Without a vision of God, the people run amok. ~Proverbs 29:18
My friend, Bill, recently posted a comment in which he states:
FWIW, you have changed my mind on more than a few things, and one that I was very resolute about. I still have trouble digesting the emphasis on God in your posts though, not on an individual level but in it’s relation to society. It honestly seems like exactly the opposite of a position you’d hold so I’m missing something. Would love to discuss further some time 😉
This presents a very complicated issue, one that will require more extensive thinking and planning than are needed for most blog posts. I’ve thought about this what a post explaining my stance would entail, and felt that I perhaps would be too lazy to properly express myself, or perhaps merely incapable of doing so. My response could take a book, and there are many books written that would far surpass anything I could put down that would enunciate why I think that without God, society goes mad. Even as those who note society’s growing madness cannot fully grasp why this is happening. They still grasp at materialist reasons.
Several years ago, I gravitated toward Existentialism , not in a deliberate manner, not in a seeking for some “ism” to satisfy Man’s inherent need for meaning, though existentialism speaks primarily of Man’s need for meaning. The need for meaning is at Man’s core–without it he falls into madness, despair, self-destructive behavior, and loses almost all ability to examine himself. He becomes a ship without a compass, floating on a sea with no islands and no shores. His ship is quickly running out of food and drink. Even when I read of anti-theist movements like Bolshevism, there is the need for a driving force, a cause, a need to get up in the morning, for energy and drive.
Many who’ve read my writings or who’ve had cursory political conversations with me may believe that I am an ultra righter-winger, with no sympathy for the root of socialist or Communist thought. They would be wrong. My family on both sides was blue collar through and through. Welders, wood cutters, mill workers, union members. I know how tough physical labor is; I’ve done it myself on many occasions throughout my life, and I hated it; it was so boring all I could think of was the end of the day. Marx speaks to me at several levels. He talks about how the proletariat’s work is boring and provides only enough money to scrape by. Though I’d argue that my blue collar family did better than Marx would have predicted. My father, as a mill worker and welder, and my uncle as a boiler-maker, another uncle as a commercial fisherman, did quite well. The Communists and Socialists for the 40 hour work week and 8 hour days. People in Britain during the Industrial Revolution used to have to work 10-16 hours a day, 6 days a week. Believe it or not, being in the US Army made me more sympathetic to Marx, not less. I’ve seen how some managers and leaders will work people to death to make themselves look good, with almost no thought for others as human beings. On the other hand the Army has many traits inherent to a Socialist society, and these too create many problems. But in truth, I consider the US military to be one of the most un-American organizations in America. It removes too much choice, freedom of thought and audacity. It suffers its own consequences.
The people who fought for justice for workers should be commended. There is a tendency toward increasing efficiency in any business, and often this results in people being treated as mere commodities. But not always, and I would argue that business can get more out of people and attract better people by treating them well.
One of the problems with the Manichean universe of Socialist/Capitalist conflict, is the belief that material needs are the basis for happiness. The Communists want us to believe that money is evil, and yet in many cases it is them who want the poor to have more money. It is they who primarily argue that money and the material comforts that it brings is what makes life bearable. Both Capitalists and Socialists argue almost the same thing. Almost. The big difference is that most free-market capitalists argue for freedom, that people should be free to get as rich as they please. It does not necessarily make a person evil to do so. Our nation is founded on basic freedoms, agreed upon in the Bill of Rights.
Even more important to me, is that Communism’s root is atheism. Communism expresses that Man’s only salvation is through materials, the exact thing that Marx explicitly railed against, but then built an ingenious argument for. Communists and their softer cousins, Progressives, expect too much from this life. The more you expect from this life, the more you will come to hate it. The more you come to find joy in small things, the more joy will be imparted to you.
Of all writers, perhaps Dostoevsky understood Man’s conundrum the best.
And so I seek a deeper meaning for myself and Mankind. Shredding all the money in the world, as the Communists want, will not bring nobility or contentment to humans. When I read the writings of the old Communists, Lenin, Mao, Marx, I’m astounded how men of such genius and energy could be so blind. Where did they get their energy? How could 75 years of hard living on this Earth give them enough motivation to fight so hard for something so transient? Where could they find the raw energy to commit such sustained atrocity, and to write with such power?
When humans drift away from the deeper meaning of existence, they almost always fall into self-destructive cycles. The West is abandoning God. The message is that only the uneducated and unthinking believe in God. And yet the further we drift from God, the more uneducated and unthinking we become. Our depravity, fed from an infinite well in a meaningless universe, was its own end. The message fed to us has been that freedom from God was the key to happiness. Much or our “art” is a celebration of our basest instincts, a celebration of historically aberrant behavior, drug use, arrogance, hate, raw sexuality, the pointless accumulation of money and trinkets.
Marx’ opening statement in The Communist Manifesto rings true, but it is not complete:
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.
In truth, all men have striven for meaning. Take away God and provide Man with only raw materialism, and we find that what Whitaker Chamber’s said presents a much fuller picture of human history:
“Man without mysticism is a monster”
And so, since the powerful motivator of “The Cause” the ideologies like Communism provided men like Lenin has been replaced by vacuous nihilism. Without an external materialistic philosophy to drive him, Man turns from killing one another and turns to killing himself. But what proof do I have? Aren’t Americans more comfortable than ever? Maybe, but are they happier? Look at these statistics and decide for yourself:
- Illegitimacy in the US, since 1960, has risen from 5 percent to 41 percent.
- From 1960 to 1990, teen suicide rates tripled.
- Violent crime from 1960 to 1992-murder-rape-assault, increased by 550 percent.
- America imprisons more people than any country in the history of the world. We have to, to keep the monsters we have created from destroying the monsters of the future. 2.3 million people are in American prisons. Countries like Britain who’ve refused to throw people in jail at such a high rate have suffered the consequences: Britain has one of the highest violent crime rates in the world.
- SAT scores in America have been dropping for decades.
- “One in 10 Americans now takes an antidepressant medication; among women in their 40s and 50s, the figure is one in four.”
- Suicide in the military has skyrocketed; nothing the military has done to try to stem this has slowed the rates of self-inflicted death. And nothing will because the problem is spiritual not based in materialism.
- Western civilizations do not produce at a rate which will sustain them. While this says nothing of the truth of Christianity, it does hint that societies who at least think children are important enough to birth may be the societies that rule the Earth in 100 years. You may believe this is a good thing. Until you realize that young people are the ones who sustain the elderly in democratic-socialist societies such as our own.
How are we better off? Are we a more or less religious people than we were through the 30s, 40s and 50s? We are in very concrete ways, more violent, depressed, and stupid. What more measurement could we ask for to prove our decline? The first challenge of doomsayers such as myself, is not to convince of the correct medicine for our sickness, but to convince people we are sick at all. If the demise of civilization were apparent to everyone, it would never happen. But as TS Eliot noted, it’s not with a bang, but a whimper that we die.
Beyond the scientific facts is my personal anecdote. And in the true existentialist tradition, anecdote is important to me. It is important to everyone, even the most rational among us. Nobody lives his life day to day on scientific experiment. We know that getting hit by cars is bad for us, not based on Newtonian physics, but because we heard of someone else dying when they were struck by a car. And our parents told us not to play in the road. in my own experience, people now are indeed dumber, coarser, less able to see themselves as the world sees them. Lacking manners of the faintest sort, they are loud, base, uttering curse works in virtually every sentence. Many are unable to write a clear sentence, gravitate toward the most brutal and meaningless of music and cinema. If you want to know where a society is headed, look at its art. This brutal music is not admired despite its barbarity and coarseness, but because of it. Many celebrate the worst traits in humans, while scoffing at nobility.
Why all people in Western Society, even Christians, must face Nietzsche
Nietzsche predicted the downfall of the West. He declared:
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?
Nietzsche, one of the few truth-tellers of the modern age. He is of the same blood line as Dostoevsky. Nietzsche’s answer to the idea that God is dead and that we killed him with unbelief, is the construction of the Ubermensch , a human beyond the cares imposed on humanity by the inevitability of death. To the Ubermensch, death, troubles, pain, mean nothing. The Ubermensch is able to find meaning in his life despite all of this. To Nietzsche, that is the only way to avoid utter despair and the logical conclusion of self-destruction: To become so strong psychologically, that none of it matters.
And that is why I, a Christian, still admire Nietzsche. He didn’t smooth things over for the atheists. He told them exactly what kind of world they would create. It would be a world, “beyond good and evil”, that is, evil. The classic Christian ethics would be tossed aside, and human psychology would be reduced to physiology.
And who has suffered first and foremost in our post-Nietzschean world? The intellectual elites in our universities, the libertine millionaires in Hollywood? No, it is the underclass. Our destruction is truly a grassroots movement. There was a time in America when being poor was not synonymous with slovenly, greedy, thieving, bitter, uncaring, leading an unexamined life. I grew up poor and it was none of these things. There were of course exceptions, but now in many cases being poor is the direct result of a criminal mind. And where did the criminal mind come from? It is the brood of a godless world. Unable to examine itself, a brute child who knows only the satisfaction and existence of its own passions.
We stand on the shoulders of giants. The slide to the bottom will not be instantaneous, but we have begun the journey. The statistics that I posted above are but a small fraction of the facts displayed in several books that show where we are going. To some people, this decline will not be so apparent. America and Europe are, after all, not monolithic entities. Pockets of noble humans remain. But even in many of these pockets, these noble humans have forgotten their Christian birthright. And each generation’s memory lapses more. And so, our society is not yet Somalia, but it is draining its well. As GK Chesterson stated:
The modern world, with its modern movements, is living on its Catholic capital. It is using, and using up, the truths that remain to it out of the old treasury of Christendom.
Make no mistake, the pale horse coming is not at a full battle gallop, but trots slowly at the horizon. Ask yourself, if America were to decline and fall, what would it look like, if not exactly what it looks like now when compared to our past?
We must understand, that in this predominately agnostic society we created, we also created people who must do one of two things:
- Ignore the fact that all humans die, and that our life on this Earth means nothing without the hereafter. 75 years is the mathematical equivalent of zero when juxtaposed with infinity. Any number is zero when compared to infinity.
- People who acknowledge the meaninglessness of a life and thus intentionally subscribe to nihilism and destructive though immediately satisfying behavior. I myself would do heroine if I thought there was nothing beyond this life.
All societies that have tried to create an Ubermensch-by any other name- have brought almost unimaginable horror to mankind. The Nazis were directly influenced by Nietzsche. The Communists attempted a humanist utopia made of men who lived beyond the natural needs and desires of humans. The mountains of corpses generated from these societies are a lesson that the atheists of our day try to sweep away with their postmodern cynicism.
In ending, my thesis is that our society is disintegrating in very concrete ways. And why is this? Because we no longer have a reason to live, to do good…to even try.