More bogus claims from a believer that everyone, including atheists, realizes that Christianity is essential for the survival of the West

July 1, 2021 • 9:20 am

Reader Barry sent me this link as “the embarrassing essay of the day”, though the “day” was June 29.  It is embarrassing, though and barely worth noticing, much less refuting. I intend to say only a few words about it, but I tend to forget myself. Should we just ignore intellectual pabulum like this?

The essay comes from the site Mercatornet, an Australian conservative magazine rated with a moderate to high level of bias to the right, though its “factual reporting” is ranked “high”. The essay below, however, is not factual reporting but pure osculation of religion (specifically Christianity) with a claim that without Christianity our society cannot endure. Christianity, it’s averred, is the source of moral values; and no other religion or ideology, much less humanism, can act as such a social glue or save the West from lapsing into barbarity.

This thesis reminds me of one of Andrew Sullivan’s 2020 columns for New York Magazine, in which he said this (my emphasis):

I have a smidgen more optimism. I see in the long-delayed backlash to the social-justice movement an inkling of a new respect for individual and creative freedom and for the old idea of toleration rather than conformity. I see in the economic and educational success of women since the 1970s a possible cease-fire in the culture wars over sex. I see most homosexuals content to live out our lives without engaging in an eternal Kulturkampf against the cis and the straight. Race? Alas, I see no way forward but a revival of Christianity, of its view of human beings as “neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This means such a transcendent view of human equality that it does not require equality of outcomes to see equal dignity and worth.

In August of this year, on Substack, he continued his osculation of Christianity as a necessity for society (again my emphasis):

I’m glad you’re making this essential point about right-wing postmodernism as well. I agree largely, and should devote more attention to it — as I have done in the pastBut the honest answer is: I don’t know whether liberalism can survive without some general faith in an objective reality and a transcendent divinity. That’s why I suspect a reinvention and reboot for Christianity is an urgent task.

I wrote a longish rebuttal of this claim and sent it to Sullivan as a “dissent”, but it wasn’t published.  So it goes.

But what this shows, as does the article below by Jonathon Van Maren, is that smart people can be seduced by delusions, and can rationalize their beliefs by saying that without such delusions, society would fall apart.

This baffles me.  Surely you can’t force yourself to be a Christian just because it would help society, for the values that supposedly help society (sin, forgiveness, and so on) are based on things for which there is no evidence. It’s like saying that without Dumbo’s magic feather, he’d fall from the sky, so it’s imperative that Dumbo believe in the power of that feather.  And can one really force oneself to believe Christian palaver just to improve society? It seems to me that you have to have some belief that the central story of Christianity—original sin from Adam and Eve, our collective guilt, and its expiation by the Crucifixion and Resurrection—must have a grain of truth. Either that, or you have a cynical “belief in belief”, as Dennett calls it. That is, one can be a nonbeliever but say feel religion is still a social good—for other people. 

And that’s what Van Maren, who apparently is a believer, argues in his new article. The site identifies him as “a freelance writer and communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform. His work has appeared in National Review, The Federalist, National Post, and elsewhere. His book, The Culture War, was published in 2016.”). Another site notes that “Jonathon was raised in a Reformed Christian home and currently attends the Netherlands Reformed Congregation of Norwich, Ontario.”

Van Maren interviews a number of people, including conservative Niall Ferguson (the spouse of Ayaan Hirsi Ali; do they talk about religion?), all of whom say that atheism is a nonstarter when it comes to supporting an “ethical system”. Here’s a quote from Ferguson:

“I was brought up an atheist—I didn’t become one,” he said. “I regard atheism as the religious faith I happened to be brought up in. It is, of course, as much a faith as Christianity or Islam—and I have the Calvinist brand, because my parents left the Church of Scotland. I was brought up, essentially, in a Calvinist ethical framework but with no God. This had its benefits—I was encouraged to think in a very critical way about religion and also about science, but I’ve come to see as a historian that you can’t base a society on that. Indeed, atheism, particularly in its militant forms, is really a very dangerous metaphysical framework for a society.”

“I know I can’t achieve religious faith,” he went on, “but I do think we should go to church. We don’t have, I don’t think, an evolved ethical system. I don’t buy the idea that evolution alone gets us to be moral. It can modify behaviour, but there’s just too much evidence that in the raw, when the constraints of civilisation fall away, we behave in the most savage way to one another. I’m a big believer that with the inherited wisdom of a two-millennia old religion, we’ve got a pretty good framework to work with.”

For one of the most prominent historians in the world—himself an agnostic—to say that we should go to church is rather startling, but Ferguson’s sentiments also appear to be part of a growing trend. . .

Now that is belief in belief.  I won’t go into detail, but it’s pretty clear that some aspects of our ethical system (fairness, reciprocity, etc.) are the products of evolution, probably evolved when we lived in small groups of hunter-gatherers. But that aside, he also claims that atheism is a religious faith, which it’s not (it’s an absence of religious faith). And that aside, where does he get the idea that without Christianity civilization would revert to savagery? Is that the case in nonreligious Scandinavia, or in Iceland, where 0% of people under 25 are religious?

I suppose, in response, that one could argue that, well, Scandinavia and other countries that may give up religion will still inherit an ethical system from their previous Christianity. But that implies that non-Christian societies, like those of Jews or Jains, are also full of “savagery”.

And what does it mean “to base a society on atheism”, anyway? I wouldn’t want some society in which there was an official doctrine of atheism enforced on its adherents. That stifles discussion and thought.  An atheistic society seems to be one in which no religious values are enforced and secularism is institutionalized. That is, for example, like France. But you could still argue that France is civilized because it still adheres to moral values derived from Christianity.

Further, if morality absolutely depends on belief in Christianity, one can draw two conclusions.

First, the “ethics of Christianity” don’t come from God, or even from belief in the Christian myth, but from some non-Christian views of what is good and right. That’s because even Christians don’t adhere to a Christian morality because they think God or Jesus told us what is right. No, they adhere to it because they think that God and Jesus were exponents of a good that pre-existed before Christianity, and is independent of what they declare to be good. That, of course, is the basis of Plato’s Euthyphro Dilemma, one of the greatest contributions of philosophy to clear thinking.

Second, if you have to adhere to Christianity to be moral, that implies that your morality is somehow enforced or upheld by God: what Hitchens called a “celestial North Korea”. For if that’s not the case, one can reject all of Christianity itself and just keep the preexisting moral sentiments. (Christianity did not originate any new beneficial moral sentiments, though Van Maren says “forgiveness” is uniquely Christian. But surely Christianity created and supports many bad moral sentiments. You can name many yourselves.). If you remove the religious palaver, you wind up with secular humanism.

Now I’m not saying that religious belief never helped anyone do good, but in general I adhere to Steve Weinberg’s famous dictum:

“With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil – that takes religion.”

Weinberg is an atheist, and there are many of us who have never embraced Christianity, even if some of us once adhered to other faiths. It takes a special kind of blindness to think that a society constituted of people like atheists would fall apart.

Van Maren quotes some other authorities, accumulating a pile of Believers in Belief:

The late philosopher Sir Roger Scruton began attending church himself despite struggling with belief, regularly playing the organ at All Saints’ in Garsdon. His secular friends say his faith remained cultural; other friends were not so sure. What we do know is that he thought Christianity was in many ways the soul of Western civilisation, and that the uniquely Christian concept of forgiveness was utterly indispensable to its survival.

And Douglas Murray, a good foe of Wokeism, also purses his lips to osculate the rump of Christianity:

Scruton’s friend Douglas Murray, the conservative writer who was raised in the Church before leaving it as an adult, has occasionally referred to himself as a “Christian atheist.” In a recent discussion with theologian N.T. Wright, he described himself as “an uncomfortable agnostic who recognises the virtues and the values the Christian faith has brought,” and noted that he is actually irritated by the way the Church of England is fleeing from its inheritance, “giving up its jewels” such as “the King James Bible and The Book of Common Prayer” in exchange for progressive pieties.. . .

. . . Murray believes that Christianity is essential because secularists have been thus far totally incapable of creating an ethic of equality that matches the concept that all human beings are created in the image of God. In a column in The Spectator, he noted that post-Christian society has three options. The first is to abandon the idea that all human life is precious. “Another is to work furiously to nail down an atheist version of the sanctity of the individual.” And if that doesn’t work? “Then there is only one other place to go. Which is back to faith, whether we like it or not.”

On a recent podcast, he was more blunt: “The sanctity of human life is a Judeo-Christian notion which might very easily not survive [the disappearance of] Judeo-Christian civilisation.”

Apparently Scruton is unaware of how atheist and humanists philosophers have constructed moral systems without Christianity: people like Bertrand Russell, John Rawls, and Peter Singer. None of this depends on the “sanctity of human life”, but rather on the value of human life.  I looked up “sanctity” in the Oxford English Dictionary and reproduce the only two definitions that are relevant:


Holiness of life, saintliness. odour of sanctity

The quality of being sacred or hallowed; sacredness, claim to (religious) reverence; inviolability.

Both of these have to do with religion. But you have to be a moron to think that one must accept that humans are made in God’s image to behave morally. The observed morality of lifelong atheists absolutely refutes that, as well as the fact that when religion wanes, as in northern Europe, the U.S.,and the U.K., society seems to get better (and certainly, according to statistics, people are happier).

A few more Arguments from Authority by Van Maren:

The American social scientist and agnostic Charles Murray, too, told me in an interview that he believes the American republic is unlikely to survive without a resurgence of Christianity. Echoing John Adams, he noted that the Constitution of the United States and the liberties it upholds can only govern a religious people.


Historian Tom Holland’s magnificent Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, published in 2019, makes a similar case. For years, Holland—an agnostic—wrote compelling histories of the ancient Greeks and Romans, but he observed that their societies were rife with casual, socially-accepted cruelty towards the weak, rape, and sexual abuse towards the massive slave class as an unquestioned way of life, and the mass extermination of enemies as a matter of course. These peoples and their ethics, Holland writes, seemed utterly foreign to him.

It was Christianity, Holland concluded, that changed all that in a revolution so complete that even critiques of Christianity must borrow precepts from Christianity to do so.

As if no “Christian” society ever had slavery, genocide (yes, Hitler was a Christian), sexual abuse, or The Inquisition!

Finally, there’s a bit of atheist-bashing, as if somehow atheists realize the force of Van Maren’s argument:

[Holland] defended this thesis brilliantly in a debate on the subject “Did Christianity give us our human values?” with atheist philosopher A.C. Grayling, who seemed actively irritated by the idea. Not so long ago, unbelievers like the late Christopher Hitchens claimed that “religion poisons everything”—a sentiment that appears to be retreating as we advance further into the post-Christian era.

Hitchens frequently claimed to be not an atheist, but an “anti-theist”—he didn’t believe in God, and he was glad that he did not. It is fascinating to see intellectuals come forward with precisely the opposite sentiment—they do not believe, but they somehow want to believe. The psychologist Jordan Peterson, who speaks about Christianity often, is a good example of this.


Increasingly, some intellectuals from across the disciplines—history, literature, psychology, philosophy—are gazing out of what was once a refuge and wishing that, some how, they could believe it. They have understood that Christianity is both indispensable and beautiful, but their intellectual constraints prevent many of them from embracing it as true.

Increasingly? Does Van Maren have data on the per capita increase among atheists in their desire to believe Christianity? No, of course not: he finds a few anecdotes and then makes up a general thesis. I wonder how many atheists like Grayling and Hitchens would say that they don’t believe but want to. Hitchens is gone, but Grayling is with us, and I’ll ask him.

At the end, Van Maren maintains, without any evidence, that Christianity is our main bulwark against totalitarianism—indeed, is essential for the survival of the West.

“It disturbs me that in so many ways, totalitarianism is gaining ground today,” Ferguson said. “Totalitarianism was bad for many reasons, and one of the manifestations of its badness was its attack on religion. When I see totalitarianism gaining ground not only in China but in subtle ways in our own society, that seems to be the disaster we really need to ward off. Why am I a conservative and not just a classical liberal? Because classical liberalism won’t stop wokeism and totalitarianism. It’s not strong enough. Ultimately, we need the inherited ideas of a civilisation and defences against that particular form of disaster.”

The survival of Christianity is essential for the survival of the West.

I have news for Van Maren: religion is declining precipitously in the West, and that means Christianity.  What we find is that Nones, atheists, and agnostics are on the rise at the expense of Christians. In America, the party of Christianity is the Republican Party, a party that nearly wrecked America when it got a chance. Such is the “ethical system” of Christianity.

Jonathon Van Maren

49 thoughts on “More bogus claims from a believer that everyone, including atheists, realizes that Christianity is essential for the survival of the West

  1. So dishonesty is the foundation of ethics. Good to know. You know, all they have to do is declare that (after Baggini) religious belief does not require belief that any supernatural events have occurred here on earth. But they won’t do that, they just chastise nonbelievers for being unwilling to lie.

    1. Sam Harris said it best: “This is to me the horror religion. It allows perfectly decent & and sane people to believe by the billions what one lunatics could believe on their own.”

      1. This is the quote:
        “This is the true horror of religion. It allows perfectly decent and sane people to believe by the billions, what only lunatics could believe on their own.”

  2. After many years of hearing Niall Ferguson speak on various news shows, I suspect that his argument that an ethical system requires religion is essentially a “little people” argument. He is an ethical atheist but he doesn’t trust the masses, who aren’t as smart as he is, to keep in line without the restraint of religion. He can go to hell, or wherever.

  3. It would be interesting to try to find someone who had been raised in a society that never had Christianity and was never exposed to it as part of their culture – perhaps someone in Japan, China, etc. – who only learned of Christianity as an adult and at that time, irrespective of belief, decided that it was the only possible basis for a moral society. I’m guessing that there would be no such person.

    Every one of the mentioned scholars has a soft spot for Christianity, I am convinced, only because they were raised in a culture in which they were TOLD (without evidence) that it was the most moral system, that it was good, that it was kind, that it was “forgiving” (and of unearned sin, at that!) and that without it everything would become chaos.

    What nonsense.

    1. The huge blind spot about how Christianity (or any actual religion) is the only path to morality is that we see all the time how it is used as a weapon for immorality. One can wrap any form of suppression, hate or violence toward any group, and voilà it’s moral.

      1. I think the huger blind spot is that there were no Christians in B.C. times anywhere, and no Christians to speak of in the Indian and Asian civilizations until probably ~1500 AD. Yet they seemed to have grasped the concept of morality and ethics, and let’s face it, probably weren’t any less brutal than the Christian regimes in Europe of the same 0 AD – 1500 AD period.

    2. YES JAPAN! I used to live there and we atheists seem to forget, unlike Scandinavia Christianity never touched and poisoned it. Most Japanese today know almost nothing about it and Japan is an incredibly successful country with a highly developed ethical system.

  4. Also James A Haught: “ For thinking people, there is only one possible answer to the age-old problem of evil: The all-loving Father proclaimed by many faiths cannot exist. Simple logic makes this conclusion unavoidable. Logic doesn’t’ preclude a sad`istic Creator _but rules out a compassionate one.”

    1. Also Sam Harris: “Either God can do nothing to stop catastrophes like this, or he doesn’t care to, or he doesn’t exist. God is either impotent, evil, or imaginary. Take your pick, and choose wisely.”

  5. The god n morality lie…

    In 1968 i went to study philosophy and Social Sciences at Exeter Uni. Devon, England, where i sat alone at the feet of Canon, the Very Reverend W D Hudson who tried to tell me that all morality came from his god. I said, No! He said that i could not continue a my studies unless i accepted his teachings. I came back with two bits of evidence; the first being that the Scandinavian countries which were heavily atheist had the lowest crime-rates in Europe. The second was that atheism was common among American scientists, whereas religion had entrapped about 98% of those encarcerated in the USA, and i would rather leave my bike propped outside the Faculty of Chemistry rather than outside a prison. This angered him, and I had to leave…for Oxford, as it happened. But i still wonder if Exeter University is still a monastery, and i would dearly like an honorary degree for being right…


  6. An underlying fallacy that believers and many of these pro Christian authors frequently make is equating atheism with a religion. Atheism is not a world view like Christianity. The world view that most atheists adopt is secular humanism. Atheism is a lack of belief; it doesn’t tell you how to live your life. A lack of belief can’t be a belief. This is well supported by looking at different atheists who hold different world views – Sagan vs. Stalin. EO Wilson vs. Pol Pot. The most secular societies are the best places to live; the most religious usually the worst. Compare countries or the states in America (Bible Belt vs. east and west coast states). Correlation does not necessarily mean causation but religion is not helping those areas and is strongly correlate with less well being.

    1. To your point, its been said that atheism is a religion like bald is a hair color, or (my favorite) abstinence is a sex position.

    2. Yes exactly. When Van Maren says:

      all of whom say that atheism is a nonstarter when it comes to supporting an “ethical system”

      I want to say: yes I agree. Atheism is not where you start. You start with humanism, or concepts of human rights, or concepts of fairness, and you build from there.

      Here’s an analogy: you don’t need Hinduism’s reincarnation to ground your animal rights; you just need to think about animals, what biologically they are, how they act, how the respond, and so on. Likewise you don’t need Christianity’s God or even atheism’s lack of a god to ground your human rights; you just need to think about humans.

      I gotta admit though, the idea of ‘Atheist Christian’ is a bit intriguing. Sort of like secular Jew, but to be honest I don’t think American WASPs have the sort of cultural depth Judaism has. But hey, if ‘Atheist Christian’ means you put up a Christmas tree, arrange Easter Egg hunts, and suffer from some culturally inherited puritanism while not believing in God, I guess I’m one of them.

      1. Most secular and semisecular US Jews I have known had no better knowledge of Jewish tradition that the typical secular Christian has of theirs, and both groups tend to have a self-congratulary picture of their respective religio-cultural traditions that fits their humanist secular values.

    3. An underlying fallacy that believers and many of these pro Christian authors frequently make is equating atheism with a religion.

      This reminds me of Jesus and Mo from a few days ago. It is an example of another thing people don’t get. One might as well say that not being superstitious is a superstition.

  7. I suspect there is an error in this sentence: “Is that the case in nonreligious Scandinavia, or in Iceland, where 0% of people under 25 are atheists?”

  8. Which Christianity? They all believe very different things. What is the image of God? Christians don’t even agree on what the image of God means. The image of the angry, jealous, baby drowning, genocidal God of the Hebrew scriptures? What are the particular Judeo-Christian ethics and where do we find them? Christians can’t even agree on what is moral. I find that these kinds of arguments deal in generalities not the particulars. Get into the specifics and the responses become deepities.

  9. One of the big problems with promoting God as THE foundation of the sacred, the good, and the beautiful, thereby justifying those desirable things which flow from such a source, is that God cannot be that final source. The value of God first needs to be justified on the human level.

    If an atheist were to ask Van Maren exactly what is it about God that commands respect and devotion, I doubt that he’d say it was because God can punish or reward them. Instead, the answer will likely contain an appeal to existing values and virtues which have already been experienced on earth. Do you like it when you are loved? Then God is that. Do you like what you find beautiful? God is that, too. And fairness and honesty — you experience them with pleasure? That, too, is God. And so forth.

    But that’s not really a process which makes an appeal to God; it’s a process which makes an appeal to you. Or me, or people in general. Not religion, in other words, but humanism.

    1. You can argue that morals are not derived from religion but that religions are retrofitted to the social morality of the time. It would explain a great deal about why ancient sacred texts need ‘interpretation’ to fit today’s moral convictions.

      You can also argue that ‘morals’ today are pretty stunted and unsupportive ‘without religion’. But as you say the solution is not through god(s) but through ourselves.

  10. I have been an atheist all of my life and was never really exposed to any religious belief. There may have been a couple of occasions many, many years ago when mom took me to a service on a Sunday but I hardly remember. Yet I am not swinging from the trees or spending any time behind bars. What has all that moral religious teaching done for most people? Would Trump be a good example or all of those maga religious followers who march up to the capital and attempted to kill people. Give me one example of how good they are and what great religion they are following. I don’t think he knows the difference between an atheist and a ham sandwich.

  11. Thank God they were all devout Christians during the skirmish called the “Thirty Years’ War” — just imagine the devastation, the raping and pillaging if they weren’t Christian!

    Thank God, the US was founded by devout Christians. Just imagine the horrible conditions forced upon the enslaved in the hands of such people as atheists! The enslaved had something to eat, mostly, and were treated with the famous Christian dignity afforded to every human. Just imagine what non-Christians would do — force them to swim all the way from Africa and such? Thank God, the settlers were morally upright Christians.

    I don’t know why anyone would indulge such outrageously deluded fantasies.

    1. Your mention of the Thirty Years’ War reminds me of the ironic saying, “Consider the Christians, how they love one another.”

  12. I suspect conservative-typical nostalgia for an idealized pre-modern era and love of tradition plays a role here. Surprised about Ferguson.

    What one could plausibly argue is that the decidedly non-tribalistic morality of Christianity plus the Catholic church’s ban on cousin marriage played a role in taming the Germanic tribalistic warrior culture of the early Middle Ages.

    We may indeed be in need for common values and a common cultural core to keep a high trust society, but a return to Christian religion can’t supply it. Rational humanism is a better basis. But I do believe that common value-affirming secular rites and rituals are a good idea.

  13. Famously, Athenian democracy was able to recognise when it had made a bad decision and quickly overturn it, as shown by the events surrounding the Mytilenean revolt in 428 BC. No godly intervention or reflection on religion was required, just human recognition that an injustice was about to be perpetrated. Yes, the Ancient Greeks are no longer with us, but their concept of democracy lives on in the West – with no help from Jimmy Jesus, whose supposed birth came after the event I just mentioned.

  14. It depends on what exactly “survival of the West” means. If Christianity disappears, historians of the future will use a different names for the before and after.

    1. You nailed it. They identify “the West” with Catholic or Protestant Christianity. The French Revolution and the Enlightenment started a new epoch where this is no longer so, and much of what we think of as Western now dates from that period.

      1. Thaaaaank you, Ruth! We hardly ever hear that incredible and true fact. It is an example of how the deluded pick their “truths”

      1. “Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.” to be precise….!

        I used to have that on my email sign-off…

  15. It sounds like Van Maren is worried about the continual decline of Christianity in the west. But anyone who thinks a return to Christianity would solve today’s problems is intellectually bankrupt.

    I did not have a sky-high opinion of Niall Ferguson, but it definitely lowered after reading this article. He doesn’t seem to understand that when the constraints of religion were in place Christians still behaved in the most savage way, especially toward non-believers.

    My opinion of Douglas Murray, also never sky-high, has lowered too. The “sanctity of human life” is a Judeo-Christian notion that was rarely applied to those who didn’t practice the right form of Judeo-Christianism!

    As for the oily pop Historian Tom Holland, does he understand that Christian societies perpetrated acts of genocide and mass enslavement that would have made the Romans blush? The slave trade and the 2000-year-long treatment of the Jews is enough to permanently discredit Christianity as the basis for any moral society.

    These guys are creeps who would send us back into a theocracy. They can’t handle modern life so they want to retreat into a fantasy where Christianity will solve everything, despite its repeated failures.

  16. These kinds of thoughtless thinkers always seem to me to be in need of a subject before the paper goes to press. “Let’s see what’s a good subject for this week. Well, religion, for sure. It can get readers worked up. Now, let’s see how can I spin this so I can plausibly take a contrary to mainstream stance. Ah that’s it! I’ll osculate the rotting corpse of religion in the West. That’ll do it.”
    In again, under the wire.

    1. Contrary to what van Maren suggests Christianity is not a bulwark against tyranny. Both a reversion to tyranny and a regrowth if Christianity is occurring in Russia courtesy of a highly cynical Mr Putin. Even the enactment of blasphemy laws is under consideration.

  17. Liberalism is in decline in the United States and Europe while populism is on the rise. Something is missing in our society and I am not sure that Sullivan was wrong when he said “I don’t know whether liberalism can survive without some general faith in an objective reality and a transcendent divinity.”

    I think society needs a common ethos and Christianity used provide one. We need a replacement but there has been a deliberate effort among activists on both sides to make sure there is nothing left to unite the people.

    1. “…faith in an objective reality and a transcendent divinity”. Talk about an oxymoron.

      The world is falling into the hands of the oligarchs, that’s why populism/nationalism is on the rise. The rise of the oligarchs in the US is destroying this democracy as it has in the fledgling democracies of Poland, Hungary, Turkey, Russia, Brazil, the Philippines…the list goes on (and yes, it’s more complex than a sentence or two can explain). Oligarchs don’t care about a united populace. “Activists on both sides” is just a symptom of the larger problem.

      1. I think we agree on the symptom but what is the cause? Why do you think oligarchs are on the rise?

        IMO, division precedes and amplifies both illiberal populism and wokeness which causes more division creating a vicious circle. My guess is that the lack of unifying ethos (either religion or patriotism) is at the root of the division and has been exploited activists from Gingrich to AOC.

        As I said I am guessing and would love to hear other ideas.

        1. Why is a complex question and is different for each country, but the root cause and something that happens in most oligarchies is mass privatization. This concentrates money/power in the corporations and takes it away from the people. So the rich get richer, the poor, poorer…a few gain at the expense of the many. Once the power is in the hands of a few, the ability to hold on to that power (especially when helped by the government) gets easier and easier.

          Just look what SCOTUS did today in two cases involving voting laws; they allowed AZ to keep it’s voter suppression laws, opening the floodgates for every red state to do the same, and also strengthened Citizens United by not allowing the transparency of “dark money” in our elections. Allowing unlimited, private money in elections is one of the worst enemies of democracy; it’s essentially the ability to rule the government by owning politicians. It’s right out of the mafia’s playbook. Our current SCOTUS is doing the bidding of oligarchs, and that’s how they continue to gain power and hold on to it.

  18. I find it ironic that someone in Canada is arguing for the societal benefits of Christianity while a thousand unmarked graves have been discovered at several residential schools – whose purpose was to instil Christianity into the indigenous heathens.

    1. Yes, exactly. I guess Van Maren could say he didn’t mean *that* sort of Christianity. Or that those nuns & priests weren’t true Christians. Ironically, many of them were Scots.

      Revisiting the deaths of thousands of kids at residential schools will have far-reaching consequences here in Canada, especially in provinces that have institutionalized Catholicism (e.g., the public Catholic schools that I attended as a kid).

  19. Which version of Christianity is the right morality? Christians can’t even agree among themselves.

    One thing that really annoys me about all this is the modern society has been shaped in a big way by enlightenment figures, who grounded morality in the human conditions and went to pains to separate out our concerns from the other-worldly that is religious belief. It’s the grounding of morality in humanity itself that has transformed and underlined morality for the better. Yet now those hard-fought beliefs, bitterly opposed by the religious orthodoxies of the times, that are now “owned” as being Christian values. They want the fruits of humanism, but to claim that the grounding of humanism is inadequate. It’s a convenient misreading of history!

  20. For the record, Hitler was decidedly not a Christian in any of the normal senses of the word, and opposition from the churches was paramount in stopping the gas murder of the mentally disabled.

    1. Grossly misleading. Jewish emancipation (wikipedia gives 1264 as a date) started earliest in Poland, which led to large jewish population. Up until Christian strifes in the 17th century changed the situation for the worse in Poland again, too. However, the Enlightenment picked up, and emancipation was slowly adopted elsewhere. The key emancipation text was written by a Prussian freemason, Christian von Dohm, and Jews got equal rights also with the founding of the German Empire in 1871 — at least on paper. See here.

      Meanwhile, continental Christianity was, and remained excessively antisemitic. It doesn’t matter which denomination. Martin Luther was an antisemite, and also “his” church displayed the “jewish sow”.

      However, the relatively secular setup of Prussia, then imposed on the German Empire allowed Jews to assimilate and participate. This lasted up until the Nazis rose to power. And who helped them?

      Initially a rival for the souls, the Catholic Church voted for the enabling of Hitler’s dictatorial powers in 1933. The concern ever since was rivalry of two totalitarian systems, not humanitarian concern, and least concern for Jews — rather the opposite.

      Further, I think Allies had excellent aerial and espionage information of the Reich. The holocaust was an enormous operation. And yet, USA and Britain turned away Jewish refugees, officially out of fear they might be spies. I’d say, the upstanding Christians tacitly approved.

      Most Germans were formally Christians during the Reich era, and so it is no surprise that war crimes, as well as opposition to Hitler are proportional, i.e. you get lots of eager followers for every one Bonhoeffer. Skewed heavily towards the former.

Leave a Reply