God Is Back
How the Global Revival of Faith is Changing the World
John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge
Penguin Press, $27.95, 416 pp.
Good journalism needs to be fast paced and colorful, and to base its broad-brush generalizations on vivid examples and stories. You need a strong thesis. Too many qualifications and attempts at careful analysis blur the outline and hold up the action. One way to get around this is to sell your product with startling figures and projections and then slip in a warning about the unreliability of statistics concerning religion. Or you can set up an alarming scenario of new wars of religion and then admit that “many of today’s so-called wars of religion” have other causes. This is all done without any serious attempt to understand the complex mix of factors—economic, geopolitical, ideological, nationalist, or whatever—that lie behind any religious conflict, either now or in the seventeenth century. That way you are covered and people will still buy your book and your basic thesis.
In the book under review, the basic thesis is that modernization and religion go together, above all in an American version based on pluralism and market choice. Today, turmoil and lack of basic social security will drive you to God, and more than likely to American-style religion, where megachurches and Silicon Valley go hand in hand.
With the air of discoverers in a New World, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, both of the Economist, announce that the “secularization thesis” put forward by sociologists...