I was struck recently by an article in Christianity Today chronicling the recent crackdown of house churches in China. In particular they detail the treatment of the Shouwang church in Beijing at a public square at Zhongguancun, dubbed “China’s Silicon Valley“.
The church of some 1000 congregants is worshipping outdoors because of government pressure against property owners renting to the church. It is one more episode in an ongoing attempt by the Chinese government to control and eradicate attempts to freely worship in China.
A couple of things about these events strike me. The first is that it is notable that the Christian church endures and is growing in an officially atheistic state. New Atheists have often expressed the desire to completely rid the world of religious belief, but in places where such things are actually attempted it would seem to fail miserably. Also notable I think is how the desire to worship, to express one’s faith is the spear tip of all commonly recognized freedoms – the freedom to speak, write, associate, etc. Once eradicated (if New Atheists have their way) one wonders what motivation is left to advance these freedoms at all – the religion-less world these atheists imagine is not a foundation for freedom and prosperity, but more likely the final repression of human conscience.
Indeed one wonders on what grounds the New Atheists would protest the current repression going on in China. Given that they see religion as both ‘delusional’ and ‘dangerous’ and the eradication of religion as a benefit to society as a whole, it would seem their views of religion aligns completely with those of the Chinese government, with perhaps the exception of the methodology. And yet the methodology is only problematic if one sees religious belief and worship as worth preserving – after all, who would protest if Beijing were cracking down on child molesters?
Though the West’s reaction has been anemic, we still at least have a segment of our population for whom religious liberty remains a critical concern. One cannot help but think that if the New Atheist view of religious belief were more widespread that the totalitarian actions of the Chinese government would be met with complete indifference, if not outright enthusiasm.