When conservative Christians and atheists are in agreement about religion, you can be sure you’re not getting the whole story. It will come as no surprise that when you dig deeper you discover they’re both wrong… and that the story points toward the necessity for Pagans and other people of good will to be actively involved in the political process.
Last week there was a post floating around social media by Jonathon Van Maren on the anti-abortion website LifeSiteNews titled Atheists sound the alarm: Decline of Christianity is seriously hurting society.
That’s a serious charge. So the first question is “did atheists really say that?”
Van Maren quotes from well-known atheist Richard Dawkins’ new book Outgrowing God.
“Whether irrational or not, it does, unfortunately, seem plausible that if somebody sincerely believes God is watching his every move, he might be more likely to be good” …
While this realization is not a good enough reason for him to believe in God, Dawkins says, he now realizes that the affirmation of God’s existence does benefit society. For example, Dawkins admitted, “It might bring the crime right [sic] down.”
Except that the crime rate has fallen sharply over the past quarter century – during the same time when atheism and the spiritual-but-not-religious have grown tremendously, and the influence of Christianity is at record lows.
Correlation is not causation – people aren’t committing fewer crimes because they’re less religious. But you would expect someone who rants about “evidence” to actually look at the evidence before making a proposition that’s clearly wrong.
Much of the ammunition for Van Maren’s premise comes from Douglas Murray, a British atheist, author, and political conservative. Murray is pro-Brexit, anti-immigrant, and anti-Islam. A quick survey of his writing shows that his conservatism far outweighs his atheism.
Now we see the connection. The old saying is true – politics makes for strange bedfellows.
Once he’s used the atheists’ words to his advantage, Van Maren takes off on the tired old argument that only Christianity can provide ethics.
Without the Christian underpinnings of our society, it will be up to us to decide what is right and wrong, and as our current culture wars clearly illustrate, our civilization will tear itself apart before it regains consensus…
The answer is a simple one: We need God.
This ignores the ethics of Asian countries that have never been Christian and of the world’s remaining tribal societies that do not follow any of the “Big Five” religions. It ignores the ethics of pre-Christian societies in Europe and the Middle East. And it ignores the ethics of countless individual Pagans, atheists, and other non-Christians living in Christian-dominated countries.
It ignores that fact that our developing post-Christian society has ethics. They’re just not his ethics.
While conservative Christians like Van Maren love to talk about the murders committed by the atheistic Communists of Soviet Russia, they’re not-so-strangely silent about all the murders committed during crusades, witch hunts (the actual ones, not the ones imagined by a certain corrupt President), inquisitions, and wars waged by Christian leaders up to our day. The presence of religion is no predictor – much less a guarantee – of ethical behavior.
It doesn’t take a divine decree to understand that murder, rape, and robbery are wrong. We may argue about the precise definitions and degrees of these crimes (such as murder, manslaughter, homicide – or self-defense) but their condemnation in virtually every society demonstrates that humans instinctively understand they’re wrong.
So while Van Maren uses scare words like “seriously hurting society” and “civilization tearing itself apart” what he’s really talking about is conformity – and a very particular conformity at that.
A look around LifeSiteNews shows Van Maren is anti-LGBTQ and especially anti-trans, and has a strong desire to eliminate reproductive rights. Not surprisingly, he’s pro-Trump. Even though he’s smart enough to see Trump for what he is, he doesn’t care.
These are the last-ditch efforts of someone who knows his side is losing.
I wasn’t born a Pagan (though I may have a Pagan orientation). I became a Pagan because the Christianity I grew up in didn’t ring true to me. There was a Pagan movement for me to explore because people have been returning to the religions of their pre-Christian ancestors, slowly since the Renaissance and seriously over the last 130 years or so. While there is something to be said for the teachings of Jesus, the kind of conservative, restrictive, controlling Christianity that Van Maren preaches has been on the decline for a long time and it’s in been in a tailspin for the past 20 years.
It’s just gotten louder. And unfortunately, it’s gotten better organized, which has allowed it to pass restrictive abortion laws that so far have been declared unconstitutional, although who knows how long that will last given the new Trump court.
Articles like this are a reminder that we cannot take our human rights and civil liberties for granted. Cultural shifts are important, but laws are still decided by the representatives we elect.
Or that people like Jonathon Van Maren elect.
Most everyone is fired up about the 2020 Presidential election and rightly so. Removing Trump from office is of utmost importance no matter who replaces him. But don’t forget that a President needs a House and a Senate to work with them. Don’t forget that all these obscene abortion laws were passed by state legislatures and signed into law by governors. Don’t just vote, vote at all levels.
If a handful of people still want to practice conservative Catholicism or fundamentalist Evangelicalism, so be it. No one is stopping them, despite their claims of “persecution.”
Let’s just make sure they aren’t able to force others to practice it too.