Interview with the bestselling author and historian of comparative religions, Hanne Nabintu Herland, author of “THE CULTURE WAR: How the West Lost Its Greatness & Was Weakened From Within .”—www.theherlandreport.com
Edward Andrews asks—You have recently launched a new book in the US, The Culture War. How the West lost its Greatness. It is currently available in over 60 nations, soon to be translated into Spanish. I am interested in hearing your view on part of what this book discusses, namely why have many people stopped searching for God?
Hanne Herland: If you only read the mainstream media and listen to what the current political elites in the West are saying, one may easily get the impression that people do not believe in God anymore. Even the fact that many are under that impression, illustrates how the extreme-liberal and repressive elites blatantly use propaganda to indoctrinate us into thinking that religious faith is gone. It demonstrates an arrogant, illiberal tone, as the media completely lacks respect for the general population and their views on spiritualism and the meaning of life. The voice of the people doesn’t matter anymore, it seems. Which is strange, considering that we are a democracy – the people should be respected, yet they are not. An illiberal elite has taken over our democracies, pushing us into a globalized system that the ultra-rich profit from. Did you know that 62 individuals now own half of the world assets? This is according to Oxfam. We are actually not that democratic at all.
It has become politically-correct in the West to hail only one religion: Atheism – the belief that life is meaningless and that there is no God or life after death. The perceived notion is that the only thing that exists, is the material world. Only that which is tangible, touchable and provable empirically, exists. I guess love doesn’t exist – since it is not touchable, but a mental state that produces good actions towards others. The mental dimension is equally hard to prove, not to mention the spiritual dimension in the world. When acknowledging only half of the human capabilities – the physical -, denying the rest, modern man is left in a remarkable spiritual poverty.
According to the academic definitions of religion, atheism clearly may be defined as a religion. This is a belief too, you know, based on faith just as any other. There is no rational way of proving that God does not exist, you have to be a strong believer in “nothing” in order to choose the atheist lifestyle. The age of tolerance and respect for different views in the West seems to be over, quite frankly.
As a matter of fact, if we look at the statistics on who state that they are Christians in the West, you will see that the number of believers is massive. As high numbers as around 75 % of the European population state that they believe that Jesus is the son of God. Almost the same number applies to the Americans. This is according to Pew Research Centre, Encyclopaedia Britannica, the international ISSP statistics and others. When adding the Muslim population in the West – who do not exactly seem ready to become atheists, Jews, and others, the numbers of believers in God soar even higher. Religious traditions have a major impact on the vast majority in the West.
Atheism and extreme secularism, on the other hand, which seems to be the leading force within mainstream media and the political establishment, may comprise as low as only 2% of the world’s population; another poll showing 8%, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. These are startlingly low numbers. In short, almost no one in the West are atheists, compared to the vast majority of believers.
On another note, it is true that the number of believers, in countries such as the US, has fallen the past years. I believe, a few years back, that as high numbers as 98 % of the US population stated that they believed in a God. Back then, the socially accepted popular trend was to be a believer, somehow like in the rest of the world today. Many places you are not even respected if you don’t follow a religious faith. Yet, as the trends have swayed, mainly in the West, atheism has become fashionable. Those who live according to whatever is trendy, naturally have to change their beliefs and now become atheists. You know, like sheep that follow after whatever their shepherd tells them.
There are many interesting phenomena to discuss here because it is true that there has been a sharp decline in institutionalized religion. Former presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan is among those who have spoken about this in The Suicide of a Superpower. A quick glance at the Catholic Church in America shows that it has gone through a similar decline as its Protestant counterpart. The trend is quite new. Buchanan points out that the 1950s represented a great boost for Catholicism in the US. It was only after the Vatican II council, that sought to reconcile Catholicism with modernity and make it more appealing to the secular world, that Church growth plummeted.
Kenneth C. Jones’ Index of Leading Catholic Indicators, states that in 1965, 1575 priests were ordained, in 2002 only 450. In 1965, 3,559 men were becoming Jesuit priests, in 2000, the figure was down to 389. By 2007, one in three Catholics had left the Church. Catholics have only seemingly remained at the level of around 25% of the population, due to the large influx of new immigration from Latin America and other Catholic regions. This, in itself, is equally interesting, as religion is booming in South America, Africa, Asia, and Russia – the hemisphere outside the West.
Edward Andrews asks—What factors have accelerated the rise of disbelief in God?
Herland: The decline of Christianity is mainly due to the hypocrisy among Christians, the selfishness displayed in the, often, complete lack of mercy towards others in society. Many Christians simply don’t care, they stay safely inside of their own church buildings, speaking only to other Christians. They could not care less about the millions who are suffering outside of their own doorstep. So it seems to me.
Modern Christians are often mostly known – by the outsiders – for their quick tongue to criticize others instead of loving one another, much like the Pharisee who thanked God that he was “the better person.” They are equally quick to point out denominational and theological divisions, quick to condemn and judge those outside of their own “church congregation”, quick to cite Scriptures and verses they seem to not follow themselves.
In other words, a new “Christianity” has replaced the one that Jesus first initiated. We have at least two “Christianities” today – the original message of revolutionary Jesus and the stuck-up, selfishly oriented religious version that exists in many churches.
Other statistics such as ISSP 2008 show the number of regular Church attendance is as low as 1.4% in the UK. Still, the number of Christians is as high as 60% in England – this without counting the growing numbers of Muslims and other faiths. Overall in Europe, statistics show, as we have seen, that around 75 % define themselves as Christians, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Despite the fact that the percentage of people with some form of belief in God has declined 10% since 1991, statistics show that faith in the spiritual world remains remarkably static. Why then are they not attending church?
The slowing down of church attendance may very well be happening simply because people feel that they do not find spiritual food there anymore. For how long do you keep going to the bakery if they don’t have bread to offer? When we follow some sort of politicized “Christianity” that only requires you to sing “Jesus loves you” once in a while, the church gets stripped for its spirituality. The Holy Spirit has gone somewhere else, he is no longer in that church. I guess people then get bored and rather stay at home. After all, the whole point with the church is its spirituality.
In today’s politically correct churches, Jesus is caricatured and presented as a fluffy, kind, meek, sweet, smiling creature, who never sets any boundaries or requires repentance from anyone. It is well-known that the Church, as a normative authority in society, poses a challenge for extreme liberal forces. To seek political control over the Church and directing it away from Christianity under the banners of “secular Christianity,” has clearly been a successful post-war practice. When facing this dark hour of Western decay, let us awaken yet again the spiritual truths that once made our culture great.
The renowned Indian leader and philosopher, Mahatma Gandhi, once visited Christian churches in Africa, and was deeply fascinated by the teachings of Jesus Christ, hailing him as “one of the greatest teachers humanity has ever had.” However, when encountering Christians, he was deterred from further involvement of Christian communities, stating: “If Christians would really live according to the teachings of the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.” Inappropriate and selfish behavior among those who call themselves believers becomes a reason for many to choose to abandon the faith and renounce the spiritual dimension.
Edward Andrews asks—Tell us about your new book release The Culture War. How the West lost its greatness, what can we expect from reading it?
Herland: As a historian of religions, columnist, and author, I have studied the current Western trends for a long time. The Culture War. How the West lost its greatness is the end result of these studies, with a clear recommendation: We need to return as a community to some of the foundational values that once made the West such a great civilization. The simple, almost childish concept of “loving one another” is almost forgotten today, yet it holds the key to a renewed emphasis on solidarity, empathy and its ability to motivate individuals to do good to others.
There are a number of perplexing developments few wish to discuss in the West. Beneath the glossy wrapping of materialism and technological advancement, there is an undeniably growing social disorder, growing social unrest, racial divisions, ethnic clashes, lack of discipline and order in schools, lack of respect for teachers, a rampant denigration of the religious, be it Muslims, Christians or others, combined with high divorce and suicide rates, destructive drug abuse and faltering economies. We have soaring numbers of abortions, gigantic abuse of prescription pills especially among women and serious issues with mental disabilities. Remarkably little is done to stop it.
In a volatile cultural climate like this, the rationality of religion and the reshaping force of its morality should be reintroduced. This happened in England at the end of the 1800s, when William Booth was moved by the despair of the English people and started raising his apologetic voice, speaking about the need for a social revolution that could set the nation on the right track.
After being spat on and harassed by the angry mob for years, his message eventually took hold. His work thoroughly reformed England as he helped the poor, gave prostitutes another source of income, educated the deprived, helped the young and was able to address the merciless alcoholism amongst English fathers and motivate them to become responsible men once again. William Booth founded The Salvation Army, an institution that is highly regarded to this day. We should look to the examples of people like him and hail yet again the old-fashioned value of loving one another.
 In a country like the US, Pew Research Centre surveys shows that 80% of the citizens believe in God. Other surveys show that around 70% of the American people believe in God. In Europe, the number of believers in God is about 75%, and as many as 70% in the UK and Germany call themselves Christian, according to Pew Research Center 2012.