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November 1, 2006
Dear Concerned Citizen,
by Dr. Benjamin Wiker

side bar side bar side bar side bar side bar side bar In this email, we shall dig a bit more deeply into how this has occurred, and also, what the effects of the secular domestication of religion has had.

From the Secular point of view, religion was a two-edged sword. As Smith notes, Secular Revolutionaries held, on the one hand, that “Religion is in the business of promoting morality,” but on the other, that “in actuality religion has been history’s primary source of oppression, immorality, conflict, and error.” At one and the same time, religion proved useful for maintaining public order and the most powerful cause of social chaos. It both tamed people and made them wild, lulled them into peaceful submission and led them into utter barbarism. It simultaneously provided the glue of social harmony and the ammunition for anarchy.

This was the reigning view of those intellectuals who began to dominate American Universities in the early part of the 20th century. Canvassing the sociology textbooks of the period, for example, Smith found that “initial credits to religion” as a source of social harmony “invariably served as convenient setups for extensive, damning critiques of religion’s actual propensity toward moral failure and misconduct.”

We, who are living at the beginning of the 21st century, are quite used to this treatment of religion—so used to it, in fact, that we take it for fact. We have been sold on the secular story that the lessons of history teach the following truism: while religion has been the cause of some good, it has been the source of nearly all evil. The Crusades, the Inquisition, the Trial of Galileo, the bloody Thirty Years War (1618-1648) between Catholics and Protestants, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera down to the present-day conflicts in the Middle East.

The litany of evils caused by religion—primarily Christianity—was an historical lesson embedded into nearly every Academic field in higher education. The recitation of this litany had the intended effect of taming religious believers by shaming religious believers—a domestication by humiliation—so that they would meekly accept their newly-defined, and very secondary role as moral nannies and cheerleaders in the secular order.

There are two points we need to see very clearly and sharply about this process of secular domestication of religion. First, such domestication demands the denial of doctrine because (so the lesson goes) doctrines are divisive and lead immediately to endless bloody wars, witchhunts, and sundry pogroms and persecutions. Therefore, the only permissible religious doctrine, according to Secularism, is that doctrines are impermissible except as purely private and entirely subjective preferences.

To gain any credibility in Academia and the secularly-defined public square, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Muslims each had to confess that the particular beliefs that made them (respectively) Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Muslims were the very sources of evil and conflict in human affairs. The only “cure” was to teach that such particular beliefs were entirely groundless (which, as Smith points out, is exactly what Secularists really did believe.)

Thus “Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” “the Torah is God’s Holy Book,” and “There is only one God and Mohammed is His Prophet” are all equivalent to proclaiming “I like chocolate ice-cream,” “I’m for vanilla,” or “Butter pecan for me!” A matter of taste and no more.

Since such doctrines are a matter of taste and not truth, the highest virtue taught by religion under the Secular yoke is tolerance. Secular Revolutionaries, who did not believe any religion at all, were fond of teaching that (for example) Jesus himself taught toleration, but (in the words of early-20th century sociologist Edward Ross), “the Church came to cultivate hatred of [the] heretic,…Thus Christianity became one of the most terrible dividers and embroilers of men and brought on the devastating ‘wars of religion’.”

That leads us to a second point. Surely it is true that religious believers have done a lamentable amount of evil in the name of their respective religions. The famous Thirty Years War that raged in the first half of the 17th century between Catholics and Protestants is testimony to that.

But we need to be clear about what that testimony really tells us. In this particular case, for example, we need to be accurate about the actual complex of causes that defined the Thirty Years War. As recent historians have pointed out, the rise of nationalism is as much or more to blame for the atrocities of this famous war than conflicting religious beliefs. In fact, as William Cavanaugh has argued, it was the rising nation-states’ desire for political power and complete control that brought them to use religious conflict to fuel their political wars. In other words, nationalism was more to blame than religious sectarianism.

Even more to the point, the 20th century is by all counts the most secular of centuries. If religion is the cause of bloodshed, how did this most secular of centuries fare? As Zbigniew Brzezinski sadly notes, it has been the century of “Megadeath,” racking up more death and carnage than all previous centuries combined. Nearly 90 million killed in non-religious wars. About another 90 million slaughtered by Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, the greatest Secular Revolutionaries of the 20th century, in their efforts to establish their secular utopias.

May we count those murdered by abortion in America alone--50 million in the last quarter of the century? How many from euthanasia?

At the beginning of the 20th century, it is somewhat excusable that Secular Revolutionaries were optimistic both about their own inherent goodness and the happy prospects for the dawning secular age.

The real lesson? Unbelief has proven to be a far more dangerous, ruthless, destructive force than belief.

Responses to Is Islam the Problem?:

I'm not sure why we so delicately continue to refer to those who don't be live in God as "atheists". Clearly there is a growing sub-group which would be more accurately described as Anti-theists. Not only do they not believe in God, they believe no one else should either. Instead of being content not knowing God, they are determined to undermine the religious foundation of our country. - S. M.

I am responding to your quote of Richard Dawkins: As biologist Richard Dawkins puts it in his new book The God Delusion, faith is a form of irrationality, what he terms a “virus of the mind.” All who claim to be atheists are fundamentally irrational, if rationality means using logical cause and effect inferences as the mainstay of reason. The rational process leads eventually to first cause and first cause exhausts the use of logic when it comes to explaining existence. Einstein’s postulate that energy is neither created nor destroyed is widely accepted. It presents the atheist’s “rationality” with a killer problem because there is no scientific theory possible that explains the creation of matter. If the creation of energy and matter can therefore not be explained scientifically, this can only leave rational thinkers with the assumption that there is something “metaphysical” (that cannot be explained scientifically), which is responsible for the creation of matter. That is why atheism is ultimately irrational and must also look for support to “scientific” theories that are also untenable to logical thinkers to defend its case. Acknowledging the existence of the metaphysical as the explanation for First Cause is the only rational approach to the problem of the creation of matter. Thus, “In the beginning God created...” (Gen. 1:1) is as rational a statement as anyone will ever acknowledge. Whether that God is knowable, what if any purpose there is to this existence, and what that means to each of us individually is the ultimate quest of religion. - Jonathan Lewis, Ph.D.

Dear Mr. D'Souza and "To the Source" editors, You have published many excellant reports and informative articles but this is the BEST! Thank-you! - Pastor Paul Herter

Although I strongly agree with Dinesh's point that religion is not disappearing, I don't think it is wise to throw the secularists' own argument back at the secularists. Like it or not, secular society is not going to disappear. God gave us free will to believe in Him or not. Secular society exists in that very freedom. On another note, I am appalled that the 'greatness' of a society has been equated with a society's religious belief. The idea sounds so backward i don't know where to start. Do you not remember why Europe lost its faith in God?? Among many reasons, the Church had declared itself as the only way through to God. The Church believed it had reached greatness. Then, to make things worse, tyrannical dictators twisted Christianity around to create their own podium of greatness. The core of Christianity is NOT about greatness but about servanthood. I am a Christian. If i really want to be a reflection of Christ on the cross, I will have to learn humility. And as difficult and as humiliating as that sounds, God forbid we let Nietzsche's 'wimpy christian' break our pride! Sometimes I wonder about the good Nietzsche unknowingly did for us Christians. (Although, I'm sure he's rolling in his grave as I write this) - K. C.

I appreciate your article lifting up Christianity and the Biblical creation of man with his connection to God. However, the assumptions of the character and sneering of those who are not Christians is only true in some instances, not in others. The same is true of “supposedly” Christian people. There are many who claim to be Christians who do not live the life that shows it. The reason I take deference to your comments about those who are not Christian is that I have known some people who do not believe in God. They have been very nice people with very good morals as far I could see in my connection with them. In fact, some had better morals of honesty, not lying, helping others, volunteering for their community, etc. than many people who claim to be Christians. My point is that in depicting atheists in the way the article did, you may be blocking a chance for many to see any good in your article and perhaps think about God. I hope you will be more positive and leave out the negative accusations that in many cases aren’t true of many. Thank you. - V. Z.

The Reverend Ron Carlson, a popular author and lecturer, sometimes presents his audience with two stories and asks them whether it matters which one is true. In the secular account, “You are the descendant of a tiny cell of primordial protoplasm washed up on an empty beach three and a half billion years ago. You are a mere grab-bag of atomic particles, a conglomeration of genetic substance. You exist on a tiny planet in a minute solar system in an empty corner of a meaningless universe. You came from nothing and are going nowhere.” This quote, from Survival of the Sacred, illustrates how D'souza's God given imagination differs from mine and many others. If I were telling this story: I would say, "In the scientific account, you are the unique, complext descendent of one tiny cell of primordial cytoplasm washed up on the beach - and full of possiblilty - a half billion years ago. You are a myterious grab-bag of atomic energy become particulate and particular by virtue of your genetic code. You exist on a tiny planet in a vast solar system teeming with wondrousness. You, all of life, and all that supports life came from a primordial cup of soup, and you are expanding into an unknown future. The debate between science and faith is an artifical one created by some religionists who confuse faith with certainty and reason with the devil. Sensibility and expression are what matter, and some scientists are very faith-filled while some religious persons are not. - R. E.

In a previous letter someone noted that the Christians in Bosnia persecuted ( actually tried to annihilate) the Muslims. I contend that the "Serbs" were not Christian people and even though I cannot claim every American military person is a Christian, it was a "Christian Nation" that came to their rescue. The same for about every war we've been drawn into. I realize that for people outside of the actual Christian faith (ie: acceptance of our Lord, Jesus Christ as the Son of God) there is the misconception that if you are not Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist,Hindu, etc., then you are automatically categorized as a Christian. Many people claim to be Christian and do not know our Savior, nor God's Word, the Bible. Hitler claimed to be a Christian, but his actions certainly proved he was not. When our military goes into a Muslim nation, they are instructed to put away any Christian symbol, etc. so as not to offend the Muslims, however, they can come to our country and live with all the benefits of our free society and continue their religious beliefs and traditions as though they were still in their own land. And why did they come here if they do not want our way of life? It appears they only want our prosperity which I firmly believe is received from our merciful, loving God in response to our worship. We send money and aid to all these third world nations ( non-Christian nations) and try to be the "big brother", and how are we treated? Do they assist us when we need them? If the UN ( majority of which consists of the third world and non-Christian countries) was doing their job around the world there wouldn't be such a mess like in Iraq, etc. I believe Muslims are entitled to their beliefs, however, I do not believe they are ordained by any god to rid the world of all infidels which in their eye includes everyone except Muslims. I pray that some day their eyes and hearts are opened to the love of our God and that we all can truly love one another as children of the Lord. - I. Greening, Michigan

Christians who know they are loved need to have in their lives others to love: children. - Rev. Roger Minassian

Responses to other tothesource articles:

Wallis is an interesting figure and will be in columbus next week. His message is so linked to the elections i wonder if the interest in him will be as keen later. - T

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We live complex lives. We strive to sort out priorities that sometimes conflict or seem incompatible. A moral framework is needed to help us understand the reality around us. Our Judeo-Christian heritage provides a framework to help us comprehend the choices we make and the conflicts that arise over them. It is not only the main source of our spiritual values, but also many of the secular values we depend on.

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Ben Wiker  Trans Benjamin Wiker
Benjamin Wiker holds a Ph.D. in Theological Ethics from Vanderbilt University, and has taught at Marquette University, St. Mary's University (MN), and Thomas Aquinas College (CA).

He is now a Lecturer in Theology and Science at Franciscan University of Steubenville (OH), and a full-time, free-lance writer. Dr. Wiker is a Senior Fellow of Discovery Institute and a Senior Fellow at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. He writes regularly for a variety of journals.

Dr. Wiker just released a new book called Architects of the Culture of Death (Ignatius). His first book, Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists, was released in the spring of 2002 (InterVarsity Press). He has written another book on Intelligent Design for InterVarsity Press called A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature.
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