Can We Be Good Without God?
- Friday, December 05, 2003
The sheer nonsense of this makes it difficult to take the argument seriously, but courts at the local, state, and federal levels are heeding these secularist arguments. Our ability to conduct any meaningful moral discourse is fast evaporating.
Just how far we have come is made clear by a glance at the most formative legal commentary which lies behind this nation's legal tradition, William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England. English common law is, after all, the basis of our own legal doctrines. Just before the American Revolution, Blackstone wrote: "Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his Creator, for he is an entirely dependent being."
The legal tradition which gave birth to this nation, formed the background of its Constitution, and sustained our laws and their interpretation for a century and a half, is now itself ruled out of bounds. Any moral tradition which even whispers the memory of the Almighty is now ruled null and void.
But can Americans be good without God? Can we even entertain the fiction that citizens can create a totally secular morality? Nonsense. There is no secular morality of any substance. As Fyodor Dostoyevsky acknowledged, "If God is dead, everything is permissible."
So, we live among the ruins of a moral value structure destroyed by the wrecking ball of a radical secularist agenda, but already weakened by compromise from within--even from within the Church.
The Church of England and its sister church in America, the Episcopal Church (USA), are competing in a disbelief derby to see which church can produce more heretical bishops. Richard Holloway, the Anglican bishop of Edinburgh, now argues that morality must be freed from Christian teaching for the modern age. As he argues, "We either admit that God is, to some extent at least, a human construct that is subject to criticism and evolution, or we weld religion to unsustainable prejudices that guarantee its rejection for the best, not the worst of reasons, so that to abandon it becomes a virtuous act of revolt against an oppressive force that imprisons rather than liberates humanity." According to this bishop, the only way to be moral is to reject the Bible and the very notion of moral absolutes. In effect, the only way to be a good person is to function as an atheist.
With Friedrich Nietzsche, Holloway wants modern humanity to be freed from "slave obedience" to the morality of the Bible. In Godless Morality, the bishop insists that we must just learn to live with moral ambiguity. As for Scripture, it must be abandoned as authoritative moral guidance, for "it no longer conforms to our experience of truth and value."
The same rejection of biblical morality is all too common on these shores as well. Liberal theologians and church leaders display the same embarrassment over the moral teachings of the Bible. Among evangelicals, outright rejection of biblical authority is more rare (at least for now), but too many pulpits remain empty of biblical content and moral confrontation with the issues of the day.
In the confused public square of America's cultural currents, the situation is far worse. Now that God is off limits, we face the morality of the cultural elites and media celebrities.
Evidence of the inevitable confusion that results is seen in the nation's nonsensical moral fireworks over Michael Jackson's arrest for child molestation. Americans seem certain that Jackson's publicly acknowledged behavior--much less his alleged crime--is wrong, even immoral. But why? Will his trial for sexual molestation bring moral clarity to the situation? Probably not. Lawyers like Alan Dershowitz earn their lavish incomes by making certain that moral arguments are kept out of the picture. As Dershowitz instructs young lawyers, "So you want to do good. Don't we all. But when you became a lawyer, you have to define good differently than you did before." Obviously.
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