Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the well-known former Muslim activist against Islamic fundamentalism, became a self-professed atheist after learning (the hard way) what that religion's extremists taught and wanted for the world. However, after many years as an atheist, she's converted to Christianity.
So, what changed? Why do I call myself a Christian now?
Part of the answer is global. 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 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.
That legacy consists of an elaborate set of ideas and institutions designed to safeguard human life, freedom and dignity — from the nation state and the rule of law to the institutions of science, health and learning. As Tom Holland has shown in his marvellous book Dominion, all sorts of apparently secular freedoms — of the market, of conscience and of the press — find their roots in Christianity.
And so I have come to realise that Russell and my atheist friends failed to see the wood for the trees. The wood is the civilisation built on the Judeo-Christian tradition; it is the story of the West, warts and all.
. . .
To me ... freedom of conscience and speech is perhaps the greatest benefit of Western civilisation. It does not come naturally to man. It is the product of centuries of debate within Jewish and Christian communities. It was these debates that advanced science and reason, diminished cruelty, suppressed superstitions, and built institutions to order and protect life, while guaranteeing freedom to as many people as possible. Unlike Islam, Christianity outgrew its dogmatic stage. It became increasingly clear that Christ’s teaching implied not only a circumscribed role for religion as something separate from politics. It also implied compassion for the sinner and humility for the believer.
Yet I would not be truthful if I attributed my embrace of Christianity solely to the realisation that atheism is too weak and divisive a doctrine to fortify us against our menacing foes. I have also turned to Christianity because I ultimately found life without any spiritual solace unendurable — indeed very nearly self-destructive. Atheism failed to answer a simple question: what is the meaning and purpose of life?
Russell and other activist atheists believed that with the rejection of God we would enter an age of reason and intelligent humanism. But the “God hole” — the void left by the retreat of the church — has merely been filled by a jumble of irrational quasi-religious dogma. The result is a world where modern cults prey on the dislocated masses, offering them spurious reasons for being and action — mostly by engaging in virtue-signalling theatre on behalf of a victimised minority or our supposedly doomed planet. The line often attributed to G.K. Chesterton has turned into a prophecy: “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”
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The lesson I learned from my years with the Muslim Brotherhood was the power of a unifying story, embedded in the foundational texts of Islam, to attract, engage and mobilise the Muslim masses. Unless we offer something as meaningful, I fear the erosion of our civilisation will continue. And fortunately, there is no need to look for some new-age concoction of medication and mindfulness. Christianity has it all.
That is why I no longer consider myself a Muslim apostate, but a lapsed atheist. Of course, I still have a great deal to learn about Christianity. I discover a little more at church each Sunday. But I have recognised, in my own long journey through a wilderness of fear and self-doubt, that there is a better way to manage the challenges of existence than either Islam or unbelief had to offer.
There's more at the link.
This is wonderful news for all Christian believers, of course. Ms. Ali has been a source for and a center of rational debate and discussion about the meaning of life, the dangers of extremism, and the need for intellectual honesty in confronting the problems around us. For a deep thinker like that to analyze Christianity and realize that it holds the promise of fulfilling all those things, and explaining them in a rational sense as well as by faith, is a testimony to the abiding, enduring truth of Jesus Christ. I thank God for this news, and for my new sister in Christ.
It's also a challenge to those of us who take our faith for granted, or never think about why we believe what we profess. We should all be challenging ourselves. If we claim to be Christian, why do we do so? On what grounds? How do we pattern our lives according to God's revelation in Christ? Ms. Ali has had to do all of that during her conversion. We would do well to follow her example, and examine our own faith anew. We should not believe because that's what our parents taught us, or because that's what's socially acceptable. We should believe because we really do believe, on the basis of evidence and personal faith.
Kudos to Ms. Ali for giving us renewed grounds for that self-examination.