Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A Christian Atheist and the Challenge of Islam

Yes, you are seeing the first posted image on my blog. Behold this amazing and arresting visage. This is Oriana Fallaci, a veteran Italian journalist and novelist who has, after September 11, 2001, written on the effects of massive Muslim relocation and lack of assimilation in Europe. A recent The New Yorker (June 5, 2006) has a long and fascinating article by Margaret Talbot about her called "The Agitator: Oriana Fallaci Directs Her Fury Against Islam." She caused a firestore in Italy and in greater Europe with her book, The Rage and the Pride, published soon after September 11, 2001. Her most recent book translated into English is The Force of Reason. I have only begun studying her work, which is passionate and controversial. She calls herself "a Christian atheist," because she wants to conserve Europe's Christian-based culture in the face of Muslim influences. She was interviewed a year ago by The Wall Street Journal: "Prophet of Decline." Front Page Magazine ran a story called "Fallaci: Warrior in the Cause of Human Freedom" by Robert Spencer, which recounts her career and her acceptance speech of an award they gave her in 2005.


Ray said...

A "Christian Atheist" sounds like it makes as much sense as a "square circle".

Douglas Groothuis said...


Yes, but it is interesting that Fallaci wants to conserve certain values based on a worldview she denies in order to defend Italy and Europe against another worldview she more vehemently denies. She thus discerns that democracy, individual rights, and the equality of women are based historically on Christianity and that these values are antithetical to Islamic perspectives.

Susan said...

"Christian Atheist"...
Is the Christian worldview even viable when it is emptied of its power? 2 Timothy 3:5.

Such terminology is seductive, but ultimately impotent.

Douglas Groothuis said...


Yes, but this godless woman has more moral courage than most Christians.

Susan said...

It's a sign of judgement when those without God are left to be the ones to defend Him.

Tom Wanchick said...

Similar work can be found in the British journalist, Melanie Phillips.

I believe she is Jewish; certainly not an atheist.

But her work is interesting in that she's a lone voice in England pointing out the need to return to a Judeo-Christian worldview so as not to lose Western civilization.

Adam said...

I know my opinion doesn't matter much, but I like the idea of a "Christian atheist". I've always thought that atheists had more to teach us about the Christian faith than other Christians.

But I always worry a bit when someone wants to use the (generic) "Judeo-Christian Worldview" to champion some political cause or other. I should point out, though, I'm not so much concerned about whether or the not the Christian worldview is "viable when it is stripped of its power," as one commentator put it. Democracy, individual liberty, and the equality of women may be "based historically on Christianity," but there's certainly no necessary connection. We can be free, democratic egalitarians without also being Christians. Lots of people are.

I am concerned, however, about how Fallaci seems to be (ab)using Christianity for her own purposes.

This seems to be a prime case of idolatry. Instead of allowing God to meet us on his terms, we instead force God to play a role that WE assign (in this case, a political role: holding an encroaching Muslim worldview at bay). I'm not saying, of course, that it's bad to promote Christian values (or that it's good to promote Muslim values).

But by co-opting certain Christian ideas (equality, etc.) to the exclusion of others (creation, sin, redemption, etc.) and putting those ideas to work in scheme of our devising, we essentially say, "God, I like a, b, and c about you; they serve my purposes. But I don't like x, y, and z. So I'll get rid of them." In short, we make God in our own image.

Nevertheless, I'm struck by one of Dr. Groothuis' comments: "Yes, but this godless woman has more moral courage than most Christians."

So, even if Fallaci's selective retrieval of certain "Christian values" is problematic, it seems that she still has much to teach us.

Susan said...
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Susan said...

You made my point.

Moral courage is a good thing and don't get me wrong~ I went about the internet and read some of Fallaci's speeches and essays. Her passion is impressive and her knowledge of good and evil profound. She shames the West. But there are people in the world, atheist and non-atheist alike, who would be perfectly happy with a world that had all the Christian values that serve the desired end and none of Christ Himself. I am alarmed when those who have Christ are at ease with this. " least they recognize that some Christian values and mores are good." Hey-a "Christianized" nation will still go to hell if it does not have Christ. Do we care more about the niceities of Judeo-Christian culture than the eternal state of those living under it?

To acknowledge the intelligence and moral substance of an atheist's work is one thing - to defend it as viable is another. I am not saying you have done the latter, DG.

Douglas Groothuis said...


Right. Her position is entirely unworkable philosophically, as Nietzsche pointed out in "the Madman" parable. One cannot remove God and pretend that moral values remain essentially the same!

R. Mansfield said...

Interesting coincidence. I ran into a fellow (with an M.Div from a Baptist seminary) last week who also claimed to be a Christian but said he didn't believe in God or that Jesus was the Son of God. He said he liked Jesus' ethical teachings, but rejected his claim to be son of God. I asked him if I came in and was a good teacher but made claims to be more than a mere mortal if he would take me seriously. He said he would not, but had no real answer to the point of my question. I told him to seek deeper.

juliagwin said...

Adam says, "Democracy, individual liberty, and the equality of women may be 'based historically on Christianity,' but there's certainly no necessary connection. We can be free, democratic egalitarians without also being Christians. Lots of people are."

Susan hit the nail on the head with 2 Timothy 3:5. Adam is talking about a FORM of godliness but denying the power thereof. Can there really be freedom, truth and dignity without the Author of these? Can we live and move and have our being apart from God? (Acts 17:28).

We Americans are very partial to our notions of freedom, yet these ideas have become, in their modern sense, antithetical to biblical truth. We are created to serve (worship), and we choose whom to serve. We cannot be faithful to two masters (Joshua 24:15; Matthew 6:24). It is no wonder God's first and second commandments address our propensity to idolatry.

Saint Augustine wrote “Eternal God, who are the light of the minds that know you, the joy of the hearts that love you, and the strength of the wills that serve you; grant us so to know you, that we may truly love you, and so to love you that we may fully serve you, whom to serve is perfect freedom, in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

I think Augustine, who was a slave to iniquity for many years, deeply understood the meaning of true freedom and the paradox that it can only be found in being a slave to God.

It is no accident that our nation has enjoyed the blessings of liberty more than any other. It did not come from ourselves, but from God. We have forgotten it. God have mercy on us.