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The decline of atheism

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The belief that there is no God enjoyed a 'golden age' in the West of exactly 200 years, beginning with the fall of the Bastille and the onset of the French Revolution (1789), and ending with the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989). Both of these buildings were symbols of oppression.

The Bastille was a prison, used to lock up opponents of the French monarchy. French revolutionaries, inspired by the idea that a godless world would bring liberation, saw the storming of this building as a symbol of the collapse of a decrepit world view, based on belief in God. Atheism would be the liberator of humanity! Belief in God would be abandoned.

The fall of the Berlin wall marked the end of another oppressive regime - the atheist, Marxist world-order of eastern Europe. The collapse of the world's atheist superpower, the Soviet Union, followed shortly afterwards. Atheism which had once proclaimed itself as a liberator, was then seen as an oppressor. The Soviet empire crumbled at a dizzying rate, those who had once been 'liberated' from God rushed to embrace Him once more.

Something has gone wrong with atheism. The sun seems to be setting on this empire of ideas. Atheism now appears as a shop worn, jaded and tired belief system, lacking the vitality that once gave it passion and power. Many atheist's have got fed-up with the endless atheist argument that Christianity was just for babies, and that it was time to grow up. The argument goes like this...There is no God, and those who believe otherwise are deluded, foolish or liars. (to borrow from the rhetoric of Britains most prominent atheist, Richard Dawkins). Belief in God is just like believing in Santa Clause and the tooth fairy. When you grow up you grow out of it.

The problem with this argument is obvious. How many people do you know who start believing in the tooth fairy, or Santa Clause when they are adults? Yet many who rejected God in their youth, have come to find him in later life. Atheism is loosing its appeal because of the rise in post modern culture, which recognises the importance of spirituality. There is a long way between 'spirituality' and Christian faith - but at least this new cultural interest in spiritual matters is a starting point for discussion about Christianity. This growing realisation of the importance of spirituality is bad news for atheism, as it points to the failure of materialism to satisfy a rising generation. There must be more to life than what we see, this new generation reasons. While this line of thought does not necessarily lead to Christ it certainly leads people away from atheism. It seems that atheists are growing old, while around them a new post modern interest in the forbidden fruit of the spiritual world is gaining the upper hand, above all among young people. I wonder what are the implications of this development for the future of atheism in the West?

I suggest the rise of atheism is linked with the Christian abuse of power. Wherever Christianity has been the state religeon, or the 'establishment' atheism has become a rallying point for opposition and resistance. Christians must be careful how they use power, and the impact this has on the way Christianity is perceived.

Can I hear an Amen?

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