Religion Is Always There

The varied and complex relations between religion and power can be understood only by means of extensive comparisons, between nations and across time.  Who better to demonstrate this than Prof. David Martin, the doyen of the comparative sociology of religion?

Martin’s first achievement is to refute “the general theory of secularisation,” which has enjoyed so much popular appeal among progressive intellectuals.  It is essentially a European theory based on the steady decline of faith in most of that continent from a peak in the late 19th century to the bleakness of Scandinavia today, and the almost total lack of religion in Estonia and the Czech Republic.  Europe stands on Dover Beach.  The once unbendingly Catholic countries of Western Europe, such as Spain and Ireland, are now haunted by anticlericalism; Ireland’s recent vote for same-sex “marriage” was a manifestation of this.

Martin’s great achievement was to recognize far earlier than others the massive countercurrents to this trend, and he did so long before the resurgence of Islam.  He noted in particular the strong growth of Pentecostalism in South America and the continued vitality of religion in such highly advanced countries as the United States and South Korea, countries whose modernity is beyond question.  In this, his most recent book, he is also able to point to the revival of Orthodox...

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