We Historic Christians, who believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, as well as being God the Son, sometimes come up with theories as to which other religion is the polar opposite, or the devil’s favorite. Many people instinctively assume that atheism is it. More recently, especially since 9/11, a lot of people have assumed that Islam was the devil’s favorite. Now Islam isn’t necessarily any “falser” than any other false religion. What is unusually problematic about Islam is that unlike Christianity and most other faiths, with the possible exception of the nearly tribal Judaism, Islam acquired power and control over a society during its founder’s lifetime. So it has had a hard time living as a minority religion in societies it does not control. Christianity, on the other hand, has, rightly or wrongly, exercised power at various times in its history, sometimes for bad things. But deep in Christian DNA is the memory of a time when it was not so, the Age of the Martyrs. Our New Testament was written in a society that we were manifestly not in charge of. And now that we are not in charge of the Western World any more, we fuss, grind our teeth, proclaim that Jesus is coming soon, etc., etc., but we know how to live in such a society. Our New Testament was written in a society like this one, and we have always had a strong nostalgia for the New Testament Era, the Early Church, and the Age of the Martyrs. So when a neopagan age like ours comes along, we know how to handle it.
That being said, I have thought, since I was a young Christian in my twenties, that if the devil has a favorite religion it’s neither atheism nor Islam, but a sort of New Age spirituality that is very comfortable with using the God-word and talking about “prayer,” and even comfortable with “prayer in public schools,” but meaning something very different from the Christian God and Christian prayer. This god did not send his son to die for our sins – he didn’t have to – he can be approached by almost all roads with the possible exception of racism and Nazism, and “prayer” is more a means of conjuring him up and empowering him, or even controlling him, than in appealing to his mercy. The closer to the truth without being the saving truth, the better to ensnare human souls. The controversial figure of the Antichrist, whoever or whatever he or it is, is not pictured in the Biblical texts as atheistic, but rather as demanding worship for himself or itself. I myself wonder how well the four horsemen of the Atheist Apocalypse – Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens – will do in the long run unless they can shred the current postmodern view that doubts absolute truth claims – for, whatever else they are doing, they are certainly making truth claims! And if they succeed in restoring the idea of absolute truth to respectability, they may well have done us Christians a favor!