N. J. Demerath III describes the complex interaction between religion, politics, and the state in fourteen nations across the globe: Brazil, China, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, and Thailand.
Traveling to each of these countries, Demerath uncovers the historical roots of interaction between religion and politics in these states, asking questions such as: (1) what are the basic fault lines along which current tensions and conflicts have formed? and (2) how have the changes occurred in the general civic polity and how do their trajectories inform an assessment for the future?
The first part of the book thematically arranges countries Demerath traveled into five clusters. Issues of oppression, liberation, and competition in relation to religion run through his accounts of the South American countries of Brazil and Guatemala. Poland, Northern Ireland, and Sweden exemplify troubles and changes in European Christendom. Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan, and Indonesia provide instances of problems particular to Islamic societies despite obvious differences among these countries. Israel and India are portrayed as multi-religious entities, each with their own explicitly partisan and militant manifestations of religious fundamentalism.
In the second part, Demerath offers a comparative picture of religion, politics, and state in the United States in juxtaposition to his observations on the fourteen nations whose religious, political, and cultural contours he had earlier described. Broadly organized around the themes of culture wars, religious violence, and the American difference in terms of the relation between religion, politics, and state vis-à-vis the other nations described, the chapters in this section focus on the American scene. Demerath concludes that America is not more or less religious comparatively, but “differently” religious.