(2) Activism through Organized Religion

  1. Activism through public transportation design – public trains and subways provide cheaper means of travel for low-income households, often composed of minorities. I think it would be interesting to view urban development through the lens of “transportation equity”.
  2. Activism through music in the Islamic world – recently, a music video featuring Saudi women dancing has been circulating through social media. It would be fascinating to delve deeper into how activism manifests under Sharia law.
  3. Activism through historical art – I’m curious as to how artists in the 20th century (and earlier) used art to further rights. Perhaps artists depicted models in specific ways to push its audience in a specific direction.
  4. Activism through iPhone apps – FireChat helped people in Hong Kong organize democracy protests in 2014 even when the Internet was shut down. Smartphones are changing the way our activism works, but how?
  5. Activism through changing religious institutions – At least in my opinion, I think college students tend to criticize organized religion for stagnating social progress. How can millennia-old institutions participate as “activists” in our current world?


As a practicing Hindu, the first story (in relation to giving a voice to a marginalized group) that comes to mind is the Mahabharata. Shikhandi, the charioteer of the hero Arjuna, is born as a girl but changes his gender to male to exact revenge upon his enemies. Modern retelling of epics like these help shape society’s views on different activist issues. Interestingly enough, according to an Ipsos poll in 2016, 85% of Indians believe that transgender people should be protected from discrimination by the government. Within the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has taken steps to expand traditional doctrine by urging priests to view the world with moral nuance, a stance that has major implications for divorcees, gays and lesbians. There must be other examples in various religious texts and institutions (with which I am currently not familiar).


Our world isn’t black and white, and we shouldn’t view religion as such. I want to find the nuances through an activist lens.

One thought on “(2) Activism through Organized Religion”

  1. Hi Amit!

    I was chewing through this idea of activism through organized religion, and thought of a couple potential avenues you might want to take. Certainly they are slightly tangential to the scope that you might be thinking about, but I think they are pertinent, and perhaps easier to get started with. One thing I thought about is how organized religion affects the manner in which activists express dissent for current conditions – perhaps an example would be how certain nascent Christian evangelicals affected activism of gays and lesbians. Another way you could take this is looking at grassroots activism from people who consider themselves religious. Greenpeace is an example of this. I believe they started up in a church basement.

    However, if you want to stick with your idea, which I think is fascinating, maybe you can take a look at the social gospel movement in the US, where reformers (I’m not certain if they were activists) wished to apply Christian teachings to public problems. Notable figures would include Dorothy Day, Fr. John Ryan, as well as Martin Luther King Jr. There are historians who argue that many of the most prominent social movements in American progressive history would not have been possible without the inspirational values and moral authority of socially conscious Christianity and Judaism.

    Anyways, good luck with this project. Sounds fascinating!


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