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God Is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith Is Changing the World [Kindle Edition]

John Micklethwait , Adrian Wooldridge
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

A landmark examination of the resurgence of faith around the globe

The Editor in Chief of The Economist and its Lexington columnist show how the global rise of religion will dramatically impact our century in God Is Back. Contrary to the popular assumption that modernism would lead to the rejection of faith, American-style evangelism has sparked a global revival. On the street and in the corridors of power the authors shine a bright light on a vast yet until now hidden world of religion.

Twenty-first-century faith is being fueled by a very American emphasis on competition and a customer-driven attitude toward salvation. Revealing how the religion boom is destabilizing politics and the global economy, God Is Back concludes by showing how the same American ideas that created our unique religious style can be applied to channel the rising tide of faith away from volatility and violence.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Both John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge were educated at Oxford and went on to work for The Economist. John Micklethwait has overseen the magazine's Los Angeles and New York bureaus and is now its U.S. editor. Adrian Wooldridge has served as West Coast correspondent, social-policy correspondent, and management editor, and is currently Washington, D.C., correspondent. Together, they have coauthored three books, The Witch Doctors, A Future Perfect: The Challenge and Hidden Promise of Globalisation, and The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea.

From The Washington Post

From The Washington Post's Book World/ Reviewed by Diana Butler Bass Conventional analysis of contemporary faith divides the world into two camps of political engagement: liberal secularists, who reject any role for religion in public life, and conservative believers, who strive for a Christian or Muslim state. As a result, discussions on religion and politics degenerate into arguments over excising religion from or adding more religion to public life. Readers who subscribe to this dualistic view will be surprised by "God Is Back." At first glance, the title gives the impression that John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge are arguing for an international faith-based political agenda. But this is a cool-headed book, more analytical than partisan, marked by crisp prose and well-formed insights into politics and policy. Although the authors are sympathetic to religion, they recognize its limits and problems, especially the tensions between fundamentalist forms of Christianity and Islam. While explaining the worldwide renewal of faith, they also examine the flash points of religion and politics. In the end, they criticize both secularists and believers. They argue that the main fault lies not with religion but with the "union of religion and power," used coercively. They urge their readers to move beyond a good/bad view of religion toward a more thoughtful approach that considers the role of churches in strengthening economies, providing meaningful work and reducing poverty. A historical question frames the book: Is modernity hostile to religion? The authors give two answers. First, the French Revolution proposed that religion itself was problematic and that societies should embrace secularism. Second, America's founders envisioned that religious freedom and its resulting competition might foster a healthy interplay of faith and politics in public life. "God Is Back" argues that while Europe has followed the French model of secularism, the American model of religious tolerance seems to be prevailing in the world today. The book opens with an American evangelical-style Bible study in Shanghai, where the pastor proclaims: "In Europe the church is old. Here it is modern. Religion is a sign of higher ideals and progress. Spiritual wealth and material wealth go together. That is why we will win." These words echo the American view that economic prosperity meshes with religious freedom. This vignette supports the book's main point: that religion and modernity are not at odds, that, in the American mode, they can function together to create prosperity and individual freedom. Historians have been making similar arguments for several decades. But "God Is Back" moves beyond the standard analysis to argue that religion offers people a wide range of additional social rewards beyond economic ones, including comfort, community and meaning. Because modern life tends to cut people off from tradition, it creates a longing to reconnect that religion can satisfy. Thus, the more advanced a country becomes, the greater its people's need for faith to fill in the gaps left by cultural change. But the atheists keep asking, Isn't religion the primary source of conflict in the world today? Wouldn't a secular world be less violent? Can radically different religions get along in the modern world? The authors say yes, no and yes. They admit the conflicts but insist that the American model provides a hopeful template for religious pluralism and mutual tolerance. I have a few quibbles with their argument. In the historical sections, they depend too heavily on evangelical historians, thus giving their overview of American religion -- and Christianity in general -- an overwhelmingly Protestant cast. In addition, they accept the theory that people choose religion rationally on the basis of its social benefits; this is a hotly debated topic in religious studies. As journalists, however, Micklethwait and Wooldridge excel: Their eye for detail, ability to see the other side of the story, sense of nuance and irony are all highly developed. "God is Back" is an intelligent account of contemporary religion and the role it might play in making the modern world more open, tolerant and peaceful. In the end, the authors confess that their basic message "is a profoundly liberal one." Complete religious freedom -- including the freedom to reject religion -- is the best human path to the future. To that it can be hoped that people say: Amen.
Copyright 2009, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 735 KB
  • Print Length: 420 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0141024747
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 2, 2009)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001V6P12O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #276,236 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be Prepared to Learn a Lot May 24, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
One of the authors is a Catholic and the other an atheist. Micklethwait is editor-in-chief of The Economist and Wooldridge is head of that periodical's Washington desk.

The book is a study of the relationship between modernity and religion. According to the authors, there are two main models for the future of this relationship -- which takes on added importance given the modernizing of India, China, S. America and parts of Africa. One is American the other is European. In the European one, modernity has crushed religion. Europe is highly and aggressively secularized. Religion may be tolerated as a very private affair, but is viewed with suspicion, its demise anticipated, and has no place in the broader culture (and especially not in politics). In America, on the other hand, religion and modernity not only co-exist, they are interrelated, bestowing benefits on each other. Religion remains a vital force in American culture, including in the political arena, though Americans have a more formal separation of church and state than Europe.

Western academics have assumed that the European model was the future and that as the rest of the world modernized, they would become as radically secular as Europe. America, it was believed, was an aberration and was likely just lagging behind the Euro phenomenon. The authors reject this conclusion and believe that the American model is likely to be the prevailing model.

The authors attribute much of this success to the American founder's solution to the "religion problem," by separating formally church and state and allowing religions to compete with each other but without excluding religious sentiment and expression from the public square. The result is competition and a religion that empowers its practitioners.
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54 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Topical, perceptive, and well-written April 8, 2009
By Perdix
This is the latest of several topical, perceptive, and well-written books by Micklethwait and Wooldridge of The Economist. They take on the difficult and complex subject of how religion and politics relate throughout the world, and they argue persuasively about the compatibility of modernity and religion in the twenty-first century. Their analysis of religion in America is particularly brilliant, certainly the best explanation I've read of the rise of Evangelicalism and the popularity of megachurches. As in their previous books, Micklethwait and Wooldridge write with a combination of erudition and wit - vignettes of places like the Golgotha Fun Park in Kentucky make God Is Back an enjoyable read. I can fault the book only for its lack of photographs and other illustrations.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent analysis -- up to a point July 25, 2010
God is, indeed, back, with a vengeance, in this well-researched and well-written analysis of the rising again of religious faith from the ashes of the wave of secularism of the last few decades. Mr. Micklethwait and Mr. Wooldridge have done an admirable job of telling us how modern civilization, which was supposed to bury religion, instead helped to revitalize it.

From upper-middle class "house church" meetings in China, to the fierce march of Wahhabist Islam, to the joyful passion of Evangelical Christianity in the United States and, increasingly, overseas, the authors show us conclusively how wrong the "God is dead" crowd of the 60s was. And what they said seemed to make so much sense, to be so logical -- in the 60s. Just shows how a few decades can change our perception of the world completely -- even change the world itself, significantly.

My only quarrel with the book -- the reason I gave it four stars instead of five -- is that the concentration seemed to be a little too heavily on the Evangelicals, and the Muslims, with a moderate amount of space devoted to the Roman Catholics, much more limited treatment of the fading mainline Protestant churches, and little more than a few passing mentions of Christian Orthodoxy, especially in America. The various Orthodox churches are growing, not spectacularly but steadily, in this country as many disaffected Protestants, Catholics or non-religious seek a different way to worship God and His Son Jesus Christ, and find it in the oldest and second-largest of all the Christian denominations.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) gets a little ink, but not as much as it dserves, in view of not only the growth of the church in the U.S. but its ceaseless missionary work all over the world.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
The authors, who are journalists by trade, do an excellent job of summarizing recent findings in the sociology of religion that are challenging the long held assertions of secularization theory. More importantly, this book is a good answer to Trinity College's American Religious Identification Study (ARIS)making big headlines recently. The ARIS Study claims that the number of "non-religious" (poorly defined) has doubled since 1990, reaching 15% of the US poplation. This result, based upon bad sampling methodology and poor interpretatin of open-ended questions, is at odds with nearly every other survey showing the "non-religious" (who are not atheist or agnostic) as hovering around 10% of the population give or take a percentage point or two.

This book reviews some of the sociological findings supporting the thesis that religious activity is alive and well in the US and around the world. Moreover, they also pepper the book with interesting anecdotes and fun stories that make the book read more like a "human interest" story in the newspaper.

This is a book well done by a bunch of British chaps who are supposedly more intelligent and secular than us rednecks across the pond!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Who is the Supreme Being? God or Man?
Provides a historical analysis of religious belief. Presents the opinion that Adam Smith's observation that free market in religion would benefit religion just as as competition in... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Clay Garner
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent book
very well documented and giving a clear picture of the world today - most of the people today simply do not understand religion because you have to be first educated into it in... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Joe Aronson
4.0 out of 5 stars Did he ever go away?
This is a fascinating book, written by the editor of the Economist and its Washington bureau chief. It is about 75 pages too long, and can be repetitive, but it is definitely worth... Read more
Published on April 17, 2012 by Matthew Hosier
4.0 out of 5 stars Religious analysis at its best
Like the disparate religious views of its authors, the book will appeal to a wide reading public. It is well-written and carefully researched. Read more
Published on March 14, 2012 by Scribe
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, But Some Fact-Checking Would Have Helped
This book is a nice corrective to the general view that the world is becoming more secular. In fact, as the book shows, Christianity is growing, and much of the growth is in... Read more
Published on October 29, 2011 by J. S. Lang
5.0 out of 5 stars Religion is Back - Sometimes That's Good and Sometimes That's Bad
An intelligent, even-handed look at the influence of religion on international politics and commerce today (despite the flamboyant title). Read more
Published on September 20, 2011 by Jeremy Garber
5.0 out of 5 stars Astute, Interesting and Well Reasoned,
I was reading this book more or less alongside "Stealing Jesus", and it was a most odd experience. Often the two books were covering the exact same ground and yet their... Read more
Published on September 7, 2011 by Sir Furboy
5.0 out of 5 stars God Is Back Indeed!!
An interesting and convincing explanation of how secular Europe (Western Europe at that) is really the anomaly and religion fixates the remainder of the world (Thank God for the... Read more
Published on June 20, 2011 by Mike B
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprising, and a strong dint in the Secularization hypothesis.
This is an interesting book, and the evidence it presents will have the evangelical atheists (e.g.The New Atheists: The Twilight of Reason and the War on Religion) and their... Read more
Published on April 12, 2011 by Dr. Peter Davies
4.0 out of 5 stars God is back
I hope the author differentiate faith from the religiosity and main stream of faith from fanatics.
It is a good book. Read more
Published on January 15, 2011 by k. k. huh
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