The decline of European Christianity

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The decline of European Christianity







The importance of religion cannot be gainsaid as far as the health of any society is concerned. In fact, religion has been touted as one of the fundamental pillars of any society both in the contemporary and traditional times. Needless to say, different parts of the world had different dominant religions in line with the key beliefs and foundations of the societies in those regions. In Europe, Christianity, both Protestant and Catholicism, has been recognized as the dominant religion at least in the past. However, research shows that the population of Christians in Europe has been diminishing by the day. In fact, statistics indicate that the Christian church was losing about 4,300 people daily in Europe between 1970 and 1985[1]. This comes as a surprise considering that at around the same time, Christian churches in Africa were reporting 16,500 conversions every day, which translated to a growth rate of more than 6 million converts per year. This means that the recession of Christianity in Europe must be set against the incredible accession of the same in numerous other parts of the world[2]. Questions arise as to why Christianity was becoming increasingly reduced in Europe. While there may be varied reasons for this, scholars believe that the dynamism of Western culture, which involves the rejection or denunciation of patriarchal structures, coupled with the establishment of numerous competing public interaction frameworks or public spheres, has left Christianity isolated and looking like a relic in a misplaced age.

One of the key reasons for the decline of Christianity in Europe is the influx of reason in the 18th century. In late 17th century, Europe saw the entry of rationalists, individuals whose attitudes may be typified by conviction about the strength of reason and typified by an interest in the world. Rationalists started influencing the thinking of Europeans, as well as the manner in which they came to epistemic stance. The initial incursion of rationalism resulted in two individuals who had immense influence on the change of attitude towards Christianity in Europe. These were David Hume and Immanuel Kant. Hume asserted that belief in Christian God emanated not in pure love for truth but in fear of death, desire for pleasure and joy, as well as anxiety. These thoughts were expounded on by Kant who built his philosophy pertaining to reasonable knowledge by distinguishing between phenomena that are spatiotemporal objects and noumena which is neither temporal nor spatial, in which case the two worlds are distinctive. Kant underlined the notion that the Christian God fell under the realm noumena, which no one has any intuition of nor has anyone experienced it[3]. In essence, he stated that no one can even start to have any knowledge of the Christian God, leave alone be capable of describing or outlining His attributes. As much as the Hume’s and Kant’s claims were not factual, they had and continue to have immense impact on Europe, increasing secularism in the region.

            In addition, the decline of Christianity may be blamed on the dynamic social structure pertaining to religion especially with regard to the shrinking family. Scholars note that in the past, Christianity was passed on from parents to their kids. While this factor may have in no way ensured that the kids got saved, the cultural trait pertaining to sharing the faith of a family was a fundamental part of the growth and development of the Christian church in its entirety. In instances where an individual’s parents were Christians, there existed a high probability that the individual would also have a similar religious affiliation[4]. Scholars note, however, that the practice of handing down religious faith within families has declined which has shrunk the actual population of highly religious families that succeed in handing down the faith. On the same note, the average family size in Europe has reduced especially after the turn of the millennium. The falling birth rate, coupled with the reduced tendency to pass Christian heritage within families has resulted in a reduction of the overall cultural impact, as well as the population of Christian followers and believers[5]. Still on the same note, some scholars state that the numbers of Christian followers are not declining especially when one considered the cultural identity of Europeans. They note that atheists in many parts of Europe especially Northern Ireland have been identified with Christianity. This cultural tag has inflated the population of Christians in Europe, a fact that has been negated by the post-modern culture.

Moreover, the decline of Christianity in Europe may have resulted from the destructive ecumenical movement in terms of syncretism[6]. Scholars note that in instances where a religion dominates a certain culture or region, change becomes inevitable if there is an influx of foreign individuals in the region or if it comes across other religious traditions. Syncretism revolves around the notion that the introduction of new influences on society results in the borrowing and adaptation of traits from each other until such a time when the initial religion is different from what the founders may have intended it to be. For instance, the entry of Hinduism in England may have resulted in increased respect of cows by the Anglican Church. Of course, there are varied positive results of blending varied cultures including enhanced technology, and cultural diversity among others[7]. However, scholars note that in instances where religious cultures are allowed into societies where .............

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