If you are a sports fan then you know that we are in the midst of “March Madness,” that is, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.  A committee picks 64 college teams and over the course of a few weeks those teams play until the field is whittled down to the “Final Four.”  Two games later a champion is declared.

Office pools follow it closely. Friends gather in bars to watch.  And even people who don’t care about basketball make their predictions and hope to win something: money, dinner, or bragging rights.

With all of the chatter about the tournament, I couldn’t help but wonder at another kind of tourney.  One that has been played over the centuries, is fought out globally, involves billions of participants, every nation, religion, political philosophy and where the stakes are very high—Indeed, the winner gets the souls of men.

The teams still in this tournament are:





Communism (a brand of secularism, but they insisted on their own team)


When the tournament started, there were many more teams than this, but as the centuries have rolled by, the field has been considerably narrowed.  The Druids lost to the Romans. Rome and its deities, once appearing to be unstoppable, lost to the Pagans. The Pagans, in turn, lost to the Christians. The Flat-Earthers lost out to the Scientists. The Scientists were acquired from the Christians by the Secularists in a blockbuster trade that left the Christians with the batty materialists (now known as the “Prosperity Gospel” advocates).

What of those that remain? The Fascists appeared to be out of the tournament altogether when they lost in dramatic fashion in 1945.  Complicating things further, their coach, Adolf Hitler, depressed by this loss, shot himself. (He wasn’t a good sport, it seems.) But the Fascists regrouped, went into the loser bracket, and fought their way back in.  They now dominate China (yes, China, having embraced capitalism but not democracy, is certainly more Fascist than communist) and much of the Muslim world.

The Communists (or Socialists, if you prefer), too, seemed to be out with the collapse of the USSR in 1991, but they are seeing a resurgence as they recruit silly young people in the West who have confused Christian charity with government redistribution of other people’s stuff. (NOTE: The only stuff socialists have was confiscated from other people.)  The Socialists even had a player running for President in the United States. Go figure.

Islam, which blew through the early tournament rounds with ease, suffered a setback at the hands of Christianity when the French Prince Charles Martel (“The Hammer”) gave them a beating at the Battle of Tours in 732.  But those French were an entirely different sort than the modern version. Today’s French are secularists, carry man-purses, and are no match for the Muslims who have essentially colonized France. As such, the Muslims, now almost two billion strong, seem certain to gain a spot in the Final Four.

Islam’s chief rival are the Christians.  Christianity is, after all, the largest religion in the world and, while it is in decline in the West, it is gaining adherents in Africa and Asia with remarkable rapidity.  To stop this growth and deliver the deathblow to Christianity in the West, the Secularists, in a bizarre move, have teamed-up with Muslims to defeat the Christians. They seem to think Islam is a peaceful religion.  This is because they haven’t read the Islamic playbook: The Quran.

No one really takes the Pantheists seriously. I mean, these people seem to have no doctrines and they generally lack intellectual credibility. But they should not be underestimated. The global appeal of this worldview is massive. They have people like Oprah and Deepak Chopra (that rhymes) and the Dalai Lama in their camp and, by golly, people like them because they seem so nice.

Who are you taking in your office pool?  Who will win the souls of men?

Larry Alex Taunton is an author, cultural commentator, and freelance columnist contributing to USA TODAYFox NewsFirst ThingsThe AtlanticCNN, and The American Spectator.  In addition to being a frequent radio and television guest, he is also the author of The Grace Effect and The Gospel Coalition Arts and Culture Book of the Year, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens. You can subscribe to his blog at larryalextaunton.com.