Thursday, April 12, 2007

Europe's Missionary Atheism

On the front page of today's Wall Street Journal: "As Religious Strife Grows, Europe's Atheists Seize Pulpit: Islam's Rise Gives Boost to Militant Unbelievers."

You have to subscribe to access the entire article. I've got the paper in front of me and will give some highlights + comments.

"Passive indifference to faith has left Europe's churches mostly empty. But debate over religion is more intense and strident than it has been in many decades." "True" to both of these statements. And, I think, America is heading in that direction. Real, actually Christianity (= people who follow the Bible's red letters) is hard to find. In America we see a lot of "American consumerist-materialist 'Christianity'," which misleads.

There is "anxiety over Europe's growing and restive Muslim populations and a fear that faith is reasserting itself in politics and public policy."

This "new" atheism is "missional"; Karen Armstrong calls it "missionary secularism." These atheists are trying to make converts to the true way.

The European "star" of all this is Michel Onfray, celebrity philosopher and France's high priest of militant atheism." Atheism, says Onfray, is now in its "final battle," which is against "theological hocus-pocus." Onfray's Atheist Manifesto is "a best seller in France, Italy and Spain."

"In Germany, a wealthy furniture manufacturer is funding a "think tank of Enlightenment," a group of scientists and others committed to debunking religion." Personally, I find this, on atheism, silly. Were I an atheist I would be intellectually swayed by the nihilism of a Nietzsche or Camus or Sartre and wonder why one should be missional about anything? Since, ultimately, life is meaningless, what real meaning could there be in going on a mission sent by nobody? Of course, I think an atheist could say "why not debunk theism?" OK. But who could take this seriously? I find "missionary atheism" intellectually bankrupt.

"Alarm over Islam has acted as the prime catalyst for much of the polemic." Europe's Muslim population is growing. Muslims are producing babies at a far greater rate than are atheists.

"The atheist cause won a big-name endorsement late last year when pop star Elton John said organized religion turned people into "hateful lemmings" and should be banned." But this did not happen to me, or for many I personally know. I am sure there's still hatred inside of me, but it's a lot less than my pre-Christian days. I want to be like Jesus, who even says "Love your enemies." Elton John's attitude seems hateful, don't you think? If his words hugely "endorse" atheism then I feel fearful: days of persecution may lie ahead. The thought of being flogged by Elton John as he sings "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" is frightening.

In February "Mina Ahadi, an Iranian-born woman in Cologne, Germany, set up the Continent's first Muslim atheist group, the National Council of Ex-Muslims. She immediately started getting death threats and was put under police protection." I would think so. It is arguable that Islam is inherently violent.

Ahadi says atheism must adopt the methods of religion. So, I expect that soon we will see The Four Unspiritual Laws.

"Christianity, once the bedrock of Europe's identity, has been losing worshipers on the Continent for at least half a century." Correct.

How many atheists in Europe? An estimated 3% of the population. Not many, but they are making a big media splash. So Christianity is losing ground, but not all are by any means atheistic about this. Perhaps the church has become truly irrelevant (= non-revolutionary) because institutionalized?

Well..., there's a lot more in this very long article (thank you Andy for giving me a copy!).