Friday, November 16, 2012

What’s Right with Christianity and Wrong with Secularism: Words of a Secularist




I like John D. Steinrucken. He says the same things that I have been trying to say over the years, except Steinrucken is an avowed “secularist” and “atheist.” In “Secularism's Ongoing Debt to Christianity,” he writes:

  • Rational thought may provide better answers to many of life's riddles than does faith alone. However, it is rational to conclude that religious faith has made possible the advancement of Western civilization. That is, the glue that has held Western civilization together over the centuries is the Judeo-Christian tradition. To the extent that the West loses its religious faith in favor of non-judgmental secularism, then to the same extent, it loses that which holds all else together.
Steinrucken cites the New Testament in support:

  • Romans 14:10, says: "Remember, each of us must stand alone before the judgment seat of God." That verse explicitly recognizes not only each man's uniqueness, but, of necessity, implies that man has free will -- that individual acts do result in consequences, and that those acts will be judged against objective standards. It is but a step from the habit of accepting individual accountability before God to thinking of individual accountability in secular things. It thus follows that personal and political freedom is premised upon the Christian concept of the unique individual exercising accountable free will.
We have to wonder why other atheists are unwilling to acknowledge the obvious:

  • Although I am a secularist (atheist, if you will), I accept that the great majority of people would be morally and spiritually lost without religion. Can anyone seriously argue that crime and debauchery are not held in check by religion? Is it not comforting to live in a community where the rule of law and fairness are respected? Would such be likely if Christianity were not there to provide a moral compass to the great majority? Do we secularists not benefit out of all proportion from a morally responsible society?
As a secularist, Steinrucken would surely want to articulate a secular foundation for society?

  • Those who doubt the effect of religion on morality should seriously ask the question: Just what are the immutable moral laws of secularism? Be prepared to answer, if you are honest, that such laws simply do not exist! The best answer we can ever hear from secularists to this question is a hodgepodge of strained relativist talk of situational ethics. They can cite no overriding authority other than that of fashion. For the great majority in the West, it is the Judeo-Christian tradition which offers a template assuring a life of inner peace toward the world at large -- a peace which translates to a workable liberal society.           
  • Secularism has never offered the people a practical substitute for religion. From the time of the philosophes with their certainties in 1789, the rationally thought-through utopias of those who think themselves the elite of the world, when actually put to the test, have not merely come to naught. Attempts during those two centuries to put into practice utopian visions have caused huge sufferings. But they, the clever ones, never look back. In their conceit, they delude themselves that next time they are sure to get it right. They create justifications for their fantasies by rewriting the histories.
Steinrucken is willing to recognize the dangers, even to secularism, of a Christ-less world:

  • The fact is, we secularists gain much from living in a world in which excesses are held in check by religion. Religion gives society a secure and orderly environment within which we secularists can safely play out our creativities. Free and creative secularism seems to me to function best when within the stable milieu provided by Christianity.        
  • To the extent that Western elites distance themselves from their Judeo-Christian cultural heritage in favor of secular constructs, and as they give deference to a multicultural acceptance that all beliefs are of equal validity, they lose their will to defend against a determined attack from another culture, such as from militant Islam. For having destroyed the ancient faith of their people, they will have found themselves with nothing to defend. For the culture above which they had fancied themselves to have risen, the culture which had given them their material sustenance, will by then have become but a hollow shell.
Steinrucken reminds me of our Founding Fathers. Although a number of them could barely be considered “Christian,” they exhibited a high respect for this faith and its necessary place within their new nation:

  • If the elitists of our Western civilization want to survive, then it is incumbent upon them to see to the preservation of the hoary, time-honored faith of the great majority of the people. This means that our elitists should see that their most valued vested interest is the preservation within our culture of Christianity and Judaism. It is not critical that they themselves believe, only that they should publicly hold in high esteem the institutions of Christianity and Judaism, and to respect those who do believe and to encourage and to give leeway to those who, in truth, will be foremost in the trenches defending us against those who would have us all bow down to a different and unaccommodating faith.
Steinrucken is asserting only what should be obvious to everyone. We are therefore left to wonder why other atheists are so resistant to what history has been feverishly broadcasting in every epoch.

2 comments:

  1. I hope that this essay might help to spread this word and these ideas far and wide. Thanks, Daniel, for being so faithful to share such insightful "brain food" for thoughtful Christians.

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    Replies
    1. The evidence of the blessings of Christianity surrounds us, but many refuse to see it.

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