Can We Be Good Without God?
- Friday, December 05, 2003
The greatest moral question hanging over America's increasingly secular culture is this: Can we be good without God? That vital question--though almost always unasked--is the backdrop for most of the issues aflame in the media, the schools, and the courts.
Secularization, the process by which a society severs its ties to a religious worldview, is now pressed to the limits by ideological secularists bent on removing all vestiges of the Judeo-Christian heritage from the nation's culture. They will not stop until every aspect of Christian morality is supplanted by the new morality of the postmodern philosophers--a morality with no absolutes, and without God.
How bad is it? Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, an influential liberal partisan in the Culture Wars, rejects the idea that belief in God is necessary for moral goodness. In Letters to a Young Lawyer, Dershowitz argues that obedience to the God of the Bible can often be immoral. We should not be good because we fear divine punishment, Dershowitz argues, but because we aspire to good character. "In deciding what course of action is moral," he instructs, "you should act as if there were no God. You should also act as if there were no threat of earthly punishment or reward. You should be a person of good character because it is right to be such a person."
Of course, this begs the question of character itself. How do we know what character is without an objective reference? If human beings are left to our own devices and limited to our own wisdom, we will invent whatever model of 'good character' seems right at the time. Without God there are no moral absolutes. Without moral absolutes, there is no authentic knowledge of right and wrong.
According to the new American secular orthodoxy, no reference to God or faith--no matter how vague or distant--is allowable in public conversation, much less in governmental policy making. The end result is a total collapse of moral conversation. All that is left is a burlesque of moral nonsense with endless debates going nowhere in particular, except away from Christianity.
For example, we are now told that concern for sexual abstinence is just another imposition of a Christian morality. Planned Parenthood and the proponents of teenage sexual activity oppose abstinence-based sex education as "inherently religious." That is, the only arguments against teenage sexual promiscuity are based on religious convictions--which are forbidden grounds for public consideration.
In fact, the American Civil Liberties Union has successfully fought abstinence-based programs in several states, arguing that such programs violate their radical notion of church/state separation, and put the public schools in the position of teaching 'religion.'
This nonsense would be laughable if its results were not so devastating among America's young people. One parent opposed the program, stating: "I am extremely upset that this school board wants to teach my Jewish kids Christian values." Pardon me, but who dropped Judaism from the Judeo-Christian heritage? Christianity and Judaism differ on any number of central issues of faith, but we share the Ten Commandments. As rabbi Jacob Neusner once lamented: "A country without a sense of shame or of sin does not have a sense of what is right or wrong, just what is useful or what you can get away with or not get away with."
Are moral values now off limits just because they may be affirmed or shared by Christians? As columnist Mona Charen asked, "Have we reached the point in America where virtue is considered contaminated because it has been known to keep company with religion?"
If abstinence-based sex education is "inherently religious," then so is the criminal code which outlaws murder. After all, "Thou shall not kill" was first inscribed on tablets of stone by God, not contrived by a secularist lawmaker in Washington. What about prohibitions against robbery, rape, or lying? Out with them all, for they are part of God's moral law as well.
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