How does religion affect social and cultural changes going on in the world today?
Arguably, religions are cultures because the creeds of religion dictate and direct behaviors. Easily perceptible are the effects of the Muslim religion upon those who practice it as women wear hijabs or burgas which cover their heads and faces, along with abayas, which cover their dress. All Muslims pray five times a day, facing Mecca; then, in the fall they observe Ramadan and fast. Never do they eat pork as it is perceived as unclean.
Christians, too, have certain practices which affect their social lives. They, too, observe holy days and Roman Catholics also have a period of fasting, although modified, during the Lenten season of six weeks before Easter. With charity as the greatest virtue, Christians are taught to do good works and to treat others with consideration.
For Jews, there are many practices and customs especially for the Orthodox Jews. One branch of the Orthodox, Hasidic Judaism, which promotes mysticism, the revelation of "the ancient esoteric tradition of the Koran." In Hasidic culture, women must have their arms covered, their hair covered (a wig can be worn), and the men wear a certain style of hat and have their hair and whiskers in a certain style. Passover is an important celebration of freedom and during this time, Jews eat an unleavened bread called matzah.
Certainly, there is a long, running history of antipathy among religious groups, and historically more people have been killed in the name of God than for any other reason. The Crusades in which the Catholic Church first held as its objective to take back the Holy Lands, later extended to re-claiming Spain from the Moors, parts of eastern Europe, and the Mediterranean islands. The Crusades lasted over 700 years and virtually destroyed Arabic culture, which was more advanced than the Christian culture at the time. (e.g. Monks copied the Bible over Arab writings). After the Crusades, the Catholic Church held great wealth and power in political, commercial, and social matters. It was strongly involved in the discovery of the New World as another area for the spread of Christianity.
Nowadays, the Christian world is often threatened by Sunni and Shi'a extremist terrorism, and Israel is threatened by Arabic enemies. Indubitably,today's "War on Terrorism" traces its roots to the Crusades and religious history, differences, and antipathy. In American society, "political correctness" now directs religious tolerance in the hopes that all faiths can live harmoniously.
In much of East Asia, Confucianism has had a profound effect on its societies and cultures for over a millennium; it's beliefs of humaneness, rite, loyalty, and filial piety has shaped how people lived out their daily lives. As a specific example, ancestor worship in Korea can be traced back to the tenet of filial piety, and when Christian missionaries brought the Western faith to the peninsula, the traditional ancestor worship was considered idolatry by the monotheistic Christians. The Korean protestants continue to reject rituals of ancestor worship, although the Buddhists and Catholics continue the tradition.