May 30, 2009

MONO NUCLEUS:

Faith in the future: Contrary to what evangelical rationalists preach, it is perfectly possible both to be modern and to believe in God. But there is no reason to assume that the American religious model will prevail: a review of God Is Back: How the Global Rise of Faith Is Changing the World by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge (John Gray, 21 May 2009, New Statesman)

Whether Marxian or Millian, socialist or liberal, secular rationalists have held one tenet in common: religion belongs to the infancy of the species; the more modern a society becomes, the less room there is for religious belief and practice. Never questioned, this is what lies behind the hot-gospel sermons of evangelical atheists: if you want to be modern, say goodbye to God.

At bottom, the assertion that religion is destined to die out is a confession of faith. No amount of evidence will persuade secular believers that they are on the wrong side of history, but one of the achievements of God Is Back is to show how implausible, if not ridiculous, their view of history actually is.

The notion that modernity and religion are at odds is a generalisation from the experience of some parts of Europe. Europe is now largely post-Christian and the majority no longer follows any conventional creed, but things are otherwise in much of the rest of the world, and notably so in the US, which, during most of its history, has been intensely religious and self-consciously modern.

European Enlightenment thinkers have tended to see the US as the exception that proves the rule – an unexplained lag in a universal trend towards secularisation.

Against this view, Micklethwait and Wool­dridge show that modernisation and an increase in religiosity go together in much of the world. Some of the most powerful sections of the book feature narratives of religious communities in improbable places – prosperous, highly educated Chinese, among them scientists and academics, coming together in contemporary Shanghai to read and discuss the Christian Bible, for example.

If there is any trend that can be discerned in the parts of the world that are most rapidly modernising, it is that secular belief systems are in decline and the old faiths are being reborn.


As usual, Mr. Gray's multiculturalism prevents him from accepting that, in fact, only the authors' concept of religion works


Posted by Orrin Judd at May 30, 2009 6:05 AM
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