Sustain-Ability?   /   Summer 2012   /    Book Reviews

Monica Duffy Toft, Daniel Philpott, and Timothy Samuel Shah’s

God’s Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics

Grace Davie

God’s Century is an important book with a very clear theme. It describes and explains the resurgence of religion in the final quarter of the twentieth century, arguing that—like it or not—religion is here to stay. It follows that we need not only to take note of the significance of religion in the modern world order, but also to understand the factors that lie behind this very  diversephenomenon . The latter point is important. Religion is hugely varied both in itself and in the effect that it has on any given society: it can endorse the democratic order, it can engender terrorism, it can create and sustain civil wars, and it can help to heal the wounds of earlier conflicts.

How so? The core of this book lies in trying to understand these questions: what is happening with regard to religion and why? It begins with a statement that is counterintuitive for many people. The resurgence of religion, these authors argue, “has been driven by religious people’s desire for freedom” (9), especially the desire to live out their faith in the public as well as the private realm. Such initiatives, moreover, have benefited hugely from the forces closely associated with modernity—notably democracy, advanced communication and technology, and globalization. Religion, it follows, is a highly modern, forward-looking phenomenon.

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