John Micklethwait Diagrams the State of Religion in America and the World

John Micklethwait is Editor-in-Chief of The Economist. Before that he edited the US section of the newspaper (1999 - 2006) and ran the New York Bureau for two years, having edited the Business Section of the newspaper for the previous four years. His other roles have included setting up The Economist's office in Los Angeles, where he worked from 1990 - 1993 and being Media Correspondent. He has covered business and politics from the United States, Latin America, Continental Europe, Southern Africa and most of Asia. He is a frequent broadcaster and has appeared on CNN, ABC News, BBC and NPR. He is the co-author of "The Witch Doctors", "A Future Perfect: the Challenge and Hidden Promise of Globalisation" and "The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea" and "The Right Nation", a study of conservatism in America, with Adrian Wooldridge, also an Economist journalist.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: What statistics illustrate the return of religion?

Micklethwait:    Well, there are 2 things.  One, there’s a debate about what’s happening to religion in America.  Our book is about the world.  So it’s possible for God to be back generally and America to become… be becoming marginally less religious. I mean, going from 86% to 76%, it was a bit of a drop in terms of the number of people who say that their… they belong to a specific Christian faith in America, that’s a drop by any other standard of country, it’s a lot.  And our book, like if you look at China, you look at Asia, you look at Latin America, and even if you look at Europe, you see God coming back in most places into personal lives but everywhere into public lives and so the 2 don’t necessarily contradict each other like that.  In terms of the numbers inside America, I think it’s really interesting, if you… most of them, we’ve gone through.  If you look underneath the headline numbers, what seems to be happening is a two-face thing, on the one hand, the people who were sort of not particularly, fervent believers or non-believers are definitely pushing towards… more towards Atheism.  On the other side, the people who are believers tend to be pushing more towards Evangelicals, Pentecostals, towards conservative versions of religion.  And so, to some extent, you have a polarization between those 2 and I think what’s interesting about that is that possibly it means that religion… those people imagine that religion is going to disappear from politics in America, are in for a rude shock because they’ve got both sides are going to care much more and actually to some extent, what seems to be happening in America is that the religious issue used to be the sort of Republican issue, now, it’s becoming the Democrat issue as well.  It’s now about poverty, the environment, all those things as well. So that in terms of the overall numbers, they might be a little judged in America, it always goes in waves in America.  I don’t see any sign of America becoming a non-religious country but the underlying force of what’s driving American religion along is always been pluralism, it’s been competition and I actually see Atheism as the best part of that competition.


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