Over the course of the next few months, we will begin a series exploring the effect of Atheism in Modern Society. Topics we would like to touch on, exploring both sides of the argument, include Abortion, Euthanasia, Church-State Separation and non-traditional forms of relationships. Today, we look at the history of Atheism and its relationship with the Church and explore the concept of morality and social cohesion in this regard. We welcome any comment and feedback, please feel free to get involved in the discussion!
Morality and Social Cohesion
During the Enlightenment period, philosophers such as Voltaire commented on the effects of ‘Godlessness’; most notably perceiving atheism as weakening "the sacred bonds of society" - he writes, "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him" (Si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer). It is well thought, both during the 18th century and indeed beyond, that the belief in a divine being is beneficial and necessary for civilized society to function. As expressed by John Locke, father of Classical Liberalism, any denial of God’s existence simply undermines social order and would ultimately lead to chaos.
"Man is by his constitution a religious animal; that atheism is against, not only our reason, but our instincts; and that it cannot prevail long" (Edmund Burke)
Is this true? Does the spread of "practical atheism", as Pope John Paul II put it, cloud the "religious and moral sense of the human heart"?
Let us look at a range of modern atheist regimes. The Holocaust during Hitler’s reign in World War II, Stalin’s regime during the same period, Mado Zedong revolution programs collectively killing tens of millions of Chinese people just after this time, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s... there are countless more, but what do these massacres have in common? Well, it is undoubtable that these are all atheist regimes.
Anthony DeStafano, author of the book ‘Inside the Atheist mind’, has written extensively on this topic. His research suggests that although atheists so often hysterically blame Christianity for most of the World Wars, evidence does not support this. Mainly, the determining factor has always been economic and territorial gain as well as civil and revolutionary conflicts. One look at Philip Axelrod’s ‘Encyclopedia of Wars’ will point you towards this same example of atheistic ignorance, as he evidences that only 6.98% of wars from 8000BC onwards have any religious nature present. Subtracting Islamic wars from this statistic, this leaves us with 2.3% of wars having any Christian influence. Overall, that is 96% of wars being caused by such worldly, as opposed to religious, reasons.
So, if we consider genocide, massacre and war to be the pinnacle of immorality, can we then assume that atheistic freedoms lead to less social cohesion? Well, the evidence sure supports it. But, why?
Everything that we believe affects how we act, how we behave and how ultimately, how we view our time on Earth, in the material world. If we don’t believe in anything outside of our physical realm, then surely our time is only spent best trying to improve our lives in this world, in this life, our only life. How do we go about this? Father Dwight Longenecker, of the Catholic Register, poses two ideas in light of improving our time in this physical world; two choices. Either, we can make ourselves more comfortable or we can make the world collectively a better place for all. However, the latter option isn’t exactly an easy feat: to quote the Father, “to get the job done, you’re going to have to use a bit of force. You know, “To make an omelet you have to break some eggs.”
As an atheist, you don’t believe in any form of afterlife as such, nowhere to ‘pay the price’ if you will. Nor do you have a soul, nor does anyone, apparently. This is the utilitarian solution; doing anything and everything necessary to achieve the highest degree of happiness for the largest amount of people. Can this really be done without any causalities? Is genocide and societal chaos an inevitability of Atheism?
“Just like you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, you can’t make a brave, new world without breaking heads.” (Fr. Dwight Longenecker)