The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics

The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics

The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics

The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics


Theorists of "secularization" have for two centuries been saying that religion must inevitably decline in the modern world. But today, much of the world is as religious as ever. This volume challenges the belief that the modern world is increasingly secular, showing instead that modernization more often strengthens religion.

Seven leading cultural observers examine several regions and several religions and explain the resurgence of religion in world politics. Peter L. Berger "opens with a global overview. The other six writers deal with particular aspects of the religious scene:" George Weigel , with Roman Catholicism; David Martin , with the evangelical Protestant upsurge not only in the Western world but also in Latin America, Africa, the Pacific rim, China, and Eastern Europe; Jonathan Sacks , with Jews and politics in the modern world; Abdullahi A. An-Na'im , with political Islam in national politics and international relations; Grace Davie , with Europe as perhaps the exception to the desecularization thesis; and Tu Weiming , with religion in the People's Republic of China.


In 1996 John Kizer, president of the Greve Foundation, approached Andrew Bacevich with an idea. Bacevich was then executive director of the Foreign Policy Institute at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. the news, Kizer said, was filled with reports of the impact of religion on politics: the evangelical upsurge in Latin America, Muslim-Christian rivalries in Africa, disputes between Arabs and Israelis, secularist-religious struggles in Turkey, Muslim fundamentalists fighting a secularizing military in Algeria, Hindu fundamentalists beating the Congress Party in India. How about taking a longer look at these phenomena to see how religion is likely to influence politics in the coming century?

Accepting the challenge, Professor Bacevich consulted us at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where the impact of religion on public life is a central concern. Could the Nitze School and the Center together launch a lecture series on this subject, attempting to cover the main religions and regions of the world? We quickly roped in Professor Peter Berger of Boston University, perhaps the world’s leading sociologist of religion: would he help us think through the project and choose the speakers, and would he deliver the first lecture himself? He agreed to do so, and we began our work.

The product of that joint effort is presented in this volume, whose title is taken from Professor Berger’s powerful keynote lecture. We were fortunate to be able to recruit as lecturers some of the leading students of religion and politics in the world: Tu Weiming, the direc-

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