No, The Secularization of Western Society is Not a Good Thing

Last month an article was released reviewing 2016 Australian census data and providing analyses of the recent surge of secularization in Australia. The results were stunning; during a single lifetime, Australians that claimed no religious affiliation grew from 1/100 to 1/3 of the overall population (approximately 27 million). Take a moment and consider the gravity and speed of this worldview shift.

These stats, alongside the pending legalization of gay marriage in Australia, paint a picture that Americans and Europeans know all too well; namely, the slippery slope of liberalism in western civilization. Australia remains one of the last dominos of an English-speaking country to not currently allow same-sex marriage; it too will soon fall. The historic western worldview of civilization, shaped by Christianity, is crumbling. The societies nursed and grown in a cradle of Christian ethics and morals are abandoning their religious origins for the secular.

This destruction of western civilization is being implemented under the banner of progressiveness (root word: progress). But progress towards what? Well, as one secular commenter recently said on a blog post, “improvement of the human condition.” He goes on to specify that the “well-being” of nations can be observed by “economy, longevity, nutrition, and scientific achievement.” For the purposes of this article, I am mostly concerned with focusing on these claims of “well-being” and “longevity.”

Despite the protestations of the vocal left, arguments that secularization is ameliorating the western world is a logical fallacy; in fact, it’s slowly smothering it.

Before I go on, I think it’s worth clarifying a few things related to the value of progressive thinking. Not all liberal ideas are harmful. If an ideology is compliant with Scripture, we should consider reforms to it. For example, it was a progressive, liberal rationale that stood up against the practice of slavery. These reforms were good, noble, and helpful to western society. William Wilberforce, who politically ended the slave trade in England, was a champion of Christian ethics who stood opposed to a conservative pro-slavery parliament.

The fight for racial equality is another example of a movement that is 100% compatible with the Christian worldview. All men and women, regardless of skin color, are made in the image of God and should be revered as such; there are no exceptions. Racism is an evil that should not be tolerated by any Christian. Ideologies (progressive or conservative) aimed to uphold the value and sacredness of human lives should be celebrated and further explored.

Sadly, the substance of much liberal progressive ideology today is less focused on the value and sacredness of human life and more focused on personal “liberties.” Today’s headlines are permeated with themes of transgenderism, gay marriage, sexual freedom, nonbinary gender recognition, abortion, etc.. These ideals are not driven by a motivation to aid the well-being of society, but rather, a desire for the self-justification of sin. Religion remains the final roadblock to this progress. So, the answer for many is to dump religion.

However, getting rid of religion is the worst thing you can do if you are genuinely interested in improving society or the human condition. The human condition is one of brokenness that only Jesus can restore. The Bible tells us the human heart, “with perversity, continually devises evil” (Proverbs 6:14). Legislation (or forced social recognition) aimed at the progression of liberal themes, like those mentioned above, ignore the fundamental problem of the human condition sin.

The book of Romans reminds us that God uses governments and social constructs to prevent the spread of secular philosophies. If left unchecked and ungoverned societies will, as it has shown time and time again, bend over backward to the perverse desires of the heart and undo themselves. This is the story of almost every empire the world has ever seen, and I fear, we are watching that happen to western civilization. Secularization with consequence-free licentious living does not aid or promote longevity; it destroys it.

The correlation of a non-religious society and low-birth rates is remarkable. Anyone with basic math and science skills can figure out that if your ideology dislikes having children you will eventually wipe yourself out. Ideas die with people if they are not passed on. If parents are not averaging at least 2 kids, you’re on the decline; it’s not complicated. In 2015 the average fertility rate (average number of births per woman) in the European Union was calculated to be 1.58. How is this sustainable?

If one studies age demographics of countries like China or Russia (arguably two of the most non-religious nations on earth) you can imagine an all-out economic collapse in 60 or so years. The birth rates are so low that as the current workforce dies out there will be a people-shortage to replace it. One study suggests that within the next decade Russia’s workforce will shrink by 15% due to low birth rates.

You might contend that Marxism is a poor example of a progressive secular thinking society. Well, how about a non-Marxist secular society like Japan? OK, for starters Japan has a top 10 high suicide-rate among all countries. High suicide rates are obviously not compatible with the longevity of a people and its culture. At the very least, it’s an indicator of some serious underlying worldview problems.

One of the promises God gave to Abraham was that his decedents would “outnumber the stars in the sky” (Genesis 5:15). This was a promise pregnant with hope because Abraham knew that posterity was a requirement for longevity. For culture to survive it must be passed on. Abraham was concerned not just his well-being, but also that of children and his children’s children. In a general sense, there seems to be an absence of this forward-type thinking into today’s society. It is certainly absent from the liberal progressives.

Even if you disagree with a Christian worldview perspective, how can you argue that this is for the betterment of humanity if it’s slowly extinguishing it? This logic (or lack thereof) baffles me.

One final example that demonstrates how a secularized nation is more harmful than helpful comes from Iceland. Even though Nordic societies are often presented as poster-children for non-religious cultures, a recent story that made headlines all over the world says otherwise. This news story documents the near eradication of children in Iceland who are born with Down Syndrome. The cause finds its origins in hospitals and medical care that counsel women to abort when birth defects are found.

One counselor at an Iceland hospital named Helga Sol Olafsdottir commented,

“We don’t look at abortion as a murder. We look at it as a thing that we ended. We ended a possible life that may have had a huge complication… preventing suffering for the child and for the family. And I think that is more right than seeing it as a murder – that’s so black and white. Life isn’t black and white. Life is grey.”

All human lives are made in the image of God and are to be valued. Human life is sacred, not a thing to arbitrarily “be ended.” A Christian worldview promotes the sanctity of life and the longevity of it. The progressive, liberal secularization of western civilization is a logical fallacy, sinful endeavor and will kill itself off with enough time.

Finally, the Christian should remember that our future is not ultimately tied to success or failure of western civilization. Our future is rooted in the promises of the everlasting kingdom Jesus secured on the cross. We should rest in that no matter what storm the world stirs up, the church will remain the permanent lighthouse and beacon of hope for the lost.

 

 

Much of the inspiration for this article came from “The Briefing” by Albert Mohler, which provides analysis about the leading headlines and cultural conversations from a Christian worldview. It is highly recommended.

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  • Jim Etchison

    How can Patheos allow such incoherence, disguising itself as journalism? This author is grossly detached from history, and embodies the moral relativity of The Bible while claiming the opposite. Slavery was justified by Christians using The Bible until Americans were forced by society to deem slavery as morally repugnant, so now the author claims that “racial equality … is 100% compatible with the Christian worldview.” (Too bad if you’re an Amalekyte.) and acts as if this was the Christian way all along. In 100 years, guys like him will be saying that being Gay is totally in line with Christianity, and act as if homosexual rights were never opposed by mainstream Christianity. His arguments only get worse. Where are your journalistic standards, Patheos? Any buffoon can preach, and any slimeball website can publish said buffoon. I thought Patheos was above this.

    • Darwin’s theory of evolution was also used to justify slavery. Does that in itself mean it is right or wrong? You reference the Amalekites, you realize race had nothing to do with it, right? Genesis 15:16.

  • Tianzhu

    Humans are inherently religious. They will always deify someone or something. Among the seculars, the current deities are abstractions – Social Justice, Equality, Diversity, Tolerance, Multiculturalism.

    Just as there are Christians who fail to practice what the New Testament teaches, so there are are secular progressives who are unjust, elitist, intolerant, and bigoted. People identify with ideals and fail to live up to those ideals. They are blind to their own failure to live up to their ideals but very alert to the failures of Christians to live by our ideals.

    I find Christians, with all our faults, much more agreeable and tolerant people than the secular left. People who think they are making America better by tearing down monuments have some issues.

    • Ungodly Sweet

      Hahaha seriously? More agreeable and tolerant? Must be that intolerant and argumentative secular left saying LGBT’s can’t marry or denying women bodily autonomy to name a few.

    • Ryan Dabian

      That’s certainly an opinion I hear from conservatives.

      I disagree with your statement suggesting that secular/non-religious people “dogmatize” institutions and ideals.
      I see this a lot with more zealous believers. They assume non-religious believers HAVE to worship or revere something in a religious way.

      And if I may make a suggestion, I would refrain from using that as a form of critique because it makes it easy for people to dismiss the rest of your statement as ridiculous.

      Conversely, I find the exact opposite. I find left-leaning people to be much more empathetic, friendly and open to discussion rather than exchange of platitudes.

      Perhaps people fall into confirmation bias by hanging out with decent people that share their same ideals.

  • Donald

    Your masthead mentions the word reformed. So I’m going to frame this in that context. Your article zigs and zags without seeming to have been started with a plan. But it seems to end up being an anti-abortion piece. It’s your right if you want to be anti-abortion. But it’s also quite hypocritical for a Calvinist especially to be so. Here’s why. Your theology is such that you believe that hell is eternal conscious torment that anyone not receiving a special lottery ticket from thousands of years ago before they were born is not only deserving of but will end up there. I say lottery ticket because having a winning ticket is not something that a human can plan or control…just like you claim that humans cannot plan or control their agency as it relates to reaching towards god. So if you’re offended by that analogy, then you might do some introspection as to what you believe because the analogy is spot on. At any rate…given that this hell is supposed to be infinite, that means that even a long life span on this earth is as close to being 0% of one’s total existence as is mathematically possible to be without actually being 0%. Put another way, 99.99999999999999999 (and keep going indefinitely)% of one’s existence will be spent in hell in the Calvinist belief for that person that didn’t get one of the lottery tickets. So how bad can an abortion be by a human that is only ending a limited physical life when you endorse that your god is going to do so much worse to that person, and do it infinitely with no end ever…so much so that the person would willingly choose the abortion if it would finally kill him and get him out of hell. So your god is doing so much worse than you accuse these people of doing. This is why it’s hard for normal people to take Calvinism or these pretensions of Calvinists valuing human life as being serious, since it is so clear and obvious from their theology that they don’t value human life at all if a coin flip can get you tortured for all of eternity and you think that’s ok.

  • Albert Combrink

    Haven’t read anything this alarmist, revisionist, and such a timed attack against same sex unions in a long time.

    • Denny

      hmm

  • RustbeltRick

    The “Christianization of society” is also a bad thing, if it involves creating a society according to the specifications of professional Christian libertarians like Rick Perry, Mike Pence, Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos and Franklin Graham. A society where Trumpcare premiums are high, Social Security is gone, Medicare and Medicaid exist only in museums, the minimum wage remains at $7.50 for the rest of our lives, unions are crushed, and schools are some weird mélange of charter/religious/barely-funded hellholes where no one wants to teach.

  • Donalbain

    These ideals are not driven by a motivation to aid the well-being of society, but rather, a desire for the self-justification of sin.

    Citation needed.

    Then a few paragraphs about how your religion says that religion is good. Nicely done..

    I love the idea that Russia is one of the least religious countries in the world, that is a nice touch. Almost as nice as the little comment about Marxism. Russia hasn’t been run by Marxists for about 25 years. But hey, why let facts get in your way?

  • Al Cruise

    The term Christian is used too broadly here. We don’t need conservative evangelical Christianity. Thank God that young people are rejecting it.

  • ChevalBlanc

    People don’t have less kids because the whole world is turning gay. People have the amount they can afford to raise in a good school district. Relax.

  • Myles

    Civilization exists today because humanity occasionally wins battles against the religious freaks who oppose morality and decency.