Fortress Christian Europe

Philip Jenkins, a professor of history and religious studies at Penn State, has an article titled "Europe's Christian Comeback" in Foreign Policy magazine. I found a lot with which to disagree.

This is the intro: "Alarmist pundits prophesize that a secular Europe risks being overcome by its fast-growing Muslim population. Yet for all we hear about Islam, Europe remains a stronger Christian fortress than people realize." Surely the obvious point to make is that while alarmist pundits prophesize that a secular Europe risks being overcome by Muslims, said pundits are hysterical bed-wetters, commonly racist ones, who should be either ignored or mocked. Maybe you couldn't put it in exactly those words in Foreign Policy, but getting across the general idea shouldn't be impossible.

Jenkins takes as a given that Christianity has some component that will slow down the growth of Europe's Muslim population which secularism lacks. What might that be? Is there some sort of a rock-paper-scissors model of conversion, in which stout Christians fall victim to secularism, feckless secularists turn to Islam, and savage Muslims recognize the truth in Christianity? Do Christians in general support stricter immigration policies than atheists? Or is it all about birth rates again? I bet it's about birth rates, but in that case, why not present some statistics, for goodness' sake?

The general point of the article is that while the big churches that used to encompass a nation are in decline, "smaller, more focused bodies" are "growing within the remnants of the old mass church". While such splintering doesn't seem out of character for an increasingly secular society, Jenkins thinks it should be considered a sign of resurgence, not one of decline. Some of these new groups are reminiscent of the churches they have in the United States and religion is big there, so... The prevalence of religious belief is all down to how churches are organized, I guess.

As a final blow, Jenkins writes that there "has been a rediscovery of the continent's Christian roots, even among those who have long disregarded it, and a renewed sense of European cultural Christianity", as showcased by Jürgen Habermas saying something that sounds like it came from Pope Benedict. I'd argue the opposite: there's a growing awareness among Europeans that religion is a divisive topic that can't be used to unite the continent. That there's a Christian God isn't something on which we all agree and thus said belief probably shouldn't play an important part in public life.

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