Extreme Times Lead to an Increase in Religious Extremism

Extreme Times Lead to an Increase in Religious Extremism September 13, 2021

Although the decline of Christianity in America has been enjoying a rapid decline, violent Christian extremism is on the rise. What’s the connection?

My theory is that there’s a statistical relationship between the overall conditions people live under and the appeal religions offer to escape the harsh conditions of life. Moreover, as times get tougher, the religiously inclined tend to become more extreme, fanatical and even violent.

When I parted ways with Christianity back in 1990, overall conditions in the US were far better than today when measured by just about any metric. The decline of religion had already begun. Life was good in America, and religions have little appeal when life is good. These conditions were also prevalent in places like the UK, Canada, Denmark, Sweden and in several other countries where the standards of living were high. Yet in other parts of the world like Africa, Afghanistan, Yemen and others life was not so good—and it still isn’t good. Consequently, religions thrive in many of these nations as do extreme factions of those religions.

The factors leading to the rise of violent Christian extremism in America is perplexing. On the one hand, some of the factors are easy to spot. Poverty, homelessness, expensive healthcare, the inability to afford a higher education, racial discrimination; all of these factors cause many to seek religion as a method of escaping the harsh realities of life.

But the move towards extremism and violence by Christians is unwarranted. Violence has nothing to do with how Christ himself expressed that his gospel be spread. Although our politics may be highly partisan now, nothing warrants the violent overthrow of our democracy. While Americans may have their differences, (which in itself is a sign of a thriving democracy), our divisions are far less polarized than those in other countries engaged in civil wars.

If anything, the motivation by violent Christian extremists to be violent seems to be entirely based on the fact that they are inclined to be violent.


Related articles:

The Disturbing Trend of Weaponizing Faith


About Scott R Stahlecker
Scott Stahlecker is a former minister and now writes for Thinkadelics about the joys and benefits of living as a freethinker. He is the author of the novel Blind Guides and Picking Wings Off Butterflies. You can read more about the author here.

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4 responses to “Extreme Times Lead to an Increase in Religious Extremism”

  1. I believe Christianity is waning, and the violence we’ve been seeing for the past 30 years has been a last gasp from a dying faith willing to do anything to try to claw its way back up into relevance.

    Anecdote time; we bought the house we live in now when the kids were in elementary school. There’s a tiny little church down at the end of the road; it was built in the very-early 1900s. When we first moved in, the church had a nice little congregation and they offered various festivals and Vacation Bible School. We sent the kids even though we’re not Christian.

    Gradually, however, pastors kept leaving and now there’s a push to condense 5 of the churches into 1, and 4 of them are for sale, with the little church being the last one standing to hold the congregations of all 5.

  2. Christianity is dying in large part because its most faithful members (the elderly) are dying. The younger generations these days are far more educated, rational, and scientifically minded. They see little purpose in following ancient myths and superstitions.

    There’s a small church about 5 miles from me that I suppose once was the spiritual hub of a small community. These days it’s an eclectic coffee house!

    I always thought it would be cool to buy an old church and turn it into a home. Mainly for the acoustics though to play music.

  3. There are programs that show churches transformed into homes–a lot of them are British. You should try to find them because so many of them are just absolutely beautiful.

    I agree about congregations dying out; I think the average age of the one down the road from me is probably 65 or 70. It’s a shame because as churches go, it’s not obnoxious. For example, they were fine with me enrolling the kids in Vacation Bible School when they were young because I wanted them to understand Christianity. No proselytizing went on (the Methodists aren’t big on that anyway).

  4. I’ll see if I can find one of those programs. I think what would be great about older churches in Britain, or Scotland etc. is that they are probably ancient and made of stone.

    The Catholics just built a church nearby and it is really spectacular. Like a modern version of Notre Dame. When I pass by it I wonder why humanists don’t build stunning sanctuaries like it. You know, as a monument and place to work which reflects on how amazing life and humanity is.

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