In one of the more interesting election campaigns of the year, a hard-core leftist embraced religion, came out firmly against abortion and openly campaigned as if God were on his side. Election results weren't official at the time of this writing, but victory seemed a foregone conclusion. Harold Ford in Tennessee? Nope. Hillary Clinton in New York? Nope. I'm talking about Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. Ortega, the former leader of the Soviet-backed Communist Sandinista regime, is now a card-carrying Catholic (metaphorically speaking, unless Catholics actually do carry cards).
Ortega's critics say he played the religion card to get elected. (He had lost two previous bids to regain the presidency that he lost in 1990.) Whether or not the new pro-life Ortega is sincere is an interesting question, but it's irrelevant to a more interesting phenomenon: the resurgence of religion across the globe, including America.
For decades, students of modernization subscribed to an overriding assumption that, to paraphrase sociologist Peter Berger, more modernity means less religion. In the 1960s (and 1930s and 1890s), liberals were convinced that religion was dying out thanks to the new religion of progress. But as Berger recently detailed in an illuminating discussion on public radio's "Speaking of Faith," this nigh-upon universal assumption among scholars of social development has been smashed to smithereens by reality. Only Europe stands outside the worldwide religious revival. This is a challenge for some American leftist intellectuals who consider Europe the (START ITALICS) fons et origo (END ITALICS) of all enlightenment but who also believe that condescending to Third Worlders is the very definition of tolerant multiculturalism. They often square this circle by refraining from denouncing religion per se, but pooh-poohing Christianity as some sort of Western conspiracy.