Secularism’s Ongoing Debt to Christianity?

We have a right to expect worldviews to correspond to human experience. Worldviews should fit with our experiences easily and naturally. They should address and cohere with what we know about the world and ourselves. Of course, this is not the only test of worldviews. And it is not the primary test. But it is nontheless an important question to ask – can my worldview be lived out in the real world? What are the consequences to the ideas I hold? Can I consistently live the system I profess or do I find that I am forced to live according to beliefs borrowed from a contrary system?

One of the reasons why many reject Christianity is because of the real world consequences they believe lead from it. For example, Christopher Hitchens is popular for arguing that religion poisons everything – creating fanaticism, multiplying tribal suspicion, and causing violence and war.

John D. Steinrucken, however, has recently written an provocative article in the American Thinker arguing for the social benefits of religion. He makes the bold claim that:

“religious faith has made possible the advancement of Western civilization. That is, the glue that has held Western civilization together over the centuries is the Judeo-Christian tradition. To the extent that the West loses its religious faith in favor of non-judgmental secularism, then to the same extent, it loses that which holds all else together.

Succinctly put: Western civilization’s survival, including the survival of open secular thought, depends on the continuance within our society of the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

Steinrucken suggests that secularism “has never offered the people a practical substitute for religion” and that, in fact, “secularists should recognize that we owe much to the religionists”:

“The fact is, we secularists gain much from living in a world in which excesses are held in check by religion. Religion gives society a secure and orderly environment within which we secularists can safely play out our creativities. Free and creative secularism seems to me to function best when within the stable milieu provided by Christianity.

To the extent that Western elites distance themselves from their Judeo-Christian cultural heritage in favor of secular constructs, and as they give deference to a multicultural acceptance that all beliefs are of equal validity, they lose their will to defend against a determined attack from another culture, such as from militant Islam. For having destroyed the ancient faith of their people, they will have found themselves with nothing to defend. For the culture above which they had fancied themselves to have risen, the culture which had given them their material sustenance, will by then have become but a hollow shell.

An elite must, by definition, have a much larger base upon which to stand. For Western civilization, that base has over the centuries been the great mass of commoners who have looked to Christianity for their moral guidance and for strength to weather adversity. The elitists delude themselves if they think the common people will look to them for guidance once their religious beliefs have been eroded away.”

Interesting stuff.  Read the whole thing here.

2 replies
  1. OriginalSimon
    OriginalSimon says:

    I agree with this view except that it seems to be looking backwards rather than forwards. It is not untrue that secularism needed aspects of Christianity to sprout anymore than Christianity needed Judaism. But it is more accurate to say that Christianity was an advancement to Judaism, and it is more accurate to say that Secularism is an advancement to Christianity.

    As for the continuance of the Christian tradition being necessary for Secularism; this is nonsense. One only need look at Scandanavia and much of Europe to see that.

  2. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    What is of particular interest here is this is a secular thinker, and he is recognizing what Christian intellectuals have been saying for years.

    The OriginalSimon is optimistic about the "advance" to secularism from Christianity. It would be interesting to see if he had actual evidence of advance other that oblique references to Scandinavia and Europe, and if he can, by purely using a secular worldview's resources, objectively measure this so-called advance.

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