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Why I am now a Christian Atheism can't equip us for civilisational war

(Christian Marquardt/Getty Images)

(Christian Marquardt/Getty Images)


November 11, 2023   7 mins

In 2002, I discovered a 1927 lecture by Bertrand Russell entitled “Why I am Not a Christian”. It did not cross my mind, as I read it, that one day, nearly a century after he delivered it to the South London branch of the National Secular Society, I would be compelled to write an essay with precisely the opposite title.

The year before, I had publicly condemned the terrorist attacks of the 19 men who had hijacked passenger jets and crashed them into the twin towers in New York. They had done it in the name of my religion, Islam. I was a Muslim then, although not a practising one. If I truly condemned their actions, then where did that leave me? The underlying principle that justified the attacks was religious, after all: the idea of Jihad or Holy War against the infidels. Was it possible for me, as for many members of the Muslim community, simply to distance myself from the action and its horrific results?

At the time, there were many eminent leaders in the West — politicians, scholars, journalists, and other experts — who insisted that the terrorists were motivated by reasons other than the ones they and their leader Osama Bin Laden had articulated so clearly. So Islam had an alibi.

This excuse-making was not only condescending towards Muslims. It also gave many Westerners a chance to retreat into denial. Blaming the errors of US foreign policy was easier than contemplating the possibility that we were confronted with a religious war. We have seen a similar tendency in the past five weeks, as millions of people sympathetic to the plight of Gazans seek to rationalise the October 7 terrorist attacks as a justified response to the policies of the Israeli government.

When I read Russell’s lecture, I found my cognitive dissonance easing. It was a relief to adopt an attitude of scepticism towards religious doctrine, discard my faith in God and declare that no such entity existed. Best of all, I could reject the existence of hell and the danger of everlasting punishment.

Russell’s assertion that religion is based primarily on fear resonated with me. I had lived for too long in terror of all the gruesome punishments that awaited me. While I had abandoned all the rational reasons for believing in God, that irrational fear of hellfire still lingered. Russell’s conclusion thus came as something of a relief: “When I die, I shall rot.”

To understand why I became an atheist 20 years ago, you first need to understand the kind of Muslim I had been. I was a teenager when the Muslim Brotherhood penetrated my community in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1985. I don’t think I had even understood religious practice before the coming of the Brotherhood. I had endured the rituals of ablutions, prayers and fasting as tedious and pointless.

The preachers of the Muslim Brotherhood changed this. They articulated a direction: the straight path. A purpose: to work towards admission into Allah’s paradise after death. A method: the Prophet’s instruction manual of do’s and don’ts — the halal and the haram. As a detailed supplement to the Qur’an, the hadeeth spelled out how to put into practice the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, God and the devil.

The Brotherhood preachers left nothing to the imagination. They gave us a choice. Strive to live by the Prophet’s manual and reap the glorious rewards in the hereafter. On this earth, meanwhile, the greatest achievement possible was to die as a martyr for the sake of Allah.

The alternative, indulging in the pleasures of the world, was to earn Allah’s wrath and be condemned to an eternal life in hellfire. Some of the “worldly pleasures” they were decrying included reading novels, listening to music, dancing, and going to the cinema — all of which I was ashamed to admit that I adored.

The most striking quality of the Muslim Brotherhood was their ability to transform me and my fellow teenagers from passive believers into activists, almost overnight. We didn’t just say things or pray for things: we did things. As girls we donned the burka and swore off Western fashion and make-up. The boys cultivated their facial hair to the greatest extent possible. They wore the white dress-like tawb worn in Arab countries or had their trousers shortened above their ankle bones. We operated in groups and volunteered our services in charity to the poor, the old, the disabled and the weak. We urged fellow Muslims to pray and demanded that non-Muslims convert to Islam.

During Islamic study sessions, we shared with the preacher in charge of the session our worries. For instance, what should we do about the friends we loved and felt loyal to but who refused to accept our dawa (invitation to the faith)? In response, we were reminded repeatedly about the clarity of the Prophet’s instructions. We were told in no uncertain terms that we could not be loyal to Allah and Muhammad while also maintaining friendships and loyalty towards the unbelievers. If they explicitly rejected our summons to Islam, we were to hate and curse them.

Here, a special hatred was reserved for one subset of unbeliever: the Jew. We cursed the Jews multiple times a day and expressed horror, disgust and anger at the litany of offences he had allegedly committed. The Jew had betrayed our Prophet. He had occupied the Holy Mosque in Jerusalem. He continued to spread corruption of the heart, mind and soul.

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?

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.

That legacy consists of an elaborate set of ideas and institutions designed to safeguard human life, freedom and dignity — from the nation state and the rule of law to the institutions of science, health and learning. As Tom Holland has shown in his marvellous book Dominion, all sorts of apparently secular freedoms — of the market, of conscience and of the press — find their roots in Christianity.

And so I have come to realise that Russell and my atheist friends failed to see the wood for the trees. The wood is the civilisation built on the Judeo-Christian tradition; it is the story of the West, warts and all. Russell’s critique of those contradictions in Christian doctrine is serious, but it is also too narrow in scope.

For instance, he gave his lecture in a room full of (former or at least doubting) Christians in a Christian country. Think about how unique that was nearly a century ago, and how rare it still is in non-Western civilisations. Could a Muslim philosopher stand before any audience in a Muslim country — then or now — and deliver a lecture with the title “Why I am not a Muslim”? In fact, a book with that title exists, written by an ex-Muslim. But the author published it in America under the pseudonym Ibn Warraq. It would have been too dangerous to do otherwise.

To me, this freedom of conscience and speech is perhaps the greatest benefit of Western civilisation. It does not come naturally to man. It is the product of centuries of debate within Jewish and Christian communities. It was these debates that advanced science and reason, diminished cruelty, suppressed superstitions, and built institutions to order and protect life, while guaranteeing freedom to as many people as possible. Unlike Islam, Christianity outgrew its dogmatic stage. It became increasingly clear that Christ’s teaching implied not only a circumscribed role for religion as something separate from politics. It also implied compassion for the sinner and humility for the believer.

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?

Russell and other activist atheists believed that with the rejection of God we would enter an age of reason and intelligent humanism. But the “God hole” — the void left by the retreat of the church — has merely been filled by a jumble of irrational quasi-religious dogma. The result is a world where modern cults prey on the dislocated masses, offering them spurious reasons for being and action — mostly by engaging in virtue-signalling theatre on behalf of a victimised minority or our supposedly doomed planet. The line often attributed to G.K. Chesterton has turned into a prophecy: “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”

In this nihilistic vacuum, the challenge before us becomes civilisational. We can’t withstand China, Russia and Iran if we can’t explain to our populations why it matters that we do. We can’t fight woke ideology if we can’t defend the civilisation that it is determined to destroy. And we can’t counter Islamism with purely secular tools. To win the hearts and minds of Muslims here in the West, we have to offer them something more than videos on TikTok.

The lesson I learned from my years with the Muslim Brotherhood was the power of a unifying story, embedded in the foundational texts of Islam, to attract, engage and mobilise the Muslim masses. 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.

***

Watch and read Ayaan respond to her critics here.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an UnHerd columnist. She is also the Founder of the AHA Foundation, and host of The Ayaan Hirsi Ali Podcast. Her Substack is called Restoration.

Ayaan

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David George
David George
8 months ago

“When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”
Well we’re certainly seeing that play out. It’s difficult to understand the liberal’s sneering at their own Christian heritage, the very foundation of their belief – the idea of devotion to human liberty, with a private sphere protected by natural rights, the sanctity of life, equal moral dignity of the individual and freedom of conscience.
Thank you Ayaan and may God bless you.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
8 months ago
Reply to  David George

Testing, testing. Some of my comments are being banned and not published.

William Brand
William Brand
7 months ago

On Newsweek and Yahoo the most innocent of comments are banned if outside the box of community standards.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
8 months ago
Reply to  David George

Ok one got through. Let me try again. I would like to come back as an Ashkenazi Jew – 15% more intelligent and solid values in place.

Andrew Daws
Andrew Daws
8 months ago

According to my DNA test, I am 0.1% Hassidic Jew. I wonder if that makes me more intelligent.

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Daws

Coming from a background of Welsh baptists, it’s not surprising I’m dyslexic, and what an achivement that I can get to the end of these UnHerd essays, dictionary at my side to explain the big words, without a clue as to what is being said?

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Daws

I have not been DNA tested – but my ancestors are 100% Irish. What does that make me?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago

Irish

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

Hopefully Catholic!

A Reno
A Reno
8 months ago

In Chicago, it makes you an enemy of the Italians.

Muiris de Bhulbh
Muiris de Bhulbh
8 months ago

Perfect

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
8 months ago

Although not necessarily in Europe in 1935, I assume.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
8 months ago

Where do you get the intelligence part from?

Lori Regenstreif
Lori Regenstreif
8 months ago

Not so quickly. As an Ashkenazi jew I can tell you that many of us were raised to be atheists because planting trees in Israel was destroying another marginalized group, the Palestinians (who, by the way, none of the surrounding mjuslim countries wanted.) My grandfather used to say “well, it’s like this: Man created God”.

However, lately I am simply torn between which of the two – Judaism or Christianity is best placed to more benignly articulate my rebirth.”

Last edited 8 months ago by Lori Regenstreif
A Reno
A Reno
8 months ago

Judaism of course. Judaism does not excommunicate you if you are an atheist. It’s much more open-minded than Christianity. Why join a religion that is just going to throw you out if you go back to your old ways?

Martin M
Martin M
8 months ago
Reply to  A Reno

Judaism might be difficult to get thrown out of, but it is also difficult to get into. Most religions will accept you if you turn up and knock on their door, but that is not the case with Judaism.

Tom Shaw
Tom Shaw
8 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Judaism is very easy to get “thrown out of”. My great-grandfather chose Jesus, and his family forbade him from ever seeing them again. He had to emigrate. His family likely held a funeral for him, as he was no longer Jewish.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Tom Shaw

My understanding is that the child of a Jewish woman is Jewish, and among other things, you are entitled to citizenship of Israel on that basis.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

That belief is not based on anything in the Bible but on the fact that you know who the mother is but not necessarily the father.
‘Mama’s baby – Daddy’s maybe’

Tom Shaw
Tom Shaw
8 months ago
Reply to  A Reno

Does an atheist have a religion to get excommunicated from? Aren’t you confusing religion with cultural background?

William Brand
William Brand
7 months ago
Reply to  Tom Shaw

Woke and Communism are both religions,

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago
Reply to  A Reno

I have never heard of someone be cast out of Christianity. You may be referring to some of the teachings of the Catholic church which does not represent all Christians.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Some churches do not allow peole who are in defiance to take communion. It is remedial rather than punitive and reversible.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago

I really like the “Man created God”. So true.

William Brand
William Brand
7 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Don’t be so sure of that. If there is a god, you burn in hell. Also, directed evolution is an extremely effective method of writing computer code that is too complex to understand. The deity probably used it to manufacture the human body. Kill Dinasaur’s with an asteroid to advance mammals etc. He had 3 billion years to go from a single cell to a man. A billion years is as a second to God.

William Brand
William Brand
7 months ago

If you are a virgin male Jew, you are a Canidate for the 144000 that get sealed by an angel and sent to testify for Christ after the Christians fly off to heaven in the Rapture.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 month ago

Christianity is Jewish

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
8 months ago
Reply to  David George

Trying this again…. want to come back as an ashken..zi j.w, 15% more intelligent and values firmly in place.

Peter D
Peter D
8 months ago
Reply to  David George

As a life long atheist, I am guilty of sneering at Christianity. The bearded man in the sky concept of god still seems as silly as ever to me. I’m starting to come around to the idea of god being that divine best-self or ideal that though unattainable, is still the guiding light by which we all should gravitate towards.
Christianity provides life lessons in the best way possible. Story-form is by far the best way to reach the most people and have those lessons understood. It is timeless and it allows for failure; which also encourages growth.
Hedonism is just short-term thinking and we all know how damaging short term thinking is. Well, our elites don’t. Modern concepts have failed us tremendously and we need to take a step or two back in order to go forward. Christianity seems to be the best guiding concept we have.

Micah Dembo
Micah Dembo
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter D

What about Spinoza’s concept. God as the ultimate limiting totality. The universe annd anll of time and even before time. This includes all souls and all energy and matter and all that is both physical mathematical or metaphysical.That is how Einstein conceived god.

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
8 months ago
Reply to  Micah Dembo

Micah, and Einstein, in side the black hole, the real world where there is no time and no space.

A R
A R
8 months ago
Reply to  Micah Dembo

The trouble is nobody with an IQ of less than 130 is every going to read Spinoza or understand it. And why should they? It’s just more words and cannot even come close to communicating an ineffable mystery. People need simple stories, simple messages. If you aint got that then aint got anything.

Gregory Prang
Gregory Prang
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter D

One of my personal favorite non-original sneers has always been that Man obviously created God in his own image. But if true, that still makes Christianity, at absolute minimum, the most extensive and profound study of Man ever undertaken, doesn’t it?

Last edited 8 months ago by Gregory Prang
T Bone
T Bone
8 months ago
Reply to  Gregory Prang

Spot on. I can’t get over the rational accuracy. How do you tell a “story” that comport so consistently to “lived experience.”

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
8 months ago
Reply to  Gregory Prang

That’s always been a problem for me, Man! And to crown His ego, in his own image FGS!

T Bone
T Bone
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter D

You’re a big man for saying this. Seriously kudos.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter D

The historically dominant form of Christianity in recent centuries in the UK has been the Cof E , and in theory I think it’s a good idea for people to return to that. to motivate and provide morale in a power struggle that just can not be wished away.
But can anyone seriously envisage that the Cof E under Welby is going to provide any resistance to the claims of identity politics and decolonisation coming out of US academia . It is more likely to turn into a cover for these tendencies .

Last edited 8 months ago by Alan Osband
Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

Think of all the “secular” advantages the CofE has to produce a shared set of ethics and solidarity if we just had the right leadership. There is a church, a school and very often an aligned Scout and Girl Guide troop, cadets, youth group and so on in every parish in England. The King is anointed by the A of C and swears to protect the faith. The liturgical calendar id weaved into public life: Christmas, Easter, Whitsun, Michaelmas, Harvest festival, All Souls’ Day, Remembrance Sunday and so on. The bishops sit in the HofL.

The danger is that all these things disappear for lack of interest in protecting them against an assault from the woke.

With strong, orthodox leadership church attendance could double or triple pretty quickly. I would suggest C of E schools should provide an explicitly anti-woke, broadly traditional and Christian moral education alongside academic excellence. Parents would love it I think.The quid pro quo would be Baptism and some level of Sunday attendance to get a school place.

Simon Shaw
Simon Shaw
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Brilliant but with a new leader and help from parliament wich is also still C of E I believe!

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Shaw

Yes. I guess the danger is that Labour get in an appoint some woke-wonder as the next AofC.

Azam Moinuddin
Azam Moinuddin
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Shaw

1902 Namibia tribes dd not recognise the sovereign Lord of Germany and for this were almost wiped out.This royal cousin In Jerusalem changed Salahuddin’s humble grave into a chapel; walls lined with coloured stone; a conquerer for Prophet Muhummad, in Egypt, Port of Tyre, and Jerusalem-on the 27th day of Rajab, date of Quranic Night Journey;five daily prayers to the worshipful and all the Prophets swearing allegiance to Allah, Muhummad as sole intercessor. Washington,when the Jews thankful to be welcomed to America,said it was not as a ruling Class above another.
Templers made the land theirs,planted,greened the land of Jaffa. Was this in preparation for a promised day of dominion and Justice delivered?
Amnesty International report Sudan,1987: a professor in Biology at Khartoum University was arrested by the Military Police for studying Darwin’s theory of Evolution as it went against the principal teaching of Islam.This man, Ibrahim may remember 1964 revolution for Democracy that utilized heretical knowledge through science experiment to provide equal access medicine – just as this non-segregational, anti-corrupt ethic looked forward to the Democracy in Nepal 1990,led by Medical practitioners that emerged from violent state repression.He was Tortured before eventual prison release.

George Stone
George Stone
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

The liturgical calendar that you mention were all pagan in origin and were all lifted by christianity. And christ called himself ‘ the truth’.

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago
Reply to  George Stone

That isn’t my point. My point is that these Anglican rituals are the glue that has traditionally stuck the population of England together.

Just this morning I went to a Remembrance service at my local church (which has been celebrating the Eucharist since the 11th century). The primary school choir sang a hymn. Their headmaster gave a child-friendly sermon. The local scouts were there with their flags. My daughter wore her Guides uniform. The regular congregation was in their Sunday Best and one or two had medals on. Every pew was full and we needed extra chairs at the back. The kids stood to attention to remember our war dead and our active servicemen and women. There was tea and cake afterwards. No doubt many of the children went on to Sunday Lunch with their families later in the day.

This is the good stuff of life and England should remember her traditions and keep them alive. And those traditions are Christian (even if the festival dates had pagan antecedents). And to keep Christian traditions alive you need plenty of Christians.

Last edited 8 months ago by Matt M
Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

I ear the C of E is now too woke to attract many new followers.

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago

Certainly at the top of the organisation. The average congregation is very un-woke.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
8 months ago
Reply to  George Stone

The calendar was changed after Christ’s death. And to transform the pagan festivals into Christian ones: well, that was psychologically sensible and emotionally satisfying, intellectually coherent and spiritually uplifting, don’t you think?

George Stone
George Stone
8 months ago

Obviously that’s what you think but why should I? The religion was adopted by the tyrant Constantine, who wanted this for the Empire, and obviously that would have been psychologically comforting for the general population who did not wish to be punished in the most egregious fashion. Emotionally satisfying, as no doubt the populace felt safer. Intellectually satisfying? I don’t think so. Obviously the general population had only the words of the priests who were pushing the agenda but there were atheists in existence at that time and earlier. Seneca, the Stoic philosopher and tutor to Nero, famously said: ‘Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful’. Which sums it up nicely, I feel, and still applies, almost up to the present day. Spiritually uplifting? If the tyrant was divine you mean?

Joshua McClintock
Joshua McClintock
6 months ago
Reply to  George Stone

Nero learned from the atheist. Nero blames Christians for setting fire to Rome. Nero kills Christians. What an inspiring atheist story.

Joshua McClintock
Joshua McClintock
6 months ago
Reply to  George Stone

I’m not English or CoE, but you miss the point of Christianity. When it’s baptizing people, it’s also baptizing entire cultures. Lifting and plagiarism are anachronistic. Just like saying illiteracy plagued ancient cultures.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Totally agree . Cof E schools ten or twenty years ago had a very good reputation to the point where parents were mocked for pretending to be Christians to get a place for their kids . Have they not opened up now to all faiths and none explicitly ? I agree with your suggestion .It would be a real incentive to get people back to church , but I fear the leadership is sold now on multi -cultural obeisance to religions with more enthusiastic adherents like Islam . You can sense their feelings of inferiority .

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

There are still plenty of great, sound, faithful teachers, heads, clergy, laypeople, etc. Just needs a self-confident leadership to pull it together.

Immediate things the bishops should do:

1. Call a stop to attempts to change orthodoxy of human sexual relations (or anything else for that matter)
2. Stop all talk of (or plans for) slavery reparations, eco-activity etc
3. Commit to increased financial support for parishes. Stop amalgamation. Every parish needs its own church and priest (within reason).
4. Revert the majority of services to BCP.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

The only way out for the bishops is to repent. They have gone against the bible and have compromised with the world. I don’t listen to their trash personally.

George Stone
George Stone
8 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

In the UK, the head of the Church of England, and ‘Defender of the faith’ has said that he wants to be the ‘Defender of ALL faiths’. What nonsense. One may as well believe anything.

Martin M
Martin M
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Yes, I don’t doubt that life would be better for everyone if we were just prepared to waste a couple of hours on a Sunday morning listening to dreary sermons and singing dull songs.

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

You’re right Martin! Far better for the family to spend Sunday morning in separate rooms staring at their phones.

Martin M
Martin M
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

I for my part sleep till lunchtime on a Sunday nowadays.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

May God, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, help us find true wisdom to repel the evil that surrounds us!

Martin M
Martin M
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

From where I am sitting, it appears the Churches contain a fair bit of evil.

George Stone
George Stone
8 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Of course Martin, they always have done. that is the nature of organised religion.

Richard Spicer
Richard Spicer
8 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Christians were not very Christian in the Crusades, but Christianity has undergone reformation and enlightenment since. Islam is still mediaeval., Muhammad was peaceful; it was others who added obligatory violence to Islamic dogma many years after his death, and this has gone from bad to worse since. Moderate Muslims are good citizens but we are under threat from extremist Muslims.

Last edited 8 months ago by Richard Spicer
Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Richard Spicer

Those of us who are children are under threat from Christian clergy too.

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

My family are not church-goers. But to suggest that therefore we all sit in separate rooms staring at our phones is quite rude.
We spend our weekend mornings on long leisurely breakfasts talking about our week & each others’ daily experiences. Or brunches with good friends, or setting out for a brisk early walk in the countryside. There is no doubt that religion has brought the world much beauty in music & art, and that it nourishes those who wish or need its comforts. But the suggestion that not going to church impoverishes those of us who don’t have religious faith, whether morally, socially or in any other way, is not fair.

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago
Reply to  Jane Awdry

Yes that was unfair (though I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek).
My point is not that I want everyone to go to church – there was never a time in the last 200 years where that was true. My point is that Anglicanism is a central part of the English identity (Scots, Welsh and Irish obviously have others). If we want a strong English culture – one that isn’t prone to every fashion that comes along, whether from the mosque or the academy, – then we should restore the one that has been here for hundreds of years rather than imagining we can fashion a new one.
And all it takes is a little faith and imagination at the top of the church. Not really much to ask.

Kl C
Kl C
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

How can we restore the sense of community, morals etc etc – but without the patriarchal God bit (Anglican or otherwise – CoE being an invention of Henry VIII)? I would be all for that.
The purpose of being is to be at one with Gaia (Mother Earth) and all her creatures, its man invented god stuff that has pulled the world apart (its all part of authoritarian patriarchal power plays) along with the idea that humanity is not part of nature so can take what it needs and return only cr@p back to nature.
So much of what is defined as ‘woke’ is about having respect for other parts of Gaia’s creations, and for mother nature herself! that it is decried says much about people’s views of their place in nature etc etc

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
8 months ago
Reply to  Kl C

I don’t believe it can be done without God. Who on earth is Gaia? He or she is not my God. The way to God is through Jesus and nobody can come to the Father unless they go through Him.

Kl C
Kl C
7 months ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

Gaia IS the Earth….
You can believe in an imaginary God/Jesus. Others can believe in an (imaginary) Mother Earth – but The Earth is a physical fact, as are the Seasons, Biology, Ecology, Habitats and other things that the incarnation of Nature/Gaia/Mother Earth is trying to protect (or at least evolve without humans if necessary!)

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

I don’t think you can just restore the CofE just like that. The church of Jesus Christ is people not buildings. If you have given your life to Jesus you are a part of it wherever you meet.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

Perhaps you can explain why, given that Jesus preached love and tolerance, the Christian churches have become a repository of hatred and intolerance.

George Stone
George Stone
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

The faith is there but not the imagination!

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
8 months ago
Reply to  Jane Awdry

Quite so. Many of us still attend church. There are many live churches around. Our meets in a school. It’s a great place to be.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
8 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

There are live churches around but there is division in the C of E church of a righteous nature namely many of the bishops at the top have compromised the faith.

Martin M
Martin M
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

To quote Sir Humphrey Appleby, the Church of England is primarily a social organisation, not a religious one.

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Nothing wrong with that. People have different levels of faith. If the church acts as a social hub for some people, a shared family routine for others, the provider of charity for others and the centre of deep devotion for others, does that matter?

I think people who never set foot in a church benefit from a strong, Established church. I think Britain’s Hindus, Muslims, Jews and atheists benefit too.

A self confident culture requires a central religion which is sure of itself.

Martin M
Martin M
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

I recall another quote, which may also be by Sir Humphrey Appleby – “People don’t go to Church, but they feel better because it’s there”.

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

That is exactly my point! I suspect many non-religious people like to know that the traditional rhythms of life continue, even if they only step inside a church for a wedding, baptism or funeral. The danger is that the whole thing shuts down for lack of interest. 5% of the population currently goes to church regularly. If it drops any lower, the whole thing could be over. If it grows to 15% the Established Church would be in rude health.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

I for my part would be perfectly comfortable with the whole thing shutting down for lack of interest. Of the two “churches” (constructed as such anyway) nearest my house, one is a Pilates studio, and the other has been turned into funky apartments.

Martin Tuite
Martin Tuite
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Walking past her local church, Mrs Jones, a non-church goer, was accosted by the vicar who invited her to attend the Sunday service. “I’m not coming in there,” said Mrs Jones. “It’s full of hypocrites!”
“Ah, but there’s always room for one more,” replied the vicar
Unlike Christianity, many religions persecute those who criticize or make fun of their beliefs. Jesus did not advise his followers that entry to the Heavenly Kingdom is guaranteed by slaughtering those of a different faith.
It is also worth noting that in this country there are thousands of caring, unpaid Christian volunteers working for countless organisations, such as the Trussell Trust foodbanks and the Salvation Army, willingly offering assistance, comfort and hope to the poor, the disadvantaged, the lonely and the homeless.  

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago
Reply to  Martin Tuite

Nice one Martin. And I agree about the voluntary work. Almost every regular church-goer I know does some sort of charity work and they are almost to a man or woman kind and dependable people. We try to live in a Christian way towards our fellow men even if we regularly fail. Practising Christians and all that.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

I’m so glad someone used the word hypocrite! I was reading these comments and wondering why people think Christianity is just a set of ideas. It’s belief – that God incarnated in Christ, and the Trinity and all of that. If you turn up at Church just because you find it a comforting social occasion, you’re being hypocritical, aren’t you?

I had 12 years of Catholic education and practically none of us continued going to Church, or believing in the Christian faith. So, I don’t see any likely renewal of people, in the West, really believing in the Christian religion.

Martin Tuite
Martin Tuite
8 months ago

I go to church because it makes me happy. I pray because it lifts up my spirits.
Being aware of the good things in life boosts my wellbeing.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
8 months ago
Reply to  Martin Tuite

Hmm, I can’t imagine a Pope saying either of those two sentences.

Are people confusing religious faith with self-help ‘affirmations’?

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago

You would be surprised how many people who go to church and a faith school as children, give up religion as teenagers but then take their own kids to church and choose a faith school for them in turn. I think that instinct – wanting the start in life that you had for your children – is natural. Certainly this is the path I trod and it seems common enough to me.
As for hypocrisy, well I certainly believe in God and the gospel and the ten commandments and eternal life and I keep the Christian holidays and go to church on a Sunday. That is enough isn’t it?

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

I am surely not qualified to answer your question about faith! But, yes, it seems to me you can call yourself a Christian.

But on the schools thing – I know so many people who have lied, schemed and tried every devious trick to get their kids into Catholic schools when they themselves long ago became just ‘cultural Christians’ (like me). Whether it’s nostalgia, or a concern that state schools just don’t educate kids properly, I don’t know, but it’s not because they want their kids to become actual Christians.

Poet Tissot
Poet Tissot
8 months ago
Reply to  Martin Tuite

Very telling: what people seem not to understand is that we are all sinners – without exception.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Poet Tissot

Sinners according to whom?

Simon Shaw
Simon Shaw
8 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

Sad but true.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
8 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

He is compromised like a lot of the bishops. Put your trust in God not in man.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
8 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

I tend to agree. That would be the ideal, but it’s intellectually, and to a significant extent, ethically, bankrupt. For mot people the only real viable option will be to find the best local congregation they can.

William Brand
William Brand
7 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

COE is a tamed form of Christianity that God spewed out of his moth when he raised up John Wesley. COE was created as a state-controlled religion at the restoration of Charles 2 that was designed to avoid the problems of the Puritans under Cromwell. In addition, they required Army officers to buy their commissions. Both actions served to dispose of the younger sons of nobility. Competence in war and dedication to God not required.

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter D

I would concur to up to a point. I didn’t have as much of a problem with God, the white-bearded man in the sky whose portrait was in my Bible, as I did with the Jesus, the story of martyrdom, crucifixion, death, and his ruddy auburn colored hair and beard, whose portrait was also in my Bible next to God’s. The death cult underneath Christianity was too much for me. That was when my atheism took hold. Yet I couldn’t find God completely in Christianity. It took my path to Judaism, with its skepticism of false Gods and its direct connection to the commandments and mitzvot. It took the example of Victor Frankl in the concentration camps to find the living Jew as a role model. To live as a Jew was a path to God and not the dead Jew, was my inspiration.
As a Jew I have a far better relationship with Jesus than as I ever imagined as a Christian. Jesus was a bridge to God, and I crossed the bridge. Though I found some Jews in my ancestry, all Christians have Judaism in their spiritual ancestry. I live as a convert to Judaism and I am grateful every day.

Lukasz Gregorczyk
Lukasz Gregorczyk
8 months ago

Resurrected Jew not a the dead one!

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
8 months ago

It’s been done before! By Jesus

Last edited 8 months ago by elaine chambers
Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
8 months ago

By whom? Anyway Jesus rose from the dead, was resurrected into heaven and now sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven where all true believers in Him will follow.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

He might find that there are less of these “true believers” than he expects.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
8 months ago

Quite so. I have never regretted asking Jesus into my life.

George Stone
George Stone
8 months ago

Well at least you are now one of the ‘Chosen People’ of god. I hope you enjoy eternity.

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
8 months ago
Reply to  George Stone

It’s quite a claim to say that any one religion or people is The Chosen. To a non religious person that sounds quite divisive & belittling of everyone who doesn’t hold the same beliefs.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
8 months ago
Reply to  Jane Awdry

There is only one Jesus who said I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father unless they come through me. All those who appropriate that are one with Him.

George Stone
George Stone
8 months ago
Reply to  Jane Awdry

It is not my claim; that belongs to the jewish people.
Religions by their very nature are tribal and all claim to be the only true faith. But what is faith? It’s a belief in something without the knowledge of whether it is true or not. I would like to believe in all this nonsense, and be able to tell my loved ones that we shall all meet again, but life is not structured in that way. It’s no more than fairy tales and I find it hard to comprehend that anyone can truly believe in what religions claim, but it keeps the merry-go-round of human nonsense flourishing I suppose.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 month ago
Reply to  Jane Awdry

Chosen in this context does not mean favourite. It simply means chosen as the race into which the messiah would be born.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
8 months ago
Reply to  George Stone

They still have to make their peace with Jesus though if you read the bible.

George Stone
George Stone
8 months ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

So Christianity is the right religion; but what of all the others who claim the same? They are wrong of course…..I know – let’s make war on them and prove to them that we are right, then they will find out the truth – because we have no real evidence to prove anything at all. Jesus had auburn hair – how awful.

babyhumanist
babyhumanist
8 months ago
Reply to  George Stone

And once we know Christianity’s right, we need to figure out WHICH Christianity’s right. Because there’s about 45,000 Christian denominations, many with opposite and irreconcilable teachings on the interpretation of scripture, the atonement, salvation, baptism, communion, tongues, the Trinity, ordination, etc. Yet everyone’s convinced that only their church offers any hope for salvation. The same’s true among sects of Islam.

Billions of people belong to exclusivist faiths, yet almost never ask themselves how they got so lucky as to find the “true” one. It boggles the mind!!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  babyhumanist

Just one of the many ridiculous things about religion.

Joshua McClintock
Joshua McClintock
6 months ago
Reply to  babyhumanist

More boggling is the assertion that finding the truth is tantamount to a needle in a 45,000 straw haystack. If you accept the notion that a version closer to the source is likely to be more authentic, simply start collapsing the branches. The first major collapse happens at the Protestant Reformation (early 1500s). Your haystack has been reduced by 44,998 to 2 (Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic). Rewind almost 500 yrs (1054), you’re now back to one. Eastern Orthodoxy never had a Protestant Reformation, it views the Reformation as the egg Rome laid (division begets division).

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
8 months ago

What about the Resurrection? Not exactly a death cult, I think.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
8 months ago

All the followers of Jesus have the promise of resurrection.

George Stone
George Stone
8 months ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

Why is that important to you Tony?

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
8 months ago

He was only dead for a couple of days . Think of it as a long hang over ! You don’t get the art in Judaism ( though I suppose that’s more Catholicism ) Did you marry a Jew (Rosenthal sounds Jew-ish )

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
8 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

Three days actually. He didn’t die on the Friday. The sign of Jonah was a sign he gave who was three days in the whales body then was spat out.

Martin Tuite
Martin Tuite
8 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

Dead is dead!

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
8 months ago

The so called death cult of Christianity is the price Jesus paid for our sin, the sin which separates us from God. The way to God is to ask for that forgivesness and ask Jesus into your life. Without that there is no forgiveness. It needs to be appropriated. That is when Jesus comes our our lives through whom we have access to the Father.

Martin Stillman
Martin Stillman
8 months ago

If you have any relationship with Jesus, you’re certainly not Jewish.

George Stone
George Stone
8 months ago

I always thought Jesus was jewish.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 month ago

As Jewish is a race as well as a faith tradition, it is possible to believe the faith if one is a Jew. Also, since Jewish is a race, it is not possible to stop being Jewish. People have been trying that over centuries.

The auburn Jesus beloved of artists is simply an expression of anti-semitism. In the painting of ‘The Lat Supper’, Judas is the only semite.

Matthew Six
Matthew Six
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter D

Read Matthew,chapter 6 and 7 for 67 days in a row…the light within will become your new path…and the light without will fade away.

George Stone
George Stone
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter D

Except that christianity it is all borrowed and made up. It derives from sun worship, and then, just like all religions, it is then exploited by the powers that be. If you believe in god then you are liable to believe in anything because one’s ego will not allow the fact that death is the end – full stop.
Why not put your faith in boiled sweets. It works for me.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
8 months ago
Reply to  George Stone

But bad for your teeth I would imagine?

George Stone
George Stone
8 months ago

I only stare at them and worship them. I still have three teeth left. There is more to boiled sweets than one can imagine.

Martin Tuite
Martin Tuite
8 months ago
Reply to  George Stone

While teaching law at Harvard atheist Dr. Simon Greenleaf was challenged by his students to prove his claim that the resurrection of Jesus was simply a legend.
Greenleaf was unable to explain several dramatic changes that took place shortly after Jesus died, the most baffling being the behaviour of the disciples. It wasn’t just one or two disciples who insisted Jesus had risen; it was all of them.
Applying his own rules of evidence to the facts, Greenleaf arrived at his verdict. In a shocking reversal of his position, Greenleaf accepted Jesus’ resurrection as the best explanation for the events that took place immediately after his crucifixion.
To this brilliant legal scholar and former atheist, it would have been impossible for the disciples to persist with their conviction that Jesus had risen if they hadn’t actually seen the risen Christ.
In his book The Testimony of the Evangelists, Greenleaf states that any unbiased person who honestly examines the evidence as in a court of law will conclude what he did – that Jesus Christ had truly risen from the dead.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin Tuite

Maybe all that can be explained by Jesus not actually being dead when he was taken down from the cross.

Joshua McClintock
Joshua McClintock
6 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

You don’t think much of Roman practice then.

Jennifer Patterson
Jennifer Patterson
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter D

For Peter D.,
Take a day, if you haven’t already, to read or reacquaint yourself with the books of Luke, John, then Acts.

Then I suggest a book by Robert H Stein, A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible.

It is simple enough for a middle schooler but answers questions like Hebrew euphemisms and the difference between wisdom literature (Proverbs are general rules, and generally true) and promises (Messiah would suffer, would be pierced, pour out unto death , but after he has suffered will see the light of life, Isaiah 53). Note the Dead Sea Scrolls copies of Isaiah, should you be further interested in the validity of Isaiah’s modern translation.

Romans 5:8

Martin M
Martin M
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter D

I have always made a point of distinguishing between the teachings of the person now known as Jesus Christ, in which I acknowledge some merit (although I don’t believe that “died on the cross, rose from the dead” stuff), and what the Christian Churches have become (namely the constructs of a most unpleasant patriarchy).

Roland Day
Roland Day
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter D

It is nice for me to see someone waking up again to Christ. Let go of that “bearded man” thing and the sense you have that giving up Christ is progressive. These sorts of things are no more than the indoctrination of the world. Perhaps try Tom Holland’s Dominion. But it won’t take you much past the utilitarian argument for God which is quite sterile in the end analysis. Perhaps Tom Holland’s observation that Christianity is the source of its own demise may open a door for you if you immerse yourself in your newfound doubt. There are many other wise or blessed people waiting for you to find them from the past three or four thousand years as you grow in your responsibility to be honest and eventually obedient to the quiet voice you are hearing.

Joshua McClintock
Joshua McClintock
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter D

You’re not far from the kingdom. Shameless plug from an EO Christian –as an experiment, find the closest Eastern Orthodox Church to you and attend one Sunday. See if you don’t experience the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter D

There is no bearded man in the sky in Christianity!

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
8 months ago
Reply to  David George

Amen to that ! I am a ‘big perspective’ Christian ie no magic, hell etc etc – a ‘grown up’ spirituality is the ONLY antidote for the nasty and banal urges of the humananimal ego – as Jesus and his spiritually evolved cohort have been attempting to tell us for 3000 odd years (socrates ) . Alas the human condition seems very concrete , and, as teilhard de Chardin points out – likely will need another 1000 tears to bear much fruit. in the meantime (sic) we do what we can do with eyes firmly fixed on the big ( pre and post ) death perspective – and perhaps also manage to celebrate a beautiful planet 😉 . many thanks Ayaan for your courageous leadership !!

Congressive Online
Congressive Online
8 months ago
Reply to  David George

The Bible condones slavery. It’s not a source of “freedom” at all. It’s not a source of “equal moral dignity” at all. There’s no moral dignity in God drowning the entire planet because human males were horny. There’s no moral dignity in forcing your wife to undergo an abortion because you think she might have been unfaithful, or even just raped (Numbers 5:22-27).

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
8 months ago

I’d rather stick with the light in the bible personally. I think you have yor facts wrong or have misinterpreted them.

Poet Tissot
Poet Tissot
8 months ago

All Wrong – you need to look into these things more carefully.

Last edited 8 months ago by Poet Tissot
Steam Fax
Steam Fax
8 months ago

?!?People are still whining about Slavery in the Bible ?!?
According to AYAAN HIRSI ALI, the subject page to which these comments are posted on 
“Christianity outgrew its dogmatic stage.”
“this freedom of conscience and speech is perhaps the greatest benefit of Western civilisation. It does not come naturally to man. It is the product of centuries of debate within Jewish and Christian communities. It was these debates that advanced science and reason, diminished cruelty, suppressed superstitions, and built institutions to order and protect life, while guaranteeing freedom to as many people as possible.” 
so sure slavery is in the Bible, but one just has to learn how to let some things go. 

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
8 months ago
Reply to  David George

GK Chesterton makes a generalisation about the worldview of millions of people. It may be what he thought, but it is not a universal principle.
I’ve been atheist since I was eight years old and have never been remotely drawn simply to ‘believe in anything’. In fact the very position of not believing in things without any evidence is what stops atheists from falling into the traps of empty dogma or ideology. Or it does if they’re truly atheist. Because otherwise they’re just swapping one deity for another.
I also reject the notion that not believing in a god means that I am without moral compass. It is perfectly possible to be a decent person & live a good life without a belief in gods.
The existential crisis that leads a person back to a religious belief that they once intellectually rejected suggests that the only way to beat violent religious warmongers is to join them. It’s the saddest & most defeatist thing I have heard in a long time.

Ian Burns
Ian Burns
8 months ago
Reply to  Jane Awdry

Marx to Mao, and all the variants of woke, clearly show that many an atheist has fallen prey to to ideological possession, but then so has many a church going agnostic. One needs more than rational scepticism at the centre of a life, to anchor it against the storm of doubt and the disease of despair.
For you to see it as the saddest thing you have heard in a long time, suggests your atheism is a complete world view worthy of admiration and respect, a robust defence against the mire of nihilism, as well as the inquisition, a rationalism impervious to the insanities of woke, a cohesive philosophy that you share with fellow atheists, well Atheists plus put paid to any such Dawkian delusion, so all that left atheists now is defeat, sadness and disappointment. Nihilism or Christ, get used to it.

Martin Tuite
Martin Tuite
8 months ago
Reply to  David George

According to John Allen Jr. in his book The Global War on Christians, anti-Christian persecution can and should be classed as a global war. This is in spite of the term ‘war’ being seen by many as over-inflammatory and a provocative call to arms. This is not how Allen uses it. 
Allen’s statistics (2016) are alarming. He believes that 100 million Christians currently face interrogation, arrest, torture or death because of their faith. These are in countries in places as diverse as Asia and the Middle East. There has been a seven-fold increase in persecution globally in the last ten years. 
According to the secular International Society for Human Rights, eighty percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are against Christians.
Contrary to popular belief, Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world. Bible Society July 2015
“100 million Christians currently face interrogation, arrest, torture or death because of their faith. These are in countries in places as diverse as Asia and the Middle East. There has been a seven-fold increase in persecution globally in the last ten years.”

George Stone
George Stone
8 months ago
Reply to  David George

‘God bless you’ What????

thingy 0
thingy 0
8 months ago
Reply to  David George

I don’t understand your argument.

Surely the ability to sneer at Christianity is a natural consequence of freedom of conscience. Perhaps that’s a flaw in “Christian heritage”.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago
Reply to  David George

I am in a quandary since I accept the basis of the argument, but I cannot accept the 39 Articles, the Nicene Creed, the Resurrection, the Supreme Pontiff etc etc. What sort of Christian, anyway? There are many sects to choose from in the supermarket of Christian beliefs. Religion gives us the basis of a moral code. And the moral codes of Judaism and Islam are unacceptable.
As our Western, Christian world becomes beliefless, it may be that it is doomed to extinction.

Arthur G
Arthur G
8 months ago

Welcome home Ayaan! Western Civilization and Western values are inescapably Christian. Everything we believe about the dignity of the individual and his rights is Christian at its core.

N Satori
N Satori
8 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

I can’t help but think of Hieronymus Bosch’ visions of Hell where the sinful are punished for all eternity in the most cruel and gruesome ways. Not a lot of dignity or individual rights there – obey or suffer horribly is the clear message. And for the more lofty minded let’s not forget Dante’s Divine Comedy, the most popular part of which is the sadistic Inferno – all about the never ending punishment of the sinful.
I do understand the importance of individual conscience as propagated by Christianity but the dignity of the individual and his rights (for better or worse) has been achieved by breaking away from the Church which was always concerned with obligations.

Last edited 8 months ago by N Satori
Darwin K Godwin
Darwin K Godwin
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Could those visions be allegories for the individuals, collectively speaking, who are abandoned to their own path? Sobering stuff when engaged on a spiritual level; a grappling with truth. Foolish myth otherwise.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
8 months ago

Yes, Dante writes symbolically. For example, those souls Lost due to the sin of formication, wheel around endlessly in the sky like flocks of birds. That’s where pleasure-seeking can lead people – permanent futility.

Don Lightband
Don Lightband
8 months ago
Reply to  Bernard Hill

Superbly stimulating work from MBC, no doubt about it!

N Satori
N Satori
8 months ago

Well, that’s one way of looking at it – the safe, psychologised (or, if you like, spiritualised) way.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

The divine comedy is one of the greatest works on human psychology ever written. Christianity understands human nature. The circles of hell represent being trapped in negative behaviour patterns, the punishment is the consequence of the behaviour, for example arrogance is punished by blindness as arrogance is blinding. Purgatory is the pain, time and effort required to break free of the negative behaviour patterns. Paradise is freedom from the negative behaviour.

David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago

Yes, I’ve always wondered why Italy doesn’t open Danteland as upmarket competition for Disneyland. What a ride that would be! Failure to do so seems to me to be a terrible way to squander Italy’s cultural heritage.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Can there be a roller-coaster train that travels through hell?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
8 months ago

My idea of hell would be being stuck in a room full of Puritans lecturing me about my life choices for eternity

Steve Everitt
Steve Everitt
8 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

or a bunch of blue haired wokeists lecturing me about pronouns for eternity aaaargh….

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Everitt

It’s almost enough to make me start reading the Bible as an insurance policy if either of those await me

Peter D
Peter D
8 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Both are different side of the same insufferable coin.

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter D

Both want to make converts to their cause, but a one of them is based on empty narcissism & the other on unifying humans in a spirit of love.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
8 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Asked why he had a Bible beside his sickbed, W C Fields replied: looking for loopholes.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago

That’s funny, thanks for the chuckle.

Ronald Earhorne
Ronald Earhorne
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Yeah, me as well.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
8 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I encourage you to start reading the Bible. Start with Genesis and the Gospel of John.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Betsy Arehart

Genesis without a doubt. But select a gospel that is focused on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth–any of the synoptic texts of Mark, Luke, or Matthew–instead of the symbolic, abstract theology that dominates John’s account.
*Then proceed to read the rest of the several dozen books that are stitched together as the Bible, from those that instruct, fascinate, and inspire to those one must largely just try to get through (an assessment that may vary reader by reader, as do our opinions on the relative importance of the four canonical Gospels).

Last edited 8 months ago by AJ Mac
elaine chambers
elaine chambers
8 months ago
Reply to  Betsy Arehart

Genesis confused me as a dyslexic child. I couldn’t understand why all that begetting caused a stiring in the lions.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
8 months ago
Reply to  Betsy Arehart

I would start with the Gospels. Christians don’t fall in love with an idea; they fall in love with a Person.

N Satori
N Satori
8 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Of course the 21st century equivalent would be to find yourself trapped in a room full of Left wing social engineers lecturing you about your life choices for all eternity. Nobody can lecture with the unflagging stamina and sheer undoubted righteousness of a Lefty.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Leftists, Rightists, Wokeists, Puritans….anybody who subscribes themselves too tightly to any ideology is generally a bore and best avoided

Mitchito Ritter
Mitchito Ritter
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

I’m a Lefty not by identity but seeking the least worst premise fording into the mysteries of creation and a world that often requires evil choices be made to privilege one’s capability to survive.
Yet, would I entrust leadership of any community up to national leadership to someone labeled to be a Right Winger in a particular political milieu if that Righty didn’t recognize within themselves as part of human nature a disposition towards social as well as anti-social engineering rigging first attempting mind-controlling lecturing at super-human levels of stamina to assure the rigging of one’s own privilege(s)? Failing that, organizing by any means possible the forced rigging of one’s own privilege(s)! Hello, Daddy Warbucks…..
Jest asking.
Mitch RitterParadigm Sifters, Code Shifters, PsalmSong Chasers
Lay-Low Studios, Ore-Wa (Refuge of Atonement Seekers)
Media Discussion List\ LookseeInnerEarsHearHere

Last edited 8 months ago by Mitchito Ritter
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Three years at Cambridge?

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago

LOL. Bloody tabs.

David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago

The Virgil line.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
8 months ago

Almost a century ago (in the wake of the long but failed quest to pin down just who the Historical Jesus really was), an American ad man named Bruce Barton wrote a book called The Man Nobody Knows. It revealed that Jesus was really the CEO founder of the modern corporation, with the disciples as his board of directors.  Now we are told here that Dante was really the original Dale Carnegie or perhaps the original Californian psychotherapist.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 months ago

Not really, it’s just that human nature and human psychology does not change: it is a constant. Religion has been abandoned for the most part but psychological/ spiritual suffering continues. The psychologist/ therapist has just assumed the role of the priest. Instead of theologians, there are academics and instead of confession, there is the psychiatrist’s chair. In the words of the great TS Elliot: the world turns and is forever still. Alternatively: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Last edited 8 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
8 months ago