Friday, December 14, 2007

Hardwired to God

It was something Tim Birdnow said in a comment thread on his blog that got me thinking. Are humans hardwired into God? Is it in our blood or is the God concept an evolutionary coping mechanism? There have been numerous articles published and biological studies conducted on this subject. But what Birdnow said that struck me was this simple question: Where are all the successful atheist cultures?

The two largest atheist societies are rather recent anomalies and both were forced. The Soviet Union enforced an oppressive secular society on populations that were (at the time) profoundly religious. China continues to violently suppress religious activity, particularly in Tibet and, of course, the new Christians. Neither society can be considered truly successful. China is making great strides economically, coincidently enough, just as Christianity is on the rise there.

But throughout recorded history and even deep into pre-history the evidence of God/spiritual worship is overwhelming. One could ask why these cultures of antiquity no longer exist and isn't that evidence that God centered cultures are also failures? Most, if not all, of these so-called extinct or failed cultures were supplanted by a more successful or more aggressive religiously based cultures. For instance, it is widely believed that Christianity helped deconstruct the mighty Roman Empire.

Humans cling to the God/spirit concept for a variety of reasons and comfort in a cold, hard, cruel world is not the least of it. Until about a hundred and fifty years ago daily life was so hard and uncertain that getting on ones knees and begging for mercy and grace helped make it bearable. Religious traditions helped develop the rhythm of societies throughout history. Fear of God, fear of being shamed and fear eternal damnation also helped civilize wild and violent men. It's easy to see that religion and belief in God was absolutely necessary to get us where we are today.

Many brilliant men have pondered the meaning of God over the centuries. Some of the greatest thinkers and writers have weighed in on the subject. C.S.Lewis and G.K. Chesterton instantly come to mind. Immanuel Kant engaged in many debates under the heading “philosophy of religion.” He authored numerous arguments for the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, the problem of evil, and the relationship of moral principles to religious belief and practice.

On the other side of the coin were men like Marx and Nietzsche. Marx, of course, had a profound influence on the world, and not necessarily a positive one. He was clearly a brilliant man but produced a severely defective philosophy that when practiced was destructive and, of course, devoid of God. Friedrich Nietzsche's view that "God is dead" was the basis for much of the secular sentiment that developed throughout the 20th century. Nietzsche referred to himself as an immoralist and was critical of the prominent moral schemes in the 19th century: Judaism, Christianity, and Kantianism.

Contemporary philosophers and theologians with the far reaching impact of modern media suffer in the din of "StaticNoise" that will ultimately cause them to fail to have the impact of the earlier heavyweights mentioned above.

Simply put, as our modern world frees us from having to scratch out our existence from the hard ground, and as our "nanny state" governments care for us from cradle to grave, we find less and less need to turn to God. When the news on the television displays carnage and war day after day we become more convinced that no merciful God could possibly exist. Many people feel empty inside and don't know why. Eventually "things" won't make then happy anymore. Money doesn't make them happy. Sex doesn't make them happy. In their boredom they turn to comfort food or worse, drugs and alcohol.

Some people do just fine without a closeness to God. Somewhere inside them an inner strength buoys them (maybe the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit has taken root in them???) and carries them through life. Intellectually gifted people often have this strength. Fact and logic are the only guidance they need. They don't often wonder about "meaning" - they know what they know and the rest is unimportant. The rest of us can take clues from them on coping in this crazy, modern world. If their is a God He smiles down on these people too, they are some of his best work.

As reluctant as the intellectually gifted are to admit it they know that modern society needs God now more than ever. The evidence for the need of a broad religious underpinning for modern society is astounding. In a post-Christian Europe and Russia, in techno-savvy Japan the modern secular society has left entire populations so disappointed and depressed they have embarked on the path of self extinction. People without faith in a hereafter bathed in the presence of God don't care enough about the future to have children. Without children there is no future.

Facts and logic are hard things.

People who live only for the here and now, for their own self gratification leaving nothing for the future are dooming their societies to extinction.

Yes, indeed, where are all the successful atheist cultures?