God is not doing very well these days.
Here are four reasons:
The first is that increasingly large numbers of men and women attend university, and Western universities have become essentially secular (and leftist) seminaries. Just as the agenda of traditional Christian and Jewish seminaries is to produce religious Christians and religious Jews, the agenda of Western universities is to produce (left-wing) secularists. The difference is that Christian and Jewish seminaries are honest about their agenda, while the universities still claim they have neither secularist nor political agenda.
That is why the more university education a person receives, the more he is likely to hold secular and left-wing views. The secular left argues that this correlation is due to the fact that a college graduate knows more and thinks more clearly and therefore gravitates leftward and toward secularism. But if you believe that the average college graduate is a clear and knowledgeable thinker as a result of his or her time at university, I have more than one bridge to sell you.
A radio talk-show host for 29 years, I long ago began asking callers who made foolish comments what graduate school they attended. It takes higher education to learn to believe that America and Israel are villains, that men and women have essentially the same natures, that human nature is good, that ever-larger governments create wealth, etc.
A second reason God is not doing well among Westerners these days is that many members of the Jewish and Christian clergy decided that their primary role was not to advocate their religion’s moral and religious standards, but rather 1) to make congregants comfortable (“Don’t call me ‘Pastor,’ ‘Rabbi’ or ‘Father’; call me Jerry”) and 2) to promulgate the values they learned at their secular left-wing universities.
A third reason God is not doing well is that most of the men and women who are products of this secular left-wing education (meaning a large majority of Western men and women) are theologically, intellectually and emotionally ill-prepared to deal with all the unjust suffering in the world. I will never forget a Swedish pastor’s reaction to the 1994 capsizing of the Estonia, a ferry that sank in the Baltic between Estonia and Sweden, leaving 852 passengers and crew dead. He said he could not believe in a God who allowed such injustice to take place.
This pastor spoke for vast numbers of modern Western men and women. The existence of so much unjust suffering in the world has strongly contributed to their rejecting belief in God. And undoubtedly, the devastation caused by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami has further reinforced many individuals’ rejection of God.
Of course, none of us has a fully coherent solution to the problem of theodicy. But the problem is not exactly new – every great religion has dealt with it, and most of the brilliant minds in history retained their faith in God despite all the unjust suffering they saw.
The difference today is that life has been so good for most Westerners that suffering is no longer regarded as part of life, but as an aberration that can be done away with. Meanwhile, the liberal wings of Christianity and Judaism are too influenced by secularism to make an effective religious case for God, whom the religious left has largely rendered a celestial buddy.
The fourth reason is Islamic violence and the tepid response to it by the liberal churches and synagogues. It would seem pretty clear that a major, albeit almost never acknowledged, reason for the huge audiences for recent books advocating atheism has been the massive amount of evil in God’s name committed by radical Muslims. Nothing creates atheism as much as evil done in God’s name.
That is why the pathetically weak responses from within mainstream, i.e., liberal, Christianity and Judaism have only added to the contempt for God and religion sown by beheadings and suicide bombings in Allah’s name. The liberal Christian and Jewish responses have been to attack fellow Christians and Jews who have focused on Islamist terror. Instead of drawing attention to the damage radical Islam does to the name of God, liberal Christians and Jews focus their anger on co-religionists who do speak out on this issue and label them “Islamophobes.”
That God is not doing well in the Western world may trouble God. But it is we humans who should be most troubled. The moral, intellectual, artistic and demographic decline in Western Europe (secular countries don’t even have the will to reproduce themselves) is only gaining momentum. And the consequences of that decline will be far more devastating than all the tsunamis and all the earthquakes that may come our way.