Religion in the slums

The case for religion tends to be much more convincing than the case for belief. Mike Davis, author of _Planet of Slums_, plans to discuss Pentecostalism in his next book. Meanwhile, he [says](

>For someone like myself, writing from the left, it’s essential to come to grips with Pentecostalism. This is the largest self-organized movement of poor urban people in the world – at least among movements that emerged in the twentieth century. It has shown an ability to take root, dynamically, not only in Latin America but in southern and western Africa, and – to a much smaller extent – in east Asia. I think many people on the left have made the mistake of assuming that Pentecostalism is a reactionary force – and it’s not. It’s actually a hugely important phenomenon of the postmodern city, and of the culture of the urban poor in Latin American and Africa.

Far from being an escapist _sigh of the oppressed_, this is religion as a pragmatic way of dealing with the surrounding world. As [Eliza Griswold]( writes in a piece on religion in Nigeria:

>Pentecostalism has updated Max Weber’s Protestant work ethic for the 21st century. Pentecostals do not drink, gamble, or engage in extramarital sex; so all of that formerly illicit energy can go into either business or education.

Grey as that life may sound, I can’t fault it as a route out of the slums.

It would be nice to have a secular alternative with as much force as religion gets by making up stories, but I can’t see it happening yet. Meanwhile I’ll keep on looking, forlornly, for a godless cult to join.

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