation that daddy-god will make everything better and others with the scary Yay, Armageddon is coming and everyone else is going to get theirs.
If humans are going to continue to survive and be as successful as the dinosaurs who has several millions of years as a good run – we need to change our social contract, because we’re not even at the half million year mark and we are running towards extinction with blindfolds on – and like Ghaddfi in Libya – we are determined to take everything with us.