In an op-ed piece for The Jerusalem Post, Shmuley Boteach laments “Godlessness has doomed Britain,” since “Atheism equals nihilism, neither of which are fertile ground for a national resurgence.” The logic of this is impeccable. Boteach points out that Britain’s greatest exports on the subject of religion are from thinkers who despise religion, such as Richard Dawkins who “compared religion to child abuse,” and Christopher Hitchens, who “titled his 2007 book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.” He also observes that whereas 92 percent of Americans believe in God, according to Britain’s National Center for Social Research, only 35 percent in Britain, and 43 percent declare no religion.
One can also point out that the militant approach of New Atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens carries a strong rhetorical sway, and their arguments on the surface appear convincing. It is only when one examines them closely under the light of truth that one realizes none of them hold any water. (See “Village Atheists with Vengeance.”)
Boteach finds that there is nothing comparable in Britain to American megachurch pastors like Rick Warren and Joel Osteen, and reasons that in the latter there is no official state church with religion being entrepreneurial, in the sense that “religion lives and dies in America like a commercial enterprise.” Pastors who “excite” with “uplifting and relevant” messages will fill pews, and those who do not will have empty pews. He also attributes “religious fervor” to the growth of America, “from pioneering backwoodsmen to the most powerful and innovative nation on earth,” whereas British influence has waned in the past century with “militant atheism” being “a key reason.” His explanation is that “atheism is a philosophy of nihilism in which nothing is sacred and all is accidental.”
The endgame of belief in a purely material universe that came about by random chance through the Darwinian Evolutionary process with its survival of the fittest and extinction of the inferior is nihilism. Boteach is certainly on target.
Whie it is generally true that “religious fervor” is a contributing factor to the growth and expansion of the United States, it is not “relevant” preaching that forms foundations of innovation and progress. One can argue that an attempt to be relevant makes for irrelevance (see “How Relevant Is Relevance?”). While Joel Osteen does have mass appeal, his overall message can be considered a“Gospel of Self-Esteem” or “Gospel-Light.” Whether or not his name-it-and-claim-it prosperity gospel can provide spiritual foundations for lasting social transformation is doubtful.
To be more precise, one can make the case that the Bible has been the spiritual source underlying progress in Western Civilization. Vishal Mangalwadi, in his lecture series entitled “Must the Sun Set on the West,” makes a compelling case that the sun is setting on the West because the West has severed itself from the source of its greatness, the Bible; however, the sun need not set on the West, because people can still return to the source of their greatness. Ultimately, it is from minds deeply influenced by the truth of Scripture that have gone on to make innovations that ultimately transformed the West. How Christianity Changed the World also explores the way Christianity inspired the highest achievements in Western civilization from its humble beginnings.
— Warren Nozaki