Religion and Europe

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.]


6 thoughts on “Religion and Europe

  1. I often hear American mainstream Christianity referred to as “Churchianity”. I know of many that call themselves Lutherans caught in this very trap.

  2. In many ways “churchianity” is simpy good works. I’m going to heaven because I go to church. We as Lutherans probably would use the term heterodoxy or some similiar term. We would say that Catholics practice a form of churchianity, looking to the doctrines of the church as authoritative over the Bible. Instead of the Bible as authoritiative over church doctrine.

    Some would accuse Lutherans of churchianity in our focus on our confessions. But we don’t put our confessions ahead of the Bible,.. do we?

  3. The dilemma you describe, Tim, sounds like it fits nicely into Two-Kingdom theory.

    One factor that might militate against the European climate allowing “Christian belief to truly flourish” is the irrationality of humanism as a basis for a society. If reason is abandoned–or should I say, as reason is abandoned more and more–it becomes harder to communicate God’s Law and Gospel effectively.

    And we’re seeing that here too, with postmodernism’s abandonment of meaning except in the most roll-your-own existential sort of sense.



  4. “Churchianity,” as most writers use this term, refers to a confusion of church culture with Christian doctrine. Someone may convert to Churchianity (they wear the right clothes, read the right books, listen to the right music, vote for the right people, and so forth) while never knowing or hearing the Gospel. This is the “Christians don’t drink, smoke, or work on Sundays” view of Christianity.

    I don’t think I’d venture into the relation between symbolics and the Scriptures in this subject–nor would I want to include Rome’s view of ecclesiology and/or the magisterium.

    Churchianity is not a lax Christianity. On the contrary, it is very vibrant and commited to its often fundamentalist view of the Church.

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