Why Is Cultural Christianity On The Rise? - Alex O’Connor

Why Is Cultural Christianity On The Rise? - Alex O’Connor

Are We Seeing a Christian Revival? (00:00:00)

  • Cultural Christianity is a growing trend where individuals appreciate and identify with Christian ideals and practices without necessarily believing in the religion's truth.
  • Prominent thinkers like Douglas Murray, Constantin Kisin, Jordan Peterson, Andrew Huberman, and even the atheist Richard Dawkins, exemplify this phenomenon.
  • This trend marks a shift from the previous "new atheism" movement, which held a negative view of Christianity.
  • While some individuals identify as Christians but don't actively practice the faith, they may still value the virtuous ethics associated with Christianity.
  • The author distinguishes between belief in God and Christian religion ("the tree") and the practical application of Christian principles ("the fruit").
  • Some admire Jesus' teachings but fail to embody them in their behavior, "loving the tree but hating the fruits" of Christianity.

What’s Causing the Rise of Cultural Christianity? (00:07:53)

  • The rise of cultural Christianity is attributed to new atheism creating a spiritual vacuum and people turning to alternative sources of meaning like environmentalism, veganism, and nationalism.
  • Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former prominent atheist, converted to Christianity due to dissatisfaction with secular humanism and concerns about the rise of wokeism and Islamism.
  • Cultural Christianity emphasizes the cultural and traditional aspects of Christianity rather than theological or spiritual beliefs.
  • Richard Dawkins criticized Ali's conversion, arguing that she is not a true Christian because she chooses to believe in certain Christian doctrines rather than arriving at them through rational argumentation.
  • Some individuals who become convinced of the truth of Christianity through philosophical or historical arguments may subsequently adopt the moral claims associated with Christianity, even if they have reservations about those claims.

Is it Possible to Choose to Believe in God? (00:18:46)

  • Cultural Christianity is gaining popularity as individuals seek out Christian literature, speakers, and communities that align with their beliefs.
  • Cultural Christians value the message, ethics, and societal benefits of Christianity, finding solace and purpose in it, especially during challenging times.
  • They prioritize the sociological impact of religion, while theological Christians and atheist critics focus on the truth claims of religious worldviews.
  • Jordan Peterson's approach to Christianity emphasizes feelings over facts and truth, which would have been considered heretical in the early church as it does not affirm the belief in Jesus' resurrection.
  • This approach contrasts with a more left-brained focus on facts and science, and a more right-brained focus on narrative, feeling, ethics, and poetry.

Has Christianity Gone Too Soft? (00:23:48)

  • Cultural Christianity is gaining popularity due to its relaxed approach and acceptance of diverse beliefs.
  • Traditional Christianity, marked by militaristic tactics, is seen as a distortion of Jesus' original message.
  • Religion has been exploited for political purposes, such as motivating support for wars or ideologies.
  • The debate surrounding Adolf Hitler's Christianity highlights the complexity of defining a Christian.
  • Some prioritize virtuous living and ethics over theological correctness.
  • Modern Christianity has diminished political influence, and many nominal Christians lack genuine passion and conviction.
  • Cultural Christianity thrives in America, emphasizing personal relationships with Jesus rather than religious ideology.
  • The concept of religion is a recent invention, and religious communities historically did not separate religion from other aspects of life.
  • Critics argue that cultural Christianity's focus on personal relationships with Jesus may result in the loss of essential aspects of the faith.
  • Mega churches, while popular, can elicit intense emotional responses.
  • Cultural Christianity allows individuals to separate the concept of being a Christian from traditional religious practices.
  • The mass, originally a communal meal commemorating Jesus' last supper, has become overly ritualistic and lost its original meaning.
  • Mega churches are criticized for employing musical techniques and creating vulnerable states to sell God rather than merchandise.
  • The music in mega churches and secular concerts can evoke similar emotions, but the intention differs: selling God versus selling merchandise.

Experience of Visiting the Vatican (00:38:49)

  • St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, designed with Michelangelo's dome, has flaws, including the dome being obscured from the front.
  • The church's funding through the sale of indulgences raises questions about its theological motivations.
  • The recent rise in cultural Christianity is often associated with right-wing individuals using it to express discontent with societal changes rather than genuine religious belief.
  • Figures like Douglas Murray, Constantin Kissen, and Russell Brand identify as cultural Christians, with varying motivations ranging from actual belief to cultural affiliation.
  • The speaker does not believe there is a current Christian revival.
  • People may be drawn to Christianity by observing its positive effects on others.
  • Being surrounded by religious individuals and engaging in religious activities can reinforce religious beliefs.

Is the Rise in Religion Just a Conservative Movement? (00:43:49)

  • Cultural Christianity is gaining popularity as a response to the perceived extremes of new atheism, which is viewed as a left-wing movement critical of religion, particularly Christianity.
  • In the UK, the Church of England's traditional association with the Conservative Party has weakened, while in the US, there is a strong Christian right movement without a direct UK equivalent.
  • The rise of cultural Christianity in the UK is not yet politically influential, but many right-wing individuals are drawn to Christianity for theological or political reasons, seeing it as a protective layer against opposing ideologies.
  • Utilitarian Christianity, with its more assertive and defensive approach, may appeal to those attracted to Christianity for political reasons.
  • Cultural Christianity offers a worldview that affirms the existence of right and wrong, providing a framework and defense against external cultural influences.
  • The connection between Christianity and political commitments is unclear but may be linked to Christianity's association with traditional Western values.
  • Tom Holland's book "Dominion" popularized the idea of Western Civilization as fundamentally Christian, leading to the integration of Christian ethical principles into culture as self-evident truths.
  • The decline of Christianity is seen as eroding Western ethics, leading some to believe that Christianity is essential for preserving Western values.
  • The political right, particularly in Europe, often embraces Christianity as a means of preserving Western culture and ethics.

Christianity as a Prophylactic Against Woke (00:57:59)

  • Cultural Christianity is gaining popularity as a response to "woke culture," which is perceived as a threat to Western Civilization.
  • Some individuals equate Western Civilization with Christianity and believe that preserving the West necessitates preserving Christianity.
  • The author argues that this thesis is flawed because Western Civilization is characterized by values like free speech, religious freedom, and capitalism, which are not inherently Christian.
  • The author also disputes the notion that Christian ethics were the primary driving force behind social movements like the Abolitionist Movement and the women's rights movement.
  • Cultural Christianity appeals to people because it promotes empathy for victims and social justice, but it also allows for the ownership of other human beings as private property, which is contradictory.
  • Right-wing individuals may be drawn to Christianity for its message or for the political stability and sophistication it offers compared to contemporary ideologies.
  • Christianity is a relatively low te religion, meaning it is more tolerant of people interpreting its doctrines loosely, unlike Islam, which is more High te and less accepting of deviations from its teachings.

Why Isn’t There an Islamic Revival? (01:05:33)

  • Cultural Christianity is gaining popularity as a reaction to "woke culture" and the desire for traditional values.
  • Islam appeals to young men by providing a sense of community, strength, and justification for their values, such as gender roles and self-assertion.
  • The Quran is viewed as the eternal word of God in Islam, while the Bible is written by men and allows for interpretation in Christianity.
  • The Quran is considered more authoritative and immutable compared to the Bible, which allows for more flexibility and adaptation.
  • The story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery demonstrates ethical genius by undercutting the truth of the law without contradicting it.

The Gnostic Gospels (01:15:31)

  • The Nag Hammadi codices, discovered in 1945, contain ancient Gnostic gospels excluded from the New Testament.
  • Carbon dating and textual analysis confirm the authenticity of these manuscripts, dating from 80 AD to 400 AD.
  • The existence of the Gospel of Judas is confirmed by early Christian writings, such as Irenaeus' "Against Heresies" around 180 AD.
  • The Gospel of Thomas, possibly dating back to 0 AD, is a collection of Jesus' sayings without any narrative or accounts of the crucifixion or resurrection.
  • Some Gnostic Gospels emphasize unity and reunification, viewing the separation of male and female as a negative event.

The Gnostic Version of Genesis (01:27:28)

  • The Testimony of Truth, a Gnostic Gospel found in the Nag Hammadi library, presents an alternative interpretation of the Genesis story.
  • In the original Genesis account, the serpent, described as crafty, convinces Eve to eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
  • Contrary to traditional beliefs, Adam and Eve gained knowledge and were banished from the Garden of Eden but did not immediately die.
  • The Tree of Life, granting eternal life, was present in the Garden, but they were prevented from consuming it after eating the forbidden fruit.
  • The Christian interpretation suggests a spiritual death, losing immortality and becoming mortal, as a consequence of their disobedience.
  • Gnostics identify the serpent as Jesus Christ, not the devil, and view the Creator God of Genesis as an evil or incompetent lesser God, the Demiurge.
  • Gnosticism emphasizes salvation through knowledge rather than actions and condemns the act of eating from the Tree of Knowledge as the right thing to do.
  • The canonical gospels suggest Jesus had public teachings and secret knowledge shared only with his disciples.

Why the Bible is Compiled As it is (01:35:47)

  • The authority of the Bible is based on Apostolic succession, meaning the texts are attributed to eyewitnesses or close companions of Jesus.
  • The four accepted gospels are believed to be written by eyewitnesses or their companions, ensuring their proximity to Jesus's life and teachings.
  • Theological content also plays a role in determining the canonicity of texts, as seen in the condemnation of the Gospel of Thomas for its contradictory elements.
  • The discovery of non-canonical texts has reinforced the authority of the accepted canon due to their contrasting content.
  • Cultural Christianity is on the rise due to the belief in a higher realm from which Jesus was sent to save humanity from the material creation.
  • Gnostics believed in a Demiurge, a lower deity who accidentally created the material world as an inferior version of the spiritual realm.
  • Some Gnostics viewed the Demiurge as evil, trapping people in the material world to make them suffer, while others saw it as a result of incompetence.
  • The concept of the Demiurge and the material world as a simulation is similar to the simulation hypothesis in theology.
  • The Gospel of Judas, which presents an alternative perspective on Jesus and Judas, was condemned by early church authorities due to its influence and prominence.

Christianity’s Antidote to the Meaning Crisis (01:42:13)

  • Cultural Christianity is gaining popularity as a response to the perceived lack of meaning in modern life.
  • Nihilism, a philosophy that involves rejecting all beliefs and values, leaves individuals feeling empty.
  • True Christianity requires a radical change in perspective, including adopting radical forgiveness and refraining from negative reactions to mistreatment.
  • While Jesus occasionally displayed anger, his approach to theological debates was generally not aggressive.
  • The Christian response to issues like gender ideology in schools should focus on Christlike behavior rather than anger or condemnation.
  • Religion offers a narrative and moral principles that help people understand the world and live wisely.
  • Analyzing religion solely for its truth claims overlooks the value of living a religious life.
  • People are recognizing the benefits of religious living and becoming more tolerant of religious truth claims.
  • Religion provides a framework for dealing with life's uncertainties, human flaws, and difficult experiences.
  • Cultural Christianity attracts individuals to the narrative, poetry, and meaning of Christianity without demanding belief in specific truth claims, such as the resurrection of Jesus.
  • The extraordinary nature of Jesus' resurrection, though unprovable, allows people to be drawn to the story and its teachings.
  • For individuals like Ali, Christianity offers a path to overcome personal nihilism and despair.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Debate With Dawkins (01:52:40)

  • Cultural Christianity is gaining popularity because people are drawn to comforting narratives that provide direction, especially during times of anxiety and depression.
  • People prefer unifying narratives that offer comfort and guidance rather than propositional truth claims.
  • The speaker does not endorse cultural Christianity but seeks to explain its appeal.
  • Cultural Christianity emphasizes unifying narratives and lacks a commitment to propositional truth claims.
  • The speaker personally cannot identify as a Christian due to their disbelief in Christian truth claims.
  • Cultural Christianity's rise is attributed to people's preference for the benefits of Christianity rather than theological arguments.
  • God meets individuals where they are, leading some to find Him through theological arguments, nature, or escaping nihilism.
  • While Jordan Peterson's religious beliefs are vague and non-committal, he has inspired many to reconsider biblical stories.
  • Tom Holland's Dominion thesis has significantly influenced the Christian Revival in the UK, contributing to the concept of "Judeo-Christian values."

The Figureheads of the Christian Revival (01:59:59)

  • While there is a perception of a Christian revival in the UK, statistical data shows a steady decline in Christianity, with fewer people identifying as Christian and an increase in atheism and Islam.
  • High-profile conversions and the influence of cultural figures like Douglas Murray, Richard Dawkins, and Constantin Kisin have contributed to this perception.
  • The internet and social media may amplify certain perspectives and create the illusion of a widespread trend, but polls and predictions have proven unreliable in recent years.
  • The general public may not share the perception of a Christian revival, and there is no evidence that Reform UK, a new right-wing party, has used Christianity to gain support.
  • There is a growing trend of important thought leaders considering Christianity, but it is still in its early stages and has not yet reached the general population.

Important Things Ignored by the Media (02:06:44)

  • Declining birth rates, such as the significant drop in South Korea's fertility rate from 0.6 to 0.4, are often overlooked by the media despite their long-term impact.
  • Demography, a mathematical science, accurately predicts future population trends based on current birth rates.
  • Unlike other risks, declining birth rates do not immediately capture people's attention because their effects are not immediately visible or tangible.
  • Cultural Christianity is on the rise.

Where to Find Alex (02:11:24)

  • Alex O’Connor is excited about the potential revival of Christianity and the renewed interest in discussing it.
  • He believes that Christianity is fascinating but lacks political relevance in its current state.
  • O’Connor expresses his enthusiasm for engaging in commentary on the theological and political aspects of the Christian revival.
  • Alex O’Connor can be found on various platforms:
    • His podcast, “Within Reason.”
    • His website, “AlexOConnor.com.”
    • Social media platforms under the handle “AlexOConnor.”

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