Atheism

Christianity on course to be minority religion in UK

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John Bingham reports …

Christians will be a minority in the UK by the middle of this century amid surging growth in atheism and Islam, an authoritative new study charting the future of the world’s religions predicts.

According to projections by the US-based Pew Research Centre, the proportion of the British population identifying themselves as Christian will reduce by almost a third by 2050 to stand at just 45.4 per cent, compared with almost two thirds in 2010.

The number of Muslims in Britain is predicted to more than double to 11.3 per cent, or one in nine of the total population during that time.

But the reports predicts that biggest change in the religious make-up of Britain in the next three and a half decades will be a major expansion in the number of non-religious people.
They would account for just under 39 per cent, challenging Christians as the biggest faith community in the UK.

The predictions mirror analysis from the most recent UK census which saw the number of children growing up as Muslims in the UK almost double in a decade while the number of people describing themselves as non-religious also jumped dramatically.

If the projections, which are based on official population figures, birth rates and immigration estimates from around the world, are borne out, it could amount to the most significant religious realignment in Britain since the arrival of Christianity.

It would mean that by 2050 Britain would have the third largest Muslim community, as a share of the population, in Europe, overtaking France, Germany, Belgium and a handful of other countries.

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Is the church of atheism becoming a missionary movement?

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More news on the Sunday Assembly or Atheist Church via Katie Engelhart

Yesterday, The Sunday Assembly—the London-based “Atheist Church” that has, since its January launch, been stealing headlines the world over—announced a new “global missionary tour.” In October and November, affiliated Sunday Assemblies will open in 22 cities: in England, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, the United States and Australia. “I think this is the moment,” Assembly founder Sanderson Jones (above) told me in an email last week, “when the Sunday Assembly goes from being an interesting phenomenon to becoming a truly global movement.” Structured godlessness is ready for export.

The great disadvantage that Atheism faces in becoming a movement is that it is organised around what it is not. Atheism has  proved to be a weak organiser of people unless it is tied to a political movement as it was under Communism.

My hunch is that this is a fad not a movement.

Atheist "church" launches in London

London has its very own church for atheists.

Echoing with joyful song and with a congregation bent on leading better lives, this London church is like any other - except there's no mention of God (subscription required).

Britain's atheist church is barely three months old but it already has more “worshippers” than can fit into its services, while more than 200 non-believers worldwide have contacted organisers to ask how they can set up their own branch, with one due to open in Australia next month.

Officially named The Sunday Assembly, the church was the brainchild of Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones, two comedians who suspected there might be an appetite for atheist gatherings that borrowed a few aspects of religious worship.

Held in an airy, ramshackle former church in north London, their quirky monthly meetings combine music, speeches and moral pondering with large doses of humour.

A BBC report compared the gathering with the church next door:

The Sunday Assembly certainly did better business than at the evangelical St Jude and St Paul's Church next door, where about 30 believers gathered to sing gospel songs and listen to Bible readings.

Strange that the BBC didn't mention the tens of thousands of Christians meeting that morning across London.

Don't expect the atheist "church" to take the world by storm. Atheism struggles to generate commitment (with the exception of when it was backed by State power under Communism).

Atheism suffers from the inherent weakness of defining itself by what it is not. Even it's forms — meeting in a disused church building, calling itself a congregation or assembly, singing pop songs as "hymns" — are a shadow of Christianity.

UPDATE: Colin in London has provided some more background on the Atheist Church.

The "church." Interesting that when many churches are moving into pubs and warehouses, that an atheist church chooses a traditional church building for their gathering.

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He writes:

It is not far from where we live so I went down there and prayed over it.

If you watch the BBC news article they have a sermon (he gives a talk), they have worship (pop songs), they even have a form of prayer (a moment of reflective silence), and take an offering.

So what I ask church leaders here is : “What are you offering people that they can’t just go and get from the Atheist church?”

I also use this as a great example of what Post Christian looks like for people like those we find in the US Bible belt. It’s a good example…

Glad to see it made it on your radar…

Rising Religious Tide in China Overwhelms Faith in Atheism

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One of the last great efforts at state-sponsored atheism is a failure.

And not just any kind of failure. China has enforced its anti-religion policy through decades of repression, coercion and persecution, but the lack of success is spectacular, according to a major study.

The survey involved a random national sample of 7,021 people ages 16 and older in 56 locales throughout mainland China.

No more than 15 percent of adults in the world’s most populous country are “real atheists;” 85 percent of the Chinese either hold some religious beliefs or practice some kind of religion

The results find a middle ground between the official government figure of 100 million religious believers and extreme projections of growth that estimate the number of Christians has become as high as 130 million.

Among the findings:

  • Buddhism is the largest religion in China, with about 18 percent, or 185 million people self-identifying as Buddhists. Another 31 percent of respondents reported having at least one Buddhist belief or participating in at least one Buddhist practice. More than 12 percent of Chinese Communist Party members self-identified as Buddhists.
  • About 3.2 percent of the population, or 33 million adults, self-identified as Christians. Again, however, an additional 40 million people said they believed in the existence of Jesus Christ or participated in Christian activities.
  • Among popular religious practices, the results indicate up to 754 million people practice ancestor worship, including attending and maintaining ancestral temples, venerating ancestor tablets at home or visiting graves to honor ancestral spirits. About 145 million people observed fengshui restrictions or consulted a fengshui master in the past year.

The actual numbers may be even higher. Religious affiliation still can have consequences in China, from loss of jobs to prison, so researchers note that participants may be reluctant even in an anonymous survey to identify with religion. That is a particular concern with faiths such as Christianity that have been special objects of attack by authorities.

God is dead. We have killed him!

friedrich_nietzsche_drawn_by_hans_olde.jpg I have a Greek barber who fancies himself as a bit of a philosopher. Every now and again we talk about the ultimate issues of life and death while he cuts my hair.

On one such occasion, he asked me, "How can you believe in God when so much evil has been done by religion?" Good question.

In 1882 a German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche famously declared that God is dead.

In the Madman he wrote:

Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: "I seek God! I seek God!" -- As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated? -- Thus they yelled and laughed.

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. "Whither is God?" he cried; "I will tell you. We have killed him -- you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

"How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us -- for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto."

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. "I have come too early," he said then; "my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars -- and yet they have done it themselves.

It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: "What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?"

Nietzsche saw the implications of his philosophy. The death of God must inevitably lead to the rejection of absolute values that are binding upon all. The loss of an absolute basis for morality leads to nihilism—the loss of meaning in life. Nietzsche's solution—"the will to power." We become "gods" who define our own reality, our own truth, our own morality.

Just a few years before Nietzsche buried God, the Russian novelist Dostoevsky wrote: "If God does not exist, everything is permitted."

Is it any wonder that the era in which modern man embraced the death of God, was also the age of history's worst atrocities? Both Hitler and Stalin, and a hundred other petty dictators knew the implications of the death of God.

Related: God is Dead: RIP, 1966

Atheists convert agnostic

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Agnostic Andrew Bolt reports on how atheists have nearly converted him to Christianity.

THE Global Atheists Convention in Melbourne last weekend worked a miracle on me. I’ve never felt more like believing in God. Especially the Christian one.

My near conversion occurred because the convention’s speakers managed to confirm my worst fear.

No, it’s not that God may actually exist, and be cross that I doubted. It’s that if the Christian God really is dead, then there’s not much to stop people here from being barbarians.

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