Atheists, Where’s the Ground of Society?

Western civilization is not unraveling but it is fraying at the edges. There are two signs of increasing turmoil that are especially troubling.

One is the rise of the so-called “populist” movement in a number of countries — including the US — which seem to have lost their grip on the meaning of democracy and freedom. People like trump are serious threats to democracies, choosing instead to embody the “strong man” style of leadership advocated by Machiavelli and illustrated so well by Orwell’s novel 1984. The clearest examples of what goes wrong with such leadership are Hitler and Stalin.

trump is going to give the US a taste of what Germany experienced under Hitler. Let us pray that it is only a taste. . .

The second sign of fraying is the rising violence, with only some of it caused by those from the Middle East. Our school shootings in the US are caused by people who have been promised power but given only powerlessness. Powerless people turn either to blind violence or to vicarious strength gained by rooting for bullies, such as trump and Hitler.

In part through its own negligence, the church in the West has lost most of its influence in the public forum. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden committing the original sin, many Westerners are supplanting God with their own ego. Atheists now boast of being too strong to believe in God, to lean on the “crutch” of religion.

Their boasting seems quite hollow in light of the fact that they have no foundation to offer for human society. They flourish only in societies which are still essentially Christian in their morality. As that morality continues to erode, we will see ever more clearly that atheism has nothing to offer society.

The Founding Fathers in American history for the most part had little interest in the church, yet they all seem to have had a three-part faith which they learned from breathing the air of Christianity. They all seemed to believe in God as Creator, God as Sovereign (often called Providence), and God as the righteous Judge of all humanity.

Just one small example from the writings of Jefferson as he contemplated the evil of slavery: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.” These are strong words coming from a man who “owned” 100 slaves. He knew he was ultimately going to be held accountable, even though he lacked the moral courage to live by that sense of accountability.

What could an atheist say to a Jefferson? An atheist cannot even give a solid reason to decry slavery. It is time for the church to step out of its self-centeredness and speak sensibly to our culture once again. Can we do it?

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About mthayes42

I am a retired pastor, interested in the Bible, cross-cultural ministries, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the current and past history of western civilization.
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