Wurmbrand: Atheism can be the passage from false religion to spiritual truth.
I’m currently reading The Answer to the Atheist’s Handbook by the late Richard Wurmbrand, who was a Romanian pastor (I understand he was formerly a Jewish atheist?) imprisoned under the communist regime, and who went on to found The Voice of the Martyrs. It’s a fascinating book, not least because of the context in which was written. This is no piece of apologetics responding to the comfortable, so-called New Atheism or Richard Dawkins & Christopher Hitchens! There is much that is dated, and of course, in direct response to state mandated atheism, but the biggest thing that strikes me is that it’s not an academic excercise. Wurmbrand tangibly suffered the brutal force of an atheist state, and yet this is a response abounding in grace (he explains in one section how he can understand why some people might be atheists). It’s also interesting to see him explain how Marx’s comment about religion being an opiate has been twisted, but that’s for another day! I’ve not yet finished the book, and this is not meant to be a review, but that’s an introduction in order to highlight an interesting quote:
Atheism can be the passage from false religion to spiritual truth. Atheism in one age is generally the result of the superstitions of a hypocritical religion in the preceding one. But then it is a passage. Do not stop in the passage!
Many have pointed to the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001 as a catalyst for the rise of the New Atheism, and while there is some truth in that (certainly in regards to the ‘religion causes evil’ motif) it would be too easy to simply leave it at that.
I haven’t been able to find out when he first wrote this, but I’m guessing it’s at least a couple decades old. Even so, I think Wurmbrand hits on something relevant here. There is no doubt that nominal, cultural Christianity is dying in the west, and more and more people are identifying as unbelievers. Could it be that the reason is not because of Jihadists, but because the church in the late 20th century was too hypocritical? Was it a fake, all smiles, moralising and prosperity, instead of real, honest communities of people seeking to follow Jesus?
Perhaps the New Atheism is a ‘passage’. Let’s not stop in the passage.