Opposition to Christianity
Many individuals, groups, and even cultural movements in modern times are antichristian. This means they actively seek to attack, undermine, and denigrate the Christian faith, while deceiving the public about the nature of Christianity, its heritage, and accomplishments.
Antichristians dismiss the part that the Christian tradition played in the rapid development of European science, culture, and commerce, especially the scientific revolution. They also mock any and all Christians as being intellectually inferior, even if they are men or women of renowned intellectual or scientific ability, such as Francis Collins.
Antichristian groups include:
- Strong atheists and antitheists
- Secular humanists
- Secularists who have removed school prayer, the Ten Commandments from courthouses, and actively attack the heavily Christian homeschool movement
- Postmodern academics, who deny Christian truths in favor of their own relativistic professor values
Infamous antichristians include:
- Richard Dawkins
- Sigmund Freud
- Sam Harris
- Christopher Hitchens
- Osama bin Laden
- Karl Marx
- PZ Myers
- Madalyn Murray O'Hair (1919-95), atheist activist
- Joseph Stalin
Tensions between Christians and Jews were eased with the adoption of the theme of a common "Judeo-Christian identity." Fundamentalist Protestants for theological reasons have emerged as the strongest supporters of Israel, which eased tensions somewhat between the Jewish community and Fundamentalists.
In 1989, Christian conservatives attempted to reframe the debate over the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and federal funding for the arts from waste to immorality by attacking grants for 'anti-Christian' and 'homoerotic' art. The Rev. Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association initiated the campaign against "Piss Christ" and the NEA, warning that "the bias and bigotry against Christians, which has dominated television and movies for the last decade or more, has now moved over to the art museums". The Christian Coalition placed a full-page ad in the Washington Post warning Congress that taxpayers would punish them for "wasting their hard-earned money to promote sodomy, child pornography, and attacks on Jesus Christ". Patrick Buchanan warned that "America's art and culture are, more and more, openly anti-Christian, anti-American, nihilistic," and called for conservatives to lead "a cultural revolution". In a 1992 campaign commercial, Buchanan blamed the George H. W. Bush administration for funding "so-called art that has glorified homosexuality, exploited children and perverted the image of Jesus Christ".
Stressing their interpretation of the Separation of church and state, secularists have fought court battles to remove prayer from public schools, deny the nation's Christian heritage and outlaw the display of the Ten Commandments in courts of law, and even replace the term "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Holidays," to the chagrin of Bill O'Reilly.
In 19th century Britain the proportion of prominent people who maintained an anti-Christian materialist atheism was negligible, and a significant number of those who did embrace it were unsatisfied and returned to their religious beliefs. There was a a significant pattern among Victorian popular radicals: the regaining of their Christian faith. Arguments from design, the a priori ontological argument, and the ability of Christianity to offer a secure foundation for morality persuaded Victorian secularists to convert.
The Vatican signed the Reichskonkordat in 1933 to try to normalize the status of the Catholic Church in nazi Germany. Nevertheless Catholicism faced much hostility from powerful Nazis, especially from the neo-pagan tendency associated with figures like Alfred Rosenberg. Disputes arose early on sensitive issues and in areas such as youth organizations, religious education, Catholic labor organizations, and the press, though Rosenberg's anti-Christian rhetoric provoked the Church to defend itself more assertively. Though only a minority of German Catholics actively resisted the regime, many kept a critical distance from it. The Church's predicament showed that traditionalism and hard-line fascism were essentially irreconcilable, but also revealed the limits of the German Church's political understanding in 1933.
The Nazis set up the Hitler Youth which fought the Catholic Church for control over the young generation in the catholic regions. The Hitler Youth's power and influence have been greatly overestimated, while the Church's efforts to retain the loyalties of its young adherents, in limiting the Hitler Youth's anti-Christian impact, and in preserving its own influence over religious and moral education proved unexpectedly successful.
The Italians of the 17th century were considered by European intellectuals as either libertines, who did not believe in God, or as fools, who believed in religious superstitions. Libertinism was a development parallel to the Catholic Counter-Reformation with its formal religion, priestly power, and Inquisition. Libertines brought to fruition a form of anti-Christian and antihumanistic Aristotelianism that led to a radical naturalism. The most famous thinkers in this tradition were Giordano Bruno and Thomas Companella. Intellectual libertinism, which defined itself as the opponent of religion, did not survuve into the 18th century.
The Maronite-Druze conflict in Lebanon, 1840-60 was an outgrowth of the Maronite Christian independence movement directed against the Druze and Ottoman-Turks. The civil war was not therefore a religious war, except in Damascus where it spread and where the population was anti-Christian. The movement culminated with the 1859-60 massacre and defeat of the Christians by the Druzes, who were aided by the Turks. French intervention on behalf of the Maronites did not help the Maronite national movement since France was restricted in 1860 by Britain which did not want the Ottoman Empire dismembered. But European intervention pressured the Turks to treat the Maronites more justly.
In China the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 marked one of the darkest episodes of anti-Christian violence until it was defeated by an international military invasion. The Boxers began as an obscure, anti-Christian, anti-missionary, and anti-foreign peasant movement in northern China. The Empress Dowager Cixi was pleased when Boxers attacked foreigners who were building railroads, exploiting China's mineral wealth, dividing up the port trading concessions, and converting many peasants to an alien faith. In June the Boxers invaded the city and slaughtered many Chinese Christians and Westerners. The Chinese government was unable or unwilling to control the situation. Western civilians, military personnel, and Chinese Christians retreated to the legation quarter. For 55 days they survived with limited food and water. In August Western troops occupied the city by force of arms. The Empress Dowager grudgingly agreed to indemnify the Western governments and to make many additional concessions. Subsequent reforms laid the foundation for the end of Manchu rule and the establishment of a modern nation.
Christian missionaries expanded rapidly. The anti-Christian movement in China during 1922-27 was part of the anti-imperialism program of the Nationalist Party KMT. Attacking the weaker target of missionary institutions garnered the KMT popular support at a time when it was unable to take on the stronger economic targets of foreign enclaves. The attacks ended when a Christian, Chiang Kai-shek took control of the KMT and all of China. When Mao Zedong and the Communist came to power in 1949, they expelled or jailed most of the missionaries and tried to suppress or tightly control Christianity.
In India Christians have long faced the issue of their and national identity in terms of two dominant models of Indian nationalism. These are the liberal democratic model of an even-handed secular state (an idea which was presumed to have won out at independence in 1947) and the more recently enhanced model of Hindu nationalism - a view which is less accommodating and which sees little room for Muslims and Christians in a nation-state intent on promoting Hindu religious and cultural values. A small Indian Christian educated elite endorsed the aims of the Indian National Congress founded in 1885 and, having suffered from European control and dominance in the churches, appreciated all the more readily the need for a genuine partnership and collaboration between Indians and Europeans. While they argued that national regeneration would come only through the values associated with the Christian movement, they also had to demonstrate that Christianity itself was not specifically European and that Indian Christians had a genuine commitment to India and were not 'foreigners' alienated from their own culture. There were three basic phases in Christian relations with the nationalist movement: an early period of hope and enthusiasm, including the active involvement of Christians in the Indian National Congress; a phase of disillusionment, increasing suspicion, and withdrawal, largely in response to the rise of militant and anti-Christian Hindu nationalism; and a period of partial recovery encouraged by a growing disillusionment with the British, Gandhi's initial attitude and 'helpful' comments, and recognition that a Hindu-dominated regime was an inevitability. There were also three basic Indian Christian attitudes toward the nationalist struggle. The great majority of Christians appear to have been largely indifferent to the movement, being more concerned with local issues such as family, caste, and local church or mission affairs. Others were openly hostile. They believed that any benefits they had were the result of the work of European missionaries and that Hindu majority rule would undermine hard-won achievements - not the least of which was protection against discrimination. A third group, which included most of the Christian nationalists, felt that they had a great deal in common with moderate Hindus and that collaboration in the building of the new nation would not only ensure greater protection for Indian Christians but would benefit all parties concerned.
Although Christian evangelism did not gain significantly more converts in India in the 1990s, the Sangh Parivar's anti-Christian activities increased in violence. Most explanations for the increased anti-Christian activity relate to Hindu nationalist parties' access to state power. However, the 'liberating potential of Christianity,' the type of Christianity articulated by Dalits and tribals (not Christianity per se), may offer a better explanation for the recent attacks. The failed Dalit Christian campaign for recognition as a Scheduled Caste (1990-98), which was supported by non-Christian Dalits, represented a developing Dalit identity that threatened Hindu nationalism. The Sangh Parivar's concern with the threat of conversion denies the legitimacy of cross-Dalit identity, and its emphasis on the 'foreignness' of Christianity denies the agency of marginal groups.
- "What is postmodernism?" Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
- Freud's book "The Future of an Illusion" claimed to reduce Christianity to nothing more than an evolutionary step in religion.
- Richard Bolton, ed. Culture Wars: Documents from the Recent Controversies in the Arts (1992)
- Timothy Larsen, "The Regaining of Faith: Reconversions among Popular Radicals in Mid-victorian England," Church History 2001 70(3): 527-543
- Günter Lewy, The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany (1964); Ernst Christian Helmreich, The German Churches under Hitler (1979)
- Daniel Horn, "The Struggle for Catholic Youth in Hitler's Germany: an Assessment," Catholic Historical Review 1979 65(4): 561-582
- Antoine Abraham, "Lebanese Communal Relations," Muslim World 1977 67(2): 91-105
- Diana Preston, "The Boxer Rising," Asian Affairs 2000 31(1): 26-36
- Jessie Gregory Lutz, Chinese Politics and Christian Missions: The Anti-Christian Movements of 1920-28 (1988)
- Geoffrey A. Oddie, "Indian Christians and National Identity, 1870-1947," Journal of Religious History 2001 25(3): 346-366, in EBSCO.
- John Zavos, "Conversion and the Assertive Margins: an Analysis of Hindu Nationalist Discourse and the Recent Attacks on Indian Christians," South Asia 2001 24(2): 73-89