by Denyse O'Leary
As far as understanding the anti-God crusade is concerned, the most useful thing to know is that the longstanding mid-twentieth century prediction that religious belief would wither away has been largely falsified. Rather, it is atheism that is stagnant or withering away. As Uwe Siemon-Netto writes, for UPI (March 3, 2005),
"Atheism as a theoretical position is in decline worldwide," Munich theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg told United Press International Tuesday.
His Oxford colleague Alister McGrath agrees. 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," he wrote in the U.S. magazine, Christianity Today.
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.
It's no wonder that militant atheists are anxiously writing books promoting their view. Their view is sufficiently odd that they are sure to find an audience. But even those who don't believe in God do not necessarily describe themselves as atheists. The major change has not been an increase in atheism, but the rise of a much broader and more eclectic spectrum of beliefs, and in general, a return to belief in meaning, purpose, or God. One may question the merit of a great deal of it, but the trend is clear.
I suppose that atheists are like dinosaurs. If doomed dinosaurs could write books, they too would find a large audience - but a large audience might not change their fate.
More ominously, the atheist books have not advanced new ideas. The only thing that's really new is the extremism, but that wears pretty thin after a while.
Meanwhile, as Richard A Schweder notes in The New York Times , referencing the atheistic horrors of the twentieth century,
At the turn of the millennium it was pretty hard not to notice that the 20th century was probably the worst one yet, and that the big causes of all the death and destruction had rather little to do with religion.
[ ... ]
Even some children within the enclave are retreating from the Enlightenment in their quest for a spiritual revival; one discovers perfectly rational and devout Jews or Hindus in one's own family, or living down the block. If religion is a delusion, it is a delusion with a future, which it may be hazardous for us to deny. A shared conception of the soul, the sacred and transcendental values may be a prerequisite for any viable society.
The flurry of court cases and civil rights hearings around specific issues such as intelligent design in the school system , at universities , or in science facilities are a symptom of the change. The materialists, atheists, and Darwinists must rely on courts to compel where their ideas cannot persuade.
Toronto-based Canadian journalist Denyse O'Leary (www.designorchance.com) is the author of the multiple award-winning By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004), an overview of the intelligent design controversy. She was named CBA Canada's Recommended Author of the Year in 2005 and is co-author, with Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of the forthcoming The Spiritual Brain (Harper 2007).
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