I am unprepared to answer the first question. I don’t know that anyone actually could. I will say that as of right now I am not a believer in Christianity or any metaphysical deity. I seriously doubt that I could by act of will force myself to believe in a metaphysical God no matter how much I may want to. This is likely due to my modernist mindset that demands some kind of “rational” justification for any belief that I may hold, whether it be logical proof or empirical evidence. That I have a basic faith that the rules of logic are valid, that the world around me is real and that my senses are reporting it to me at least somewhat accurately is a given. It has to be a given for anyone that even engages in the act of arguing the point or reading this essay. (MFW Argumentation Ethics.)
Some have called this sort of mindset a failing, and I cannot say that I entirely disagree. But despite this unbelief in a specific religious doctrine and my supposedly modern, rationalist mindset I would be lying if I claimed that I did not have some kind of ultimately unexplainable and irrational desires and yearnings deep down in what I have to call my soul for lack of a better term. I cannot claim that I do not find a sense of a greater truth in certain meta-narratives, nor can I deny that I try to hold on to these truths because it gives my life meaning.
The current controversy seems to have settled into a dispute over the second question. Is God good for society, in particular Western society? Indeed, can we have a society at all without God? Is an atheist society even possible? Or will any foundational, unifying principle on which a society is based become a God unto itself? As I have argued elsewhere this outcome is inevitable.
According to a recent meta-analysis of studies on the subject of religion and IQ there is a clear, statistically significant correlation between higher intelligence and lack of religious belief. So atheists are smarter, and we have proof. And it is scientific proof, making it even more infallible! The psychologists that performed the analysis have defined intelligence in this context as the “ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience.” Considering that this is precisely the kind of intelligence that the builders of society would need to have, it seems we have a clear cut case for the idea that an atheistic society is possible, and even desirable. Right?
Not so fast.
What sort of other beliefs do these more intelligent people hold that the study would not classify as religious, and are these beliefs grounded in pure reason and rationality? Do these more intelligent people not have a fundamental narrative from which they derive meaning? Sure it is easy for more intelligent people to disbelieve in a specific religion. Any system of thought can be deconstructed. The question is what then is constructed to replace it, and will this lead to a better or worse society? What about the less intelligent? What will they make of what the more intelligent choose to replace the old religion with?
If we are to judge by the sort of narratives we see promoted by the more intelligent in society today, the results of abandoning Christianity are not impressive. The New Pantheon of postmodernism seems to consist of a perverse mix of envy-driven, universalist egalitarian socialism combined with a sick fetish for normalizing all manner of deviant lifestyles. Egalitarianism, white guilt, multiculturalism, feminism, gay marriage, LGBTQ rights, gender nihilism and any number of other ever more ridiculous and destructive liberal causes are all a part of the new social Catechism. Belief in the moral equality, if not outright superiority, of individuals with alternative sexual preferences and/or nonconforming gender identities is a key article of faith. Indeed, it seems we are heading towards a society where any sort of discrimination, intolerance or exclusion of those with “non-traditional” sexual lifestyles will be frowned upon and potentially punished.
The Death of God has also led to the emergence of various environmentalist cults promoting the narrative of Anthropogenic Global Warming/Climate Change as a form of Apocalyptic Millennialism. This narrative neatly packages a rather familiar end-times apocalypse story together with a revenge fantasy aimed at stereotypical liberal demons and sinners such as multinational corporations, evil capitalists, the rich, the 1%, Republicans, lobbyists, big oil, talk radio hosts etc. We are told that we must accept this supposedly non-religious narrative on faith simply because it is the consensus of the more intelligent class. Indeed, this cult of environmental zealots claims the mantle of unquestionable scientific truth and has elevated a new priestly class of climate scientists and researchers that eagerly suckle at the pubic teat while recklessly advocating the self-destruction of Western society’s economic base.
Others among the more intelligent atheists find spiritual comfort in simply worshiping science itself — or rather in claiming that what they worship is science in a vain attempt to pretend their beliefs are not fundamentally religious in nature. This makes a mockery of both science and religion. Indeed, it is difficult to even use the word “science” with a straight face these days.
Alex McNabb argues that the blame for all of this can be leveled at Christianity itself. Aren’t all of these postmodern memes just perverted and twisted versions of the Christian narrative? Christianity is egalitarian and anti-hierarchical, making it a bad foundation for an authoritarian society. Anyone down to the lowliest slave can find salvation in Christ. Indeed, Christianity is the source of all the putrid slave morality we see reflected in society today. Right?
It’s not that simple.
Christian salvation is not just granted. It has to be earned, and in order to earn it you have to put forward an effort. There is a clear hierarchy present in this distinction between the worthy and the unworthy that the modern atheist egalitarian instinctively picks up on and rebels against. It is precisely because of its intolerance for sin and decadence that Christianity is condemned as fascist and harmful by the atheistic cult of hedonism and sexual perversity. Christians are more likely to be resistant to the fables told by the environmental priesthood as well.
It is true that much of the current atheistic belief system is a cheap rip-off of Christian narrative, but this should just make the point even more clear. The Christian narrative is at the heart of Western civilization and cannot be escaped. If our complaint is that present day society is limp-wristed, egalitarian and decadent, what is the institution that is most attacked by those that promote this feckless ideology? It is Christianity! Maybe they are picking up on something that Alex is missing?
McNabb wants atheists to reject the baggage of Christianity and construct new paradigms for society. That sounds great. I too would love to shelter in the light of the Imperial Truth (as if that is not a religion). Unfortunately the results so far are not looking good. The bulk of McNabb’s own writing is dedicated to arguing this exact point. Given this, I find it increasingly hard to argue with my fellow travelers that are returning to the old faith.