Neil MacGregor at The Guardian:
Belief is back. Around the world, religion is once again politically centre stage. It is a development that seems to surprise and bewilder, indeed often to anger, the agnostic, prosperous west. Yet if we do not understand why religion can mobilise communities in this way, we have little chance of successfully managing the consequences.
If one had to choose a tipping point, a specific moment at which this change crystallised, it would probably be the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. Deeply shocking to the secular world, it appeared at the time to be pushing against the tide of history: now it seems instead to have been the harbinger of its turning. After decades of humiliating intervention by the British and the Americans, dissenting Iranian politicians – many of them far from devout – saw in the forms of Iranian Shi’ism a way of defining and asserting the country’s identity against the outsiders. The mosque, even more than the bazaar, was the space in which new national narratives could be devised and in which all of society could engage.