Sunday, July 15, 2007

On the 109,505th day, He rose again?

There is an interesting feature article (free liberal excerpting here) by Andrew Higgins in this weekend's WSJ. It deals with the religious resurgence in Europe, focusing specifically on the growth of evangelical churches.

The thrust of the article deals with the theory that market forces are behind the resurgence. National churches, like the Church of England and the Church of Sweden, in receiving funding through (and consequently subject to control by) the state, have done a lousy job meeting the spiritual and social needs of the public, so no one attends their services or takes the theology seriously. This suggests as much:
Consider the scene on a recent Sunday at Stockholm's Hedvig Eleonara Church, a parish of the Church of Sweden, a Lutheran institution that until 2000 was an official organ of the Swedish state. Fewer than 40 people, nearly all elderly, gathered in pews beneath a magnificent 18th-century dome. Seven were church employees. The church seats over 1,000.

Hedvig Eleonara has three full-time salaried priests and gets over $2 million each year though a state levy. Annika Sandström, head of its governing board, says she doesn't believe in God and took the post "on the one condition that no one expects me to go each Sunday." The church scrapped Sunday school last fall because only five children attended.
Uh, appointing an atheist as the governing head of a mega-church probably isn't the best way to attract the pious.

It's an intriguing notion. Something similar may be happening in the US, where Protestant mega-churches have boomed over the last several years, while the Catholic Church continues to hemorrage practicing worshippers. The former feature 'contemporary' hymns, more 'inclusivity', captivating pastors (who must perform to bring in more sheep and keep the ones they already have from straying over to another church), and a big chunk of what's in the collection plate staying within the congregation. The latter: Soporific organ music, abstentious (ideally) male priests, career clergymen who've been promoted from within the arcane Catholic Church bureaucracy, and tithing revenue that goes to support open borders advocacy and villians like Cardinal Law.

Still, (getting back to Europe) to the extent that it is explanatory, it's in company with a host of other weighty factors. Regarding the overall increase in European religiosity, the primary driver is obviously continued immigration from the Islamic Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa.

Honing in on Christianity, the forces of natural and cultural selection are at work. Fecundity and piety go hand-in-hand, not just at the national level but also within developed countries. The proliferation of contraceptives from the time of the Sexual Revolution on means that atheists and agnostics have been able to indulge in hedonism without suffering children in consequence, while the pious continue to dutifully pop them out. A couple of generations later, the reverberations of this demographic shifting are being felt.

While a religious renaissance brings up questions about excessive moral/ethical obstacles being placed in front of scientific progress, I see this as indicative of a trend that is crucial to the preservation of Western civilization. Despite having fled its place of birth to take refuge in the land of paganism, contemporary Christianity is culturally European. It proxies for a sort of Occidental umbrella that brings people from across the Western world together. The other aforementioned reasons aside, it's growth strikes me as a predictable response to the intrustion of primitive third-world cultures both in the US (via Latin America) and in Europe (via the Islamic world).

As a Western cultural coalition forms around Christianity, atheistic leftists should ask themselves why they support open borders and unfettered immigration. Not only are the migrants overwhelmingly more religious than their hosts, their growing presence is increasing piety among those same hosts. With wages suppressed, norms and mores under siege, crime on the rise, a sagging welfare system, mutual trust declining, and prosperity that is viewed as being more and more difficult to attain among those on the lower rungs, it is of little surprise that native whites are reclinating back toward the comforting tales of their religion.

3 comments:

A Visitor said...

The WSJ article tied the rise of liberal theology to the decline in attendance, somewhere in the piece.

Not very religious myself, but I can't agree that the new churches are something to celebrate, aesthetically speaking at least - they're akin to teaching adults science with "The Magic School Bus." Maybe all the smarties are seculars, leaving the clergy to appeal to the dolts? Oy! What to do with those grand cathedrals and Latin masses?

Audacious Epigone said...

Visitor,

IQ and religiosity trend in opposite directions for sure. But it is spurious to claim that piety causes lower IQ. People who are less able to make sense of the world around them are naturally going to look for authoritative sources that explain it to them.

There are lots of uncritical worldviews the left half of the bell curve can adopt--I'll take Christianity over hip-hop inculcation, Wahhabi Islam, or hedonism anyday.

Do you live in Europe? The US does not have anything approaching the aesthetically-awing Gothic Cathedrals. The megachurches look a lot like older American churches, only on a much larger scale.

savage said...

Is this not another form of escapism, from the true threats that the western world faces as such? You say you enjoy your own virtual escapes with a detectable guilt, and these soul searches may be doing the same. It is not to some fantastic world that we should be escaping from at the time when Civilization needs us the most.