Ayaan Hirsi Ali ditches atheism, becomes a Christian

November 11, 2023 • 12:23 pm

I always thought that Ayaan Hirsi Ali belonged as the “fifth horseperson” alongside Dennett, Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris. After all, her arguments against religion were as strong and well expressed as those of the “four horsemen”. Perhaps it was because she concentrated most of her attacks on Islam instead of religion in general, but she was still an atheist, and had no faith.

But things have changed, as you see from the Unherd article below (click to read):

An excerpt, starting with her discussing her own strict Muslim indoctrination, which was much dispelled by reading Bertrand Russell’s essay, “Why I am not a Christian?

You can see why, to someone who had been through such a religious schooling, atheism seemed so appealing. Bertrand Russell offered a simple, zero-cost escape from an unbearable life of self-denial and harassment of other people. For him, there was no credible case for the existence of God. Religion, Russell argued, was rooted in fear: “Fear is the basis of the whole thing — fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death.”

As an atheist, I thought I would lose that fear. I also found an entirely new circle of friends, as different from the preachers of the Muslim Brotherhood as one could imagine. The more time I spent with them — people such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins — the more confident I felt that I had made the right choice. For the atheists were clever. They were also a great deal of fun. 

So, what changed? Why do I call myself a Christian now?

I don’t find the answer convincing: it’s largely this: “only values derived from Judeo-Christian religion can fend off pernicious values derived from those and other faiths.” To wit:

Part of the answer is global. Western civilisation is under threat from three different but related forces: the resurgence of great-power authoritarianism and expansionism in the forms of the Chinese Communist Party and Vladimir Putin’s Russia; the rise of global Islamism, which threatens to mobilise a vast population against the West; and the viral spread of woke ideology, which is eating into the moral fibre of the next generation.

We endeavour to fend off these threats with modern, secular tools: military, economic, diplomatic and technological efforts to defeat, bribe, persuade, appease or surveil. And yet, with every round of conflict, we find ourselves losing ground. We are either running out of money, with our national debt in the tens of trillions of dollars, or we are losing our lead in the technological race with China.

But we can’t fight off these formidable forces unless we can answer the question: what is it that unites us? The response that “God is dead!” seems insufficient. So, too, does the attempt to find solace in “the rules-based liberal international order”. The only credible answer, I believe, lies in our desire to uphold the legacy of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

No, all atheists are not united by the mantra “God is dead”. Most of us are secular humanists, adhering to a set of values that were largely developed by unbelievers seeking to mold a better society. Moreover, the base on which many of those values rest antedated Jude0-Christian religion; in fact, some of it might comprise evolved tendencies that were adaptive for individuals living in small groups.

And why only “Judeo-Christian” tradition? I can understand why Hirsi Ali leaves Islam out, but what about Buddhism or other “legacies of religious tradition?” At any rate, all you need to know to refute this and what’s below is that one can derive ethics not from “religious tradition”, which may or may not (but usually does) incorporate the supposed dictates of God, as in the Ten Commandments, but from pure philosophical musings that don’t involve a deity.

Finally, as many religionists do, Hirsi Ali imputes any moralistic or philosophical advances in modern Western society to Judaism and Christianity, simply because both faiths (mostly the latter) were the main set of religious beliefs in that society. But that doesn’t mean that these faiths were responsible for moral values, any more than they were responsible for scientific advances, also largely developed in Judeo-Christian societies.

One would think that Hirsi Ali, who is no dumb bunny, would have heard of the Euthphryo dialogues, in which Socrates argues (via Plato) that you cannot derive piety (we can use “morality” instead) as “that which the gods love”, for do the gods love piety simply because it’s pious, or is something pious because the gods love it?

The point of this dialogue, translating “piety” to “morality” is that we cannot convincingly maintain that we derive, say, a “thou shalt not kill” morality simply because that is what the gods tell us is good.  If that were true, then whatever the gods say must be moral, and if the gods said it was moral to kill people without cause, well, then that must be moral, too.  But it isn’t, because we can think of good (secular) reasons why it’s bad to kill people.

The conclusion is that our ideas of morality must predate the dictates of the gods We don’t need gods to tell us what is right or wrong, as we have intuitive feelings, which can then be examined by secular scrutiny, of what is right and wrong, and those feelings don’t come from religion. (My view is that they are a social veneer, worked out by trial and error, overlain on a morality evolved when we lived in small groups.)

In the end, Hirsi Ali offers another reason for her deconversion, and it’s the usual reason why believers believe:

Yet I would not be truthful if I attributed my embrace of Christianity solely to the realisation that atheism is too weak and divisive a doctrine to fortify us against our menacing foes. I have also turned to Christianity because I ultimately found life without any spiritual solace unendurable — indeed very nearly self-destructive. Atheism failed to answer a simple question: what is the meaning and purpose of life?

This didn’t seem to be a problem for Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, or Hitchens!

Unfortunately, religion might give you a meaning and purpose of life, but they are bogus ones. As I you can see in 2018 in a post here called “What’s your meaning and purpose?“,  373 readers generally concluded that there is no “meaning and purpose of life” to be found within religion, except to follow God or Jesus. (This was one of the most commented-upon posts I ever wrote.)  In general, you make your own purpose and meaning.

Also see this later post for more thoughts on the issue.) Considering religion in the later post, I said this:

What people like [Ted] Peters and [Steve] Gould always forget is that religion is one source of meaning and purpose but:

a. It is not the SOLE source of meaning and purpose in life; humanism is another (and a better one).

b. People in countries that are nearly completely atheistic, like Iceland or Denmark, do not seem to be stricken with ennui because they don’t have religion to give them meaning and purpose. They get what they need from secular sources.  I’d rather hang out with a bunch of Danes than with a bunch of American theologians any day.

c. Most important, religion doesn’t answer “why” questions in any agreed-upon way. Yes, an individual can find “purpose” in slavish worship of Allah, but that’s a personal answer, not a general answer. In fact, all answers to the question are subjective and personal, and usually don’t come from religion though they may be buttressed by religion. What it boils down to is this: “the answers religion provide to questions of meaning and purpose all involve God’s will.”  And there’s no evidence for what God’s wills, much less for God itself.

I won’t go over ground that’s been well plowed on this site. But it makes me ineffably sad when an incisive thinker and skeptic like Hirsi Ali concludes her article this way:

Unless we offer something as meaningful, I fear the erosion of our civilisation will continue. And fortunately, there is no need to look for some new-age concoction of medication and mindfulness. Christianity has it all.

That is why I no longer consider myself a Muslim apostate, but a lapsed atheist. Of course, I still have a great deal to learn about Christianity. I discover a little more at church each Sunday. But I have recognised, in my own long journey through a wilderness of fear and self-doubt, that there is a better way to manage the challenges of existence than either Islam or unbelief had to offer.

Northern Europe is now highly atheistic, and Scandinavia nearly entirely so. Are those societies failing to manage the challenges of existence? I don’t think so. Those are some of the most empathic and humane societies around, and they’re bearing up well without Christianity, thank you.

I would love to question Hirsi Ali on the “truths” that she’s learned by going to church. And I wonder if any of the three remaining Horsemen ever will.

Here’s a video that starts about the time that Hirsi Ali espouses her newfound faith; it was sent, along with the link above, by a reader. The moderator, as you see is also a believer, Jordan Peterson.  I think Richard Dawkins would take issue with Hirsi Ali’s claim that he’s one of the most Christian people she knows, simply because he admires evensong and cathedrals!

134 thoughts on “Ayaan Hirsi Ali ditches atheism, becomes a Christian

  1. I admire her but disappointed she credits Christianity with providing morals that she herself had long before becoming a Christian.

  2. I was very disappointed to see her article on this.
    I wonder if some people embrace and find religion just because they are looking for hope.
    It’s also disappointing to hear she found Christianity from being a nonbeliever as it almost nullifies everything she stood for before.
    I guess she found the light, now it’s our turn to find the true belief?

  3. At first I didn’t believe this, but now I see that it’s true. I won’t the video, because I can’t stand JP, but from what she wrote I see that ultimately Ali takes refuge in the only reason for an intelligent person to believe in any religion in this day and age, namely, fideism, or “credo quia consolans.” This is the refuge of such otherwise admirable intellectuals as Garry Wills, James Carroll, Andrew Sullivan, and even Martin Gardner. I wonder if Ali’s husband, Niall Ferguson, convinced her to convert.

      1. Thanks, Jerry. I watched the video and survived seeing and hearing JP. 😉 And he alluded to Hirsi Ali’s husband, which gives me more confidence in the supposition that Ferguson was an influence on her conversion.

      1. Thanks for the reference, Jay! I see that his Wikipedia entry also states that he is an atheist. I wonder what their pillow talk must have been like.

        1. As soon as I saw this news I assumed Niall Ferguson is a Christian and in some way influenced AliI in her conversion. He is one of the most prolific, insightful historians around. I love his books, but his perspective is usually a conservative one, hence my leap of reasoning that he’s religious. Just goes to show how easy it is to jump to wrong conclusion. BTW the guy wrote a book glorifying the British Empire, so he’s brave too!

          I’m actually a little bit embarrassed that I so easily fell into a trap of my own making. Shame on you Jeff! But what was I to do? The laws of physics conspired against my better judgment (now there’s a conundrum).

          Anyway, changing subjects, although I hate to disagree with Pinker, I’m firmly on PCC’s side of the free will debate.

  4. I know this is entirely shallow, but . . .

    What the hell is Peterson wearing? It looks like the suit The Joker from Batman wore.

  5. I’ve been pondering her article on Unherd since I read it this morning.

    My tentative conclusion is that some people accord the world a primary axis of Good vs Evil, and in the case of Ayaan Hirsi Ali she was raised on this axis and missed its availability until she picked on Christianity as a preferred way of living along it. Fair enough. Each to their own.

    Other people (such as the Woke and traditional Elites) see the primary axis as Power vs the Oppressed or Powerless. This doesn’t fit the world so well, hence the endless juggling of intersectional privilege and insurrections.

    I suspect there are yet more people who are Naturalists – the world doesn’t have a primary axis, it just is. Atheists, Non-theists, Humanists, some Eastern philosophies may be found here.

    Confusing isn’t it, especially when advocates end up arguing about who is right.

    1. “[S]ome people accord the world a primary axis of Good vs Evil…Other people (such as the Woke and traditional Elites) see the primary axis as Power vs the Oppressed or Powerless.”

      Of course I don’t know how AHA thinks, but I don’t think it’s quite right to say these two axes are alternatives. I think Haidt & Lukianoff got it right about good vs. evil. The woke use assertions about power to label some people or groups good and others evil. That labeling (and its consequences) is the job, power is just the tool used to do the job (ha, power tools…).

  6. I have never” herd” of the unherd. Does anybody subscribe to it? What is it about? What is their claim to fame? What is their niche?

    1. Unherd is a British online magazine with a conservative/right-wing viewpoint. Its articles are a mixed bag. Interesting heterodox writers like Razib Khan occasionally publish there, but there are plenty of religious bores, a club Hirsi Ali seems to have joined.

    2. Unherd is a UK-based online magazine that hosts opinion pieces, where the general mission is to present opinions that you’d be less likely to find in the mainstream media. There’s a fair number of interesting articles.

  7. When I listened to her explain her position, I began to think that she was describing Humanism. The God part seems to be a kind of place holder and point of focus, perhaps, like a mantra. Whatever stress she felt as an atheist, I hope she now feels happier. At a personal level, that is the important thing. If you can’t live without religion, OK then, live with it. Now I can go back to reality.

    1. Good comment, still, it depends on the ‘religion’ and how one lives with it. There’s a massive difference between believing in ‘loving thy neighbor’ and ‘seventy virgins waiting for you in heaven when you die a martyr’.

      1. Yes, if only the religious kept it to themselves. But the faith leaders never do, they think the moral path is to impose their beliefs on everyone else, even if it has to be done through violence and oppression.
        And Buddhism isn’t excused, there is plenty of history of violence among its adherents. The Tibetans in the past kept slaves.

  8. I don’t think Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Christian; I think she’s identifying as a Christian. Fortunately for her, the Christians will count it. So will she.

    All her arguments are based on what’s useful. Christianity is useful in helping people stick together under a common set of values and guidelines. Christianity is useful in helping people feel their life matters. Christianity is useful in providing an historical narrative to ground the values we care about.

    The point isn’t that we have counterpoints and arguments that no-it-doesn’t or there-are-other-ways (though we do.) The problem is that none of these reasons involve truth. They slide around on the level of “truthiness”— the quality of seeming or being felt to be true. The quality of being wanted to be true, because it’s so inconvenient if it isn’t.

    If someone can’t say they’d hold on to their beliefs about God, theistic or atheistic, even if these beliefs lead to social chaos and personal heartache, then they don’t really believe. They have made a commitment. Beliefs change with new evidence. Commitments change under new circumstances.

    Ali has studied Western philosophy and should know better. But she’s human, and subject to the same human foibles we all have. A skeptical analysis often gets overtaken by a desire to be on the right side.

    1. I thought of this as well. I found it odd that she considered atheism a “doctrine”. As far as I can tell atheism offers no doctrines. There are no “thou shalts”, no atheist Nicene Creed, etc. It’s like throwing in with white supremacists because they are good in street fights. It reminds me of what Sam Harris said recently, quoting himself (and I’m liberally paraphrasing): if liberals don’t offer protection from maniacs who threaten the West, other maniacs like the Christian Nationalists will.

  9. “… what is it that unites us?”

    Right – that is a deep question, but maybe a start is that no individual or group can claim authority by gnosis – self-knowledge, and compel that gnosis upon any other person. Perhaps Ali sees Christianity as tempering hubris of such knowledge by off-loading it to prophets and away from the individual…? Doesn’t make sense… so, on to :

    E Pluribus Unum : out of many, individuals, that are guaranteed to disapprove or disagree – and that right should be guaranteed in a free society, even though its ugly. Yet, they operate as one – it doesn’t mean they agree on all points and I’d assert it means they never will – because nobody is God nor can know if one is running everything. (James “Conspiracy Theorist” Lindsay wrote an essay on this theme recently).

    BTW there’s a certain Mao Zedong who wrote about “unity” in 1956. Worth reading what the Chairman wrote on that.

  10. Good for Ayaan for ‘coming out’. I am not a religious person, nor a Christian, but it’s time to understand that humans seek to worship and they seek a tribe. We are all members of ‘some’ tribe and we all have ‘some’ religion (yes, we all do). Take those away (in their traditional sense), and our religion becomes politics and our tribes, political parties; perhaps a more dangerous post modern outcome than worshiping Christ.

    The need to worship and belong (to a tribe) appears to be inherent to human nature and human culture – universally so. And yes, of course there are exceptions and anomalies, some people don’t need tribes, don’t need religions and are able to function well, be ‘good’ citizens without these “trappings”. The best we can hope for (and work for) is this: may the religions we practice be benign, peaceful, uniting (seeking the humanity in us all) and may our tribes extend to be good nations (the ‘largest’ workable atomization of a tribe).

    What the ‘new atheist’ movement should have engaged in (other than obsessively attempt to ‘deny god’ – the existence of god is not falsifiable, ergo, ultimately, a useless and unproductive debate) is a comparison of contemporary religions. An analysis of theistic religions, of (say) Christianity, Islam and Judaism, both in their moderate presentation and their fundamentalistic. Such an exercise, made widely public would have been useful. In my opinion Sam Harris and Co. (brilliant and articulate) wasted a great deal of time down a rabbit-hole.

    I don’t see why this (Ayaan’s conversion) should bother any of us. If she has found peace and is able to advocate from that perspective for a better world, for more sanity, less radicalization, less violence and an amplification of core western values, more power to her.

    And, I am not sad. I find it interesting.

    1. “Take those away (in their traditional sense), and our religion becomes politics and our tribes, political parties; perhaps a more dangerous post modern outcome than worshiping Christ.”

      Except that Christians were and are more than capable of devolving into tribalism. The English Civil War and the Thirty Years War were fought between Christians of different parties and tribes. The same goes for all the conflict and bloodshed between Catholics and Prostestants. And then there’s the issue of Christian persecution of Jews and non-Christians. The world wasn’t any less violent or bloody when people were religious.

      1. It is a very rare occurrence in 2023 that a group of Christians devolve into tribalism. Religions also evolve, or their presentation(s) evolve; I would hypothesize that in today’s post modern world, Christianity is a greater good than it is an ‘evil’. Christianity is no longer “bloody”. Was it before? Yes, but it also the case that Christians (men and women of faith) gave us the Civil Rights Act (King), ended apartheid (Mandela) and began the *only* meaningful abolitionist movement (the western movement) via William Wilberforce (he was an evangelical Christian). These men, all of them attribute their work to their belief(s).

        Yes, a good argument can be made that secular humanism was a sufficient ingredient to bring about the same outcomes, but I doubt it. I may be able to argue successfully (I’m unsure here) that the Christian ethic (in its best presentation) was a necessary and sufficient factor.

        Some would argue that secular humanism (itself) is an outcome of the Judeo-Christian ethic.

        1. Well, Christians scare the hell out of me. I live in a red state dominated by religion, and my constant experience with them is intolerance and hatred of anyone who doesn’t agree with them. That is the history of religion over the last two millennia, to claim it is a philosophy of peace is fantasy.

          Secular humanism is a refutation of the dominance of religion in society, which has always been repressive and frequently violent. How many heretics have been burned alive in religion’s name? Secular humanism didn’t evolve out of religious belief but in response to religion’s failures.

          1. If Christians scare you, I can think of at least one religion that might scare you more.
            All I can say about Mrs Ferguson is that I’m glad she went to Christianity rather than back to Islam, if she could not stay an atheist.

        2. I think the many women in the US who have been denied abortions or in some cases birth control disagree. The speaker of the house in the US scares the crap right out of me. Christian Nationalists can easily destroy the US and the world with such dangerous beliefs.

          Humans are tribal by nature. It served us well in the Palaeolithic. Our Palaeolithic brains are not equipped for much that we have built but we did overcome much of our tribalism to build things like city states – extending our identity to bigger concepts and for the most part supporting larger groups. We can overcome our base instincts to do better and forcing ourselves to adopt a set of doctrines based on false understanding of the natural world and poorly derived ideas, is not the answer.

        3. Some would argue that secular humanism is a REJECTION of the “Judeo-Christian ethic”, which isn’t specified. Religion also gives us Christian nationalism in the U.S., those “men of faith” who deny women abortions, fight against the teaching of evolution, advocate censorship, and motivate a lotof Republican mischief. See the comment just below.

          And I don’t think the advance of “women’s rights” was done by “women of faith”. That was simple secular humanism: the realization that there is no rationale for denying women the rights that men had.

          If you read Pinker’s “Enlightenment now”, you’ll find a long argument that one of the reasons we’ve made such moral progress in the last couple hundred years was the REJECTION of religious control and ethics.

    2. I could not disagree with this more. Worship (of godking humans and imaginary deities) may be a cultural universal but that does not mean that religion is inherent to human nature. Hume, Freud, and Hitchens all analyzed theistic religions, and each of them found all religions not merely wanting but dangerous (hence Hitchens’ title). More personally, I do not have “some” religion (whatever the scare quotes mean), unless you count my circumcision or my ridiculous devotion to a hapless hockey team.

    3. It “bothers me” as a humanist for good reason, a belief in an afterlife, to me, this is a distraction of magnitude from reality. Religion to me, is to believe in a static society, restraint of growth. As David Deutsch says, religion spends creativity only on self preservation. It is the creation of knowledge, error correction, criticism, that will help lead us to a future on THIS planet.
      Her change to religion seems to me like comfort food on a cold miserable night. Not really a good reason for me but, so be it. each to their own.

    4. Perhaps the “New Atheists” would have got around to addressing the issues you describe but there was a significant battle against religion in general to be fought at that time.
      Then the “New Atheist” movement was destroyed, almost at its peak by nascent wokism in the form of a type of feminism and its inherent identity politics. The great schism.
      Those battles needed to be fought because, look around, religion poisoning the world everywhere still. American Supreme court an arm of the religious right for example.
      Every person, every believer is a metaphorical brick in a massive pyramid of irrationality with the most absurd extreme examples of such thinking at the top of said pyramid.

      I am extremely disappointed.

    5. It bothers me because she’s not only making a personal statement, but advancing the position that the only way to save Western civilization is to believe in things for which there is no evidence. Apparently secular humanism, sans belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, is not enough.

    6. ….And yes, of course there are exceptions and anomalies, some people don’t need tribes, don’t need religions and are able to function well, be ‘good’ citizens without these “trappings”… (2nd paragraph):

      I’m glad you accept exceptions to your affirmation that we all have some religion. I find it interesting to see rituals, but please don’t invite me to join any of them. I also strongly resist the idea of saying thank you to an imaginary being, let alone worship it.
      On second thought, I may have a religion: I would call it nature. Its much-cited counterpart, supernature, does not exist.
      In spite of, or perhaps as a result of an apparently negative attitude, I am perfectly happy with my viewpoints.

    7. I want to inform you that in respect of your claim “we all have ‘some’ religion (yes, we all do)”, I must be the exception that proves your rule. Of course, I realise that you don’t mean to say we are all Hindu, Jew, Greek Orthodox, Sikh or some other organised religion, so what do you mean? I will freely admit that we all have a tribe (often more than one), but as you mention tribe separately, you are deliberately differentiating it from the notion of a religion.

      I’d like to ask then, what do you define as the ‘religion’ that you claim we all have? What do you mean by religion in that sense?

      The only reason I could possibly be considered as having a religion is that because of societal norms and expectations, and the prevalence and importance of religion in society, I am forced to explain why I am not religious. Unfortunately, that explanation fills a religion-shaped hole, because it has to.

      We don’t all have ‘some’ religion; I emphatically reject that notion.

  11. I think that belief does not occur by intellectually accepting the points of a religion, but that the points are rationalized and accepted after the belief begins. I wonder if she has recently learned that she or someone she cares deeply about has a severe health condition, and therefore her belief has resumed as a way to cope with that.

    1. Nonbelief begins in the cradle, and is very soon replaced by believe. Your educators teach you things. As a 6 or 7-year-old, how can you possibly doubt those learnings? Unbelief occurs when reason invites you to ask questions. Criticism is born, advances and strengthens itself.
      Or maybe not. .-)


  12. Hirsi Ali thinks western civilization is under threat from the Chinese Communist Party (which is more capitalist than communist), Vladimir Putin’s Russia (which is Christian!) global Islamism (whose morality is pretty similar to those of fundamentalist Christians; not surprising since Islam probably started as a splinter sect of Christianity), and wokism. So the answer is supposedly Christianity, because it’s a weapon in the “civilizational war” (does Hirsi Ali consider it an A bomb or H bomb?).

    Her reasons for converting seem based more in fear than in any real love for Christianity, but I suppose that applies to plenty of other Christians. It’s a pity no time machine exists to transport the only-Christianity-can-save-us gang to Europe in the 700s or whenever the church was most powerful. They might be happy living in a theocracy where order is guarenteed at the expense of reason. But Hirsi Ali is deluding herself when she thinks the answer to what ails the world today is for Christianity to take over. It’s a reactionary fantasy, and she has ceased to be serious thinker by propounding it.

    1. Ayaan Hirshi Ali is not a fearful human. Rather, quite the opposite, her life is a testament to it. She also does not advocate ( at least not so far) Christianity as an “answer” to what ails the west. Primarily, she appears to espouse to the Judea-Christian ethos and the cultures and philosophy that can (with credibility) be attributed to that ethos; western culture.

      Not everyone who believes and uses their beliefs (depends on the belief of course) to advocate for a better world is a reactionary fanatic. Dr. King supposedly prayed before every civil disobedience action he engaged in, he was man of deep faith. Nelson Mandela was a Christian. William Wilberforce, the father of the emancipation movement, fought for decades for abolitionism before he was successful. He was an evangelical Christian.

      In the end, we must judge people by their actions, not so much by what they believe.

      1. Christians like to take credit for the Enlightenment, just as they try to take credit for all the scientific discoveries and great art and literature that happened when they had absolute power. But religious adherence demands that one not question the church’s orthodoxy. Enlightenment only comes when one questions and rejects such absolute dogma.

        If the church had its way, we’d still have to accept that the Earth is the center of the solar system.

        1. If the church had its way, we’d still have to accept that the Earth is the center of the solar system.

          Well, according to General Relativity it might as well be….

      2. If you’e going to bring out the examples of Dr. King, Mandela, and William Wilberforce, shouldn’t you also mention that the people who opposed them were ALSO Christian, and that it was Christians who engaged in the slave trade, often by finding Biblical justification for it? The Southerners who opposed civil rights and earlier fought for the confederacy were Christians. We can also thank Christianity for 2,000 years of bigotry and violence toward Jews. The ethics of Christianity are rather dubious.

    2. ” the Chinese Communist Party (which is more capitalist than communist)”

      What does “capitalist” mean? How is that distinct from free market economies? Does China really have private property from which owners make profit?

      Isn’t China executing an attempt to solve the problem of production – the problem being that communism cannot produce basic materials that society needs?

  13. Meaning and purpose of life?
    Yeah no, there are none. That’s what absence of a god means — that we are free to make of life what we will.

    She says it will be better for getting things done, working with the nuts. Maybe she’s right but it isn’t a very moving argument .

  14. I have been seeing many videos with J.Peterson the last few years. An interesting guy, sometimes he talks very wisely about many things, other times, he is having rather strange ideas about other things, especially about the necessity of Christianity. I see it as a typical example of “Belief in Belief” (Daniel Dennet)
    I suspect Hirsi is a “Christian” of the same type: Christianity is the only thing that can save us from extreme wokeness from the left (the regressive left) communism and especially Islamism
    As someone growing up with a Pentecostal mother (I have now been an atheist for 45 years), this Belief in Belief (or Identify as a Christian as someone wisely called it) is not something I would consider Christianity. It’s also a rather harmless form of “Christianity”, unlike the Christian fundamentalism one find in many countries (not so much in Norway, far too much in USA).
    Anyway, as a Norwegian, I would rather elect some moderate, liberal “Christian” to public office, rather than some woke leftist who can’t even say what a woman is.

  15. I am going to take her word for it, that she is trying to identify as a member of a united and politically powerful front that might muster resistance against the threats that she cites (Islamic extremism, expansion of Chinese power, etc.). She wants to be in that fight, and let’s face it, atheism is about as useful against those issues as a wet noodle. We atheists are not a united or a politically connected bunch! Yes, we sit on the throne of Truth, but that isn’t going to help us against zealots.
    Ok, I am disappointed but maybe not surprised at her turn. But with the current crowd she now hangs out in, surely there will be times when they ask her to profess beliefs that she probably does not believe in: That Christ was the son of God. That he rose from the dead, and so forth and so on. She will have to decide what to do about that.

    1. I wonder if her attitude is a reflection of the seeming repulsion against collective values. It seems organized groups don’t want to suggest there are collective values like say the responsibility we have toward others. It’s all how one feels as an individual. Identifying with Christians corrects this.

  16. “Why do I call myself a Christian now?
    Part of the answer is global. Western civilisation is under threat from three different but related forces: …the rise of global Islamism…” – A. H. Ali

    Why doesn’t she mention Christianism (Christian extremism/fundamentalism), which is an international threat too? Christianism (its orthodox version) is one of the pillars of Putin’s imperialist ideology, and for example: Uganda death penalty law for gays is work of U.S. missionaries: https://ffrf.org/news/news-releases/item/42122-ffrf-uganda-death-penalty-law-for-gays-is-work-of-u-s-missionaries

    “Unlike Islam, Christianity outgrew its dogmatic stage.” – A. H. Ali

    No, it didn’t! The Christians haven’t all become Unitarian Universalists.

    “Atheism failed to answer a simple question: what is the meaning and purpose of life?” – A. H. Ali

    No, it didn’t! The simple answer is that there are no such things as THE meaning and THE purpose of life, but there are many meaningful and purposeful things one can do in a secular culture; and values such as love, friendship, solidarity, beauty are theism-independent anyway.

    1. RE “there are many meaningful and purposeful things one can do in a secular culture” –
      Well, I wonder (but then I sort of said that in my other note) – but I am not a Humanist, rather a Nihilist!
      My favourite quote, perhaps – “We live as we dream -alone.” Conrad
      Or Balfour’s profound – “Nothing matters very much, & most things don’t matter at all.”

  17. Pathetic. Such weakness.

    My conclusion, there are believers & non-believers, only the believers can insert pretty much any old bollocks in there, while non-believers do not feel the need.

    I speak as one brought up ‘christian’ but for whom it never made any sense.

    My REAL question, is – “is this person NICE or NASTY…?”

    I happen to like nice people, & I do not care if they believe in fairies, as long as they care about climate change & want to make the world a better* place! *[to be defined!]

  18. ” People in countries that are nearly completely atheistic, like Iceland or Denmark, do not seem to be stricken with ennui because they don’t have religion to give them meaning and purpose. ” But remember, the Danes have smørrebrød for meaning and purpose. And what could do it better?

    I suspect Hirsi Ali’s sort-of conversion follows from a conclusion about History: namely, that Christianity (or more broadly the Judeo-Christian tradition) is what gave rise to the rest of Western civilization, including science, the Enlightenment, and Humanism. it is a fact that Christendom is where these things developed, or happened to develop. Jared Diamond & Co. argue that this was just a matter of how the rivers run in western Europe. Others argue that ideas have consequences, although the argument that Christianity underpins the Enlightenment and Humanism is rather complicated. Still, Erasmus was a priest. So was Roger Bacon. So were Copernicus and Mendel. And the outlook of the Danes probably owes less to smørrebrød, in reality, than to the philosopher and educational reformer N. F. S. Grundtvig—and he was an intense Lutheran pastor. Is there some connection? Just wondering….

    1. John Henry Newman wrote about how religion – that is, Christianity – bound and oriented the University. I think that is related, with research and such.

      Otherwise, Helen Pluckrose write a great comment on WEIT regarding the “religion assigned at birth” (maybe?) of science:


      I haven’t gotten to Newman’s writing extensively, but here’s a Wikipedia link :


      PCC(E), I’ll restrain myself from going overboard at this point – sometimes the connections I see are overwhelming!

  19. I can understand Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her need. I do not feel sad. I was born into a Christian life and the community and although a long time non believer that formative period was I believe mostly good and I do not look back with regret or anger. It was the way things were in the UK at the end of WWII. The community I remember around our village Parish Church was active and helpful for people trying to recover from war and loss and bombing and shortages, rationing in the UK did not end until 1953. My parents contributed and although not regular church goers we partook of Christmas and Easter activities and I now when hearing certain church music I reflect with fond memories. The vicar and family were long part of the community and were much liked.
    Ayaan Hirsi Ali apparently is missing that part of community terrible though Islam is, that helped her in formative times and if Christianity helps her so be it. I wish her well.
    During my RAF service particularly in overseas postings the RAF church community was often a real lifeline for service members and families a long way from home. It did far more good than harm in my opinion.
    Christianity is not Islam.

    1. That took some courage to write. I try to stay out of disputes over the role of religion (other than pointing out the dangers of expansionist Islam) so I’m not chiming in, except to say that I think you have a personality that I could have communion with. (I don’t mean Church communion.) Live long.

      I suspect that Ms. Ali worries that atheist soldiers won’t fight, instead sneering at “just another religious war”. And she worries that Christian soldiers won’t risk death to protect atheists. As Max says, she’s picking a side.

  20. I’ve heard that Danish smørrebrød is delicious. Or am I confused?

    Incidently, what Christian denomination does Hirsi Ali identify with?

  21. She appears to have embraced Christianity due to fear (of Russia & China) & ignorance (over what happens after we did).

    Fear & ignorance: the most fertile breeding ground for cognitive dissonance.

    And let’s be honest, she’s been pre-wored for cognitive dissonance from birth.

    Hitchens would tear her a new A-hole with logic if he were alive.

  22. I find it frightening that anyone would propose that Christianity or any other religion is the path to peace. The historic record is quite the opposite.

    Religion is in large part the cause of the tragedy in the Middle East, with radicals on each side claiming a divine mandate to possess all the land and annihilate the other side. It’s been a key factor in virtually every major and minor war and genocide in human history, if not the primary cause, at least used as the justification for it.

    I know some Christians who are good-hearted and kind, but just as many who are mean and vengeful and capable of violence in the name of their church. Belief didn’t stop thousands of Catholic priests and Baptist preachers from sexually violating kids, or from endorsing the Nazi Party in Germany, or from church leaders who justified slavery in the US prior to the Civil War.

    So I see no evidence that religion makes people better and more civilized, instead, whether we are good or not seems more to depend on our own capacity for empathy, and nothing else.

    This quote has been attributed to Lincoln, whether true or not it’s what I follow:
    When I do good I feel good, when I do bad I feel bad.

  23. I co-organized an atheist Meetup group for 12 years with my wife. For a variety of reasons we retired the group earlier this year. (Our advancing age is one reason.)

    I considered one of the group’s early members a fanatic because he quite openly said that he wanted to kill Christians. He was apparently abused by his Christian parents, and he rebelled by becoming an atheist, or non-theist. But he apparently absorbed and incorporated the authoritarianism of his Christian parents anyway.

    Maybe that’s what is happening with Hirsi — her desire for “law and order” in the face of perceived disappointments and disarray in society. But she cannot go back to Islam because of her past strong arguments against it, so she’s turning to Christianity.

    It will, indeed, be interesting to see how she evolves in her newly adopted belief system. How will she explain the fantasies and contradictions? It seems most likely that she’ll cherry-pick the “benefits” and ignore the rest, as is the usual custom for religious believers.

    It’s sad and distressing, as knowledge of her conversion will certainly percolate up to the radical Christians infiltrating municipalities, Congress, and the Supreme Court who are trying to impose their fantasy beliefs on everyone else and undermine secular governance — the single most important contribution our country’s founding had made to the world.

    More than belief itself, I find it most difficult to understand how an intelligent and thoughtful atheist could ever fall back into religious fantasy.

  24. I don’t feel that at least part of her argument can be dismissed so easily. Right now, as we speak, some religions are indeed more peaceful than others. Both Ali and Sam Harris, and others, make this point fairly well. Why not humanism instead? Nice aspiration, but wrong species and time context – would be the quick answer. The societal glue theory is not easily dismissed, given where we are today, in this moment. The U.S. is ready for a gay woman president, but not an atheist anything president. She may have a deeper need than just utility of belief in the current moment, but this part of the argument is not weak in my view.

  25. “Religion is good for good people.”–Katie Roiphe, who I think is an atheist. IMO, she has the chain of causation right, i.e., a person must be good to begin with to derive any good from religion.

  26. Did I miss it, which arguments for theistic claims did she accept ? Is this just the “It’s good if people have faith” without any actual evidence for any god(s) claim ?

  27. I can’t help but think that Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s move to Christianity is based on a logical fallacy, namely, that atheism hasn’t solved the problems of the world, so Christianity must be the answer. But she surely knows that this makes no sense. It also seems that she is embracing Christianity for its promise (in her view) as a moral compass, not necessarily because of God. Maybe she’s an atheist Christian. Her statement of belief in a deity is very weak indeed in he essay. Who knows?

    Yes, the world is chaotic. Yes, there are demagogues and authoritarians running amok. Yes, there are woke virtue signalers who in their zeal for social justice are trampling the very thing they are trying to promote. But surely those things don’t imply that Christianity is the answer; they certainly don’t imply that there must be a deity. It all seems a bit strange if you asked me—an existential crisis of sorts.

  28. Does she believe and affirm the Nicene Creed?
    Does she believe that the OT and NT are the inerrant Word of God?
    Does she believe in the Second Coming in Jesus?
    Does she believe it’s either eternal bliss or eternal torment for everyone?
    And so on…

  29. The twentieth century was the hellscape of atheists. Lenin, Trotsky, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot were proud atheists, ascribing (most of them) to the variant of humanism termed Marxism-Leninism. 100 million killed, many of them Christians (in Russia, in China). Churches dynamited, believers tortured. Are you people so oblivious?

    1. “Man” is god in the cult of Marxism – a practical application of Hegel ( Marx writes that he stood Hegel’s idea on its head ) – gnostic hermetic alchemy. It’s cult mysticism. Marxism competes with other gods. Dictators had different starting vanguards, but – those dictators were atheists the way the pope is an atheist.

      That’s what it means when some atheists go one god further.

    2. Mike, there are smarter ones than me among our fellow readers who could better respond to your comment. Let me just say that the despots you listed didn’t kill in the name of atheism; they killed in the name of themselves. Each of them created a quasi-religion with each of them as the central object to be worshipped and obeyed. (Hitler was not an atheist but a lifelong Catholic who killed in the name of his god as well as himself.)

    3. Hitler was a Roman Catholic who thought he was doing the Will of God. Hitler’s speeches and writings are full of praise for Jesus. The Germans who made the holocaust happen were overwhelmingly Christian. Anti-Semitism is a Christian vice of Christian origins.

      The real problem here is not religion or Christianity vs atheism, but uniformity vs diversity. The evildoers you mention sought to impose a uniform philosophy upon all. Everybody had to submit. No exceptions. No objections. Diversity was not on the table.

      Why, by the way, do you not consider the millions killed by mainstream religion during the twentieth century? You could just as well have written “The twentieth century was the hellscape of religion.”

    4. Mike, Hitler was religious, he believed in God just like you do. And the others were indeed inspired by Marxism-Leninism, but, no, that does not derive in any way from atheism or from humanism.

    5. Hitler was not atheist. He had some strange ideas about God and providence, but never denied the existence of a deity. The German soldiers had some version of ‘God is with us’ on their belt buckles. Being an atheist does not make you a good person, anymore than not believing in unicorns makes you a good person. It’s simply irrelevant. Neither does embracing a religion or belief in gods.

    6. Oblivious to what? Do you not realise what would have happened in previous eras if modern infrastructure, political organisation, logistics, communications, mechanised transportation and weapons technologies had existed then? And most importantly, if human populations were as large as they are now?

      There would have been carnage that made the twentieth century look like child’s play. The level of worldwide horror would have eclipsed what you saw in the twentieth century many times over.

      Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler etc. were only as powerful as they were because they exploited their populations’ existential and economic pain and uncertainty. Yes, just like religious leaders have always done. They just replaced God with their own – a dogmatic, totalitarian and intolerant belief system. They then enforced compliance with a level of violence and sadism equal to that of the Spanish Inquisition. Just as they did in medieval Europe, people living in twentieth-century dictatorships had to toe the line or suffer a terrible fate.

      The advances of the twentieth century provided technology that had never existed before. It enabled the despots of the age to inflict violence and suffering on an unprecedented scale. It gave leaders the power to cause pain and harm to an extent that religious leaders had already fantasised about for centuries.

      If we had had the same population, logistics, and killing machinery In medieval times as we do now, the carnage would have far exceeded anything we have ever seen. Are you people so oblivious?

  30. It is sad. There is no hope in religion.
    Perhaps the woke, having shed religion in their push to be moral will wake up to the inherent nonsense of their position and embrace a more rational approach.

  31. Understanding, applying and preserving the evolutionary and ecological relationships of the earth’s species and systems is, on reflection, arguably the most persuasive
    meaning of life….and the most urgent. Yet few humans have reflected on this much less gotten involved in passing on the knowledge acquired through science. Why this understanding has not been codified in its own Constitution is perplexing. Perhaps because humans resist the notion that there are higher natural forces constraining human action and requiring obeisance that interfere with human endeavors. One wonders whether a naturalistic “religion” putting Nature first might answer the question about “the meaning of life”.

  32. Thx, JC, for bringing this to our attention and for your observations of the flaws in Hirsi Ali’s reasoning. It reminds me of Stephen Colbert’s foray into atheism and hurried return to catholicism. Childhood indoctrination never completely goes away, it seems. Having said this I am reminded of James Esses’ recently expressed concern for the future that we face with a generation of children now maturing and entering the workforce and voting population with beliefs formed by gender identity ideology educational propoganda. Like Hirsi Ali and Colbert, these beliefs will be highly resistent to facts and reason.

    1. The Christian god, including its avatar “Jesus,” is such an evident madman as portrayed in both the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, I’m always amazed that believers like Colbert (and perhaps Ali) find “comfort” and “refuge” in their beliefs.

      Their deity is capricious, cruel, egotistical, murderous, vengeful, petty, unimaginative, hysterical, insecure, inscrutable, inconsistent, erratic, prudish, pedantic, deceitful, obtuse … the list goes on.

      What comfort is there to find in such an entity? I would find it terrifying, and did, when I kinda-sorta believed in it.

      1. It’s all explained in John C. Wathey’s book, “The Illusion of God’s Presence”. A good interview here (starts at 3:45). He also has a subsequent book “The Phantom God”. Fascinating stuff.

  33. Is it possible that secular humanism is a creation of the intellectual elite and can not serve as a moral guide for the rest of society. Can morality be reasoned from individuals with low IQ, say under 85.

    1. Secular Humanism is great for people who have already developed a moral sense and do not need a philosophy anymore to support it. Atheists and Humanists have never come up with a coherent philosophy that can be taught to others to win them over or hinder them from adopting destructive ideas. The West certainly needs one (and perhaps used to have one – I think that’s what was referred to as a “civic religion”) but Christianity is far too erroneous to fit the bill. This failure was a frequent topic of discussion in Free Inquiry back when I subscribed to that magazine. The problem is that atheism is defined by what its adherents don’t believe rather than a shared belief. Humanism, as defined by the contributors to Free Inquiry, was pretty vacuous. Paul Kurtz’s “eupraxophy” concept went nowhere.

  34. Charitably, perhaps she thinks that times are starting to get interesting enough that it is advisable to go ahead and join a team.

  35. Does Hirsi Ali think that Christianity will save us from wokeness? Consider that every single Christian denomination has endorsed various aspects of Critical Theory, even the Southern Baptists – probably the most deeply religious Christian sect in the U.S. Rather than slowing the spread of those ideas, Christians have helped them along in the name of “compassion”. On the other hand, the speed with which nearly every atheist group adopted such doctrines shows that their supposed rationalism is no protection either.

    As for the question, “What unites us?”, I fear that there is nothing anymore that does. The most commonly-shared idea across the West appears to be denial of reality. We’re not going to stop Islamism or Critical Theory until more people on the center and Left wake up to how malicious these ideas are. Stopping any of Hirsi Ali’s three stated threats requires recognizing the long game that they are playing and seeing through their rhetoric.

    Hirsi Ali admits that she doesn’t know much about Christianity. Let’s see if her faith holds up once she finds out what it really entails.

  36. I don’t understand, “My view is that they are a social veneer, worked out by trial and error, overlain on a morality evolved when we lived in small groups.”
    -Are the Gods the “they” that “are a social veneer”?
    -Does “when we lived in small groups” refer back to when we evolved to Homo Sapiens some 100,000 years ago (Richard Dawkins suggests 300,000 )?
    -Isn’t Humanist morality, based on science and reason, new –a level playing field and basic human rights, for instance?

    1. You cannot derive morality from science or reason. Rather, morality comes from human values, part of our evolved nature (though we can be *influenced* by science and reason in how we think and feel). As for timescales, our moral values will have evolved over millions of years (chimps have a sense of morality, that is feelings about how they should and should not treat each other).

      1. Our instinctual moral values that derived over millions of years of evolution are not the moral values we have today. Those Stone Age instincts gave survival advantages for isolated, hunter gatherer clans but that is a far cry from today when we live on a global stage. The philosophy of Humanism is new with a democratic morality centered on separation of Church and State and basic human rights.

    1. Someone (Richard Dawkins?) replied: Wrong question!
      Same answer to the question what flavour is yellow?

      We give meaning to our life; isn’t that a wonderful purpose?

      1. Yes. My point was that the question might be nonsensical. You can make up any answer you want, make up any purpose you want. Words like ‘purpose’ can have concrete meanings in all kinds of mundane situations. The question ‘What is the purpose of that mirror?’ is grammatically correct and could have meaning depending on the context. That does not mean the concept of purpose applies in general. We have to be careful when expanding the scope of language.

        With regard to a statement like ‘I am holding a pebble in my hand’, one can assign truth values, or say that one does not know. That is, one may adopt the position of a believer, atheist, or agnostic. The statement has concrete meaning. However, with regard to a statement like ‘I am holding the eternal greenness of serenity in my hand’, one cannot adopt any of the above positions, not even the agnostic one, unless the question is reified.

        I’m not even an atheist.

  37. > humanism (as an obvious alternative for atheists)

    God is dead is the only value I share with other atheists. Though I act in many cases like a humanist I’m not a humanist. Morality binds an blinds (as Jonathan Haidt puts it); I’m not a fan of the blinding part nor the binding part (they are the root of all evil). As long we have not discovered any moral facts I make my moral choices on a case by case basis and only if I’m forced to make a moral decision.

  38. Hardly a surprise.
    Those who have been indoctrinated with religious dogma during their upbringing and later intellectualise that dogma’s shortcomings in not satisfying their personal ‘spiritual’(?) needs, are surely more prone or inclined at some stage to ‘retreat’ (default?) back into the ‘safety-net’ of one religion or another.
    As you have pointed out, the moment someone tries to seek ‘purpose and meaning’ to their lives and presumes ‘faith/belief’ (with it’s ‘jump-start’ indoctrination of most young minds by adults) has the ‘answer’ – then ‘game over’!
    My late father, when in his mid-nineties and living in a Care Home, would often feel ‘down’ and ask me – “what’s the purpose?”
    My perhaps harsh(?) response, though well intended, was that “there is no purpose. We have to find or discover a purpose and meaning in life, for ourselves”.
    He was not a religious man though he was respectful of those of faith. But felt he had more affinity with the spirituality of ancestral indigenous peoples, I think.
    I am very comfortable with my own non-believer status and consider myself very fortunate to have had many long conversations with my Dad, right up until his death, about belief/non- belief and been able to discuss the writings of Gould, Dennett, Dawkins, et al, with him.

  39. Well that is extremely depressing. Not least because her weak reasons for becoming a Christian just bear out what Russell said: it’s down to fear. She’s afraid of the state of the world and she’s afraid of not feeling “solace” in life.

    Surely she can’t have forgotten that these are absolutely rubbish reasons for believing in gods, and that personal fears and feelings say precisely zero about what is true and what is not?

  40. My first thought was that Hirsi Ali’s main motivation for her conversion was her fear of Islamic world domination. If you really fear that possibility, joining Christianity might be the rational thing to do, considering that atheism is too weak an opponent to Islam.

      1. We don’t know. If they were all atheists, how could Israel then by a Jewish Nationalist state that discriminated against non-Jews, making them second class citizens?

        1. Firstly, as Leslie says, non-Jews aren’t second-class citizens in Israel. Secondly, Jews aren’t necessarily religious; a Jewish Nationalist state could be populated solely by Jewish atheists.

    1. Islam is hardly a united front though. How many Islamic countries have declared war on Israel since the start of the Gaza conflict? It’s a far cry from the days of the Yom Kippur War. And then there is the divide between the Sunni and the Shia.

  41. Is wokeness going to destroy Western Civilization? Are CRT and the Oberlin student council and DEI statements and trans women winning trophies?

    Islamism seems to me a bigger threat, especially to Israel, along with the resurgent popularity of fascist ethno-states, including Russia.

    Mobilizing against AGW could give a person some sort of higher purpose, too—saving the planet and all that.

    But for my money, the thing that scares me most about this world isn’t the nukes, super volcanoes, or commies. It’s the Far Futurists developing AGI/ASI who are going to kill us all the fastest.

    Once the robots take over, AHA is going to wish that there was a real Jesus to save her. But at least she will have found a sense of meaning and purpose.

  42. Forgive me for digressing with some semi-random thoughts…

    It seems curious to me that discussions among atheists about “morality” and “purpose” rarely mention that the apparent *de facto* purpose of life is to reproduce, and all living activity that doesn’t hinder that purpose is in service to it.

    Reproduction is the engine of evolution, and we wouldn’t be here without it.

    The investigation of nature with increasingly effective scientific methods has endowed one species on Earth with the ability to purposefully expand beyond Earth, either to colonize other worlds and/or to harvest resources such as asteroids and comets to build large-scale habitats directly in space.

    My morality is guided by what some people might call “secular humanism,” but I resist that label because its definition often changes, and how one person defines it might not fit with how another person defines it, at least in the details.

    It seems to me that “morality” is — to use Stephen Jay Gould’s term — just a “spandrel” of evolution, dependent on the organism (human or otherwise) and its place in the environment, both in space and time.

    In any case, I find it strange that atheists are considered by some people as lacking in “purpose” or “morality,” without some positive organizing principle. As an atheist, it’s enough for me to say that the idea of deities as defined by various contemporary religions makes no sense to me — or is simply irrelevant — and so I don’t subscribe to that idea. My “atheism” doesn’t need anything else.

    As an individual, however, my positive organizing principle has long been the expansion of life (via humanity) beyond Earth. Many, if not all, of my “humanistic” proclivities and affiliations are weighed against that organizing principle.

    I think it would be unfortunate if humanity — or all life on Earth — were to go extinct because of some catastrophe, “natural” or otherwise. (I put “natural” in quotes because I consider humanity as part of nature.)

    I might be wrong, but It seems obvious to me that expansion beyond Earth would make extinction less likely to happen, or push it into some more distant and speculative future. For me, that’s a worthwhile and meaningful organizing principle.

    1. I don’t agree that morality is a “spandrel”, rather it is an adaptation. That is, it evolved to act as a social glue, thus enabling us to exploit a social/cooperative ecological niche.

      1. Depends on the framing, I think. It might be both a spandrel — in terms of “meaning” — and an adaptation for survival. I’ll have to think about it.

        1. Yes, it is an adaptation. However, I was thinking about how that morality is expressed in the behavior of an organism. The behavior doesn’t express an “absolute” morality. It is shaped by the evolved needs of the organism and its environment.

          But “spandrel” might not be a good use of the term for that, as spandrels — as I understand the term — are not essential for survival, but fill the incidental spaces among necessary components. I’m not an evolutionary biologist, so my vocabulary and knowledge about this is limited. In any case, thanks for bringing the it to my attention.

  43. This is one of the main contention that fellow Muslims pose to us ex-muslims or atheists. But they do not realize that this problem can be pushed one level further up and there is still no good answer to it – what is the ultimate purpose of eternal life in heaven? Of course you have no option but to answer it with some gobbledygook like enjoying hoories, rivers of honey and milk, yada yada yada. These answers are not dissimilar to what you would give for an Earthly life except that in this life there is suffering and in that life there is only an eternal bliss, that is not a purpose but that is just your state of being. In fact, I would contest, that this life has a better and more compelling purpose and that is to work towards lessening the suffering for yourself and other fellow human beings since you have found yourself in this cycle of life.

    We run a youtube channel with the name “Philo Sapience” and deal with such deep philosophical questions mostly from an Islamic perspective.

  44. I’m bemused by the notion that one can simply decide to change (presumably?) deeply held beliefs because of practical considerations.

    Or is Ali not really changing her belief, just switching her allegiance because she believes that “team Jesus” is the best way to fend off the Islamic horde?

  45. I will make a prediction for you, and that is that Ayaan Hirsi will, in the next five years, renounce her Christian faith, and will return to an atheist viewpoint.

    Around 15 years ago, I returned to my former Christian faith, having publicly renounced my atheism, unable to cope with nihilism and fear of death. I had gotten laid off from my job and was suffering from depression. My conversion happened very quickly over the course of a few days, but over the next several years, I slowly reached a, “I can’t believe that I am doing this” point in my life, and over a period of several months, I stopped practicing, and, then, professing my Catholic faith.

    That was 10 years ago. As with any addiction, religious belief can sometimes be difficult to get over, but I have found living my life, for better or worse, in the real World is preferable to trying to live in a world of fantasies & make believe. I have found that with religious beliefs comes all sorts of undesirable opportunity costs.


  46. Jordan Petersen is also a fake Christian, doing it out of ideological motivations. That, plus his deep personal problem of needing to present himself as a profound person, more profound than those atheists. Just a feeble Adlerian need to feel superior, by latching onto the once-dominant religion and joining it in calling its opponents superficial. He and the churches alike get their psychological compensation that way for having been marginalized.
    Petersen admires Dostoevsky because Dostoevsky had that same unhealthy psychological needs. He devoted an entire lifetime of literary effort to trying to make his attempt at superiority over the atheists feel like it’s justified and deep. He wasted his great literary skill in the process, and caused a lot of evil in the process.
    Dostoevsky was superior to Petersen in one respect: he did say, in the manner of making a deep confession in a letter to a lady friend, that he really was one of those damned intelligentsia who didn’t believe in God. But he didn’t have the decency to say that honestly to the world. Instead he told himself that he was better than the other intellectuals because, unlike them, he considered himself evil for not believing, and hated himself for it.
    Very sad that AHA is joining this crowd, for now. She’s better than that. I wish her well in working her way free from it again.

  47. I don’t fault Ayaan if she finds personal solace and community in her newfound faith. Given her religious belief as a child, the traumas she experienced, the demands of her vital and admirable work, and the stress of being on a Jihadist “most wanted list,” I am not surprised she was discontented and converted. She is mistaken, however, to project her experience onto others and conclude that people can only find fulfilling lives as Christians. Numerous Jews, Buddhists, Atheists, and others would contest her assertion.

    Regarding Christianity and the global ideological war, we mustn’t forget Putin’s regime is bolstered by Russian Orthodoxy. In the U.S., not only do regressive leftists attack democracy, but the majority of Evangelicals energize the authoritarian, anti-constitutional MAGA movement. We also know that democracies, such as Scandinavian countries and Japan, exist without a significant religious presence.

    Understandably, Christians are thrilled to tout another famous convert who validates their faith. Yet, “conversions” FROM Christianity are common, as many of us who were Christians did not find it satisfactory. (Note to true believers: do not bother to inform me that I was not a “true Christian.”) For me, leaving Evangelical Christianity many years ago, as painful as the transition was, freed me to create an authentic and satisfactory life. Tried as I might, I could not find a reasonable foundation for my faith, despite the many books and lectures of Christian apologists. Ultimately, to retain my Christian beliefs, I would have had to sacrifice my intellectual integrity.

    I would feel hopeless if Christianity, because of its practical and cultural value, were necessary to defeat our enemies. The above-mentioned problems undermine the Christian hope of a new “Great Awakening.” Nor would it happen soon enough. We are fighting for a civilized and admirable way of life and must not waste energy arguing about unknowables or lose our strength by fragmenting. The only way forward is for all people of goodwill, regardless of the source of their values, to suit up together and “once more unto the breach.”

  48. So I’m not the only one bewildered by how shallow and unaware Ayaan Hirsi Ali turns out to be! I’m late to this party, here’s what I posted in response:
    Former Protestant, then Eastern Orthodox, now agnostic atheist here, who’s fascinated by Islam (how awful it is, specifically). I’ve long admired the courage of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and all ex-Muslims, and I’m glad if she’s found a spiritual home.

    But several elements of her message seem … odd. Here’s three.

    FIRST: For a longtime public professional atheist writer and speaker, Hirsi Ali has a wacky take on what “atheism” is and does.

    After she identifies the most pernicious threats to the west (two of which — Putin’s Russia and global Islamism — are backed by major world religions), she wonders what commonality we (Westerners) all could use as a bulwark against them — then sighs, “The response that ‘God is dead!’ seems insufficient.”

    To which I say, “Well, duh.” A can opener and a bouquet of pink roses would also be insufficient for that task.

    Not only is The West comprised of 70 countries of people of thousands of different creeds and levels of religiosity (and therefore no religious commonality, but a history of strife between religions), “God is dead” isn’t even a pro-atheist slogan in the first place. (Did she think it was?) It’s an acknowledgment that one value system has collapsed in the West and a new one will have to be built.

    Hirsi Ali then repeats the point in different words, dismissing atheism as “too weak and divisive a doctrine to fortify us against our menacing foes.”

    To which I (again) say “Well, duh.” (The reader can insert a couple of irrelevant tools here.)

    That’s because “atheism,” as Hirsi Ali should know, isn’t a doctrine of any sort. It simply identifies a disbelief (or lack of belief) in God, nothing more. It’s not a philosophy, value system, or moral code — we atheists derive our morals and ethics from the culture around us (local laws and customs; actual philosophies; our parents, extended family, neighbors and teachers; our social groups and those who inspire us) rather than from ancient texts. Truth be told, most religious folks derive their morals and ethics the same way. (If someone parks in your spot and your reaction references Deuteronomy, that’s a problem!)

    I understand the confusion. In the U.S., for example, the majority of atheists lean left. But that’s largely because since the 1800s, Protestant Christians and skeptic groups grew largely in reaction against each other. There’s plenty of right-leaning atheists, though, not to mention the world’s other 1.8 billion atheists who can’t be classified according to American politics and who have little in common besides atheism.

    Atheists can be good and bad people, educated and ignorant, hate religion or just not care about it. There’s atheists who accept Darwin’s theory of evolution and atheists who believe humankind was planted here by green men in UFOs. Still not convinced? Then ask yourself whether any given atheist in Denver or Milwaukee “belongs to the same religion” as any given atheist in Japan, Norway, China Germany, South Korea, or Vietnam.

    So Hirsi Ali’s lament that “Atheism failed to answer a simple question: what is the meaning and purpose of life?” is like blaming a single wrench for not being able to overhaul your engine. For an ex-Christian or ex-Muslim, “unbelief” isn’t the solution, but the FIRST step on a journey to find one’s OWN meaning (which can be tremendously powerful and affirming). It seems strange that someone as knowledgeable as Hirsi Ali doesn’t see this.

    SECOND: Many people have “God-shaped boxes” that provoke loneliness and insecurity if left empty. And If Hirsi Ali needed to fill that box, I’m very grateful she chose Christianity rather than reverting to Islam. But her essay doesn’t really explain how Christianity solves the problems she found in Islam.

    Don’t get me wrong: In the current era, Islam (particularly Jihadist/Islamist groups) are a much, much larger danger worldwide than Christianity is. (We Americans should be able to admit that without disregarding the danger Christian Nationalism poses to our own democracy.)

    For example, Hirsi Ali doesn’t say what branch or denomination of Christianity she’s joined. She doesn’t have to. But many of them still warn of everlasting hell for sinners and unbelievers (including Jews who don’t convert), and a few forbid “music, dancing and cinema.”

    To be clear: Even the most conservative form of Christianity today is nowhere NEAR as confining as almost all forms of modern Islam. Today’s Christians aren’t cutting the hands off of thieves, throwing gays off buildings, stoning adulterers or lashing consenting adults for premarital sex. No Christians are stabbing artists to death for drawing pictures of Jesus. Nor do ex-Christians fear execution, as ex-Muslims do. There is truly no comparison between Islam today and Christianity today.

    All that said, many forms of Christianity have blood on their hands for past atrocities, and some continue to inflict emotional and spiritual abuse to believers. It almost seems like Hirsi Ali imagines Christianity as always having been as tolerant and inclusive as some forms are now, when these are fairly modern developments —influenced, ironically, by secularism.

    Moreover, in defending Western civilization, Hirsi Ali appears to pit “faith” (that is, Christianity) against “nihilism” (China, Russia and Iran) … while somehow ignoring the fact that Iran and Putin’s Russia are on fire with the RELIGIOUS spirit of radical islam and (regrettably) Russian Orthodox Christianity. (Just because some believers align themselves with evil movements, as we see them, does not mean they aren’t “true believers.”)

    It’s interesting that Hirsi Ali picks up the shield of Christianity to fight battles in 2023. The “Judeo-Christianity” she embraces isn’t a real thing: it’s an idea largely promoted in post-WWII America to make our society seem more strongly amalgamated than it really was. But it never reflected true acceptance of Jews. We can see how things are going now in the horrific growth of antisemitism against Israel’s military response to a Muslim aggressor.

    It’s also a weird choice given that Christianity’s weakening impact on the world in recent decades. Many Western nations that were formally majority Christian are now mostly secular; interestingly, divorce and violent crime rates are also decreasing, and literacy and women’s rights are increasing. Maybe Hirsi Ali finds comfort in embracing the past, but she’ll have a problem finding team members this way.

    THIRD: Hirsi Ali likely didn’t write the headline “Why I am now a Christian,” but throughout her essay she says that she now “calls herself” a Christian. She’s also written an essay listing the strategic reasons she finds Christianity superior to Islam.

    But nowhere does she mention coming to actually believe in God or Christ. And I don’t mean by the narrow definition Evangelicals and Pentacostals use (“accepting Jesus as personal savior,” “being born again,” or whatever). She doesn’t mention any transformative or spiritual connection with any diety whatsoever.

    And that’s fine. I’m not judging her. But logical facts don’t always translate to an inner conviction of religious truth. No one can “force” themselves into a supernatural belief, even if they really want to. It sounds like Hirsi Ali really wants to. But she hasn’t yet.

    1. Thanks for the comment, but as a newbie you should reading the posting rules on the left sidebar. Your comment is twice as long as I usually allow. I’ll let it go up, but the comment section is meant for shorter takes–600 words or fewer. Thanks.

    2. I agree with you entirely (as you would recognize if you were to read my succinct comment). I enjoyed your metaphors, humor, and conversational style.

  49. Does she mean Christian in sort of a general sense, like a cultural and general ideological way? Or in a way that is dogmatic?

  50. As a Christian myself, I just want to say I appreciate your fair critique of Ayana Hirsi and her new found faith in Christianity. It’s a breath of fresh air.

    I dialogue often with atheists, and I find that there seems to be a critical spirit involved in this movement that maybe convinced Ayaan to seek solace elsewhere.

    Further, the woke movement, as she said, is hurting society because of its inability to discern what it means to be a human because everyone is “right in their own eyes.” Similar to the book of Judges from the Bible.

    This subjective morality permeates the culture, and it’s difficult for people to really understand their identity. That’s why I think your view of morals being relative and change based on culture acceptance is the reason I reject the worldview of atheism.

    There is an objective morality that exists, and humanism tries to become the “apex”‘deciding for themselves “emotionally” not logically, what is moral and not moral.

    Contrary to what you said, humans do need an outside influence because we are inherently sinful. You can reject this notion, but our society is filled with wars, pain, and suffering because humans “decide themselves” what they think is right or wrong.

    Finally, the Euthyphro dilemma considers rightness and wrongness. And without having an omnipotent, all wise God to navigate morality for us, we all do what we think is “right”. And
    If you hold to the subjective view of morality, how can you assert your view of “being kind to others” as true if another human says “that’s being soft, we are to conquer and be powerful?”

    You may reject their morals and call them not as evolved on the morality ladder, but who are you to judge? What makes you the arbiter? That’s why a God in charge of us all, who is the apex, decides on that answer. And the Christian God, who sacrificed his life for all of us, showed unconditional love that all of us fail to do.

    I hope this helps you understand where I am coming from as a Christian. Once again, impressed by your fair critique of Ayaan and avoiding ad hominems. Blessings to you.

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