Ditchkins' demise?

God Is Back: How the Revival of Religion is Changing the World
by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge
352pp, Allen Lane

Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate
by Terry Eagleton
200pp, Yale

It’s dismal news, and not just for secularists. God’s back - and with a distinctively American drawl. Rather than religion being exiled by modernity, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge put the case that the world is moving in the American direction, where religion and modernity happily co-exist. The US separation of church and state has allowed religious entrepreneurialism to flourish. A successful new brand of Christianity is now being exported around the world. Even western Europe, held back by its legacy of established religion, will soon follow.

This isn’t a book written by religionists. One a Catholic, the other of no faith, both authors work for the Economist but contritely accept their own magazine’s error when it published God’s “obituary” in the millennium issue. The evidence in their global survey is compelling. Even according to official figures, Christians in China now outnumber members of the communist party. The country also has 20 million Muslims - as many as Saudi Arabia, and twice as many as the EU.

Adam Smith is the new saviour: the free market has been the catalyst for expansion, with American churches now operating like multinational corporations with “pastorpreneurs” driving growth. Where modernity was supposed to bring religion’s demise, democracy, markets and technology are combining to do precisely the opposite. In fact, America is contributing twice to the global revival of religion. It is not just the world’s leading exporter of religion, but also the world’s leading supplier of the system that increases the demand for it: capitalism.


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