October 21st 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Reality of family unit must underlie tax system

EDITORIAL Christianity today: the challenges ahead

CANBERRA OBSERVED Xenophon: a Mr Fixit or a political yo-yo?

DRUGS POLICY Science elbowed aside in rush for latest silver bullet: 'medical marijuana'

TRANSGENDER MARRIAGE Decoys to revolutionary laws redefining sex and marriage

FOREIGN AFFAIRS What is the way out of the Catalan crisis?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Our barmy Army: all politically correct

FAMILY AND SOCIETY The child as weapon in Family Court process

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Faiths and the global future

KOREA Hermit Kingdom versus the Land of Morning Calm

MUSIC Hi-tech lo-fi: Resistance is futile

CINEMA Blade Runner 2049: A cypher unlocking a mystery

BOOK REVIEW The rebels

BOOK REVIEW An attempt to break through the fog


HUMOUR More excerpts from the forthcoming revision of Forget's Dictionary of Inaccurate Facts, Furphys and Falsehoods


EUTHANASIA Victoria's death bill: questions that need answers

TRANSGENDER MARRIAGE: George Christensen calls Parliament's attention to activists' end-game

EUTHANASIA Victoria mistakes killing for compassion

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Christianity today: the challenges ahead

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, October 21, 2017

The muted commemorations marking the 500th anniversary of the commencement of the Protestant Reformation, officially dated to October 31, provide an occasion to reflect on the role of Christianity today in our society, and more broadly, throughout the world.

The Reformation, which divided Europe for hundreds of years, and the echoes of which exist to the present day, was undoubtedly one of the great events in Western history.

It influenced not only Western Europe, where its effects were immediately felt, but the continents of North and South America, Australia, Asia and Africa, as a result of European colonisation.

When Martin Luther drafted his 95 theses in October 1517, he was principally concerned with challenging the Catholic Church’s teaching on indulgences, rather than setting off an explosion that would divide the Christian world.

At the risk of over-simplification, the Reformers insisted that what was sufficient and necessary for salvation was a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, not mediated by the Church, its hierarchy, its sacraments or its doctrines.

In our own country, there are millions of people who hold this belief, while millions more continue to believe that Jesus founded a church to be his chosen instrument to guarantee fidelity to his word, and to provide the means of salvation to the generations that came after his death and resurrection.

Across the world, there are billions of people who hold Christian beliefs. The remarkable growth of Christianity in post-communist Europe and Russia, as well as its growth in Africa and Asia over the past century, attest to the power of Christian belief, and its continuing role in the world.

But in most of the Western world – excluding the United States – there has been a dramatic decline in religious belief and practice over the past 50 years. This decline has been particularly rapid in Western Europe, which has effected the transition from Christianity to agnosticism in two generations. The decline in religious belief has accompanied a growth in a culture of radical individualism, the claim to personal autonomy and a rejection of moral absolutes.

The effect of these changes is that some of the most prosperous parts of the world have largely abandoned Christianity and embraced alternative belief systems including Gaia, Eastern mysticism and environmentalism.

Personal choice?

If the effects of this change had been limited to a shift away from organised religion, it would have been merely a matter of personal choice.

But the impact of these changes in personal belief are reflected in the broader society.

The social consequences in Western society have been marked: a steady weakening of the family unit, increased family breakdown, increased domestic violence, the growth of the pornography industry, the legalisation of abortion, and society’s loss of the love for children.

Despite the economic prosperity of Western Europe, family size across the continent has continued to decline, and in most countries, is far below replacement level.

The population in most parts of Western Europe is now beginning to fall and, as population growth depends on the number of women in the 20-to-35 age cohort, will inevitably fall more rapidly in the decades to come.

A generation ago, apologists of doom like Dr Paul Ehrlich predicted the end of civilisation and recurring wars through overpopulation. (For more details on overpopulation doomsayers such as Paul Ehrlich and his ilk, and the associated anti-natalism that has taken hold in the West, see Allan C. Carlson’s article on pages 14–17 of this edition of News Weekly.)

In fact, we are now facing the possible extinction of entire nations, particularly in Western Europe, as a result of depopulation, making them also an attractive destination for millions of people from Africa and the Middle East escaping wars or seeking a better life.

It is surely not a coincidence that the push for euthanasia and same-sex marriage began in Western Europe, and is almost exclusively found in countries that are culturally similar.

Modern technology, including developments in medicine and pharmaceuticals, and the growth of the internet, have facilitated these developments, but are not the underlying cause.

While government policies designed to encourage family formation and support the huge cost of child-bearing and rearing are important, the underlying problem is far deeper, and comes from the loss of the moral foundations on which Western society has been based.

It is interesting to note that in parts of the world which have endured forced atheism in the 20th century – including Russia, Eastern Europe and even China – there has been a surprising growth in religious belief and practice over the past 30 years.

Since the fall of communism in the Soviet Union nearly 30 years ago, there has been an astonishing recovery of religious belief and practice. According to the Russian Orthodox Church, some 30,000 new churches have been built since 1990. Hungary and Poland, both countries that endured over four decades of communism, have entrenched pro-life provisions into their laws and constitutions.

We must hope and work for a similar recovery in our own country.

Peter Westmore is national president of the National Civic Council.

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