If the world’s great thinkers have agreed on anything, it is that religion and modernity are incompatible, says Adrian Wooldridge in Engelsberg Ideas. Voltaire gave religion 50 years to live, Marx reckoned the proletariat would topple the church, and Nietzsche pronounced that “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.” Modern thinking is no different. “The Economist was so confident of the Almighty’s demise that it published His obituary in its millennium issue.”
They’re all wrong. The pivotal political event of the 21st century – 9/11 – was an exercise in religious fanaticism. New religions like Pentecostalism have gained hundreds of millions of followers in a few decades. In Russia and China, the two countries that tried hardest to stamp out faith in the 20th century, religion is surging. Vladimir Putin understands the societal importance of the church so much that he constantly wears a baptismal cross; in China there are likely more Christians than Communist Party members. It’s unsurprising. Technology has made it easier for religions to get their message across (think “televangelists” and “godcasting”) and modernisation has turned religion from an inheritance into a choice. Now that we have new religions and more religious freedom, people can “pick and choose” between different faiths. And as the modern world becomes more unstable, the solidity of religion becomes more appealing. “It turns out that modernisation is not the enemy of religion, but its friend.”
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