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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 commerce would benefit consumers. This has proven correct. The European custom of connecting the state and religion has secularized belief and increased atheism. The pluralism of America has produced believers around the world.

Chapter one covers two reasons for the triumph of secularism in Europe. First was confidence in human reason to bring peace and religion to bring war. Second was confidence in human goodness.

They note that Robespierre devised a new religion, The Cult of the Supreme Being. (Page 35) "The revolutionaries set the fashion or all subsequent assault on religion - replacing the worship of God with the worship of man. Alexis de Tocqueville complained that they turn the revolution itself into a new kind of religion, an incomplete religion it is true, without God. . . But one which nevertheless, like Islam, flooded the earth with its soldiers, apostles and martyrs."

"this tradition was picked up by many others. Saint-Simon, the god father of French socialism, christened his philosophy the new Christianity - what was new about it being the substitution of man for God."

They connect Karl Marx to this goal to replace god with Man. Marx's writing is full of Christian symbolism used for his ends. "communism is heaven, the revolution is the last judgment, workers are the saved and capitalists the damned. "

They explain that four secular faiths replaced Christianity: Science, culture, the nation-state and socialism. They most powerful is science. One of the products of this cult was social Darwinism. The epicenter of this worship of race was Germany. This worship was based on the scientific belief in evolution. The University of strausbourg had six thousand volumes on race.

(Page 46) "Hegel regarded the state as 'the divine idea as it exists on earth' and, more famously, 'as the march of God in the world.'. . 'It is the embodiment of the ethical principal and rational purpose - all knowing and all providing. The essence of human freedom lies in surrendering your will to the higher will of the state.' These ideas naturally appealed to politicians keen to increase their power, especially ones found the church on their way."

This faith is now fading due to the horrible actions of State worshipers in WWI and then Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Tojo, etc..

(Page 48) "Both Hitler and Stalin owed a debt to Hegel's idea that freedom lies in the "realm of necessity" - submerging the individuals will into the will of the collective- And that HISTORY's purposes justify the crushing of individual rights."

In examining the history of belief in America, they note Jefferson's comment that the future lay with Unitarianism (non-trinitarian Christianity) "I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian." (Page 68) Priestly convinced Jefferson to convert in his old age.

The authors repeat W.E.H. Lecky's conclusion that the Peace of Westphalia (1648) ended the wars of religion and created the secular European world thereafter. However, after four hundred years, this 'Westphalian' peace has disappeared. "The greatest change in foreign-policy in the recent past has been revival of religion. It is impossible to understand international affairs today without taking faith into account. The most important single political act of the 21st century so far - the terrorist attacks of September 11 - was an act of religious war. . . Many European statesman are fixated on the possibility of a religious war between radical Islam and Christian America - probably with Israel as the proximate cause." (Page 299)

Clear writing. Provides historical background. Persuasive argument that religion, both the theological and secular types, are the driving forces of today's world. The intellectual world that has ignored and ejected religious ideas from consideration needs to reconsider. Very difficult.
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on July 22, 2017
Offers an explanation of the current status of religion in the world. Has an international appeal that explains cultural behaviors.
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on July 17, 2016
Well written, factual, worldview, although not Christian per se,credible and reliable nevertheless.
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on May 9, 2010
A bit of a heavy read. However, well researched and very informative. "God is Back" does not blindly accept the claims of "Christian" or "Secular" America in it's review of the religious beginnings of the United States. Does a good job showing how the relationships of religion and capitalism play on each other, in effect, promoting one another throughout the history of the U.S. A good book for the religious-minded as much as the atheist.
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on April 22, 2010
For anyone of faith, this book has to be a 'must read'. This is one of the best books I have read on the growth of contemporary Christianity across the globe. For some readers it will spell a bright future, while for others it could make depressing reading. If you are at all interested in where Christianity has come from in recent years and where it is headed, I strongly recommend you read 'God is Back'!
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on February 2, 2014
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 order to understand it or to oppose it
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on July 30, 2015
Exactly what I needed.
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A few years ago, philosopher Daniel Dennett wrote a book - "Breaking the Spell," - that proposed to analyze religion from an evolutionary perspective. This book - "God is Back" - could serve as an interesting companion piece. In it, journalist John Micklethwait (of The Nation) proposes to examine religion through an economic lens. Just like businesses compete for customers via offering consumers a superior product, Micklethwait suggests that competing religions and sects can be analyzed in the same way: competing for members by offering rival products and filling different "market" niches.

The first section of this book looks at a curious contradition that makes Micklethwait's case. In Wester Europe, there are a plethora of established "national" churches, but citizens' religiosity has long been on the decline. In the US, which has no established religion either nationally or by the states, religion has been flourishing. Why does a non-establishment of religion seem to strengthen, rather than weaken, religion? Because it encourages religions and sects to compete for members and leaves them free to experiment, innovate, tweak and advertise, all without having to consult with government.

The big winners of this American laissez-faire attitude, according to Mickletwhait, has been the "hot" religions that speak to the raw emotions - fundamentalist faiths like methodism and pentacostalism (uncoincidantally, both American inventions). Like good businesses, religions advertise aggressively, offer consumers immediate gratification/payoff, and cater to what "customers" want. Unlike some of the more traditional or cerebral varieties of religious experience, these religions are more celebratory and less cumbersome.

The next section focuses on how religions - and particularly Christianity - have embraced modern technology in order to get the word out, advertise, and grapple with a changing market (that is younger and more tech-attuned). We explore the phenomenon of mega-churches that are ruun more like bueinesses than country churches, a growing market for religious literature, film, and music, and religion's creative use of tools like the internet. Like any good businesses, religion uses whatever media prove to be the most effective in order to win new "clients" and keep current ones coming back.

Lastly, we get to the section discussing religion's increasing presence in the world, from holy wars to the culture wars. To my eyes, this section is a bit far afield of what seems to be the book's general theme of religion's economy-like properties. But the author does do a good job in showing that, far from modernity marginalizing religion, modernity seems to be witnessing an increase of religious zeal and discussion (whether for good or ill.)

Throughout this well-reasoned and thoughtful book, John Micklethwait takes a very neutral approach to religion. I suspect that he is a believing Christian, but the fact that I am not quite certain of that should speak to the good job the author does remaining detached. Is he exciting about the economics of religion or religion or Christianity? I couldn't tell from reading this book.

But I did learn quite a bit and think quite a bit. The author states his case well, and it is an interesting one - one you may want to check out.
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on February 12, 2010
I enjoyed this book and the solid information it provided on the revival of religion in the 21st century. I find it interesting that a couple of journalists and economists would note the trends towards this revival and present it in an interesting and compelling way. The contrast between the American and European view on religion and society is remarkable and insightful.

Tom McCloskey
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on March 14, 2012
Like the disparate religious views of its authors, the book will appeal to a wide reading public. It is well-written and carefully researched. Whether describing religious activity in China or Philadelphia, the anecdotal accounts are enjoyable and its analysis of the global influence of religion makes it very informative. Christian believers will be encouraged, unbelievers will be worried because the book makes a good case that God is back.
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