Like most of the world, Secularism is rising in America, while religious participation is sharply declining. As more and more scientific principles explain what was once attributed to a creator, belief in God logically erodes. It’s all too easy to see religion as merely quaint biblical myths and stories, comforting and palliative to believers, but dangerous when religious ideas are brought into the public square. Or so the argument goes. But there is another view.
For centuries, Judaeo Christian principles organized Western Civilization. The old and new testaments served as blueprints for establishing social values and civic responsibilities, allowing for peaceful coexistence within stable, just societies. The wisdom found in the bible served society well for two thousand years.
Clearly the idea of ethical monotheism was a great leap forward in mankind’s thinking—it replaced the self-centered animistic view of multiple totem gods with a universal God that required people to think beyond themselves. The ideas of universality and of a non-corporeal being reflected abstract thinking that became essential for scientific reasoning. Indeed, modern scientists, like Einstein, used God as a metaphorical guide when contemplating the principles of the universe.
Science and religion cover non overlapping spheres of human existence. Science covers the physical sphere, and religion covers the social sphere, giving us rules for social conduct and ethics. But science and religion intersect when explaining the creation of the universe. The scientific view is that the universe was created from the inflation of a single infinitesimally small point containing all of the elements of the universe. For our universe to coalesce and form, gravity and other forces needed to be so precise that it could not happen by chance … which sounds like the work of a creator.
Scientists address the implication of a non-physical explanation for the creation of the universe with the multiverse theory. In this theory universes are constantly being formed, indeed an infinite number of formations. With an infinite number of formations our universe could happen by chance. Importantly, however, there is no proof for the multiverse theory. Like the religious view it remains an article of faith.
As America secularizes, the consequences to society are not favorable but predictable. The concepts of sacred and profane are lost in a secular society as these concepts are embedded in religious beliefs. Simply put, sacred thoughts and actions bring people closer to God; profane behavior does exactly the opposite.
Without the restraint of the sacred, people can gravitate towards the profane of self-indulgence and self-gratification. The trend towards the profane is evident – a coarsening of dialogue, immodesty, drug addiction and crime, alienation, and a breakdown of the nuclear family. The profane has even entered the campaign for the highest office in the land in the form of Donald Trump.
But what about the evil committed in the name of Christianity -- the medieval murders by Crusaders and the torture during the Inquisition? This happened a long time ago, prior to the Protestant Reformation in 1517. Obviously, Judaeo Christian leaders no longer advocate murder or torture. True, some religious practitioners do not live up to religious teachings and act immorally or engage in cover-ups of evil deeds to protect religious institutions. Yet there is an absolute standard to judge actions, and when evil is spotlighted and forced out of the shadows no religious figure is immune from religious condemnation.
For the non-religious, an absolute standard is replaced by an individual standard derived from reason and feeling. The consequences of actions taken by countries and people un-moored from Judaeo Christian morality are devastating. Many modern godless societies murdered and tortured millions upon millions of people – The Soviet Union, China, Nazi Germany, Cambodia, and North Korea to name some. In this country, atheists used reason to advocate for eugenics and forced sterilization of undesirables.
Yet religion remains a question mark for many because of religiously conservative stances on a number of contentious social issues. In my next blog I will explore some of these hot button issues.