We are honored to have God’s Century reviewed in this forum by four distinguished scholars, three of whom – David Martin, Mark Juergensmeyer, and Jeffrey Haynes – are among those social scientists who pioneered the critical analysis of the secularization thesis that has long dominated the Western academy. Despite the prevailing conventional wisdom in ivory towers and policy circles, they demonstrated that religion matters in political and social life and have spent their distinguished (and still active) careers illuminating how it matters. The fourth contributor, William Cavanaugh, is a younger academic whose scholarship has already won wide acclaim for its powerful indictment of modern Western conceptualizations of religion in relation to politics. Precisely because our four contributors are such paradigm-busters, we find puzzling Jeffrey Haynes’ charge that the ‘strident secularist’ with whom we take issue is ‘mythical’ – one of several instances in which he judges our claims overambitious. In God’s Century we marshal voluminous evidence that up to the late 1960s, the dominant actors in global politics, both in the West and in the vast regions emerging from colonial rule, were explicitly and self-consciously secular. The trend admits of exceptions, we acknowledge, but it holds overwhelmingly. Western intellectuals understood this secularism to be destiny and these secular political actors to be battalion commanders in history’s great march towards the extinction of religion. The recent fame of aggressive ‘neo-atheists’ such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris only makes more puzzling why strident secularists should be considered mythical.


Toft, Monica Duffy. "Response to William Cavanaugh, Mark Juergensmeyer, Jeffrey Haynes and David Martin." Politics, Religion & Ideology 13.3 (September 2012): 403-407.