Why We Should Call Ourselves Christians

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Pera happens to be an atheist. Yet he recognizes the importance of acknowledging “the need to defend the founding principles of our own tradition”:

Our moral norms, and with them our coexistence and our institutions – the very same ones that have passed down and preserved for us the civilization in which we are living, at times troubled and afflicted, at times satisfied and hopeful – would wither and die if they were to cut themselves off from Christianity.

Indeed, he writes that civilization itself “sprang into being at the foot of the Cross,“ and that “if we remove the Christian underpinnings from human rights, not only will liberal doctrine collapse, but Western civilization will fall along with it.”

This does not mean that we must all be Christians, only that we must recognize our cultural debt to Christianity:

For the believer in Christ, that “gift of God” is grace, the unasked for, mysterious experience of an encounter with Him. For the believer in Christian culture, the “gift of God” is our Christian heritage of virtues, customs, habits, institutions – in short, our civilization.

It is not necessary that liberals be Christians in the former sense… It is essential that they be Christians in the latter sense, because being Christian by culture means possessing a foundation for our doctrine, a guide for our actions, a reference point, and a sign of hope.

One would expect that, as an atheist, Pera favors secularism. And to a certain extent he does. The secularism of which he approves

opposes theocracy, the submission of the state to ecclesiastical hierarchies, and the interference of churches with democratic decisions. It does not oppose religion, nor does it take Christianity as a fairy tale for the unintellectual.

But today’s secularism is different, Pera says. The secular culture of Europe today

is strongly ideological, averse to criticism, intolerant of objections, resistant to contradiction, impervious to contrary arguments. It is an anti-religious culture. It treats religion as superstition, as a vestige of a mythological era, as the legacy of a remote time in human history, as the leavings of intellectual immaturity… The only contribution of Christianity that secularism is willing to admit is the consolation of the foolish – a bit like magic, astrology, fairy tales, or quaint stories for the gullible.

And yet “the state is aggressive toward the principles of Christian believers, but tolerant of fundamentalist Islamic culture.” Europe “offers a dialogue to Islam for the same reason it does not want to talk to itself: the rejection of its own roots,”Pera says. “The bitter truth is that the West is afraid of Islam because it is afraid of religion, and of its own religion first of all.”

He offers ten reasons why we must overcome that fear and call ourselves Christians – among them, to remember our origins, to solve the moral crisis of Europe and the West, and to preserve pride in our civilization and defend it from attack. Without embracing this central pillar of our cultural identity, the West stands no chance against an enemy that has no such identity crisis, that is not hamstrung by cultural guilt and self-doubt, and that does not hesitate to assert its religious superiority.

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  • http://imataxpayertoo.wordpress.com kathy

    …Pera says. “The bitter truth is that the West is afraid of Islam because it is afraid of religion, and of its own religion first of all.”

    This statement doesn't really make any sense when one considers how Christianity is treated with intolerance compared with the wide berth Islam is given. I have long said that Islam is given preference because cultures are afraid of it, but not for this reason. Islam's temper tantrums intimidate the Western cultures, just as anger and violence have eternally intimidated the weak and cowardly. Christianity on the other hand poses no threat of violence and yet it is the religion that is daily denigrated and denounced in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Consider the current happenings in Egypt.

    • tarleton

      well , I agree that xianity is now a pacifistic religion that is vunerable to bully boys and other such riff raff and Islam is indeed intimidating to the weak and P C

  • randy

    Look at the violence that the native americans suffered at the hands of christians as thier lands were being stolen. The chatholic church has covered up it,s own abuses and does not belong in canada.

    • tarleton

      go home fool …we don't care to hear your juvenile , asinine comments

      ''the violence that the naive americans suffered ''.???…..AS IF THEY WERE NOT VIOLENT THEMSELVES

    • Western Canadian

      As a canadian, who is VERY well versed in our history, I would invite you to take your drunken, ignorance based and hate filled drivel and cram it. The only ‘war’ declared on the first immigrants in canada, was one which killed them with ‘kindness’, ie welfare.

      • randy

        All christian are evil.

    • Karen

      what does the Catholic church have to do with Christianity? It is sad that they have operated for centuries under than name of Christian.

    • Asher

      Alot of people are in for a rude awakening for you will not escape the coming Destruction….There will be a Nuclear Holocaust. Revelation 20: 11 Then I saw a great White Throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and Sky Fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the Lake of fire. 21. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. The New Jerusalem is coming and many will never see it because you have no faith.

      • tarleton

        religious fundamentalism is some kind of mental illness…you folks creep me out

        • buffman

          that there are randy's and tarelton's in this world freaks me out

  • LouiseCA

    He is right. The West does act like we are afraid of Christianity. That's why we are letting militant atheists take away all of our religious freedoms, while giving Islam and other pagan religions a pass. He's also right about todays atheists/secularists being so angry and narrow-minded. "Agree with me or you're stupid!!" they scream. I will pray for this man to come the rest of the way and find Jesus at the foot of that Cross.

    • tarleton

      it sounds like you left your brain at the foot of the cross

      • RonCarnine

        Tarleton, don't be so harsh. She is right. The reason the West is turning from Christianity is not because it stole land from the Indians (come on Randy). The early history of Christianity shows the land was purchased from the Indians. The reason the West is "scared" of Christianity is that it confronts the West with Sin. The West is sinful so instead of doing what is right, it attacks. The fundamental reason for rejection is spelled out clearly in Romans 1. It's downward spiral and its rejection of its moral roots is because it doesn't like the idea of sin and how it invades and "colors" a culture that has rejected its God. For example, read the Thanksgiving messages of our Founders compared with the message of President Obama. There is a huge difference. Our Founders who combined a thankfulness to God and a righteous fear of sin. They asserted that our constitution is made for a moral (and religious) people and is wholly inadequate for any other. The West is in danger because of the rejection of her Christian Roots. The first way to confront Islam and its totalitarianism is a turning back from sin and a turning back to its God. Without that, God will allow a harsh ruler (Islam) to become its head. The freedoms granted to us will disappear.

    • mrbean

      There was no fall theregore no need for redemption. Ahhh..yes he condemned them all for eating an apple and forgave them all for murdering his only begotten son. According to you Christains. Suppose Christ had been hanged instead of crucified. Does that mean that the churches would have a rope with a hangman's knot instead of a cross.

      • Western Canadian

        Noose instead of a cross, good line dude!! but it was most likely a ‘T’ cross, so does it really matter??

    • Asher

      They will find out just how unafraid we are when they attack us!

  • tarleton

    As a cultural christian and a serious student of history I'm well aware of the debt that the West owes xianity but it should be clear to any open minded observer that literal christianity has been undermined by science and is almost finished in the West …the best compromise is for xian heritage and values to be promoted without actually having to ''believe '' in the divinity of Christ , silly miracles , angels etc. as a form of cultural christianity
    Let's face it , the West will never be provincial , narrow and gullible enough to be biblical fundamentalists again , so the best we can do is have a metaphorical and allagorical view of scripture …a kind of ''read between the lines '' version of juda/christianity

    As a conservative atheist I find i have a great deal in common , both socially and politically with christian folk and politics is the art of compromise , but you don't have to actually believe in the supernatural to recognise the wisdom in the juda/ christian tradition

    • pxxat5

      Like Mr. Pera said, you either have a center core of beliefs which grounds you and hold fast your cultural ethos, or you fall before those who do (Islam), and Islam is not tolerant of your pseudo- intellectual religious naysaying , because as the Red Queen said "off with {your} his Head".

  • StephenD

    What is comical to me is when folks attempt to explain their atheism using virtues and holding values that they haven't developed but rather come from beyond the human being. Think about it, they appeal to doing what’s best (in other words, they have measured value) based upon…what exactly? What each person may decide at a given moment? What has proven "best" over time? and if so why would that weigh any more than what one may decide right now? No, they appeal to a "Higher Power' wanting to never to acknowledge it. They sound so smart while sounding childish. The fact is these values and virtues; these morals and codes we all appeal to are from above us and have a source that is unchanging and that is why they remain a constant. Who throughout history doesn't understand the "Rightness" of such things as fair play or the "Wrongness" of stealing? May it forever be that they at least continue to see the “worth” intrinsic to these concepts even if they choose to ignore the source.

  • Western Spirit

    TO QUOTE JOHN ADAMS "the general principles on which the fathers achieved were the general principles of Christianity."

    In other words our constitution and other founding documents all have their base in Christianity and our freedom is guaranteed by the Judeo/Christian God. All of this has been conveniently ignored by the people who would trade freedom for government aid of some sort and government is their God of some sort.

    In contrast George Washington compared the government to fire when he said fire was a useful servant but a fearful master. Or something like that. And fear of government was why the founders used the restriction of government in the founding of the Country and made the Judeo-Christian God the guarantor of our freedom.

    • bighoss

      Of quoting many anecdotal alleged references from the founders and framers, there is no end. Nothing in what you have posted does anything to change the fact that the religious freedom in this nation is freedom for all believers, as well as nonbelievers. Christians (and I am one) have no special constitutional franchise.

      By the way, your "quote" from John Adams is missing something. He was too skilled in the English language to have adopted a fuzzy usage such as "the general principles on which the fathers achieved…." Further research discloses that your alleged quote is yet another one of the fabrications propagated by theocrats, but not correct as a representation of what this founding father actually wrote and not respectful of the context in which his actual statement on the subject was made. Below is a link to the TRUTH of the matter. I urge you to get about the business of act checking as a prevention from posting more bogus stuff.


      P.S. ANY information from David Barton, the pseudo-historian and the mother lode of false quotes on American history, needs to be independently verified before placing any credence on it.

      • Western Spirit

        Theocrats? what are they? A bunch of people you've made up to support that huge chip on you're shoulder that is denying the Christian roots of this country.

        No one is saying that other religions haven't the same rights that Christians have. A fact, just as John Adams said, of a Christian principle at work in this country, of course.

        The Supreme Court deliberately misread the Constitution in an attempt to disenfranchise Christianity that was teaching Judeo- Christian values of freedom to the majority of the popuiation.

  • http://imataxpayertoo.wordpress.com kathy

    The so-called Christianity of coercion as practiced many years ago by some sects is not true New Testament Christianity and is actually no better than what we see rising up to take over the world now…and that is Islam…convert or be killed is not a doctrine of grace, which was the message of Jesus Christ. I dare say that the same spirit motivates both. In the United States, we are a free society because of the Christian religious beliefs of the founders. Don't flame me…that is a fact.

  • mrbean

    Any organized religion is at best a blatantly dishonest attempt to rconcile our place as a species on a planet in a unimaginabley vast cosmos. Organized religion despite its claims has nothing to do with spirituality nor the concept of what was a first cause, despite the claims it makes. By the way, the heritage of the United States is via the Greeks golden age, Roman Law, and the works of John Locke in "A Treatise on Human Understanding" which was the basis of the Declaration of Independence leading to the first 10 amendments of the Constitution of the United States. You have a right to be believer inA llah, Christ or the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus or any other nonsense – but remember that it has zero meaning in reality.

    • mrbean

      And to add Christianity was the excess intellectual baggage dragged along that was left over from ….what was that period now… oh yes "The Dark Ages" right up to the 13th century "Inquisition" Made even the most violent Jihadists look like pussy cats.

    • tarleton

      many of the Founding fathers were indeed inspired by the Juda/ Christian tradition , although some , like Jefferson and Franklin were Deists ….if jefferson and franklin were alive today they would almost certainly be atheists

      Evolution is the deadly enemy of fundamentalism …some of these religious folk would burn every book on evolution and prosecute it's promoters , IF THEY COULD

      beware the ''true believers '' in religion and politics

    • radicalconservative

      Unless a creator designed the brain, you have no basis for trusting that it is an adequate tool for analyzing the world correctly. After all, it is the product of “evolution” and could be totally miswired and screwed up. So everything is meaningless in your world-view (your Weltenschauung, your philosophy) mr bean. You cannot even trust the idea that you exist at all. Maybe you’re having a dream, or maybe you’re a figment of my dreams, or maybe you’re an insect on a rose petal, or maybe a lunatic in an asylum. Maybe there’s no world at all.

      • tarleton

        maybe it's ironic ,pessimistic , multi truthed postmodernism …the shifting sands of situational ethics

  • alexander

    ask an atheist: "do you believe in Higher Power greater than yourself?
    If he/she says yes, then he is not an theist.
    If he says Yes, ask him to pot life in a stone or have a few stones spining around each others without falling to the ground ar make a pig fly – and if ;) he/she cannot do it, then that proves that there is a Higher power which can.

  • BS77

    I was thinking about Charles Martell, THE HAMMER, knight and grandfather of Charlemagne….a Christian and a Defender of Christianity.

  • Ben

    Americans preserved their reformed religion because of their freedom,while many Europeans fought for their freedom against the church that supported the violent state. Europeans lost their believes during their" escape of freedom".Their leftist intencions show this. Christianity has great roots of freedom but not all churches have.

  • Paul

    All religions exist as a philosophical system to offer hope for life after death. However, with all the labels considered, there are really only two systems of belief – (1) those who believe their good works will give them a good standing before a holy God, and (2) those who trust in the atoning work of Christ alone, and the imputation of His righteousness for their justification and hope of heaven. Even professing Christians fall into one or the other of these camps. The first is a deadly error, and will not produce the desired end. All the religions of the world are in this first camp, and cannot offer real hope for mankind. Eph 2:8 "for by grace ( unmerited favor ) are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; It is the gift of God; not of works lest any man shoud boast." Good works are the effect of the new birth, not the cause of it.



    I have the deepest respect for the men and women who profess the Christian faith.The authors theme more often stated as "Is America a Christian Nation?" begs the question of a rational, just and vibrant society. Here are my reasons:

    1. While Christianity is presently a positive force in philosophy, its history 100 years of bloody war in Germany, a 500 year inquisition, the worst being that leveled by Philip and Isabella of Spain whose Catholic zealot Torquemada confiscated the property of every Jew, gave them in return a donkey,a pair of shoes and those Conversos (Jews who converted to Catholicism were either tortured and burned at the stake or driven from Spain. I could go on endlessly about bloody Protestant persecutions. I will not bother with the suppression free thought, particularly in Science which saw Galileo condemned to life in prison and Bruno burnt at the stake.

    2. That said Christianit is good and in essence this country is a Christian nation because Christianity brought to Europe and America the ideas of virtue, soul and human excellence one may read in Plato's Dialogue's in particular Apologia and Crito the idea of soul, immortality and harmony which area the substructures of the Catholic Church and Christianity in general.

    3.Begging the Question: That we are a Christian nation or that we should all of us call ourselves Christian is irreconcilable with the fact that the Founders looked not to Christianity but to Cicero, not to a religious state but to the Greek and Roman thinkers Aristotle and Cicero. While the Bill of Rights protects the free exercise of religion, it makes the point too clearly for dispute that we are a secular nation free to choose our own religious practice. Were the West to become entirely Christian, Buddhist would have a hard time making their way in society.

    3. Finally, one cannot read St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Augustan to see how steeped in Christian thought are the works of the Greeks and Romans, Aristotle and Plato in particular. Aquinas sought to integrate Christianity with Aristototle, Augustine with Plato.

    I agree with the author's thesis that Christianity is a moral practice, presently the only metaphysics that is dealing with the calculated destruction of moral thought in the U.S. and Europe. We should also look to the virtue of the Athenians under Pericles and the Romans during the Republic.

  • Asher

    Freedom is not free and eternal life is not free either…it is based on faith. For those who don't believe in Christ and his Never ending Kingdom, there will be Tribulation and Hell, for Evil will utlimately be destroyed in the Last Days of Earth.

    • tarleton

      yaaaawn ….another fundamentalist nutter

  • buffman

    all life MUST be and is created–hand in hand with the second law of thermodynamics—so WHO is the creator of the original life on earth?