Book Review: The Triumph Of Faith

The Triumph Of Faith:  Why The World Is More Religious Than Ever, by Rodney Stark

There are a great many books that are written that lament the seeming hold of ethical monotheism in general and Christianity in particular on the West or in the world at large [1].  What this book does is seek to reframe the discussion of faith by discussing the fact that the world is increasingly religious, although necessarily in a churched sense, and that even in areas that are not Christian, especially in East Asia, educated elites are far more likely to be Christian than uneducated masses, and thus Christianity has become increasingly influential because Christianity has been able to thrive in competition better than many other faiths.  The author also explores the rise of superstition in those areas that are not friendly to the ethical demands of Christianity or the fellowship in churches.  The author also points, out, though, that going to church in many of these areas was not particularly common in the past, though, so the lack of fellowship in the present in many areas is also not particularly uncommon.  Overall, in the author’s thinking, Chesterton’s comment that those who do not believe in God will believe in anything appears to be well-supported by data.

This book is a bit more than 200 pages and is divided into ten chapters.  The author begins with an introduction about how the truth confounds those who are the faithful in the idea that the world is becoming increasingly secular.  After that the author provides a global picture of faith (1).  This leads to a discussion of various regions around the world, as the author talks about the grand illusions of the lack of faith in Europe (2), the churching of Latin America in the face of competition between Catholics and Pentecostals (3), the intensification of Islam (4), the increasing Christian piety of Sub-Saharan Africa (5), the religious but unchurched Japanese (6), the gradual conversion of China to a more Christian faith (7), faith in the four Asian tigers (8), which show similar patterns of being increasingly Christian the more educated one happens to be, the Hindu revival in India (9), which has caused a problem with India’s religious minorities, and the religious nature of America (10).  All of these chapters, filled with charts and interesting cross-tabulated statistics, lead to a conclusion where the author discusses why it is that faith endures, after which the book ends with notes, a bibliography, and an index.

If one concedes the author’s point for the sake of argument, it is worth noting that the author does not consider the triumph of faith to be necessarily a good thing.  The author notes, for example, that the immensely common nature of Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa has not led to better  government in those places, and thus the people of that area live in misery despite being converted to a better religious belief system than they had before with their native superstitions.  The author also notes that increased religious belief, if that belief is unchurched, does not lead to increased moral behavior, which is precisely what one would expect from a religion that lacks a strong enough public component.  Additionally, the author notes that the increased religious faith in the world of various kinds has also increased conflict between different faiths, which is what we have seen in the world around us, which is something we ought to pay attention to as the source of trouble.  We might wake up to think that increasing faith was a good thing only to realize that it caused a great deal of trouble because the faith was not the right one.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/03/22/book-review-arab-spring-christian-winter/

 

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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