Why is Christianity in rapid decline?

Because of Leftism. In particular because men come to recognize the moral authority of the Leftist establishment.

People don’t lose their faith; they switch their faith. Christianity is disappearing because it faces a confident, aggressive, proselytizing rival. Changes in material conditions, personal shortcomings of Christians or their clergy, failures to adequately appeal to this or that faculty (the intellect, the imagination, the intuition,…)–these are at most secondary and negative causes. That is, they did not cause the downfall of Christianity, but at most may partially explain why Christians were not strong enough to resist the Leftist counter-faith that actually accomplished the destruction.

Imagine someone trying to explain the decline of paganism in fourth-century Rome invoking only intrinsic weaknesses of the pagan cults and not mentioning Christianity.

One hears silly things about the late heretic Hans Kueng, such as that he was a promising theologian who was led into conflict with the Church because he would not submit his mind to orthodoxy, as if he were some sort of free-thinker. In fact, Kueng was slavishly obedient to an authoritative magisterium, just not that of the Catholic Church. Show me one of his famous dissents which was a dissent from the Leftist establishment, rather than an affirmation of it. Are there any non-Leftist heretics these days? A Catholic theologian who idiosyncratically free-thinks his way into Monophysitism or Nestorianism–that I could respect.

Consider Bruce Charlton’s 2020 ideological-religious Litmus Tests (briefly: coronavirus, antiracism, and climate change). He writes

If you support any or all of these; you are objectively on-the-side of mainstream, global, totalitarian Leftist Establishment: which is the side of Satan and against God. And obviously, therefore, you are anti-Christian – despite whatever you may believe or assert.

Bruce Charlton’s Notions: http://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2020/10/in-2020-you-are-objectively-leftist.html

This is an extraordinary claim, because he chose (I believe deliberately, to make a point) three bits of establishment orthodoxy that don’t directly contradict Christian orthodoxy. A Christian logically could accept any one of them without contradicting his doctrinal confession. Indeed, idiosyncratic Christians of past times might have accepted some of them. Las Casas thought that whites were being mean to non-whites. A Christian chemist from a century ago might have guessed that the effect of increasing concentrations of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere would be to warm the surface without thereby imagining that he was defying his religion.

However, at least most of the time, the Litmus Tests work. Those who accept them usually turn out to be more deeply compromised, in that they are seldom willing to contradict the Left where it unambiguously does contradict Christianity (e.g. sodomy issues). The reason is that most people accept the Litmus Test beliefs, not because of their personal experience with interracial relations or their expertise on radiation transport or epidemiology, but because they have been told to accept these beliefs by an establishment whose reliability and authority they recognize. That same authority tells them to accept the whole Leftist moral hierarchy, and in particular that any person or tradition that deviates from it is wicked.

Establishment-sanctioned beliefs are peculiarly ad hominem. The mob is energized less by “X is true” than by “those who doubt X are evil/stupid/low-class/low-status”. The Left claims a monopoly on reason, virtue, and class, and these claims are almost universally accepted. The point deserves emphasis. Leftism attacks Christianity not only by asserting moral claims that are incompatible with Christian orthodoxy, but primarily by attacking the character of past and present generations of Christians. Christians are too quick to grant their personal sinfulness–and, less creditably and more impiously, that of their ancestors–in order to concentrate on what they think are the fundamental disagreements on metaphysics or ethics. Thus, the battle for moral status is surrendered without a fight, sometimes merely “for the sake of argument” (i.e. not to distract from those “real issues”) but more often from a misplaced sense of genuine guilt. However, men are social creatures, not rational creatures. The battle for moral status is the most consequential one, for most people will accept any high moral status proposition, regardless of the logical strength of the arguments for and against it.

Many of our priests think they can win back the good graces of their people by embracing Leftism-compliant beliefs that are at least compatible with Christian orthodoxy. Global warming is a popular one. Why shouldn’t a Christian support action against global warming? Well, he certainly can; perhaps it will do the environment some good, but he should not fool himself that it will do the Church any good. As the Left ever more stridently demands that everyone embrace their hierarchy of practices and peoples (e.g. sodomy good, white people bad), the only Christians left will be those who consciously say “no” to the Left, at least in their own minds. The authority of the Left must be defied. It’s not enough to show that the Church is right where she agrees with the Left; we must establish that the Left is wrong on some point where she disagrees with the Church. Of course, an orthodox Christian will say that the Left is wrong on all matters where she disagrees with the Church, but even to establish solidly on one issue that the Left is wrong is bound to have a tremendous effect on a soul. That soul realizes, despite the lifetime of indoctrination we’ve all had, that the benevolence of progress and the correctness of establishment opinion cannot simply be assumed. The authority of Leftism has been put into question. The issue doesn’t have to be sex if you’re squeamish about sex, but it has to be something just as uncomfortable as sex, because it requires agreeing with the Church when she disagrees with “all reasonable people” and “all decent people”.

A final observation. It’s a common thing for reactionaries of our stripe, as they read and think themselves deeper into the Right, to show increasing scorn toward what passes for conservatism in modern America–Republicans, National Review readers, Trump voters, and the like. “They’re just embracing yesterday’s radicalism; they don’t really disagree with the Left at all on fundamentals.” That’s true, but they really do think that they disagree with the Left, and that is something quite important. However intellectually compromised they are, they have all thought, spoken, or voted in some way that they were clearly told all reasonable/decent people regard as absolutely unacceptable, and they did it anyway.

15 thoughts on “Why is Christianity in rapid decline?

  1. The modern Right always felt like controlled opposition to me. “If you don’t like what the Left is doing, then boy do we have an ideology for you! Put on a nice hat and give the globalists and SJWs the middle finger! …Just don’t talk or think about that irrelevant and boring Christianity stuff too much.”

  2. Brilliant and perspicacious!

    “The reason is that most people accept the Litmus Test beliefs, not because of their personal experience with interracial relations or their expertise on radiation transport or epidemiology, but because they have been told to accept these beliefs by an establishment whose reliability and authority they recognize.”

    Yes, yes, yes. Spot on.

  3. Yes, that is all quite true. External, institutional, everyday, moderate, conventional Christianity is in rapid decline, but this does not entail that Christianity itself is in decline. The devastating and easily observable decline in quantity does not negate the not-so-easily observable potential for a marked rise in Christian quality.

    The obsessive focus on quantity, numbers, outcomes, and the perceived place of Christianity in the given world of politics, society, philosophy,etc., all play out in leftism’s favor. The time for Christians to shift their focus from these frames of thinking is long overdue.

  4. We lost the war, that’s all. Not now, not us. Our ancestors. Since liberalism was recognized as the official religion of the West, with the bourgeois revolutions, Christianity lived on borrowed time.

    Liberalism went from the law to the schools to the media to the people to the churches to everywhere else. Meanwhile, we did nothing

  5. In the Orthodox Church, we venerate and remember ‘our holy and God-bearing fathers and all the saints’.

    Certainly a man must examine his conscience, to see if he conforms to this world or to the mind of the fathers, but such examination cannot be usefully reduced to a litmus test. Rather, if you read the Paterikon, you see that holy men and women can and did disagree about social, political, and scientific questions, while holding fast to the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

  6. The answer to Christianity’s decline is much more simple and savage, Bonald.

    Christians used to assume the Reality of Perfection*.

    Now, all sides agree that Perfection does not exist at all, anywhere, ever.

    Degeneracy “rules.”

    * “Christians” reject an objective Supremacy and “leftists” embrace a subjective supremacy. The mundane result is a no-brainer.

  7. The dechristianisation of the West has been going on for over a hundred years, abetted by both right and left wing variants of the same poison.

    Faith is a theological virtue, the product of Grace. Therefore, the lack of faith is therefore either a result of rejection of Grace or the lack of it. It is this latter aspect that I think is the main factor at play at the moment. God may have abandoned us to our own devices.

    I lay the main blame on the clergy who are meant to lead the laity. While the errors of Protestantism are easy to spot, the errors of Catholicism are far harder, and in many ways far more dangerous. For example, the sexual abuse saga needs to be seen as a systemic problem of the Church–given its universal scope–rooted in the Catholic theology. Even a most charitable interpretation of events would lead to the conclusion that the Church traded the justice due to the victims for mercy to the perpetrators, a practice which was justified theologically. And remember, it’s worth noting that this rot was going on well before V2. It’s also worth noting that the apostate laity had more of a sense of justice toward the victims than the clergy. That’s a warning sign that something is seriously wrong.

    I personally think that we’re in the midst of heresy. I can’t really give it a name but Chesterton alluded to it in one his works as a variant of manichaeism. Essentially the Church is becoming “Buddhist” and it’s been doing so for the last two hundred years or so. It’s interesting to think that lack of “faith” in the laity may be protective in the sense of decoupling the laity from a clergy which has gone bad.

  8. A usually-overlooked but vitally-important detail:

    Philosophy is the handmaiden of theology, and the perennial philosophy was lost in the West, starting with the nominalism of William of Ockham, and with the loss of hylomorphism and teleology as a metaphysical basis for understanding the world.

    As Richard Weaver put it, “Ideas Have Consequences.” The shifts in the intellectual climate at the tops of universities do not immediately affect the populace-at-large, but over a period of hundreds of years, they usually do. The academy teaches the teachers; the teachers teach the next generation of artists; and the artists popularize ideas among the population. In past centuries the lag-time between bad academic ideas and bad popular notions was longer; sometimes 400 years might elapse. In the Information Age, it might be closer to 40 years.

    The Sexual Revolution, the Gender Identity confusion, and the normalization of homosexual acts can all be easily traced to the normalization of artificial contraception; but why did Christians, after 1900 years of consistently viewing artificial contraception as revolting and perverted, suddenly normalize it? The answer is: After Scholasticism and its Virtue Ethics (based in an Objective Morality of Telos which agreed with the moral law revealed in Scripture) was cast aside, the Enlightenment Project was to find a new objective basis for morality without teleology. And, as Alasdair MacIntyre documents in “After Virtue,” it failed, again and again, until finally the West gave up and concluded there was not, nor could there ever be, an “ought derived from an is” (in spite of the fact that men had been doing so for centuries until the 1600’s!). Having thrown in the towel, the West adopted Moral Sentimentalism: The idea that moral values were feelings held by individuals, with different feelings among different individuals revealing the subjectivity and relativism of all moral truth.

    This made it impossible to argue for the immorality of artificial contraception or sodomy on the basis of anything other than divine revelation — a premise not shared by any atheist, and prone to dispute among Christians as Christian doctrinal unanimity was fractured after the Protestant Revolt. In the end, without telos, we have no objective morality, and no grounds on which to claim that any individually-pleasurable sex act is immoral if the persons involved feel otherwise.

    We lost the culture war, because we lost the philosophical war 400 years earlier.

  9. It’s a common thing for reactionaries of our stripe, as they read and think themselves deeper into the Right, to show increasing scorn toward what passes for conservatism in modern America–Republicans, National Review readers, Trump voters, and the like.

    Depends too on the source. If an Orthosphere writer starts touting National Review or advocates voting for Republicans, I’m going to be irritated and may voice my displeasure. If it’s my barber, a co-worker, or the elderly black lady working at the grocery check-out saying pro-Trump stuff (the latter actually happened), then my reaction is “Ah! he’s on my team!”

  10. This is a great post, Bonald.

    A final observation. It’s a common thing for reactionaries of our stripe, as they read and think themselves deeper into the Right, to show increasing scorn toward what passes for conservatism in modern America–Republicans, National Review readers, Trump voters, and the like. “They’re just embracing yesterday’s radicalism; they don’t really disagree with the Left at all on fundamentals.” That’s true, but they really do think that they disagree with the Left, and that is something quite important. However intellectually compromised they are, they have all thought, spoken, or voted in some way that they were clearly told all reasonable/decent people regard as absolutely unacceptable, and they did it anyway.

    This paragraph slides from the rightist’s righteous contempt for conservatism to his alleged hatred for conservatives—people (Repbulicans, NR readers, Trump voters) are not examples of conservatism. Wanting to see National Review burn and its writers flayed, say, does not even approach distantly on hating conservatives. Rather the contrary. The Pied Piper is despicable, and also I love the children. Rebuking the readers of National Review for being the gullible dupes they so clearly are, making fun of them, treating them as if they have shown themselves to have the minds of children or the stomachs of old women are acts of charity evincing love for them.

    Dupe is not a particularly harsh insult. It only seems so if you value intellectual excellence too highly.

  11. If the NFL is in decline, is it the fault of the game of football, itself? Is it the fault of the spectators or the concession stand worker? Is it even the fault of “woke” infiltrators? Or, is it simply the recognition that the QUALITY of professional player and coach has rapidly diminished so much so that the “best” are barely mediocre relative to past talent?

    Why would it be any different for Christianity? Today’s “Christian,” by-and-large, is a self-annihilating, anti-racist fool who revels and prophets in his spiritual inferiority and damnation. And NONE of the “big dogs” of Christian apologetics is a racial Supremacist willing and able to easily defend his Christianity despite this total inversion of Reality.

    And so, on the matter of desiring (racial) Supremacy, the Church’s silence is deafening practically relegating herself to the “protection” of an old, smelly, locker room locker.

Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.