Postchristianity is the decline of Christianity. It is most notable in Europe. However it also exists in Canada, Australia a minor degree the Southern Cone, and in recent years New England, in the 20th and 21st centuries, considered in terms of postmodernism. It may include personal world views, ideologies, religious movements or societies that are no longer rooted in the language and assumptions of Christianity, at least explicitly, though it had previously been in an environment of ubiquitous Christianity (i.e., Christendom).
Thus defined, a post-Christian world is one in which Christianity is no longer the dominant civil religion, but that has gradually assumed values, culture, and worldviews that are not necessarily Christian (and further may not necessarily reflect any world religion's standpoint, or may represent a combination of either several religions or none). Generally, therefore, post-Christian tends to refer to the loss of Christianity's monopoly, if not its followers, in historically Christian societies. For instance, according to the 2005 Eurobarameter survey, the majority of Europeans (in general) hold some form of belief in a higher power, although relatively fewer point explicitly to the Christian God.
In his 1961 The Death of God, the French theologian Gabriel Vahanian argued that modern secular culture in most of Western Civilization had lost all sense of the sacred, lacked any sacramental meaning, and disdained any transcendental purpose or sense of providence, bringing him to the conclusion that for the modern mind, "God is dead".
Other thinkers, namely Thomas J. J. Altizer and William Hamilton of Emory University, drew upon a variety of sources, including the aphorisms of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison, and brought this line of thought to public attention in a short-lived intellectual movement of the mid-to-late-1960s among Protestant theologians and ministerial students. Conservative reaction on the right and social-advocacy efforts on the left blunted its impact, however, and it was quickly overlooked in favor of more ethically-oriented movements such as the Social Gospel and feminist theologies, within mainline Protestantism.
Some American Christians (primarily Protestants) also use this term in reference to the evangelism of unchurched individuals who may have grown up in a non-Christian culture where such traditional Biblical references may be unfamiliar concepts. This perspective argues, for instance, that among previous generations in the United States, such concepts and other artifacts of Christianese would have been common cultural knowledge and that it would not have been necessary to teach this language to adult converts to Christianity. In this sense, post-Christian is not used pejoratively, but is intended to describe the special remediative care that would be needed to introduce new Christians to the nuances of Christian life and practice.
Some groups, primarily liberal or radical protestants, use the term "post-Christian" as a self-description. Dana McLean Greeley, the first president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, described Unitarian Universalism as postchristian, insofar as Christians no longer considered it Christian, while persons of other religions would likely describe it as Christian, at least historically.
Others, such as Philip Jenkins in God's Continent, argue that Europe is post-Christian insofar as Christianity is no longer explicitly asserted and has not (under a strict definition) been so for over a century. Charles Taylor, meanwhile, disputes the "God is Dead" thesis within the same context by arguing that the practices and understandings of faith changed long before the late 20th century, along with secularism itself. In his A Secular Age, Taylor argues that being "free from Christendom" has allowed Christianity to endure and express itself in various ways, particularly in Western society; he notes that otherwise secular ideas were, and continue to be, formed in light of some manner of faith. Perhaps in a similar manner to Jenkins, he stresses that "loss of faith" reflects simplistic notions on the nature of secularization, namely the idea of "subtraction." Thus "post-Christian" is, after a fashion, a product of Christianity itself.
- Liberal Religion in the Post Christian Era, Edward A. Cahill, 1974
- The Post Christian Mind: Exposing Its Destructive Agenda, Harry Blamires, Vine, 1999 (ISBN 1-56955-142-1).
- "The Death of God: The Culture of Our Post-Christian Era", Gabriel Vahanian, George Braziller, NY, 1961
- Dana MacLean Greeley, 25 Beacon Street, and Other Recollections (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), pp. 11–12.
- Thomas J. J. Altizer, The Gospel of Christian Atheism (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966).
- Thomas J. J. Altizer and William Hamilton, Radical Theology and the Death of God (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1966).
- Bernard Murchland, ed., The Meaning of the Death of God (New York: Random House, 1967)
- Phillip Jenkins, God's Continent: Christianity, Islam and Europe's Religious Crisis (Oxford: University Press, 2005)
- Charles Taylor, A Secular Age(Harvard: Belknap Press, 2007).