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Press: New Atheist turns to Christianity to fight Islam

17 November 2023


A BITTER and pointless war over contested territory which seems certain to displace thousands of refugees after all efforts at peacemaking fail — but enough of the General Synod meeting: here’s the once very prominent New Atheist Ayaan Hirsi Ali on her conversion to Christianity. Her piece on UnHerd wastes no time on all the peace and justice stuff. Christianity is preferable to atheism, she says, because it will fight Islam more effectively.

She writes: “Western civilisation is under threat from three different but related forces: the resurgence of great-power authoritarianism and expansionism in the forms of the Chinese Communist Party and Vladimir Putin’s Russia; the rise of global Islamism, which threatens to mobilise a vast population against the West; and the viral spread of woke ideology, which is eating into the moral fibre of the next generation.

“We endeavour to fend off these threats with modern, secular tools: military, economic, diplomatic and technological efforts to defeat, bribe, persuade, appease or surveil. And yet, with every round of conflict, we find ourselves losing ground. We are either running out of money, with our national debt in the tens of trillions of dollars, or we are losing our lead in the technological race with China.

“But we can’t fight off these formidable forces unless we can answer the question: what is it that unites us? The response that ‘God is dead!’ seems insufficient. So, too, does the attempt to find solace in ‘the rules-based liberal international order’. The only credible answer, I believe, lies in our desire to uphold the legacy of the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

I don’t know: “Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with our desire to uphold the legacy of the Judeo-Christian tradition Going on before” isn’t much of an improvement on the original.

But, then, anyone bloviating today about the West and its civilisation is handicapped by the way in which almost everything worth conserving of the American and European empires has already been digested by the market; so all that remains is . . . digested matter.

NONE the less, the most interesting political — and, indeed, religious — movement at the moment is the anti-capitalist Right. Its 20th-century predecessors identified capitalism with the Jews, with terrible results. Their successors today are united in support of Israel.

Ms Hirsi Ali had attended the ARC (Alliance for Responsible Citizenship) conference in Greenwich a fortnight ago, a gathering of this tribe, which seems to have completely escaped the attention of the press, despite the presence of two Cabinet ministers (Michael Gove and Kemi Badenoch), Jordan Peterson, Tom Holland, and others. Presumably, this was a matter of policy. The conference was funded by Sir Paul Marshall, who also owns UnHerd, along with half of GB News, and funds St Mellitus College. Publicity was strictly controlled. A long interview with Baroness Stroud, a co-founder of ARC, by Eleanor Mills, in The Sunday Telegraph, was all that I saw, and it moved smoothly from policy to waffle.

“Stroud is a committed Christian, married to a clergyman. Her faith is an important driver of her political journey. The walls of the conference are lined with Bible quotes including Jeremiah 6:16: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look: ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it and you will find rest for your souls.’ Stroud’s journey into politics has been through what she calls: ‘Christian work — helping people heal.’”

At times, she sounded like Lord Field of Birkenhead, or The Guardian’s excellent poverty correspondent, Patrick Butler: “Families should not be in poverty if they are both working full time. Unfortunately at the moment that is not the case. . . She was also instrumental in establishing a new matrix to calculate poverty, taking into account the multiple barriers families face. ‘Deep poverty is increasing, by that I mean those who are 50 per cent below the poverty line.’”

Yet she seems to believe that standard left-wing solutions can make matters only worse. This would be more credible if the past 13 years of Conservative government had not themselves made things so much worse for the poor. It is hard to escape the suspicion that her retreat into grand waffle — “The point about Arc is we are above party politics: we are a global organisation looking at all the challenges of the day” — is not, in part, a reaction to the enormous gap between the ambitions of Universal Credit (on which she worked as a policy adviser) and the cruel bureaucratic meanness of the reality after it had been approved by George Osborne’s Treasury.

The trouble with all such schemes is that policy-making is not something that happens above party politics, and parties are formed and sustained as much as anything by hatreds. Even at the grand global organisations, seeking to remoralise our civilisation, the biggest roar of approval that Eleanor Mills heard came from a “podcast presenter and historian”, Konstantin Kisin. “His speech includes a remark that gets a roar of approbation in the room: ‘At least Hamas supporters know what a woman is.’”

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