... Faith in the future.
It is one thing to argue that the model of universal secularisation is mistaken, and to show – as the authors do very effectively – that the decline of religion in Europe is not going to be repeated worldwide. It is another thing altogether to suggest that an American kind of religiosity is spreading nearly everywhere.
One problem is the conception of religion the authors deploy.
Nearly always, religion for them means monotheism – more specifically, Christianity and Islam. Polytheistic and non-theistic religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism are allowed a few pages, but only in order to argue that “American methods can work” even for them.
I have at times been critical of John Gray, but this is an excellent, well-balanced review. I have always thought it interesting that secularists should find America's persistent religiosity peculiar, given that so many of its colonies were established for religious reasons. Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman may not have been conventional churchgoers, but they sure were religious. Also, with its veneration of saints, Catholicism is much more compatible with polytheism than Evangelical Protestantism. My neighborhood has lately been graced with a large number of immigrants from Mexico. Their religiosity may not be conventionally American, either, but it is genuine and deep. Our Lady of Guadalupe rules. Gray hits the bull's-eye with this:
God is Back may not show that the American way of religion is uniquely well suited to the modern condition. Where this urgently relevant book succeeds triumphantly is in demolishing the myth of an emerging secular civilisation.