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'Christianity as default is gone': the rise of a non-Christian Europe (theguardian.com)
95 points by neverminder on Mar 21, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 204 comments



Relatedly, I have been reading an enlightening book: The Triumph of Christianity [0]. It's a very interesting insight into why Christianity took over Europe in the first place. One of the points made is that paganism was a loose confederation of religions that didn't demand exclusivity. Christianity was an evangelical, exclusivist religion which provides a full alternative world view. However, the early Christians, the author alleges, were less educated and oppressed (non intellectuals ).

While it may be good that Europe is going secular, I think without a strong, exclusivist moral ideology at the center, Europe will be susceptible to an Evangelical exclusivist ideology (Christinity 2.0). Or, as the book highlights, perhaps the population should be a lot more educated (which Europe seems to be doing well) and this education level sustained across generations.

> In the UK, only 7% of young adults identify as Anglican, fewer than the 10% who categorise themselves as Catholic. Young Muslims, at 6%, are on the brink of overtaking those who consider themselves part of the country’s established church.

Islam is an Evangelical exclusivist ideology and has strong state backings today. Billions of dollars are used by Islamic states to evangelize the religion. I don't think Christianity has done that in a 100 years or so. If the younger generation is more Muslim than Christian, and the majority is without an exclusivist ideology, and state backed evangelism continues, it will be interesting to see how, over generations, Muslim ideology becomes more mainstream.

As a secular humanist, former Muslim, I hope we actually establish secular humanism with religious frevor (make it the state ideology) to make sure human rights and human progress is sustained.

[0] https://www.npr.org/2018/03/20/595161200/author-traces-chris...


"People can't be free to think for themselves because they'll make stupid decisions"

I know you're not making that argument specifically but that's sort of what it boils down to right? That bad systems which focus their power will win out over good systems which don't. It's like the argument that keeps coming up in the China VS USA threads where people worry about the US because it handicaps itself in science with its regulations and concerns over ethics.

I don't particularly disagree with what you're saying because it feels true but it should be pointed out that it's an awfully nice excuse for people with power to see themselves as benevolent overlords.


The more real (and observable today imho) problem is: in general, people aren't really good at, interested in, or have time for thinking deeply and critically, and some things matter, a lot. So if they can't (or won't) think about these things themselves, and you remove a religious rule, it creates a vacuum where anyone or any "-ism" can enter and replace religion's influence on public behavior.


It's not the rules, it's about the faith. e.g. If I (honestly) believe that all human beings were made equal in the image of God (whatever that may be) that would affect the way I treat people.

Some rules will came out of that belief: like "don't lie" and "don't kill" but, in it's purest form, religion is not about rules, and the fact that people don't know that means that religious institutions have failed.


That's a fine theory, but to claim you know this with certainty I think is a much larger claim than you realize. What exactly makes humans behave they way they do is extremely complex - some people may behave exactly for the reason you describe, others may not, anyone that says they know for sure is not telling the truth (although that doesn't necessarily mean they're lying).


What kinds of religious rules do you feel keep which types of behaviors in check? (the ones you see as most important for society)

I'm just curious what you consider, not looking for an argument or debate necessarily.


In general, honesty and following the rules I think correlates to religion. Religion isn't necessary, but I believe something formal is necessary. I see no reason whatsoever to believe that people are going to each come to similar fairly optimum decisions individually, and plenty of reasons to believe they won't.


I think it's more like:

"People don't think through their decisions very well"

The OP points out that there are many nations that put in big funding for Islam in the west and around the world. Here in the US, the Mormon church is very similar. Other examples abound. More money means that it is more likely that the local mosque/temple is well funded, has free food, basketball courts, a gym, daycare, counseling services, etc. If the other local centers for religion or other social functions are not as well funded and stocked, it's not hard to see people flocking to the mosque/temple. The proximity will undoubtedly lead to conversions, or at least toleration of the religion. At first this is not so bad, but we all know the more extremist views of many religions can quickly take hold and may degrade women's rights, children's education, healthcare access, and justice decisions (see upstate NY). I am NOT saying this will happen or that any one religion is wholly better; we all have faults.


I think perhaps in parallel to you point, move towards centralization tends to overpower confederations. Incidentedly, this point is also made in the Federalist papers and I believe Wealth of Nations which argues that centralization leads to stability and robustness.

Exclusivity and evangelism helped centralize Christianity in comparison with the pagans.


I honestly think that the whole oppressed conversion theory is wrong, for the most part. For most of Christian, and Islam the history was a top down conversion.

Furthermore India, and Hinduism stands in stark contrast to this narrative. Especially considering the whole caste system narrative.


The author cites an early critique of Christianity by a pagan intellectual named Celsus, who criticizes the early Christian evangelists from running away from engaging in intellectual debates. Also one thing to keep in mind is that a very small number of people were actually educated at this time. The vast majority of people were not educated, slaves, etc. He also alleges that it is possible many of the early Christian converts were women, who were shunned from the power structures and oppressed.


I was curious about this individual (my new ancient-hero-of-the-day) and came across this https://streetapologist.wordpress.com/2014/11/01/celsus-vs-t... for anyone else curious. Also

> secular humanist, former Muslim

My opinion is not evidence, but here it is anyway: You made the right decision, here.


India, what you know of today, isn't India what existed before Islam or christianity started spreading into Asia. The historical India, is now split over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Certain parts of Iran, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Certain parts of Tibet and Bhutan.

Bulk of those countries now is populated mostly by Muslims, Christians and Buddhist. The Muslim and Christian population in India itself is >15%. So >50% of the original population, moved to new religions. And you keep hearing of people moving to other religions from Hinduism all the time.

This is a major source of political strife in India today.

The caste system did/is doing enormous irreparable damage to the Indian society and has done over the ages. The moment any new religion was available people have moved on to it in mass numbers.

The oppressed people always move on to what works for them. Don't blame them, nobody changes their identity that easily. Its only when things go beyond bearable do people make these decisions. And beyond all any conversion to a new religion is a late process, the early process involves divorce from the existing religion.

You can't stop change of heart.


Agreed though the caste system was exploited by the British to divide and rule, the upper caste brahmins used to be poor beggars that the other castes would goto for advise and the British saw this and corrupted them as they saw they had authority


I'm naive and happy to learn more, but my understanding is the "top down" conversion was for control, no? It's much easier to control an empire if everyone agrees to the same set of rules?


A lot of Christian growth came from enslaved or exiled Christians. However, once adopted by the king, then it became more top down. Islam, on the other hand, mostly spread by conquest, hence "religion of the sword."


> A lot of Christian growth came from enslaved or exiled Christians. However, once adopted by the king, then it became more top down.

Once Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th C, its spread was largely by conquest and top-down, both within Europe and through European colonialism.


Even after the Roman Empire collapsed in that same century?


> Even after the Roman Empire collapsed in that same century?

It didn't. It split shortly after, and the post-split Western Empire collapsed nearly a century later, the Eastern Empire about a millenium after that, and both had top-down imposed Christianity throughout their domains before falling, as did many of their successors.


How can you explain European Christianity with top down imposed rule if the Western Empire collapsed before the medieval ages? What is doing the imposing?


Many peoples converted to fall on the good graces of the eastern Roman empire and stop being trampled on so much. For example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianization_of_Bulgaria


> How can you explain European Christianity with top down imposed rule if the Western Empire collapsed before the medieval ages?

Much of it by Francia, whose first King converted to Christianity in 496, and which rapidly became the dominant power in Western Europe.


  Much of it by Francia, whose first King converted to Christianity in 496
... which is 20 years after the Western empire fell.


As a young(ish) British citizen I am pleased to see the UK ranks so highly in these charts. While I like many aspects of the being part of a religion, what I like is completely viable without the religious aspect. I have some good friends who are very religious and in chatting with them I can see the benefits of community, helping others and being inclusive. Their strand of Christianity seems to be very liberal and open to both change, and a variety of lifestyles and choices - it just seems, to me, such a shame that to be a part of such a positive community you have to believe in God.

I don't think people need the "guiding light" of religion to live a "good" life but I do think that we could all benefit from a secular version of religious gathering, I just wish we could figure out am effective way to do so without religion.

On the not praying aspect of the article, I distinctly remember the day that I stopped saying the Lord's Prayer in morning assembly and being called over aside by the Depty Head and asked "Why aren't you praying?", I replied "I don't believe in God" whilst bracing for a telling off and being forced to pray again, she simply said "Ok, if you change your mind then you can always go back to it, that's ok to" - pretty great way to deal with a 6 year old atheist.


The problem is Christianity was being introduced to children as a law, being taught from the Old Testament, as something they had (must) to believe in, simply because their parents are / were Christian. They didn't have a choice. Scripture simply says you should train up a child the way he or she should go, the choice will be clear to them as you teach them.

True Christianity is not "religion" because religion points you towards perfecting yourself, Christianity is not something to work for, not a set of Laws to follow, its evidence of God's Love, its a gift of God.


I find it quite amusing that the OT is given so much relevance by some (christians and christian-bashers likewise), given that it actually has little theological importance.


What? The NT is pretty much just a commentary on the OT.


> Their strand of Christianity seems to be very liberal and open to both change, and a variety of lifestyles and choices - it just seems, to me, such a shame that to be a part of such a positive community you have to believe in God.

You should try asking your friends if you have to...I've heard many times that churches are happy to welcome anyone into their community. Of course, they likely wouldn't want to be lectured about how they're wrong, and I imagine you could expect some pressure to convert.

> I don't think people need the "guiding light" of religion to live a "good" life but I do think that we could all benefit from a secular version of religious gathering, I just wish we could figure out am effective way to do so without religion.

I'm starting to wonder if maybe it isn't possible for humans, or is extremely difficult. Having a shared constant to believe in, whether it is true or not, might be a pre-requisite for group binding. A monarchy can be a decent substitute, but is much more fragile, whereas religion can endure extreme scandals without losing followers.

There is also a theory out there that humans "need" a religion of some sort in life, and if they stop practicing, their mind will seek out another (see the rising social disunity in the West over various "-isms" whose followers are now more devoted than most religious people in the past.)


They have invited us (my wife and I) a couple of times but we have always declined as I don't share the belief that binds them together as a community. I would probably get bored and perhaps a bit "eye-rolly", since I like them being my friends that probably wouldn't be a good idea.

I would never try to say that they are wrong as, while I referred to myself as an atheist in my first comment, I can't prove God doesn't exist in the same way they can't prove God does. I am not well read on the subject but to me Atheism requires just as much faith that something doesn't exist as religious people have that something does exist. It's not so much that I believe there is no God, I just don't have enough evidence so have decided that there is nothing beyond us. If I get to the gates on my death and it turns out I was wrong then I will hope that God is forgiving and sees I worked with the information I had available and got it wrong.

I agree that I think a large shared belief is probably beneficial but not sure how we can create something in todays world.


Yeah that pretty much sums it up for me as well in the Netherlands. Religion united communities in the past, and without it we are at risk of becoming lonely and isolated. But of course you can't just decide to believe in whatever god(s) your local place of worship subscribes to in order to maintain the community — you'd be living a lie. And lets face it: getting rid of religion (i.e., whatever your parents subscribed to) as a pretty much required facet of your life is for the most part, good. Especially if you consider the intolerance and arbitrary rules (and the waste of a perfectly fine Sunday morning).


Meeting with other people in your local community to do communal activity, and receive moral guidance from a learned person seems like something that would be an excellent use of a Sunday morning.

Re intolerance, do you think those who were intolerant - eg of other races - in opposition to New Testament teaching (there is no Jew [local group] no Greek [foreign group], but all are equal in Christ and all Christians are bound by fraternity to honour and care for one another) will decide to no longer follow a perfunctory observance of a Christian festivals and so will suddenly become tolerant and open to other races?

If the teaching of their supposed religion didn't away them what do you suppose will cause this dramatic change?


I think the shifts have been so rapid that we'll really need to wait a generation or two before we can say that some of these countries have fully cast off religious practice, although it certainly looks like that's the way it's going.

But let's be clear: This is not shocking or unexpected. One of the primary reasons why young adults nowadays are not religious is because their parents, even if they were nominally religious, did not raise them as active members of their faith. And in many cases, _their_ parents only made a half-hearted effort, or tried to off-load the task onto parochial schools without reinforcing the faith at home. So that's basically three generations of decline, covering roughly 60 years. And when a trend has been going on that long, the results should not be a surprise to anyone.

One interesting question, which will only begin to be answered in the next several decades, is whether the rates of religious adherence within these European countries correlate with anything. For instance, do countries with low religious adherence have any sort of markedly different character or outcomes than countries with high religious adherence?

Another interesting question is how Christianity and other faiths will respond, in terms of evangelization. Is first-world Europe now a "foreign mission," in the way that third-world countries were in the previous centuries?


"I think the shifts have been so rapid that we'll really need to wait a generation or two before we can say that some of these countries have fully cast off religious practice,"

Christianity is not the only religion. On the generational time scale, Europe (considered as a geography) may be trading Christianity for Islam.


Islam as is has very little desirability to convert for non-Muslim.

It has to be either a hostile takeover (think Egyptians and Copts, Lebanon and christians, or any other kind of religion-based cleansings) or it will be two communities. Muslim and post-christians.

(And proponents of religious tolerance have already promised us that no hostile takeover is ever possible, didn't they?)


> Islam as is has very little desirability to convert for non-Muslim

The successful pitch of a certain variant of Islam seems to be "structure": That it tells you what to do and what not to do down to the tiniest minutiae (and it tells you that it's desirable that everybody sticks to the same set of rules, and if necessary, is made to do so).

For people who are overwhelmed by the many degrees of freedom in some western societies, that seems to look like a safety net: The most active radical islamists in Germany are converts.


I can see that but I don't think this will ever be a particularly popular reason, numbers-wise. Not everybody is born zealot.


As the major religion, or as the major world-view? It looks like atheism/agnosticism/no religion is set to remain the majority world-view in the countries where it already is.

Unless you subscribe to the notion that Muslims will be in the majority in those countries because of immigration and large families. Some extreme right political parties claim this, but the sources for these statistical prognoses seem dubious at best.


Only on a global level. In Rotterdam, Antwerp and Brussels and Amsterdam and even Paris is very close this is now fact among the very young (kindergarten). That means that it's only a matter of time unless something drastic changes. But it would need to be very drastic. Even if immigration stops completely muslims will still be a majority there, at the very latest in 30 years, but very likely much sooner.

And ...

www.ejournals.eu/pliki/art/3178/

Religion has always retreated while great economic progress was being made. And time and time again great economic progress periods ... end. And time and time again ... nobody sees it coming, and time and time again the exact same thing happens : religion comes back with a vengeance.

Even in this current period. Where economic progress crashed, an extremely intolerant brand of religion immediately gained an incredible following. Google "Egypt in the 60s". Google "Iran under the Shah". Google "Turkey under Ataturk".

Now this may or may not be happening soon (and soon means something like a decade), but that's another one of those things people think during periods of great economic progress. That they never end. That it's impossible for anything to go wrong. But I must say, even today, one walk around the North station of Brussels through Schaarbeek and Molenbeek will tell you that it's not going so well for everybody, especially if you stop in a street shop for dinner (note: sorry to state this but do not attempt in the evening if you're a woman).


Muslims are the only ones having more children than the replacement level, so could you expect a different outcome?


That is of course possible but I think more likely the same reasons people are ignoring christianity will cause people in the same environments to ignore other religions.

I could get into what I think those reasons are but that could open an HN flame war, so unless there's a followup comment on the topic I won't get into it.


I would be super surprised if young muslims were any different than young christians and young-everything-elses in this regard.

The increase in islam in europe is primarily from an influx of muslim immigrants. On the generational time scale, you can probably expect their children to become accustomed to universal culture[0] just like the rest of europe (and north america, and probably everywhere eventually). Because of continued migration, Islam will probably increase in absolute numbers for a while yet. But I doubt it will ever become dominant in regions where it is not already dominant.

Being targets of missionaries from, e.g., Africa or South America (if they're more religious than EU/NA? I don't know?) would be a really interesting (to me) idea. Again, I'd be surprised. But interesting nonetheless!

[0] https://slatestarcodex.com/2016/07/25/how-the-west-was-won/


Religious decline is a global phenomenon. That's why religions the world over are tending towards regressive policies: they're an increasing majority as other groups decline.


Nope. From https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism

> Two global polls on the subject have been conducted by WIN/Gallup International: their 2015 poll featured over 64,000 respondents and indicated that 11% were "convinced atheists" whereas an earlier 2012 poll found that 13% of respondents were "convinced atheist

Religious decline seems to be Western and East Asian phenomenon


I'm not sure why this contradicts what I said. Atheism, as much as the atheists would have you believe, is in fact a rather extreme position the scale of religious thought.


That's also two areas with arguably most of contributions to humanity. Is this a coincidence? You either do or pray.


While these areas where "making contributions to humanity" they were religious


They stopped being religious while making contributions to humanity. As if they burned through their stash.

Also, this is exaggerated. Greeks and Romans did awesome things that nobody could reproduce until XX century while being "pagans". Christianity just stole those results, tried to pass as their own.


> They stopped being religious while making contributions to humanity. As if they burned through their stash

My claim was merely that you don't need to be atheist to contribute to humanity

> Christianity just stole those results, tried to pass as their own.

Christianity did not steal anything, they built on existing knowledge. No one is denying that. Every generation builds on what previous generation knew. You think Christians should have the thrown out knowledge from pagans in the name of honor ?


I think they did, for a few hundred years? Islam held onto some stuff over that period, and then decided to just trade knowledge policies with Christianity.


> Is first-world Europe now a "foreign mission," in the way that third-world countries were in the previous centuries?

Local churches are ramping up their efforts for a local mission (instead of assuming "Christianity as default") for at least 10 years now. Those with international ties have more international staff around here, too (partly because they lack the influx of new local people).

... Besides that, American churches in particular sent missions to Europe for decades.


I had a work acquaintance a couple years ago whose brother was on a mission trip... to California. It was considered one of the most difficult regions to work. The Jehova's witnesses and/or Mormons that famously knock on everyone's door? They're on missions in the first world. So the very religious have been doing missions in the first world for a while.


It is my impression that the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons primarily sought after people who were nominally Christian, and had their greatest success with such people. I'm not sure how successful they are with atheists, or even with Muslims.


Indeed. My church sponsors missions all over; Zimbabwe, Brazil, Honduras, Mexico, etc. A few years ago, we sponsored one of our elders who went on a multi-year mission to the UK.


Indeed. Between war, television, and the sexual revolution, Christianity's social position of control was eroded decades ago. It's just taken a while to propagate out.

This summer Ireland holds its referendum on repealing the constitutional ban on abortion. That will be a key final landmark in Western Europe. https://www.repealeight.ie/


It may simply be an indicator that the brutal suppression of apostasy is illegal in those countries. If people have other options for social networking beyond religion, and they don't have to fear for their own safety or livelihood when abandoning their parents' religion, there isn't a whole lot that any particular religion offers that can't be obtained more cheaply from other sources.

I'd expect that those who have a real need for religion will likely gravitate towards smaller cults that are more specifically tailored to their preferences. Perhaps those who would prefer to believe in aliens than in angels will become something like the Raelians, and those who prefer fairies and pixies will join an aseembly of neo-animists. No doubt the Jedi Order, Pastafarianism, Discordianism, Subgeniusism, Order of Stendarr, Cult of Cthulhu, and similar pseudo-religions will continue to enjoy the affiliation of people who want their "religion" to be fun, and somewhat ha-ha-only-serious.

I think the fears over "Muslim invasion" are largely unfounded. The high religious adherence and over-median birth rate will probably attenuate within one or two generations, as the children and grandchildren of immigrants embrace liberal democracy and assimilate to their new country's native traditions. This will likely manifest earliest as homosexuals outing themselves and abandoning their parents' enclaves.

A large number of people only declare a religion because of discrimination by the religious against the non-religious. Once declared non-religion becomes a significant minority, there is much less incentive to pretend. Like the article said, only the most strongly committed will remain. And then they will die off.


>>Is first-world Europe now a "foreign mission," in the way that third-world countries were in the previous centuries?

Yes! As a Lutheran, I know Lutheran missionaries from Shenzhen China and Ethiopia who are here in the US.

China is (unoficially) close to being the largest Christian country in the world, and there's more Lutherans in Ethiopia than in the United States.


> China is (unoficially) close to being the largest Christian country in the world

Do you have any reliable information on this?


I don't thing there is going to be reliable information - the Christians in China keep their heads down for good reason as they've been slaughtered in the past.

Here's a good explanation of how the numbers are always going to be suspect: https://www.quora.com/Why-do-estimates-of-the-number-of-Chin...

That said, I've encountered so many devout Chinese Christians that I suspect that they numbers are higher - and given China's population, if only 15% were Christian, it would probably be the largest.

I think we also have to be careful with numbers too in the west - some people say there's 200 million Christians in the US. But I suspect a lot of them just tick off the box on the survey and haven't set foot in a church for years.


Per your last paragraph. Yes, not just from the mega-evangelists like the late Billy Graham but from ordinary Christians in South Korea, for example. This has been true for a couple of decades at least.


> For instance, do countries with low religious adherence have any sort of markedly different character or outcomes than countries with high religious adherence?

Short answer: quite likely. There seems to be a strong correlation between a religious majority and law-making when it comes to topics that touch religious dogmas. For example, laws that make abortion illegal and not allowing same-sex marriage.


> One interesting question, which will only begin to be answered in the next several decades, is whether the rates of religious adherence within these European countries correlate with anything. For instance, do countries with low religious adherence have any sort of markedly different character or outcomes than countries with high religious adherence?

I'm not up on all the research that's been done, but we already have data on this. It's not hard to get - it's just comparing degrees of religious following with stats on things like crime, teen pregnancies etc.

I remember hearing of a study (I think from pew) showing that, despite what is often claimed, the less religious countries had less crime. (I did a quick Google search but couldn't find a link)

(And before anyone says correlation doesn't mean cause, I'm responding to a comment asking specifically about correlations)

Here's something that came up http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-1101-zuckerman-vi...


>> One interesting question, which will only begin to be answered in the next several decades, is whether the rates of religious adherence within these European countries correlate with anything. For instance, do countries with low religious adherence have any sort of markedly different character or outcomes than countries with high religious adherence?

>I'm not up on all the research that's been done, but we already have data on this. It's not hard to get - it's just comparing degrees of religious following with stats on things like crime, teen pregnancies etc.

I think the real interesting thing is the possibilities for looking at new metrics. Beyond the things you mentioned, perhaps we'll be able to see religious adherence correlated with social network; with types of media; with general demeanor; with professionalism or job success. Just to name a few. I only comment to point out that there may be many new correlations to be observed.


To quote Trent Reznor, "God is an excuse."


to quote King David,

"The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God."

what's your point?


~King David didn't record Head Like a Hole. Your argument is invalid.~

Quotations are usually the result of either some serious distillation of individual philosophical thought beforehand, or selection pressure from those who propagate it afterward.

The insertion of a quote into an argument isn't appealing to the authority of the author, but recognizing that they were the first to formulate it. It is suggesting that those currently in the discussion are reinventing the wheel. Other people have already considered the problem and published their findings in more succinct form. In this case, Reznor is apparently calling out the religious on justifying their antisocial or nonsensical behaviors with the ultimate appeal to authority: the fictional character that is better than everyone else by definition.

As such, responding to one quote from a famous person with a quote from another famous person is only productive if the quote could otherwise stand alone without the attribution. To close the argument, I'll reference The Emperor's New Clothes, which is a parable that suggests children and fools are immune to the allure of sophisticated fictions. The fool wonders why he should believe in God, but he is foolish not for that doubt, but for failing to see the profit in playing along. The foolish parent tells their child that Santa Claus is not real, because they could otherwise have better-behaved children all December long. It is the same with God. What priest would admit to doubt when it is the tithes from believers that keep him warm, dry, and fed? For him, God is an excuse for freeloading upon the largesse of others.

"God is dead, and no one cares; if there is a Hell, I'll see you there." --Nietzsche


> One interesting question, which will only begin to be answered in the next several decades, is whether the rates of religious adherence within these European countries correlate with anything. For instance, do countries with low religious adherence have any sort of markedly different character or outcomes than countries with high religious adherence?

Oh yeah. And you won't have to wait several decades to find correlations, either. At least as far as violent crime is concerned, the answer seems to be "things will get better": https://www.quora.com/Are-atheists-more-or-less-likely-to-be... (quora link, but many references cited)


> And you won't have to wait several decades to find correlations, either. At least as far as violent crime is concerned, the answer seems to be "things will get better":

Considering the stats in the Quora link are only a correlation, is it proper to say things will get better? Indeed, you did precede it with "seems", but I think it's preferable to be explicit when making predictions or offering advice.


You're correct, and that's exactly why I used seems.

Strong, but not conclusively causal.


Not that it matters, and it likely wasn't your intent, but this style of "conversationally but not technically" (for lack of a better term) writing bothers me, as it's not crystal clear what the intended message or information is. I'm noticing this style of writing is becoming increasingly common in the media as well, which might explain why so many people believe things that aren't true.

I'll get off my soapbox now.


If only it were possible to establish factual causal relationships with 100% certainty 100% of the time... sadly we do not have that utopia and must thus deal with language that speaks in terms of degrees of certainty


What I'm referring to is the increasing frequency of newspaper and TV to use language that technically doesn't claim things to be fact, if you parse the words veeeeeeeery carefully, but a casual reader (aka the vast majority of the public) might easily conclude what is presented is fact, rather than just possibilities or allegations. Or in other words, language that hides uncertainty from the consumer.

As I noted, this probably wasn't your intent, but I'd like to think it doesn't hurt to point out.

Sometimes clarity matters, sometimes it doesn't. For example, not that it particularly matters, even in this conversation, based on your last comment I'm still left with somewhat of a feeling that you don't necessarily agree with this notion. On one hand, who cares right? On the other hand, large portions of the general public absolutely believe with 100% certainty things that are at best allegations at this point, because they have read or watched so many news stories that intentionally or not are worded to make possibilities sound as if they are facts.

I think this is a very big deal, and if the higher caliber of people on HN don't, to me that also is a big deal.


I think what you're describing is essentially dishonesty, and I would join you against it were it to come to that.

I am frankly deeply unsettled by the "allegations are facts" flavor of current "debate". Have we not learned anything since the Salem witch trials?


We're not learning much that serves overall humanity lately, at least in North America.


You don't see any confounding variables there?


Please explain the confounding variables present across multiple sources of this information, especially given that the predominant religion is (by design) supposed to influence, and be a hallmark of approved/condoned, behavior.

I've heard "ethnic/racial homogeneity" oft-referenced as a criticism, but you can't just say that- you have to show that homogeneity is separately correlated with reduced crime, without regard to religious orientation. Once you do that, THEN you can levy this criticism.


Crime,religion, health/life expectancy/education are correlated with wealth.

Do you think atheists countries have higher life expectancy because of atheism or wealth?


OK... Where does the United States fit into this hypothetical wealth/crime graph vs. where it would be on a hypothetical religion/crime graph?

(I'm guessing it would be high in all three, casting doubt on your "wealthy countries have lower crime" assertion)


I said correlation, not an exact known equation.

http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Crime/Crime-l...

Countries with least crime: Malta, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, Sout Korea, UAE, Belarus, Georgia, Bahrain, Quatar.

Countries with most crime: Maldives, Venezuela, Afghanistam Kenya, South Africa...

I'd say the most important factor is wealth, not the single factor.


Assuming for a moment that atheist are the friendlier folks in general, what makes you think that people become atheists after leaving christianity behind?

When taking an atheist perspective (I'm not an atheist, but I hope I can fake it well enough for a moment for the purpose of this discourse), I'd describe the shift that happens in "Western" societies as "swapping one superstition for another", not "leaving superstition behind".

Or did Tarot cards, miracle healers and summoning the dead (and the like) become atheist tools and practices recently?


There is no such thing as the "atheist perspective." This is a misnomer and a straw-man used by the self-professed faithful. There is either the rational perspective, or the not-rational (baseless belief-based) perspective. Point me out a single thing an atheist claims that is not rational, and you will realize I'm correct. Point me out a single piece of human knowledge that was gained via pure belief instead of via evidence, and you will realize I'm correct.

You know what other successful systems are rational? Our medical/scientific knowledge and methods, and our legal knowledge and methods. That also makes them atheist simply because they are empirically-based and not belief-based (regardless of whether practitioners thereof have any theism, Zeusism, Zoroastrianism, or any other belief).


Addendum:

> Point me out a single piece of human knowledge that was gained via pure belief instead of via evidence

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal"


That's an interesting example, but you could rationally argue that since we're all members of the same species, we should treat each other as equals... In practice, of course, there's... complexity


You are my favorite kind of atheist, the one that comes along and lectures us that the word atheist essentially means "correct", and no one else has any business at the table of ideas.

A fairly big irrational claim of atheists: The universe created itself from nothing.


I love how you pigeonholed me as atheist. I am not. I tend to side with them only because they seem more reasonable, but I'm fairly agnostic and believe in some things (based on experience) that most atheists would scoff at. Your open-minded doubting-Thomas, as it were. Probably "secular humanist" is the most apt description of my worldview.

> The universe created itself from nothing.

And yet it is an equally irrational claim that some entity did it, because there is no evidence of that. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_the_gaps It is intellectually dishonest to explain away anything not understood as "God's creation". That is not to say there is no God, although the Abrahamic (judeo-muslim-christian) God is in fact illogical: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_evil

> that the word atheist essentially means "correct"

You forgot "debatable". Unlike religious beliefs. I would agree that most atheists assume too much to be true without evidence (because their conclusions are rational, even if untrue... and that is where irrationality sets foot in the unfathomable equation...)

> A fairly big irrational claim of atheists: The universe created itself from nothing.

Actually, there may not even have been a Big Bang: https://www.livescience.com/49958-theory-no-big-bang.html There goes your God-proof, I guess...


Just because societies become "less religious" according to some popular metric (for Europe mostly: "Christian, Jew or Muslim?") doesn't mean that people are more rationally minded.

And I don't see any of that coming, it's merely newer beliefs supplanting established ones. Homeopathy is quite popular here, without any evidence. How rational is that?

Finally, equating "atheism" with "rational" might be your personal short cut, but in my opinion it's incomplete:

To pick a historically relevant example, Marxism-Leninism was (and is) quite sold on "atheism" - it was one of their major differentiators in the socialist spectrum - and I see quite a lot of irrational ideas there.

And while these folks might not be your brand of atheism (no idea), claiming that they were not atheist seems to venture awfully close to a "no true Scotsman" kind of argument. (We might disagree on the level of their rationality, though).


Define rational. Science takes many things for granted under faith : there is an observable universe, it operates under decipherable rules etc. So you seem confused


> there is an observable universe

wait, this is not self-evident?

> it operates under decipherable rules

we already know this is not proven. taste, for example, has no discernible rules. therefore taste is irrational (for now).

Rational: Agreeable to reason and based on objective empirical evidence and observation. Things outside the reach of this: The irrational. Subjective experience. Etc.

The key here is, you can believe whatever you want, but to act against someone else, I think you need a rational basis. Rationality, where it exists, should be given a wide berth.


> this is not self-evident

Self-evident is just a lazy term meaning I believe it without evidence. You could for example, be living in the matrix and the real world could operate under different art of rules or maybe no rules. Science puts these types of questions aside for expediency

> taste, for example, has no discernible rules. therefore taste is irrational

Not true. Some of what is called taste can be boiled down to rational analysis. For example, photogeaphers have rules which helps them take good photos

On a fundamental level, science and rationality depends on premises unproven. It is a great tool to examine the universe and it nature, but that does not mean it can answer every question. It was never intended to


To me, it is always a huge red flag when an article does not properly cite the source. Here is the best I could find:

"The figures are published in a report, Europe’s Young Adults and Religion, by Stephen Bullivant, a professor of theology and the sociology of religion at St Mary’s University in London. They are based on data from the European social survey 2014-16."

No link to the actual study, which would contain useful information like methodology and sample size. And the latest data is from over a year ago. But they readily reproduce graphs, which show percentages without actual numbers, and leave out important European countries like Italy, which happens to have the Vatican.

Based on this, it is a rubbish article, IMHO.


If you're interested in reading the report, I found it with a quick internet search on the title and the author. Here's a link:

https://s3cdn-observadorontime.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/upl...


Thanks! I wonder why it was so difficult for the actual journalist to include it.


This is a disastrous state of affairs, even if you don't believe in God. We are witnessing the rapid destruction of a cultural heritage that has co-evolved together with the European peoples and even their secular institutions for at least 16 centuries.

It's like deciding to cut some organ out of your body just because you don't understand its clinical function (so it must have no function) and because it was involved in some disease a few years ago (so it must be something fundamentally bad).

I marvel at the arrogance, the sheer recklessness of this negligence. Unlike the neglect of beautiful piece of nature, or the neglect of healthy eating habits, I can't see right now how this disaster will be reverted.


Most young Europeans don't think that Christian practice is useful or relevant. They're not bulldozing churches or burning books, they're just deciding not to participate in something that they see as archaic. If the churches want to survive as living institutions rather than relics of history, they need to make the case for their survival. They need to put forward a coherent, plausible answer as to why going to church is the best use of a Sunday morning.

Indifference is actually the best case scenario for European churches. In Ireland, the Catholic church is widely regarded as little more than a criminal conspiracy. The church has done practically nothing to change that perception.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bon_Secours_Mother_and_Baby_Ho...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magdalene_Laundries_in_Ireland

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commission_to_Inquire_into_Chi...


Agree mostly with your answer.

20 centuries of Christianity has been reduced to a caricature. Most people don't even understand what has been given up. It's all persecution, corrupt popes, hatred for science, opium for the masses, child molestation and the flying spaghetti monster.

Like you mention: being active in a church community in the country where I live, will induce flippant jokes at best and real hostility at worst.

I'm also tempted to look at the clergy. They seem to have lost a certain kind of "fighting spirit" and focus on avoiding controversy. Modern masses are spineless and devoid of flavor or a sense of history. It sometimes feels like they hired f*cking Nickelback or the marketing board of the Disney Corporation to advise them on liturgical reform. (Except Nickelback and Disney sell and they don't...)

The cultural loss of all this is imho enormous. It's not just stuff like being part of an active community that includes the broadest possible cross section of the population (across class, age, wealth, profession, personal interests, ...). Or the weekly ritual of this community, the gentle but firm reminder that we're all mortal and that we should at least try to live the good life.

It's also more mundane stuff like the feasts, the fasts, the saints, the pilgrimages (basically an entire village hiking to a nearby basilica), the processions, the choirs, the maintenance of beautifully decorated popular chapels in the middle of fields, all the local cults and customs, some of which probably even predated Christianity, etc. These things gave local places a lot of flavor and it's all gone in a few short years...

Once again, I don't even think you need to believe in God to appreciate all of this wealth. Some day, its loss will be greatly lamented.


Part of those 20 centuries includes the Inquisition, slavery, selling of indulgences, persecution of the Protestants, the expulsion of the Jews, The Killing Time in Scotland, witch hunts, and corrupt popes, so it's not like this most of these caricatures are new or that a sense of history would help.

While it's true that everyone attended the parish church, it's not like historically they mingled and used the church as a place to put worldly status aside. Or rather, not since the 1400s (https://thesecondeclectic.blogspot.com/2012/12/churches-with... quotes 'Church Architecture' as “In the late Middle Ages the congregation sat down on the job and there was a drastic change in Christian worship—perhaps the most important in history. People, in effect, became custodians of individual spaces which they occupied throughout the service, and social distinctions made some spaces more privileged than others.” )

That weekly ritual also reminds us that "we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Nothing like a bit of negging to start the week.

The pilgrimages were during the medieval era. When I researched it a few years ago (after learning about someone who did the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela some 20 years ago), I was surprised to know that something like 20-50% of the adult population of Europe went on at least one pilgrimage, during the period 1150-1450. Along with, as you say, many feast days. (Parts of the US still have many feast days; eg, the Native American pueblos in New Mexico.)

But then we had the rise of power of central kings, who wanted people to work more, giving power and wealth to the king(dom). For example, the Swedish king Gustav Vasa forbade pilgrimages in 1545. So this loss, and "the State", occurred a long time ago, not just a few years ago.

And yet, pilgrimages are on the rise since Paulo Coelho's 1987 book about walking the Camino de Santiago, and the follow-on renewals of other pilgrim routes like Norway's St. Olav’s Way.


This is exactly my point: you mix up 20 centuries of christianity with 20 centuries of specific christian institutions and worldly regimes that existed in christian societies. And then you cherry pick some terrible, big historical events. You completely miss the 20 centuries of Christianity that inspired a vast cultural patrimonium and provided courage, justice, moderation and dignity to its laymen and clergy.

Unlike what you say, abandoning this patrimonium has only started recently. Definitely not centuries ago. For instance, where I live, there is still an annual Christian pilgrimage. Attendance started dropping only a few years ago. I'm not sure if it will still exist in a few years. A lot of us are fascinated and sometimes even a little envious when learning about foreign cultures. Yet when our own culture is dying or has died, we shrug. Some even want to beat on the corpse.

Also: "we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" sounds to me like a pretty accurate description of mankind, including Christianity itself. Other ways of saying the same thing are: "don't be too satisfied with yourself" or "try to do better next week". I'd say the first version packs more punch but that's a matter of taste.

(Then again, as I implied earlier in this thread: maybe this matter of taste is an important part of modern Christianity's problem.)


When you say "only started recently", you mean since at least the deists of the 1700s, yes?

As in Jefferson, whose quotes include:

- "Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity."

- "In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own."

Or near-deists like Thomas Paine who wrote:

- "The Christian religion is a parody on the worship of the sun, in which they put a man called Christ in the place of the sun, and pay him the adoration originally paid to the sun."

- "The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing, and it admits of no conclusion."

I am one of many who recognize that the many good things came from Christianity, but argue that the bad outweighs the good. Please do not mistake that for absolutist portrayal of someone who "completely miss[es]" the good.

We also have good things that came from the Ancient Greeks - including things which continue to provide "courage, justice, moderation and dignity" to modern people. And we don't need faith in their gods to enjoy them.

You wrote: "where I live, there is still an annual Christian pilgrimage".

Sure, and in New Mexico there are people who to the pilgrimage to Chimayo. I've seen them walking along the highway, and it makes the news every year. The number of people who do that pilgrimage is not decreasing.

301,000 people made the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela last year. That's far more than went a generation ago.

But go back to what I wrote. A large fraction of the adult population used to go on long pilgrimages in the medieval era. It ended up being banned in some countries, to force the people to work more.

You been talking about this long grand historical period, so doesn't it makes sense to look at the changes in pilgrimages over that entire span, and not some fluctuation in your area in the last generation or so?

Do you have any better numbers to show the dying off of pilgrimages?

Something stronger than my counter-evidence, which also includes things like "Pilgrimage is enjoying a huge revival across Europe", quoted in https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/countryside/5126285/E... , and from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/jun/15/rites-of-way-p... (emphasis mine):

> The poet Edmund Blunden wrote in 1942: "We have been increasingly on pilgrimage." We are once again increasingly on pilgrimage. A revival is under way worldwide, with pilgrim numbers rising even as church-going figures fall. Medieval hostelries on the roads to Santiago de Compostela, closed for centuries, are reopening to cater to the volume of travellers. In 1985, 2,491 people received the certificate of completion known as la autentica; more than 270,000 did so in 2010. On the little north Norfolk village of Walsingham – site of an 11th-century vision of the Virgin Mary, recently self-branded as "England's Nazareth" – a quarter of a million pilgrims now converge each year, including participants in the "children's pilgrimage", the "youth pilgrimage" and the "Tamil pilgrimage".

You edited your text, did you not? You had a mention of the oppressive power of the "State" in it, which is why I wanted to point out Gustav Vasa's decree from nearly 500 years ago. I don't think you can point to 50 years ago as some recent high water mark when that was only an echo of what it was 800 years ago.

"Doing the best we can in this confusing, muddled world of ours" is also a pretty accurate description of humanity. Personally, I can't figure out what "sin" means because that requires a transgression against divine law, and neither "God" nor divine law exist. So no, I don't think Romans 3:23 is at all an accurate description.


The whole thread, for me at least, is about confirming the Guardian article, that Christianity is declining in Europe. I'd say especially in NW-Europe.

I'm not talking about deist intellectuals and their opinions, or academic theology, or about places other than NW-Europe (New Mexico?), or a few big tourist tickets like Santiago.

I'm talking about the popular Christian day-to-day practice of regular people of NW-European communities, of which I can witness the last strange hours in my own community.

It's hard for me to come up with numbers beyond the kind of polls shown in the Guardian article or the drop in callings. It's not like we have centuries of headcount records for all the local events, cults and customs that used to exist here, the amount of tresses tied to chapel walls, or logs detailing the time and effort the local farmers, notables and grandmas spent decorating chapels. There have been no double blind control studies of how going to the village church made people's daily behavior slightly more mellow or made the community tighter here. By now there's mostly old pictures, living memories (less every year) and a rapid dwindling of what little remains today.

The edited stuff you refer to was a sarcastic quip along the lines of "Now that Christianity is gone, I'm sure celebrities or the state will tell us what to do." I removed it because, reading it back, I thought it detracted both in style and content from my main point.

Namely my prediction that future people in my community will regret current people having turned their back on this heritage so recklessly. They may try to reconstruct some of it, but it will be hard without continuity. I can see that happen even if Christian belief itself never bounces back. (Which would actually put such efforts at risk, by making them prone to political recuperation.)


Well, yes, Christianity had been on the decline in NW (and N) Europe for a long time. What's new is "as default is gone."

I'm from the US. My experience with pilgrimages is in the US context. I lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the local big pilgrimage is to El Santuario de Chimayo. Not a big ticket pilgrimage. Because of this discussion, I remembered that there's also the pilgrimage to San Juan Capistrano, https://www.rcbo.org/year-of-mercy/pilgrimage-oc-sites/ .

You say now that you are not talking about "places other than NW-Europe". Thing is, you brought up "20 centuries of Christianity", and since it took a few hundred years until Christianity reached NW Europe, I think it's fair to believe you were talking about all of Christendom.

I understand that you are talking about the practice. My point was that you see importance in the connection to 2,000 years of religious faith, but that faith has not been constant over the years. I'll quote again what I quoted earlier:

> In the late Middle Ages the congregation sat down on the job and there was a drastic change in Christian worship—perhaps the most important in history. People, in effect, became custodians of individual spaces which they occupied throughout the service, and social distinctions made some spaces more privileged than others.”

NW Europe is mostly Protestant, and it's only been 500 years since Luther. Sure, it's connected to the older Catholic faith, but that's then connected to the Jewish faith, and that is connected to the Canaanite and Babylonian religions.

Your last paragraph is absolutely true. Look at the modern druids or the Asatru, who lack the continuity with the ancient Celtic and Norse religions, or the Slavic Native Faith. I wonder why we don't have that continuity, or even good records of what it was like then. Could it be that the Christians fought hard to expunge alternate (and ancient) religious practices, and didn't want to make and preserve those records over the centuries?

Or, perhaps you could you tell me about the preservation efforts that Christians did during most of those 2,000 years, for the cultures that it replaced?

By comparison, the current secular world seems much less likely to destroy traces of what came before. There will be books, movies, art, blogs, recorded sermons and more, by the bucket-full, for those trying to understand what a late 20th century NW-European Christian life was like.


-> 16 vs 20: I said in the beginning (talking about Europe) "rapid destruction of a cultural heritage that has co-evolved together with the European peoples and even their secular institutions for at least 16 centuries."

co-evolved. I understand that Christianity became big in Europe only centuries after Christ. And that it has changed and fluctuated a lot in its history. But I think there was never a discontinuity of the sort we see since ~2 generations.

"20 centuries" came into play when I deplored a modern fashion in which we're supposed to take the vastness of 2 millennia of highly complex history involving millions or billions of people, strip it from all context, compress it to a few soundbite sized low points and say: "this is Christianity".

-> About continuity and pre-Christian paganism: one of the things that fascinates me endlessly about the christian traditions of my community, is how many aspects of it are obviously echoes of pagan times. Many saints that used to be popular here, are not historical figures but thinly disguised pagan deities. A nearby community has (= used to have) a big tradition of Marian worship, which is almost certainly a continuation of an older cult devoted to a pagan fertility goddess. A nearby Christian chapel built next to a well, located beautifully in a forest in the middle of nowhere, was a place of worship in pagan times. Lots of Roman coins were found around the chapel. People used to walk there and tie strips of clothing from sick relatives to the chapel door. I can go on like this for quite a while. I would argue that the transition to christianity, despite its implicit intolerance at the time, does not seem abrupt but rather "organic".

Same for theology. (Btw, with some exceptions, this topic doesn't interest me much personally. Just like I don't care much for all the pseudoscience in secular academia.) But anyways, a lot of christian theology is obviously classical philosophy in a Christian jacket, with influences from Platonism to stoicism. In fact, christianity did something antiquity failed to do: in antiquity, becoming literate and trained in classical philosophy was very much a "1 percenter" thing. Early christianity brought a "pop version" of this literacy to a much broader public.

To conclude, I'd predict the exact opposite of what you said. To me, the current secular world actually seems more likely to destroy traces of what came before. Turning a church into a hipster lounge is so much more drastic than turning a pagan shrine into a church, or a church into a mosque. The French revolution or the various socialist regimes didn't seek to adapt, echo, continue, soften, change, transform, absorb or even abuse Christianity. They aimed to root it out.

The sudden and rapid abandoning of all things Christian suggests the secular revolution is finally succeeding in Europe. It's Brumaire of Year I. Or rather, Germinal of Year L.

Obviously, in all our secular glory and freed from the irrational, time consuming habits of our grandparents, Europe may never know wars or bigotry or superstition or pseudoscience or corruption again. And this time I will leave the sarcastic quip in :-)


"I think there was never a discontinuity of the sort we see since ~2 generations."

Is that perhaps because you don't have a good understanding of the history, or is it perhaps because recent changes affect you more strongly than old ones?

If you were a Catholic 500 years ago, wouldn't you have complained bitterly about the upheavals in the 1500 year old Church caused by Luther and those inspired by him?

If you were a Catholic in England, when Henry VIII broke from the Catholic Church, wouldn't you again be complaining about the discontinuity?

I don't see why the large-scale changes of the Reformation are less discontinuous, for someone living in that period.

You wrote: "one of the things that fascinates me endlessly about the christian traditions of my community, is how many aspects of it are obviously echoes of pagan times."

This was part of a deliberate plan by the Catholic Church to co-opt local religions. It wasn't really "organic."

I know the history better in the context of the Spanish colonization of the Americas. The Catholics would come in, tear down the old places of worship, and build a cathedral on the same site. They would identify important stories, rituals, dances, etc. associated with the old gods, and recast them to the saints. This practice is known as Interpretatio Christiana.

This synecretic approach helped spread the religion, by making it a more tolerable replacement for what was before.

You write: "in antiquity, becoming literate and trained in classical philosophy was very much a "1 percenter" thing." You may want to read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literacy#Ancient_and_post-clas... and the given references like https://www.academia.edu/13211795/_Ancient_Literacy_in_New_T.... It seems that the during the 1990s and early 2000, it was though that about 10% of Rome was literate, and that more recent research suggests it was rather higher at perhaps 30-40% .. until the fall of the Western Roman Empire. That period of heightened literacy corresponds to the early Church, so it reflects the general culture and not something special about Christianity.

You write "Turning a church into a hipster lounge is so much more drastic than turning a pagan shrine into a church, or a church into a mosque."

Wow. Really? "Hipster" is a derogatory term meaning "I'm getting old and don't understand kids these days, so I'm going to call them names to make myself feel better."

I'll give an example from the Interpretatio Christiana Wikipedia page: "when Benedict took possession of the site at Monte Cassino, he began by smashing the sculpture of Apollo and the altar that crowned the height"

Would you rather have the sculpture of Apollo shown as artwork in a hipster lounge, that anyone can see, or destroyed to make way for a Catholic church?

The French revolution is hardly "current". The modern France - a mostly secular country - has a lot of archeologists and archivists trying to identify and preserve history, including non-Christian history.

Regarding your sarcastic quip, please stop trying to force things into a dichotomous world. We have only to look at the misogyny and racism of many of the "stars" of atheism to see that a lack of faith in a god has very little to do with good ethics.


"Is that perhaps because you don't have a good understanding of the history, or is it perhaps because recent changes affect you more strongly than old ones?"

Of the 2 choices you present me with: neither.

"This was part of a deliberate plan by the Catholic Church to co-opt local religions. It wasn't really "organic.""

Indeed, to co-opt it. It continued what came before.

"You may want to read..."

Actually bookmarked this.

"Would you rather have the sculpture of Apollo shown as artwork in a hipster lounge, that anyone can see, or destroyed to make way for a Catholic church?"

Of the 2 choices you present me with: as an artwork in a hipster lounge.

"The French revolution is hardly "current"."

If you use numbers in the same way as me, it's literally more current than the stuff you injected (lutheranism, Henry VIII, bishops smacking pagan shrines, Killing Time, Gusta Vasa, ...).

Many revolutionaries in France, like many more recent socialist regimes, aimed to root out christianity and religion in general, not change/extend/temper/reduce/garden wall/coopt/transform/echo/reorganize it.

"The modern France - a mostly secular country - has a lot of archeologists and archivists trying to identify and preserve history, including non-Christian history.""

France has museums and archeologists? Really?

Before you joined, it was about the decline of christianity in Europe, which is not bricks and books, but actual people identifying with and practicing a living cultural heritage.

We're going nowhere here.

"Wow. Really? "Hipster" is a derogatory term meaning...."

Lmfao here.

You lost me.


Do you really want me to list all of the possibilities? I'm not trying to force you to choose one of the ones I present. I do not get from your writings that your statements about history are made with a certainty which is not justified.

You wrote "Indeed, to co-opt it. It continued what came before."

You cannot make that simple connection. The Marvel comics co-opted Thor as a superhero. That does not make Marvel comics a continuation of Norse mythology, nor does it mean that watching "Thor: Ragnarok" is a form of religious service. The system of physical exercise called "yoga" in the Western world co-opted the physical motions of the branch of Hinduism called "Yoga", but the people doing yoga at the gym down the street are not meaningfully connected to the 2,000+ year old tradition.

Christians destroyed the sacred trees and groves which were a core part of Germanic paganism. They co-opted the (symbolic) power of Donar's Oak into wood for a church they built on the site. That isn't a continuation.

Charlemagne destroyed the Irminsul and ordered the massacre of 4,500 Saxon pagans as part of his campaign to Christianize the Saxons, and justified it as acting "like a true King of Israel" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_of_Verden .

This is not a continuation. This is an usurpation. The cultural symbols were co-opted to demonstrate that a new power is in charge.

You wrote "Of the 2 choices you present me with: as an artwork in a hipster lounge." We are making the assumption that the congregation can no longer support the physical building. What other option you would prefer?

You wrote "If you use numbers in the same way as me ..." I understand the comment now is meant as sarcasm. But I am trying really hard to not cherry-pick the bad parts of religion, but rather trying to demonstrate that your statements about history appear do not appear to come from a strong understanding of that history.

While it seems that you see me pointing to those counter-examples to your assertions, interpret it as cherry-picking, and so decide to cherry-pick in a tit-for-tat sort of dialog.

I don't think it's really correct to say "like many more recent socialist regimes, aimed to root out christianity and religion in general". Certainly early Marxist-Leninists in China and the USSR and its satellites were against all religions (as compared to all-but-one religion, as was the case in European countries for hundreds of years. Similarly, early republican countries, like the US and France, were also against religion. But looking at the list of officially socialist countries now, I see quite a few secular countries with strong support for at least one religion, and often support for the free practice of religion.

As you point out, we are talking about "actual people identifying with and practicing a living cultural heritage." My question again is, so what? Cultures change. There are always people who bemoan change. It's hard for me to have sympathy given the excellent records we have, the voluntary nature of the change, and given the long history of Christians stomping out older religions.

Yes, "hipster" is a derogatory term. Why else did you qualify it as "hipster lounge" instead of simply "lounge"?


“This is not a continuation. This is an usurpation.”

Fine, call it usurpation already.

Older pagan habits survived in later pagan habits. Pagan habits survived in catholicism. And catholic habits survived in Lutheranism.

And now this whole package, this sponge of history, is just being abandoned.

“You wrote "Of the 2 choices you present me with: as an artwork in a hipster lounge." We are making the assumption that the congregation can no longer support the physical building. What other option you would prefer?”

As an artwork in another church or in a museum or something like that? Where are you going with this?

“You wrote "If you use numbers in the same way as me ..." I understand the comment now is meant as sarcasm.”

No, this was actually not sarcasm. You pick numerous events from all over Christianity’s history. When I pick something, you complain it’s not “current”. Wtf? And now you complain that it’s “tit-for-tat” picking. 2 weights I call it.

“I do not get from your writings that your statements about history are made with a certainty which is not justified.” “your statements about history appear do not appear to come from a strong understanding of that history.”

One thing that oozes from all your writing is that you seem to think you’re lecturing me on stuff I don’t know or that I deny or something.

Aside from a potentially interesting tip on literacy in antiquity, you gave me nothing new.

“My question again is, so what? Cultures change.”

Ok, back on topic.

Yes, culture change.

I care because unlike you, I think the christian habits of our grandparents were interesting, positive and linked us to history. Loosing that is not good, even if you don’t believe in God.

“ (…) Christians stomping out older religions”

No, not stomping out. Usurping them, to use your latest choice of words.

“Yes, "hipster" is a derogatory term. Why else did you qualify it as "hipster lounge" instead of simply "lounge”?”

Sorry, I just wanted to be cool and hang out with you modern kids (<- sarcasm, to be clear)

Heads up: I probably won’t read your reply, as we’re going round and round and round.


You wrote "I think the christian habits of our grandparents were interesting, positive and linked us to history. Loosing that is not good, even if you don’t believe in God."

Given your positive views on how Christianity has incorporated non-Christian practices, you should have no worries. Christian traditions will continue to be followed in a non-Christian future in ways similar to how Christian traditions currently include older religious practices.


Disaster? This is the greatest thing to ever happen to Europe. I don't understand why humans cling to heritage when that heritage is despicable, disgusting, immoral, hateful, and violent. Extremely fucking violent. This nastiness can't go away fast enough. Europe has become an amazing place in the last couple of decades and I have no doubt this is one of the reasons. It really is like cutting out an organ and then finding out it was just cancer, not an actual organ.

The alternative is that we can always bring back the witch hunts, the crusades, the Spanish inquisition, pogroms, the Holocaust, and so on and so on. Oh such terrible losses. How will we ever live without such things that are our heritage? I miss them already. /s


"bring back the witch hunts, the crusades, the Spanish inquisition, pogroms, the Holocaust"

Thanks for making my point.


Oh, that's what you mean by reverting the disaster. You actually support such violence. That's pretty fucked up.


I for one as believer find phrases like "non-Christian Europe" (or "post-Christian") sad and intriguing given that European Union has its roots in Christianity and was so deeply shaped by notable Christians, incl. Robert Schuman, one of the founding fathers. I think without common beliefs it will be more difficult to keep and develop the union.


That sentiment feels... misguided? The EU is an economic and ideological construct, certainly not religious. The fact that some key figures were deeply religious is completely orthogonal to that. Ie France has been deeply secular since the late 1800s/early 1900s, long before its role as a founding EU state.

The EU has “Christian roots” insomuch as Christianity has been a dominant religion in Europe, but implying that religion and the EU go together in some fundamental way is just wrong.


...What common beliefs? Europeans have massacred each other for believing the wrong kind of Christianity.


There is and will for a long time be a shared culture which is distinctively European. It's just becoming less focused on religion.


But that shared culture had deep roots in Christianity. One of the more interesting questions is, without the Christianity, what will happen to the culture? (Even if you're an atheist, it's a relevant question. You don't have to go to church, but you still have to live in the culture.)

And it's too soon to tell, really. The cultural habits last longer than the roots from which they grew. If the roots are gone, will the cultural habits find new roots? Will they survive without them? Or will they just slowly fade away over the next several generations?


The EU is the brainchild of Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi and similar fellow travelers.


We can have common beliefs independent from religion. Democracy, human rights, freedom, peace. None of these are religious.


If you look at their origin, they come from Christian teachings about the image of God in every person. The alternative is might makes right, which was the norm before Christianity.


It is trivial to establish that the origins of these ideas are pre-Christian.

The citizens of Athens 500 years before Jesus' birth lived in a well-documented democracy. Democracy became widespread inside the last 350 years, but started at least 2500 years ago, before Christ, in a pantheist society.

In 549 BC Cyrus the Great freed the slaves and explicitly declared the human rights of freedom of religion and racial equality.

Eirene is the Greek goddess of Peace. Her name is 'Peace'. The Athenians were very keen on her in 375 BC.

Jesus himself was born and died in the Pax Romana (Roman Peace), which started before his birth and was so called at the time (reported by Seneca the Younger in 55AD). So peace can't be a Christian idea.

Individual freedom of action and expression, independent of a ruling king or other authority, seems to be more modern idea. The key statements of freedom are all modern, starting with the Magna Carta (1215 AD). So maybe you can score that for Christianity, 1200 years after they got started.


> maybe you can score [freedom of action and expression] for Christianity

I've had trouble verifying this quotation, but:

"There has been such a thing as letting mankind alone; there has never been such a thing as governing mankind. Letting alone springs from fear lest men’s natural dispositions be perverted and their virtue left aside. But if their natural dispositions be not perverted nor their virtue laid aside, what room is there left for government?"

- Chuang Tzu (369–286 BC)


Yes, many have stated these views, but it is only with the advent of Christianity that they've been given a rational foundation.


Dogma is not an argument.


Exactly, that's the problem with humanism. It is just a dogma without rational argument.


Now I'm genuinely baffled. Here's the first sentence of the definition of Humanism on Wikipedia:

"Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism and empiricism) over acceptance of dogma or superstition."

And two of the sentences from the first paragraph from the entry on Christianity:

"Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life, teachings, and miracles of Jesus of Nazareth, known by Christians as the Christ, or "Messiah", who is the focal point of the Christian faiths. [...] They believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the savior of humanity whose coming as the Messiah (the Christ) was prophesied in the Old Testament."

Your position is that the former of these is dogmatic and devoid of rational argument, to the contrary of the latter.

I simply can not argue with that position. It's too weird.


How can humanism believe humans have free will if everything is physically determined? If we have no free will, we have no agency. It doesn't matter how much humanists assert to the contrary.

Christianity, on the other hand, easily explains free will and agency.


It seems the majority of philosophers (whose job it is to think long and hard about these things) are compatibilists [0]; i.e. believe in both free will and determinism. If you're actually interested in this rather than thinking you already know the answer, there is plenty of reading available online [1,2]

[0] http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=13371

[1] https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/compatibilism/

[2] https://samharris.org/reflections-on-free-will/


Exactly my point. Compatibilism is incoherent. It is just calling determinism free will, like calling the number 1 green. But if free will is determined, then no one has any control over their actions. Everything is determined, and given the right parameters in their decision algorithm, they will do whatever you want. Hence the atheist regimes' focus on brainwashing detailed in 1984.


You have already made up your mind and are not willing to engage in serious discussion, nor read and consider other viewpoints.


You assume I didn't used to be a compatibilist, but changed my mind after considering alternate viewpoints. But I did once I understood libertarian free will is a coherent alternative.


No it doesn't. The theological discussions around the whole concept of 'free will' are quite hairy, and there are multiple christian denominations that don't strictly believe that we have free will.


Traditionally, all mainstream Christians believed in libertarian free will. You can find this discussed in Augustine and Anselm and Aquinas, off the top of my head. That changed with Luther and Calvin, but even today you'd be hard pressed to find a large body of Christians that outright deny free will, since it is so blatantly referred to in the Bible.


Did you know the democracy was just for the few free citizens in the city state? They still had plenty of slaves, apparently more slaves than citizens. Not exactly the same as our modern democracy.

Interestingly, Cyrus seems to have had some kind of religious motivation for his view of human rights.

"Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD, the God of heaven given me; and He hath charged me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whosoever there is among you of all His people – the LORD, his God, be with him – let him go there." — (2 Chronicles 36:23)

The peaceful Athenians ruined themselves by waging too many wars against Sparta.

Pax Romana did bring peace and justice to a large part of the world, but it was a very brutal kind of justice, hence Jesus' death by crucifixion.


> Did you know the democracy was just for the few free citizens in the city state?

Yes, of course.

The vast majority of the Christian Era even in Europe has been spent in feudal monarchies. The modern African slave trade was run by Christian nation states. The Christians have been in charge in Europe since Constantine (306 AD). They spent some of that time burning 'witches'.

> Not exactly the same as our modern democracy.

Yes, almost all the Christian Era has been very different from our modern democracy, which is why I'm reluctant to attribute the current state purely to Christianity. If it's all in the Bible, and you've been in charge of a continent for 1700 years, why did we have to wait until 1776 (for white Americans) or 1836 (for black Americans) or 1890 (for female Americans) to get freedom and democracy?

edit: another important one: We waited until 2015 for homosexual Americans to gain the freedom to marry, previously denied by the Christian state because:

'And if a man also lies with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.' Leviticus (20:13) (condemnation never revised in the New Testament.)

So much for freedom.


Slavery died out in Christian Europe, it remained in Islamic countries, where it again eventually spread to Europe.

Christians were not in charge for 1700 years, and it took awhile to work through the logical implications of Christian doctrine in a largely pagan society. But, the freedoms all have their root in Christian doctrine. Name another society, secular or pagan, that brought about the same freedoms without Christian influence.

Perhaps the state took awhile to recognize homosexual marriage because the state only has an interest in heterosexual marriage that produces new citizens of the state.


The main or even only thing 2 countries like Finland and Italy have in common was belonging to Christendom.


It was eye opening to me when I went to Asia and realised there’s practically no difference in culture when comparing Europeans to each other, and when comparing them to various Asian cultures. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but Italians and Fins (on average, of course) aren’t as different as they might have been led to believe, especially when both are compared to a Vietnamese.

Warning: gross overgeneralisation.


Knowledge and science diminish the (need for) faith. Nowadays when you are religious (because of the way you were raised) and you get the nagging feeling that some things just do not make sense, you go onto the internet, you read, you watch YouTube and you find that many of the things you experience make far greater sense from a scientific point of view. First we explained lightning, then biological diversity and now you can easily go online an get a feel for the size of the universe as well as the general weirdness of religious documents and how they only make sense in their own zeitgeists.


Are you really implying that persons of faith are less knowledgeable than the faithless? That faith is simply the lack of knowledge?

Knowledge and science do not preclude faith; indeed, the two often go hand in hand.


Yes. Putting a book like the bible which contains horrible, unethical stories (Lot and his daughters?) and paints the terrible tyrant that is the god of the old testament as a loving being above modern science is a mental state only achieved after thorough indoctrination. There is 0 evidence for the presence of a God, there is also 0 evidence which makes a Christian god more likely than a Muslim god. Absence of evidence is evidence of absence. These are things you learn when reading and being honest with yourself. I was raised Christian but being a molecular biologist now, there is absolutely no use in the God theory it raises more questions than it answers, it has 0 predictive power, no evidence for it and is just plainly wrong when it comes to many details (all animals that existed 5000 years ago on 1 ark?). I see religious people mostly as victims of memes (memes in the Richard Dawkins sense), viruses of the mind. They still can be nice and honest people though.


Speaking of being honest with ourselves, there is also zero evidence for the absence of God. So far, there's no signs of this being a debate rooted in physical evidence, it's a philosophical question.


Oh come on. What if you'd wipe our collective memories but retain our scientific equipment and skills? You'd look at our DNA and see how it matches and differs from other species, you'll start to see that you can build a sort of tree of life from the data gathered. You will find evidence of common ancestry in all species. You will find that DNA can change for better or worse and that if it changes for the better, survival chances are increased. Over the ages this slow process affects entire populations. And when you look to the sky afterwards, you will see that everything is moving away from us and you must honestly conclude that some 14 billion years ago everything was pretty close together. If, at that point someone would show up with a book as his only proof, saying that the world was made in 7 days by an all knowing being and that there are angels, a heaven and a hell and that dinosaurs might have lived within the last 6000 years... how do you think such a story would be received? And what if there were three individuals who have roughly the same book until the story mentions an individual name Abraham. After that the story splits and focuses on different individuals. None of them agree with each other on how to deal with women, live your life or even on what god expects of you.

The only reason these stories have survived into this day and age is because we corrupt the logic of little children to such an extent that when someone mentions the earth is 4 billions years old it just feels very wrong to them and then these kids transfer their thoughts and feelings to their children, etc. The entire idea of christian children is as sick as saying there are garbage collector children or lawyer children. Yet we have no qualms about labeling children in this way. Because that is how it has always been.

And even if you want to play the "there is no evidence against god"-card I'd point the atrocities of the old testament, the lack of reponse to the prayers of children with cancer, the complete neglect of all the misery in the world. This alone would make the Christian god not one I'd want to meet and I sincerely hope he or she doesn't exist.


I'm glad to see religion go, but I'm afraid if we remove religion and don't replace the moral component, we will see more societal dysfunction like school shootings. We need to replace the moral teachings in the schools. I recommend a high level law class in high school, maybe combine government, law, and economics.


IMHO, the greater loss is that of community. Religious institutions fostered social, business, and civic community. That in itself helps reinforce ethical and moral norms as you don't want to screw over your neighbor and become ostracized. Community also helps people not slip through the cracks of loneliness and mental illness. Frankly, as a kid I remember the number of people at my church who would have otherwise been unlikely to find friends or a marriage who were able to do so because church brought them together.


None of what you mention requires religion, however. One doesn't need religion to reinforce ethical and moral norms, or punish bad behavior through social pressure. One can have community without requiring that community maintain ritual adherence to an orthodoxy based on some ancient text and belief in the supernatural.

I would argue that the loss of Christian faith can be a benefit to human society. The Bible has been used to justify rape and abuse, racism, slavery, violence against non heterosexuals, opposition to HIV testing and contraception, opposition to scientific teaching, and many other objectively terrible things. Maybe it's best to be rid of it, and the assumption that morality and ethics require believing in it.


Yup. In Austin, churches are closing left and right due to endlessly rising property taxes. Want to know what one of them is being converted into? A co-working space.


Are you sure they're not closing due to declining attendance? I cannot imagine a healthy church being forced to close because it can't get enough donations to match a quarter-percentage-point property tax increase.


Churches pay property tax? I'd always assumed they were exempt.


It still works that way - I'm an atheist and I met my wife at a local church.


That’s funny! Would love to know the story.

I’m an atheist as well, but was raised in the Lutheran church and still recognize that there were / are good things about organized religion. I generally agree with the sentiment that our social system has not caught up with its decline.


School shootings aren't due to moral failings, they're due to dysfunctional or non existent gun control laws giving mentally ill people guns. 83% of Americans, compared to 47% of Britons, said religion was very or fairly important to them [1], whereas school shootings are clearly more common there than in the UK. (I can't find a source comparing them they're so uncommon in the UK. The last one in the UK was in 1996)

[1] http://news.gallup.com/poll/9016/worlds-apart-religion-canad...


> School shootings aren't due to moral failings, they're due to dysfunctional or non existent gun control laws giving mentally ill people guns

That seems unlikely. The mentally ill have been around for all of US history and firearms are more controlled now than they ever have been. Yet these sorts of things seem to be rising, not declining.

I get that maybe you just want all the guns gone and don't really care whether or not there's an underlying cause for why people feel the need to self-destruct in this way, and while not having access to firearms may make these things less like and/or less deadly, I worry that people like you will mistake that for actually having solved the problem.


They seem to be rising because reporting of the events and public awareness of them are rising. They are actually declining, according to what I have seen.

To determine the rate in previous years, researchers have had to comb through hundreds of local papers, and verify with local police reports, to find past incidents of criminal use of guns in schools. Nowadays, those are more likely to make national news, and also be reported in aggregate by the state police.

To reiterate, gun violence in the US has apparently been in decline for decades--just like other kinds of violence. Now that awareness of gun violence is rising, we have a real chance at driving it into the ground and keeping it there, even without mass disarmament. Between genuine enforcement of existing laws--rather than the salutary neglect of those laws promoted at the enforcement end by gun-oriented lobbyists--and suicide prevention efforts, I think we are approaching a time when an acceptable compromise is possible that would put our rates of violent crime within a reasonable distance of more disarmed societies.

But as recently demonstrated in Austin, availability of guns is not the ultimate problem. The problem is that defense-in-depth is hard. A determined attacker can always cause some damage, with whatever tools he may have at his disposal. It is very difficult to recognize a threat and then stop it before it is realized.


Your username must be ironic, because that was very well stated, and not something I expect from an idiot on the net.


It is a known fact that human societies degrade to chaos when religion is not present in the day to day affairs </irony>.

You only have to look at USA where religion is very present vs Czech Republic, in which one do you think there are more mass shootings per capita? If you want my 2 cents, religion has nothing to do with societal dysfunction, there has to be something else.


> religion has nothing to do with societal dysfunction, there has to be something else.

you claim this, and yet compare 2 wildly different soscieties and use a single statistic as a moral indicator..

not arguing for or against here (though I do have my bias); but your argument is not very complete/cohesive either way.


Controlled for equivalent population the murder rate of the US is about the same as that of Belgium.


Where did you see that? According to the sources I looked at Belgium has a rate about 20% that of the US. The US's peers in murder rate seem to be Turkmenistan, Albania, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Yemen:

http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Crime/Violent... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intention...


According to the UNODC, the United States has an intentional homicide rate of 4.88 per 100,000 people, versus 1.95 in Belgium.

What exactly do you mean by "equivalent population"?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intention...


Belgium has a mainly white population, at least 92%.

Much of the intentional homicide rate in the USA is African-American (often gang violence), plus drug trade MS13 and Mara 18 violence.

Drop that out to match the demographics and the difference disappears.

EDIT to add: the reason I think this is more valid, is that "dangerous gang areas" of the USA are well known and few people from outside, go there. When in Chicago, for instance, I simply never drive through the areas that have gun violence (and likely neither would any other HN reader).

(My own personal view, is that there is/was basically a conspiracy against the African-American population in the USA which created a great deal of dysfunction, including a lot of gang violence and murder. )


I live across the street from Austin in Chicago and drive through Lawndale to get to my office. People bike through there every day to get to work. Well-off people live in Woodlawn, walking distance from some of the roughest parts of the South Side. For that matter, Beverly is aggressively white and middle class and very close to rough parts of the South Side, and the side-street drive to the Loop from Beverly goes through all the roughest parts of the city. The reality is: if you don't live in the worst parts of Chicago, Chicago gun violence isn't going to impact you. We get to treat it as something external to us. :(


The available evidence does not indicate a strong correlation between irreligiosity and criminality. Some studies have found that religious beliefs inhibit criminal behaviour, but systematic studies do not indicate that atheists or agnostics commit more crime. It is worth noting that only 0.2% of the US prison population identify as being atheist. Globally, there is a strong negative correlation between religiousity and homicide, although this is substantially confounded by levels of economic development.

http://sci-hub.la/10.1111/j.1751-9020.2009.00247.x


School shootings are almost entirely a US phenomenon. No other country in the world, religious or not, experience them enough to consider them a problem.

Mexico, one of the most religious countries in the world, where murder is a daily occurrence and the bodies are displayed on the streets in many towns as a deterrent from opposition to the cartels doesn't have a school shooting problem.

And after seeing the display of "morality" of evangelical christians in recent years, I'm not sure religion and morality are connected in any way.


The generation of my grandparents were the last in my family to be religious, in the Netherlands.

Loss of the moral component isn't what I see, that's not what I'm afraid of. I don't think Christian kids are less likely to commit that sort of crime.

But I feel a sense of community has been lost, people used to know each other from church, used to celebrate important life events from birth to marriage to death together. Now I only know a few people in my city.


I agree with loss of community and generally speaking those important life event celebrations are what make a community, but have you ever considered that what made those life events important to begin with is the religion itself? Non-religious societies can likely establish new important events and celebrations for those. I'm not necessarily in favor of religious decline but I'm happy to see that people live in a society with a real choice. Most of the world isn't like that still.


> but have you ever considered that what made those life events important to begin with is the religion itself?

We should invent new events, but it's hard to get to get strangers involved celebrating the same ones. Especially if people have real choice -- then everybody invents something else!

I mean, by itself the choice is fantastic of course, but we do lose something.


School shootings are a primarily American phenomenon driven by internal terrorism.


The US on average tends to lean more religious than Australia, yet Australia has had an infinitely smaller amount of school shootings during the past ten years.

And you believe that schools are the place where children should be taught morals? Allowing a government, or any other controlling group of people, to teach moral values is a surefire way to increase authoritarianism. The wisest way to go about things is to expose a child to as many different types of people as possible, and let them form their own views.


I live in probably one of the most irreligious countries in the world and we don't really have a problem with school shootings.

Consider the idea that the decline of religion might be an indication that it is being replaced by other convictions that will guide people's morality. Most people hold things for true that they'll happily defend, never question but can't prove right or wrong. For example, in embracing capitalism, socialism, humanism or whatever we'd already have made a huge ideology out of some arbitrary assumptions about what is morally ideal, what's right and what's wrong. These ideologies have their own rather abstract symbols and virtues, and their own stories of how things was, what they are and what they should be. Who needs Jehovah when you have invisible hands, proletariats, knowledge and similar higher order social concepts?

I don't really believe that a nietzschean death of God where loss of religion is necessarily followed by the death of moral standards could happen unless you somehow kill off a widespread ideology in an instant.


> I'm glad to see religion go, but I'm afraid if we remove religion and don't replace the moral component, we will see more societal dysfunction like school shootings.

The US is one of the most religious countries in the developed West and has an atypically high incidence of “social dysfunction like school shootings”.

Absence of religion is not the source of the problem.


Government, law, and economics certainly behave like religion so that makes sense. All require collective faith in the abstract 'good' and when one pillar falls, the others bear more weight.


If not from religion, from where do you hope to get the moral component?

Natural law itself doesn’t prove God or gods. But without them, your options for a moral basis seem to be human idealism or “everyone is free to do as they wish, strength is progress.” I see no others.

Everyone struggles to believe sin exists, but everyone believes they have been sinned against at one time or another. If it’s possible to be right, why?

Government can enforce right and wrong behavior as they see it, but they must not be the ones who ordain what right and wrong behavior are. If they were, then Japanese internment was “right.” At one time or another, bad men have used government, law and economics (and religion) as the basis for their worst conquests.

The world we are both longing for will not come from the law.


I wonder why Romania isn't mentioned at all. It's part of Europe.


The report ignores almost all of Eastern/Southeastern Europe. I don't think they can rightly make their claims about the whole of Europe based on that...Northwest/Western Europe, sure, but all of it?

Countries not included: Italy, Croatia, Slovakia, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Bosnia, Serbia (and Kosovo), Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Greece. Plus none of the small city states or island countries of Malta, (Iceland?) (Cyprus?).

They even include Israel (not European??)


Potentially it throws off the conclusions they're hoping to convey?


>I wonder why Romania isn't mentioned at all. It's part of Europe.

And Italy, that besides being part of Europe is indirectly home of the Catholicism/Catholic Church.



A lot of people don't realize they're actually still living by Christian rules. Take a look at social-democrat governments and for example their stance towards immigrants. Impossible to understand without knowing The Good Samaritan parable and other stories in that vein. It's post-Christian as in post going to church, post creationism and post hell and damnation. But it's a reduced form of Christianism nonetheless.

A Dutch right-wing politician once said if you would only leave the good parts of the Koran you would have a book the size of a Donald Duck (1). Well I guess we already did that with the Bible.

1) Donald Duck is a weekly magazine of comics in some European countries. It's about 44 pages


The Jefferson Bible is 168 pages long. It could probably be edited down a bit further.


168 pages of New Testament, 44 pages if you remove the fluff, hate and/or bigotry. Sounds about right!


In some ways this may be good for Christianity, as it seems to grow best when it is an oppressed minority. On the other hand, this may not be good for Europe. Secular nations seem unable to reproduce, so will die out. Hardline atheist nations become genocidal and have no regard for human life. If the entire world were to become atheist, that could mean the end of humanity.


I would like to hear a clear articulation why a secular or atheist has good reason to believe there is a moral standard they should live by. I've never heard of such a thing. Mostly it is just handwaving that "everyone knows it's good to be tolerant and kind." History would suggest otherwise.


Like most moral arguments then, religious or otherwise? Pretty much everyone starts with the conclusion they want and then engages the rationalization engine in their mind to work backwards. Religion doesn't offer any better a basis than anything else, otherwise we probably wouldn't have so many religious groups, often claiming to believe in the same God, fighting each other would we?


Most major religions have the same core moral beliefs, and similar justifications. They fight each other because they think the other religion is undermining the moral code.


Consider the opposite - would Christians go out and start murdering people if they stopped believing in God? If tomorrow incontrovertible proof came out that the ten commandments and the Bible were in fact not the word of God, would my Christian friends suddenly start stealing from me or stick a knife in my back? As an atheist I find that absolutely appalling and I don't know how anyone can live like that.


You fail to distinguish between people habitually being good and why they should maintain those habits. Once habits are established, living the Christian manner is preferable. But, without a justification for doing so, the habits are not established, and they can be broken at a whim. This is the case with the "moral" atheists. They have grown up in a Christian culture and adopted the Christian moral habits. But, if it is ever in their favor to discard the moral habits, the atheist will do so.

For instance, why give up your life for others? There is no justification for this in an atheist worldview, and without it, we would not have firefighters, police, or the military. Instead, we'd just have mercenaries that would just as soon massacre you instead of the enemy, if the enemy pays them more.


I've found by experience - some of it very painful and transformative - that if I live according to certain moral standards then I'm more fulfilled and happy with myself. Call it a kind of long-term hedonistic justification, if you like.


How do you know that will work for anyone else? Why believe it is an objective moral order? On the other hand, if you do believe it is a moral objective order, how is that different than what religions teach?


I don't believe in an objective moral order, or that such a thing can be meaningfully defined. Your question was whether there's a good reason why an atheist should live by a moral standard; I gave you mine. I don't expect, but do hope for, it to work for others; my experience is that other people are not so different to me.


Right, and that sort of thing does not seem capable of maintaining a society's morality.


I'd have to disagree; or at least counter that irreligion does not immorality breed. The least religious nations tend also to be the most peaceful, have the best treatment of women and children, and lowest rates of teen pregnancy, STDs etc...:

https://pitweb.pitzer.edu/academics/wp-content/uploads/sites...


The philosophy behind humanism seems like a decent place to start.


There is not much philosophy there. Just assertions for the Christian values of tolerance and valuing human agency, without any justification. But, there is no rational basis for such things in a Darwinian world red in tooth and nail.


There has been a lot of science coming out recently about how in an evolutionary context cooperation is more beneficial in some situations than any idea of individual survival of the fittest.

Based on your reaction though with "red in tooth and nail[sic (claw)]" you seem more interested in your own preconceived biases than any good faith argument from science or otherwise.


Yes, cooperation is beneficial to the group, but what is beneficial to me is for everyone else to cooperate and for me to take advantage of them. Why would an atheist ever do anything that benefits the group over themselves, if they can get away with it?


What's stopping you? In theory nothing but in practice many things.

Atheists still have to live in the real world. The real world doesn't run on people fearing god it runs on, among other things, laws and reputation. Most people wont steal from you because they don't want to go to jail not because god is watching. Most people don't screw over every person they meet because then they'll get a reputation as a person to not work with. Say you decide to play the long game and "pretend" to be good until you get your chance to betray everyone for your payday. Some might say that's just good old fashioned capitalist business, a system atheists and the god fearing alike participate in.


If I didn't believe in right and wrong, I would definitely try to get away with much more. Death and punishment are not a problem. As long as death is quick, there is nothing to fear.

There are plenty of instances in our society where godlessness turns into immoral anarchy, such as the inner cities or the upper echelons of Wall Street.


Go preach somewgere else. Your arguments make no logical sense without taking your whole odd beliefs as cannon. You literally have nothing to say buy assert your favorite religion started everything good. At least back your conclusions up with logic post-fact.


Well, let's look at an atheistic country, say the Soviet Union. They certainly had no moral qualms about mass human experimentation and genocide when it suited their purpose.

On the other hand, even Islam, the most violent of the big religions, still teaches from the Koran that every person has something divine in them that gives them value. Islam has not conducted killings at the same scale as the atheistic regimes have.


The Soviet Union may have been atheistic, but whatever problems it had don't stem from your complaint upthread about atheistic persons not having a belief in right and wrong; Leninism is no less an exclusive, total ideology of right and wrong than those associated with theistic systems.


Exactly. He had a view of right and wrong derived from his atheism, but it was certainly not the correct view. Hence gulags, human experimentation, etc. I know of no atheistic derivation of ethics that is actually moral. They all undermine morality because the human being is nothing special, merely a tool for the ubermensch.


Good riddance


Thank God!


It's about time. This mass delusion was bound to stop with the development.


Mass delusion is not relegated to religion.


I consider myself Christian but I quit church because it was a snake pit, and I don't believe in hell at all. I think that churches didn't keep up with the times. These days, a priest should discuss the implications of many-worlds interpretation of quantum theory, I think.

Here in Brazil (probably in USA as well?) pentecostal churches seem to be reactionary congregations, people that long for the "good old family" with SAHMs and providing husbands - with some reason, because the "Brave new world" with full freedom for everyone is not exactly cozy for the dim-witted ones.


> These days, a priest should discuss the implications of many-worlds interpretation of quantum theory

So basically you want to replace Christianity with scientism? Let’s not - at least right now it’s still relatively easy to tell religion and quackery apart from, say, particle physics. Priests aren’t qualified to talk about the implications of hypothetical quantum models (and probably neither are you).

> the "Brave new world" with full freedom for everyone is not exactly cozy for the dim-witted ones

Of course, the only reason someone could like a stable, well-functioning, painstakingly evolved social model is because they’re stupid... I’m also curious why you would describe the world today as “full freedom for everyone”; that certainly doesn’t match my experience, unless your definition of “freedom” is very selective.




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