an information resource
for orthodox Anglicans

Is Quebec creating a secular utopia?

September 3rd, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism Comments Off

By Margaret Somerville, MercatorNet

[...]  Many Quebecers, including politicians, even those not overtly hostile to traditional religion, believe religion has no place in the public square. They espouse the idea of a strictly secular society — laicization. As I proposed in MercatorNet last week, such secularism can be a form of religion, a “secular religion.”

To elaborate further on that idea, like a religion, it has an ideology and beliefs, but ones that reject the supernatural and divine. Adherents of this secular religion might even be fundamentalists, in that, like all fundamentalists, they seek to impose their beliefs on others. They proselytize on behalf of their “religion,” and they adopt a divisive “us” and “them” approach, not an inclusive one. They seek to handle difference through the exclusion of those they see as “not one of us,” not by reasonable accommodation of the differences.

Now let’s assume that the Parti Québécois has a dream of creating a secular utopia — a perfect society — and the charter of Quebec values reflects that dream and is part of an effort to realize it. (Another part is Bill 101, the Quebec language law that imposes the use of French, to which Premier Pauline Marois compared the charter of Quebec values in a speech to the youth wing of the Parti Québécois last weekend.) Bland asked Atwood “what can go wrong when perfection is sought in an extreme way?”

Atwood responded that this raises the question of “What do you do with the people who don’t fit in…? In order to achieve this wonderful future in which everything’s going to be terrific, who are you going to shove into a hole in the ground?”

Those are frightening words. Indeed, chilling. I am not in any way suggesting that Quebec would literally act in this way. But could the proposed charter of Quebec values’ banning of religious symbols be seen as a symbolic “shoving into a hole in the ground” the freedoms of expression, speech, belief, association and religion of the people affected, and a literal burying of their symbols?

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An unholy war in the Guides and why we must ALL fight the secular bigots

August 26th, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism, Faith Comments Off

By Melanie Phillips, Mailonline

Like a poorly knotted woggle, the attempt by the Girl Guides to rope in the new generation is now steadily unravelling.

In June, the Guides announced they were changing the historic promise made by all Guides and Brownies from ‘to love my God’ to ‘be true to myself and develop my beliefs’.

They would also drop the pledge to serve ‘my country’, which was to be replaced by ‘my community’.

According to the Chief Guide, Gill Slocombe, the old promise put some girls off because they found it ‘confusing’. The new formula, she said, would be easier for Guides to make and keep.

The change — which comes into force in six days’ time — was received with horror and outrage by Christians, and left many others bemused and uneasy. It seemed to be just a crude and shallow attempt by the Guiding establishment to rebrand itself as modern, by dumping timeless values.

Much worse was to follow, though. Guide groups in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, rightly dismayed by the proposed change, announced last week that they would encourage their girls and leaders to continue to use the old promise.
In a letter written jointly with a local vicar, they insisted the movement had to keep ‘God at its core’. Impeccably fair-minded and inclusive, they also proposed to offer the new promise to anyone who might prefer that form of words.

Yet in response, Ms Slocombe said such rebels ‘need to accept this change’, and even suggested they could be forced out of the movement altogether if they did not.

So much for diversity!

For with this not-so-veiled threat, the true intention of the movement’s leaders has been laid bare. A move they claimed to be more inclusive has turned out to be entirely the opposite.

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Losing My Religion: Faith, Family, and the Real Story of Secularization in the West

August 24th, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism, Faith Comments Off

By Julia Shaw, Public Discourse

In her new book, Mary Eberstadt argues that the West started losing God when it started losing the natural family. If she is right, then churches need to encourage and promote family formation, and religious believers need to form families.
The West is less Christian than it used to be. “A growing number of Western individuals greet the milestones of life with no religious framework at all,” Mary Eberstadt writes in her new book, How the West Really Lost God. They are born without being baptized or dedicated to a Christian community; they attend Sunday brunch rather than Sunday service; “and upon dying their bodies are incinerated and scattered to the winds, rather than prayed over whole in the ground as Christian ritual and dogma had hitherto commanded.”

In her thoughtful and engaging book, Eberstadt offers a new explanation for the religious downturn. Nietzsche’s madman predicted that religion would inevitably fade away. The traditional narratives about secularization see world-historical events or broad intellectual movements as silver bullets killing God. But Eberstadt encourages us to take another look at home and hearth—especially broken ones.

By looking at the decline of the natural family, she argues, we can understand how the West really lost God. While the religious and irreligious alike will find this book enlightening, the key audience includes the small “o” orthodox believers eager to spread the gospel. Once this audience understands the relationship between faith and family, perhaps Western society can find God again.

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Join Girl Guide rebels over change to oath, urges bishop

August 23rd, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism, News, Religious Liberty Comments Off

By John Bingham, Telegraph

Christian leaders have accused the Girl Guides of practising “secular totalitarianism” amid signals that those who refuse to stop pledging allegiance to God could be forced to leave.

A prominent bishop has called on Christian Guide and Brownie volunteers across the country to follow the example of a group of leaders who are defying official policy over the issue.

The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said that he hoped “many others” would adopt the stance taken by the women in Harrogate, North Yorks, who have vowed to continue using the traditional membership promise, with its references to “God” and “country”, after it is abolished next month.

He warned the organisation could even face a split if it refuses to compromise and allow two pledges.

Meanwhile supporters of the women insist they are simply giving members a choice over the matter – in stark contrast, they claim, to the leadership.

But Gill Slocombe, the Chief Guide, underlined the crisis facing the organisation insisting that the rebel leaders “need to accept this change” adding pointedly that she “sincerely hopes” they will not have to leave.

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Read also: It’s all about feminism says atheist Girl Guide volunteer in God row

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Just how intelligent are atheists?

August 22nd, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism, Thought Comments Off

By Alexander Boot

University of Rochester psychologists have just completed a review of 63 scientific studies about religion and intelligence dating between 1928 and now.

In 53 of these there was a “reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity”. In other words, atheists are brighter than believers.

They have a higher “ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience”.

Now it’s an established fact that IQ, the higher the better, is the single most reliable predictor of practical success in today’s world.

And success in today’s world is measured mostly by money, of which people with higher IQ scores tend to have more. Thus if a child has a high IQ, he’s more likely to make a lot of money at an early age.

Here’s an example of one such child, or rather a bright young man of 21. His IQ is undoubtedly 130-plus, which is higher than in 95 percent of the population.

His hunger for success is commensurately high, for success is something he knows he deserves – his IQ is high. The young German, Moritz Erhardt, is richly endowed with all the fine qualities that add up to intelligence. So he puts them to work.

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Girl Guides split warning as Christians back rebel troop over pledge

August 22nd, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism, Religious Liberty Comments Off

By John Bingham, Telegraph

A prominent bishop has called on other Christian Guide and Brownies volunteers to mirror the decision by the leaders of one troop who have pledged to retain the traditional promise which contains references to God and country.

The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said that he hoped “many others” would follow the stance taken by the women in Harrogate, North Yorks.

But Jem Henderson, 28, who volunteers at the group, based at St Paul’s United Reformed Church in Harrogate, who is an atheist, said the local leaders were effectively excluding people who do not believe.

She accused them of discriminating against people like herself and trying to trap the movement in the past by pledging allegiance to a “beard in the sky”.

The organisation announced earlier this year that it is to replace its traditional pledge with a new wording, removing references to “God” and “country”.

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Canada: Atheist wins case against Gideons in schools

August 22nd, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism, Bible, Religious Liberty Comments Off

The Christian Institute

Schools in a region of Canada have been forced to change their policies on distributing Gideon Bibles following a challenge by an atheist.

Rene Chouinard took his case to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario after he complained about Bibles being handed out at his daughter’s school.

Mr Chouinard said it was biased for his primary school-aged daughter to be offered religious literature, after he received a permission slip for her to be given a Bible. 

Mr Chouinard was then denied requests for atheist material to be distributed by the school.

David Wright, Associate Chair of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, found in his decision that allowing only the Gideons to distribute literature in Niagara schools was discriminatory.

He ruled that schools in the Niagara area can only hand out Gideon Bibles if they develop a new policy which allows the distribution of atheist material.

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Christian Girl Guide leaders defy decision to drop God from pledge

August 22nd, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism, Religious Liberty Comments Off

By John Bingham, Telegraph

A group of Christian Girl Guide and Brownies leaders risk being expelled from the movement after publicly refusing to drop God from their traditional promise.

The organisation announced earlier this year that it is to replace its traditional pledge with a new wording, removing references to “God” and “country”.

In one of the biggest changes in the movement’s 103-year history, the promise to “love my God” is to be scrapped and replaced with a pledge to “be true to myself” and to “develop my beliefs”.

The group’s patriotic commitment to serving their country is also to be changed to a pledge of allegiance to the “community” in the new promise which comes into force on September 1.

It provoked controversy in some quarters but Gill Slocombe, the Chief Guide, said the new wording should make it easier for the organisation’s 550,000 members to make the promise with sincerity.

But now a group of leaders from Harrogate, North Yorks, have signalled publicly that they plan to defy the leadership and continue to use the old pledge at the groups which meet in their church.

Hazel Mitford, who runs the Guide group at St Paul’s United Reformed Church, in Harrogate; Jayne Morrison, the Brownie leader and Alison Ellison, who runs the Rainbow group for younger girls, announced that they will encourage all girls and leaders in their groups to continue to use the original promise.

In a joint letter with the church’s minister, published in the Harrogate Advertiser, they voiced “dismay” at the change and insisted the movement should keep “God at its core”.

But Jem Henderson, a volunteer leader, who is an atheist has accused the women of forcing her to take the old promise, against her conscience.

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How atheists became the most colossally smug and annoying people on the planet

August 14th, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism Comments Off

Brendan O'Neill, Telegraph

When did atheists become so teeth-gratingly annoying? Surely non-believers in God weren't always the colossal pains in the collective backside that they are today? Surely there was a time when you could say to someone "I am an atheist" without them instantly assuming you were a smug, self-righteous loather of dumb hicks given to making pseudo-clever statements like, "Well, Leviticus also frowns upon having unkempt hair, did you know that?" Things are now so bad that I tend to keep my atheism to myself, and instead mumble something about being a very lapsed Catholic if I'm put on the spot, for fear that uttering the A-word will make people think I'm a Dawkins drone with a mammoth superiority complex and a hives-like allergy to nurses wearing crucifixes.

These days, barely a week passes without the emergence of yet more evidence that atheists are the most irritating people on Earth. Last week we had the spectacle of Dawkins and his slavish Twitter followers (whose adherence to Dawkins' diktats makes those Kool-Aid-drinking Jonestown folk seem level-headed in comparison) boring on about how stupid Muslims are. This week we've been treated to new scientific research claiming to show that atheists are cleverer than religious people. I say scientific. I say research. It is of course neither; it's just a pre-existing belief dolled up in rags snatched from various reports and stories. Not unlike the Bible. But that hasn't stopped the atheistic blogosphere and Twitterati from effectively saying, "See? Told you we were brainier than you Bible-reading numbskulls."

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Heresy of the week: Atheism has its heretics too

August 2nd, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism Comments Off

John GrayFrom Conservative Home

You might think that being an atheist is pretty straightforward – all you have to do is not believe in God (or gods) and you’re in the club. But as with theism, atheism comes in different forms where the central idea is bundled up with other essential ideas. If you dissent from these additional articles of faith then you are definitely not in the club, i.e. atheism has its heretics too.
In the English-speaking world, the dominant form of intellectual atheism is not only atheist in its essentials, but also neo-Darwinist and humanist. Thus when the distinguished American philosopher Thomas Nagel published an entirely secular critique of neo-Darwinism, he caused a bit of a stink. The Dawkins brigade were somewhat less than thrilled and it was named as the ‘Most Despised Science Book of the Year’ in the Guardian.
In a book review for the New York Times, Nagel introduces us to the thoughts of a fellow heretic (albeit one he has his own disagreements with) – the British philosopher John Gray, who though an atheist is not a humanist:
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Solzhenitsyn and the Russian Renaissance

August 1st, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism, Demographics, pro-life/abortion Comments Off

By Andrew Doran, First Things

In the early spring of 1953, a sickly Russian novelist, “covered with ice, out of the dark and the cold,” staggered forth from the Soviet Gulag, the constellation of Communist prison camps that stretched from Siberia to South Asia. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, ill with cancer, had once been a proponent of the system that condemned him to forced labor. Now he saw his nation’s “deep suffering,” like his own, as redemptive.

“The entire twentieth century,” Solzhenitsyn observed in his 1983 Templeton Lecture, was “sucked into the vortex of atheism and self-destruction.” Why? “Men have forgotten God,” he said. At the outset of the twentieth century, the faith of the Russian people could be witnessed even in the trenches of the Great War, where the Germans would gun down thousands of Russians by day only to listen in wonder at their seraphic, if melancholic, chant by night.


But when war and famine proved too much to bear, the Russian people rebelled. Decades earlier, Dostoevsky had prophetically warned that “great events could come upon us and catch us intellectually unprepared.” Those events came swiftly in Russia. The Bolsheviks, the most organized and ruthless of the factions that vied to replace the old regime, emerged victorious. Solzhenitsyn wrote of Marx and Lenin, “Hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions.” Nowhere was this more evident than in the Bolsheviks’ systematic campaign of atheistic violence—unprecedented in human history.

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Dear BBC, please stop ignoring God

July 19th, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism, Media Comments Off

By Gillan Scott, God and Politics in the UK

Yesterday was another traumatic day for Maureen Greaves, the widow of Alan Greaves, the church organist who was brutally murdered on his way to a Christmas Eve service last December. With one of his attackers already found guilty of murder, the second, Ashley Foster was convicted of manslaughter. As the verdict was read out in the court, Mrs Greaves sobbed in the public gallery, yet shortly afterwards she was able to compose herself sufficiently to give a statement outside the building forgiving her husband’s killers:
Reading the statement outside she ended by saying:
“Alan was a man who was driven by love and compassion and he would not want any of us to hold onto feelings of hate and unforgiveness.
“So in honour of Alan and in honour of the God we both love, my prayer is that this story doesn’t end today.
“My prayer is that Jonathan Bowling and Ashley Foster will come to understand and experience the love and kindness of the God who made them in His own image and that God’s great mercy will inspire both of them to true repentance.”
Mrs Greaves words were powerful and full of mercy that many people would find hard to comprehend given the suffering and pain she has been through. The BBC has been following this case since the beginning and quickly published three posts (here, here and here), none of which reported these comments in any depth. Of the three only the last mentioned God and that was in the context of God inspiring the men to ”true repentance” for their crimes. It is a disappointment to put it mildly and something of an insult to Mrs Greaves that the BBC failed to properly report the key part of her message. This is even more frustrating given that earlier this month the BBC published a report that found its journalists need to significantly improve the way they cover issues of religion and faith.
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AC Grayling: Church has too much influence

July 10th, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism, Religious Liberty Comments Off

By Hannah Furness, Telegraph

The Church of Englandshould have no more influence in public life than the Women’s Institute, AC Grayling has said. Professor Grayling, a philosopher and Master of the New College of the Humanities, said the Church should be treated like any other “interest group, lobby or trade union”.
He told the Telegraph Ways With Words festival its influence should exactly reflect the public support it enjoys, with only around three per cent of the population of England currently attending the Church regularly. Saying its “footprint” in public life was currently “out of all proportion”, he argued it should have “no more rights, no more privilege than any of those other interest groups or lobbyists in society”.
Prof Grayling, author of The God Argument, yesterday told an audience religious groups had a “massive megaphone”. “I think the argument that any secularist might put is that a religious organisation, a church, should be considered an interest group, it’s a lobby – like a trade union or political party or even the Women’s Institute,” he said.
“It should have of course every right to exist and every right to put its point of view, every right to try to persuade others of its point of view, but it should have no more rights, no more privilege than any of those other interest groups or lobbyists in society.
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Lord Sacks is right: 21st-century atheism is descending into nihilism

June 29th, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism Comments Off

by Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith, Catholic Herald

There is a superb article over at the Spectator written by the outgoing Chief Rabbi on the failure of atheism. If you have not read it yet, please do so at once.
Lord Sacks reveals himself as a man of great intellect, and one quite understands what he means when he laments the fact that discussion about God has now descended to the level of a school debating society. Atheists are simply not what they once were. There is no one around today who has the intellectual weight of Nietzsche, for example. Atheist he might have been, but he was also a great existential philosopher who thought long and heard about human existence. By contrast, many of the God-haters of today have nothing of significance to say about life. Indeed, many of them claim philosophy itself is unimportant.
But the chief concern of Lord Sacks is the question of morality. Is there a pre-existing moral order, or is there not? Do we create morality? Or as Alasdair MacIntyre once put it: Aristotle or Nietzsche? I do not think there can be a third way. Either meaning is intrinsic to things, or else it is something that we impose on them as an act of will, and nature is completely malleable.
But this last simply cannot be true. There is meaning in the universe which we discover, and which we do not create. Well, how did that meaning get there?
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David Cameron should stop dancing to Alastair Campbell’s atheist tune

June 26th, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism, Christianity, Politics Comments Off

By Cristina Odone, Telegraph

I went to Westminster yesterday to pray. I don't mean Westminster Abbey, but Westminster Central Hall, where the Bible Society was hosting its annual National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast.

It was an eye-opener. The place was packed with politicians (as well as ordinary mortals and a sprinkling of clerics) joined in very obvious spiritual activity. There were loads of young men and women, eager to out themselves as Christians.
[...]  Even Alastair Campbell would be shocked at how quickly and thoroughly he erased God from public life. But then, I think Mr Campbell had no idea that a Tory leader would come along, determined to ape him and Tony. That Tory is now in No 10. And although David Cameron now and then throws crumbs of comfort to the Christian community, he has starved them of affection.

He has, in fact, done everything he could to drive them from his tent. It is under Mr Cameron's watch, that Christians have been forced to go to Strasbourg to fight for their rights to practice their faith. It is under his watch that the Churches (and other religions) have been humiliated over gay marriage. The new Mr Cameron was not content to let people of religious conviction opt out of his secularism. They must support his view of marriage, or risk their livelihood.

Alastair Campbell was right. "We don't do God." Or at least, not until those people who were praying at Westminster yesterday take over.
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Religion in Britain. Not dead – but alive in new ways. And a challenge to the political parties

June 20th, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism, Christianity, Faith Comments Off

by Elizabeth Oldfield, Conservative Home

The religious landscape of the UK has changed and is changing, but not exactly in the ways we expected it to. 15 years ago, the “secularisation thesis” which argued that industrialised societies would also inevitably be increasingly secularised was still, in the public mind at least, credible.

Not so now. Globally, religion has only become more important and more visible. That’s true even in the UK, which continues to see declining attendance figures for mainline Christian denominations. We don’t have an increasingly secularised society, but we do have an increasingly plural one. The headlines from the last census look straightforward – fewer people identifying as Christian (although still 59.3 per cent), more people identifying as no religion (25% per cent), and more people identifying as Muslim (4.8 per cent). The single, dominant religious affiliation is fading, and making way for broader diversity.

Even this doesn’t communicate the complexity though. The census questions are the bluntest of blunt instruments, dealing only with self-identification, not belief or practice. Other research conducted by Theos shows us that only 9 per cent of people are consistent in their complete non-religiosity. The rest occasionally attend a place of worship or believe in one or more ‘supernatural’ things, such as angels, heaven or (like a fifth of the non-religious) the supernatural power of deceased ancestors. Across the whole population, traditional religious belief has declined, but has not been replaced by straightforward materialism. The numbers of people who believe in a personal God have gone down, but those who believe in a spirit or life force have gone up, along with belief in a soul and in life after death. Cathedral attendance is booming and not just among Christians. Even if we happened to tick the same box, the likelihood of us believing, behaving or belonging in the same way as our neighbours is becoming ever smaller.

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Atheism has failed. Only religion can defeat the new barbarians

June 13th, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism, Faith Comments Off

Lord SacksBy Jonathan Sacks, Spectator

The West is suffering for its loss of faith. Unless we rediscover religion, our civilisation is in peril

I love the remark made by one Oxford don about another: ‘On the surface, he’s profound, but deep down, he’s superficial.’ That sentence has more than once come to mind when reading the new atheists.

Future intellectual historians will look back with wonder at the strange phenomenon of seemingly intelligent secularists in the 21st century believing that if they could show that the first chapters of Genesis are not literally true, that the universe is more than 6,000 years old and there might be other explanations for rainbows than as a sign of God’s covenant after the flood, the whole of humanity’s religious beliefs would come tumbling down like a house of cards and we would be left with a serene world of rational non-believers getting on famously with one another.

Whatever happened to the intellectual depth of the serious atheists, the forcefulness of Hobbes, the passion of Spinoza, the wit of Voltaire, the world-shattering profundity of Nietzsche? Where is there the remotest sense that they have grappled with the real issues, which have nothing to do with science and the literal meaning of scripture and everything to do with the meaningfulness or otherwise of human life, the existence or non-existence of an objective moral order, the truth or falsity of the idea of human freedom, and the ability or inability of society to survive without the rituals, narratives and shared practices that create and sustain the social bond?

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How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind

May 24th, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism, Faith Comments Off

by Dr Benjamin Wiker, Strange Notions

For the last half of the twentieth century, Antony Flew (1923-2010) was the world's most famous atheist. Long before Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris began taking swipes at religion, Flew was the preeminent spokesman for unbelief.

However in 2004, he shocked the world by announcing he had come to believe in God. While never embracing Christianity—Flew only believed in the deistic, Aristotelian conception of God—he became one of the most high-profile and surprising atheist converts. In 2007, he recounted his conversion in a book titled There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. Some critics suggested Flew's mental capacity had declined and therefore we should question the credibility of his conversion. Others hailed Flew's book as a legitimate and landmark publication.
A couple months before the book's release, Flew sat down with Strange Notions contributor Dr. Benjamin Wiker for an interview about his book, his conversion, and the reasons that led him to God. Read below and enjoy!
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Godless Gatherings: Lust for life drives UK atheists to church

May 1st, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism Comments Off

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“Christianity, Islam, and Atheism”

April 29th, 2013 Jill Posted in Atheism, Christianity, Islam Comments Off

From Ancient Briton

[...]  William “Kirk” Kilpatrick’s new book Christianity, Islam, and Atheism opens with a section titled “The Islamic Threat,” in which Kilpatrick describes the rise of supremacist Islam and our correspondingly tepid defense of Western values. Our collapse in the face of Islam, he says, is due in large part to our abandonment of Christianity, which has led to “a population vacuum and a spiritual vacuum” that Islam has rushed to fill. “A secular society… can’t fight a spiritual war,” Kilpatrick writes. Contrary to the multiculturalist fantasy dominant in the West today, “cultures aren’t the same because religions aren’t the same. Some religions are more rational, more compassionate, more forgiving, and more peaceful than others.” This is heresy in today’s morally relativistic world, but it’s a critical point because “as Christianity goes, so goes the culture.”

Kilpatrick notes that Christians today have lost all cultural confidence and are suffering a “crisis of masculinity”, thanks to the feminizing influences of multiculturalism and feminism. He devotes significant space to encouraging Christians to, well, grow a pair, to put it indelicately, in order to confront Islam, the “most hypermasculine religion in history”:

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