The Decline of Christianity in Europe
The twentieth century was a time of great flux and anxiety in Europe as the supremacy of Christianity in Europe was being challenged by the fronts of biblical criticism, and evolution. According to Rev, Andrew Greeley, a social sciences professor at the University of Chicago, belief in God has increased in Russia and Hungary and decreased in Britain, the Netherlands, western Germany and France. Atheism thrives in eastern Germany, Russia, The Czech Republic and France. Interestingly though, most European countries report denominational affiliation. According to Dr Greeley, there was a time when people were more religious than they are now. Secularizers like to point to the decline as evidence that religion no longer matters. This is not true. Religion in a given country is affected by history, social structure and culture; and its affects on them. English historians recently have argued that Henry VIII was the first secularizer in that he replaced a religious society with an established church. With that in mind, what one sees in Great Britain could represent the endgame of Anglicanism.
A culture without religion is bound for a future of chaos and loss of morality. Western academics have accepted the sociologists secularization thesis that asserts that intellectual advances and economic modernization leads people and nations past a need for faith, to a more enlightened and more secular mode of life (Greeley). Europe’s ongoing and increasing contempt for organized religion has been their prime example, while the growth of Christianity in countries such as Nigeria and China have been dismissed as a primitive stop on the road toward a godless society. Without a religiously based culture, moral principles cannot be grounded and social organizations cannot be legitimized. A culture that breaks away from authoritative religion and the concept of God breaks away from any possibility of absolute truth. This only leaves a resource of existential relativism, a slippery slope concept that is changing and does not offer a stable foundation for authoritative system of law or morals to be built. Laws without religion command no authority. Various theories and historical events have played a hand in the decline of Christianity in Europe. Atheism and secularism have been greatly influenced by several of these views including Darwin’s theory of evolution, the study of criticism and Hitler’s application of Armenianism to just name a few. It was no wonder that those individuals who were exposed to these theories of belief were uncertain how to respond and what to believe. Let’s look at how some of these views have impacted the view of Christianity in Europe. In the twentieth century men like David Strauss denied both the miracles and integrity of the New Testament as well as the deity of Christ, whom he saw as a man who thought He was the Messiah (Cairnes). Jean Astruc divided the book of Genesis into two parts making higher criticism very popular in Europe (Online Encyclopedia). Another perspective of higher criticism was formulated by Johann G Eichorn who laid down the dictum that the Bible was to be read as a human book and tested by human means (This Day in Jewish History). Two additional believers of criticism are Karl Graf and Julius Wellhausen who developed an elaborate system known as the Graf-Wellhausen theory which stated that sections in which the name Jehovah is used constitute the early document, another part by another author is known as E, still another in Deuteronomy as D, and P. In this fashion the unity of the Pentateuch and its Mosaic authorship are denied (Encyclopedia.com). Hermann S Reismarus went one step further and denied the possibility of biblical miracles and advanced that the New Testament writers were frauds. Gotthold Lessing argued that the Scriptures served man as a guide during the primitive phase of his religious development but that...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document