Has religious conflict replaced class conflict as the most important issue facing modern society? 

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Which is more important: class conflict or religious conflict? The answer might depend on which modern society you are looking at. However, in general, class conflict seems to be far more significant in 2020.

In France, class conflict is far more important than religious conflict. There used to be religious...

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Which is more important: class conflict or religious conflict? The answer might depend on which modern society you are looking at. However, in general, class conflict seems to be far more significant in 2020.

In France, class conflict is far more important than religious conflict. There used to be religious strife between its Catholic majority and its Protestant minority. Today, its people are concerned about economic issues, and its economy is sometimes brought to a halt because of strikes. Those strikes are caused when the lower and middle classes feel a particular government policy is unfair to their pocketbooks.

In Lebanon, there was a civil war between Christians and Muslims between 1975 and 1990. After the war ended, the various religious factions agreed to share power. Recently, there have been large-scale demonstrations in Lebanon. These demonstrations were caused by the public's anger over rampant corruption and a declining standard of living for the general population. Religion played no role in these serious protests.

The United States has never had a religious war, and organized religion is in decline. However, Americans have become more conscious about class differences because of growing economic inequality. Although the US has a low unemployment rate, wages have not increased much for lower and middle-class people. In 1978, American CEOs earned about thirty times the average wage. Today, they earn almost 300 times the average wage. In addition, the US tax system has become increasingly regressive over the past four decades. In other words, almost all of the gains of America's productive economy have gone to the one percent, and this cannot be sustained.

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Religious conflict is obviously nothing new, and I tend to think it's actually less prevalent now than it has been throughout most of history. Americans may believe, mistakenly in my view, that because of events of the past several decades involving what has been termed "radical Islam," conflict or violence due to religious differences has increased. Part of this impression is due to the greater forcefulness of media coverage in the modern era, and simply the fact that many Americans, in their relative isolation from world events, were unaware of such conflicts as they've existed in earlier periods. For example, during the partition of India in 1947, religious violence between Hindus and Muslims probably claimed far more lives than any conflicts occurring in our time, including the campaigns by al-Qaeda and ISIS. Similarly, during World War I the Armenians and Greeks of the Ottoman Empire were the victims of genocidal campaigns based largely on religious differences between them and the ruling class of the Empire. These events, taking place from 1914 to 1923, and the fratricidal violence on the Asian Subcontinent in the 1940's, resulted in millions of deaths that make the religious conflicts of our time seem almost mild by comparison.

In my view, it's erroneous also to assert that "class conflict" has been replaced by or has become less significant than religious differences. In the US, the gap between rich and poor may have actually become greater in recent decades than it had been throughout most of American history. At the same time, again at least within the US, religious belief, though still strong in its way, has become far more ecumenical than in the past. This means that Christian denominations no longer emphasize their differences from one another as they used to. As late as the mid-twentieth century, there were strong disagreements among even the Protestant denominations, to say nothing of the conflict between Protestants and Roman Catholics. In Ireland, the religious violence that plagued the country for centuries has largely ceased. Now, even the differences between Christianity and other world religions—despite the terrorist acts that have occurred in recent decades—are downplayed in the minds of most people. The clearest indication of this, in the US and in Europe as well, is the greater extent than in the past to which intermarriage between people of different religious backgrounds occurs.

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No, religious conflict has not replaced class conflict as the most important conflict in most modern societies.

There are ways to argue that religious conflicts have become more important than class conflict.  For example, a major conflict in the world today is between fundamentalist Islam and the secular West.  As another example, there are deep conflicts in the United States today on issues like abortion and gay marriage that are based mainly on religious beliefs and not on issues of class. 

However, economic issues (which can be seen as class issues) continue to be the most important issues.  The recent American presidential election was decided largely on the basis of which candidate was seen to care more about the issues facing the common person.  Outside the United States, the tensions between the Greek government and many of its people are tensions that are based not on religion but on economics.  The tensions in China are being stoked largely by inequality among their citizens, not by religion.

In these ways, economics and class are still more important (as Karl Marx would say they always will be) than issues of religion in most modern societies.

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