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Justin Brierley: What the Decline of the New Atheism Means for Church Leaders

“What I’ve noticed with Dawkins and many of the New Atheists is that I think what they’ve realized is that we’re all inherently religious, actually. And if we don’t get religious about Christianity or institutional religion, we will get religious about something else.”

“[Jordan Peterson] was essentially attracting the same audience as had been turning up for Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. So it was so interesting to see [this audience] flipping from turning up to deride the Bible only 10 years previously to now sitting in rapt attention at this person telling them that actually the Bible was full of wisdom and meaning.”

“I suddenly started to see more and more of these secular thinkers who were very much standing against that dismissive attitude of the New Atheists. And even though they didn’t necessarily believe in it—they didn’t necessarily call themselves Christians—they were nonetheless very open, sympathetic to the value of faith.”

“Sometimes I think Christians can get stuck answering questions from 10 or 15 years ago. And those are important questions, don’t get me wrong…But in the end, I think it’s important for us to recognize that sometimes the questions do change, and I think they have.”

“I think what we’re seeing is the fruition of a meaning crisis in our culture. And I see that in large part down to the fact that we have lost the Christian story, by and large, in the West.”

“We need to create a compelling story again for people of Christianity. We need to engage their imagination as much as their reason.”

“We’re made to live in a story that makes sense of our life. And so we’ve got to get back to telling that story, well, in an imaginative way.”

“Story can bring across truth in ways that  the cold, hard facts and logic can’t necessarily.”

“It’s fine for us to actually engage in, to some extent, storytelling of various kinds because, ultimately, I think that that’s a key way in which our brains do receive information and we understand the truth.”

“I’ve met so many people who said, ‘If you asked me 5 or 10 years ago, I would have laughed in your face. But now I’m seriously considering whether there’s something in this Christianity thing.’ And I think it’s because they’ve kind of been given intellectual permission to take it seriously again. And I think it’s because it’s also coming with this meaning crisis where they’re wondering, ‘Well, what else is there?’”

“I do think there are a certain type of slightly older Nones, kind of the later Millennial end of that spectrum, who kind of think they know what religion is and have kind of rejected it more consciously than people at the younger end and the Gen Z kind of Nones.”

“I’ve got to say, this phenomenon that I’ve chronicled does seem to be primarily happening among men, interestingly.”

“I’m no fan of a kind of cardboard cut out, macho version of men’s church. But I do think that men are wired differently, you know, in general to women, and that there is something about the way in which men get challenged that makes a difference.”

“Don’t dumb down the ethical challenge and just the weirdness of Christianity.”

Mentioned in the Show


The Surprising Rebirth of Belief in God: Why New Atheism Grew Old and Secular Thinkers Are Considering Christianity Again” by Justin Brierley

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