Sunday, 22 August 2010

Europe without Christianity: a dire prospect

Europeans are turning away from Christianity in greater numbers than ever as Europe becomes more and more secular. It’s part of a trend that has been ongoing for over a hundred years. In 1900, more than 80% of Christians lived in Europe and America. Today 60% live in the developing world. In some countries like Portugal, Ireland and Spain there is still a sizeable practicing Christian community, but the overwhelming majority of Europeans are Christian in name only. More and more claim to atheists. As there’s a fine distinction between nonbelievers of various kinds - atheists, agnostics, sceptics and humanists – the majority of Europeans are practically atheists because they are not religious. This trend of secularism runs counter to the trends seen in other parts of world where religion is growing.

The atheist German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, claimed in many of his works that “God is dead”. Nietzsche hated religion, and most of all he hated Christianity. He felt Christianity was a “slave morality” designed for losers, which Nietzsche explained its immense popularity. Nietzsche condemned the Christian God for keeping a check on the strong men of this world and exalting the lowly. He developed the concept of übermensch (or “overman”), a type of superior human being, who through his “will to power” could bring down false ideals and moral codes of his day. His ideas had a big influence on Nazi ideology.

I’m reading a wonderful book by Dinesh D’Souza called “What’s So Great About Christianity”. In chapter seven he gives a warning about Europe’s future regarding its increasing secularization and abandonment of Christian beliefs:

The life of the West, Nietzsche said, is based on Christianity. The values of the West are based on Christianity. Some of these values seem to have taken a life of their own, and this gives us the illusion that we can get rid of Christianity and keep the values. This, Nietzsche says, is an illusion. Our Western values are what Nietzsche terms “shadows of gods”. Remove the Christian foundation, and the values go too.

True, values like equal dignity and equal rights will persist for a period out of sheer unthinking habit. But their influence will erode. Consider the example of secular Europe. Secularization has been occurring in Europe for well over a century, and for a while it seemed as if the decline of Christianity would have no effect on Western morality or Western social institutions. Yet if Nietzsche is right we would expect to see the decline of Christianity also result, over time, in the decline of one of the great legacies of Christianity, the nuclear family. We would expect to see high rates of divorce and births out of wedlock. And that is what we do see. Secular trends in America have produced the same results, which are not as advanced in America because Christianity has not eroded as much here as it has in Europe.

As secularism continues, Nietzsche forecasts that new values radically inconsistent with the Christian ones – the restoration of infanticide, demands for radical redefinition of the family, the revival of eugenic theories of human superiority – will begin to emerge. These, too, are evident in our day. And they are some of the motives for attacking Christianity and insisting that its values are outmoded and should be replaced.

Unfortunately for the critics of Christianity, even the values care about will, according to Nietzsche, eventually collapse. Consider our beliefs in human equality and the value of human life. We may say we believe in human equality, but why do we hold this belief? It is product of the Christian idea of the spiritual equality of souls. We may insist we believe that all human life has dignity and value, but this, too, is the outgrowth of a Christian tradition in which each person is the precious creation of God. There is no secular basis for these values, and when secular writers defend them they always employ unrecognized Christian assumptions.

In sum, the death of Christianity must also mean the gradual extinction of values such as human dignity, the right against torture, and the rights of equal treatment asserted by women, minorities, and the poor. Do we want to give these up also? If we cherish the distinctive ideals of Western Christianity, and believe as I do that they have enormously benefited our civilization and the world, then whatever our religious convictions, and even if we have none, we will not rashly try to hack at the religious roots from which they spring. On the contrary, we will not hesitate to acknowledge, not only privately but also publicly, the central role that Christianity has played and still plays in the things that matter to us.

I have to say I couldn’t agree more with D’Souza here. Europeans have been swayed by all sorts of different ideologies that are fundamentally contrary to Christian beliefs over the last century with disastrous consequences. If the current trend of secularization continues in Europe, I fear for its future. Europe will be a far worse place without Christianity.


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Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hello JL:)

Very interesting post.

Christianity is the beacon light for the world.Others who are jealous of it try to gain some fame by writing against it.

I can think of Marx and Engels who wrote Das Capital.Communism succeed to some extent.But ultimately it gave way to capitalism because there is no survival in this world for communists.

Another instance I can cite is Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.He created a sensation against Christianity and made money and name for himself.

There are innumerable authors who write against Jesus in an attempt to gain worlds attention and in the process make some money.

Christianity has gives us some fundamentally strong values,morals and ethics to live a decent dignified life in this world.It has brought an orderly way of life.It has taught us to live a civilized life and get along with others in harmony and peace.It has ensured progress and development of this world.

If Atheists have their way then murderers,rapists,drug peddlers,smugglers and other evil doers will be accepted as normal people.Any one can do anything and their behavior will be accepted as normal.You can imagine what people can do if they have no fear of God!

Christianity has shown poor people a way to put up and endure their difficult situation in life.It has given them immense solace and peace to cope up with their miserable situation.

In the rich people it has inculcated a sense of charity and compassion for the suffering poor.It has shown them a way to achieve inner peace by doing something good for the poor.It has restrained the rich and powerful from misusing their power and position.

I can go on writing and my comment will become too long.So I think I should stop now.

Let all those who want to write against Christianity do so and we get an opportunity to study their evil minds.

Best wishes:)

JI said...

Hi Joseph,

I agree with everything you say. However, in Europe today secular society tends to view the role of Christianity rather negatively. This is very sad because of the huge influence it has played. You can see that in so many different areas including politics, economics, law, education, art, music, literature, etc. Even modern science owes a lot to Christianity because from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment, a period of several centuries, the church did more for western science than any other institution. Some of the greatest scientists like Newton, Kepler and Bacon were deeply religious men.

Christ said, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and to God that which is God's." This separation of state and church is inherent is Christianity unlike other religions like Islam. Christ also said he who serves is greater. So we have this concept of a leader who serves his people, keeping in mind their welfare.

Most importantly Christianity has given us some great values like equality of all human beings. It also gives us a purpose to life. Life is not just about living for the now and passing on our genes like what atheists believe. Christians believe in a greater life hereafter.

I get quite annoyed with people who mock Christianity and Jesus. It seems like a daily occurrence today. As you said, even more scandalous are some people like Dan Brown who make a lot of money out of it. At the same time, there are many people including non-believers who revere Jesus. If only they would study what Jesus said more?

I tend to agree with D'Souza that if Christianity erodes then the values it has given us also will erode. It is simply a matter of time. Nowadays atheists are getting incredibly arrogant. They want to push Christianity away from the public square and, for now at least, they are winning because there so many of them in the media and education. The way things are going here I'm not too optimistic. We'll have to wait and see.


Kiran Ignatius said...

Hi JI,
I've linked this post to my blog. Hope you don't mind. Please let me know.

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