Contrasting the European model of religion (in continual decline) with the American (in continual surge), the authors find that the U.S. model is winning worldwide.
Economist editors Micklethwait and Wooldridge (The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, 2004, etc.) put forth a global argument, but also make clear their thesis that faith must be seen within these two competing spheres, as the European and American models have been imposing themselves upon the rest of the world for decades, if not centuries. The European model—of forced or state-sponsored religion overcome through secularization and, at times, revolution—was predominant until the 1970s. In that era, however, a tipping point was reached that favored the American model of free choice in religion, followed by a flourishing of faith. Christianity in Asia, Africa and South America especially evidences this change, as does Islam in places like Dubai where it “sits quite comfortably with modernity,” as the authors put it. “But in its Arab heartland,” they continue, “it plainly does not…it remains the world religion that has found pluralism the hardest to cope with.” Using such terms as “soulcraft,” “pastorpreneurial” and “hot religion,” Micklethwait and Wooldridge explore how global religious leaders of all stripes are using the free market of ideas and faiths to win converts and build communities. They contend that, despite ongoing religious violence, in comparison to the past wars of faith in Europe, most religious conflicts today are limited and localized. Naysayers could argue about the exclusion of particular groups or regions, but the authors have been as comprehensive as possible without turning the book into an unworkably long tome. Their readable text is enlivened by an Economist-style sense of humor.
A meaningful contribution to the ongoing conversation about the place of faith in modern life.