The German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, had argued that once we reject the Christian God, we have also rejected Christian values – equality, human exceptionalism, and an entire array of values that go along with them. However, the West naively thought that they could retain Christian values after “killing” the Christian God. Os Guinness wrote of Nietzsche’s disdain for such blindness:
- Nietzsche was a self-proclaimed “anti-Christ,” yet he had no time complacent middle-class thinking that could say, “God is dead” and go on living as before. If God was “dead” for Western culture, then nothing was the same. It was time to face the consequences. (The Journey, 136)
What were the consequences? Anything would now be permissible! With God in the grave, our only moral rudder would be our desires and fears.
However, as in Nietzsche’s day, so too in ours! Few can perceive the consequences of their rejection of God. Atheists confidently explain:
- We need not sink into a morally relativistic quagmire once we reject God. We still have absolute moral principles to guide us. For example, drinking water is absolutely good because it promotes survival and survival is absolutely good.
However, what makes survival absolutely good? There no longer exists an absolute principle that makes human survival more important than the malaria-bearing mosquito. Besides, is there anything that establishes that survival-is-good apart from our own subjective judgment? If the mosquito could talk, he might say that his survival is just as important to him as ours is to us, and who can mediate between those two opinions with any authority if God is dead! But should we have laws that equally protect the survival of the mosquito? A growing number would now argue, “Yes!”
This brings us back to moral relativism where morality is entirely relative to how I think and feel on any given morning. In Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche wrote:
- They are rid of the Christian God and now believe all the more firmly that they must cling to the Christian morality… When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet.
Truly, Christian morality rests upon an absolutely immutable and universal standard – God - but does it really matter? Yes! Our beliefs have consequences. The German Jewish poet, Heinrich Heine noted these consequences back in 1832:
- It is to the great merit of Christianity that it has somewhat attenuated the brutal German lust for battle. But it could not destroy it entirely. And should that taming talisman break – the Cross - then will come roaring back the wild madness of the ancient warriors.
What would happen once the Cross was broken? Heine continued:
- And laugh not at my forebodings, the advice of a dreamer who warns you away from the Kants and Fichtes of the world, and from our philosophers of nature. No, laugh not at the visionary who knows that in the realm of phenomena comes soon the revolution that has already taken place in the realm of spirit. For thought goes before deed as lightening before thunder. There will be played in Germany a play compared to which the French revolution was but an innocent idyll.
It is inevitable that, without God, there will be little to restrain the madness. The late psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl, reasoned:
- I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek, were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers. (The Doctor of the Soul)
Thoughts and philosophies precede plans and actions. Historian Richard Weikart, California State University, wrote in From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany about how the anti-God worldview of Darwinism impacted thought and action:
- By reducing humans to mere animals, by stressing human inequality, and by viewing the death of many "unfit" organisms as a necessary—and even progressive—natural phenomenon, Darwinism made the death of the "inferior" seem inevitable and even beneficent. Some Darwinists concluded that helping the "unfit" die—which had for millennia been called murder—was not morally reprehensible, but was rather morally good.
Darwinist thinking brought about policy and behavioral change:
- Those skeptical about the role Darwinism played in the rise of advocacy for involuntary euthanasia, infanticide, and abortion should consider several points. First, before the rise of Darwinism, there was no debate on these issues, as there was almost universal agreement in Europe that human life is sacred and that all innocent human lives should be protected. Second, the earliest advocates of involuntary euthanasia, infanticide, and abortion in Germany were devoted to a Darwinian worldview. Third, Haeckel, the most famous Darwinist in Germany, promoted these ideas in some of his best-selling books, so these ideas reached a wide audience, especially among those receptive to Darwinism. Finally, Haeckel and other Darwinists and eugenicists grounded their views on death and killing on their naturalistic interpretation of Darwinism.
Heine was clearly right. In the same way that lightening precedes thunder, thought precedes deed. In Markings, the later Secretary General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold, wrote:
- God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our loves cease to be illuminated by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.
Perhaps not beyond all reason! In his Epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul had written that humanity is without rational excuse for rejecting God:
- For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)
Consequently, rejecting God is not a morally neutral choice.