“Divisive religious beliefs humanity’s biggest challenge: Grayling”–so says two authors of a recent newspaper article.
In this article the divisiveness of contrary religious beliefs are contrasted with the positives which a rationally based system of ethics and worldview would provide. The authors quote:
“We need free minds, rational and respectful of evidence and reason, and ethics based on human rights and humanistic attitudes.”
The authors also quote that “…the world would be a far, far better place without religion. “
There is one problem with this whole endeavor, it has been attempted before and failed miserably and a failure to understand how history repeats itself will lead us down another path to unspeakable misery and chaos.
Granted, religious belief and attitudes has created a lot of havoc down through time and many evil things have been done in the name of religion. The thing about this is–is that evil and disruptive things have been done in the name of everything! We live in a world in which we are born sinners and move in life and through time fighting against (or aligning with!) our sinful human nature which is constantly trying to lead us astray! Any kind of activity of man can be found to have been used in the wrong way to further evil!
What makes religion unique, as something to rail against, is the universality of it, not only in present time when the number of religions are in the hundreds, but all through recorded history, in which religion has been an important and instructive aspect of life for every people. That makes it an easy target to those whose vision of the future entails attitudes which religion seems to hinder.
One of the things missed by these opponents of religion, which can only be really understood by religious people, is that religious belief puts constraints on behavior and while we may disagree on what are the “true” restraints God actually wants for us, which is why there are so many religions in the first place, religion does prohibit and constrain the kind of anarchic attitude of Judges 21:25 in which “every man did that which was right in his own eyes”.
Even though a cross-section of life on this planet shows a bewildering array of seemingly contradictory, confusing, and maybe unintelligible ideas when it comes to religion, and even though the unification of humanity under one umbrella of ideas would be impossible given the allegiance that groups give to their religious beliefs, if we could somehow throw religious ideas away or sublimate any religious sentiments to something totally private or meditative and then unite behind an atheistic worldview with its so-called “rationally based system of ethics…”, this would be tantamount to societal suicide. The world has already seen what society tends to become when God is removed and “man” steps in to replace Him and it is the 20th century!
The 20th century is noted for great positive advances which has enriched millions of lives in untold ways. It is also noted for the most brutal and genocidal century of all recorded history. The 20th century was the totalitarian century, the century when at least for certain countries and realms, the government did “what was right in their own eyes”, and the murder and bloodshed and death was more than all the time up to then! And the distinctive thing about those regimes—they were atheistic in orientation!!
Three main regimes can sum up the brutality of the 20th century (and there are more): 1) Stalinist Russia, 2) Mao’s China, 3) Pol Pot and Cambodia. Although Marxism and other things played a role as well in these societies, the failure to recognize a moral standard in which activities could be judged, allowed any action to be “right” if it fulfilled the desire of its leaders. When some men can look at other men and fail to see the image of God they were created in, why not treat them as harshly as possible, why not treat them as means to some end, why not treat them in any way desired? That is what occurred in these regimes. Not having a God to be accountable towards freed up all the sinful impulses which human nature was capable.
The book “Death by Government” by R.J. Rummel, opened my eyes many years ago to how far governments can go when “man is the measure of all things”. And lest we think we can do this without governments, how else will an atheistic worldview be codified and enforced but through government? If that really were to occur, another chapter to this book would have to be written sometime in the future!
While exact figures are hard to come by, there isn’t much argument against the fact that scores of millions of people were killed in the 20th century by these regimes. Many sources back up the high totals as those mentioned in this book. And that doesn’t count the wars of WWI and WWII! Are all atheists murderers? No! Would most atheists condone murder like this? I don’t believe so!
But it is different when the whole culture becomes saturated with the ideas that ridicule ideas of a God who exists beyond this life, or treats as nonsense the thought of a God who demands adherence to a moral standard. Things have a way of getting out of our control and takes a life of its own.
As an aside, I look at Political Correctness and its attitudes and see how a totalitarian, repressive society could evolve right here, maybe not as bad as Stalin or Pol Pot but still troubling. An event happened some years ago which was very enlightening. A woman in Britain put a cat in a trash can and closed the lid. It was caught on camera and went on social media all over the world. She received death threats for the action! I thought it was surreal. What major wrongdoing was really committed? Even if she killed the cat–death threats? An interesting discussion would be how PC and social media are changing society for the worse and how that fits in with Orwell’s novel 1984
Back to the main topic, some of the views which led to the disasters of the 20th century didn’t quite go as far as the thinking of later times but they laid the groundwork. This groundwork can be traced to the Enlightenment which placed too heavy an emphasis on science and human reason. Then evolution came along and cast doubt of the Biblical view of history and at the same time a movement called “higher criticism” cast doubt on the Bible itself. No wonder the 19th century closed with the “God is dead” mantra of Nietzsche, and this phrase by him was directed towards his society who he claimed “killed God” by turning towards rationality and science and leaving spirituality behind!
Rationality and science have their place but not as the source of an ethic and worldview divorced from any consideration of God and as a replacement for God. Men just took the logic of these new developments to new directions in the 20th century and though they didn’t really know the disasters awaiting them, they still occurred and lessons can be learned! I hope most of society will reject this atheistic nonsense since we should know better.
If there is one statement which summed up the totalitarian, atheistic disaster which was the 20th century it is a quote by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It is worth reading in full:
“Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”
A fitting warning towards those who still think an atheistically-formed worldview is a tenable option! While atheists can sit back and pick and choose the behaviors which they feel can be rationally justified, they forget they are enjoying the fruit of religious thinking and religious influences which have been exercised for thousands of years. To lay an axe to that tree and then still lay claim to the fruit of that tree will only last awhile. Human nature has a way of spoiling things and creating behaviors unthinkable until they occur! Who predicted the horrors of the 20th century? I would be curious to know.
And one final little detail these architects of the new humanity will have to reckon with! Whose rationally-based ideas will be used. When contradictory rationales are presented, who will be the arbiter? If evolution is the accepted view of life, how would one know whether a particular “moral” or “ethic” is more “fit” for the next generation. I don’t think they will have an enjoyable time “creating” this new world. But that discussion is for another time!