John Micklethwait on Religion in America

John Micklethwait on Religion in America

AEI Event: “God is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith is Changing the World,” April 6, 2009

Since the Enlightenment, intellectuals have assumed that modernization would kill religion–and that religious America was an oddity. Yet from Russia to Turkey to India, nations that swore off faith in the last century–or even tried to stamp it out–are now experiencing a new religious fervor. While this global rise of faith has had a far-reaching impact and the destabilizing effects of this religious zeal combined with political unrest can already be seen, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, both of The Economist, argue in their new book, God Is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith Is Changing the World (Penguin Press, April 2009), that religion and modernity can thrive together.

Viewing America as the new norm, the authors describe how the same American ideas that created the United States’ unique religious style can be applied around the globe. Micklethwait and Wooldridge propose that this twenty-first-century religion, fueled by an American emphasis on competition and a customer-driven approach to salvation, could channel the rising tide of faith away from volatility and violence as market forces reshape the world. At this event, the authors were joined by Luis E. Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. AEI’s Henry Olsen moderated.

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if you want to understand why religion is doing so well nowadays I think you only need to set takes one is the wealth of nations and the other is the American Constitution Smith was incredibly direct about the reason why non established clergy ie ones who weren't paid by the state did better than the ones who were and the reason was they had to go and compete for people's souls and in the American Constitution you had a system that bread competition one of the most interesting things about American history is if you go and look at the period before the Revolution America was pretty religious but not that religious and one the most amazing statistics to me was in Salem a town which I'd always assumed was you know Puritan beyond most reproach in 1683 eighty-three percent of the taxpayers had no religious identification yes the Puritans came to America but also so came robber a lot of criminals and active young men who had slightly less enthusiasm for the godly ways but what happened afterwards was once they set the thing going competition pushed the rest of it forward in many ways I think it still comes down to basic supply and demand I'm sorry to put it in such business terms for people who come at it from a more pious end but people are doing to religion because it is doing things for them on the one hand it's religion helps protect people in the world that's true in some cases in much more cases though I think it's helping people getting on helping people get ahead I don't need any coincidence at all that the most successful religious book of recent history is called the purpose driven life what on earth am I here for scientists interestingly have begun to change as we said at the beginning what's happened is that some scientists are still looking about the existence of God whether he's there many more actually are now beginning to look at why does religion work what happens they're doing old experiments like putting um nuns and Buddhist mystics in two mmor machines not am Italy at the same time and studying what happens to their brains when they pray so in the one hand there is demand there's a reason why Ned Flanders is smiling happiness I know a subject which the which the AEI is followed a lot these these are fits and these are areas that religion is actually delivering on it is also I think a lot to do with supply religions now a huge industry most obviously in America but also going abroad we detail it in in great length and I'll in our in our book it's partly to do with the pastor preneur Peter Drucker was very very early on to this he spotted that actually the American mega churches were one of the best organizations of the later half of the 20th century fantastically efficient at reaching out to people there's something for everybody from biker services Bibles for tweens God cars you name it and now this model is being exported it's being exported to places like South Korea again I went to their to go look at the biggest church of the World Church in the world where 830,000 members in the middle of Seoul in fact there are five out of the biggest ten churches in the world in Korea and the Koreans have taken the American model of competitive the religion adapted it and then tried to react sport it back there back back here and the same thing is happening in countries like Guatemala there's a big new building they're called mega ferrata which adrian went to or big brother which you reach rather wonderfully via burger king drive competition is also working with other faiths as well what's happening is as the Protestants push hard in Korea you get reply from the local religions as the evangelicals push hard in Latin America the Catholics are learning how to battle back and it's no longer just a Christian thing either Hinduism is getting on the act you gain visit a place in bangalore as Adrian did you hindi hindu ashram you discover a boardroom a CEO monk and the system for run or near business like efficiency the new preachers of the Islamic world are very different from old fashioned Imams they use all the tools of modern technology such as television the internet and cell phones so it's not just America and it's not just Christian but Christian America is still and I this is generalization but it's still fundamentally the model


  1. He squeezed Islam to prove his point, Muslim Imams don't make Islam as a business, you will not find one Muslim Imam makes his own mosque or his own congregation, and collect money for himself, I challenge anybody to find an example of that. In fact, if any Muslim try to do that, no Muslim will attend prayers with them.

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