In the run up to the 2011 census atheists are paying big money to put up billboards urging people to mark the box asking about their religion with “No Religion.” It has always been an irritation for them that 60% or more Australians call themselves Christian. Why the concern? This means Scripture lessons, chaplaincy and celebration of the Christian festivals of Easter and Christmas are a legitimate expression of the majority of the population.
If the atheists could get over their prejudice they would discover the reality articulated by Thomas Dean, who observed “The Biblical view of the world proved decisive in the subsequent shaping of the Western outlook both of the world of Christendom and the world of modern secular man.”
Their very freedoms have come from a Christian world view.
Alfred North Whitehead acknowledged that “The Biblical view of nature’s creation and preservation by a sovereign rational God, contributed essentially to the emergence of modern science.”
It was the atheistic Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch who said, ”All the utopian aspirations of the great movements of human liberation, derive from the story of the ‘Exodus’ and the messianic parts of the Bible.”
According to John H Hallowell, “The whole basis for belief in individual equality comes from the emphasis in the Biblical creation account on the dignity of all human beings as bearers of the image of God”.
The historian F. A. Foakes-Jackson, stated that “The humanitarian movements of the West all took their rise from the theology of the cross.”
It was Dag Hammarskjold, Secretary-General of the United Nations between 1953 and 1961 who said, “God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illuminated by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.”
The world one day might realize its deep cultural indebtedness to Christianity.
The more closely we look at secular humanism’s social agenda the more we see it to be merely a cut flower phenomenon, doomed to wither for lack of metaphysical roots. It may want to advocate for euthanasia, but what hope has it got to deliver to a dying man? It will advocate same-sex marriages, but what bearings will it deliver to a sexually confused adolescent? It will advocate abortion on demand but it has no sense of forgiveness or grace to deliver to a deeply grieving woman.
Because humanism cannot deliver hope it cannot withstand the rapid deterioration of values that underpin cultural norms.
I have never come across any movement established by atheists approaching the vast number of welfare organizations like the Red Cross, The Salvation Army, the various City Missions or services like Lifeline or World Vision.
Because some people don’t believe, it doesn’t mean God has left the stage of history. In fact, if you have eyes to see history just might be coming to its climax.
One of the more delightful discoveries in the research for the book I am writing called ‘Elihu’s Key,’ is confirmation that the human soul is hardwired to have a dynamic relationship with the Divine Being. it does seem to be as Augustine said” Thou hast made us for thyself, O God and our hearts are ever restless until they find their rest in thee.”
This seems half right. My understanding of the Christian worldview is that it has a commitment to honesty. So people being honest on the census about having no religion seems to align with the christian worldview.
Thomas Dean is half right. It is the (sometimes very hostile) exchange between the classical and christian streams that gives the West it’s dynamism. Stepend Gaukroger and others are interesting on finding the origins of the scientific method on the conflicting claims for papal legitimacy during ‘the babylonian captivity’ period. A great example I think is Kant’s translation of the golden rule into secular terms (that ends (people to you and me) should not be converted to means).
Messrs Bloch and Hallowell just seem parochial. Buddhism was a movement for liberation and equality which owed little to Christianity I would think.
As to Mr Foakes-Jackson it would depend on what he thinks of as the humanitarian movements I suspect. Movements for freedom of thought for instance often came from the secular englightenment perspective not a theology of the cross.
I do wish the West would wake up to the crucial importance of Christianity’s contribution. For me the decisive contribution is not just the dignity of the individual (see Stoicism, Buddhism and lots of other things for all I know). For me the incredibly important gift of Christianity is the community contributing to the growth of the individual. For me it is impossible to overstate the importance of 1Cor.12-14. The vision of each part contributing to the whole is important. And it is revolutionary that this occurs by each part not being subordinated to the whole but being truly itself and making its own unique contribution. This has major contributions to politics and gets us beyond the ‘thuggery of the 51%’ which modern democracy seems to have degenerated into. (Although the professionalism of politics seems to mean in Australia that it is rule by those wealthy enough to fund a scare campaign through advertising.)
I do think the hope of the secularists to have an ethics without a metaphysics is doomed. And those who propose Darwinian ethics seem strangely reluctant to deal with the appalling behaviour promoted by social darwinism during the Victorian and later periods.
However it does offer limited hope. For instance the end of pain – which at some stages is all people want. Withholding euthenasia becomes torture at some point (which I don’t find compatible with a christian worldview). If telling someone they don’t have right of disposal over their own life is compatible with the dignity of the individual is a topic that needs examining too.
The hope offered to the sexually confused adolescent is an end to self-hatred, bullying by those around them, a delighted embrace of who they are.
You can offer abortion on demand and have forgiveness and grace. There is a non-sequitur here.
It seems to me that secularism does offer some limited forms of hope. My view is that this is due to the action of the spirit but the secularists would of course disagree.
P.S. Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age is a brilliant account of Christianity’s contribution to secularism.
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