Monday, December 19, 2011

The Fruit of the Secular State

Atheists monotonously charge that the church does everything wrong and Christians are evil. There are several ways to respond:

1. “Yes, we are evil and do bad things, and that’s why we all need the Savior.”
2. “You have no basis to talk about ‘evil’ or ‘bad,’ since you, as moral relativists, don’t believe in an objective ‘good and bad.’”
3. “Okay, let’s compare the evil of the church to the evil of atheists!”

Regarding the last response, I’ll invoke the militant communist/atheist experiments under Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot, and remind them of 100 million that these idealistic atheists had exterminated.

Of course, they’ll protest that these evils were not the result of atheism but communism, and that if we really want to see the fruits of atheism, we should look to secular (atheistic) nations of western and northern Europe.

Although these countries are going in an atheistic direction, they are not militantly trying to stamp out their Christian roots as some of the communist nations had done. Instead, their secularization is slow and far less proactive. Consequently, these nations still retain strong vestiges of their Biblical roots. Therefore, it’s harder to gauge the impact of atheism, and this requires more time.

However, this task might be easier than I had at first thought. It seems that as secularism has taken hold, so too has crime:

• The 9,350,000 inhabitants of Sweden reported 1,410,000[1] offences to the authorities in 2009 (approximately 151 offences/1000 inhabitants). The number of reported crimes have increased radically since a national statistics began in 1950. A lot of this is attributed to a higher degree of reports, but the largest factor is the factual increase of crimes. Increase in the rate of reports of violent crime in Sweden from 1976 to 2006. In three decades, reported violent crime have increased by about 200 %. (Wikipedia)

• If we next look at the crime level, the Danish Statistical Yearbook 2002 shows reported crimes from 1935 to 1960 to be stable: about 100,000 crimes per year. But from 1960 until today, the number of crime reports has increased by 500 percent, to more than 500,000 per year. And if we look at violent crime, the picture is even grimmer. The number of violent crimes in 1960 was approximately 2,000; it is approximately 15,000 today. This is an increase of more than 700 percent, and it is still rising steeply. This is a very surprising development. Welfare state advocates often say that crime is caused by poverty. Well, Denmark has become about twice as rich per citizen during this period of rising crime. Another argument is that poverty is caused by economic inequality. Well, Denmark has engaged in the most comprehensive income redistribution program of any nation. Denmark is the most egalitarian country in the world today.

This identical crime explosion is found throughout the Western world:

• With the end of World War II and the economic recovery in Europe in the 1950s, crime rates and particularly rates of violent crime began to climb once again throughout the West. In England and Wales, murder and assault cases increased from 13 per 100,000 in 1950 to 144.3 per 100,000 in 1975, for an eleven-fold increase (Gurr, p. 363). During the same period the rate of larceny-theft rose from 847 per 100,000 to 3,659 per 100,000 for a more than four-fold increase, and by 1997 this figure came to 4,083 per 100,000. In Scandinavia much the same pattern unfolded. Between 1960 and 1974–1975, assaults and murders in Finland more than doubled from 127.9 to 282.0 per 100,000, and thefts more than tripled from 886 to 2,850 per 100,000. And in Stockholm between 1950 and 1971 the rates of thefts, assaults, and murders more than quadrupled (Gurr, p. 364). These increases in Europe were recorded mainly in the cities, and a similar pattern prevailed in the United States. Between 1960 and 1997 violent crimes known to the police in the United States shot up from 160.9 to 610.8 per 100,000, and property complaints rose from 1,726.3 to 4,311.9 per 100,000 (see F.B.I., 1961–1997).

How do we explain this explosion? It can’t be attributed to poverty, because the Western world had become wealthier during this period. In the sixties, the USA experienced a secularization outburst. Prayers were eliminated from the school systems as “unconstitutional” in 1962. Wayne Grudem argues that this one change had made an enormous impact:

• In the book [“America: To Pray or not to Pray”] Barton documents the dramatic rise in teen pregnancy rates, teen suicides, and drug abuse since pray was removed from public schools. (Politics according to the Bible, 506)

This change was accompanied in the West also by the teaching of moral relativism through “values clarification” exercises. These communicated to the students that there are no correct moral answers. However, without correct moral answers, there is no longer a higher rationale for acting one way or another. Morality is reduced to what you feel and whether or not it will work for you. Consequently, if we are no longer governed by moral absolutes, the strongest impediment against peer influence is removed.

Yes, parental influence is remains foremost, but this influence has also been undermined by secular thinking. Without absolute moral principles, emotional fulfillment becomes paramount. Instead of parents training their children in accordance with what they had always believed to be true, they now want to be liked. They therefore overly indulge their children: “I just want my Johnny to be happy and fulfilled.” And Johnny not only agrees, but he has very definite ideas about securing his happiness.

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