It used to be taken for granted that, just as liberal democracy meant the end of history, so it also meant the end of religion. Once people became rich, educated and sexually liberated, they left irrational beliefs and other such nonsense behind.Monotheïsme heeft de langste adem, concludeerde al de Amerikaanse socioloog Rodney Stark. Binnen het monotheïsme overleeft, om verschillende redenen, de orthodoxie (zie Kaufmann, Eberstadt, en zelfs de conclusies van het toch zeer voorzichtige Nederlandse Sociaal-Cultureel Planbureau (2009, p. 53)).
Christianity declined steadily from the mid-19th century but it wasn’t until the 1960s that European societies were able to fully abandon the emotional baggage of their civilisation’s infancy, and especially its repressive attitude to sex.
But if what Kaufmann is saying is true – and the demographic data suggests it is – then the contraceptive Pill was not so much secular Europe’s liberation as its cyanide tablet.
God alone knows what will happen to the Church of England this century, but we can safely say that the Catholic Church will become smaller but more committed. It will continue to exist at the margins of an atheist-dominated Europe ruled by an increasingly intolerant secular Left.
It’s happened before: Kaufmann believes that Christianity’s rise from 40 followers to 6 million within three centuries had less to do with conversions that with higher birth rates, since the Christians rejected such pagan practises as polygamy and infanticide.
Today we view the ancient world’s attitude to infanticide as barbaric and incomprehensible, but perhaps future generations will look at our attitudes to abortion in the same way – that’s not because pro-lifers would have won the argument, simply that (in addition to the effect of the Pill) abortion is killing the atheists of tomorrow.
De vraag is: welk monotheïsme, welke orthodoxie? Het tractaat De vera religione, de afgelopen vijf eeuwen snobistisch op zolder gelaten, eist nieuwe belangstelling, op alle niveaus.