The University of Greenwich was my crystal ball into which I peered and saw the future of Europe. As a distinct civilisation, Europe was finished. The future of Europe was Islam. My sepulchral prediction was based not on media hysteria or Right-wing paranoia, but on my observation of the obvious.
At Greenwich, the ‘centre of the world’ and the home of the Prime Meridian, I led a team of chaplains ministering to 23,000 students and hundreds of staff.
Amidst the grandeur of Sir Christopher Wren’s architecture, one element stuck out as incongruously as a giraffe’s neck on an ostrich farm. Wren’s edifice told the story of Western civilisation and its Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman foundations. Now, the monument had become a mausoleum. The sole religious occupants were not Christians or Jews, but Muslims.
As chaplains, we learned our first lesson. We could reliably assume that almost every young adult who came from a white British or European background had no religious affiliation. Sociologists have coined a term for these young adults. They call them ‘nones’ because the ‘nones’ believe in ‘nothing’ – of course, nones believe in diversity, inclusion, multiculturalism and intersectionality, but believe in nothing transcendent, eternal, or ultimate. Above all, they believe that life is all about ‘having fun’.
Europe is finished. The future of Europe is Islam.
Despite our extensive pastoral care offered to the community, our team of five chaplains found it difficult to recruit even five students to a weekly Bible study or a service of Holy Communion. The nones constituted the majority of British and European young adults and they were busy ‘having fun’.
The Muslim students and staff were not ‘having fun’ but ‘having faith’. They were praying five times a day, observing a strict fast during Ramadan and preaching Islam to the Anglo-Saxon infidels. Their prayer room overflowed on Fridays on to Wren’s colonnades.
I saw Greenwich as a microcosm of Britain and much of Europe, heading for an Islamic future. Now, fourteen years later, an impressive study by St Mary’s University, Twickenham and the Institut Catholique de Paris has confirmed my prediction with hard facts and raw data. The author of Europe’s Young Adults and Religion is the highly respected Stephen Bullivant, Professor of Theology and Sociology of Religion at St Mary’s.
Bullivant combines data from the European Social Surveys of 2014 and 2016. He focuses on young adults (or youth) between 16 and 29 years of age and surveys 22 countries including Israel and Russia. ‘The high percentage of young adults affirming no religion in many countries, is arguably the most significant fact here,’ he bluntly observes. The study found that in 12 out of the 22 countries, more than half of young adults claim not to identify with any particular religion or denomination. In 19 of them, more than a third make the same claim.
‘The high percentage of young adults affirming no religion in many countries, is arguably the most significant fact here.’ Professor Steven Bullivant
Poland is the only European country where the Christian commitment of young adults equals the fervour of my Muslim students at Greenwich.
Bullivant’s findings for France and Britain are little short of funereal. ‘Overall, “no religion” is the default identity of French and British young adults alike, accounting for around two-thirds of each.’ Sixty-four per cent of French young adults and 70 per cent of British youth have no religion.
In fact, they are potty-trained to believe in ‘nothing’. Four out of every five young adult ‘nones’ in France and Britain say they were brought up with no religion, and have retained this lack of belief into adulthood.
If you are a militant atheist like Richard Dawkins, you should be belting out the Beatles’ Imagine. For the first time in history a continent has jettisoned its God. Christianity is dead. You’ve won. We’ve lost. Imagine there’s no heaven. No hell below us, above us only sky. Imagine all the people living for today! Yes, John Lennon, and they are living to ‘have fun’.
However, the consequences of Europe’s de-Christianisation are not funny at all. Nature abhors a vacuum and nothing will not fill the black hole of nothingness dug out by the nones (neither will inclusion or postmodern relativism). Islam will occupy the formerly Christian ‘Sea of Faith’ retreating with its ‘melancholy, long, withdrawing roar’, painted so poignantly by Matthew Arnold.
The consequences of Europe’s de-Christianisation are not funny at all.
Only seven per cent of British youth identify as Anglican and ten per cent as Catholics compared with six per cent as Muslims. In France, two per cent identify as Protestants, totally outnumbered by ten per cent of Muslims. In all, 26 per cent of French and 21 per cent of British young adults identify as Christians.
But when you probe further and test the commitment of Catholic and Anglican youth in the UK and France, it is at the level of motherhood and apple pie. A very high proportion of youth calling themselves Christians don’t attend services or pray regularly.
The Church of England, like almost all other denominations, raises its young people on the protein-free diet of fun, Messy Church, Café Church and socialism-lite. Islam feeds its young people the whole milk of the Koran and the strong meat of jihad (interpreted as both spiritual struggle and physical warfare).
Imagine two European teams playing The Weakest Link. Team Muslim comprises a ‘significant minority’ of young adults. Team Nones is made up of the rest. Team Muslim are armed with spiritual cannonballs. They are prepared to make great sacrifices and even die for their beliefs. Team Nones are armed with postmodern ping-pong balls – they believe in nothing and will not make even the smallest sacrifice because the supreme goal of their existence is to have fun. The referee is the marginalised group of Marmalade Christians (who for all practical purposes are as good as the nones).
Islam feeds its young people the whole milk of the Koran and the strong meat of jihad.
The future of Europe is a culture war between young adults with no religion and young adults who are committed Muslims. Who will win? ‘Fire!’ shouts the referee. The cannonballs from Team Muslim thunder in the direction of Team Nones.
History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes. When Islam began its long march against Eastern Christianity beginning in the seventh century AD, many Christians saw it as God’s judgement on a decadent Christianity. They linked it to ‘Assyria, the rod of my anger.’
On Good Friday 2018, I peer into Bible and see the alternative future of Europe. Europe entombed, can be raised from the dead. When President Ronald Reagan took the oath of office, he opened his Bible to a specific passage. Vice President Mike Pence placed his hand on the same verse when he took the oath of office.
The text is from 2 Chronicles 7:14 and quotes God’s words to King Solomon: ‘If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal the land.’