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CHRISTIANS BELATEDLY BATTLE TO RETAIN THEIR ROLE

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I have figured out at last what's behind the upsurge of attempts to fight pornography, the Pat Robertson presidential candidacy and other forms of religion-based activism.

Christians, like the late Gen. George Custer, have finally realized they are under attack by superior forces. As was the case with Custer, the realization has come a bit late. But they are trying to fight back.As hateful as the fact is to the modernist mind, Western Civilization is a Judeo-Christian civilization. It was once known globally as Christendom. The two religions, one evolving from the other, are so intimately interwoven into European history, art, philosophy, government and law that anyone who supposes to teach Western Civilization without mentioning religion is an idiot.

It is not surprising then that American Christians in particular grew complacent. They were for most of our history and their ancestors were for most of Europe's history the Establishment. The only conflicts they had were among themselves over doctrine and interpretation and with, in the Middle Ages, Islam - the third great religion to come from the rootstock of Christianity and Judaism.

Even just 40 years ago, the average American Christian could not imagine today's situation. At that time, Hollywood did not dare offend Christians or any other religion. Pat O'Brien seemed to have spent a large part of his career playing heroic priests. Hostility toward religion was confined, or so the average Christian thought, to the fringe nut cases.

Actually the war against Christianity had begun in earnest in the 18th century and was gathering momentum in Western societies. It was not the fringe nut cases. It was the intelligentsia - writers, professors, scientists, and philosophers - who entirely or on a piecemeal basis were jettisoning their religious faith.

By the first two decades of this century, among the leadership of Western society, Christianity was a dead issue. Some leaders clung to the forms or paid lip service, but as a set of beliefs that could motivate their behavior, religion was dead.

The news was late getting to the village square and to Main Street. That was so partly because politicians had no desire to advertise the change and partly because Main Street had never shown much interest in the intelligentsia anyway.

But beginning in the 1960s, the wave building over the centuries broke. To return to Hollywood as a marker - for it's always a follower, never a leader - today it hardly dares not to ridicule religion. Today, religion is either totally absent from plots or it's woven in as a negative.

Abandoning one faith does not mean becoming a person with no faith. Rare is the human being whose brain can stare into the abyss of an empty meaningless universe and retain its sanity. What happens is that people pick or create other religions.

This is what accounts for the religious-like behavior we see in a variety of causes ranging from communism to animal rights to libertarianism to environmentalism. People, desperate for meaning in their lives, take secular issues and convert them into religions. Thus, they become adamant, evangelical, hostile to dissenters, immune to reason (their beliefs are matters of faith, not logic). In a word, zealots. Their priests are psychologists and social scientists.

Many of these people view Christians as the enemy, for Christianity represents a rival faith. These same people have the same view of religious Jews and Moslems, too, but they just don't run into that many of those.

To paraphrase the old joke, traditional religious believers are not paranoiac - there really are people out to destroy them. Whether they can rally and survive is uncertain. What's certain is that they have a war on their hands.