A Lapsed Atheist Confronts the Perils of a Post-Post-Christian Era

The novelist and essayist Paul Kingsnorth three years ago forsook the irreligion in which he was raised and was baptized into the Romanian Orthodox Church. In this essay, he reflects on this transformation, and argues that it might be part of a global collapse of secularism. He begins by explaining the assumptions of his youth:

I grew up believing in things which I now look on very differently. . . . Perhaps above all, and perhaps at the root of all, there was one teaching that permeated everything. It was to treat religion as something both primitive and obsolete. Simply a bunch of fairy stories invented by the ignorant. Simply a mechanism of social control. Nothing to do with us, here, now. . . . It was fun, in its way. Now that I look back, I almost wish it had been true.

Not all of Kingsnorth’s case that the world is about to undergo a “second religiousness” is entirely convincing, but it includes some important insights. Among them are his comments on the danger of reviving religion only to make it “a vehicle for worldly political activism.”

This can apply equally to liberal Christians who want to remake the Church in the rainbow-flag-bedecked image of the “social-justice” left, and to conservative Christians who want Jesus to lead their battle to defend “faith, flag, and family” against the woke libs. Currently, this trend is manifesting most obviously in the form of a “cultural Christianity” promoted by anti-woke public figures on the right. . . . If all of this is part of the second religiousness, it won’t work: or at least, it won’t take us any closer to God.

Religion . . . is not at root a weapon in anybody’s culture war. Religion and culture reign in separate domains. A faith wielded as a stick with which to beat the “cultural Marxists” will end up being as empty as the consumer void it seeks to challenge, and potentially as toxic. C. S. Lewis had already spotted the trap more than 60 years ago.

Kingsnorth ends on what might strike many as a particularly Jewish observation:

Religion is not, as atheists often assume and I once assumed too, a set of beliefs to be adhered to, or arguments to be made and defended. It is an experience to be immersed in. The orthopraxy reveals the orthodoxy. Fasting makes no sense until you fast. Praying is meaningless, even embarrassing, until you start to pray.

Read more at UnHerd

More about: Christianity, Decline of religion, Secularism

Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship