All civilizations develop and are sustained in the same way. People begin to realize that there is a coherent structure to existence and that they have an obligation to live according to the dictates of powers way beyond their level of intelligence and knowledge. They struggle to live up to the norms that they believe these ‘gods’ require and in doing this they build a system of belief, create art, and delve into science in order to better understand and direct this new project which they call (for instance) ‘Rome’ or ‘Sparta’.
Just as civilizations rise, they also fall. The most traumatic breaks occur when they cease believing that they are being guided by those transcendent beings and therefore the values that they have accepted as central to the foundation of their enterprise are null and void. As belief seeps out, the enterprise weakens and eventually no one believes in it any more. History is littered with the corpses of these civilizations.
Unfortunately, this may be true with regards to our Western Civilization which was founded not on paganism or on a more modern faith but on Christianity which many of us (1.4 billion of us) believe to be the true faith. This means the seeping-forth of belief in our civilization, when mixed in with the results of climate change and the always-threatening nuclear option, could spell not only the end of Western Civilization but of the entire world as we know it. This slow erosion, like water damage, happens almost imperceptibly but can cause wholesale destruction.
Ethically, in this scenario, first comes the unbelief, followed by the seeming freedom to do anything you choose with impunity. But then, in a world without meaning and in a future without justice or judgement, people start doing anything that they can get away with. Some even resort to suicide, random violence and mass killing. Combine this with extreme weather conditions and without the counterweight of good vs bad, right vs wrong, you can easily slip into chaos, tyranny and mutual self-destruction.
Slowly from the Enlightenment on (a real misnomer), there has been a gradual loss of belief in anything beyond this material world. If it cannot be measured and submitted to scientific analysis, it simply does not exist. This reached a moment of nihilistic ‘enlightenment’ when the philosopher Nietzsche declared that ‘God is Dead’.
Up sprang, almost immediately, the most nihilistic regimes ever to dawn on the earth: Hitler’s Nazis, Lenin’s Communistic Russia, Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Together they spawned more death than any supposedly backward religious war ever caused.
Even here in the United States, a nation founded by believing Christians who sought by the separation of Church and State to protect religion from unjust manipulation by the State, we are now seeing the free abandonment of religion and belief in God. In addition, on our collective conscience, we still have the need to address and make reparation for the three great sins of our nation: the persecution of the indigenous people of this land, slavery and persistent racism, and the denial of the right to life to millions of unborn Americans. All this is accomplished in the name of freedom and through the denial of any aspect of God’s judgement.
We have banished God from the center of our national consciousness and now are reaping the whirlwind of a lawless, godless world.
In addition, we have ceased to believe in the very thing that kept this nation together: our form of government, constitutional democracy.
What are we left with? I often wonder whether the coming environmental holocaust might be the wrath of God.
However, it is not too late. There are still many Americans living in our country that are believers in God and have for their first concern the doing of the will of God. This won’t be easy since many of the levers of power and public opinion are in the hands of unbelievers: media, the educational establishment, Hollywood. But with God, nothing is impossible (cf. Luke 1:37). This will require us to abandon the ‘secular religions’ that have emerged to supposedly fill the void and believe again in the God of the Bible and the Church. What is needed today is faith: faith in God and in other believing Christians so that we can stop the slow erosion and the decomposition of Western Civilization. God must be once again be central to our lives. This is what the founding fathers expected us to be: a country of people of faith. They created, in fact, a protection for this in the separation of Church and State.
This country was created to protect religion and not subvert it. And for good reason. Our government, our way of life, was always meant to be based on faith. This was the presupposition upon which the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution depend upon.