Analysis & Opinions - Public Discourse

God and Democratic Diplomacy

  • Timothy Samuel Shah
  • Daniel Philpott
| May 18, 2011

We can no longer afford to hang on to secularization theories as we design policy for nations from Libya to Egypt, Iran to Pakistan, Nigeria to Indonesia, and the numerous other societies being reshaped by the partisans of God in the 21st century. The second in a three-part series.

It is no surprise that after a generation of political scientists was trained to ignore religion (as we argued in part I of this article), our current diplomacy takes a similarly myopic approach. On February 10th, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a congressional committee that the Islamic Brotherhood is a "largely secular" organization. With equal glibness, other analysts have declared that the Brotherhood is a scary sect waiting to establish a violent theocracy. Others just can't think calmly or coherently when any kind of religion appears on the horizon. When the Washington Post's David Ignatius was in Tahrir Square for the February 18th "Victory March," he found the mere sight of ordinary Egyptians staging mass prayers "unnerving." Such is the subtlety of our secularist outlooks, which regard religious people either as not really religious at all or else as necessarily irrational, violent, and frightening.

In God’s Century, we argue that if American foreign policymakers want to promote democracy and stability, they must come to realize that secularism is a poor analytical tool. The great surprise of the past generation of global politics is a resurgence of religion's political influence across the world. Despite a powerful array of secularizing regimes, ideologies, and social trends, the self-proclaimed partisans of God outlasted and politically outcompeted the self-proclaimed enemies of God....

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Part 3 of this series, "God and Terror," was published on May 20, 2011.

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Shah, Timothy, Daniel Philpott, and Monica Toft.“God and Democratic Diplomacy.” Public Discourse, May 18, 2011.

The Authors