Jewish columnist Dennis Prager takes us on a quick tour of the post-Christian world and shows that as the influence of Christianity wanes human depravity and horror waxes. I mention that Prager is Jewish because I think it's important to understand that he's not merely an apologist for the Christian right. He prefaces his tour with this:
One of the many beliefs -- i.e., non-empirically based doctrines -- of the post-Christian West has been that moral progress is the human norm, especially so with the demise of religion. In a secular world, the self-described enlightened thinking goes, superstition is replaced by reason, and reason leads to the moral good.
Of course, it turned out that the post-Christian West produced considerably more evil than the Christian world had. No mass cruelty in the name of Christianity approximated the vastness of the cruelty unleashed by secular doctrines and regimes in the post-Christian world. The argument against religion that more people have been killed in the name of religion than by any other doctrine is false propaganda on behalf of secularism and Leftism.
The amount of evil done by Christians -- against, for example, "heretics" and Jews -- in both the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity -- was extensive, as was the failure of most European Christians to see Nazism for the evil that it was. The good news is that Christian evils have been acknowledged and addressed by most Christian leaders and thinkers.
But there were never any Christian Auschwitzes -- i.e., systematic genocides of every man, woman and child of a particular race or religion. Nor were there Christian Gulags -- the shipping of millions of innocents to conditions so horrific that prolonged suffering leading to death was the almost inevitable end.
The anti-religious Left offers two responses to these facts: The first is that modern technology made the Nazi and Communist murders of scores of millions possible; had the church been technologically able to do so, it would have made its own Auschwitz and Gulag. The second is that Nazism and Communism were religions and not secular doctrines.
The response to the first is that technology was not necessary for the Communist murders of over a hundred million innocent people in the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia and elsewhere. In Cambodia, millions were murdered with hammers, in Rwanda with machetes.
The response to the second is that Communism and Nazism were secular movements and to deny that is to tell a gargantuan lie. Even if one argues that Nazism and Communism were religions, they were nevertheless secular religions. That too many Christians morally failed when confronted with Nazism is true, but irrelevant to the fact that Nazism was in no way a Christian movement.
And now the post-Christian world is getting worse. The moral news about the world in which we live is almost unremittingly negative.
The rest of Prager's essay is very much worth reading.
There are very simple reasons for why Christianity has provided a check on evil. Secular faiths like communism, Nazism, or secular humanism, have no ground for judgments of good and evil, and other theistic faiths lack the sublimity of Christ's moral teaching. Christians, like non-Christians, have sometimes done awful things, but the difference is that when Christians have done evil they've acted inconsistently with their faith. When atheists do evil they're not being inconsistent with anything.
Little wonder, then, that where Christianity is in decline human depravity is on the rise. Permit me a relatively small but specific example of the problem a secular society has in trying to talk about ethics. Maureen Dowd relates a story about how male students at a private school (called Landon) in suburban D.C. were treating local girls as though they were sexual trophies in a hunt for big game (a sport that is unfortunately common on campuses everywhere). After describing the dehumanizing competition Dowd writes:
Jean Erstling, Landon's director of communications, said she was "aware of the incident" but that "student records including disciplinary infractions are confidential."
She said that "Landon has an extensive ethics and character education program which includes as its key tenets respect and honesty. Civility toward women is definitely part of that education program."
Time for a curriculum overhaul. Young men everywhere must be taught, beyond platitudes, that young women are not prey.
Now here's the problem: How can a secular teacher respond to a young man who asks why, precisely, women are not prey other than to simply insist that, well, they're just not? If we're nothing more than the products of eons of evolution, if life is all about promoting our genes into the next generation, if pleasure is all there is to give life meaning, then why should a young man treat a young woman as anything other than an object of gratification?
When faced with the question of why it's actually morally wrong to treat girls as sexual playthings all the teacher can do is shrug her shoulders and say that it's wrong because she doesn't like it.
The only good answer to the hypothetical question is that the reason it's wrong is that each of us is made in the image of God, God deeply loves us, and He wills that we treat each other with dignity, respect and kindness or there will be hell to pay. Take that answer off the table and Landon's extensive ethics and character education program which "includes respect, honesty and civility toward women" is little more than an attempt by Landon to persuade students to accept these values for no reason other than they would just prefer that they do so.
Once students, like people all throughout the Western world, see through the flimsy arbitrariness of such instruction they'll reject it at the first opportunity. That rejection is what Prager's column is all about.RLC