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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[…]

Religion is now a means for social advancement around the world.

Question: Why is religion increasingly polarized?

Micklethwait:    It’s hard to say, I think a particular thing recently would seem to be Bush.  I mean, Bush took a lot of people who didn’t really care that much about religion and turn them into quite, sort of, savage disbelievers, people who are suddenly confronted with the idea of a Theocracy, confronted with the idea of somebody who really wanted to seem to put the church right in the middle of American life.  That actually persuaded, I think, quite a lot of people that actually God was, you know, just get him out of the system and you see that in the reception of people like Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and people like that.  But I think what’s also interesting about Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens is that they are, you know, they’re reacting to something.  You don’t write a book saying God is not great if you think you’ve won the argument and what’s really interesting from a big global perspective is, I think, for most of the 20th Century, the elite, the global elite, have always identified modernization with secularization and in America, what we see as an outlier or a strange thing but in the end it would come in and what’s happening very much where our book is about is you look around the world at the moment, the more modern lots of countries are becoming, the more religious they’re getting.  Go to… you know, I went to Turkey, go and see Ataturk, you know, he totally believed in pulling Islam out of the system.  Now, very much, you have the modern bourgeoisie who are very much the people Ataturk wanted to create, they’re the ones who’re actually vote for the AK party, go to India, you see exactly the same with the BJP, it’s a modern people who… [Nehru] desperately wanted to create, that’s [Nehru] grandson now, quite a strong religious things, exactly those people are voting the BJP, go to China… the book begins in China on a house church, the people in that house church, were absolutely the modern China, their stem cell scientists, their professors, their bankers, their high-tech executives and for them Evangelical Christianity is almost a sort of way to get ahead in the world, that’s very much the way in which they see it.  And so around the world, whether… you know, this book is not a book saying God is good or God is bad, he exists or he doesn’t, it’s an examination of a phenomenon and the phenomenon is the religion is back in the world, is back in politics, it’s back in public life and that has good and bad consequences.  It has plenty of good things to do with people having choice but we also detail lots of stuff like wars of religion where the culture wars are going global but that is basically is the world that you have to live with, you rather run away from that or else you could start dealing with it.