As we pulled together this week’s show with Scott Atran, I was reminded of my conversation a few years ago with Douglas Johnston on “Diplomacy and Religion in the 21st Century.” He is a quintessential diplomatic and military strategist who, at 27, was also the youngest officer in the navy to quality for command of a nuclear submarine. And he is, in my mind, one of the wisest and most pragmatic thinkers (and actors) on the role of religion in the modern world.
In our conversation, he offered whole new ways to think about the possible democratizing role of Islam in places like Pakistan, Iran, and Sudan. He told us amazing stories of work he is doing in these places, even in madrasas in Pakistan and with leading religious figures in Iran, that fall under the diplomatic and journalistic radar. And he has a new book out, Religion, Terror, and Error: U.S Foreign Policy and the Challenge of Spiritual Engagement. This is that rare thing — a readable nonfiction book that both challenges experts in its field and simultaneously translates these challenges into a real resource for non-experts. I recommend it highly.