Over the course of its long history, America has experienced numerous religious "awakenings," certain of which served as important precursors to the American Revolution, the abolition movement and Civil War, the Progressive Era (1890-1920), and the Civil Rights Movement. In effect, each "great awakening" served as a populist wellspring for radically new rules within our society, our economy and our political system.
By most expert accounts, the world today is experiencing its own significant "awakening" of religious fervor, one triggered -- in my opinion -- by globalization's rapid expansion around the planet over the past three decades. By penetrating previously off-grid societies and challenging their traditional identities, globalization's seeming -- if exaggerated -- capacity for reformatting everything in its path generates widespread fear of civilizational miscegenation (i.e., Americanization). In the face of such frightening assimilation, individuals naturally turn (or return) to religion as a way of retaining their collective identity.
The emergence of a global middle class is part and parcel of this global religious awakening. Suddenly thrust from centuries of economic subsistence or survival to new possibilities of abundance, individuals in emerging markets naturally glom onto all manner of religious faiths as a source of guidance for a life well-led. Civilizations might not be portable, but religious identity is: Anywhere an individual goes, it connects him or her with already established networks of the like-minded.