Interesting story here from The Christian Science Monitor. The contrasting attitudes in the United States and Europe regarding religion and church attendance are telling.
My question is whether one state of affairs is clearly better than the other. The United States is very religious, and Christianity is the primary religion. Europe is very secularized (which is different than “secular”) and Islam is the only religion that seems to be growing. I am not for Islam gaining converts, but Europeans seem to have simply sloughed off that religious veneer that has been lamented for generations (see Kierkegaard). Americans largely still claim religious affiliation, but the predominant faith seems to be “Christian is as Christian does” and if I “do” good, then heaven’s waiting for me when I die. So, is it better to get rid of the false appearance of religiosity for the sake of honesty, or to continue on under the pretense of Christianity for the sake of soothing consciences (or whatever)?
On the other hand, I’d rather have someone living next to me who thinks she gets to heaven by good works than a nihilist who thinks it matters very little what he does. As far as the civil realm goes, there’s no question which is better. But if we are concerned with which state of affairs might cause Christian belief to truly flourish, the European one might hold some promise. Currently, though, the demographics don’t look so hot (see the map in the middle of the first page), especially in formerly Lutheran nations–Luther would not be surprised, I think. At one time, he suggested that if the Germans were not serious about the Gospel, it would move on. Time has unfortunately vindicated that prediction.
[Thanks to GFBA Rob for the link.]