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God's Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics Hardcover – March 14, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Political scientists Toft (The Geography of Ethnic Violence), Philpott, and Shah explore the recent burgeoning political influence of religion in a timely treatise. The authors contend that religion's waning influence in politics—which dated from the Enlightenment and peaked in the 1960s—has seen a 40-year reversal; at present, "major religious actors... enjoy greater capacity for political influence today than at any time in modern history—and perhaps ever." This revival—manifested in developments like the "Islamic resurgence" and the rise of the religious Right in the U.S.—was rooted in a crisis in such secular ideologies as socialism, and has been nurtured by globalization and modern technologies like the Internet. Despite some occasional hyperbole and inconsistency—the authors shrill, "God's partisans are back, they are setting the political agenda, and they are not going away," and in the next breath, they caution policymakers not to "exaggerate the power of religious actors in public life"—this is a lucid and surprisingly seamless collaboration that should appeal to serious students of modern politics. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

This book�s claim is that the twenty-first century is God�s Century. The term is a convenient way to capture religion�s effect on politics; the focus is global and encompasses all major religions. The authors� favorite phrase throughout is religious actors, which include individuals or groups that have political pursuits alongside their religious beliefs and practices. Al-Qaeda, the Catholic Church, the National Association of Evangelicals�all are religious actors. The authors have observed a significant rise in the role of religion in global politics and are convinced that the trend will continue. Early chapters cover background matters, like the politics of religion, to help the uninitiated comprehend the basic issues. The core sections are devoted to focused areas, like democratization. There are also chapters covering religious civil wars, terrorism, and the push for peace and justice. Breaking up the text are tables or charts illustrating in a user-friendly way events or trends taking place.The book is filled with enough details and examples to satisfy serious researchers; appended are a 14-page bibliography and ample endnotes. A solid fit for academic collections and sizable public libraries. --Wade Osburn
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (March 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393069265
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393069266
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #731,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Monica Duffy Toft is an Associate Professor of Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Her research interests include international relations, religion, nationalism and ethnic conflict, civil and interstate wars, the relationship between demography and national security, and military and strategic planning. A 2008 Carnegie Scholar, Professor Toft is the author of Securing The Peace: The Durable Settlement of Civil Wars (Princeton University Press, 2009), The Geography of Ethnic Conflict: Identity, Interests, and Territory (Princeton University Press, 2003) and is co-author of God's Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics (W.W. Norton, 2011) and co-editor of The Fog of Peace: Strategic and Military Planning under Uncertainty (Routledge, 2006). Professor Toft was a research intern at the RAND Corporation and served in the U.S. Army in southern Germany as a Russian voice interceptor. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in Political Science and Slavic Languages and Literatures from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Professor Toft is director of the Belfer Center's Initiative on Religion in International Affairs, which was established with a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Greg Smith (aka sowhatfaith) on February 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
The secularization thesis has proven false. Rather than declining, the number of people adhering to the major world religions has increased significantly in recent years. Since 1967 religion's influence on politics has grown on every continent. Written by three highly regarded political scientists, God's Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics offers a thorough historical analysis of this global transformation and explores the implications of this trend for politics in the coming years while making a compelling case that the 21st century will be God's century. Religious leaders will benefit from the analysis of how religions became politically assertive in light of their knowledge of these shifts within their respective faith tradition, from an enriched understanding of the various possible options for relationships between religious and political authority and the relative strengths and weaknesses of each, and from the many examples of religious political influence .

In the final chapter (p. 207-223), the authors offer "Ten Rules for Surviving God's Century"

Acknowledge that religious actors are here to stay.

Do not assume that the activism of religious actors can or should be confined to a "private sphere."

Learn to live with the fact that the issue is not whether, but when and how, religious actors will enter public life and shape political outcomes.

Do not exaggerate the power of religious actors in public life, thereby replacing secularism with sacralization . . .
. . . but expect religious actors to play a larger and more pervasive role than conventional wisdom anticipates.

Accept that the more governments try to repress or exclude religion from public life, the more such efforts will be self-defeating.
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Format: Hardcover
By the middle of the 20th century, everyone seemed to be predicting an end to religion's influence. In 1968 Peter Berger said that "'by the 21st century, religious believers are likely to be found only in small sects'" (p 1). Secularism was an unstoppable force; that was the deeply held belief of the intellectuals in the western world, circa 1960.

Islam certainly made a fool of them.

But there were many factors that proved their theories were full of holes. The Catholic church was reinvigorated by the Second Vatican Council, and by the international policies of Pope John Paul. Hindu nationalism has had a tremendous resurgence, and Buddhism has connected with nationalism in many countries as well. And then, of course, there is Islam.

Far from declining worldwide, religion is growing. Some areas have seen a dramatic decline in believers in Christianity, such as Germany. Yet, even there, immigrants from Muslim countries are now altering the numbers of religious adherents. Areas such as Africa and Asia have seen tremendous growth in Christianity.

Not only did religion stubbornly refuse to dwindle away, religion proved to be a massive, important element in politics. In most countries - 48 out of some 78 countries studied in this book - religion played an important part in the democratization of countries. This was utterly unexpected by the elite intellectuals. Progress and democracy and religion joined, in ways never foreseen.

Nor did the secularists foresee a revitalized Islam, revitalized, not by a democratization as in other countries, but by a fundamentalist step back into the past.

The authors conclude that "the more governments try to repress or exclude religion from public life, the more such efforts will be self-defeating'" (p 214).

Fascinating book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Didaskalex VINE VOICE on July 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover
****
"Western thinkers have tended to believe that secularism was a master trend in world politics associated with the spread of democracy and economic modernization. Yet ..., religion has staged a comeback nearly everywhere, even in famously secular Europe. .... contrary to secularization theories, the resurgence of religion has been propelled by democracy ... rather than extinguished by it." -- John Ikenberry

For two centuries, secularization theorists have been claiming that religion will inevitably be marginal in the modern world. But much of the world today is as religiously polarized as ever. The authors of the new book "God's Century" examine how the Resurgent Religion influence has been driven by national resistance to modernize life styles and democratize the society, in today's politics. This book challenges the thesis that the modern world is increasingly secular. Reviewing Nietzsche's famous proclamation that, "God is dead," it seems that the rumors of His death have been greatly exaggerated. Instead, the religious anti modernization conservatives more often fire religious feelings but not tolerant belief. Expert social observers examining several regions and several religions, closely follow and explore the resurgence of religion in world affairs.

Contrary to what happened in Europe after WWII, religion's influence has surged in the Middle East, over the past decades. As a result some religious groups around the world, such as Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, are poised for a major role, after 80 years, flanked by the great influence of Wahabi fundamentalists.
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