Edward Norman

Like, Totally Religious

God is Back: How the Global Rise of Faith is Changing the World

By

Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 405pp £25 order from our bookshop

To the secular intelligence – and actually to anyone with an educated sense of the nature of historical change – there seems to be a relationship between modernity and the decline of religious belief. Thus the many proofs of vitality among believers in the expansive religious institutions of the world beyond the liberal West are regarded as indications of a transient phase, until material development and mass education become the harbingers of enlightenment. Then men and women will emancipate themselves from the necessity of faith, a source of conflict in human affairs will be eradicated, and the world will become, if not exactly a better place, at least a more rational one. This was the sacral thesis of confident nineteenth-century progressives and twentieth-century educational technicians. Today it is the unstated assumption conventionally encountered among the intelligentsia. And it is, according to the authors of this valuable new study of religion in the modern world, a false assumption derived from an incorrect assessment of available data. If for no other reason, it must be said that their book is to be welcomed for providing religious statistics from many parts of the world. Statistical evidence for the practice of religion has been notoriously unreliable, since it is supplied by the religious bodies themselves. Just think of all those Anglican bishops who keep assuring us that green shoots of revival are thick upon the ground because every time they turn up at a church to conduct a confirmation or to preach a sermon there seems to be such an impressive assembly. 

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Lecture on war and peace in 19th-century Europe by Professor Sir Richard Evans, Thurs 25 Oct, 6.30pm Europe House… ,
    • 'Why, throughout the world, are so many people fascinated by the fiction and reality of espionage? And why of all p… ,
    • . here on books, Muriel Spark and life's tangled dance ,
    • RT : There aren't enough aggressive subtitles these days: ,
    • Churchill's on the cover of the October edition of the magazine. Piers Brendon reviews two new books about the Brit… ,
    • 'Readers have no more power to predict where the next story is going to take them than the prisoners had to determi… ,
    • 'Ho was no Soviet or Chinese puppet. He was a nationalist first and foremost. Had the Americans just realised this.… ,