Cracks in the atheist edifice

Excerpts from a recent story in The Economist

CHRISTIANITY is hard to control in China, and getting harder all the time. It is spreading rapidly, and infiltrating the party’s own ranks. The line is blurring between house churches and official ones, and Christians are starting to emerge from hiding to play a more active part in society.

The Communist Party has to find a new way to deal with all this. There is even talk that the party, the world’s largest explicitly atheist organisation, might follow its sister parties in Vietnam and Cuba and allow members to embrace a dogma other than—even higher than—that of Marx.

Any shift in official thinking on religion could have big ramifications for the way China handles a host of domestic challenges, from separatist unrest among Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim Uighurs in the country’s west to the growth of NGOs and “civil society”—grassroots organisations, often with a religious colouring, which the party treats with suspicion, but which are also spreading fast.

It is hard even to guess at the number of Christians in China. Official surveys seek to play down the figures, ignoring the large number who worship in house churches. By contrast, overseas Christian groups often inflate them. There were perhaps 3m Catholics and 1m Protestants when the party came to power in 1949. Officials now say there are between 23m and 40m, all told. In 2010 the Pew Research Centre, an American polling organisation, estimated there were 58m Protestants and 9m Catholics. Many experts, foreign and Chinese, now accept that there are probably more Christians than there are members of the 87m-strong Communist Party. Most are evangelical Protestants.

Predicting Christianity’s growth is even harder. Yang Fenggang of Purdue University, in Indiana, says the Christian church in China has grown by an average of 10% a year since 1980. He reckons that on current trends there will be 250m Christians by around 2030, making China’s Christian population the largest in the world.

Some Chinese also discern in Christianity the roots of Western strength. They see it as the force behind the development of social justice, civil society and rule of law, all things they hope to see in China. Many new NGOs are run by Christians or Buddhists. There are growing numbers of Christian doctors and academics. More than 2,000 Christian schools are also dotted around China, many of them small and all, as yet, illegal.

One civil-rights activist says that, of the 50 most-senior civil-rights lawyers in China, probably half are Christians.


16 thoughts on “Cracks in the atheist edifice

  1. A MIRACLE!!! :- “Christian church in China has grown by an average of 10% a year since 1980.”
    Get out your calculator and do the numbers. 10% compounded yearly over 35 years means there are many more christians in China than there are Chinamen.

    God IS Great!! 🙂


    • It occurs to me that’s what may be behind the imminent collapse of the chinese economy ~ and presumably other institutions.
      Which in turn ~ as the ‘experts’ are unanimously predicting ~ will drag the rest of he world down with it.
      God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.
      (I wonder if He’s dumping $US too…..)


  2. Atheist edifice?
    Carl Sagan wrote –
    “Some people think God is an outsized, light-skinned male with a long white beard, sitting on a throne somewhere up there in the sky, busily tallying the fall of every sparrow. Others—for example Baruch Spinoza and Albert Einstein—considered God to be essentially the sum total of the physical laws which describe the universe. I do not know of any compelling evidence for anthropomorphic patriarchs controlling human destiny from some hidden celestial vantage point, but it would be madness to deny the existence of physical laws.”

    Quotes like these have led some to believe that he was an atheist, but this is not true. He hated the term. Much like Charles Darwin, Sagan recognized that claiming that there is no God is as irrational as claiming there is one. He once said:

    “An atheist has to know a lot more than I know. An atheist is someone who knows there is no god. By some definitions atheism is very stupid.”


    • Definitions may be the crux of it ~ or anything else ~ Strewth as I’ve often said.
      But that’s been done to death, and at bottom ‘atheist’ is defined as ‘godless’.
      Therefore, any variation of Bryan’s “atheism is a belief” is nonsense. To be ‘atheist’ does NOT require ‘knowledge’, ‘belief’, ‘assertion’ or anything else.
      I’ve made the point repeatedly that any realistic definition of ‘atheist’ based on rational philosophy, semantics or logic does NOT require any conscious decision.
      Atheism, founded on the original transcription = ‘a’ (without), ‘theo’ (god).

      Therefore, by the fundamental linguistic definition, Billy-Bob, the cat next door, the rhododendrons outside my window and my letter-box are all atheist.
      So, indeed, are Jehovah and Allah.
      If any of them inform me that’s not so I’ll let you know. 🙂


    • ps. before you can make any definitive (ie non-subjective) statements about things like ” physical laws” and “the universe” you’d need to prove that those elements ~ and, in fact, yourself actually exist at all.
      There used to be a fairly persuasive (in a philosophical sense) proposition doing the rounds long ago that ‘nothing’ exists ~ and is, in fact, ALL that exists.
      …..and manifests itself as a figment of some vast, infinite Imagination. (Given that infinity is a non-existence.)

      Obviously there is no proof to support the suggestion; but neither is there any proof to the contrary.


      • Yes Dabbles, I’m aware of such propositions, including one that theorises a genuine scientific thought that there could really be not just A parallel universe, but a number of them.

        We a dealing with hypotheses, which doesn’t lead anywhere. To exclude what seems to be the most unlikely, perhaps we could add a rider of “as commonly understood” on such words as ‘universe’. Then of course we still come into trouble as we have a variety of ‘common understandings’ about some subjects, such as, for instance, ‘heaven’ and ‘God’.

        For myself, I try to talk according to the understanding of my company. I feel I speak different languages at different times, and it must appear that I often speak with ‘a forked tongue’! That’s something you never do, Dabs. Congratulations!


      • Read his own definition, Bubba, and decide. I feel he didn’t believe in God, but believed in the possibility of God. Which rather fits agnosticism, I think?


      • Not to split hairs (!!) (or heirs, if we’re talking about god and his kid!), but I don’t see the convenient contrivance called ‘agnosticism’ as having any legitimacy.
        Fundamentally, in keeping in line with the definition, one’s either ‘got god’ or one hasn’t.
        An obvious corollary is that ‘belief’ is, in any case. irrelevant.
        eg. I’m sure we all know people that CLAIM to be be,say, christian, yet can think and behave in the most ungodly manner.
        That just isn’t possible for an atheist.
        (In the name of modesty I deliberately refrained from pointing out that an atheist can be capable of thinking and behaving in a ‘christian’ manner.)


      • Do you know everything, I wonder, or admit that there are still things to be discovered? For example, a new antibiotic, an old recipe for silver polish (long forgotten), a new form of commuting., as yet undiscovered food value of some plant, and many things more wondrous than those?

        I think it’s quite legitimate to believe we can’t yet see these things, for us they are non-existent, but still to find their existence possible.

        As far as those who profess to be Christians, it’s only ‘by their fruit you shall know them.’ And “Not everyone who cries ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven.’

        Although I can’t swallow all scripture (neither apparently did Jesus), the Bible still has some very wise things to say.


      • But that’s my point precisely, Strewth:-
        “As far as those who profess to be Christians, it’s only ‘by their fruit you shall know them.’ And “Not everyone who cries ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven.’
        ie. What one ‘believes’ ~ or doesn’t! ~ is irrelevant: meaningless in deciding whether one’s ‘got god’ or not.
        Therefore the idiotic argument of ‘atheists are ‘believers’ is a nonsense ~ and the manufacture of a plastic bone of contention like ‘agnosticism’ is absurd.
        Whether the bible contains ‘some wisdom’ is a separate issue. As is the question of whether Grimms Fairytales or Aesaop’s Fables contain some ‘wisdoms’.

        I don’t have a problem in contemplating ‘hypothesies’; but I balk at having them presented as ‘facts’.
        And as I keep saying the determining factor is often how anything is defined.
        eg. There was a great doco on the ‘multiverse’ thing a couple of days ago.
        My problem with it was that I generally define the Universe as meaning “EVERYthing”; hence any ‘multiverse’ can be no more than a part of the ‘universe’.

        Years ago after hearing a long-winded discussion on the radio about the expanding universe I rang the head astonomer at Mt Stromlo Observatory with the question:-
        If the ‘Universe consists of ‘everything’ that exists, how can it be expanding into some continuum beyond itself?
        We had a long interesting conversation (cost me nearly $100 in STD charges!) most of which was beyond me; but the gist of which was that the expansion creates it’s own Space and Time as it expands.
        He even got the resident astophysicist in on the conversation who explained it to me with great mathematical precision ~ and no small degree of humour. (I suspect he realised early in the discussion that I was no mathematician!)

        And after all that, 35 years later, I STILL don’t understand it.

        Though I reckon if I changed my definition of ‘Universe’ it’d be a lot clearer.
        But then that wouldn’t make sense to me.


      • ps. OF COURSE I don’t “…know everything, (and ALWAYS) I wonder, or admit that there are still things to be discovered?”

        But, then, I’m NOT a godbotherer who reads old scripts put together be stunningly ignorant and stupidstitious (sic) people a few thousand years ago and accepts what I read as ‘truth’, let alone ‘facts’.
        …people who seek knowledge and understanding by worming through the scripts for kabbalistic and/or ‘inspired-by-god’ messages and re-interpretations, and who refuse ANY development or new discovery that doesn’t fit their primitive superstitions.

        The ‘reality’ is that the Middle East contains McBurger outlets and nuclear weapons.
        Try explaining THAT to Moses!
        I’m confident he wouldn’t even grasp enough of what he was hearing to get upset about it.


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