Religion is the problem 6

… not the solution.

As if the world were not being rocked by a war of religion, Dennis Prager writes at Townhall that there is not enough religion in America:

The most profound thinkers in America are conservative. There are, of course, bright liberal and leftist thinkers, but I can’t think of one who approaches the depth and wisdom of the best conservative writers and thinkers. What liberal historian, for example, approaches the understanding of life and history that author Paul Johnson has exhibited in his many works of history? Who on the left matches psychiatrist/writer Theodore Dalrymple’s insight into the underclass? What left-wing columnists understand human nature, the state of mankind, or contemporary America as do George Will, Charles Krauthammer and Thomas Sowell, or many of the leading columnists at publications such as National Review, City Journal, Commentary Magazine or the Wall Street Journal?

I write this to make it clear that my admiration for the leading conservative writers, columnists and thinkers is deep and abiding.

Ours too. We have no quarrel with anything he has said so far (though we admire the Catholic writer, Paul Johnson, with a little less enthusiasm than he does).

There is, however, a “but.”

The vast majority of leading conservative writers, just like their liberal colleagues, have a secular outlook on life. With few exceptions, the conservative political and intellectual worlds are oblivious to the consequences of secularism. They are unaware of the disaster that godlessness in the West has led to.

Maybe because it is not “godlessness” that has led us to disaster, but godfulness – most obviously the godfulness of Islam.

Most leading Republicans and most of the wealthy donors to the Republican Party — in addition to virtually all libertarian politicians and think tank scholars — are either uninterested in the death of Judeo-Christian religions and values in America and the West, or they’re OK with it. They think that America can survive the death of God and religion, that fiscal and other forms of conservatism without social conservatism can preserve America.

First, to use the hyphenated term “Judeo-Christian” is to link two things together that are opposed to each other; an ideology of justice and an ideology of anti-justice.

Judaism’s highest value is justice, usually called “righteousness” in its bible. Unfortunately, many an instance of what the pious men of old considered to be “righteous” or “just”, is not easy to reconcile with the idea of justice that we, the heirs of the Enlightenment, understand it to be. But as an ideal it could not be bettered, or even matched – except by the ideal of freedom.

Christianity was a revolt against Judaism. It substituted love for justice as the highest ideal. It commanded “Resist not evil”. It preached forgiveness, self-sacrifice, self-abasement. It condemned “the sin” but “not the sinner” – absolving him of responsibility and rewarding him with love and forgiveness. Anti-justice. Anti-Judaism.

Our ideals – freedom, reason, justice – were bequeathed to us by the Enlightenment; that brilliant dawn that dispelled the terrifying intolerant rule of religion. Why do Christians pretend that Christianity does not have a cruel and bloody past?

Dennis Prager seems to think of those old religions as really nice, sensible, polite, well-dressed, well-spoken, well-washed, well-exercised, clean-cut, all-American, common-sensical codes of morals. They are not, and they never were.

It shows how effective the secular indoctrination in our schools and media has been, that even the majority of conservative thinkers are not only secular themselves, but seem to have no idea how much of the American civilization rests on religious foundations.

We wish we could believe him that “the majority of conservative thinkers are secular”. Maybe the majority of the best of them are, but there are dozens of opinion writers in the conservative ranks who write continually about God. This Christian Conservative website, Townhall, provides endless examples. (We read it every day and find sound conservative views in it too.)

They don’t seem to understand that the only solution to many – perhaps most – of the social problems ailing America and the West is some expression of Judeo-Christian faith.

Which expression would that be?

He finds one.

Do the inner-city kids who study the Bible and go to church each week lead wasted lives, join gangs, bear children out of wedlock or commit murder? …

Probably not most of them. Which is good, of course. But the implication that there is no way other than by religious instruction they they could be raised to live their lives well, is not defensible.

And why do secular conservatives think so many affluent and well-educated Americans have adopted left-wing dogmas, such as feminism, socialism, environmentalism and egalitarianism as their religions? Because people want to – have to – believe in something. And if it’s not God and Christianity or Judaism, it’s going to be some form of Leftism. Why are evangelical Protestants, theologically conservative Catholics, Orthodox Jews and practicing Mormons almost all conservative? Because they already have a religion and therefore don’t need the alternate gods of leftist faiths, and also because Judeo-Christian religions have different values than leftist religions.

We agree that “feminism, socialism, environmentalism and egalitarianism” are religions. But not that “if it’s not God and Christianity or Judaism, it’s going to be some form of Leftism”.

It doesn’t have to be. We are living proof that one can be an atheist and believe in all the values of conservatism: individual freedom, the rule of law, small government, a free market economy, strong defense, and the political wisdom of the Constitution. But freedom to us means freedom from the tyranny of any orthodoxy – which excludes every church. And we add reason to our high values – and that excludes every religion.   

When these conservatives – people who revere the Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence – read the founders’ assertion that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”, do they believe what the founders wrote? Or were they just echoing the irrational religious beliefs of their time, as people on the left believe?

Although on this point we might be in agreement with something the left believes, yes, we do think they were “just echoing the irrational religious beliefs of their time”. Well, not exactly echoing them – more modifying them. They were (at least some of them) skeptical men, men of the Enlightenment, who thought that though a god must have created the universe, he thereafter declined to have anything more to do with it (which is what “deism” means – and they described themselves as “deists”).

When these conservatives see the components of what I call the American Trinity – the words “liberty,” “In God We Trust” and “e pluribus unum” inscribed on every American coin – do they regard “In God We Trust” as no longer necessary?

Yes.

President John Adams warned: “Because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion … our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Do secular conservatives think he was right or wrong?

Partly right, partly wrong. Moral, yes. Religious, not necessarily at all.

The problem is not that most leading conservative thinkers are secular; it is that they don’t seem to understand that a godless and Judeo-Christian-free America means the end of America, just as a godless and Judeo-Christian-free Europe has meant the end of Europe.

If Europe had not been marinaded in the self-destructive morality of Christianity for two millennia, would it now be letting in hordes of its worst enemies in the name of “compassion”? Would it be accepting the prospect of its subjugation by Islam without resistance? Would it let its young girls be turned into sex slaves by Muslim criminals without objecting for fear of hurting the Muslim criminals’ feelings? Would it be abandoning freedom of speech (an Enlightenment value) out of deference to a dogmatic, intolerant, savage religion?

No. Europe is dying of Religion, not of Reason.

And yes, America could too.

Posted under Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Religion general, United States by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, April 5, 2016

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This post has 6 comments.

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  • This is a view I’m constantly encountering, but the evidence and the body count continue to mount against it..

    Nigel Farage (UKIP Leader) for one is always ranting on about our Judeo-Christian heritage, what twaddle. I think in his case its code for Islam not included (something he never dares to say out loud), but as an atheist I am troubled by the seeming reversion to pre-enlightenment values when I hear this kind of thing.

    Theodore Dalrymple is one I’ve been reading lately, but even though he is an atheist he moans on about the loss of religious values (albeit in a somewhat humorous way):

    http://www.city-journal.org/html/what-new-atheists-don%E2%80%99t-see-13058.html

    The US particularly I think thrived in significant part thanks to separation of church and state. The more we keep religious squabbles out of our lives, the more we get on with doing useful things.

    The worst of all this though as I see it, is that its a distraction from the real underlying problems, demographic change, birth control with feminist anti-family ideas, welfare and “environmentalist” self-hate which are the true causes of our declining civilization. We need to look these problems square in the eye, or all kinds of turmoil is going to envelop us.

    • liz

      Exactly – and looking these problems “square in the eye” can only be done by confronting bad reasoning with good reasoning – not confronting bad reasoning with worse (as in nonexistent) reasoning of invoking the supernatural.

  • Bruce

    Why do Christians pretend that Christianity does not have a cruel and bloody past?

    Take your pick of excuses:

    A. Violent Christians aren’t “True Christians”
    B: Satan tricked them into doing it. Thus it’s not their fault.
    C: Catholics aren’t real Christians, only Protestants are.
    D: Protestants aren’t real Christians, only Catholics are.
    E: Those Popes were Antipopes.
    F: Compared to burning in Hell, torture and the stake are acts of love; if you burn in this life, you might not burn in the next.
    G: Suffering brings you closer to Christ, it’s a good thing.
    H: Killing off heretics protects the “True Gospel” from corruption. It was needful.
    I: We were killing people worse than us, like the Aztecs.

    And so on….

    Self-declared “True” Christians remind me so much of the committed Leftists. Anything they don’t want to hear causes them to either ignore it, try to shut it down, or go into major denial.

    • liz

      Great list! An interesting aspect of it is that most of these excuses are also used to excuse Muslim violence – “violent Muslims aren’t true Muslims”, etc.
      The truth is, the main reason Christians aren’t still persecuting unbelievers is because of the influence of Enlightenment ideas which led to the greater valuing of individual rights, the Constitution, and the separation of church and state.

  • liz

    Well said!! And this is what makes me tear my hair out when I read things like this by Prager and so many others! They just CANNOT get past their habit of conflating secularism with leftism! And religion with morality!
    He just can’t understand why secularists don’t see that the ONLY solution to our social problems is “some expression of Judeo-Christian faith”. What I’d like to know is, why don’t Christians like Prager ever give the time of day to the philosophy of Objectivism?
    They prefer to pretend that Objectivism, like the Deism of many of the Founders and, in fact, the entire Enlightenment, were insignificant footnotes of history, so they can maintain the illusion of the absolutist, either/or dichotomy between “godless leftism” and Christian conservatism.
    Prager can’t see that it wasn’t the rejection by Christians of their religious faith that enabled the rise of the “godless Left”, but rather the rejection by Christians like himself of Reason (embodied in the philosophy of Objectivism), and choosing rather to remain as intellectual infants, that neutralized their own ability to oppose the advance of the Left.