Reviewing the film The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Polly Toynbee, the queen of progressivist pieties in Britain, wrote that Aslan "is an emblem for everything an atheist objects to in religion. His divine presence is a way to avoid humans taking responsibility for everything here and now on earth, where no one is watching, no one is guiding, no one is judging, and there is no other place yet to come. Without an Aslan, there is on one here but ourselves to suffer for our sins, no one to redeem us but ourselves: we are obliged to settle our own disputes and do what we can."
Sounds very nice. But in practice the lack of belief in divine presence is just as likely to lead to humans avoiding responsibility: if there's nothing other than the here and now, who needs to settle disputes at all? All you have to do is manage to defer them till after you're dead--which is the European electorates' approach to their unaffordable social programs. The meek's prospects of inheriting the earth are considerably diminished in a post-Christian society: chances are they'll just get steamrollered by more motivated types. You don't have to look far to get the cut of my jib.
What? They must use that expression differently in Canada.
And yet even those who understand very clearly the nature of Islam are complacent about Europe's own structural defects. Olivier Roy, one of the most respected Islamic experts in France, nevertheless insists "secularism is the future." Almost by definition, secularism cannot be a future: it's a present-tense culture that over time disconnects a society from cross-generational purpose. Which is why there are no examples of sustained atheist civilizations. "Atheistic humanism" became inhumanism in the hands of the Fascists and Communists and, in its less malign form in today's European Union, a kind of dehumanism in which a present-tense culture amuses itself to extinction. Post-Christian European culture is already post-cultural and, with its surging Muslim populations, will soon be post-European.
Discussions of world events will be shallow if they ignore this book.
I've said that first generation atheists are thoughtful people and wonderful humanitarians who were convinced by philosophy and[/or] experience that what they grew up believing is wrong. But their children are another story. They grow up believing the simple statement "there is no God" and all the rest is "blah, blah, blah." The stories and explanations don't cut very deeply when they're not your own (especially when you don't tell them well - and hard). So I find his line here quite plausible.
The children take the belief and then what? There'd better be a helluvan ethical theory to latch on to. Relativism sure isn't it.
Yet my theory may also apply to any conversion - I've only noticed it in atheists. Come to think of it, I know quite a few apostate Christians for whom this applies as well. Myself included (sometimes), although I think the apostacy in my generation's case is a direct result of farming kids out to central government controlled education.
It's that Dewey bastard's fault.
BTW, my first post on Steyn's book is here.
Update on finishing the book: Steyn believes we should reshoulder Kipling's White Man's Burden, citing the literary arguments of Arthur Conan Doyle in The Tragedy of the Korosko.
Hmm. I hope we don't have to take that pill. I find it hard to swallow. I think I prefer the commentary on Kipling's poem at GMU. Oh! They have more!