Tag Archives: Europe

As Christianity declines in Europe, churches are put up for sale

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

This sad story is from the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

Two dozen scruffy skateboarders launched perilous jumps in a soaring old church building here on a recent night, watched over by a mosaic likeness of Jesus and a solemn array of stone saints.

This is the Arnhem Skate Hall, an uneasy reincarnation of the Church of St. Joseph, which once rang with the prayers of nearly 1,000 worshipers.

It is one of hundreds of churches, closed or threatened by plunging membership, that pose a question for communities, and even governments, across Western Europe: What to do with once-holy, now-empty buildings that increasingly mark the countryside from Britain to Denmark?

[…]The closing of Europe’s churches reflects the rapid weakening of the faith in Europe, a phenomenon that is painful to both worshipers and others who see religion as a unifying factor in a disparate society.

[…]The Church of England closes about 20 churches a year. Roughly 200 Danish churches have been deemed nonviable or underused. The Roman Catholic Church in Germany has shut about 515 churches in the past decade.

But it is in the Netherlands where the trend appears to be most advanced. The country’s Roman Catholic leaders estimate that two-thirds of their 1,600 churches will be out of commission in a decade, and 700 of Holland’s Protestant churches are expected to close within four years.

[…]As communities struggle to reinvent their old churches, some solutions are less dignified than others. In Holland, one ex-church has become a supermarket, another is a florist, a third is a bookstore and a fourth is a gym. In Arnhem, a fashionable store called Humanoid occupies a church building dating to 1889, with racks of stylish women’s clothing arrayed under stained-glass windows.

In Bristol, England, the former St. Paul’s church has become the Circomedia circus training school. Operators say the high ceilings are perfect for aerial equipment like trapezes.

In Edinburgh, Scotland, a Lutheran church has become a Frankenstein-themed bar, featuring bubbling test tubes, lasers and a life-size Frankenstein’s monster descending from the ceiling at midnight.

Jason MacDonald, a supervisor at the pub, says he has never heard complaints about the reuse. “It’s for one simple reason: There are hundreds and hundreds of old churches and no one to go to them,” Mr. MacDonald said. “If they weren’t repurposed, they would just lie empty.”

Many churches, especially smaller ones, are becoming homes, and that has spawned an entire industry to connect would-be buyers with old churches.

The churches of England and Scotland list available properties online, with descriptions worthy of a realty firm. St. John’s church in Bacup, England, for example, is said to feature “a lofty nave as well as basement rooms with stone-vaulted ceilings,” and can be had for about $160,000.

There are many reasons why Christianity has declined in Europe, but surely the widespread embrace of left-wing economic policies – even by evangelical Christians – is one of the largest.

Here’s a fairly recent paper (PDF) that explains it:

What accounts for cross-national variation in religiosity as measured by church attendance and non-religious rates? Examining answers from both secularization theory and the religious economy perspective, we assert that cross-national variation in religious participation is a function of government welfare spending and provide a theory that links macro-sociological outcomes with individual rationality. Churches historically have provided social welfare. As governments gradually assume many of these welfare functions, individuals with elastic preferences for spiritual goods will reduce their level of participation since the desired welfare goods can be obtained from secular sources. Cross-national data on welfare spending and religious participation show a strong negative relationship between these two variables after controlling for other aspects of modernization.

I have many friends in the UK who classify themselves as evangelical Christians. They almost all embrace moderate to leftist economics, and they complain to me about why the church is in decline, why there is no interest in apologetics, why they can’t find Christian girlfriends, why they can’t get speaking engagements. The answer is, of course, that by majoring only in theology and apologetics, they have crafted the rope that their secular allies in government are using to hang them. Leftism is embraced by European Christians in part because they don’t want to be like those dastardly Americans with their free enterprise system and their rule of law and their private property and their law-abiding gun ownership.

It just goes to show you why Christianity suffers when we focus on piety at the expense of practicality. Too much A. W. Tozer, not enough F.A. Hayek. I doubt my well-meaning UK Christian friends – who are so proud of their laughable NHS health care – even know who F.A. Hayek is. To think that Lady Thatcher ones brandished “The Constitution of Liberty” by F.A. Hayek and declared “this is what we believe!”. But ordinary UK Christians do not believe what she believes, and now they must reap what they sowed with their knee-jerk rejection of the free enterprise system. Ignorance of economics killed Christianity in Europe, and pious, risk-averse Christians were willing participants in the murder.

Which government policies enable terrorist attacks like the one in Belgium?

So, there was another terrorist attack in Belgium, and before I have a stab at explaining what caused it, I want to hear from 5 prominent Democrats about what they think about terrorism.

Here’s Bernie Sanders explaining his view:

And here’s Hillary Clinton explaining her view:

And here’s Obama and John Kerry explaining their view:

And Obama’s attorney general Loretta Lynch explaining her view:

Well, that’s what Democrats think about radical Islamic terrorism.

But what is the real cause of the frequent terrorist attacks in Europe that are committed by radicalized Muslims?

Muslim populations in Europe
Muslim populations in Europe

The left-leaning The Atlantic has an article that talks about radical Islamic terrorism in Belgium:

French authorities say they believe Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Belgian man, masterminded the November 13 attacks in Paris.

The focus on Abaaoud helps emphasize how tiny Belgium has taken on an oversized role in the European theater of jihad. The country has provided a steady flow of fighters to ISIS in the Middle East—including Abaaoud—and has been the site of planning of attacks in Europe. (The Daily Beast has a good timeline of incidents involving Belgian militants.)

Abaaoud was already suspected of planning a prior attack that was foiled by Belgian authorities in the days after January’s Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. Two suspects were killed in the operation. At the time, Slate’s Joshua Keating warned: “The Belgian police may claim today to have ‘averted a Belgian Charlie Hebdo,’ but it’s clear that the country’s radicalization problem is much larger, and will take more than police raids to address.” Those words proved prophetic.

Belgium has just 11 million people, and Pew estimated that about 6 percent of the population was Muslim as of 2010. But Belgian and French nationals make up around a quarter of the Europeans who went to fight in Iraq in the mid-2000s. While the government has acknowledged that hundreds of Belgians have gone to fight with ISIS or for other groups in the Syrian civil war, Pieter Van Ostaeyen, an independent researcher, calculated in October that 516 Belgians had fought in Iraq or Syria, far higher than the government’s figures. Based on his numbers, Belgium has contributed more fighters per capita to the fight in the Levant than any other European country.

[…]Belgian jihadism seems to mimic French Islamist militancy, only more concentrated—as befits the smaller country. Both have large numbers of immigrants who are poorer and isolated from the dominant culture.

So, it’s not just that the generous European socialists in Belgium took in lots and lots of Muslim immigrants, it’s that they took in lots and lots of unskilled Muslim immigrants, who struggle to integrate because they struggle to find work. Belgium, like other socialist countries in Europe, offers generous welfare programs to those who do not work. That’s a big draw to people in Middle Eastern countries.

The problem with offering generous welfare programs and welcoming in millions of illegal immigrants who cannot easily assimilate is twofold. First, eventually, socialists run out of other people’s money with which to bribe their unskilled immigrants. Second, everyone knows that making your own way through your own work is what makes people happiest. No one who is dependent on others (via social welfare programs) can truly be content. All of us deep down have a desire to be the author of our own success – to eat the food that we have earned with our own productive labor. Skilled immigrants can make their own way, but unskilled immigrants cannot.

It is good to have a system of legal immigration, in order to attract the a few of the best and brightest from other countries. If we take in a few at a time, then there is time for them to assimilate. And they can earn their own pay because they are skilled immigrants who came into the country to work. But it’s a mistake to let in millions and millions of unskilled immigrants who often cannot even speak the languages of Western nations.

So why did so many European countries import so many unskilled immigrants? The answer is simple.

Consider this article from the UK Daily Mail.

Excerpt:

Ministers today faced calls for an inquiry into claims that their open-door immigration policy was designed to make Britain more multicultural and allow Labour to portray the Tories as racists.

A former Labour adviser alleged that the Government opened up Britain’s borders in part to try to humiliate Right-wing opponents of immigration…

The Daily Mail reported on Saturday the controversial claims by Andrew Neather, who worked for Tony Blair and Jack Straw.

He said Labour’s relaxation of immigration controls in 2000 was a deliberate attempt to engineer a ‘truly multicultural’ country and plug gaps in the jobs market.

He said the ‘major shift’ in immigration policy was inspired by a 2001 policy paper from the Performance and Innovation Unit, a Downing Street think-tank based in the Cabinet Office…

Ministers were reluctant to discuss the move publicly for fear that it would alienate Labour’s core working-class vote, Mr Neather said. But they hoped it would allow them to paint the Conservatives as xenophobic and out of touch.

‘I remember coming away from some discussions with the clear sense that the policy was intended – even if this wasn’t its main purpose – to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date,’ Mr Neather added.

The parties of the left in Europe viewed mass immigration of unskilled immigrants as a way of creating a voting bloc that could be counted on to vote for bigger government, higher taxes, and more spending. The frequent terrorist attacks that we are seeing now are nothing but the outworking of this policy of deliberately bringing in millions of unskilled immigrants in order to get their votes for more welfare spending when they could not find jobs and pay their own way. We should be very careful about doing the same here. We must learn from the mistakes of leftist policies that have been tried in other places, in other times. We have to look beyond the compassionate rhetoric and ask “then what happened next?”.

If Sweden and Germany became US states, they would be among the poorest states

Lets take a closer look at a puzzle
Lets take a closer look at a puzzle

There seems to be a lot of talk among Democrats and native young people to the effect that European countries have less “income inequality” thanks to bigger government, higher taxes, and more social spending. Is there a downside to this?

The Mises Institute takes a look at it:

The battle over the assumed success of European socialism continues. Many European countries like Sweden have gained a reputation as being very wealthy in spite of their highly regulated and taxed economies. From there, many assume that the rest of Europe is more or less similar, even if slightly poorer. But if we look more closely at the data, a very different picture emerges, and we find that the median household in the US is better off (income-wise) than the median household in all but three European countries.

[…]Using the BEA’s regional price parity index, we can take now account for the different cost of living in different states…
[…]We now see that there’s less variation in the median income levels among the US states. That makes sense because many states with low median incomes also have a very low cost of living. At the same time, many states with high median incomes have a very high cost of living.

Now that we’ve accounted for the low cost of living in Mississippi, we find that Mississippi ($26,517) is no longer the state with the lowest median income in real terms. New York ($26,152) is now the state with the lowest median income due to its very high cost of living.

This has had the effect of giving us a more realistic view of the purchasing power of the median household in US states. It is also more helpful in comparing individual states to OECD members, many of which have much higher costs of living than places like the American south and midwest.  Now that we recognize how inexpensive it is to live in places like Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky, we find that residents in those states now have higher median incomes than Sweden (a place that’s 30% more expensive than the US) and most other OECD countries measured.

Once purchasing power among the US states is taken into account, we find that Sweden’s median income ($27,167) is higher than only six states: Arkansas ($26,804), Louisiana ($25,643), Mississippi ($26,517), New Mexico ($26,762), New York ($26,152) and North Carolina ($26,819).

We find something similar when we look at Germany, but in Germany’s case, every single US state shows a higher median income than Germany. Germany’s median income is $25,528. Things look even worse for the United Kingdom which has a median income of $21,033, compared to $26,517 in Mississippi.

Meanwhile, Colorado ($35,059) has a median income nearly identical to Switzerland ($35,083), and ten states (Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and Washington State) show higher median incomes than Switzerland. Luxembourg ($38,502), on the other hand, shows a median income higher than every state except New Hampshire ($39,034).

None of this analysis should really surprise us. According to the OECD’s own numbers (which take into account taxes and social benefits, the US has higher median disposable income than all but three OECD countries. Sweden ranks below the US in this regard, as does Finland and Denmark.

The fact that the median level in the US is above most OECD countries thus makes it no surprise that most of these countries then rank below most US states. The US states that have income level above the median US level will, not surprisingly, outpace many OECD countries by a considerable margin.

What’s going on here? Well, it turns out that when you have fewer regulations on business, lower business taxes, and an emphasis on working rather collecting welfare, that people have more money in their pockets and a better standard of living. The trouble with Europe is that too many able-bodied people can get by without working. In the United States, we put more emphasis on making your own way, earning your own pay, and spending or saving your money as you please.

In America, the system is geared towards equipping each person to serve their fellows in the private sector workplace. More people working means more wealth is produced, and more wealth produced means that people have a higher standard of living. You wouldn’t have a higher standard of living in a country where most people didn’t work, and just relied on the few who did work. There isn’t enough to go around in society where most people don’t work.

Correcting four myths about the history of the Crusades

Crusader
Crusader

Here is an interesting article from First Principles Journal.

Intro:

The verdict seems unanimous. From presidential speeches to role-playing games, the crusades are depicted as a deplorably violent episode in which thuggish Westerners trundled off, unprovoked, to murder and pillage peace-loving, sophisticated Muslims, laying down patterns of outrageous oppression that would be repeated throughout subsequent history. In many corners of the Western world today, this view is too commonplace and apparently obvious even to be challenged.

But unanimity is not a guarantee of accuracy. What everyone “knows” about the crusades may not, in fact, be true. From the many popular notions about the crusades, let us pick four and see if they bear close examination.

The four myths:

  • Myth #1: The crusades represented an unprovoked attack by Western Christians on the Muslim world.
  • Myth #2: Western Christians went on crusade because their greed led them to plunder Muslims in order to get rich.
  • Myth #3: Crusaders were a cynical lot who did not really believe their own religious propaganda; rather, they had ulterior, materialistic motives.
  • Myth #4: The crusades taught Muslims to hate and attack Christians.

Here’s the most obvious thing you should know. The Crusades were defensive actions:

In a.d. 632, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor, North Africa, Spain, France, Italy, and the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica were all Christian territories. Inside the boundaries of the Roman Empire, which was still fully functional in the eastern Mediterranean, orthodox Christianity was the official, and overwhelmingly majority, religion. Outside those boundaries were other large Christian communities—not necessarily orthodox and Catholic, but still Christian. Most of the Christian population of Persia, for example, was Nestorian. Certainly there were many Christian communities in Arabia.

By a.d. 732, a century later, Christians had lost Egypt, Palestine, Syria, North Africa, Spain, most of Asia Minor, and southern France. Italy and her associated islands were under threat, and the islands would come under Muslim rule in the next century. The Christian communities of Arabia were entirely destroyed in or shortly after 633, when Jews and Christians alike were expelled from the peninsula.6 Those in Persia were under severe pressure. Two-thirds of the formerly Roman Christian world was now ruled by Muslims.

What had happened? Most people actually know the answer, if pressed—though for some reason they do not usually connect the answer with the crusades. The answer is the rise of Islam. Every one of the listed regions was taken, within the space of a hundred years, from Christian control by violence, in the course of military campaigns deliberately designed to expand Muslim territory at the expense of Islam’s neighbors. Nor did this conclude Islam’s program of conquest. The attacks continued, punctuated from time to time by Christian attempts to push back. Charlemagne blocked the Muslim advance in far western Europe in about a.d. 800, but Islamic forces simply shifted their focus and began to island-hop across from North Africa toward Italy and the French coast, attacking the Italian mainland by 837. A confused struggle for control of southern and central Italy continued for the rest of the ninth century and into the tenth. In the hundred years between 850 and 950, Benedictine monks were driven out of ancient monasteries, the Papal States were overrun, and Muslim pirate bases were established along the coast of northern Italy and southern France, from which attacks on the deep inland were launched. Desperate to protect victimized Christians, popes became involved in the tenth and early eleventh centuries in directing the defense of the territory around them.

If you asked me what are the two best books on the Crusades, I would answer God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades by Baylor professor Rodney Stark and The Concise History of the Crusades by Professor Thomas F. Madden. If you get this question a lot from atheists, then I recommend you pick these up. Anything by Rodney Stark is useful for Christians, in fact.

Mark Steyn on Paris terrorist attacks: the barbarians are inside the gates

Consider this article from Canadian writer Mark Steyn. The article’s title is: “The Barbarians Are Inside, And There Are No Gates”.

Steyn writes:

As I write, Paris is under curfew for the first time since the German occupation, and the death toll from the multiple attacks stands at 158, the vast majority of them slaughtered during a concert at the Bataclan theatre, a delightful bit of 19th century Chinoiserie on the boulevard Voltaire. The last time I was there, if memory serves, was to see Julie Pietri. I’m so bloody sick of these savages shooting and bombing and killing and blowing up everything I like – whether it’s the small Quebec town where my little girl’s favorite fondue restaurant is or my favorite hotel in Amman or the brave freespeecher who hosted me in Copenhagen …or a music hall where I liked to go to hear a little jazz and pop and get away from the cares of the world for a couple of hours. But look at the photographs from Paris: there’s nowhere to get away from it; the barbarians who yell “Allahu Akbar!” are there waiting for you …when you go to a soccer match, you go to a concert, you go for a drink on a Friday night. They’re there on the train… at the magazine office… in the Kosher supermarket… at the museum in Brussels… outside the barracks in Woolwich…

Twenty-four hours ago, I said on the radio apropos the latest campus “safe space” nonsense:

This is what we’re going to be talking about when the mullahs nuke us.
Almost. When the Allahu Akbar boys opened fire, Paris was talking about the climate-change conference due to start later this month, when the world’s leaders will fly in to “solve” a “problem” that doesn’t exist rather than to address the one that does. But don’t worry: we already have a hashtag (#PrayForParis) and doubtless there’ll be another candlelight vigil of weepy tilty-headed wankers. Because as long as we all advertise how sad and sorrowful we are, who needs to do anything?

With his usual killer comedy timing, the “leader of the free world” told George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning, America” this very morning that he’d “contained” ISIS and that they’re not “gaining strength”. A few hours later, a cell whose members claim to have been recruited by ISIS slaughtered over 150 people in the heart of Paris and succeeded in getting two suicide bombers and a third bomb to within a few yards of the French president.

Now why was France attacked? France has been in the lead of all the other “multicultural” European countries at welcoming in unskilled immigrants from countries that do not like Western values very much:

Muslim population in European countries
Muslim population in European countries

Mark Steyn continues:

And then Europe decided to invite millions of Muslims to settle in their countries. Most of those people don’t want to participate actively in bringing about the death of diners and concertgoers and soccer fans, but at a certain level most of them either wish or are indifferent to the death of the societies in which they live – modern, pluralist, western societies and those “universal values” of which Barack Obama bleats. So, if you are either an active ISIS recruit or just a guy who’s been fired up by social media, you have a very large comfort zone in which to swim, and which the authorities find almost impossible to penetrate.

And all Chancellor Merkel and the EU want to do is make that large comfort zone even larger by letting millions more “Syrian” “refugees” walk into the Continent and settle wherever they want. As I wrote after the Copenhagen attacks in February:

I would like to ask Mr Cameron and Miss Thorning-Schmidt what’s their happy ending here? What’s their roadmap for fewer “acts of violence” in the years ahead? Or are they riding on a wing and a prayer that they can manage the situation and hold it down to what cynical British civil servants used to call during the Irish “Troubles” “an acceptable level of violence”? In Pakistan and Nigeria, the citizenry are expected to live with the reality that every so often Boko Haram will kick open the door of the schoolhouse and kidnap your daughters for sex-slavery or the Taliban will gun down your kids and behead their teacher in front of the class. And it’s all entirely “random”, as President Obama would say, so you just have to put up with it once in a while, and it’s tough if it’s your kid, but that’s just the way it is. If we’re being honest here, isn’t that all Mr Cameron and Miss Thorning-Schmidt are offering their citizens? Spasms of violence as a routine feature of life, but don’t worry, we’ll do our best to contain it – and you can help mitigate it by not going to “controversial” art events, or synagogues, or gay bars, or…

…or soccer matches, or concerts, or restaurants…

On Friday night, my Dad messaged me to tell me about the story. The first thing in my mind was Obama’s comments about how we Christians needed to “get off our high horse” when we tried to judge Islamic terrorism, because of the Crusades (which were intended as a defensive reaction to Muslim expansion).

Investors Business Daily explains what Obama said:

In remarks at a prayer meeting Thursday, President Obama implied Christianity, just like Islam, is filled with people who “hijack religion for their own murderous ends.” This is the progressive disease of moral equivalence at its worst.

In recent days and weeks, the world has watched grimly as the horrific barbarity of fundamentalist Islam has been put on full display.

With routine beheadings, crucifixions, tortures, mass killings of civilians, burying children alive, and, most recently, burning a prisoner alive and filming his death agony to the approving yells of onlookers, it’s clear something is horribly wrong within Islam.

And yet, apart from rather routine denunciations of the savagery, Obama used his appearance at a National Prayer Breakfast to upbraid Christians for their sins.

“Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” Obama said. “In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

Remember, the Obama administration describes Islamic terrorism as “senseless violence“. Democrats describe shootings my Muslims at army bases as “workplace violence“. Democrats describe attacks on Israeli civilians as “random violence“. Democrats called shooting at Jews in France “random“. Democrats describe investigations about the Benghazi terrorist attack a “sideshow“, after they lied and tried to say the attack was a spontaneous reaction to a video. And this is the party that more than half of our country votes for at election time.The trouble with the Democrats is that they don’t have the resources in their worldview to call evil evil, and good good. They just want to feel “nice”, and be perceived by others as tolerant and non-judgmental. They want to be generous to enemies with your taxpayer dollars, and risk your lives in pursuit of their goal of watering down American exceptionalism and Western civilization.

If you want to know what Democrats really think of the Paris terrorist attacks, then all you have to do is look at their position on welcoming in Syrian refugees.