Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The fantasy lives of christians

If you repeat a fantasy often enough, it will come true. This seems to be a lynchpin of contemporary christian thought. Something to do with the rosary perhaps.

One of their favorite current fantasies is the idea that atheism is dying. Taking heart from the tragic recent psychological collapse of 81 year old philosopher Anthony Flew, and factoring in the political victories of theocratic forces in the US, they extrapolate to the notion that atheism everywhere is in intellectual retreat. Richard Dawkins is still giving them fits, but a suitable amount of name calling can take care of that problem.

Forecasting the death of atheism, beyond the odd scribbling on bathroom stalls, is best accomplished of course if you have no respect for reasoning or logic or history or even information. This is evident in their fantasies of the past, the present and the future.

Fantasies of the Past

Consider how a Catholic ultra views the past for example:
Atheism attained its grip on the West largely via the propagation and general acceptance of the Theory of Evolution, following the 1859 publication of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species...In the 1860's, prominent churchmen such as John William Colenso, Anglican Bishop of Natal, South Africa, were inspired by The Origin of Species to reconsider the historicity of the Bible.
This completely reverses real historical development. The real growth of skepticism and atheism started in the eighteenth century, especially with Newton and new naturalistic ways of interpreting the world. It rapidly gained ground because of the reactionary and opressive practices of the church (to which many christians today apparently want to return). Atheism then gained increasing force in the nineteenth century through rigorous criticism of the authenticity and coherence of the Bible, which peaked in 1837, not in the 1860s, with Strauss' Life of Jesus Critically Examined. Darwin's theory was a high point in this movement which disenchanted the world, but not its origin.

Fantasies of the Present

Accounts of the current state of affairs have equally little contact with reality.
Today, only a minority in the developed world take the major religions seriously. Also, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the disillusionment that followed the radicalism of the 1960's, ideologies and utopian philosophies — religion's only competition in the provision of durable hope — have been discredited almost completely.

Millions now spend their days distracting themselves with material goods and other passing interests. In such soil, hope and love do not take root, leaving little motivation or justification for the selfless sacrifices upon which every society depends. It is already possible to predict many of the impacts that will eventually result from this mentality.
Such a broad brush picture of the present, failing to differentiate even between quite different situations in different countries, can have no truth value. In Britain, religion has indeed long been in retreat. But in the US, for example, religion is, tragically, clearly on the rise, the least coherent and most anti-intellectual versions gaining the most rapidly. Religion is on the rise all right, and with it anti-intellectualism and outright flight from all realities, historical, natural and scientific. Out too are notions of tolerance, as we shall see in the christian fantasies of the future.

But there is one other problem with the vision of the present that really needs to be pointed out. This is the idea that there is an either/or choice between the life of the consumer and the life of the religious faithful. In logic this is called a false dilemma. It reveals a truely christian poverty of imagination.

Fantasies of the Future

As for the future, the fantasies approach self-parody, but they are unintentionally revealing.
The attacks perpetrated since September 2001 by Muslim fanatics in the United States, Europe, and the Far East are a major catalyst for the Theistic Revolution. This is so, because these events have conclusively demonstrated that major assumptions of the modern mentality are specious — especially the belief that religious opinions "don't matter" and that all expressed points of view should be treated as equally valid.

Ultimately, the repulsive violence and intellectual poverty endemic to Islam will check its growth and help ensure Christianity's conquest of the developed world. This will occur despite the fact that many demographers predict that Islam will become the dominant religion in Europe before the end of the 21st century because of immigration and the currently low birthrate of native Europeans.

The prospect of domination by Islam will help motivate increasing numbers of Westerners to jettison everything associated with the hopelessly depressing atheistic philosophy that made such domination a real possibility. Atheism will yield its ground to primarily Christian theism, and Islam will recede into the shadows.
9/11 teaches us that religious opinions matter? In some positive way?

As for violence and intellectual poverty: pot, kettle, black. The details of this impending triumph over atheism and Islam seem a bit thin, but the root of the christian imagination stands out clearly enough here--a fantasy of domination.

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