Why You Can’t Have Equality without God

Why You Can’t Have Equality without God February 17, 2023

Atheists keep bragging about how moral they are.  This is to make the case that you can be moral without believing in God.  This may be true, in a sense.  After all, the Bible says that the law of God is written on the hearts even of non-believing Gentiles  (Romans 2:15).

Everyone bridles at being treated unfairly. Everyone is angry when someone steals their stuff.  Most people are capable of caring for their family and friends. But some of our actions do reflect our worldview or philosophy of life.  And some moral actions are predicated on belief in a transcendent moral truth, grounded ultimately in God.

Our atheist friends may indeed be nice companions and honest employees. But they typically reject, for example, sexual morality.  And they are usually fine with killing children in the womb.  Mainly because they do not believe in a God who exercises authority over them.

Another moral category that hinges on the reality of God is one that is currently in great favor among most atheists and progressives:  equality, the notion that all human beings have equal value and so should be treated equally.

The Federalist has published a fascinating piece by Jesse Russell entitled How Can We Stop The Wreckage Of Cultural Marxism? Spencer Klavan Has Some Ideas.  It’s an interview with Spencer Klavan, a young classical scholar via Yale and Oxford, an editor with Claremont Review and American Mind, and host of the podcast Young Heretics (the heresy being dissent from the orthodoxies of contemporary secularism).

Klavan, the son of conservative novelist and pundit Andrew Klavan, is the author of the just-released How to Save the West: Ancient Wisdom for 5 Modern Crises (those crises being those of reality, the body, meaning, religion, and the regime).  The interview is wide-ranging and deserves to be read in its entirety, but I was struck particularly with what Klavan says about equality.

To Russell’s question, “What do you see as the primary crisis in the West today?,” he responds,

The West’s primary crisis, which occupies the central portion of my book, is the loss of our ancestral faith. . . . The belief in a creator consciousness is the foundation stone upon which all our moral axioms rest. Without it, our morality looks very different. We end up trying “to become gods ourselves.”

We like to think this isn’t the case. We think we can get by on just “niceness” or on the “common decency” that supposedly animates all civilized people and teaches us that “all men are created equal.” But the central truths of the West aren’t “self-evident” in that purely natural sense. They don’t just occur to us out of the blue. In fact, most people throughout history have not believed in human equality. We believe in it, or we used to, for a very specific reason: because we believed it was endowed in us by our creator.

As Nietzsche saw, if you take that belief away, the old morality might endure for a little while among those who have “blindly accepted what has been labeled right since childhood.” It’s a kind of moral inertia. But eventually, the confidence of the old ways will fade, and you’ll regress to a kind of neo- paganism— the paganism we see in, for instance, our blind worship of abortion and euthanasia as triumphs of a god we call “progress.”

That line from Aratus, of course, is quoted approvingly by St. Paul in Acts 17:28.  And St. John identifies the “Logos” of Stoic speculation as the Son of God, the “word made flesh” (John 1:1-14).
Without this sense of human equality before God, the concept is bound to fade away, even in progressive ideology.  Other values we take for granted may also be at risk:  the belief in universal humanity, as opposed to the pagan tendency to only accept members of their tribe; the ethic of compassion, so jarringly missing in much ancient literature; the preference of peace to war, so alien to warrior cultures; the ability to criticize one’s government, as opposed to the ruler as god, etc., etc.  (What else might go?)



Photo of Spencer Klavan, from Young Heretics.

Browse Our Archives

Close Ad