The Amorality of Atheism
The state cannot – outrageous as it might sound to secular, politically correct ears – be neutral, impartial, indifferent towards any belief, because the moral values that sustain society and its institutions are rooted in religious belief. As Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde acknowledged, “The liberal secular state lives on premises that it cannot itself guarantee”. The state cannot be “neutral”, but it has to recognise and defend its transcendent, religious premise, which, in Western society, is Christianity. The pursuit of absolute separation of government and religion is not – as our atheist claims – a fundamental tenet of our society. It is the secularist delusion of our age.
There is of course a corollary to this. Contrary to our atheist’s claim that “religion should be a private matter and should not influence public policy”, religion, as foundation of culture and moral values, is not and will never be only a private matter. If religion is the basis for morality, it is absurd to maintain that religion is not, and cannot be, a political and social factor. Every political, economic, social argument is at the root a theological argument. Politics and economics are expression of the cultural and therefore religious substrate of society. The denial of the role of religion in the public square originates from failure to understand and/or acknowledge why religion has such a role.
Does the recognition of the role of Christianity as the ultimate source of moral principles inevitably lead to a theocratic regime, disrespectful of other beliefs, or the absence of belief”? The answer is no. For the simple reason that the distinction between temporal and spiritual powers is itself a product of Christianity, not of secularism. Moral nothingness cannot create anything, not even this distinction.
Interestingly, in order to exemplify a political system where the distinction between religion and politics is absent, our atheist uses an expression that is alien to Christian doctrine and tradition: “sharia law”. Islam is a political system, where religion and state coincide 30. Christianity is not. Dinesh D’Souza notes:
For centuries the kings and the church fought over how to draw the legitimate dividing line between the two spheres, but both sides agreed that there was a dividing line.
The reason of this uniqueness is Christian belief itself, which is not primarily a divinely revealed law that can be mechanically translated into civil law, but it is God Himself, the Reason of the Law who becomes flesh, and as such cannot be identified with the law of the state. The heterogeneity between God made flesh and civil law has produced the distinction between political and spiritual spheres. This extraordinary and entirely new theological concept has shaped Western societies to this day.
Secularism on the other hand is a moral vacuum, and to claim that we can lay the foundations of our society, of any society, on this vacuum is nonsense. The moral principles atheists take for granted do not spring from secularism, but from the religious tradition they, consciously or not, belong to. Daniel P. Moloney defines this position as “moral parasitism”:
When atheists reject the religion in which they have been raised, they tend to keep the morality while discarding its theological foundation. Their ethical behaviour is then derivative and parasitic, borrowing its conscience from a culture permeated by religion; it cannot survive if the surrounding religious culture is not sustained. In short, morality as we know it cannot be maintained without Judeo-Christian religion.
The supposed “secular” values atheists hold dear are in fact borrowed Christian values. Our society is respectful of any creed, or lack thereof, not because it embraces an illusory, non-existent secular morality, but because it is rooted in Christian faith. Christopher Dawson noted that “we cannot understand the inner form of a society unless we understand its religion.” Because moral values are always a religious product, and Western moral values are a product of Christianity. Our values, what we believe has a value beyond and above our self-interest, are grounded in religious faith or are not grounded at all.