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Here’s the future of religion

More notes from  God is Back by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge got these notes from David Mays. Please check out his site.   The authors say a huge world of faith has been hidden from Western intellectuals, who assumed modernity would kill religion.  Twenty-first cen…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
More notes from  God is Back by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge got these notes from David Mays. Please check out his site.
The authors say a huge world of faith has been hidden from Western
intellectuals, who assumed modernity would kill religion.  Twenty-first
century faith is being fueled by a very American emphasis on choice and
competition.  The global rise of faith is powerfully impacting and
destabilizing our century.

The First Amendment created tolerance in its fullest sense and it
introduced competition.  It was up to churches to get people in the
Religious revival continued after the Second World War.  Church
membership rose to 69% in 1959 and religion regained some intellectual
prestige.  There were remarkable steps forward in religious toleration. 
If the religious wars of the early twentieth century were ignited by
the overreach of America’s Evangelicals over alcohol and evolution, the
religious wars of the second half were ignited by the overreach of those
bent on driving religion to the margins of American society. The
Supreme Court decision to remove prayer and Bible reading from public
schools was followed shortly by a permissive decision on pornography and
the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion.  Evangelical America
showed a resurgence led by Billy Graham, Bill Bright, Jerry Falwell, Pat
Robertson, and The Moral Majority.  The rise of the religious right
bound Evangelical Protestants to conservatives of other religious
traditions. Several presidents articulated their Christian commitments.

Capitalism and the Rise of Religion
Nashville is a place where God and Mammon happily coexist.  American
religion has a competitive advantage.  Religious products make up a $6
billion business.  America leads in producing religious entrepreneurs
and empires.  Mainstream media is getting in the business.  Faith based
companies are pushing into the mainstream market as well.  Christians
are increasingly media savvy.   The modern corporate model is working
well for worship in the total service mega churches. Some preachers are
worried they are producing a tribe of spectators who come only for the
spectacle, the Disneyfication of religion.  The megachurches are simply
using the tools of American society to spread religion where it
wouldn’t otherwise exist…. The megachurches may be soft on the
surface, but they are hard on the inside. You may start out in a
Disney theme park but you end up in the heart of Evangelical America.

God and the Intellectuals

There is a resurgence of interest in religion among America’s
intellectual elite.  A number are being caught up in the religious
revival.  For most of human history the intellectual elite have been
religious.  Theology was the queen of the sciences.  The return to
religion was supercharged by 9/11.  

William F. Buckley was instrumental with his 1951 bombshell, God and Man
in Yale followed by his founding of the National Review.  Evangelicals
are starting to produce scholars again.  Abut 10% of undergraduates at
Ivy League Colleges are regularly involved in Evangelical groups. 
Harvard now has a chair in Evangelical Theological Studies.  

Exporting America’s God

Pentecostalism is the great religious success story of the 20th
century.  It can be seen everywhere in the developing world. 
Christianity in Latin America and Korea is being fueled by the embrace
of the free market (competition) and individual choice.   

Everywhere you look in religious America, Christians and churches are
taking the Bible’s ‘great commission’ to ‘make disciples of all nations’
to heart.”  There is a vigorous ‘Christian solidarity’ movement
in America.  The campaign against religious persecution quickly
developed into a wide-ranging campaign against everything from sex
trafficking to slavery. Religious organizations provided $8.8
billon in foreign aid in 2006, 37% of all U.S. government foreign aid.

Missionary work is dangerous, so why is it growing? 

1.  The success of
‘hot’ religion (growth of evangelicals),
2.  The boom in short-term missions
(which is having a big impact on the next generations), and
3.  The
growing sophistication of missionary activity.  At the same time
immigrants are helping reshape American religion.  And developing
countries are sending missionaries here.


The great forces of modernity–technology and democracy, choice and
freedom–are all strengthening religion rather than undermining it. Democracy is giving the world’s people their voice and they want to
talk about God. The world
is generally moving in the American direction – with three caveats. 
1.  The relationship between religion and modernity is far from smooth
for many believers. 
2.  This does not mean that the alternatives
3.  The natural accompaniment of modernity is not
religiosity but pluralism: religious beliefs become competitors in the

Excerpts from  God is Back
by John Micklethwait is the editor in chief and Adrian Wooldridge is
the management editor for The Economist. One is an atheist and one a

Comments (5)

  • Regarding comments by Mr. Maltby

    Lately I have been preoccupied with the casualness of our conversation in our own home and in particular the common use of the word “Holy”. Maybe I am just an old-fasioned out-of-touch grandmother, but just this week in reading time with my two twenty-something children who happen to have Down Syndrome we were discussing the possibility of deleting such phrases as “holy cow”, “holy mackeral”, and “holy doodle” from our vocabulary.

    We had a fun time trying wholly and holey as replacement adjectives for cows and mackerals and doodles. And being really sad for the people group in India that mistakenly believe that the cow is really worshiped having many gods in her stomach.

    I was remembering some of the phrases that my 3 year old (nearly perfect) grandson had repeated in my presence a few weeks ago. I was so sad to hear what he had picked up from somewhere. I had then resolved to be more intentional about the quality of my own speech and the encouragment of other Christ followers and children who are in my sphere of influence to a higher standard of language.

    As a farmer’s daughter I did my share of literally shovelling that stuff but I want to severe that word from the one word that so fittingly describes my LORD.
    I guess I should spend less time keeping up with my favourite blogs and more time with the “little children.”

  • Hi Seth….Thank you again for your daily insights which I value and a friendship even more. Blessings to Karen in your current travels…

    Sitting up in the mountains of Colorado having finally finished a first manuscript with some edits the passion now is to take the next few months and complete a book I discussed with you in your home and one which will be hard but heard.

    Confessions of a Christian Marketing Man…

    Complete with a polygraph test on what is now 27 points of fact… I’m ready…

    Prayed today for the WR team…


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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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