Originally Published on Amazon Kindle 2015
Perhaps, it’s all very simple. We didn’t want God for a king, so we blamed God for just about every problem of human society—the stubborn recurrence of suffering, of conflict, of evil. Some even smeared religion as the root of every ignorance, oppression and cruelty. Thus, it seemed clear. God had to go. Besides, we had many great thinkers who imagined for us wondrous scenarios of impartial justice, prosperity, tolerance and world peace all based on “god-free” models. Yes, God had to go…but how?
Well, to put it bluntly, we did a childish thing. We made God disappear by covering our own eyes. Western civilization reduced a lofty, Created world down to a flat, physical world by simply rejecting our own ability to recognize absolute Truth. Therefore, since we can no longer know anything for sure, everything shrouds in mystery. There exist no God, no moral order, no spiritual responsibilities and, it seems, no restraint on human behavior. This, of course, makes for an exhilarating sense of liberation! There are no sexual boundaries, no eternal cares, no guilt or remorse. We are utterly free to do whatever we want. And, that’s the problem. We are also free to harm each other.
In a purely physical world, the Strong could manipulate the Weak at every turn. Rape, theft and murder would multiply. Yes, the human animal, like all the other species, is concerned with manipulation and dominance. And why not? The world is a dangerously unequal place of predators and prey, lion kings, queen bees, top dogs and pecking orders. People are part of that mix. Therefore, it is a natural tendency for us to utilize our strength and compete for power over others—to simply take what we desire. Of course, such a civilization quickly turns thuggish and cruel. Thus, a secular city (a “god-free” city) seemingly leads to more suffering, conflict and cruelty—not less. Something is missing in all this. What is obviously missing is a set of widely acknowledged ethics that everyone obeys through free choice or, if need be, by coercion.
Thus, the great, secular thinkers planned a towering city of noble ethics that would reach into the very heavens but, of course, stripped of all “myths” about God. It would be a system based on widely accepted forms of human logic, reason and science alone. During the great revolution, the French even went so far as to go about chopping off the heads of hundreds of priests and nuns while enthroning a prostitute as the “Goddess of Reason” in the Cathedral of Notre Dame. But, as clever as they imagined themselves, they missed one important thing. A physical world is driven by the physical. And, logic, reason and, yes, even the disciplines of natural science are not that deeply rooted in the physical order. Surely these are all secondary concerns compared to our primal drivers and, it has been argued, these are all based on spiritual assumptions too. Therefore, for all our dreams of a god-free utopia of human love and tolerance, the real, physical world of primal urges has rushed in to drive Western humanity like a dull-witted beast.
What are those primal urges? What are the most basic, physical drivers? Well, in social terms, these would be Survival, Utility, Victim and Nature ethics. These have, for better or worse, replaced God in the West. This is the new source of physical “morality”. So let’s quickly touch on each one.
Survival ethics—Certainly, the most primal urge of all is our will to survive. Survival is a powerful law written into the very tissue of our bodies. Therefore, it gives a primacy, a kind of ethical authority to every health and safety concern. In a world stripped of spiritual safety concerns—of eternal life and death—physical safety takes center stage.
Thus, people can shelter in Survival ethics, not only rejecting all spiritually inspired ideals that might lead to conflicts like war, but also they might feel entirely justified in trying to bubble-wrap the world we live in. You’ve already noticed their worry about cigarettes, product labeling, drugs, bullying, childhood obesity, choking hazards, safety labels and soft playgrounds as they push for more car seats, safer cribs and less unhealthy diets. In a world so full of sharp edges and potential hazards, from a pin prick to international war, Survivalists are a busy crowd.
Utility ethics—Now, at the core of every primal urge is a single driver: me getting what I want by utilizing any means necessary. The challenge is that the Earth is an unequal place where the Strong naturally dominate the Weak. Therefore, without some self-restraining, overarching morality that belief in God affords, the human animal is justified in taking any opportunity to impose power over others: to achieve what works, what is profitable, regardless of the impact on others.
Adolph Hitler was an obvious picture of Utility. He spoke of a “master race” and brutally imposed solutions. Dickens character “Scrooge” is a milder example. But, of course, there are many more. There are men who seek only to use women. There are schoolyard bullies, corrupt politicians, pimps, crime bosses, thugs and predators of every stripe. In short, the manipulation of Utility ethics is quite common. It is merely the human animal seeking itself first.
Victim ethics—One way for the Weak to get what they want, to defend themselves and to ensure survival, is to find a way to manipulate the Strong. However, in rejecting God, the secular city has rejected the subsequent moral imperative to care for our Weaker brothers and sisters under heaven. Rather, we are reduced to animals in an anxious struggle, where there is a critical need for the Weak to band together and equalize things with the Strong. This urgent need takes the form of an “ethic” or “right” based on victimhood. Central to Victim ethics is the notion of imposing equality. But, this is not an equality born of the humble, loving recognition of our common Father. No, it is not what the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was talking about. Rather, Victim ethics are born of a defensive need to control the Strong, to equalize the social environment out of fear.
For example, large corporations like Exxon or Wal-Mart are an obvious threat to a person caught up in Victim ethics. Such industries are a potential source of manipulation for the little individual. These could monopolize the market place with cheap labor and price gouging profits. Therefore, Victims band together under the guise of government and seek to intentionally weaken these with regulation and higher taxation.
Now, Victims might rally together for defense against just about any perceived big threat like those with big money—the rich. The problem is that there are a myriad of potential threats out there. And, Victim ethics ultimately divide a nation into agitated, special-interest groups. Thus, as the West replaces Judeo-Christian values with radical secularization, we tear apart into various racial groups, advocacy for the homeless, child advocacy guilds, feminist groups, thuggish worker unions, gay activists, disability activists, patient rights groups, animal rights groups, teenage acne support teams and a million other perceptions of weakness or inequality.
However, all these balkanized groups usually have one goal in common: a big government (a sheltering herd) friendly to their cause. For it is only a really large and powerful government that could stand up to the Strong, that could even attempt to micro-manage the inequality of hundreds of millions of people. Therefore, modern Victim ethics aims to uplift the Weak and control the Strong but it, eventually, achieves the opposite result. It ultimately empowers a Strong government bureaucracy that subjugates the entire population: a government that makes everyone equally miserable by tearing down society to the level of the Weakest victim. Thus, a Victim society becomes the haunt of every caged bird, with oppressive restraints on our most basic freedoms.
Nature ethics—Now, in all of this you can easily see that a god-free world generates a singular choice: “Will I dominate or must I seek the shelter of the herd?” The natural world is filled with both answers. There are Strong creatures (like lions) of raw manipulation and Weak ones (like zebras) using subtle forms of self-preservation. Yet, most creatures are not dominant. Most creatures seek the equalizing power of the herd or some other deceptive cover to level the playing field. The same is true of Humans. Without God, without an overarching morality to guide a self-restrained people, the critical question remains: “Am I strong enough to get what I want directly or must I achieve it corporately through some equalizing technique?”
Of course, such techniques are rooted in a primal fear, but what ethical basis could there be for imposing equality? Where is the moral absolute in all this? Well, from the perspective of the Weak, the theory of absolute, physical equality—Nature Ethics—would be a convenient ethic to impose. Nature Ethics are built on the belief that all things evolved randomly and, thus, no shape is inherently more or less valuable than any other shape. A seal, a tree and an Eskimo are essentially equal. Therefore, the presumption of a moral absolute (the premise of absolute, physical equality) underpins the entire moral case of the Weak. It is the defensive rational or “ethic” behind modern secularism. In other words, it is wrong for the Strong to bully the Weak because all of Nature is equal.
With absolute equality as the measure, the domination of one person over another person or animal violates a kind of “Natural balance” or “harmony”. Thus, a modern, secular people divide all social reality into a simplistic illusion: a struggle between manipulative Utility vs. nurturing Equality. To them, there are “good” people who believe in absolute (physical) equality and “evil” people who see the world (as it really is) in unequal terms. Thus, the very recognition of inequality tears at the “loving” heart of every self-perceived Victim or Survivalist. It, also, paints those who approach the world as an unequal environment as “haters”. Haters? Yes, those who do not adopt secular ethics of absolute equality and nurture (Survival-Victim and Nature ethics) are obvious “haters” because they must sympathize with the Utilitarian camp: wherein can be found selfish domination, raw manipulation and heartless cruelty. Secularism recognizes no other category. A Sarah Palin is either stupidly manipulated by some utilitarian entity (like big business) or she is wickedly manipulative herself. Thus, Conservatives—like Reagan and Bush—were considered both ignorant and masters of manipulation in modern politics.
Now, getting back to Nature ethics, thanks to a legion of secular thinkers, like Rousseau, the ideal of Natural harmony has developed quite a narrative over the centuries. Perhaps, their story goes something like this: Once upon a time, maybe a billion years ago, there was a lush garden that sprang up. It was full of evolving plants and living things of every sort in natural balance. Very recently, however, a clever animal evolved—mankind. Man lived for a while in a balanced equality with the rest of Nature. It was a time of great freedom and pleasure, with no sexual inhibitions and everyone shared everything equally. Then, one day, the first “bad” man began to think in unequal terms. He hunted for meat. He stopped sharing his food and sex partner and built a private shelter for his family—all of which he now had to defend.
Thus, we are led to believe that selfishness, greed, war, hatred, indeed, every “evil” apparently can be traced to a defective person who began seeing the world as an “unequal place”. Therefore, as the story goes, people are intrinsically good, “civilization” has led us astray and the problem of evil in the world can be physically explained away by some defect in the brain that creates the delusion of inequality and disordered appetites like religion. Hence, the frantic search in our own day for discovering the physical malady of “the Right Wing brain” or the elusive “god gene”.
Yes, a physical world requires physical explanations, explanations that replace the lofty concept of “good” vs. “evil” for the more tangible idea of healthy equalizers vs. defective manipulators. One weird illustration of all this happened when a famous comedian—“Kramer” of Seinfeld fame—shouted the “N-word” at some black hecklers in a Californian comedy club. As a secular nation recoiled in horror, he immediately checked himself into the Betty Ford Clinic, effectively saying that he recognized a physical health problem—not a moral issue.
Assuredly, Nature ethics is a fascinating study that generates many bizarre, secondary principles that are most often anti-human because they are premised, like all defensive ethics, on a fear of the Strong—in this case, a fear of our natural, Human domination of the planet. For example, the “pristine ethic” is a biased evaluation of environments based on the premise that humans contaminate Nature. “Come see Nature’s unspoiled beauty” the travel brochure exclaims. Such logic avoids the obvious conclusion that building a Volvo is just as natural to our human capabilities as digging a hole is to a gopher—that humans are part of nature too. However, for space requirements, we will not go into further detail on concepts of “natural balance”, “proportion”, “natural goodness” or the ultimate “attraction of pantheism” here. It is suffice to say that there are serious problems with Nature ethics, not the least of which is that it seems to contradict the entire Natural order where we can plainly see various hierarchies and a pervasive law of Utility within, for example, the animal kingdom.
In other words, if absolute physical equality is supposed to be fact of the universe, it is universally met with indifference. Therefore, humans imposing absolute, physical equality on each other (e.g. “gay marriage”) is apparently not “natural”. It is either a highly advanced evolutionary stage or it is a nutty perversion depending on whom you may ask. Nonetheless, the take home point is that Nature ethics are, first and foremost, a denial of the existence of God, with the subsequent claim that everything should receive equal deference. Thus, “going Green” is not so much a movement based on the responsible stewardship of the planet God gave us. Rather, it is based on a primal fear of domination, with Humanity in the crosshairs.
Our new ethical system
Therefore, as you can see, stripping the world of a belief in God forces everyone to depend on physical “ethics” born of primal necessity. Since most of us are not strong enough to control, much less dominate our circumstances, we shelter in the herd and try to defend ourselves. Together we impose restrictions on the Strong. Thus, our first ethic is to Survive which eventually drives us into herds (Victim ethics) where we cleverly equalize things according to the “moral absolute” of physical equality (Nature ethics). Admittedly, throughout all of this, there remains the yearning desire to “get what I want”, the ubiquitous will to power of Utility.
Thus, a god-free public square generates a lot of worried ethics. Go to any public elementary school and see them almost shouted from the walls: EQUALITY, RESPECT, TOLERANCE, RESPONSIBILITY, SHARING, REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE…etc. The anxiety is palpable. And why not? There is so much to do and so little time! Young children—potential citizens of the great secular city—need to unlearn the inequality of a Created world order and all its “unhealthy” values. Then, they must learn the dangers of following their natural, Utilitarian desires—perhaps, with a trip to the Tolerance Museum. Then, they must thoroughly understand the blessed doctrine of Nature, Victim and Survival ethics: which will become a lifelong social expectation called “political correctness”. Eventually, the young, secular adult will soak in the message. They will develop a “social conscience” premised on a cartoon planet wherein battle the loving and enlightened equalizers vs. unhealthy, selfish dominators. And they will carry this battle into all walks of life, giving intense political interpretation to most everything—from baking fat-free cookies to green trash collection to manipulating news reports.
Yet, history shows these battle lines to be a false dichotomy because Utility (“me getting what I want”) is at the root of every secular ethic. And, notions of “equality” actually prove to be quite fungible in practice. It is a great “moral war” that can easily be dropped if I become dominant or there is some Utilitarian gain in sight. In other words, the Weak may impose equality until they are Strong enough then it all goes out the window. Then every inhuman cruelty can be indulged without restraint—equality be damned.
The novel “Animal Farm” outlines the classic progression of equalizers rising to authority and then administering a coercive, utilitarian abuse on the workers they had just “rescued” from utilitarian abuse. Yes, the motto on your kid’s classroom wall should actually read: “EQUALITY UBER ALLES [over all]… UNTIL I AM UBER ALLES!” For all the seduction of the towering secular dream of equality, impartial justice, sharing, love and tolerance, the whole thing is utilitarian to the core. With History as a bleary-eyed witness, the Earth is littered with millions of bones of the “equalized”, from Havana to Beijing, whose leaders suddenly discovered they were now dominant.
The Primacy of Intent
So, here it is we arrive at a strange phenomena—intentions. As odd as this may seem, a secular people are not ultimately guided by physical facts. We are certainly not guided by results, by impartial judgment, historic evidence or, even, science. No, “ intentions” are everything today. Non-physical intentions of equality are the lifeblood of the secular city—not measurable results.
How could this be? Simple—the Weak are well aware of the underlying Utility of the human animal. So they need reassurance that you are not in it for ultimate domination of the Weak—that you are not a closet Utilitarian. Therefore, what evidence can we find that you have healthy intentions? Are you an obvious member of a Victim group? Do you perform community service for the Weak? Are you environmentally responsible? No?
Well, don’t worry. It’s really not that hard to put on an empathetic face. Just wear a pink ribbon twist or go into any 7/11 store and buy a few rubber wristbands to tell the world that you indeed have good intentions. After all, with all the unacknowledged guilt secularism builds up, it is an exhilarating moral cleanser to go on a good 5k walk, donate blood or clean a section of freeway…just remember to wear the T-shirt telling everyone about it.
Now all this boasting is quite enough for the individual, but when lawmakers try to flaunt their empathy…look out! “Sin taxes” are reinterpreted as legislators rush to show their Survival ethics by taxing or banning an ever expanding list of “unhealthy” things like trans-fat, junk food, soda and even Happy Meals. Some want to show their allegiance with Nature ethics, by reducing humanity’s ecological footprint, by heavily taxing and restricting everyone’s water or energy use. And the courts clog with an explosion of Victim lawsuits as politicians push to outlaw bad intentions through edicts like “hate crimes” legislation. At the same time we try to choke the very beast of burden we’re riding on—overly regulating and taxing free market capitalism—because it is Utilitarian.
Clearly, the secular city is a mess. It is intrinsically dysfunctional because it operates on a principle of equalizing intentions over effective, utilitarian results. For example, a giant pharmaceutical company can work for years in R & D trying to bring effective drugs to market, resulting in millions of lives being saved, and still be wholly despised by a secular society. That is because the profit motive is nakedly Utilitarian. The company is too large. They must be evil. Their big business obviously needs more regulation and taxes—end of issue. On the other hand, an incompetent politician can put a disastrous public welfare program in place, that ruins millions of families, and yet be loved for his or her equalizing intent. No, secularism for all its promises of safe impartiality is, in fact, dangerously biased.
In America we have entire cities like Detroit and states like California where the rule of physical ethics, dysfunctional intentions and the growing corruption of powerful “equalizers” is literally bankrupting everything from kindergarten to retirement. This will often happen because a secular city gets trapped in the box of its own ethical intentions. Would-be reformers are easily portrayed as utilitarian by corrupt leaders who convince the public of their own equalizing intentions. Ironically, in places where physical ethics have most thoroughly replaced God as king, the ugliest desolation spreads under the friendliest banner of empathy and progress. Go figure.
Where does religion fit in a physical world?
Now, of course, religion must have a place in all this. How do we explain the widely persistent belief in God throughout history? To a secular society, motivated by so many fears, the “god myth” is most likely another form of fear. It is a frightened pathology or, perhaps, a raw manipulation. Regardless, religion is a very dangerous thing because it is so thoroughly rooted in inequality. Yes, religious people seem to breath inequality. They constantly make unequal distinctions—judgments—between good and evil and plants and animals and people and angels and demons and God. To them, there are different levels on earth, levels in heaven and, thanks to Dante, even levels in hell! Whether these people are just stupidly manipulated or trying to dominate and manipulate others, it doesn’t matter. These people seem to facilitate an unequal, Utilitarian approach to reality. Thus, to our post-modern society aiming for a conflict-free world premised on eliminating deeply held convictions that are born of social identities and distinctions, the religious population is obviously unhealthy and a dangerous roadblock to peace and progress.
But, please don’t get me wrong. It is possible for religious people to get along quite well in the secular city. We only need to squelch our unequal views on most everything, from obeying God to a Created order. This is really not that hard a pill to swallow. Just tell yourself it’s all done for the cause of Tolerance and Love. Then we simply demonstrate to a secular world that we too are enlightened equalizers with good intentions. We privatize the spiritual and publicize the physical stuff, helping Victims and the environment. We show our Survival ethic by turning, not only against every war but, against every strongly held religious conviction. And, we Christians develop a “social conscience” by taking up the banner of absolute physical equality with causes like gay or animal rights. Yes, we too can join a world where an occasional newborn baby is sold for body parts while Twinkies and trans-fat take on important new moral dimensions.
The problem is that so few of us today really understand what is going on. We don’t understand the very ethics we would adopt. Thus, we miss the fact that God has no place in a secular society. Defensive, physical ethics suggest that Strong threats (like a Christian majority) be used and we are, indeed, being used. Thus, Christians are making compromises that never seem to last. That is because there is no real compromise between physical ethics and Faith. For example, “civil unions” were thought to be a loving compromise position between a religious majority and secular minority who embrace the ideal of physical equality. But, once such unions were codified into law, the push for redefining marriage, social norms and civilization itself only increased. The anger actual grew, leaving “loving Christians” to rediscover once more that peace and unity with a secular worldview is elusive because, ultimately, it is Christ that must go.
It sometimes occurs to me that we in the West have become like the infamous Harlot of Babylon, riding the apocalyptic beast, claiming “I am no widow”…when, in fact, we have already abandoned the Bridegroom. Yes, we have seen the old Social Gospel turn into thuggish Victim ethics. We have seen Christian movements once filled with love for Christ in the poor, now primarily filled with outrage at a Utilitarian system that produces inequalities. We have even seen religious people champion abortion as an effective way to lessen human impact on Nature. And, we have seen the children of God try to equalize the Church too—from theology to the parking lot—every conceivable form of patriarchy and hierarchy needing to be tamped down. We have also seen Bishops worried about how their intentions were perceived by a secular city. We have seen our own brothers and sisters try to flatten God down to fit into a physical world of equality. We have seen such inclusive religion that it excluded itself. Thus, most tragically, we have seen the very truth of Jesus as Lord and King become an embarrassment to many a Christian.
After the World Wars of the 20th century, especially after the horrors of the Bomb and the Nazi attempt to “cleanse” the world, thinking along Utilitarian lines was almost completely stigmatized as heartless and cruel. Science and technology became deeply suspect, but so did the inequality of religion. Horror movies were produced to reflect these new fears. There were mutant blobs, giant spiders and radioactive zombies. There was also a growing tendency to tear down the unequal worldview of “the Establishment”—a Judeo-Christian society. The post-modern or post-rational philosophy of equalizing intentions over results gained new traction, with Survival ethics leading a blood-soaked Europe out of the ruins.
But, it all took longer here in the USA. It took the “living room war” of Viet Nam, a European invasion of music and ideas, as well as, some of our own bloody assassinations (JFK and Martin Luther King) to push a Judeo-Christian nation like America into the “blessed hope” of physical morality—into the chase after Survival, Victim and Nature ethics. But, here we are today seemingly trapped in the dysfunction. Ironically, our rejection of the mild confines of God’s kingdom did not lead us to greater liberty but, rather, oppression.
Along with John Lennon we imagined a world of sharing, tolerance and peace. We had the best of intentions. We merely wanted to love each other. However, by rejecting a Creator, we reject a created order—a moral universe. Thus, we fall prey to our own primal drivers. Ultimately, this all leads to “Big Sis”, as we surrender ourselves to a corrupt and intrusive government based on “equality” and fear. In short, to reject the fear of the Lord is to accept the fear of everything else. To remove the Cross is to carry the cruel and destructive burden of physical ethics upon our shoulders.
“Then I heard another voice from heaven say: ‘Come out of her my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues.’” Revelation 18:4
Do you want to see how things got so corrupt, so fast? Would you understand the ethics your kids are taught in school? Want to look behind the curtain at the workings of our cultural confusion? This quick, 14 page essay is a summary of an over 250 page research project. I tried to make complex, philosophical movements as easy-to-understand as possible. Yes, we live in a world flooded with information and very little (overview interpretation) wisdom. Without an occasional step back/overview we are in danger of getting cynical and jaded. Enjoy this wider look at the way our world is operating. I hope you find truth delightful and get a sense of peace from this perspective.