A central figure among the so-called " New Atheists " revealed in an essay Monday that she has turned to Christianity, not only for the meaning and solace it provides but for its strong and unifying doctrine, which she reckons can "fortify us against our menacing foes."
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Dutch-American women's rights activist, mother, and former politician who ruffled feathers by calling Islam a "nihilistic cult of death" beyond reforming , noted in UnHerd that atheism is a "weak and divisive doctrine" that offers no hope, no anchorage, and no defense against destructive forces at home and abroad.
Ali, who still lives under a fatwa, was raised Muslim in Somalia. In addition to suffering genital mutilation and getting married off to a distant cousin, she was told that many of the things she loved, including music, dancing, and movies, were accursed worldly pleasures and instruments of damnation. Her encounters with the Muslim Brotherhood in Kenya helped cement her antipathy for Islam.
Although no longer a practicing Muslim at the time, Ali noted that the Sept. 11, 2001, Islamist attacks on the United States expedited her rejection of religion. The next year, she read British mathematician Bertrand Russell's 1927 lecture " Why I Am Not a Christian " and "found [her] cognitive dissonance easing."
"It was a relief to adopt an attitude of scepticism towards religious doctrine, discard my faith in God and declare that no such entity existed," wrote Ali. "Best of all, I could reject the existence of hell and the danger of everlasting punishment."
Apparently satisfied with the prospect of rotting in the ground, as Russell posited, rather than in some infernal destination, Ali went on to become a prominent atheist, speaking at various conventions and winning the adulation of various secularists.
David Silverman, the former president of the anti-religion organization American Atheists, touted Ali as a "champion of atheist thought" and "atheism activism" ahead of her 2015 keynote speech at the American Atheists National Convention.
Ali suggested that while the fear she had been convinced was a feature of religion had not gone away with her embrace of atheism, she was nevertheless confident that she had made the right choice. After all, "the atheists were clever" and a "great deal of fun," particularly the late Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins.
However, good wit and good times were not enough to slake Ali's thirst for meaning.
Ali indicated that her conversion to Christianity — which she previously wished for Muslims across the world — is the result of multiple factors.
"Part of the answer is global. Western civilisation is under threat from three different but related forces: the resurgence of great-power authoritarianism and expansionism in the forms of the Chinese Community Party and Vladimir Putin's Russia; the rise of global Islamism, which threatens to mobilise a vast population against the West; and the viral spread of woke ideology, which is eating into the moral fibre of the next generation," wrote Ali.
According to Ali, secular tools have proven wholly ineffective against these dark forces.
"We can't fight off these formidable forces unless we can answer the question: what is it that unites? The response that 'God is dead!' seems insufficient. So, too, does the attempt to find solace in 'the rules-based liberal international order,'" she continued. "The only credible answer, I believe, lies in our desire to uphold the legacy of the Judeo-Christian tradition."
Noting that the cultural, legal, and social inheritance secularists most prize is rooted in Christianity, Ali said, "I have come to realise that Russell and my atheist friends failed to see the wood for the trees. The wood is the civilisation built on the Judeo-Christian tradition; it is the story of the West, warts and all."
Trouncing the West's internal and external foes is not Ali's only reason for embracing the faith.
"I have also turned to Christianity because I ultimately found life without any spiritual solace unendurable — indeed very nearly self-destructive," wrote Ali. "Atheism failed to answer a simple question: what is the meaning and purpose of life?"
Ali noted that Russell's presumption that "reason and intelligent humanism" come after the fall of religion was wrong. The "God hole" left in the human heart has not gone away but rather has been "filled by a jumble of irrational quasi-religious dogma. The result is a world where modern cults prey on the dislocated masses, offering them spurious reasons for being and action — mostly by engaging in virtue-signalling theatre on behalf of a victimised minority or our supposedly doomed planet."
Quoting the Catholic apologist G.K. Chesterton, who penned an essay defending his religiosity a year before Russell's lecture, Ali underscored that "when men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything."
"We can't withstand China, Russia and Iran if we can't explain to our populations why it matters that we do. We can't fight woke ideology if we can't defend the civilisation that it is determined to destroy. And we can't counter Islamism with purely secular tools," wrote Ali. "Unless we offer something as meaningful, I fear the erosion of our civilisation will continue. And fortunately, there is no need to look for some new-age concoction of medication and mindfulness. Christianity has it all."
While admitting she has "a great deal to learn about Christianity," Ali indicated she understands that it is "a better way to manage the challenges of existence than either Islam or unbelief had to offer."
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