French president Emmanuel Macron’s claim that society needs religion is explored in the light of rising populism and illiberalism, and failures allied to the forced gamble of globalization. Historical and experimental research indicates that the universal religions have no fixed meanings or essences that drive followers. Religions have adapted to many contexts and cultures because core elements are believed sacred and transcendental, that is, non-negotiable, logically inscrutable, empirically unverifiable or falsifiable and therefore always open to interpretation under changing sociopolitical influences. Recent studies in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe suggest that “devoted actors” committed to transcendental causes are those most willing to make sacrifices whatever the costs or consequences to ensure that their values endure.



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