The Decline of Atheism

Atheism is in decline, UPI Religious Affairs Editor Uwe Semon-Netto reported last week. (h/t: Considerettes).

This is not a brilliant piece of research, as Joshua at ITA points out, but a report of the opinions of various social and religious observers.

Interesting viewpoints, however, particularly about Europe’s move away from godlessness. We haven’t heard anyone citing those kinds of trends in Europe.

The article says:

“Two developments are plaguing atheism these days. One is that it appears to be losing its scientific underpinnings. The other is the historical experience of hundreds of millions of people worldwide that atheists are in no position to claim the moral high ground.”

Interesting thoughts:

Munich theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg: “Atheism as a theoretical position is in decline worldwide.”

Oxford’s Alister McGrath: [Atheism’s] “future seems increasingly to lie in the private beliefs of individuals rather than in the great public domain it once regarded as its habitat.”

Turkish philosopher Harun Yahya: “Atheism, which people have tried to for hundreds of years as ‘the ways of reason and science,’ is proving to be mere irrationality and ignorance.”

John Updike: “Among the repulsions of atheism for me has beenis drastic uninterestingness as an intellectual position,” appears to become common currency throughout much of the West.

Semon-Netto writes:

“A few years ago, European scientists sniggered when studies in the United States — for example, at Harvard and Duke universities — showed a correlation between faith, prayer and recovery from illness. Now 1,200 studies at research centers around the world have come to similar conclusions, according to “Psychologie Heute,” a German journal, citing, for example, the marked improvement of multiple sclerosis patients in Germany’s Ruhr District do to “spiritual resources.”

The Challenge for Christianity
The Rev. Paul M. Zulehner, dean of Vienna University’s divinity school: “True atheists in Europe have become an infinitesimally small group. There are not enough of them to be used for sociological research.”

The only exceptions to this rule, Zulehner said, are the former East Germany and the Czech Republic, where, as the saying goes, de-Christianization has been the only proven success of these regions’ former communist rulers.”

Zulehner cautions, however, that in the rest of Europe re-Christianization is by no means occurring. For although in every major European city except Paris spirituality is booming, according to Zulehner, this only proves the emergence of a diffuse belief system, Pannenberg said, but not the revitalization of traditional Christian religious faith.

Zulehner, a Catholic, sees Christianity’s greatest opportunity when its message addresses two seemingly irreconcilable quests of contemporary humanity – the quest for freedom and truth.

“Christianity alone affirms that truth and God’s dependability are inseparable properties to which freedom is linked.”

–James Jewell

About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group ( Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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