Wednesday, August 19, 2009

God Is Winning: Religion in Global Politics – Gen Kennedy

Marshall, P., Gilbert, L., & Green-Ahmanson, R. 2009. Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion, Oxford University Press, New York.

Shah and Toft’s chapter, God Is Winning: Religion in Global Politics, aims to evaluate the presence, impact and growth of religion in world politics. Their central claim goes against what they refer to as ‘conventional wisdom’ – a general feeling, particularly in Western countries, that advanced science and modernity are leading to the demise of religion. Shah and Toft argue, conversely, that, “if there is any consistent loser in the proverbial “battle for the world’s hearts and minds,” it is secularism...If there is any consistent winner, it may be none other than God himself.” (Shah & Toft, 2009, p.12)

A case studied in the article was the Hamas victory in the Palestine Legislative Council elections in 2006. Hamas is a Palestinian-Islamic political organisation, which includes a military force. According to the article, Hamas is a ‘prophet politics’ group who act through both elections and force to have an impact on global politics. The organisation’s decisive victory against Fatah was a leap forward in the bid to achieve a total amalgamation of church and state – and in many minds, representative of the resurgence of religion the world over.

Shah and Toft define ‘prophet politics’ as a phenomenon in which “voices claiming transcendent authority are filling public spaces and winning key political contests.”(Shah & Toft, 2009, p.11). Prophet politics has been a major force on the world political spectrum for the last forty years. While certainly not the motivating agent, Shah and Toft use the 1966 ‘Is God Dead?’ cover of TIME Magazine as an approximate starting date for a serious resurgence in religion, and religious-political overlap. The seminar presentation and worksheet list several examples of this shift, particularly in the decade following the cover.

Shah and Toft effectively demonstrate that not only has religion made an increased impact upon the political spectrum, but also that this change has been taking place for at least the last four decades. While in Australia and Europe church attendance figures are declining, this trend is not representative of the global religious movement. Most country’s religious trends are steady or even rising – and more significantly, the average religious person is growing more extreme in their beliefs and attitudes towards politics.

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