While driving to my exercise class the other day, I was listening to a religiously agnostic podcast host grapple with the challenge of filling the void left behind when taking God and faith out of life’s equation. Recognizing the benefits of community and support that often stem from religious affiliation and acknowledging the increase in isolation, pessimism and depression among today’s youth, he wondered how to achieve all the advantages that faith brings while leaving God and His direction out of the picture. His words reminded me of historian Will Durant’s quandary at realizing that the “advances” he enthusiastically promoted as an atheist might be leading people and society in the wrong direction.
I could facetiously suggest that I too would like results without signing on to programs. Weight loss and toning without needing to exercise or diet come to mind. Or perhaps intellectual achievement without having to work my way through difficult literature or math classes. Certainly, many people would opt for close and loving relationships with their children, yet are overwhelmed by the hours generally needed to develop that.
Yet, it makes sense to most people that eating cake rather than kale and choosing couch-surfing over cardio isn’t going to work. It seems less inevitable to most that lasting marriage, community and prosperity have trouble existing outside of a faith-based structure. In addition, even those who don’t exercise or eat healthily tend not to have a deep aversion to the idea of doing so. In contrast, many who were raised within a faith and left their roots ooze bitterness and animosity. Unlike Mr. Durant, whose Catholic upbringing was in a warm and nurturing environment and whose atheism stemmed from intellectual questioning, others (including my podcast host) are “chased away” by family dysfunction, leadership hypocrisy or twisted authority. It isn’t hard to see how, in their eyes, religion is something to be avoided and eroded.
These wounded souls raise a valid point. After all, one of the reasons I am so frustrated by the rise of positive feelings towards socialism among the young is that it betrays tremendous arrogant ignorance. When faced with the failures of socialism (unfortunately, they often don’t even know about those), they reply, “Well, it just hasn’t been done right.” Am I sounding the same note when I sympathize with those betrayed by parents or authorities in church or synagogue but insist that they do not represent faith properly?
Here is why I think not. There are not dozens of countries that have tried socialism with the majority of them forming thriving societies and one of two failures. There is no long-lasting successful socialist society. Even the much-touted Scandinavian countries that lurched left rejected that course and moved back towards capitalism when the results were not as promised. However, there have, over centuries, been untold numbers of high-achieving, healthy homes and communities based on Judeo-Christian faith. Have there been disastrous ones along the way? Yes. But, the core of the faith communities carried on and prospered. The United States itself was established by the descendants of those who left England because they rejected what they saw as an impure version of the church, hence their name, Puritans.
There are many ideas that unite people, religion being one. The venom felt today by Leftists for those who reject their doctrine is as strong as that of the Catholic Church during the Inquisition against those whom she saw as heretics. I worry that humans cannot survive long-term without belief. Professing atheism will work fine for some individuals and suppressing the traditional Judeo-Christian presence in society may seem to yield a viable path in the short term. My concern is that it will only yield a dangerous, violent and ultimately unfulfilling new Godless church as its replacement.