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Our Godless era is dead A second religiousness is sweeping the West

An Orthodox Christmas service feels like coming home. (KAREN MINASYAN/AFP via Getty Images)

An Orthodox Christmas service feels like coming home. (KAREN MINASYAN/AFP via Getty Images)


December 25, 2023   13 mins

Sometimes I think I’ve been lied to my whole life.

Everyone, everywhere, lives by a story. This story is handed to us by the culture we grow up in, the family that raises us, and the worldview we construct for ourselves as we grow. The story will change over time, and adapt to circumstances. When you’re young, you tend to imagine that you have bravely pioneered your own story. After all, the whole world revolves around you. As you age, though, you begin to see that much of what you believe is in fact a product of the time and place you were young in.

In my case, the time and place was Britain in the Eighties and Nineties, and the story we were immersed in then already seems like the product of a long-gone era. It was made up of the fading Christian heritage of England, the liberalism which had replaced it, an Enlightenment-era faith in science, reason and “progress”, and the much newer afterglow of the Sixties sexual revolution. This mess somehow gave birth to the weird combination of radical individualism and authoritarian thought-control that stalks the culture now.

Whatever the precise components, I grew up believing in things which I now look on very differently. To put career before family. To accumulate wealth as a marker of status. To treat sex as recreation. To reflexively mock authority and tradition. To put individual desire before community responsibility. To treat the world as so much dead matter to be interrogated by the scientific process. To assume our ancestors were thicker than us. I did all of this, or tried to, for years. Most of us did, I suppose.

Perhaps above all, and perhaps at the root of all, there was one teaching that permeated everything. It was to treat religion as something both primitive and obsolete. Simply a bunch of fairy stories invented by the ignorant. Simply a mechanism of social control. Nothing to do with us, here, now, in our very modern, sexually liberated, choose-your-own-adventure world. We were with Nietzsche, we moderns: we knew the God stuff was self-deluding balls, and soon enough the apostles of the New Atheism would be along to rub it in for us. Dawkins would sneer and Hitchens would bray and the pattern of the 21st century would open up before us: a slow, steady crawl towards a world unclouded by anything that could not be managed or measured by the people we believed we had become.

It was fun, in its way. Now that I look back, I almost wish it had been true.

*

A feast without a fast is a strange, half-finished thing: this is something I’ve only learned recently. We are coming up to the greatest annual feast of all, the one that most people, whether Christian or not, are going to end up celebrating. I’ve celebrated Christmas all my life, mostly with no religious trappings, and I’ve always loved it — more so since I became a father. But Christmas, in historical terms, is only one of a number of great feasts that make up the Christian ritual year, which was once — and still is in those parts of the world which continue to take it seriously — studded with saints days, festivals, processions, and feasts.

The Christmas feast is the last remnant, in the secular West, of this ritual year that made us. Since I unexpectedly became a Christian three years ago, I have thrown myself into it with the predictable gusto of a new convert, and it has helped me to understand something about the world I grew up in: we wanted the feasts without the fasts. This, in fact, is the basis of our economic model.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church into which I was baptised, as in the pre-Reformation Catholic Church in Europe, Christmas, like Easter, is preceded by a long fast. The Orthodox fast for 40 days before both major holy festivals, which are then marked by several days of feasting. The fast, as I can currently attest, sharpens the feast. It counts down the days, it provides a communal experience — everyone in the Church is following the same fasting rules together — and most of all it trains the body and the mind to do without, in the service of focusing on something higher. That, at least, is the theory. After doing this for 40 days, Christmas lunch certainly tastes better.

What happens, then, if you feast without fasting? What happens if your culture encourages you to feast every day, because your economy is predicated on endless, consumer-driven growth? Probably the same thing that happens if you decide that all borders, boundaries and limits, be they economic, social, sexual or cultural, must be torn down in the name of “freedom”. It’s like taking a child to a sweet shop and allowing him to eat anything he wants. For a while it’s fantastic, and then it isn’t. More, it turns out, is not actually better. More just makes you sick.

*

A century ago, the Irish poet William Butler Yeats and his new wife George were ensconced in their Norman tower house in County Galway, taking down dictation from the spirit world. Yeats had just published one of his greatest poems, The Second Coming, which reads like a news report from the 2020s:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity

William and George were newlyweds, and only a few days after their wedding, George, who shared Yeats’s passion for the esoteric and occult, had begun to produce what spiritualists back then called “automatic writing”. Both came to believe that, as the text progressed, they were being given access by something or someone to what Yeats called “a system” that explained the narrative arc of human history. Yeats later laid out this “system”, based on George’s writings, in his strangest book, A Vision, published in 1925.

The symbolism contained in The Second Coming doesn’t make much sense without reading A Vision. What, for example, is this “gyre” and why is it “widening”? Who or what is the “rough beast” which the last stanza chillingly sees “slouching towards Bethlehem to be born”? A Vision answered the questions. Yeats and George had come to see human history as a series of “gyres” rising and falling according to a predictable pattern. A gyre, Yeats explained, is like a cone of time. It begins as a tiny circle, then spirals outwards and forwards, widening with each revolution. When it reaches its widest point, it is unable to hold together. The “widening gyre” begins to break down under the centrifugal pressure, and a historical epoch crashes to its end. But as this is happening, a new gyre is being born within the first, spiralling out in the opposite direction. In the death of one world is sown the seeds of the next. 

Each gyre, wrote Yeats, has a fixed timescale of around 2,000 years. The Second Coming is the story of the end of the gyre which began in Nazareth 2,000 years ago. The “Christ gyre”, Yeats prophesied, would come to an end in the 21st century. Something else, then — some rough beast — would begin its slow, slouching rise.

*

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, cyclical theories of history, like occultism, were all the rage. René Guénon, Arnold Toynbee, Oswald Spengler: the bookshelves were groaning with them. It was obvious enough, in the shadow of the Great War, that something was ending, and the most perceptive observers could see, in the rise of occultism and sexual libertinism, technological warfare and globalised capitalism, Marxism and fascism, what it was: the values and the heritage of the old Christian West. Religion as a way of seeing had been supplanted by a can-do materialism, which sought to transform reality through ideology, technology and science. God, as Nietzsche’s madman had yelled before Nietzsche himself did, was dead. The modern West had killed him.

Oswald Spengler, on the other hand, was not so sure. Like Yeats, the German poet-historian saw history as a series of cycles. His mega-study, The Decline of the West, which became an unexpected bestseller across Europe in the aftermath of World War One, detailed the rise and fall of various global cultures, the latest of which — ours — he called “Faustian culture”. Faustian because it had made a deal with the devil, which was now, according to Spengler, about to come due. The West had triumphed in the goal it had set itself: corralling matter through science and technology. We had become masters of the material realm and had conquered much of the world, but like Faust we had sold our soul for it. “We are the hollow men,” intoned T. S. Eliot, a traditionalist disguised as a modernist. “We are the stuffed men.” He had it right. You can be both at once.

By the time Spengler was writing, he was already clear that all of the theoretical edifices constructed by the West to replace its old sacred order — which mainly manifested as political ideologies — had failed. Beginning in the 21st century, he predicted, the grandchildren of the revolutionaries and the rationalists, adrift in a failing materialist culture, would begin to seek succour in another place entirely:

“The age of theory is drawing to its end. The great systems of Liberalism and Socialism all arose between about 1750 and 1850 … Belief in programme was the mark and the glory of our grandfathers — in our grandsons it will be proof of provincialism. In its place is developing even now the seed of a new resigned piety, sprung from tortured conscience and spiritual hunger, whose task will be to found a new hither-side that looks for secrets instead of steel-bright concepts.”

The West’s gyre was ending, said Spengler. Exhaustion and decline would follow, but the failure of both technology and ideology would prompt a turn back towards the spiritual. “Before us,” he declared, “there stands a last spiritual crisis that will involve all Europe and America.” Beginning in the 21st century, this would manifest as what he called a “second religiousness”. The Faustian West would experience a religious resurgence. Spengler predicted that it would begin around now.

What if a human being is not primarily a rational, bestial or sexual animal but in fact a religious one? By “religious” I mean inclined to worship; attuned to the great mystery of being; convinced that material reality is only a visible shard of the whole; able across all times and cultures and places to experience or intuit some creative, magisterial power beyond our own small selves. There is, after all, no current or historic culture on Earth that is not built around God, or the gods. None, that is, apart from ours.

If this is true, then it would make sense that the collapse of the false picture painted by the age of “science and reason” — mind-body dualism, religion as evidence of superstition or stupidity, the ability of ideology or technology to create paradise on Earth — would bring about a return to the mean. And if the mean is what we might call a religious sensibility, then a resurgence of religion itself would be very much on the cards.

I think there is a good chance that, beneath all of the surface culture war battles, below the arguments about free speech and democracy, coursing below all of these necessary and inevitable cultural strains and tensions, this is already happening. It could be that Spengler’s second religiousness is already here.

*

If this is so, what shape will it take? Many different shapes, probably, and all at once, with the first being an old and a familiar one. In recent years, more and more people have begun to notice that, as the tide of Christian culture has receded in the West, the place seems in some way to be re-paganising, and that as it does so it is offering up a new set of sacred values. What might those values be? We could start with nature worship, self-worship, and a sacrificial attitude to disposable human lives. Then we could combine these with the increasingly obvious religious vision of the Silicon Valley crowd, with their AI Gods and pursuit of silicon transcendence. Add it all up and we can make out the dim shape of the second religiousness in what passes for the cultural mainstream: self-creation in a Godless, genderless, borderless, natureless world of all-seeing living machines. Welcome to the silicon paganism of the 21st century.

In response, we are now beginning to see a resurgence in genuine religion. Personally, and anecdotally, I am noticing this everywhere. In American Orthodox churches bursting with young families. In atheists or neo-pagans suddenly becoming Christians (I plead guilty). In my own speaking events about Christianity, which are suddenly inexplicably popular, and not because of me. Others I know report the same thing: for the first time in a long while, people are beginning to take faith seriously again. Actual religion — the thing that was supposed to die a slow death at the hands of reason — is emerging slowly from the shadows as the new paganism takes hold.

But as Spengler himself warned, there is no guarantee that a “second religiousness” will be an entirely benevolent thing. Knowing what we do of human history, in fact, we can pretty much guarantee that it won’t. There have always been two kinds of religion, or perhaps two ways of responding to religious teachings. There is the internal or mystical response, and then there is the worldly or political one. In Christian terminology, we might call these the way of the world and the way of the kingdom. Christ taught that the path home to God — which is the path to the true self — is a narrow one, and that few ever find it. He also explained that God was to be found not in the clouds or in the stars, but in every human heart. The Christian Way, as its first followers referred to it, is in other words a path of internal transformation — what the Orthodox call the “unseen warfare” that goes on in the heart every minute. The battle between the way of God and the way of the world: every religion I know of teaches some version of this.

Being human, though, we like to take these teachings and overlay them onto the world. In Christian history, this has often taken the form of crusading — sometimes literally — to transform the kingdom of Man into the kingdom of God by force. Unfortunately, since the people doing the crusading have not first fought their own unseen war to transform themselves, they end up falling into a neat little trap set by the devil, and transforming the Church into an instrument of repression, or simply a vehicle for worldly political activism. This can apply equally to liberal Christians who want to remake the Church in the rainbow flag-bedecked image of the “social justice” Left, and to conservative Christians who want Jesus to lead their battle to defend “faith, flag and family” against the woke libs.

Currently, this trend is manifesting most obviously in the form of a “cultural Christianity” promoted by anti-woke public figures on the Right. In this reading, the Christian Way is a weapon which can, in the words of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, writing here as a recent convert, “fortify us against our menacing foes”. Ironically, this spiritual-warfare-as-civilisational-warfare attitude is most obvious at present in the rise of the violent Islamism which so frightens Hirsi Ali, and with good reason. The nervousness with which Europeans have been shopping in their Christmas markets this month is testament to the reality of the violence which some people think God will help them justify. The warning should be clear.

If all of this is part of the second religiousness, it won’t work: or at least, it won’t take us any closer to God. Religion, despite the many calcified failures of its history, is not at root a weapon in anybody’s culture war. Religion and culture reign in separate domains. A faith wielded as a stick with which to beat the “cultural Marxists” will end up being as empty as the consumer void it seeks to challenge, and potentially as toxic. C. S. Lewis had already spotted the trap more than 60 years ago: “Religions devised for a social purpose, like Roman emperor-worship or modern attempts to ‘sell Christianity as a means of saving civilisation’, do not come to much. The little knots of Friends who turn their backs on the ‘World’ are those who really transform it.”

What Lewis is describing is Christ’s narrow way: the path of the Desert Fathers rather than that of Emperor Constantine. The divine irony is that it is only by walking away from the world that we have any chance of changing it. The future, though, like the past, will probably offer up both paths. We should expect a second religiousness to lead to new Desert Father-like movements, away from the world and into the wilderness, and at the same time give us more openly religious conflict in the public sphere. The two have always been related. The original Desert Fathers, back in the 4th century, fled to become hermits in the sands of Egypt in part to escape the newly civilised version of the Christian faith, which had recently become the official religion of the Roman Empire. Christianity and Empire have never mixed well. When God came to Earth, after all, He turned up as a barefoot carpenter, not a proconsul, and he had nothing at all to say about politics, despite living at a time of deep political ferment in an occupied nation. He had bigger fish to fry. I think we should assume He knew what he was doing.

*

Western culture seems in many ways to be visibly collapsing before our eyes. Our nations, our family structures, our communities, our assumptions, our ecosystems: everything is under strain, under attack or bursting at the seams. What is the cause? Is it mass immigration? Is it post-modern relativism? Is it the woke Left? Is it the far-Right? And what is the solution? Is it a robust defence of “enlightenment values”? Is it writing free speech into law? Is it border control? Is it even more YouTube videos?

I think that all of this is just a form of temporary displacement activity. I think the real story is that our religious sensibility is slowly revealing itself to us again, emerging blinking into the light; our instincts are trying to return to their source. On some level we perhaps know this, but we are holding it off as long as possible, because to turn around and look into the light would be to accept that our whole culture has been trailing down a dead-end road since the Enlightenment. We can’t look at that fact, so we look at absolutely everything else instead. But the confrontation can’t be put off forever.

The biggest lie my culture told me was that matter was dead, along with God, and that humans could reason their way to freedom. Reason has its uses — it is a gift we are given, and we should wield it, like technology, as wisely as we can. But at root, humans are fundamentally spiritual animals. The future is not atheists in space. The future, like the past, will be religious. Even the the rationalists and the soldiers-of-Enlightenment are wobbling on the ground from which they once scoffed so proudly at the babushkas and the saints. It may be that the new gyre is beginning, quietly, to turn.

Our crumbling culture can be so hard to navigate. Religion can be hard to navigate too. But maybe Christmas can help us understand what it is, and what part of us it services. Religion is not, as atheists often assume and I once assumed too, a set of beliefs to be adhered to, or arguments to be made and defended. It is an experience to be immersed in. The orthopraxy reveals the orthodoxy. Fasting makes no sense until you fast. Praying is meaningless, even embarrassing, until you start to pray. If the Christian path is straight and narrow, we can do nothing but try to walk it, even if we keep falling off. God makes no sense until you start to talk to him. Then, strangely enough, all sorts of other things start to make sense too. It is hard, if not impossible to explain, and yet it is the simplest thing in the world. We have always done it. We always will.

I remember the first time I tentatively stepped into an Orthodox church to attend a Divine Liturgy. I had no idea what to do, or what to expect, or whether I even really wanted to be there. From the outside, to the Western mind, it all looks intimidatingly Byzantine — not to mention extremely long. But something happens when you stand, immersed in it all. You come to feel as if you are being carried down a great timeless river to an almost unfathomable destination that you could never reach on your own. But of course, you are not on your own. Not now. You will never be on your own again. You have come home.


Paul Kingsnorth is a novelist and essayist. His latest novel Alexandria is published by Faber. He also has a Substack: The Abbey of Misrule.


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J Bryant
J Bryant
6 months ago

Mr. Kingsnorth is a fine and interesting writer and I always enjoy his articles. I want to believe his argument that religious belief is again asserting itself, that a new gyre is forming, because that is an encouraging possibility. But I’m not quite sure.
Mr. Kingsnorth wrote, ” But at root, humans are fundamentally spiritual animals.” I’m tempted to revise that sentence: “But at root, humans are fundamentally animals.” And like most animals we flourish in groups, not alone.
Perhaps what Mr. Kingsnorth is observing is people rejecting both the atomization of modern society, with its emphasis on the supremacy of the individual, and the doctrine of multiculturalism which, in essence, tells us identifying with a specific group is wrong and we must all conform to a homogeneous, global culture.
Perhaps people are doing what human beings have always done and are strongly identifying with their own tribe, typically based on shared culture. Religious observance might be one way of affirming a group identity without necessarily having true religious belief. How many people go to church as much for the camaraderie and socializing after the service as for the religion itself?
I hope Mr. Kingsnorth is right because his idea probably leads to better outcomes than mine.

T Bone
T Bone
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I don’t know, the human brain is insane both intellectually and emotionally. AI is just a conglomeration of intellectual data from the collective hivemind but it will never be as emotionally variable and adaptable as human beings.

But to your point about humans being just another animal. Personally, I don’t buy the transitional species argument. I get it. I just think it relies on weak science like anthropology and is rampant speculation. I struggle to buy any science that wholly relies on recreating the past. Live Science like chemistry and physics is at least testable and relatively apolitical.

Think about climate science. It’s wholly based on a speculative global history of planetary heating. The same “experts” telling everyone humans are a transitional ape species are the same smug, triple boosted “humanitarians” claiming the earth is facing impending doom from climate change due to cow farts and gas powered cars.

Last edited 6 months ago by T Bone
Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

If this is your true opinion (the last paragraph) then why not try even for your own sake?

George Stone
George Stone
6 months ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

Like all human activity, it will be a waste of time.

Lewis Betty
Lewis Betty
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I have enjoyed Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s and now Mr. Kingsnorth’s courageous public testimonies of faith. And I appreciate Mr. Bryant for his humble acknowledgement that their worldviews lead to “better outcomes” than his. Perhaps he will someday find his way home too.
I have found mine in a different vein of Christianity. Its focus is not on the Trinitarian dogmas of the Nicene Creed, formulated by 300 all-male bishops in the fourth century, but on the two Great Commandments that Jesus emphasized: love of God who created us and “our neighbor as ourselves.” This is the spiritual heart and soul of religion for both Christians and Jews. This is what a traditionalist like Kingsnorth and a progressive like me share. This deserves to be called “true religion.” Anyone who can accept and live by this simple formula, or even try to live by it, will arrive at a “better outcome.”
Is the West really gravitating toward a new age of religion? I think it is, not only because it is dawning on people that life without religion is increasingly unbearable as one ages, but because more and more hints of transcendence are surfacing. Visions reported by dying people are turning up everywhere, and spirits like those described by Yeats and his wife are prompting us to take seriously the world we will enter at death.
The old materialism seems to be slowly dying. Scientists studying the near-death experience tell us that the brain doesn’t produce consciousness; rather it is the instrument that the conscious self uses to generate our experience. At death the self doesn’t cease to be but only lifts off from the old shell with its dying brain into a spiritual afterlife.
It used to be popular to pooh-pooh such a vision as superstition. But evidence is mounting that the reverse is true: Kingsnorth and Ali are the new prophets, Dawkins and Hitchens the old and fading.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
6 months ago
Reply to  Lewis Betty

Or in Hitchens’ case, a dead prophet already in the stage of beginning to be as forgotten as A.J. Ayer, the British philosopher who was the Dawkins of his time. Stricken with pneumonia, the eminent atheist got himself to a hospital in time for his heart to stop and he was clinically dead for four minutes. During that time he became aware of a pulsing red ball, very bright, which he interpreted as the engine of the universe. Revived, he later was honest enough to tell the story, but said his views about the hereafter had not changed except for a little bit. Eben Alexander, a Harvard-trained neurosurgeon. was felled by a rare virus that brought him to the edge of death. His best-selling Proof of Heaven is an absorbing read.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

Hypoxia?

George Stone
George Stone
6 months ago

Of course. His views have not changed ‘a little bit’ as far as I am aware.

George Stone
George Stone
6 months ago
Reply to  George Stone

There is no answer and it will never be found.

Tom D
Tom D
6 months ago

There have been out-of-body accounts that ended too fast for hypoxia to be the explanation. I know of a soldier thrown from a crashing helicopter who had an OBE, told the ‘beings’ he wanted to return, and came to in time to save the pilots from drowning.

George Stone
George Stone
6 months ago
Reply to  Tom D

Was he given an OBE for that?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

Rubbish!

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

^Thank you for your cogent and reasoned reply.^

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Your point of view brings Pascal’s wager to mind.

Keith Merrick
Keith Merrick
6 months ago
Reply to  Lewis Betty

Why is Paul Kingsnorth courageous in his ‘public testimony of faith’? This is neither North Korea nor 2014 ISIS territory. Your language suggests Christians are persecuted in our society. Do you believe this to be the case?

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
6 months ago
Reply to  Keith Merrick

Starting to be.

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
6 months ago
Reply to  Keith Merrick

Christians are more likely to face ridicule in western society. That can be harder to deal with than persecution.

Bruce Buteau
Bruce Buteau
6 months ago
Reply to  Keith Merrick

Yes.

Adam Huntley
Adam Huntley
6 months ago
Reply to  Keith Merrick

I think the courage lies in putting out his thoughts and having his words ruthlessly scrutinised by intelligent sceptics. He is being as transparent as he can possibly be so that there is little misunderstanding about what he is trying to articulate. There is no recourse to sophistry to defend an argument that is really just a means of shoe horning in some activist agenda. Any writer who does this is courageous, whatever their actual views. This is especially courageous where those views are not fashionable.

Last edited 6 months ago by Adam Huntley
G M
G M
6 months ago
Reply to  Keith Merrick

Christians, Christianity, are definitely being percecuted for their beliefs nowadays.

For example, try to espouse the Christian belief of marriage being only between a man and a woman, or that there are only 2 genders and you will understand the persecution.

Ian Scales
Ian Scales
6 months ago
Reply to  Keith Merrick

Keith, if you hang around universities and places the university class like to inhabit, you’d soon realise Christians are routinely derided. Nothing will be said to anyone’s face, but it’s regarded as a preventable mental illness that reflects badly on their broader character. They won’t be invited to au fait dinner groups.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
6 months ago
Reply to  Lewis Betty

the god-thing is not a being that needs love brother – we are supposed to love ie want the best for – each other -because we are all PART of the god-thing. The sooner we all realize this the better………………

George Stone
George Stone
6 months ago
Reply to  Lewis Betty

What ‘evidence’? You are spouting nonsense.

Martin Tuite
Martin Tuite
6 months ago
Reply to  Lewis Betty

Secularists are always surprised when they learn that I go to church regularly because it makes me happy and not to accumulate brownie points with God.
Worship, whether in church or alone often lifts up my spirit so that my mind is flooded with joy.  A few times there have been mystical experiences
On a Sunday three weeks ago, for instance, after listening to an interesting sermon about people being healed by Jesus’ power these days, I accepted the pastor’s invitation to come forward for prayer. Since having had a recent Covid shot I had been feeling down and hoped it might give me a boost.
Standing before the pastor I surprised myself by blurting out: “I love Jesus”. As he prayed over me I felt wonderfully filled with happiness. Then I walked away in a blissful daze. I had to sit down for the next 20 minutes and every time I repeated in my mind the words “I love Jesus”, I had to smile and my heart felt like it was leaping for joy.
Since becoming a born-again Christian in 2001 my life has improved 100 per cent. I know, without a doubt, that there is a meaning to this life, and it is to be found through a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
6 months ago
Reply to  Martin Tuite

Amen.

Lynn
Lynn
6 months ago
Reply to  Lewis Betty

Men talk too much

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
6 months ago
Reply to  Lewis Betty

“Visions reported by dying people are turning up everywhere,…”
Do you think, perhaps, that social media has anything to do with this?

Steve White
Steve White
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

He’s right. Humanity is inherently religious. If you take away formal religion, we worship something else. That’s what woke culture is. That’s what environmentalism is. There are two man categories that the philosophers recognized, and they serve as two primary categories of all philosophy: Universals and Particulars. Plato being recognized as arguing for universal truths, and Aristotle for particulars. In the West Aquinas got the philosophers accepted into the universities again, and the West became Aristotelian with Christianity providing the universal (transcendent) truths. When I say truths, I mean that it was accepted as common ground between both atheist and theist alike. It’s just that the atheistic side that over time stripped it all of its miracles and transcendence into a set of useful assumed truths. All the way into modernism and then postmodernism where there is simply different forms of nihilism. They’re still religious, but it’s just redirected into some other private secularized religion. David Zahl does a good job of pointing this out in his book “Seculosity”.

George Stone
George Stone
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

Why do you think that everything is a ‘religion’. People have always had group preoccupations to the point of absurdity.

Bruce Buteau
Bruce Buteau
6 months ago
Reply to  George Stone

We, the spiritual, are leaving you behind. A new paradigm is emerging.

George Stone
George Stone
6 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Buteau

Hardly new.

Matthew Jones
Matthew Jones
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Human beings are not fundamentally animals. We attribute meaning by way of symbolism. Animals don’t do this, and can’t because they can’t wield language like we can. My dog can learn one-way stimulus response relations so that I can say “walkies”, then grab the lead and take him for a walk; and in the future he will associate “walkies” with an impending walk. I can not say to him “this is walkies” whilst we are walking, or “this was walkies” after a walk and expect him to understand that “walkies” means “we are going for a walk”. We attribute meaning to events not as stimulus-response relations like animals but through myriad relational ‘frames’ of contextual associations made of symbolic structures – words. This means we can speak to one another and convey deep meaning. Downside is we can also experience existential dread, longing, and post traumatic stress amongst other painful examples of the human experience.

Secondly we will do things to benefit out-group individuals. An animal will never lay down their life to sage that of another animal which competes for resources and for the opportunities to pass on their genetic code. Human beings will do exactly this, and consider it the greatest form of love.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Jones

This is memetics- humans are cultural animals. Humans only sacrifice for out-groups because our cultures tell us to. Humans before the advent of pro-social religions didn’t do this.

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

That’s not true. Archaeologists find evidence that cave dwellers in long long ago made a sledge to pull a crippled child around and other evidence of care for less able people. People have always been kind and generous hearted. And cruel and selfish. And contradictory.

Paul
Paul
6 months ago
Reply to  jane baker

The crippled child was a member of the in-group, the tribe; “UnHerd Reader” was speaking of sacrifices for out-groups.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul

The biblical exhortations about having mercy on the stranger and outcast–in addition to the poor, widowed, and orphaned–are a few thousand years old now, likely with much more ancient antecedents.
Attempts to make human tribal insularity and lack of compassionate outreach into Nature’s Truth reveal more about the likely motives of the individuals advancing such claims, than they do to establish anything that’s true about the history and evolution of human behavior.

Last edited 6 months ago by AJ Mac
Alan Osband
Alan Osband
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Universalism has become prestigious .Or so-called universalism . Look at the Queers demonstrating on behalf of Hamas . Hamas are devotees of hard core Islam and approve of their prophet’s military conquests of unbelievers . Nor do they tolerate homosexuals .
In the name of universalism and anti-colonialism queer activists abhor the secular liberal state of Israel . Hatred of Israel binds queer activists together as much as hatred of queers (and Israel) binds together the true followers of Hamas .
Cultural misconceptions generate in-group self -identification as much as or more than shared genes .

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
6 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Jones

The mongol army is outside the gates of the city and the citizens prepare for a siege . The bishop decides to send the Khan the keys of the city to demonstrate the superior ethics and universalism of his religion . Greatest form of love ?

George Stone
George Stone
6 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Jones

Only a very small minority will respond as you allege. If they consider this the greatest form of love, then they are narcissists.

Kat L
Kat L
6 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Jones

I’ve seen evidence that elephants will attempt to save their comrades. Even saw it once with a group of wildebeests.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I agree with much of that. I’d sum up my sensibility as understanding what the writer is getting at, having experienced much of the same dislocating processes, both external and internal, from my mid-teens onwards.

Through this though, a different way of being has emerged, and it’s neither materialistic or religious. It’s certainly spiritual, and i really couldn’t care less if some take issue with that.

It’s just a little bit too comfortable or comforting, to reach back towards old “solutions”, even those adapted for our era, which is redolent of a changing epoch. I’d challenge the author by asking “…and what if we’re now experiencing something else entirely?” We can’t undo technology, but nor should we worship it or tremble before it. In fact, we shouldn’t worship anything. It’s really just not necessary. We can love, and try to live in a communal sense with our “tribe”, which may allow and include newcomers who wish to join us, but other tribes are not our enemies; we should seek to neither conquer nor give way.

Above all, we should seek to understand ourselves. The each and every heartbeat the author writes about, the ‘narrow way’ of Christ even, but without the worship or the dogma.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Well said. I admire this passage in particular:
‘We can love, and try to live in a communal sense with our “tribe”, which may allow and include newcomers who wish to join us, but other tribes are not our enemies; we should seek to neither conquer nor give way’.
Having been raised by parents who were ex-Catholics and hippies (in my early years), I only came to religious texts as an inquiring late teenager. I felt in my blood, bones, and what I’d call my soul, that there is genuine wisdom and inspiration in parts of the Bible. And in parts of the Dhammapada and Bhagavad Gita. In Meister Eckhart and CS Lewis too. And, without doubt, in many books and faith traditions I’ve read little or nothing from, and may never do.
To admit the obvious: The parts of the Bible that I consider most inspired or enduring are not authoritatively so. I think there is indispensable incomparable power in the Gospels, but I no longer take an exceptionalist stance on that. Others may find stronger inspiration or something more resonant elsewhere, in writings that have an inspired wisdom, morality, or other spiritual character.
Not everything placed under the banner of religion–whether redeemed by perceived spiritual merit or not–is nonsense. Not all of it is worthwhile. Baby vs. bathwater. These categories needn’t include the same parts or aspects for every person, Some are more drawn to ritual and community. Some will try to remain “congregations of one”. We can, to an extent, choose our “tribe”, or reject all views that don’t come from our own heads. But not without a cost, and prospective reward, either way. (I do think Churches of Self are bound to crumble). The road back home beckons, but it is not the exact same path for all of us.

Last edited 6 months ago by AJ Mac
Lukasz Gregorczyk
Lukasz Gregorczyk
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I don’t know man, if we are animals then we have managed to exhaust the definition of our essence which means total manipulation/control is possible and secondly if we are mere animals, a product of bottom up evolution, than this does not take into account the telos that has to come from somewhere other than the said bottom up direction. Work of Michael Levine in biology and limb regeneration for example convincingly shows that bottom up emergence makes good sense only if it is matched by top down emanation and that the neatest theory explaining it is Platonic. Go figure ‍! Anyhow it seems that there is a way more to the nature of reality then the evolutionary theory can capture!

Last edited 6 months ago by Lukasz Gregorczyk
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago

We are not mere animals. Some non-humans aren’t either.

Lukasz Gregorczyk
Lukasz Gregorczyk
6 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Fair point!

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Probably some good insights here. But I’m not sure Christians throughout the ages simply all had ‘true religious belief.’ Although the social imaginary/ conceptual world they lived within set a lot of parameters, faith has always involved a lot of uncertainty, negotiation of self-doubt, and an element of people just being sociable in their communities.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I am reminded of the diaries and letters of 18th century Royal Navy sailors. We presume then to be a much more pious Christian era, but the contemporary record shows most of the sailors shunned religion. Trapped on the same hulk for months, religious services were stripped of any fresh social contact. Many sailors looked for any excuse to avoid the compulsory Sunday assembly.

The institution of the Royal Navy seemingly supplanted the need for religion amongst many of its sailors. The Royal Navy offered social order, social occasions, and a group identity to belong. Only spirituality was not offered by the Royal Navy, and many sailors decided to go without this.

So while order, social occasion, and belonging are seemingly things many do need, these sailors were definitely not spiritual animals. Our modern selves are probably a lot closer to Royal Navy conscripts than the aristocracy whose lives dominate literature from the period and inform much of what we think about our forebearers.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

“Rum, sodomy and the lash”, what more could one want?

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
6 months ago

More of the first one, less of the last two?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago

I would opt for the sodomy, but skip the rum and the lash.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
6 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

 “Tradition?” replied Churchill, “the traditions of the Royal Navy are rum, sodomy and the lash.”

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Flora Thompson in her fictionalized remembrance of life in a village of mostly agricultural labourers recorded that no one went to church. One family,not Anglican but Baptists went to a nearby Chapel every Sunday and were lovely people but everyone else in the village was,not hostile,but indifferent. The men wanted to relax on their day off. That was how it was all over England in reality,a lot less pious than we are told.

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

One certainly hopes that in that so called exceptional USA they don’t declare an Amerikan Christian religion that all citizens must belong to or convert..
Religion(sic) does that means more ages of war.
Yes humans regressing to animals.
If one cannot determine right and wrong by one self …

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
6 months ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

That is prevented by the first amendment to our Constitution.

George Stone
George Stone
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

He is wrong. He only talks about the Christian religion,

Rohan Achnay
Rohan Achnay
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

The Gyre can be variously interpreted, even from a religious point of view.

It could the cycles of geomagnetic reversion

https://medium.com/@jeffmiller_14689/the-distractive-temporariness-of-human-overpopulation-031d534c4cda

Or it could be an iteration of panarchy theory

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10013239/#:~:text=Panarchy%20theory%20focuses%20on%20the,2014)

which explicitly grapples with systemic dynamics of change, including the possibility of collapse and the emergence of novel systems and the recognition that there can be high uncertainty associated with a new system trajectory during the reorganization phase (Allen and Holling 2010).

Either would aptly describe the Book of Revelations that is being implicitly referred to by Paul.

Perhaps humans are sensing we are nearing the end of a cycle, whether geomagnetic or panarchical and as a result are turning to “God”.

Gregory Toews
Gregory Toews
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

“humans are fundamentally animals”. Whether this is technically true or not is less interesting than the universal phenomenon of acting like we don’t believe that. Even the delusion of uniqueness would in itself be a phenomenon that animals are, by definition, incapable of.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I wholly agree about our yearning for collective unity in our tribes and the great harm the new hooman right/progressive emphasis on the individual has inflicted. But multiculturalism does not insist upon a single unified ‘Pepsi’ Global Citizenry. It is an ideology which asserts that within any native culture cannot assert any supremacy over foreign/non -native cultures. It has a racial hierarchy – a pyramid of virtue – established by Equality Laws which elevates and privileges non white groups (victims of imperialism/white male patriarchy) above the oppressor tribes of white Western nation states. So there is no unity within global multiculturalism at all. It is a divisive racial ideology.

Ian Scales
Ian Scales
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

J Bryant says “doctrine of multiculturalism which, in essence, tells us identifying with a specific group is wrong and we must all conform to a homogeneous, global culture.”

On the face of it, left unmodified, this isn’t a convincing proposition. No, the idea is that the Western liberal elite, who, by multiculturalism, curate the neutral grounding space (the table upon which all is played out) of the multicultural state, sit above and beyond the charming little ethnic cultures they love to adore. The ethnics are supposed to enact their cultures with interesting little restaurants and their part in state-funded multicultural festivals and whatnot, i.e. things the “non-cultural” elite like, and it’s the *elite* who belong to their own frequent flyer homegenous global culture; as I say to curate the theme park state in which dear little pocs and vulgar lower class whites (the bete noir of the brahmin whites) can run around, under the supervision and guidance of the global brahmin class.

Sensible Citizen
Sensible Citizen
6 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

All good thoughts. There is a universal confusion among highIQ agnostics between transcendence, the religious texts, and the local church.
Transcendence is irrefutable if you have the humility to accept that we know almost nothing about the world around us. How does a plate of food become a drop of blood? We have absolutely no idea, so to suggest we have unbraided the concept of transcendence and found it implausible is hubris.
The great religious texts attempt to create architypes that support the idea of transcendence via story telling.
Last, the church is a place for like-minded people to come together and form a tribe. With that comes a hierarchy and power structure.
My highIQ agnostic friends start and end with the “hypocrites” at church on Sunday morning, which completely misses the point.

Ian Jennings
Ian Jennings
6 months ago

I love so much of what Paul Kingsnorth says and I am delighted that he has become a Christian and appears to describe his conversion as “coming home”. Truly wonderful and heart-warming! In the spirit of knowing the joy and freedom that truth brings, I want Paul Kingsnorth to have a deeper joy, if I may be so bold, which means I must challenge one or two of his points or assumptions as I understand them.
I want to say that for Christians, and Jews too, time is linear: it is going somewhere. To say that time is going in spirals or not going anywhere at all is not Christian: it is pagan or Eastern. Christians believe that history was decisively divided into two by the Christ event, and that Jesus’ physical resurrection means that we have hope: we have hope that the future will be better than the past, and yes, we have hope for ourselves that what has separated us from God, is now dealt with and we can spend eternity with him. So, for Christians, this hope drives us to engage with the world and we genuinely believe that, within certain limits, there can be real progress and that the world can be a better place. This axiomatic belief, along with others that include the precious value and equality of every individual before God and the law, has been the reason why the west is where it is, and why, for a large part, it has provided more for the thriving of individuals than other cultures. As Christian belief wanes, the first thing surely to wane with it, will be hope and the belief in genuine progress.
Of course, we believe that the most important change which enables progress, is a change of heart, a thinking differently (repentance) and the contrition that goes with it. We believe in the Kingdom of God coming and for God’s will to be done “on Earth as it is in heaven”., albeit against a backdrop of war, suffering, waste, perplexity, want and general evil and brokenness. The Kingdom of God is not “of this world” as Jesus said to Pilate, but it is for this world.. So, while the talk of a “gyre” is possibly true in part (no person can deny the rising and falling of systems and world views), the most fruitful picture is found in a dream recorded in Daniel chapter 2 of different regimes in his image of statue made of successive materials: gold, silver, bronze, iron and clay. “Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on the threshing floor in summer. The wind swept them away without trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth”. Christians thrill to the knowledge that the future is glorious and have an internal witness of this hope they carry around with them. That is why we do what we do – not so much the love we have, but the hope we have. Also, incidentally, this “forward lookingness” Christians have means that Christans will adopt technology and drive its development too. (It is believed that the first adopters of the codex rather than the scroll were Christians in Alexandria).After all, humans are tool makers and we shape and fashion things. But it is clearly paramount we do not confuse technological advance with real progress which is a change in the human heart, the light of Christ recognised and embraced, love increasing, justice and peace established, the Kingdom of God growing. It is paramount too that we act in a way to safeguard this wonderful sacred planet, marvelling at its beauty and the one who lent it to us.

Last edited 6 months ago by Ian Jennings
Chris Ogunlowo
Chris Ogunlowo
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Jennings

What a beautiful comment!

Chipoko
Chipoko
6 months ago

“To put career before family. To accumulate wealth as a marker of status. To treat sex as recreation. To reflexively mock authority and tradition. To put individual desire before community responsibility. To treat the world as so much dead matter to be interrogated by the scientific process. To assume our ancestors were thicker than us.”
Admirable captures the essence of our current era!

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago
Reply to  Chipoko

You are joking!.Stay home.OK. Wear a mask! OK. Jump! How high! Obey The Science and Your Betters. Happy too,don’t like thinking for myself anyway.

Barbara Manson
Barbara Manson
6 months ago

Here in the RC corner, there has been in the last decade a growing swell of attendance by people of all ages, many families with young children, at the traditional Latin Mass. The ancient ritual laced with Gregorian chant, handed down over 1,500 years, and centered on the actions by the priest at the altar mostly conducted in silence, lifts the minds and hearts of the congregation in worship of the Creator, in thankfulness for the profound teachings and redeeming self-sacrifice of Christ, in trusting presentation of personal needs to a loving God, in joy through the infusion of the Holy Spirit. The senses are engaged by the nobility of the architecture, the beauty of the ordered and crafted furnishings, the stately choreography of priest and acolytes together with the prescribed movements of the congregation, the timeless chant and faith-filled hymns. Within community, there is expansive space for interior reflection. Within repetition, there is ample room for the Divine to touch individual hearts. This is the traditional Catholic Latin Mass.
And this is the form of Roman Catholic worship that the current Vatican regime is actively suppressing. A staggering and historic scandal, and yet, just so, possibly a sign that the tide must soon sweep away that rejection, that a collapse of the attempt to recreate the Roman Catholic Church in the postmodern image is imminent.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
6 months ago
Reply to  Barbara Manson

I have seen no reason why Damian Thompson’s gloomy predictions would not come to fruition. I am not RC (CoE) but am hopeful that Latin Mass congregations can maintain themselves until a new pope is coronated. However, is there any indication that the next pontiff will be any more amenable to them? Having only really read and listened to a pessimist like DT it is hard to imagine the next will be anything other than Francis’ creature due to the college of cardinals being now skewed in that direction.

Cassander Antipatru
Cassander Antipatru
6 months ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

Just because the cardinals were appointed by Francis, doesn’t mean they’ll vote for someone like him — all the cardinals in 2013 had been appointed by Benedict or John Paul II, and we know how that election turned out. The impression I get is that a lot of senior churchmen are kind of annoyed at Francis’ “make a mess” approach, so I expect the next pope to be a relatively bland “centrist” (insofar as such a term makes sense in a Church context) who won’t rock the boat too much.

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
6 months ago
Reply to  Barbara Manson

That is me

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
6 months ago
Reply to  Barbara Manson

I sometimes wonder if the pope is not possessed by Satan.

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

Is the Pope Catholic?

Tom More
Tom More
6 months ago
Reply to  Barbara Manson

I love the beauty , grace and effect of the Latin Rite, but our church has determined that we won’t ask the people of Asia and Africa to first learn Latin and Greek before becoming Catholic. The church exists to serve God and neighbor. I get the real sentiments and values, but the Second Vatican Council and the Primacy of the Holy See are the foundation of our faith. To Catholics only the pope gets to be pope. We have a duty of conscience. Maybe Jesus knew what he was up to. Thank God for the papacy.

Cassander Antipatru
Cassander Antipatru
6 months ago
Reply to  Tom More

You don’t actually need to know Latin or Greek to attend a Latin mass. Latin was, after all, the Church’s main liturgical language down to 1969, a good millennium and a half or so after most people stopped being able to speak it.

alan bennett
alan bennett
6 months ago

It appears he acknowledges that for a decent culture to survive, religious or not, the ideological death cult that is Islamism must be erased from society.

Mike MacCormack
Mike MacCormack
6 months ago
Reply to  alan bennett

I am an atheist with no doubts, but I don’t think Islam is unusual amongst religions. All religions are death cults at heart – Christianity openly and emphatically so – in the obvious sense that they make promises about death not being the end of any individual mind.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
6 months ago

Where are the Christian hordes refusing to assimilate, creating zones policed by biblical law, and talking of death to nonbelievers?

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
6 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Oh, Idaho?

Fabio Paolo Barbieri
Fabio Paolo Barbieri
5 months ago

You live on another planet. And after this pathetic attempt at a joke, there is nothing left except treating YOU as a joke.

John Tyler
John Tyler
6 months ago

I think to be categorised as a “death cult” there probably needs to be a death wish on your own part and a readiness to inflict death on those who fail to conform to your beliefs. Some past Christians(in name anyway!) met the latter criterion, but I can’t think of any examples of the former. The nearest would be a preparedness to die rather than recant, but that’s rather different to a desire to die.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
6 months ago

In other words, religions are life cults.

Atheism is the death cult. It believes that, in Stalin’s words, “Death always has the last word.”

Tom More
Tom More
6 months ago

Exactly the opposite. God is REASON.. why the universe is intelligibly ordered and why reasoning works. Your free will and mind’s ability to grasp fully determinate universals and work with non material things show you have something about us transcending death. Materialists are the death cult.

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago

Assisted dying or State Murder is a Death Cult. It is also a repackaged and rebranded Nazi idea,a shiny painted t**d.

Peter Daly
Peter Daly
6 months ago

And no doubt you have irrefutable evidence for that? Or is it that yours is just another belief system.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
6 months ago

The author and I are about the same age and I can identify completely with the world of his youth. Another story I grew up absorbing reflectively but which turned out to be an utter lie: that the US is Britain’s friend.
I grew up in that postwar narrative of thinking we were buddies forever, brothers in arms due to what we’d been through together in WW2. Now I look at the States and think at most, they are an ally but definitely no friend. The best thing that I can say about American hegemony these days is that it’s the best of what’s on offer. My admiration for the place has receded significantly.

Last edited 6 months ago by Katharine Eyre
Phil Mitchell
Phil Mitchell
6 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Katharine, I am a thorough Yank. Born and bred in the Western U.S. But I understand what you are saying and can see why you don’t think of us as your friends. And American foreign policy has been dreadful for quite a while now. But I see us, not as enemies, but as alike. As I read Unherd, it seems to me that a lot of what is wrong in America is plaguing the U.K.–and Europe as well.

Peter Daly
Peter Daly
6 months ago
Reply to  Phil Mitchell

You are 100% correct. American wokeism and toxic race politics is poisoning many other countries.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
6 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

If it means anything to you, as an American my admiration for my country has also receded significantly. I admire what America once was. America has morphed into an entity I can no longer recognize or admire.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
6 months ago
Reply to  Betsy Arehart

The USA has lost its ideals and substituted opinions and ideology for them. It’s all very sad.

Kat L
Kat L
6 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

We used to be. Both British culture and Christianity was referenced in a lot of 1970’s tv. Diversity is not a strength.

Peter Daly
Peter Daly
6 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Don’t worry it is in terminal decline and heading towards civil war and partition.

Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
6 months ago

Mr.Kingsnorth includes the Enlightenment in his list of things to blame for our present predicament, and adds the usual derogatory reference to Dawkins et al. Why would belief in a fantasy world be better than rational enquiry, unless you were ‘childlike’?

Last edited 6 months ago by Kathleen Burnett
AC Harper
AC Harper
6 months ago

Shorter article (no AI involved): “The Enlightenment (good in parts) is fading and a New Romanticism (bad in parts) is rising.”

Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
6 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

The reality of the universe we find ourselves in doesn’t meet the requirements of our ‘elite’ thinkers.

Jon Morrow
Jon Morrow
6 months ago

and, as Dawkins pointed out – it is faith which allows “good” people to do very bad things.

Sue Sims
Sue Sims
6 months ago
Reply to  Jon Morrow

Anyone who knows any history at all is well aware of that – but what it proves is ‘Corruptio optimi pessima’. Faith (whether religious or secular) can lift a person to the heights of virtue, but also cause them to act like devils.

Last edited 6 months ago by Sue Sims
Tony Buck
Tony Buck
6 months ago
Reply to  Jon Morrow

Faith in Communism killed many millions.

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago
Reply to  Jon Morrow

But it’s SO ANNOYING the killer is always an ugly weirdo who nobody likes ie ME. Except once found it never is. He ( rarely she) is that lovely neighbour who always had a pleasant word for everyone,kept themselves to themselves but was never objectionable,the face of a monster screams the tabloid,but the face is perfectly pleasant ,indeed attractive,you’d get in conversation with this bloke in a pub or even,ooh err,accept a lift home in the rain. Nice,good people do BAD things because that’s everybody

Last edited 6 months ago by jane baker
Cassander Antipatru
Cassander Antipatru
6 months ago
Reply to  Jon Morrow

Communism and fascism killed more people in one century than Christianity did in twenty.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
6 months ago

Is it necessarily simply ‘belief in a fantasy world’ or is it a vehicle for human truths — or at least ‘wisdom’ and a tried and tested social guide –through parable and religious practise/ orthopraxy? Are religious observance and rational enquiry mutually exclusive? Empirical observation reveals that they aren’t! Don’t Dawkins and Hitchens have something of the tone and character of vain Christian evangelists themselves? Aren’t most western values part of a cultural inheritance which has been uniquely shaped and moulded by centuries of Christianity, including other syncretic elements? Did New Atheism really escape/ transcend this cultural inheritance?

Last edited 6 months ago by Benedict Waterson
Mike MacCormack
Mike MacCormack
6 months ago

Thankyou for your well made point. Mr. Kingsmith seems unappreciative of Enlightenment values, and I even agree with him that Dawkins can be infuriating when he sets out to so carefully correct our silly selves, but I can’t see how any heartfelt mysticism can ever be anything except rhetorical, even metaphorical, when compared to systematised realistic and thus testable applied knowledge. Science is simply the most important thing that mankind has ever done!

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
6 months ago

Yes, science will destroy humanity.

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago

Back in the 1990s when Yugoslavia broke up and all the factions started sticking it to each other yet to us they all looked the same it was a shock to realise we were seeing a place where The Enlightenment never happened. OK maybe some intellectuals but mostly the people had pre-enlightenment and semi-feudal mindsets,not that this impeded them from using high tech,they had oldy fash ideas,not stupidity. So,all the garbage Clinton + Blair etc were spouting was nonsense to those people as they’d not had two hundred years of Enlightenment ideas being imposed on them whether they liked it or not.

Sandes Ashe
Sandes Ashe
6 months ago

To that I would say, Imagine music… is it math or mystic; science or spirit? The scientific AI will make something emulating music but will it be fulfilling? To whom? For how long?
I am not pretending I know the answer.
I don’t believe the ‘world’ is flat.
I did enjoy Mr Kingsnorth’s proposition, respectfully.

Last edited 6 months ago by Sandes Ashe
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
6 months ago

Yet, science has not been able to answer any of the same basic questions that humans struggle with, such as where we came from or why we are here. (And please don’t tell me about the theory where two big rocks of unknown origin collided in space and set into motion life as we know it. Or the one about single celled creatures evolving in the sea, eventually inhabiting land and evolving into human beings, who build airplanes and rocket ships.) I’d rather stick with my religion, thank you.

Martin Tuite
Martin Tuite
6 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Or what is human consciousness.

David Yetter
David Yetter
6 months ago

“Science is simply the most important thing that mankind has ever done!”
Is it? Or is formulating “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or the negative version “Do not to others what is hateful to yourself,” or perhaps “Love your neighbor as yourself”?
Science cannot provide an “ought”, or a “why” (in an ultimate sense), only a “what” and a “how”, and it is very good at doing that.
It is a curious thing that that we are able to do it so well, if as the materialists hold, our minds are simply computational systems that evolved to solve survival problems on the African savanna. Easier to understand why we are good at science if there’s something about us described, at least poetically, if not literally, in the phrase, “Come let Us make Man in Our image and likeness.”
Of course, maybe you’re right, maybe the moral dicta are all actually of divine origin and not something we did.

Last edited 6 months ago by David Yetter
Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
6 months ago

He’s pointing to a wicked dilemma. All of our most Enlightenment cherished values come with a price tag – most obviously they represent a degree of social complexity that is inseparable from a level of energy/material throughput that may well in the end destroy the biosphere. The individualism and mobility destroys family and play -bound community, and makes us even more dependent on the high energy systems of the market – and the state, which are more or less one thing (the state depends on fiscal flows from the market). The disenchantment makes us unhappy and destroys meaning. Adorno and Horkheimer already drew out the paradox of an Enlightenment rationalism, materialism and universalism which allowed the trains to arrive on time at Auschwitz.
So the question is whether Enlightenment values can be reconciled with environmental restraint and a world of meaning and conviviality. It doesn’t seem likely.
The Enlightenment was a product of Christendom. Modern individualism is a perversion of the Imago Dei – as Tom Holland has demonstrated with rather magnificent acumen. Without Judeo-Christianity there is no sacral individual – and certainly no liberalism, no Dawkins and no Hitchens. But the religious view is communitarian. The astonishing aspect of the Jewish and Christian vision is the extent to which this idea of a distinct self made in the image of GOd can be reconciled with what Owen Barfield called ‘final participation’ – a recovery of that supreme togetherness with each other and with the divine….but without losing the individual in a kind of oceanic dissolution (as in Buddhism or Hinduism and pre-CHristian paganism) …This vision is of individual liberation through constraint….through self restraint. We get a hint at this in a happy marriage, parenting and some better than me in a life of service to the community…. The problem is of course negotiating this holistic …’complete act’ (Andrew Willard Jones’ term)…in which there is no experiential or subjective distinction between religious and spiritual activity, family, and ‘secular’ politics. We are a long way from that….and it is probably impossible…WHo knows?
But it’s difficult to disentangle Diderot, Kant and Descartes from Dr Strangelove. I think that to paraphrase Thomas Sowell, the problem with Dawkins and HItchins – as with all the warriors of Enlightenment (including those on the dark side) is that they are always looking for ‘solutions’ (and sometimes ‘final’ solutions) This is the hubris of humanism. But as Sowell points out again and again, there are no solutions – only trade offs.

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago

And maybe there never was a problem or issue in the first place but if you’re “selling” solutions,you need problems.

Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
6 months ago

The Enlightenment has become the bad boy for those seeking something transcending reality. It did not derive from Christianity (though some of its adherents will claim it did), but was a reaction against it. Blaming all of our present day ills on the Enlightenment is like blaming mathematicians for the misuse of statistics.

Poppy Gordon
Poppy Gordon
6 months ago

Have you read Tom Holland’s Dominion? Highly recommend. Also Strickland’s Age of Paradise series. The Enlightenment is an integrated part of the whole history of the West, not some reactionary “better” separate from it.

Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
6 months ago
Reply to  Poppy Gordon

I haven’t read Holland’s book but do remember a conversation he had with A C Grayling on the same topic. In essence, Holland believes that buying a Leica camera instantly makes you a great photographer. Simply by coming after something doesn’t mean you derive from it. But if you insist it does, then the faults of the Enlightenment must rest with Christianity.

Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
6 months ago

Based on this example, logic and analysis are not strong points of what you mean by “the Enlightenment.”

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago

Only filthy rich people can afford to think like you do,all dismissive and snooty.

Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
6 months ago
Reply to  jane baker

Merry Christmas!

Martin Tuite
Martin Tuite
6 months ago
Reply to  jane baker

Peace and grace to you.

Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
6 months ago

It is SO typical of New Atheism to equate “the Enlightenment” with “rational enquiry,” and so ignorant.
See this lecture by Ian Hutchinson of MIT: https://youtu.be/BIX9MGtVU2c?feature=shared&t=175

David Yetter
David Yetter
6 months ago

Belief in a “fantasy world” is not better than rational inquiry, but belief in a transcendent Ground-of-Being inaccessible to rational inquiry, along with rational inquiry within the bounds to which it is applicable, is far, far better than rational inquiry alone.
One of the Fathers of the Church, we Orthodox call him “St. Gregory the Theologian”, the Latins and Anglicans call him “St. Gregory of Nazianzus”, said, “In as much as we exist, God does not exist. In as much as God exists, we do not exist.” Dawkins et al only see our existence, and rightly conclude there is no mere entity with the attributes we Christians ascribe to God. The logic-puzzle God of the philosophers is a snare and a delusion both to science and to faith. One of the basic principles of Orthodox Christian theology is that there is no likeness whatsover between the created and the Uncreated. It is for that reason that we try not to make positive statements about God, but theologize only by denying false ideas about Him.

Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
6 months ago
Reply to  David Yetter

Interesting point. Your position reminds me of the increasingly complicated theories put forward by the Earth-Centric believers to maintain the idea that humans are at the centre of the universe and therefore special. Making God slippery will certainly make it harder for atheists to keep up, but I find that accepting physical reality as all there is, to be like waking after a night of dreaming. And also an excellent foundation for a sane and stable life (especially in the postmodern West).

Steve White
Steve White
6 months ago

The political or cultural Christianity that he speaks of that is on the rise is only natural. He is right however that humanity needs religion, because you need some sort of universals in a culture to give meaning to the particulars.
Nietzsche recognized this in terror when he wrote that God is dead, and we have killed him. Though he was an athiest himself, he realized that any culture needed common and accepted universal truths to provide meaning to particulars of life or there would be chaos. For example, what is a man and what is a woman? What is marriage? What is faithfulness and why would you want to be faithful? If there are no universal truths to give the particulars meaning then a man or a woman are just social constructs. They are like programmable placeholders that can be swapped out at will. However in practice we find that this leads to chaos. Which is where Western culture is headed. So the smart people who don’t really have much to do with God “internally” as Kingsnorth notes, at least want the whole Christianity thing established externally, for the benefits of Western culture not collapsing and eating itself.
Nietzsche went a different route. He replaced the universals with “human excellence”. Hitler loved that, and yet militarized it. That’s the ultimate expression of what is both attractive (everything of human excellence) , with the most repulsive and evil (forced down the worlds throat at the end of a gun, with the wrong kind of people exterminated). A people who consider themselves God’s chosen and operated accordingly inside of the culture obviously was a problem for him and the world of human excellence he wanted to make. What sort of people are the “useless people” that the World Economic Forum has denoted? What makes people useful and useless in the eyes of globalist elites? That’s what we’re looking at, either them, or whatever we replace them with… What kind of world do we want to live in? 

Last edited 6 months ago by Steve White
Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
6 months ago

A thoughtful and profound article. It’s become increasingly clear that people have a God-shaped space within them which needs to be filled. If it isn’t, it leads to para-religious displacement activities that have a remarkably consistent narrative, which runs as follows:

1. An original sin…

2. …leading ultimately to a punitive and imminent apocalypse that involves one or more of the Four Horsemen.

3. A diminishing chance of averting the forthcoming apocalypse, that demands eye-watering sacrifice from those groups considered most responsible for the original sin.

4. No absolute guarantee this sacrifice will be successful.

5. Increasing sanctions against those who question this narrative.

6. A priestly cohort of believers who take part in an arms-race for purity and punish heretics with ever-increasing zeal, particularly those within their ranks.

Any of the last century’s great events show a remarkable conformity to this framework.

The Cold War provided a tailor-made imminent nuclear apocalypse; and it’s interesting to see what happened after the perceived threat of a massive nuclear exchange went away. In Britain, we had a series of small crises, all of which fitted well into the central quasi-religious narrative described. BSE. Foot and mouth. Global warming. And the original sins of colonialism and slavery. Covid.

I believe that man’s need for God creates a clamouring hunger within him when it’s not met: one that he will do almost anything to satisfy. We can fill this gap with all sorts of fantastical and whimsical rubbish providing that it fits a particular narrative, and this leads us into some bizarre places.

As GK Chesterton observed: “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything”

Si evidentiam requiris, circumspice.

Last edited 6 months ago by Roddy Campbell
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
6 months ago
Reply to  Roddy Campbell

Anyone quoting that old Chesterton chesnut should be made to quote it endlessly for the rest of their lives, until it drives them insane.

It’s got human spirituality the wrong way round. God was invented, by humans, to try to explain what the rise in consciouness seems to demand. The human spirit (which each of us as individuals feels) can be experienced entirely without recourse to a God.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

But life can’t be experienced at all without the benefit of a creator, whether as a random or purposeful Miracle.

George K
George K
6 months ago

Experiencing a liturgy is one thing, reciting the Nicene Creed is another. It starts with “I believe”, not “I immerse myself into a narrative”

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
6 months ago
Reply to  George K

Reciting the Nicene Creed *is* immersing yourself into a narrative if it is anything at all.

Last edited 6 months ago by Derek Smith
George K
George K
6 months ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Yes, if you believe it in the first place. Shouldn’t you believe in what you profess believing?

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
6 months ago
Reply to  George K

I do agree, but sometimes coming to faith is a process rather than a crisis.

Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
6 months ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Indeed. The Creed begins with the Beginning, centers on the story of Jesus, ends with the end of history. What is that, if not a narrative?

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
6 months ago

Very learned piece, but turning our backs on the world will just resign it to forces that will come and force us to live by their standards. If we don’t like those standards, it’s incumbent on us to fight back, because they won’t just let us walk away.

John Dzurak
John Dzurak
6 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Lee

Mr Lee, your brilliantly perceptive comment presents the “dirty little (not-so) secret that exposes the conundrum of the “Love your neighbor as yourself” pablum. Although there may be an afterlife from a loving God, we must live in this wholly fallible material world of sin and corruption and error. There are humans who seemingly cannot help but wreak havoc on others. What do we do about that? Place our heads in the lions mouths in the arena? Watch as innocents are slaughtered? Who referees the chaos? How do we maintain even the most simplistic order? I live in the US and am over 75 years old. “By the grace of God (????)” I am relatively safe and sheltered and protected. That does not seem to be the lot of most of my 8+ BILLION neighbors. I pray for at least some of them and fear the others. The greatest abandonment of spirituality today is the inability to know what to do about “pain,” both our own and that of others, physically, mentally, and spiritually. What do we do? Prayer alone does not seem to suffice, especially if we pray to different gods for different outcomes. I am troubled by my own inability to find comfort in any of this exploration. But I know I must try every day to find a shard of wisdom. Best wishes.

Glynis Roache
Glynis Roache
6 months ago
Reply to  John Dzurak

Well said Mr Dzurak. The Christian ethic of turning the other cheek and accepting all on the basis that we could be entertaining angels potentially reduces Christians to helpless herbivores in a world of meat eaters. The expression ‘pathological compassion’ has lately appeared in print. Maybe, people more versed in biblical exegesis and Christian practice than I could offer some guidance on this one.

Don Quixote
Don Quixote
6 months ago
Reply to  Glynis Roache

As an English sauvage du nord, allow me to have a pop?
‘Turn the other cheek’ is perhaps more useful as an aid to understanding the nature of the person who spoke that line, than as a principle of national policy. To become a disciple of that one is to be a walker on the narrow path, a member of the city in the city (as China Mieville might have it).
The alternative, which the line assaults, is ‘an eye for an eye’ – the principle on which all of our, ironically traditionally ‘Christian’, visible ‘worldy’ cities are built on.

There may – – just may – – be a middle way: A living way to intuit in which particular circumstance to ‘turn the other cheek’, or conversely to take up arms – –
‘ To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?’

The middle way? Chivalry.

Ay, there’s the rub.

Last edited 6 months ago by Don Quixote
Glynis Roache
Glynis Roache
6 months ago
Reply to  Don Quixote

Thinking…thinking…hmmm Good. Thank you.
PS nice to see reference to China Mieville. I do enjoy his unusual prose style.

opop anax
opop anax
6 months ago

A beautiful article. Thank you.

Citizen Diversity
Citizen Diversity
6 months ago

What did Jesus of Nazareth say came out of the human heart? Sweetness and light? Deceitful above everything else, it’s never going to be a path to the ‘true self’, if such a thing ever exists.
It is always necessary to remind the evangelists of JW.org when they get out the Scriptures and start quoting chapter and verse that few people under the age of 40, and certainly almost none of the youngest adults, know the first thing about the Bible. Or indeed anything about the Church.
A simple example of this. On visiting St Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC, my young male relatives, all under the age of 40, didn’t take off their hats, as anyone from the older generations, even if not churchgoers, would have known to do.
If there’s a rough beast, it’s the Almighty God-State. More petitions are addressed to this deity than used to be addressed to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the UK, we are all Citizen NHS.
C S Lewis was making the observation that religion, especially Christianity, wasn’t, as he put it, ‘a short cut to the nearest chemist’s shop’. The man who became bishop of Durham in 1901 wrote as early as 1894 that in England Christianity had, even at that date, largely become no more than social improvement under the auspices of Christ.
The Apostle Paul warned his colleague, Timothy, that there would come ‘formidable seasons’. Being seasons, they occur at intervals. In them, the ‘weather’ is the world’s old evil increased to a greater degree than usual. But it’s not the end of days.
Christianity isn’t a religion. It’s a Person.

Martin Tuite
Martin Tuite
6 months ago

Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ based on love, kindness and hope.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
6 months ago

In some of the comments, it becomes clear why so many atheists are not content with their view but feel the need to degrade the other side – The militant atheist is the mirror image of the zealot.

Each is so convinced that he is right that the other can’t just be wrong, he is illegitimate and must be attacked. There is a reason it’s called faith. If you know, you know. If not, then carry on and leave folks be.

Dominic A
Dominic A
6 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

The carbonized pot calling the smudged kettle black .

Last edited 6 months ago by Dominic A
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

No camp has a monopoly on the “need to degrade the other side”.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

True. I’d even say that militant atheism is often outright zealotry: intolerant of other views and characterized by unwillingness to acknowledge the possibility of error.
We ought to tread a bit more lightly when it comes to people’s faith, or lack thereof.
Sermons and de-mystifications both have their place, but much of this talk starts out proud and petty then goes downhill from there.

Dominic A
Dominic A
6 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I was not made to attend two hours of lectures from atheists each week as a child, nor submit to a wide range of atheistic rituals; nor to study atheism in school for an hour a week for 8 years; my gay friends were never told by atheists that their sexuality was wrong and damning. I could go on, and on.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

That could change. It did in China and Russia for several decades. Non-religious zealotry can be every bit as severe, even murderous, as its disowned religious cousins. Sometimes more so.

Dominic A
Dominic A
6 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Fair point. Surely thouh there is a middle ground. One where religion is not officially banned, or rather usurped by a new religion, where the religious are free to practice, and the non-religious are free to critique….oh wait…!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Ha! It’s almost as if we already have the world we need, but just don’t recognize it or know how to take full advantage of what we already have– for now.
Fair point(s) on your side too. Merry Christmas.

Kat L
Kat L
6 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Probably not Merry Christmas, maybe happy winter? He’s not celebrating it lest he be a hypocrite.

Dominic A
Dominic A
6 months ago
Reply to  Kat L

Wrong again; and despite the title, ‘Christmas’ has as much, probably more to do with pagan and humanistic culture/history than Christianity. Early Christianity being often rather clever in co-opting pre-existing traditions, hence the number of churches built near ancient Yew trees (an indication of a pagan site).

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
6 months ago

Need to get Mr Kingsnorth writing here more often. I am not sure that clicking on his name reveals his entire back-catalogue (old phone may have something to do with it) but it couldn’t hurt.

While Kingsnorth is clearly on his own, admirable path and I would wish him well in this personal journey there is a missing strand to his professed beliefs. In the West there is no indigenous Orthodox church as currently formulated. The practices and traditions of Eastern cultures (primarily Greek rather than Antiochene or Alexandrian) are thus imported wholesale and packaged as a church for a distinct community – Romanian/Russian/Serbian etc. towards which a convert gravitates. Unfortunately, outside of the community in which it is based the bounds for evangelism in each church are limited (scripture read in an often archaic form of language for instance) and none other than the Russian has any recent and widespread missionary history to draw upon. This is not a criticism, just that for orthodoxy to flourish in the West it needs some local flavour and grounding which is not evident to other Christians at the moment (let alone the wider public). At present the orthodox “revival” has more to do with recent immigration than swathes of people converting. Similarly among those who convert there is a sense of a detatchment from mainstream culture more reminiscent of anabaptists than the Desert Fathers – escaping with their family as Mr Kingsnorth has done rather than from their family as monks/nuns do. Perhaps this is the way for orthodoxy to work in a Protestant christian cultural context but I am not so sure. There is a definite feeling of a calvinist “elect” which is at odds with Orthodoxy’s universalism.

In another essay on Irish/British Christianity in the pre-conquest period the author gave a glimpse of another, more interesting future for Orthodoxy; of a re-enchanted landscape with connection to the people. That vision seems to have faded in favour of an easier, more Western and more worldly one.

David B
David B
6 months ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

Check out his substack, the Abbey of Misrule.

Ok Nayre
Ok Nayre
6 months ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

The shape of small-o orthodox Christianity that flows from our past in this place is not monolithic, not having a single name or path, and so it’s unlikely that the continuation of its flow into the future will look monolithic either. But it can still exist even though it might not have a label; parts of the CofE (miracle of miracles!) and baptists can still count as tributaries and the modern independent reformed city churches are nimble enough to contribute to the flow positively. Without a (big-o) Orthodox tradition, we must take what we can from what is available and attempt to follow where God leads. Surely God will provide.

j watson
j watson
6 months ago

Really appreciated that.
Now however I might rationalise some potential benefits I cannot return to the full faith of childhood. Yet each Xmas as I take an aged Mother to her Church, sit with her quietly, amongst a diverse community who share a faith while an almost timeless service is conducted, one feels that sense of ‘coming home’ to something one has long rejected. What on earth is it? Is it simple nostalgia and rose-tinted memories or is there something else pulling?
Perhaps it’s just that hour of calmness and reflection having a mediative, dare I say it ‘mindfulness’, impact? But maybe it’s a little more than that.
The Church has moved too. Not just do I look around and see a congregation from all parts of the world sharing an ancient tradition, but the teachings seem to be gradually shedding the elements the man from Nazareth never extolled. Perhaps it too, as the Author implies, is finding it’s way back slowly but surely.

Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
6 months ago

There is enough wisdom in the world, thanks. Start with Marcus Aurelius and follow your nose from there. Whilst I have a renewed appreciation for the messages of some bible stories thanks to Jordan Peterson, it still isn’t true and never was. I won’t sacrifice my intelligence for any sense of belonging and would not trust anyone who expected that from me. I haven’t found a satisfactory explaination for why your family, friends and your contribution to society through your work isn’t enough for people to make a good, happy and honest life.

Last edited 6 months ago by Stuart Bennett
Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
6 months ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

Modern secular people see themselves as the apex of civilization and insight, with a touching belief in inexorable Western Progress. Now we all have presuppositions that we hold as axiomatic. But moderns, while glibly relativizing those of everyone else, are strangely oblivious to the relativity of their own.

Last edited 6 months ago by Kelly Madden
John Barnes
John Barnes
6 months ago

Am I missing something here? I thought being a Christian meant believing that god sent his son to earth, was crucified and rose from the dead. I don’t believe in either of those things ie god or rising from the dead. I do believe in much of what I regard as Christian philosophy eg love your neighbour etc. I think Christianity has evolved over the centuries to be the kind, tolerant state it is in the Western world. It certainly did not seem kind and tolerant in the past. Islam does not seem to have evolved in this way (& may have a detrimental effect on our Western society). Both this article & the earlier one by Ayeen Hirsi Ali ( why I am now a Christian) seem to suggest that Christianity is preferable because it is tolerant and ‘kinder’ or purely to fill a ‘spiritual’ need rather than a belief that it is actually true (eg walking on water, feeding the 5000 etc)

jane baker
jane baker
6 months ago
Reply to  John Barnes

There are more interesting truths than objective truth said a former Bishop of Edinburgh.

Andrew S. Green
Andrew S. Green
6 months ago
Reply to  John Barnes

This is where a lot of folk fall down before they start in trying to understand Christianity. The Bible isn’t necessarily literally factual, much of it is written in parables. Whilst there are many unegotiable elements, if you try to disprove any individual occurrence using modern scientific principles you aren’t going to get too far.

Leave modern rationalism at the door and you can start the journey whilst looking for deeper meaning.

Andrew D
Andrew D
6 months ago

The new religion of Wellbeing hasn’t abolished fast before the feast, merely inverted it. We binge in the month leading up to Christmas, then fast for a month afterwards (‘Dry January’).

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
6 months ago

Mr Kingsnorth seems happy with concept that, through Jesus, God has shown us the only true and difficult path we should all seek to follow. I confess I have some problems with that.

First, because God’s chosen means of delivery of this message was so parochial and exclusive of others – indeed even 2000 years later it has not reached or been accepted by the great majority of the peoples of the world, who are still not Christian and show little sign of ever being such. .

Second, because Christianity avers that man is made in the image of God and that our God and King demands our explicit, unquestioning and continuous worship of Him and His truths as “revealed” to us in holy texts over 2000 years ago. Except for the purpose of restraining thought and promoting humility, why? Is that really the stance of a loving father?

Third and finally, I have a big problem with the very masculinity of the Christian God – and of so many other gods. If anything raises my suspicions it is that.

I truly wish there was a loving God who made sense of everything and afforded we mortals heavenly redemption, but I fear He is a man made myth. A myth used over the centuries, by those who would seek to govern us, in order to help bend us to their will, sometimes for good purpose but mostly not.

Notwithstanding all of the above , the Christian demand that we all should love one another is a very fine one, and I will pray again this Christmas Day that it could be so.

Glynis Roache
Glynis Roache
6 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

I found a rising need for a meta narrative for life that was greater than the survival of a species in the least painful way possible. Nietzsche said that in the absence of a heaven, God’s shadow would persist in various, fervent political and social causes, all oriented towards producing some sort of utopia on earth. And wasn’t he exactly right?
 Maybe my search for a meta narrative was prompted by what the sociologist Reith recognised as an inbuilt demand to acknowledge the sacred. (Or words to that effect.) But whatever the reason, I found myself sticking at the same points as you and finally wondering if it was all just wishful thinking. As I was once a scientist of sorts, I came at it from a pragmatic direction. Is there any scientific indication that there could be a God? My greatest initial inspiration was John Lennox – professor in Mathematics at Oxford. He wrote a book   – God’s Undertaker, Has Science Buried God? It covers the question of a designer universe, the nature and scope of evolution, the origin of life ( we haven’t a clue, read also the world’s greatest nano chemist James Tour) and irreducible complexity etc. etc. And if that isn’t enough you can get into the nature of consciousness and the quantum brain with physicist Sir Roger Penrose and anaesthesiologist Stuart Hammeroff.
    I came to the conclusion that there is definitely something else at play in this universe. The nature of the something else? 
Ah, well …

Last edited 6 months ago by Glynis Roache
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
6 months ago
Reply to  Glynis Roache

That’s a well-argued case, to which i’d simply add: why should this “something else at play” be worshipped; or even more pertinently, need to be worshipped?
Acknowledged, yes; worshipped, on what grounds?

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I agree

Alan Jackson
Alan Jackson
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Simply from the point that we are and life is and that is a miracle. Gratitude to be life rather than not- life brings up worship for the power that has made that possible.

Glynis Roache
Glynis Roache
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I think Mr Jackson makes a good point about gratitude but, yes, grat