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.
27 thoughts on “Keep the Good, Leave Out God”
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This is such an important topic. Our society would do well to stop all of the screaming about rights and privileges and get back to the fundamentals of reality. Without this important foundation we are doomed as were so many other societies that tried to disconnect from G-d and forge ahead into a brave new world. The book ‘I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist’ by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek is fantastic.
I don’t know the book, but I love the title, Kirsten.
Susan, regarding the Catholic Church, your friend should read Rodney Stark’s excellent book, “Victory of Reason” (so brilliant I read it twice). I like David Horowitz’s observation that Leftism is a “crypto-religion”, complete with its own creation story.
A favorite line from Shakespeare, “By indirections, we find our way.” Humanity has taken many indirections. Especially when it persecuted the weak and scattered Jews, who nevertheless strove to love their neighbors and better the societies they found themselves in, as the Lord prophesied would happen through Moses (Deuteronomy 29 and 30). For faithfully following the spirit of Moses teachings, (if not the letter), the Lord began recalling the Jewish people to the promised land, as He promised He would. This actually began in 1867. The foreigner from a distant land, Deuteronomy 29:22, came and reported what he saw, published it in a book (Innocents Abroad) which was translated into a dozen languages, fulfilling Moses prophecy, and the return began. Can you guess who the foreigner from a distant land was?
I was delighted to see there is a free ebook of Innocents Abroad! I have never read it before. Thanks for posting about it.
Sherwin, Mark Twain’s words about the land of Israel are quoted quite often and do highlight the miracle of the land responding to the people who live in it. I have much to say about the rest of your words, but, hopefully, they will be said in the remaining sessions of our America’s Real War Master class and the updated book.
Mazel tov on hitting it out of the park again, Susan!
A line from a movie: (paraphrased) You cannot have the teachings of the Lord without the Lord of the teachings.
Without that ultimate authority, who determines what is moral or right?
That is a good line, Diane, though not one I recognize. What movie?
One problem with many (most?) atheists is that they have grown up in a functioning Bible-based capitalist society, which has provided everything they could ever want or need. They have never had to live in or experience a truly atheistic society like the Soviet Union, Communist China, or North Korea. They are like teenagers who rail against their parents for their perceived moral imperfections, while oblivious to the fact that the parents lovingly provide them with a safe home, clothes, food, health care, transportation, and everything else they need.
Jim, this is such a good analogy. Of course, this is true for the young socialists as well and, of course, there is great overlap. They have no idea what the world they envision as utopia looks like in reality and are completely lacking in gratitude for what they do know.
You make me think. I thought of Abraham and remembered, and it was not where I searched first, yet worth it. I got excited. Still moments later the same. 2 Chron. 20.7( Divre-H’yamim Bet.kaph .zayin) has Abraham as friend to Adonai. L’olam (forever) applied to his descendents.
A wonderful moving recall. A trip delay gave me sight.
That is not nothing as we could say. A fullness in the fullness of time. Thank you, A.H.
It’s disturbing this poor Catholic-turned-atheist podcaster thinks, as I once did, he came to his revelation through his own critical thinking skills. When I came out of the secular system from a non-religious upbringing and schooling I assumed 1.There’s no proof of God and 2. Religions force you to believe in God without proof.
The irony of natural altruism arising from atheism is it has been laid on the traditions of religion. Unfortunately, the further secularism gets away from the base of religion the more nasty side effects pop up like depression.
I was very surprised to find out God is real and doesn’t expect you to believe in Him without proof. I was shocked to learn faith wasn’t belief without proof, but in fact belief because of proof. I was scandalized to realize atheists using the no proof of God adage was in fact a signal they didn’t want to take personal responsibility for self control.
And that is why I homeschooled my children with a Bible based curriculum 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for 180 days a year. I also demonstrated a relationship with God to them 365 days a year morning, noon, and night.
I cannot overstate my relief that secular atheism can be remedied within one generation.
I also made sure my non-religious family was properly inoculated as soon as I found out this Judeo-Christian God is real.
We love listening to your musings, and the Ancient Jewish Wisdom shows. Thank you for giving us the truth to chew. They are giving my children firm foundations, and replacing faulty bricks in my own. God bless you!
Vienna, the podcaster was treated badly as a boy by a teacher in his religious school. The historian made an intellectual decision. How wonderful that you were able to turn around your own life and are committed to giving your children a foundation that you did not have. You make some excellent points.
Thank you ma’am for the encouragement. Sometimes, I still feel and think like a barbarian.
With a smile and a gentle arm on your shoulder, I remind you not to speak badly of yourself.
I’m struggling with the same thoughts after being disillusioned by phony churches or the clergy scandals in the Catholic Church. I’m trying had to find a spiritual home but finding my skepticism overwhelming. I don’t know if I believe anymore after being taken for a fool.
Jack, the Catholic Church disillusionment has been on a mass scale. Interestingly, one of our smartest friends just joined the Church – he feels that it was corrupted and needs people like him to get it on track. Everyone reacts differently and I hope you seek out a good, wise and compassionate leader in your Church to talk with. Perhaps you will look elsewhere and find a different religious home, but I hope that the failure of people doesn’t chase you away from the centrality of God and faith.
Kudos to your friend for trying to help the church get back on track from within rather than complain about it from without! When non-believing folk try to excuse themselves by pointing out all the hypocrisy in the church, I often ask them, “Why don’t you join and show us how it’s supposed to be done?”
Sonia, as the saying goes, if synagogues and churches were not filled with sinners then they would be empty.
Jack, i’m speaking from my devoted faith in Catholic. You saw a half cup empty instead of a half cup full. Howevet, there are still plenty of good clergies and faithful Catholics to accompany with you in the earthy journey. You keep aiming to God instead of distracting wrongdoers. Do not lose hope. We are ready to help you.
Jack, I’m sorry for your bad experiences with church. I have attended many churches over the years and I know it can be challenging to find a good one that bible based. I have found that it is extremely important to know the word for your self, relying heavily on the teaching of someone else without being able to verify it personally can be risky. If you know the truth you won’t be fooled with a lie!
Jack – Don’t give up on God who is good, loving and kind because some claim to follow Him, but really don’t. As it says in the New Testament of the Bible – a good tree bears good fruit. Jesus himself said that many would come in His name, but he would say He doesn’t know them.
Godless, socialist countries end up starving because farming is hard work, and why work if the government takes your stuff and distributes it to those who won’t work. The first century Christian church sold their possessions and gave it all to the poor, somewhat along the lines of the socialist idea that everybody has the same things. This helped launch the early church, but in their case, it was not the government who oversaw this, but Jewish Believers relying on the Bible to guide them. We cannot give government the right to control everything.
Kathy, the Mayflower Colony at first ran on the “everyone shares” philosophy and many died. They then moved into a private property system and thrived. As religious people, there was an obligation to care for those who could not take care of themselves, but that is very different from working to take care of those who won’t take care of themselves.
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