America Goes the Way of Europe: Christians Becoming Minority

America is going the way of Europe. There are fewer Christians. Young people in particular are losing faith. White Christians have become a minority.

The Public Religion Research Institute interviewed more than 100,000 Americans across all fifty states and found that:

  • White Christians comprise only 43 percent of the population anymore. As recently as 1976, that was 81 percent.
  • Catholic and mainline Protestant churches have gradually lost flock. A decline in evangelical Christians — once thought to be bucking the trend — has been more sudden. They went down from 23 percent of the population in 2006 to 17 percent today.
  • The Catholic Church is undergoing an ethnic transformation. A quarter century ago, 87 percent of Catholics were non-Hispanic whites. Today that’s 55 percent.
  • 38 percent of Americans under the age of thirty call themselves unaffiliated with any church. Only 12 percent of seniors do. Read more “America Goes the Way of Europe: Christians Becoming Minority”

Trump’s Ban: Alternative Facts Create Real-Life Policy

Donald Trump has always had a difficult relationship with the truth. His sheer volume of daily falsehoods overwhelms an unprepared news media — and buries unsavory stories which the Republican would prefer to keep hidden.

Trump even manages to construct entire narratives via a steady diet of alternative facts delivered to his supporters.

This weekend, we saw something new: For the first time, those falsehoods came together to generate, enact and justify policy.

Here is a brief overview of the alternative facts (previously known as lies) underpinning the travel ban which has thrown international travel into chaos and capriciously interrupted thousands of lives. Read more “Trump’s Ban: Alternative Facts Create Real-Life Policy”

Muslim Registry Would Require Investigation of Thought Crimes

As the Trump transition rolls along, the infamous “Muslim ban” has returned to the forefront.

It all started on December 7, 2015, when then-candidate Donald Trump spoke to supporters after the San Bernardino mass shooting. He advocated a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” This proposal is still on his website.

It has been willfully forgotten or explained away since, but the fact remains: Trump’s first instinct was to call for a Muslim ban of indeterminate length.

It doesn’t stop there. Even in July, Trump said his plan had undergone an “expansion” and would bar individuals from places “compromised by terrorism.” This includes NATO allies like France and Germany. They “totally” meet this definition, Trump said, because they “allowed people to come into their territory.” Read more “Muslim Registry Would Require Investigation of Thought Crimes”

Dutch Leaving Churches at Faster Rate

Amsterdam Netherlands
Amsterdam, the Netherlands at night (iStock/Bogdan Lazar)

The Netherlands continues to secularize at a rapid pace. A survey conducted every ten years by the country’s largest Christian broadcaster finds that fewer than one in five still attend church regularly.

A quarter of respondents describe themselves as atheist, up from 14 percent in 2006.

A quarter worry the country’s dwindling religiosity could precipitate a moral decline, down from 40 percent ten years ago. A majority believes faith should play no major role in either politics or education. Read more “Dutch Leaving Churches at Faster Rate”

Why a Western “War of Ideas” with Islam is Futile

In the wake of recent Islamic terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States, well-meaning liberals have revived calls for a “war of ideas,” arguing that the “ideology” of the terrorists must be defeated as much as the terrorists themselves.

American president Barack Obama maintains that “countering violent extremism” involves more than a military effort. “Ideologies are not defeated with guns but better ideas and more attracting and more compelling vision,” he said last year.

British prime minister David Cameron has similarly argued, “What we are fighting in Islamist extremism is an ideology.” Not only those advocating violence must be challenged, he believes, but everyone who promotes “parts of the extremist narrative.”

Politicians in other countries and thought leaders across the Western world have argued much the same.

Their attempts could be futile if Middle East expert Adam Garfinkle is right. Read more “Why a Western “War of Ideas” with Islam is Futile”

European Right is Allowing Putin’s Friends to Monopolize Anti-Islamism

By continuing to denounce “Islamophobia” even after the bloody attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Europe’s mainstream right is allowing nationalists who also sympathize with Russian president Vladimir Putin to monopolize popular resistance against radical Islam.

In France, Socialist Party president François Hollande failed to invite representatives of the far-right Front national to a national remembrance ceremony for those killed by Muslim extremists in attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper and a Jewish supermarket in Paris last week.

Yet it is the Front that sees its anti-Islamism vindicated by the attacks. Party leader Marine Le Pen, who is more popular than Hollande according to polls, urged the French not to mince words. “This is a terrorist act committed in the name of radical Islamism,” she said. “Denial and hypocrisy are no longer an option.” Read more “European Right is Allowing Putin’s Friends to Monopolize Anti-Islamism”

Putin’s Holy War: A Challenge the West Underestimates

Vladimir Putin
Russian president Vladimir Putin lights a candle during a visit to the Saint Sergius of Radonezh Cathedral in Tsarskoye Selo, December 8 (Kremlin)

The West is in new cold war with Russia, argues national-security expert John R. Schindler. Beyond the geopolitical standoff in Ukraine, where the two blocs support opposing sides in a civil war, Russia and the West advance rival visions of the world.

After Russia’s annexation of the Crimean from Ukraine in March, America’s president, Barack Obama, insisted his country was not entering into another cold war with the Russians. “After all, unlike the Soviet Union, Russia leads no bloc of nations. No global ideology,” he said.

Schindler disagrees. A former National Security Agency analyst and former professor of national-security affairs at the United States Naval War College, he argues at his blog that Russia should be seen as “the vanguard of the diverse movement that is opposed to Western postmodernism in its political and social forms.”

During the last couple of years, the contours of that movement have become more defined.

Nationalist revival

Where Putin cautioned against nationalism shortly before his reelection in 2012, warning that Russia’s multiethnic society would lose “strength and durability” if it was “infested” by it, his regime has since revived medals and military parades from the Soviet era and mandated the increased use of the Russian national anthem and flag. Relations between the Kremlin and Russian Orthodox Church have also warmed.

This nationalist revival has seemed design to shore up Putin’s popularity.

Urban and middle-class Russians, whose economic prospects had improved during the early, more liberals years of his rule, have grown dissatisfied with corruption and nepotism at the top of Putin’s “power vertical”.

Rural and working-class voters, by contrast, have seen little economic improvement and are starting to turn to communist and nationalist, rather than leftist, opposition parties.

Putin’s appeals to Russian patriotism and tradition, including his infamous ban on gay “propaganda,” look like attempts to charm those constituencies.

Russian exceptionalism

The rehabilitation of the Church, after many decades of suppression under communism, echoes in Russian foreign policy. The country has become more vocal about the plight of Christians in the Middle East, especially in Syria, where Russia’s ally, Bashar Assad, is fighting an uprising of mostly Sunni Muslims against his secular dictatorship.

When Putin informed parliament of the Crimean annexation in March, his speech contained various appeals to Russian nationalism and Orthodox mysticism, including citations of saints from the distant past.

“This was the culmination of years of increasingly unsubtle hints from Putin and his inner circle that what ideologically motivates this Kremlin is the KGB cult unified with Russian Orthodoxy,” according to Schindler.

Russia defended its role in Ukraine by arguing that Russian “compatriots” in the former Soviet republic were in danger from a new, pro-Western government.

Mark Galeotti, a New York University professor and Wikistrat analyst, argued at the time that Russian propaganda revealed “a growing belief in what we could call Russian exceptionalism, a belief that Russian civilization has a distinctive and unique place in the world and must be protected from homogenizing Western influence.”

Where anti-Westernism was previously a means to an end — to rally public support for Putin’s policies — it became an end in itself, according to Galeotti.

Imperial ambitions

But this also presented a problem, as the Atlantic Sentinel reported: Russia’s appeals to ethnic nationalism necessarily excluded the millions of non-ethnic Russians who live in the country and its “near abroad.”

This website predicted that Russia’s regional integration schemes, like the Eurasian Union, which is due to go into effect next year, were now more likely to be seen in neighboring countries as attempts to reconstruct the Soviet Union.

“The price of a prouder, stronger Russia may well be the defeat of Putin’s imperial ambitions,” we warned.

Alternative worldview

Infusing Russia’s alternative worldview with religion could preempt that. The Orthodox Church is transnational and it has “become the close political and ideological partner of the Kremlin,” writes Schindler — “a preferred vehicle for explicit anti-Western propaganda.”

[Church] agitprop, which has Kremlin endorsement, depicts a West that is declining down to its death at the hands of decadence and sin, mired in confused unbelief, bored and failing to even reproduce itself. Patriarch Kirill, head of the church, recently explained that the “main threat” to Russia is “the loss of faith” in the Western style, while [Russian Orthodox Church] spokesmen constantly denounce feminism and the LGBT movement as Satanic creations of the West that aim to destroy faith, family and nation.

Whether or not Putin really believes all this is immaterial. His regime has created and nurtured a virulent ideology that justifies its actions and explains why the West must be opposed at all costs.

Given the economic crisis that Russia now finds itself in, thanks to Western sanctions, during the long and cold winter now starting, we ought to expect more, not fewer, Russians turning to this worldview which resonates with their nation’s history and explains the root of their suffering.

This is an ideology that resonates beyond Russia. Some Europeans, like French nationalist party leader Marine Le Pen and Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, sympathize with Putin’s outlook.

Schindler warns, “As discontentment with American-led Europe spreads, the Russian option may look plausible to more Europeans, worried about immigration, identity and the collapse of their values and economies, than Americans might imagine.”

Some Good Might Come of the Islamic State

The Iraqi and Syrian fanatics who call themselves the Islamic State are quite possibly the most brutal and murderous lot political Islam has produced, at least in living memory. But the ordeal they have wrought on everyone who doesn’t their zealotry could have a silver lining, argues Adam Garfinkle at The American Interest.

Garfinkle, a Middle East expert, believes the Islamic State represents the last hurrah of militarized political Islam. Read more “Some Good Might Come of the Islamic State”

Erdoğan Victory Reinforces Turkey’s Islamization

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is almost certain to win his country’s first direct presidential election on Sunday.

A victory for Erdoğan, who has ruled Turkey for more than a decade, would likely reinforce the NATO member state’s Islamization and exasperate opponents who have proven unable to thwart what they perceive as a drift toward authoritarianism. Read more “Erdoğan Victory Reinforces Turkey’s Islamization”

Crossed Swords? Rethinking the “Clash” of Christians and Muslims

Two Faiths, One Banner: When Muslims Marched with Christians Across Europe's Battlegrounds

Since Samuel Huntington unveiled his “Clash of Civilization” thesis in a 1993 Foreign Affairs article, a cottage industry of critiques have emerged to challenge it. Great thinkers, such as Amartya Sen, Amin Maalouf and Edward Said, have expended time and ink to refute Huntington’s controversial thesis. For the most part, these works have presented rationale critiques that focus on theoretical problems raised by Samuel Huntington’s board game like simplification of geopolitics and global history. Few of these critiques have, however, tried to counter Huntington’s argument with primary source research or been as readable as Ian Almond’s Two Faiths One Banner: When Muslims Marches with Christians Across Europe’s Battlegrounds (2011).

In this slim book, Almond shows that European history is far more muddled than Huntington’s depiction of one overarching “clash” between two visions of Abrahamic monotheism. Indeed the individual motivations and allegiances proves far to complex to paint with even the most vivid neoconservative or Marxist brush strokes. In making this argument, Almond cuts across wide historical periods, as well as the politics of several different centuries, demonstrating a mastery of facts, figures and a flair for colorful details.

The success of Almond’s argument lies in its exclusive focus on military campaigns and the colorful historical figures associated with these efforts. Beginning in eleventh century Andalusia and ending with the Crimean War in the mid-ninenteenth century, the book examines periods in which Muslim and Christian groups were fighting together rather than against one another in various battlefields. Rather than antagonistic civilizations, Almond’s reading of history suggests that individual units and individuals often had distinct allegiances that would surprise those eager to fit the world into neat left-wing or right-wing paradigms. Read more “Crossed Swords? Rethinking the “Clash” of Christians and Muslims”