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<em>God's Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics</em>

God's Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics

Book, W.W. Norton & Company

March 2011

Authors: Monica Duffy Toft, Former Associate Professor of Public Policy; Former Board Member, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Former Director, Initiative on Religion and International Affairs., Daniel Philpott, Timothy Samuel Shah

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Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security; Religion in International Affairs



A fresh and illuminating perspective on the surge in religion's political influence across the globe.

Is religion a force for good or evil in world politics? How much influence does it have? Despite predictions of its decline, religion has resurged in political influence across the globe, helped by the very forces that were supposed to bury it: democracy, globalization, and technology. And despite recent claims that religion is exclusively irrational and violent, its political influence is in fact diverse, sometimes promoting civil war and terrorism but at other times fostering democracy, reconciliation, and peace. Looking across the globe, the authors explain what generates these radically divergent behaviors. In a time when the public discussion of religion is overheated, these dynamic young scholars use deeply original analysis and sharp case studies to show us both how and why religion's influence on global politics is surging. Finally they offer concrete suggestions on how to both confront the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities posed by globally resurgent religion.



" exemplary study of global developments by political scientists interested in the role of 'religious actors'...."

Read the Times Literary Supplement review of God's Century here> (login required)

"...the authors make a convincing case that religion will remain a significant influence in world politics and a potent force in international relations."

Read the Choice Review Online review of God's Century here> (login required)

" of the most important books of the year."

Read the "Books and Culture" review of God's Century on the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs website here>

"A very necessary book, which offers a series of admirably well-informed snapshots of various contexts around the world.  It makes a powerful case for a far more creative engagement by Western governments with communities of faith at home and abroad, recognizing their immense potential for reconciliation while being realistic about their capacity. The insight…that the transglobal relationships involved in Christian identity will in the long run have major consequences for the social future of China is only one of the thought-provoking points so well made in this very accessible volume."
The Most Reverend Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

"Since at least the 1950s, Western thinkers have tended to believe that secularism was a master trend in world politics associated with the spread of democracy and economic modernization. Yet as this groundbreaking book argues, religion has staged a comeback nearly everywhere — even in famously secular Europe. The book's intriguing thesis is that contrary to secularization theories, the resurgence of religion has been propelled by democracy and modernization rather than extinguished by it…."
G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs

"God's Century is an important contribution to the contemporary debate about the role of religion in international affairs. The authors of this well-written book address not merely the issue of whether religion's importance is up or down but also the even more interesting issue of why the political consequences of religion differ from time to time and place to place."
Robert D. Putnam, Harvard University

"The subject of religion and politics conjures powerful emotions for and against, so it is extremely valuable to have a sober and informative guide to the role of faith in contemporary international relations.  God's Century traces both the reasons behind religion's surprising comeback and how it will shape the future of global politics."
Francis Fukuyama, Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute, Stanford University

"Nietzsche famously declared that 'God is dead.' [The authors] suggest that the rumors of His death have been greatly exaggerated. [They] claim that the influence of religion on the thinking and behavior of human beings may be stronger than ever, and they explore the implications of that influence over each of us as individuals and the world as a whole. Is religion a force for good or evil in politics? How much influence does and should it have? These are just two of the larger questions that the authors ask and then attempt to answer. Their sharp analysis, meticulous research and original thinking make for an enjoyable reading experience, and their willingness to unpack subtleties and address complexity keep their work from becoming biased or one-sided…. The authors…consider how religion might be a force for good and not for ill, and these specifics are the most engaging parts of the book. [They] offer concrete suggestions for confronting the challenges that religion's influence can bring, as well as making the most of the unique perspective offered by religious thinkers and doers…. In an age of Osteen and Hitchens, it's refreshing to see the subject of religion addressed in this nonpartisan, insightful way."
Kirkus Reviews

"Political scientists Toft (The Geography of Ethnic Violence), Philpott, and Shah explore the recent burgeoning political influence of religion in a timely treatise. The authors contend that religion's waning influence in politics—which dated from the Enlightenment and peaked in the 1960s—has seen a 40-year reversal; at present, 'major religious actors... enjoy greater capacity for political influence today than at any time in modern history—and perhaps ever.' This revival—manifested in developments like the 'Islamic resurgence' and the rise of the religious Right in the U.S.—was rooted in a crisis in such secular ideologies as socialism, and has been nurtured by globalization and modern technologies like the Internet…This is a lucid and surprisingly seamless collaboration that should appeal to serious students of modern politics.”
Publisher's Weekly

"While Europe is 'de-Christianizing,' the rest of the world is flocking to God like never before and using the divinity in surprisingly diverse ways, both malevolent and benign.  God's Century explains why—and how God has again become a major figure in global politics.  A fresh counterpoint to the conventional wisdom that modernization spells secularization.”
Josef Joffe, editor, Die Zeit


For more information about this publication please contact the ISP Program Coordinator at 617-496-1981.

For Academic Citation:

Toft, Monica Duffy, Daniel Philpott, and Timothy Samuel Shaw. God's Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, March 2011.

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