Terrorism and Europe’s spiritual vacuum
—Secularism at the root of the problem
Published: 19 January 2016 (GMT+10)
Many were stunned by the stories that the media published following the callous murder spree of IS-backed terrorists in Paris on 13 November last year.1 However, few people are likely to have read IS’s own statement of responsibility for the attacks and their stated reasons for carrying them out.2 These seem to be ignored by the media. This is likely due, in part, to an understandable unwillingness to aid in the spread of such propaganda. However, I believe there is another reason. It is uncomfortable even to acknowledge the contents of the statement because its description of the increasingly decadent West is rather ‘too close to the bone’. Let it be absolutely clear that, in what follows, I am not suggesting for a moment that the perpetrators of these crimes were justified in their actions. Nevertheless, there is surely a connection between the secularisation of Europe and the increasing jeopardy of the safety of its citizens.
Reading the ISIS justification for terrorist acts against European nations leaves one in no doubt about their stated motives, nor the ideology that, they say, is driving them. The statement begins, “In the Name of Allah … ”, and that name is invoked throughout. Moreover, it states that Paris was chosen “as the capital of prostitution and vice, the lead carrier of the cross in Europe”. In other words, the moral decadence that increasingly characterises European countries, they view as synonymous with these being ‘Christian’, because this is happening in ‘Christian’ countries. The site of the highest death toll, the Bataclan Theatre, was, they say, chosen “where hundreds of pagans gathered for a concert of prostitution and vice.”
The elephant in the room
These days, following events which result in great loss of human life—whether natural disasters, plane crashes, war casualties, or terrorist acts—there is always a media frenzy as every angle of the story is covered in minute detail. This was especially true of the Paris atrocities; yet the reasons given by the perpetrators have been almost completely ignored. A notable exception is an article by Iben Thranholm.3 Having previously worked for Denmark’s equivalent of the BBC,4 this columnist and award-winning Danish journalist threw caution to the wind and spoke her mind.5
For instance, while the media reported that the name of the band playing at the Bataclan Theatre was The Eagles of Death Metal, they chose to ignore the fact that the killing spree happened just at the moment when the band were performing their popular song, Kiss the Devil. That a massacre by religious extremists took place just as people were joining in with the lyrics, “I’ll love the Devil, I’ll sing his song” is, to quote Thranholm, a “diabolical irony”.6 The deaths of so many people, many in the prime of life, is absolutely tragic. However, listening to some political leaders and media pundits you would think that the ‘Jihadists’ (as they are often referred to), are not motivated by their Islamic faith at all. Yet they say they are, and the facts of the matter also suggest this is so. To deny this is simply the crassest political correctness. However, what has any of this got to do with creation apologetics?
The root of the problem
Why is it taboo to mention the connection between such terrorist acts and the religious ideology behind them? Why did the media avoid drawing attention to the satanic shenanigans of the Bataclan rock concert? They desperately want to believe that the ‘war on terror’, which Western nations must fight, has nothing whatever to do with religion! Having worked so hard during recent decades to marginalise biblical Christianity in the public sphere, the last thing they wish to do is concede that this might have come at a price. However, in their hearts, at least some people suspect this to be true. Listen to Darwinist and apostle of atheism, Richard Dawkins:
“There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death. I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.”7
Is Christianity a bulwark—a strong defence, a safeguard—against the dangers of an ideology which supports acts of terror? Certainly it is, and for all kinds of reasons which it is not possible to explore in a short article like this. Nevertheless, the following associations can be pointed out as unarguably true, regardless of whether individuals think the changes in society are a good thing or not:
- encroaching secularisation has proceeded hand in hand with the ‘evolutionising’ of the culture;
- there has been a rise in outspoken—even militant—atheism and a growing intolerance of the Bible’s account of Creation, the Fall and the Flood;
- society has increasingly embraced a morality that is in opposition to Christianity, for instance with regard to sexual chastity and homosexual behaviour;
- Christian ethics like the sanctity of human life are constantly being eroded—witness the ongoing issues relating to abortion, embryonic stem cell research and various forms of euthanasia. Much more could be said.
On top of all of this, there is the continuing decline in overall church attendance, which, in the UK at least, would be far more pronounced were it not for the large influx of immigrant people attending places of worship, which serves to mask the fall in numbers.8 As the Bible and God have been jettisoned by more of the populace, a gaping void has been left behind. I can do no better than quote Thranholm here:
“[T]here is little sensibility to religion and spirituality in Europe—and none whatever among the political elite. This is the root of the problem. … The decline of Christianity in the West has created a spiritual and moral vacuum of colossal proportions.”
She goes on to highlight some of the sure signs of this abandonment of Christianity, such as the removal of “all religious symbols from public spaces” on the part of several EU member countries. These are things with which we are becoming increasingly familiar. The ‘root of the problem’, as Thranholm makes clear, is the spiritual and moral vacuum that has resulted from the rejection of Christianity. What some find exasperating about this wilful blindness is that Christianity is the ‘force for good’ for any society and we reap what we sow if we suppress its truth; Peter Hitchens9 has pointed out,
“Only one reliable force stands in the way of the power of the strong over the weak … Only one reliable force restrains the hand of the man of power. And in an age of power-worship, the Christian religion has become the principal obstacle to the desire of earthly utopians for absolute power.”10
All of this should be intuitively true to the Christian since the Bible tells us, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34); a truth which has been illustrated throughout human history, and one which is just as relevant for us today.
Attacking our own foundations?
When people turn away from Christianity, preferring to ‘worship’ at the altars of materialism and secular humanism—godless religions that make no absolute moral or ethical demands—our society loses its moral strength. Much as it angers some people to point it out, the destructive forces of IS currently arrayed against Western democracies should lead to much soul-searching; the situation in which we find ourselves calls for a recognition of the deep malaise in Western culture. We have been attacking our own foundations for far too long. This is certainly relevant to a biblical creation ministry such as CMI. In 2014 we wrote about a Council of Europe resolution11 in which,
They claimed … “It is impossible to reconcile faith and science” and contrasted ideas involving God (which they labelled “absurd”) with evolution, which they asserted to be “the central theory for our understanding of life on earth and for the reassessment of the foundations of our societies” (emphasis added).12
No, the only sure foundation of our Western societies is biblical Christianity. It is this that evolutionary thinking has helped to erode, with increasingly tragic consequences; and it is this which we must work towards restoring. There is a desperate need for us to rediscover our Christian roots and it is to this end that all Christians should be praying for a spiritual revival.
References and notes
- I.S. is Islamic State, though it goes by other names, ISIS, and ISIL. Many within the western media prefer Daesh, presumably to distance the barbarism of this group from the Islamic faith. Return to text
- This can be read here: www.vox.com/2015/11/14/9734794/isis-claim-paris-statement. Return to text
- Iben Thranholm, Europe’s moral and spiritual vacuum invites acts of terrorism, RT.com, 23 November 2015. Return to text
- Called DR, this is rendered in English, Danish Broadcasting Corporation, independent and licence-funded. Return to text
- Indeed, I’m indebted to her article for drawing my attention to the facts of the following paragraph. Return to text
- Photographs of the concert attendees just before the first shots were fired clearly show a number of them making ‘horns of Lucifer’ hand gestures as they were singing along. Return to text
- Ruth Gledhill, Scandal and schism leave Christians praying for a ‘new Reformation’, The Times (UK), 2 April 2010. Return to text
- Anon, Church attendance has been propped up by immigrants, says study, theguardian.com, 3 June 2014. Return to text
- Peter is the older brother of the late Chris Hitchens (a prominent ‘New Atheist’). An English journalist and author, he is a regular columnist for the UK’s The Mail on Sunday. Return to text
- Hitchens, P., The rage against God, Continuum International Publishing Group, London, 2010, p. 83. See also Statham, D., The totalitarian intolerance of the New Atheists, A review of The Rage Against God by Peter Hitchens, J. Creation 5(3):30–32, December 2011; creation.com/intolerance-of-new-atheists. Return to text
- Article 18, Resolution 1580, Council of Europe, 2007. Return to text
- Bell, P., Resisting the secular slide, creation.com/resisting-the-secular-slide, 30 October 2014. Return to text
I notice the negative responses are coming from my fellow Australians. Why am I not surprised by this. Australia one of the most secular countries in the world. Yes we have rejected God in this country big time and it shows. The world's leader in Meth use. Today they say in the media, alcohol use and abuse is out of control and we are one of the world's worst, all costing the health system a fortune. We have a serious problem with domestic violence and one punch incidents getting out of hand. Drugs are rife and those that want to sell and spread their hell and destruction causing death in many cases. Also causing Police huge problems with traffic offences and all that comes with it, in our communities. We love our sport and worship our sports stars, often gesturing worship of them. How is that working for us? ... So yes it was said religion isn't working, so how is our leftists secular progressive evolutionary ideology going, great guns don't you think?
It is an old saying if you want the "TRUTH go to God". You know what it says, "Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened unto you" I can see from your responses here that you don't understand what the author is really saying, and those in truth know exacting what he is saying. If you think you are being told the truth by the establishment that is consumerism based, go and see the movie at the moment in Theatres called "The Big Short". You will see how much they care about us, and how we are being lied to, all for the sake of the almighty dollar. Suggest re-looking at your "evidence based evolution".
Must be lovely to live in a world like this author does where everything fits into such a neat picture. Fact is the world tried religion for 100s of years and found it brought nothing but bigotry, repression and bloodshed to the world. Do you really then blame the world for turning away from religion when it has failed them so badly. Consider this paradox: Even today it is secular governments with all their faults, who are being forced to step in and set the moral standards because the Christian religion wont do so. It is so involved with business, politics and promoting war that morally it is totally bankrupt in most people's eyes. And rightly so. Witness pedophilia and other crimes, money laundering, fraud, corruption etc etc by the church, and open your eyes to reality instead of focusing on the biblical creation myth which occupies all your time and energy, to the exclusion of you playing any meaningful role in the day to day battles of people. Which is where you find Jesus Christ. Nowhere does it say the scriptures are the source of authority. The scriptures which you quote so liberally draw their authority from how they make an impact on the lives of everyday people as they struggle to come to terms with paradox, mystery and suffering. Not from focusing on Genesis and the flood as you do apparently in the mistaken belief that somehow it is relevant to one's salvation.
"Imagine no religion" and would that lead to a world without bigotry, repression and bloodshed? Do you really think life under a totalitarian atheistic regime would be rosier than in a country founded upon Christian principles? Read this article and think again.
If you reject 'religion', Christianity and Jesus Christ, from what reference do you define 'bigotry' and 'moral standards' and on what basis do you describe 'pedophilia and other crimes, money laundering, fraud, corruption etc.' as wrong? No, it is secular humanists and those with a similar ideology (including some professing Christians) who are vainly hoping "everything fits into such a neat picture" where humans can run the world by themselves, without God. This is to cut off the branch on which one is sitting for one cannot make such judgments without assuming the existence of moral absolutes, and these can only come from the Divine Lawgiver.
Articles such as this are an appalling example of how easy it is for us to find a hook to hang our ideologies on. This hook however is the merciless slaughter of over a 100 human beings. To argue that ISIS did this because of secularism makes no sense at all, nor does using the Islamic State's own propaganda as a source from which to draw conclusions. According the logic embodied in this article, if we had been less "secular" then ISIS would not have attacked. This is what you are asserting. ISIS slaughtered these people purely because they were not the Islamic state, not because of any other reason. You have implied that the people in the theatre brought this upon themselves. There is no other way to read this. This makes them implicit in this crime. Are you aware of that?
That having been said, an argument on secularism or creation should not require the manipulative use of a tragedy that destroyed hundreds of lives and left a city reeling. An intelligent argument must never begin, nor rest on an appeal to emotions as this one has done. To use this event in such a way discredit not only your logically flawed and emotionally charged cause and effect argument, it discredit this organization.
I would like to request that, out of respect to the families of those recently murdered, you retract this article and produce a new one that is based on evidence, not emotional diatribes and appeals to the integrity of ISIS's own assertion.
You will receive no apology here for our having provided a commentary on current affairs; there will be no retraction of the article. The slaughter of those human beings was a deplorable and heinous act, described in the article as a "callous murder spree" and a "crime"; furthermore, "The deaths of so many people, many in the prime of life, is absolutely tragic."
"You have implied that the people in the theatre brought this upon themselves. There is no other way to read this." Not so. You have chosen to read it that way. The focus was upon the media silence about the details of the concert and upon their silence about the terrorists' own stated reasons for the killings. Your response illustrates exactly what I wrote under the section, 'The elephant in the room', which bears repeating:
However, listening to some political leaders and media pundits you would think that the ‘Jihadists’ (as they are often referred to), are not motivated by their Islamic faith at all. Yet they say they are, and the facts of the matter also suggest this is so. To deny this is simply the crassest political correctness.
You ask for a new article "based on evidence" but are upset that this article divulged facts about ISIS' own statements and stark facts about the events that transpired on the night of the Paris attacks; to have related that evidence was an emotional diatribe? Other readers of this article will be the judge of that.
Strange that France should be described as the "lead carrier of the cross in Europe" I understand it to be the most secular member of the EU and even a previous Pope called for its re-evangelisation. The problem is that Islam equates "Western" with "Christian". When a muslim tells their family "I have become a Christian" the impression is not far different from if they had said "I have become a prostitute".
In some ways we are our own worst enemies. As deeply committed Christians, we have left the church and now fellowship at home. In all of the churches we have visited all that we hear are motivational talks or "pop psychology"; the preaching of "Christ and Him crucified" seems to have gone down the drain. Pastors seem to be turning a blind eye to the Word of God and following the popular Zeitgeist of the secular world. If we align ourselves with the secular world what is left for them to "come out of"...?
If Europeans knew God and their bible they would understand what is happening to us as bible believing Christians do! Unfortunately they see all religion as the problem as propagandized by the atheists, without understanding that rejection of the true God is the root of the problem.
Many rebellious people see Christianity the same as Islam, but to an informed person the two are irreconcilable. It amazes me that Richard Dawkins gets it and is still so verbally violent towards Christianity. He can see the good in the true God in the Christian faith while still hating God. He then INDIRECTLY states the world would be a better place if we all believed in Christianity and the true God, (his mixed feelings).
If Europe knew God they would understand the judgment of ISIS is nothing compared with the judgment of God to come and they would revere and fear his name as in years past. They would also understand his love and forgiveness by the free gift of his salvation.
The writer makes a valid point. For a long time now, I have considered how devout Muslims must view our "Christian" culture as it appears in the west. It is filled with rampant immorality evident in our entertainment, schools, government and even "liberal" churches with a continual debasement of society. To them I am sure it looks as though we Christians are the problem, even though secularism is at fault. They associate the "west" with Christianity and probably have no idea that devout Christians are as appalled at our own culture as they are. The sad reality is we are living in a day that is marching steadily toward Revelations when God will intervene to reclaim his earth and people. Until then, we are called to continue to spread the good news of the Gospel to a lost and dying world.
In the Old Testament, God warned Israel by allowing small nations, e.g Moab, to attack them when they turned away from Him. If they did not repent, He allowed large nations, i.e. Assyria and Babylon to completely overwhelm them. ISIS is small, but the West is certainly not turning back to God. Soon God's patience may run out and much bigger calamities may befall us.
Great article! Enjoyed reading it. Thank you for posting.
... Man is capable of a calculated cruelty and violence far exceeding any animal. What is it that drives man to such sadistic extremes?
Simply put, any philosophy that caters to our ego, will nurture arrogance and inflame self-centered sadistic tendencies. No philosophy is immune from this including a so-called divinely driven one. It is only through Christ’s example and teachings that we can attain or nurture the humility necessary to overcome our vices. Humility comes with the acceptance of our true nature that we are all sinners, that all sin is deserving of death without exception and that no individual is capable of earning their salvation.
This article has hit the nail on the head, on how secularism/God-lessness/Bible-critical theology, has hollowed out and ransacked European society leaving it clueless and unable to deal with the onslaught of Islamic ideology and terror. I have lived in Germany for over 38 years -- and for the past 15 years in former East Germany, which is considered to be one of the most atheistic regions of the world. For all the time I have lived here I have never seen Germans so scared/insecure and the government so clueless as now. The vast majority of traditional state churches adhere to Bible-critical theology -- over 80% of Lutheran pastor polled deny the virgin birth of Christ and an even higher percentage deny God as the literal Creator -- and this even though they profess these articles of faith in their liturgy every week! Such hypocricy is turning off the general population and they are forsaking the church and the faith they claim to uphold in masses. In our church ministry we have a large group of Ex-Muslim refugees. Almost every week some are beaten up, choked, stabbed, threatened etc. by staunch Muslims who have taken over control of the refugee homes/camps. The police are helpless because politicians refuse to acknowlege this problem, lest they be labeled as "Neo-Nazis". In our city a Lutheran Pastor is upset with us for helping Muslims to leave Islam for Christ!
As strange as it may seem, in spite of the terror acts perpetrated in the name of Islam, many of the younger generation are fascinated by Salafism and ISIS -- why? because at least they stand for something, while the majority of the traditional churches stand for nothing, not even their own confession of faith! We recently had a German university student drop his studies in order to go fight for ISIS in Syria.
I couldn't agree more. The media is the house of ignorance and illiteracy. Indeed, secularism is this void of ignorance and willful blindness that shrugs away the obvious when confronted with problems like ISIS, or maybe they are not so blind but willfully, irresponsibly ignorant, for as many when they hear of problems of Islam, they immediately go: "OH WELL WHAT ABOUT CHRISTIANS?!?! HMMMM?!?! THEY DO IT TOO!!!!" And just as you think they got back up, they don't because they only give you overgeneralized examples and provide no substance. Once you point out their problem, more talking point mumbo jumbo or the classic rhetoric "you are wrong Christians!" comes into play. It's annoying and ridiculous. Bill Mayer, an atheist, would certainly agree with me here. The ...true culprit is secularism which does not provide 'a bulwark against something worst.' ... Islam opposes atheism and calls them infidels...
Very good article. There is without question a 'liberal secularist' agenda in Europe that has a spiritual blindness to it on many levels and especially when it comes to the Bible. While governments are obsessed worshiping the false gods of equality and intellectual liberalism, the civilized veneer of society is cracking and beginning to fail around it and because of it. This is a Western world that in the majority rejects the very Biblical foundations that it was built on and has thrived on. It's the equivalent of ripping up your floorboards and wondering why you fall through the floor and get injured! Meanwhile into the spiritual vacuum created by this radical secularism comes radical Islam. Yet government refuses to teach and even fights against Biblical truth - the only thing that will both prosper and protect society.
It is no coincidence that the Muslim IS terrorists should begin their attack just as the bands followers were beginning to praise the devil. ... it is typical of these evil heavy metal bands which engage in devil worship. The Muslims need to meet real Christians as indeed happens with the relevant ministries.
It is time the west makes the connection between Lennon's song and what it now reaps. We need a spiritual revival alright, urgently. The world is already much like it was in the days of Noah.
Unfortunately I doubt the band or its followers will cease the sort of "music" they play. I also doubt the Bataclan would have been attacked had there been a choir singing "How Great Thou Art" although there may still have been an attack. These blokes are both devout Muslims and butchers as their religion is the opposite of the Truth - Christianity.
God can only tolerate so much before He acts and He acts to discipline His children, get them to turn from their evil ways and turn to Him in repentance.
The root of the problem is "Spiritual and moral vacuum that has resulted from the rejection of Christianity" - I cannot agree more; This lady hit the truth right in the heart. As a matter of fact, although, Evolutionists and secular naturalists are good people in general and they do observe moral values and duties, they don't have any roots for such conduct. They do believe in multiculturalism and moral relativism; therefore, they will find it very hard to see the evil as it is; because according to their philosophical point of view all culture are the same. ISIS acts emerged from a system of belief, i.e. culture and a way of life and hence no one has the right to speak openly against them and consequently against their act. This moral cloudiness characterizes the Western culture of the day. Moral relativism and the lack of spiritual dimension are direct consequence of "macro-evolution-ism" and "naturalism", The thing that make Europe and America increasingly soft target to Islamic groups like ISIS; and they have no effective way to fight back and defeat them. Bullets and tanks will fail to do that job; you need "war" at the level of hearts and minds and only Christianity can carry out that job. Moral relativism teaches us to "tolerate others", Christianity teaches "Love others" even if thy enemy, but also to stand firm against the evil inside them, Christianity cannot compromise with the evil and it has the philosophical ground to separate "bad" from "good". The "Naturalist" West has no way out of a dilemma [that has] emerged from the principle of tolerance of any culture and system of belief, and at the same time [is] becoming intolerant and even racial when group like IS heinously carry out what they believe is right. There is an objective "good" and "bad"...
I couldn't agree more. The fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers in heavenly places, etc - in any sphere.
And it's not only the 'atheists' who need to come to Jesus, it's the Muslims as well. IS people probably believe they are doing what's right - they need to have their eyes opened.
It was interesting to see that French people headed into churches after the Paris attacks.
It was also interesting that they applauded a man singing Lennon's Imagine in the street at the same time. That song exemplifies the problem. "Imagine there's no heaven..." - in other words, if we were all atheists, everything would be all right! That's as far from the Answer as one can get!