While Christianity still holds a fair amount of sway in western parts of Germany, in the eastern areas two thirds of the population—young and old—are declared atheists:
Bad news for all those who’d hoped Christianity might make a comeback now that the Cold War-era German Democratic Republic (DDR) is becoming an ever more distant memory. Atheism, according to a new study, is very much alive and well in the eastern part of Germany.
The statistics are most striking among those under 28 years old: more than 71% of eastern Germans in this age group say they have never believed in the existence of God. That’s nearly as many as in the 38-47 group, of which 72.6% are non-believers.
What the figures mean is that in eastern Germany, very young people are on the same wavelength as people from the middle generation when it comes to belief in God. The political transformation of former East Germany, in other words, hasn’t had much of an effect on people’s ideas about religion. While there are somewhat fewer atheists among young adults aged 28 to 37, where “only” 63.6% say they’ve never been believers, those in the following generation are at least as non-religious as their parents.
The deadline to register for the 2012 Acton University conference is this Friday, May 18! This means that you have less than five days to visit university.acton.org to finish that application you started a few days ago.
If I were going to try to explain Acton University, I could say that attendees and faculty alike are professionals who are among the best in their respective fields. I could also say that the number and variety of resources brought to the event by everyone involved, whether directly or indirectly, is simply astounding. Or, I could explain that both of these elements help us to create an environment that cultivates your ability to articulate your understanding of the Judeo-Christian view of liberty and morality and its application in a free and virtuous society. Try as I might, though, none of this accurately describes the experience you’ll have at Acton University this summer. But remember: You only have until Friday to register so that you can find out for yourself!
Recently we held a blog contest asking people to respond to the following Kuyper quote by sharing how this idea reframes your calling in life, “There can be nothing in the universe that fails to express, to incarnate, the revelation of the thought of God.”
We are excited to share with you the three winners of the contest. Our first prize winner is Travis Thomas and his full entry is below. Our two honorable mentions are James Berry and Katelyn Swiatek. Click on their names to read their entries.
Acton Institute President Rev. Robert Sirico will be reading from the Gospel at the Memorial Service for Charles Colson Wednesday at 10 a.m. EST. The memorial will be streamed live on the Washington National Cathedral website. Tune in for a fitting tribute to our friend and collaborator, Chuck Colson.
Also, visit our Chuck Colson resource page for video, interviews, and other materials highlighting Acton’s relationship with Colson.
While reading a book on the early conservative movement in America, I stumbled across a reference to an article in a magazine that had gone out of print almost 50 years earlier. Since I was living near Washington, D.C. I took a trip to the Library of Congress to see if they had a copy I could read. To my amazement, I merely had to fill out a form, wait about 45 minutes, and I could view the issue in their reading room.
That was in the late 1990s. Today, thanks to Ron Unz, I merely have to click on a URL, wait about 10 seconds, and I can view that same issue from my living room.
Over the weekend, Unz announced he has made available the digitized archives of over 100 periodicals from the last two centuries, “most of which have never before been available outside the dusty shelves of research libraries.”
The archives contain many political magazines from both the right (The American Mercury, Modern Age, Social Justice) and the left (IF Stone’s Weekly, The New Masses, Marxism Today). It even includes literary journals (The Idler) and numerous pulp fiction magazines (Detective Fiction Weekly, Exciting Western, Weird Tales).
The treasure trove of content is a prize in itself, but Unz is also sponsoring a Historical Research Competition with a $10,000 First Prize, for “the most interesting and important research discovery based on these archives.”
This was the topic of our latest Campus Martius discussion group at the Istituto Acton office in Rome. Our guest speaker was law professor David Forte, who presented some of the challenges in furthering liberal democracy in Muslim-majority countries.
Having studied and spoken on Islamic law for many years, Prof. Forte is no extremist on the question and had been generally optimistic about the democratization of the Muslim world. In the wake of the “Arab spring” and increasing persecution of Christians and other minorities in Muslim countries, he now calls himself a “cautious pessimist.” For his explanation, go to this Zenit Rome Notes feature by Edward Pentin. It’s especially noteworthy that “lapsed Catholics” (i.e., the vast majority of Catholics in the West) are considered ripe for conversions by Islamists; the same can indeed be said of “lapsed liberals,” as I will explain.
The New York Times’ “Room for Debate” feature highlights religious freedom this week by asking the question: “Should Churches Get Tax Breaks?”
The contributors, who span the continuum of opinions on the issue, include Susan Jacoby, Christopher L. Eisgruber and Lawrence Sager, Winnie Varghese, Dan Barker, and Mark Rienzi.
Jacoby, who recently debated the merits of Christianity in American politics and Grand Rapids’ Fountain Street Church, is an advocate for secularism and author of The Age of American Unreason. Jacoby argues that if a church wants federal help, it must play by the government’s rules:
In cases involving freedom of conscience, government policy—like the Bill of Rights—should always be on the side of the individual. If churches don’t like the strings attached to public money, they are free to refuse taxpayer subsidies. The First Amendment was not written for an America in which religion claimed the right to have it both ways.
Recently, a Christian student group at Vanderbilt University has been told by the school’s administration that it will lose its recognized status on campus unless the group removes its requirement that its leaders have a “personal commitment to Jesus Christ.” Administrators at the school had previously ruled that religious organizations must now allow any Vanderbilt student to be a candidate for a leadership office, regardless of religious beliefs or sexual orientation. For example, a Christian student group would be forced to allow the candidacy of an atheist and Jewish groups would be forced to allow Wiccans to be considered for the group’s leader.
The irony, says John Murray, is that the very freedom Vanderbilt administrators have to deprive students of their freedom of religious association derives from a 19th-century Supreme Court case that led to the proliferation of Christian colleges such as Vanderbilt: