The following post is offered in response to Ben Hoffman’s comments last week.
I think most observers of American society would agree that we are becoming more polarized. We are a nation divided. In fact, we are actually two very different nations sharing one geography, two nations enlivened by two very different moral and metaphysical visions. At this moment in our history two religious faiths are vying for the heart and soul of the United States. One is “anti-theist” atheism, the other is the faith of the founding fathers, theism, specifically Judeo-Christian theism. These two religious impulses lead inevitably to two very different kinds of societies.
One might call the Humanist Manifestos the atheist bible. The first of the three manifestos published in 1933, states the religious nature of Secular-Humanism:
The time has come for widespread recognition of the radical changes in religious beliefs throughout the modern world. The time is past for mere revision of traditional attitudes. Science and economic change have disrupted the old beliefs … In order that religious humanism may be better understood we, the undersigned, desire to make certain affirmations which we believe the facts of our contemporary life demonstrate. [emphasis mine]
Note that they identify themselves as religious humanists. From there, the manifesto goes on to declare that Secular Humanists are atheistic in theology. Note the first three affirmations:
– FIRST: Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.
– SECOND: Humanism believes that man is a part of nature and that he has emerged as a result of a continuous process.
– THIRD: Holding an organic view of life, humanists find that the traditional dualism of mind and body must be rejected. [emphasis mine]
The eighth and ninth affirmations demonstrate the religious nature of atheists’ convictions:
– EIGHTH: Religious Humanism considers the complete realization of human personality to be the end of man’s life and seeks its development and fulfillment in the here and now. This is the explanation of the humanist’s social passion.
– NINTH: In the place of the old attitudes involved in worship and prayer the humanist finds his religious emotions expressed in a heightened sense of personal life and in a cooperative effort to promote social well-being. [emphasis mine]
This modern faith is to be propagated through public school classrooms. Self-confessed atheist John Dumphy, writing in the January/February 1983 edition of The Humanist magazine, said:
I am convinced that the battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects the spark of what theologians call divinity in every human being. These teachers must embody the same selfless dedication as the most rabid fundamentalist preacher, for they will be ministers of another servant, utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey humanist values in whatever subjects they teach regardless of the educational level – preschool daycare or large state university. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new – the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery and the new faith of humanism resplendent in its promise of a world in which the never realized Christian idea of ‘love thy neighbor’ will finally be achieved. [emphasis mine]
Dumphy recognizes the religious nature of the struggle and sees the classroom as the place of proselytizing the new faith.
This divide of religious convictions leads to fundamental changes in principles and ultimately in governmental policies and in programs. On the level of principle we can see this worked out in the area of religious liberty and so-called “sexual liberty.” Rooted in creation is the concept of moral and religious freedom and the corresponding principle of human responsibility. Running through Judeo-Christian culture, the concept of religious freedom was enshrined in our founding documents as the First Amendment to the constitution. Derived from the secular humanist “moral” convictions is a newly minted concept of sexual liberty.
What happens when the founders’ concept of religious liberty and the modern “right” of “sexuality liberty” conflict? Georgetown law professor, Chai Feldblum, who was appointed by President Obama to lead the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, makes clear which principle will guide her in developing policies and programs:
Sexual liberty should win in most cases. There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that’s the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.
Another example that goes to the root of these two nations is the question of who is to parent children. Evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins raises the fundamental question as to who has the right to parent children.
How much do we regard children as being the property of their parents? It’s one thing to say people should be free to believe whatever they like, but should they be free to impose their beliefs on their children? Is there something to be said for society stepping in? What about bringing up children to believe manifest falsehoods? Isn’t it always a form of child abuse to label children as possessors of beliefs that they are too young to have thought out?
That Dawkins could imagine that parents regard children as “property,” rather than as human beings, is revealing. Yet this is to be expected when one begins from an atheistic and materialistic perspective. Everything is reduced to an object — children are property, women are sexualized, babies are “products of conception.”
In contrast, Judeo-Christian theism establishes the premise that the family is the fundamental institution and parents are responsible to raise and educate their children. A state founded on an atheistic moral philosophy recognizes no such right. Men and women may still have the right to pro-create, but not the right to parent.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg illustrated this profound division of two nations and one geography in an interview with Egyptian Al-Hayat TV on January30: “I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.” I suggest that her comments on the writing of constitutions were less about the year 2012 and more about fundamental difference in religious faith.
The different premises of atheist faith and Judeo-Christian faith will inescapably lead to two very different nations. We see a picture of this fundamental divide in the words of comedian and political activist Janeane Garofalo:
[W]hen I see the American flag, I go, ‘Oh my God, you’re insulting me.’ That you can have a gay parade on Christopher Street in New York, with naked men and women on a float cheering, ‘We’re here, we’re queer!’ — that’s what makes my heart swell. Not the flag, but a gay naked man or woman burning the flag. I get choked up with pride.
Moral relativism – ideological pluralism – has as its fundamental virtue, tolerance. This leads to two realities. First, it engenders moral anarchy in a society and will ultimately bring government tyranny to impose social order. When tolerance is the ultimate virtue, the only vice is belief in moral and metaphysical absolutes. This leads to the second reality, intolerance of those who believe in the possibility of truth. A kind of intellectual absolutism that denies the fundamental principles of reason, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech is the result. Moral relativism is the product of fundamentalist atheism and will lead in the near term to social anarchy and in the longer term to a repressive tyranny.
Judeo-Christian Theism, on the other hand, believes in moral and metaphysical absolutes. Rooted in this assumption is the understanding that men and women are created in the image of God and from this assumption comes one of the most profound political assertions of all times.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed …
Freedom of speech, conscience, and religion are all the product of Judeo-Christian faith. Social historian Rodney Stark has put it very clearly in his book The Victory of Reason: “The modern world arose only in Christian societies. Not in Islam. Not in Asia. Not in a ‘secular’ society – there have been none.”
– Darrow Miller