God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis

In This Review

God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis

By Philip Jenkins
Oxford University Press, 2007
352 pp. $28.00

Jenkins, a professor of history and religious studies at Penn State University, challenges the widespread notion that Christianity is dying out in Europe. Whereas most writers on the topic focus on declining Christian practices and relatively high birthrates among Muslims in Europe, Jenkins seeks to rebut the more extreme visions of a future Europe dominated by atheists or Islamists. He does not deny well-documented social and demographic trends but notes that Muslims still make up only around four percent of the populations in most western European countries ("hardly a human deluge"), that birthrates among Muslims within Europe and in a number of Muslim countries are now falling, and that a religion need not be dominant among a population in order to thrive -- indeed, challenges to a religion's dominance can lead it to adapt creatively. Nor is Jenkins persuaded by theories of secularization positing that economic development and scientific progress inevitably erode religious beliefs -- if true, why is religion so strong in the United States? It sometimes feels like the author, who clearly wants to see Christianity survive in Europe, is looking for solace in arguments that its future is brighter than it seems. God's Continent does not always succeed in making his case, but even skeptics -- or especially skeptics -- will need to take into account this engaging challenge to the conventional wisdom.

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