Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. A Trend or a Cycle?

 

51yX6x1E1JLWhenever I hear of the death of Christianity in Europe, I think “this ain’t the first time.” I base my reaction on Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization, which belongs in that category of histories I am afraid to believe because they so perfectly confirm my prejudices.

If Cahill accurately depicts what happened at the onset of the Dark Ages — i.e., Christianity died on the Continent, but revived through the hard work of Irish missionaries — it offers encouragement to one side of the most interesting debate in sociology today: is the present decline of Christianity in Europe part of a trend or a cycle?

Call them the trendists vs. the cyclists. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry offers support to the cyclists by suggesting a revival of Catholicism has begun in France. His evidence is anecdotal, as is this report of an American-style mega-church in the former East Germany, but it gets me wondering.

The trendist view is so taken for granted in elite circles that it’s more accurate to say it’s assumed rather than asserted. Religious belief is seen as a heuristic born of ignorance; it may have had utility in primitive societies, but it naturally withers under the blazing light of modern science.

Trendist thinking might also help explain elite indulgence of Islamist extremism. Sure, a few Muslims currently want jihad, but soon — so the thinking goes — their children will be good, harmless theological liberals and their grandchildren will be atheists.

A religious revival among Europeans would shake the faith of the trendists to the core. What if religion really were a fundamental fact of the human psyche? That would mean the vexations of Christianity, Judaism and… and… miscellaneous might be with us forever.

But maybe, just maybe, the trendists are right (ironically, in the long run, Christian eschatology agrees.) We’ll have to watch and wait.

There are 36 comments.

  1. genferei Member
    genferei Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    While official culture in the English-speaking world is radically atheist, even in constitutionally secular France they seem quite relaxed about the position of Christianity in public life.

    No one goes to church in Europe, but big majorities still self-identify as Christian. For the big events in life – birth, marriage, death – and the passing of the seasons – Christmas and Easter – church is still an important touchstone.

    Not so different from life in ‘Christendom’ for most of its history. What is different, I suppose, is radical atheism. However, those that believe, on the evidence of the 1930s, that religion is something culture will grow out of will eventually die off; and those who cling to the ‘logical’ or ‘moral’ arguments against religion will eventually graduate from college.

    Now, if the US could get its house in order and inject Christianity back into its popular entertainment, the amount of explicitly Christian symbols in all parts of the globe would increase radically.

    • #1
    • June 9, 2015, at 7:21 AM PDT
    • Like
  2. Arahant Member

    Fredösphere: A religious revival among Europeans would shake the faith of the trendists to the core. What if religion really were a fundamental fact of the human psyche?

    There are a few different issues at play. First, most of Europe had established churches. Some of them, the government even collected tithes for them. It is difficult to hold spiritual sway when one is “from the government and here to help.” So, that was a major factor in the decline in Christianity in Europe.

    Second, there have been several Great Awakenings in America. This really is a cyclical thing and supports the cyclical view. Basically, there is a religious generation and a rebelling (secular) generation: lather, rinse, repeat. I think this is more like the reality of human nature.

    Third, Europeans have never stopped believing as a majority. The only question is, what are they believing in. For instance, there are those who understand science, and then those who believe in science. There is also the Pagan Revival. There is also conversion to other belief systems, such as Buddhism and Islam. Yusuf Islam (Steven Georgiou/Cat Stevens) was hardly the first or the last to go in that direction.

    • #2
    • June 9, 2015, at 10:09 AM PDT
    • Like
  3. Arahant Member

    Even radical atheism is a religious belief.

    • #3
    • June 9, 2015, at 10:09 AM PDT
    • Like
  4. donald todd Inactive

    Fred, thank you. The lead on the revival in the French churches was most welcome. The Church shares a fact with Its Founder: just when everyone thinks things are dead, they are found to be alive. I love it.

    • #4
    • June 9, 2015, at 10:20 AM PDT
    • Like
  5. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    donald todd:Fred, thank you. The lead on the revival in the French churches was most welcome. The Church shares a fact with Its Founder: just when everyone thinks things are dead, they are found to be alive. I love it.

    Yes, and I think there are 2 things going on there. First, Christianity is, at its heart, a Catacombs religion, and so tends not to panic during waning phases. Second, any institution purifies during tough times. As Gobry hinted, the flabby days of the 70s allowed for some very disappointing men to lead the Church; nowadays, anyone signing up to become a pastor is dedicated and clear-eyed.

    • #5
    • June 9, 2015, at 11:04 AM PDT
    • Like
  6. Charles Mark Member
    Charles Mark Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    In a conversation following the vote in favour of Same Sex Marriage in Ireland on 22nd May last I predicted that we would see s huge push for the removal of Article 40.3.3 of our Constitution, which gives protection to the life of the unborn child. But even I have been surprised by the speed and ferocity with which that campaign was launched. And today we have Amnesty International, which eas prominent in the SSM campaign,launching a Report on how our laws put women’s lives at risk. In fact abortion is legal here where the life of the mother is at risk, including whete the risk is through suicidality.Of course there’s no consideration of the fact that every abortion guarantees the loss of a life and there is an outright refusal to acknowledge the humanity of the “foetus”. In the meantime, a separate campaign is being pushed for euthanasia.. So we have a pincer movement aimed at the lives of the most vulnerable at both ends of the lifespan. And we have a grotesquely homogenous media which leads the “liberal” groupthink and a political caste which is terrified to get on the wrong side of that media (all media and all political parties were in the tank for SSM).

    The point of all this is that Ireland will not be the saviour of Christian or Conservative values any time soon.

    • #6
    • June 9, 2015, at 11:08 AM PDT
    • Like
  7. Brian Wolf Coolidge

    Well I think it cycle. Religious people have more children and the agnostic have few children. Atheist let alone on an island would breed themselves out of existence in three generations or so. You can see the emergence of a detectable catholic presence in France even now. But I must stress that the Europeans allowed religion to dwindle to a much lower base than America ever did so the emergence of a new Christian minority probably will take some time.

    It also depends on what kind of religion you are talking about as well. For instance the more political or cultural forms of Christianity like Russian Orthodoxy have already made a huge come back in European Russia but since it does not come in the form of a personal faith but as more of a cultural and political force it has not come with population growth and with birthrates.

    You also see some hopeful signs with evangelical Christianity especially in places like Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria. Where evangelicals (in the broadest sense of that label) are becoming a significant minority in their countries. Between conversions and large family sizes you should see evangelicals becoming a significant force in several Easter European countries. You may also see that happen in the United Kingdom as well where evangelicals are growing and having a lot of children. Barring a move of the Spirit and a “European Great Awakening” you are still looking at a 40 to 50 year wait for a major change over in religious make up in European populations. You might start seeing by 2030 or so a very significant minority of evangelical Christians both native born and immigrant facing off against significant minorities Muslims in several European countries with that Atheist/Agnostics populations getting older. Also I think we will see a noticeably more Catholic France by 2030 or so but nothing like a majority there either.

    • #7
    • June 9, 2015, at 12:47 PM PDT
    • Like
  8. donald todd Inactive

    Brian Wolf: #7

    What we Catholics are seeing is an immense growth in Africa currently. Africa is shipping missionaries to the west, and the ones I have met are very knowledgeable, very pious, and very orthodox. Good speakers as well as long as their dialect, such as Nigerian English, is not too thick to make them unintelligible.

    They are also shipping African clergy over here to take advantage of the educational opportunities. A priest who just left us got a PhD in psychology. He will teaching in an African seminary, and given the fact that he has pastoral experience, will be groomed for bishop.

    • #8
    • June 9, 2015, at 1:38 PM PDT
    • Like
  9. Brian Wolf Coolidge

    donald todd:Brian Wolf: #7

    What we Catholics are seeing is an immense growth in Africa currently. Africa is shipping missionaries to the west, and the ones I have met are very knowledgeable, very pious, and very orthodox. Good speakers as well as long as their dialect, such as Nigerian English, is not too thick to make them unintelligible.

    They are also shipping African clergy over here to take advantage of the educational opportunities. A priest who just left us got a PhD in psychology. He will teaching in an African seminary, and given the fact that he has pastoral experience, will be groomed for bishop.

    I should have said straight out that catholic immigration from Africa will grow as well. I was just focused on how the native French Catholic’s birthrate has really started to show in the country. Have you seen Roman Catholicism really strengthened in a European country by immigration from Africa? I have not really tracked that. I know that in America Catholicism has grown very little from evangelism and is only keeping up demographically through birth rate but is benefiting greatly from Catholic immigration to the US. Do you think Europe is experiencing a similar thing or something different?

    • #9
    • June 9, 2015, at 1:50 PM PDT
    • Like
  10. donald todd Inactive

    Arahant: #2 re the Great Awakenings

    I was aware of the first two which shaped quite a bit of American history. The Wesleys among others played an important part of the spread of religion in the US.

    I was not aware of the third awakening but could see it.

    As a former evangelical Pentecostal I was aware of the spread of Pentecostalism and its near neighbor, the charismatic renewal. I had not thought of it in that fashion because I did not realize that Pentecostalism/charisma had penetrated that far into the American religious scene. I still am not sure about it being a fourth awakening.

    A fifth awakening? There are profound theological questions about the Toronto blessing, as in where does it come from? A man I know, a pastor, went to Toronto to experience this “blessing.” This is a charismatic/Pentecostal kind of minister. He had question about something that would have a person completely loose control. Second hand? Yes, but then we get a lot of stuff second hand and must make decisions about it.

    At the same time, irreligion, the non-practice of religion, agnosticism and atheism appear to be growing while Christianity in the US shrinks. If there are less people in the pews, what then?

    I think that the committed will benefit, but at a cost.

    • #10
    • June 9, 2015, at 1:54 PM PDT
    • Like
  11. Arahant Member

    donald todd:I think that the committed will benefit, but at a cost.

    Jacob became Israel, but at the cost of a game leg. The committed always benefit, and there is always a cost involved. I know that isn’t what you meant.

    • #11
    • June 9, 2015, at 7:48 PM PDT
    • Like
  12. donald todd Inactive

    Arahant:

    donald todd:I think that the committed will benefit, but at a cost.

    “Jacob became Israel, but at the cost of a game leg. The committed always benefit, and there is always a cost involved. I know that isn’t what you meant.”

    All blessings come with a cost.

    • #12
    • June 10, 2015, at 5:24 AM PDT
    • Like
  13. donald todd Inactive

    Brian Wolf:

    donald todd:Brian Wolf: #7

    “I should have said straight out that catholic immigration from Africa will grow as well. I was just focused on how the native French Catholic’s birthrate has really started to show in the country. Have you seen Roman Catholicism really strengthened in a European country by immigration from Africa? I have not really tracked that. I know that in America Catholicism has grown very little from evangelism and is only keeping up demographically through birth rate but is benefiting greatly from Catholic immigration to the US. Do you think Europe is experiencing a similar thing or something different?”

    I have no idea on that. Largely what I see (except for the Latin Mass people) is cultural Catholicity. That seems to be true for the Hispanic and Portuguese Catholics as well. If they own the CCC, it is not on display in their lives.

    What we are starting to see at my parish is the new evangelization at work at the local level. The parish brought in some young grads from Franciscan who are doing yeoman’s work with the high schoolers; and I was invited to join the core of a group dedicated to evangelizing men.

    Heaven knows. We are called to act, but not guaranteed success. Mention us in your prayers please.

    • #13
    • June 10, 2015, at 5:32 AM PDT
    • Like
  14. I Walton Member

    I won’t be around long enough to see it, maybe my kids will, my grandchildren for sure. The thing is, whether one believes it or not, most of our accumulated wisdom is passed along through religion and through the families that still adhere. These habits of thought, mores, notions of sin, attitude toward life and others, all of it, evolve like biology, in successful individuals, families, towns, cities and civilizations. Is this revelation? One way or the other it is because there are underlying laws that glue it all together and make it work and at its core is the requirement that it all matters to us. We can see what happens when it erodes because it’s all tied together in ways we don’t understand, so when the glue erodes, chaos threatens. The conceit that each new modern secular, scientistic generation can replace all this with reason and administrative technical expertise is of course, as Hayek wrote, a fatal conceit.

    • #14
    • June 10, 2015, at 6:55 AM PDT
    • Like
  15. Hartmann von Aue Member

    Cycle. More later. CF recent lists of “Most Christian Countries in the World” which consistently show Germany with a very high percentage of self-identifying Christians and consequently place it in the top ten in raw numbers of professing Christians. The real numbers may actually be higher than they were in 1900.

    • #15
    • June 10, 2015, at 8:40 AM PDT
    • Like
  16. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    genferei:Now, if the US could get its house in order and inject Christianity back into its popular entertainment, the amount of explicitly Christian symbols in all parts of the globe would increase radically.

    This is why I love Captain America. In terms of super-powers, he’s the weakest of the Avengers, but he is “the Man.” He is the moral anchor, and even Stark quickly recognized that Cap is the leader with better judgment than Ironman and the ability to cause them all to work as a team.

    Cap’s best line? After Black Widow describes Thor and Loki as being like “gods,” Cap says: “There’s only one God, ma’am. And I’m pretty sure He doesn’t dress like that.

    Amen.

    • #16
    • June 10, 2015, at 9:01 AM PDT
    • Like
  17. Sash Member

    It wasn’t just the Irish.

    I just read Isabella: The Warrior Queen, by Kirstin Downey. And I see the Spanish Inquisition far differently.

    The Ottoman’s wanted to Conquer Europe, they took Greece, Constantinople, Albania etc. And there was Muslim Granada with it’s ports and castles and population, a perfect staging area to bring the war into Western Europe…and in 711 the some Spanish Jews had teamed up with the Muslims to help conquer Spain the first time and some were still sympathetic to Muslim goals.

    Given that situation, the very Catholic Isabella taking back Granada was pretty important. The Inquisition itself of course, got way way out of hand, but the goal to keep the Ottoman’s out of Europe is understandable.

    It’s hard to see the Enlightenment happening under the Ottomans.

    • #17
    • June 10, 2015, at 9:40 AM PDT
    • Like
  18. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    On the main topic: This book has a fascinating thesis. I confess to having studied little about the Dark Ages. My recollection from school is being taught that it was the spread of “Christian superstition” that caused the Dark Ages.

    My personal historical obsessions have been WWII, the Civil War, WWI, and the Napoleonic Wars, in that order. The Dark Ages sounds like a good new topic for me.

    • #18
    • June 10, 2015, at 9:41 AM PDT
    • Like
  19. Mate De Coolidge

    Arizona Patriot- You should start with this video as your primer

    • #19
    • June 10, 2015, at 10:05 AM PDT
    • Like
  20. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Ross Douthat is writing a lot about religion in America these days, and his latest essay contains a Trend v. Cycle passage:

    On the other hand, the assumption that more traditional forms of Christianity would soon be Americanized out of existence is as old as the Republic: What Wilkinson calls “old world dogma” was assumed to be on its way out when Puritanism lost its grip on New England, when Deism and Transcendentalism and Social Darwinism were all the coming thing, when liberal Protestantism seemed ascendant in the 1920s and 1930s … and yet again and again, various forms of Christian orthodoxy (Calvinist and Roman Catholic, evangelical and “neo-orthodox”) have recovered, risen, endured, thrived, and continued to play a shaping role in American life. Maybe this time is different; maybe we’ve finally reached the point where the working-out of the American idea firmly relegates historic Christianity, biblical Christianity, Augustine-Aquinas Christianity and Luther-Calvin Christianity to the sidelines and the margins. But I don’t know how serenely confident anyone should be about that.

    • #20
    • June 10, 2015, at 10:07 AM PDT
    • Like
  21. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arizona Patriot:On the main topic: This book has a fascinating thesis. I confess to having studied little about the Dark Ages. My recollection from school is being taught that it was the spread of “Christian superstition” that caused the Dark Ages.

    My personal historical obsessions have been WWII, the Civil War, WWI, and the Napoleonic Wars, in that order. The Dark Ages sounds like a good new topic for me.

    A major point, if I remember correctly (it’s been years since I read) is the Church was heavily entangled with Roman culture and government and the fall of Rome was a trauma the Church almost did not recover from. If so, the Gibbon thesis that Christianity dragged the Empire down (he did believe that, right?) seems perverse (although not impossible; I suppose you could argue the Church was a bad parasite that killed its host). Of additional interest is the Global Cooling hypothesis of the Fall of Rome; maybe Europe’s fortunes were not primarily tied to cultural changes one way or another.

    Augustine saw the fall of Rome as an unparalleled disaster, and I’ll bet it wasn’t just because he was classically taught. Nobody at the time could be sure how completely the barbarian hordes would adopt Christianity.

    • #21
    • June 10, 2015, at 10:19 AM PDT
    • Like
  22. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Umberto Eco is a fan of the hypothesis that climate change contributed to the Fall of Rome and the rise of wealth that led to the Renaissance. And Umberto Eco knows his onions.

    • #22
    • June 10, 2015, at 10:23 AM PDT
    • Like
  23. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Matede:Arizona Patriot- You should start with this video as your primer

    I love this. I’m so glad he mentioned music. The invention of the independent bass line is analogous to, and in my opinion more impressive than, the discovery of perspective in painting.

    • #23
    • June 10, 2015, at 10:28 AM PDT
    • Like
  24. Hartmann von Aue Member

    Fredösphere:Umberto Eco is a fan of the hypothesis that climate change contributed to the Fall of Rome and the rise of wealth that led to the Renaissance. And Umberto Eco knows his onions.

    My classics professors always argued that it was the expansion of citizenship to include basically anyone with a Y chromosome and a pulse and the unwillingness of degenerate, spoiled, affluent Romans to defend Rome (in both a cultural and political sense). Sound familiar?

    • #24
    • June 10, 2015, at 3:57 PM PDT
    • Like
  25. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Aaaaaand right on schedule, here’s a trendist analysis of Christianity in the UK. It’s due to flatline in the year 2067. If present trends continue. I blame Henry VIII.

    • #25
    • June 11, 2015, at 6:42 AM PDT
    • Like
  26. Fricosis Guy Listener

    Arizona Patriot:

    genferei:Now, if the US could get its house in order and inject Christianity back into its popular entertainment, the amount of explicitly Christian symbols in all parts of the globe would increase radically.

    This is why I love Captain America. In terms of super-powers, he’s the weakest of the Avengers, but he is “the Man.” He is the moral anchor, and even Stark quickly recognized that Cap is the leader with better judgment than Ironman and the ability to cause them all to work as a team.

    Cap’s best line? After Black Widow describes Thor and Loki as being like “gods,” Cap says: “There’s only one God, ma’am. And I’m pretty sure He doesn’t dress like that.

    Amen.

    I love Cap, but he’s a little weak on Scripture.

    Sure, there’s only one True God, but the Bible refers to “gods” all the time. Heck, there were even contests (see Elijah vs. the Prophets of Baal, 1 Kings 18).

    Never mind “You shall have no other gods before me.”

    • #26
    • June 11, 2015, at 7:16 AM PDT
    • Like
  27. Fricosis Guy Listener

    Also, is this the point in the thread where I start posting verses from Ecclesiastes?

    • #27
    • June 11, 2015, at 7:17 AM PDT
    • Like
  28. donald todd Inactive

    Fredösphere: #20Ross Douthat is writing a lot about religion in America these days, and his latest essay contains a Trend v. Cycle passage:

    “Maybe this time is different; maybe we’ve finally reached the point where the working-out of the American idea firmly relegates historic Christianity, biblical Christianity, Augustine-Aquinas Christianity and Luther-Calvin Christianity to the sidelines and the margins. But I don’t know how serenely confident anyone should be about that.”

    Response: We have been watching the collapse of several historic creedal churches since the 60s. Seminex involved the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. They split over the understanding of scriptural interpretation.

    Recently the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) decided that committed homosexuals can marry in that body and be recognized.

    There are now a host of churches and denominations which have no historic ties to the Reformation. Of note, there are portions of the Reformation which adopted Luther’s formulation of sola scriptura which had adhered to the idea that secondary sources of information might be involved in identifying orthodoxy. So the early Church fathers, such as Augustine, and the early Church councils might be examined and cited.

    The new churches are like the older non-creedal churches in that no secondary sources are used to determine what is orthodox. Practically, orthodoxy is decided at the congregational level.

    Do I expect the old churches to crumble? Some certainly are, and they are identified as moving with the culture. Jesus did not move with the culture.

    • #28
    • June 11, 2015, at 8:46 AM PDT
    • Like
  29. hcat Member

    I think the central story of the 20th century was the divorce of Christianity and “Christendom” and the re-emergence of Christianity as a worldwide religion no longer tied to the West. Of course, even in the West, “a remnant will return” as Isaiah said.

    • #29
    • June 11, 2015, at 9:06 AM PDT
    • Like
  30. DialMforMurder Inactive

    https://ricochet.com/a-trend-or-a-cycle/comment-page-1/#comment-2881897

    Nice but a little misleading. Most historians specify the Dark Ages as being from the end of Ancient Rome to the crowning of Charlemagne in 800, and perhaps to about the first crusade in 1000. That first period is considered nastier than the 500 years that followed it: the “high Middle Ages”. Almost every example in the video occurred after 1000AD. Since the 1970s, most scholars have also been stressing that the Eastern Empire (Byzantium) continued intact, and we have a hangover from Edward Gibbons prejudices against Byzantium as being a dull 1000 year waste of time.

    I’ve always been fascinated by the Dark Ages. This documentary, while abit melodramatic, also gives a good roundup https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2i3rg5Vc-8

    • #30
    • June 11, 2015, at 10:26 AM PDT
    • Like