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Why America Needs Religion

Why America Needs Religion


Sean McDowell


 


            What is wrong with America?  The social and moral problems facing America are legion.  The increasing rates of violent crime, alcohol abuse, corporate scandals, sexual promiscuity, and fatherlessness are destroying the very fabric of our great nation.  Religious thinkers have argued that the real challenge of our age is not economic decline but the lack of a biblical foundation.  The separation of moral values from God has created a society much like the period of the Judges where "everyone did that which was right in their own eyes" (Judges ).  Secular humanists, on the other hand, compare religion to a disease that corrodes society.  To truly liberate America, secularists argue, it must be divorced from its religious shackles.  The question before us is this: Is religion beneficial or detrimental to society?


Professor Guenter Lewy, a self-proclaimed agnostic, shocked the academic community with the release of his book Why America Needs Religion.  Since Lewy did not believe in God he assumed that religion was a destructive force in society.  "I thought of myself as a secular humanist; relativism was a safeguard against intolerance and moral arrogance," stated Lewy.  "I considered the attack on secular modernity to be a danger to individual liberty as well as an affront to people of goodwill who happened to be agnostic or atheists."  Although professor Lewy set out to write a book in defense of secular humanism and ethical relativism, he came to a radically different conclusion when he honestly examined the evidence.  This is how he summed up his investigation: "The moral regeneration and repair of a frayed social fabric that this country so badly needs will not take place unless more people take their religion seriously."  As an agnostic, Lewy never imagined he would come to such a conclusion.


The main reason Lewy came to such a conclusion was because of the overwhelmingly positive impact religion (and particularly Christianity) has had on the history of the world.  For example, Christians organized the first public hospitals, rescued the most Jews during the Holocaust, spurred the development of science, paved the way for democracy, created the doctrine of the just war, and has encouraged social goods such as family stability, marital faithfulness, chastity, and racial equality.  All of these are necessary ingredients for any society to flourish.


While there have been some heartbreaking misuses of religious teachings in history (crusades, inquisition, etc…), the impact of religion has been overwhelmingly positive.  Secular humanism, on the other hand, has had a largely negative impact on society.  Professor Lewy notes that the essence of secular humanism-the exaltation of self-fulfillment and individual freedom, irregardless of the consequences for society-is the cause of the severe social problems experienced by the United States and other contemporary Western societies.  He states, "A society that tries to cut itself off from the religious roots of its moral heritage is doomed to moral decline.  The modern spirit of secularism is probably one of the most corrosive elements in the matrix of interlocking factors."


Why is religion so important?  The simple answer is that secularism cannot offer any convincing reason to be moral.  Why should I treat people with respect?  Why should I be honest?  Why should I value life?  Lewy notes, "No society has ever been successful in teaching morality without religion, for morality cannot be created." Secularization has created a dangerous uncertainty about morals.  Morality simply cannot create conviction without a transcendent reason for goodness.  Lewy puts it this way:

"It is possible to be concerned for the poor and sick on the basis of a naturalist ethic, but adherents of this philosophy are not likely to produce a Dorothy Day or a Mother Theresa.  Many of these people love humanity but not individual human beings with all their fallings and shortcomings.  They will be found participating in demonstrations for causes such as nuclear disarmament but not sitting at the bedside of a dying person."  For any honest seeker, the evidence is in-Amer