SACRED AND SECULAR: Religion and Politics Worldwide. By Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart. Cambridge Univ. Press. 329 pp. $24.99
Such grim assessments are certainly debatable. It’s a simple fact, for example, that, contrary to the current scapegoating of religion, more people were slaughtered during the 20th century under secularist regimes, led by secularist intellectuals, and in the name of secularist ideologies, than in all the religious persecutions in Western history. But there is little point in bandying about charges and countercharges. If we hope to transcend the seemingly endless culture-warring over religion, we need detailed, objective data about the state of religion in today’s world, and wise, dispassionate discussion of what this evidence means for our common life.
Is religion central or peripheral? Is it disappearing, as Auguste Comte, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Max Weber, Émile Durkheim, Sigmund Freud, and other proponents of the strong secularization thesis have claimed? Or is religion actually resurgent, as more recent observers such as Peter Berger, David Martin, Rodney Stark, and Philip Jenkins have claimed? Is it a positive force, as some have argued from the evidence of the “South African miracle,” the peaceful transition from apartheid to equality? Or is it pathological, as much of the post-9/11 commentary has assumed without argument?
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Os Guinness is a writer and speaker living in Virginia. His books include The American Hour (1993), Time for Truth (2000), and the newly published Unspeakable: Facing Up to Evil in an Age of Genocide and Terror.more from this author >>