They explore the distinction between what they call the American and European views of the relationship between religion and modernity. They say that whereas Europeans (and non-European intellectuals) tend to view modernity as undermining religion, Americans have believed that religion can thrive in the face of modernity. With this in mind, they notice a trend:
It now seems that the American model is spreading around the world: religion and modernity are going hand in hand... The very things that were supposed to destroy religion--democracy and markets, technology and reason--are combining to make it stronger. (P. 12)More specifically:
The biggest problem for the prophets of secularization is that the surge of religion is being driven by the same two things that have driven the success of market capitalism: competition and choice. (P. 21)Here's the big question for us to chew on: How might competition and choice, as they increase, actually lead to a surge in religion?
One simple explanation is that religious goods are like other goods in an important way: competition breeds innovation, which increases the choice and quality of goods available in the market, and leads to an increase in amount of goods consumed by market participants.
But this answer needs more. Innovations are also occurring in the markets of substitutes for religion, so how is religion keeping up? Will religion eventually reach a saturation point once previously closed countries have been open a sufficiently long time? Does an increased awareness of religious choice imply that religious groups are catering to satisfying what people want rather than trying to convince people to change what they value and therefore imply less staying power as people religious tastes change?
So back to the big question: If the authors are correct that God has surged back into people's lives, can we attribute any credit to increased competition and choice, and if so, how much?