The public performances of religion: Exploring religiosity in religious non-governmental organizations (NGOS)

Yuyu Fan, Fordham University


This thesis explores the role of religiosity within religious non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in our global modern society. The aim of the study is to describe how religiosity is manifest in religious NGOs in order to understand religious performance in our modern global society and to evaluate propositions related to secularization theory. I apply Peter Beyer's theoretical work on global religion, which considers religion as a functional system against the backdrop of globalization, to analyze a religious NGO, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). The study focuses on two empirical questions: whether there is a discourse shift through the development of AFSC in terms of its expression of religiosity and statement of mission, and how members of AFSC consider its Quaker roots as well as the impacts of AFSC's Quakerism on its members. By searching for answers to those two questions from the perspective of Beyer's claims about global religion, I re-examine the secularization debate. Two analyses are conducted in this study. The first is a quantitative analysis of AFSC's annual reports from the year 1917 to the year 2011. The second is a qualitative interview study of AFSC. Both studies confirmed the discourse shifts of AFSC across years, but it cannot be served as evidence for the secularization of AFSC. It is more appropriate to consider those changes as AFSC's adaptive transformation in the current social circumstance. In general, the study is helpful for pondering the ambiguous position of religion in our global modern society. And it supplies us certain concrete information to guide further research on how religion adapts itself in response to the changing social contexts brought about by globalization.

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Recommended Citation

Fan, Yuyu, "The public performances of religion: Exploring religiosity in religious non-governmental organizations (NGOS)" (2015). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI1603168.