Monday, February 28, 2005

Back to the future

Alister McGrath has an excellent article on the future of atheism at Christianity Today: The converse can be true. The rise of militant Islam in Afghanistan was the direct outcome of the Soviet invasion of that nation in 1979 and its clumsy attempts to support an atheistic regime. As Karen Armstrong points out in her The Battle for God (2000), the best way to encourage the rise of religious fundamentalism is to impose a secular agenda on people who want to get on with their religious lives.

The whole article ought to be read because it makes several interesting observations, but this part caught my notice because I had just read this from Mark Steyn (hat tip: Power Line):

The president, in other words, understands that for Europe, unlike America, the war on terror is an internal affair, a matter of defusing large unassimilated radicalized Muslim immigrant populations before they provoke the inevitable resurgence of opportunist political movements feeding off old hatreds.

...Europe's problems -- its unaffordable social programs, its deathbed demographics, its dependence on immigration numbers that no stable nation (not even America in the Ellis Island era) has ever successfully absorbed -- are all of Europe's making. By some projections, the EU's population will be 40 percent Muslim by 2025. Already, more people each week attend Friday prayers at British mosques than Sunday service at Christian churches -- and in a country where Anglican bishops have permanent seats in the national legislature.

Some of us think an Islamic Europe will be easier for America to deal with than the present Europe of cynical, wily, duplicitous pseudo-allies. But getting there is certain to be messy, and violent.

The two situations are not the same, but are analogous at some points. Europeans have had secularism and anti-nationalism shoved down their throats for a generation now, even while fundamentalists Muslims become a greater and greater percentage of their population. It has so far been so successful that the Dutch are moving toward surrender of their national identity so as not to offend Muslims from North Africa. Steyn sees a future Europe as coming under Muslim control after a messy struggle, but it is also possible that before the Muslims there become strong enough to pull it off, native Europeans might rebel against their imposed secularist dhimmitude and revert to ultra-nationalism and/or the European Christianity of the past. It is perhaps significant in this regard that Roman Catholicism remains strong and holds out a competing, integrated worldview while the nationalist churches of the Reformation have mostly sunk in a quagmire of liberal theology and irrelevance.

Europe might again be a nominally Christian, nominally united collection of nation-states with a sense of continuity with their history and heritage. Conservative Catholicism and radical Islam are also possibilities. In the United States and -even more so- Canada, similar backlashes are also possible, and could take one of several possible shapes.

In any case, neither atheism/secularism nor cowering in the face of Islamist aggression are options that resonate with a lot of people, and I can't help but think that people will not long tolerate public policy being held hostage to either one.

Secularism is not the future; it is the past. Traditional religion and love of one's country should be given a real place at the policy-making table again, rather than being excluded against the sentiments of most people. If not, the backlash will be all the worse when it comes and will be more likely to be extremist.