April 7, 2009
Religion Still Isn't Dead
What the new American Religious Identification Survey really shows.
Some observers point to the new American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) as evidence that religion is finally in decline in the United States. However, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge say the nation's free-market principles of innovation and competition help keep religion vibrant.
Religion, no less than software or politics, is a competitive business, where organization and entrepreneurship count. Religious America is led by a series of highly inventive "pastorpreneurs" -- men like Bill Hybels of Willow Creek or Rick Warren of Saddleback. These are far more sober, thoughtful characters than the schlock-and-scandal televangelists of the 1970s, but they are not afraid to use modern business methods to get God's message across.
The authors, who this week are releasing their book God is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith is Changing the World (Penguin), have nothing to say in their Wall Street Journal article about how the forces of capitalism may affect orthodoxy for good or ill. But it is probably fair to say that reports of religion's death have been greatly exaggerated.