It is common these days to hear people speak disparagingly of “old fashioned values” We have grown up now, they say, and science has given us the answers to the questions about life that people used to need faith or superstition to cope with. We want to run our lives without restrictions or interference.
Before the Enlightenment, morality in the western world had a firm basis- the Word of God as revealed in the Bible. The Ten Commandments were basic to most of their laws.
The Enlightenment was an era when the scientists and philosophers developed a faith that science and reason would give them the answers to life’s questions. The criteria of truth were “is it scientific? Can it be proved?” Of course when these tests were applied to God, the conclusion was – no.
So a dualism developed; there were facts which could be proved and there were values which were unprovable. As science became more trusted than faith and emotion, then moral values and religion were sidelined. Science now purports to account fully for such questions as: where did we come from? Where are we headed? Since Darwin, it is hard to claim that mankind is in any real sense different from apes.
This is the essence of materialism. The universe is a great machine, which runs by fixed laws, observed by science. Mankind is just a cog in this machine. To exclude anything not scientifically provable is known as scientism- science elevated to the status of religion.
The first problem for scientism is that it is based on false logic. They say that the only things true and valid, are those which can be scientifically proven. But how can they know whether what they observe is all there is? All they can say is that they believe that only things which can be proved are true. They use a statement of faith to claim that faith is not valid.
And, when they claim that mankind is progressing, they are making another statement of faith – which goes against the evidence, but is practically a modern creed.
Our legal system denies atheism, because how could we punish a criminal if he has no genuine free will? If he were ‘programmed’ then he cannot be blamed for his actions.
Many people, in this modern world live by personal choice, that is selecting aspects of traditional morality which suit them and ignoring the rest. The consequences of this are; if we decide our own values, who are you to criticize me? Another consequence of privatized morality is that areas beyond the immediate circle are of no concern to them. My neighbours wellbeing is not my business. Wider social evils continue unchecked.
When a society throws off Christian morality any abomination can result- Hitler, Stalin, Pol pot, etc. So, lets have no nonsense about the world being better off without religion. The view of man as being in the image of God, with dignity and a firm, comprehensive set of morals, are our only protection against anarchy and breakdown of society.
The Enlightenment threw out their Judeo-Christian heritage not because it was proved untrue or because it did not fit the facts, but because they wanted to be free of old traditions and by denying the existence of a Creator, they gave themselves a free hand to shape their civilization. Sadly, this experiment has resulted in ever increasing wars and crime with terrible social and personal tragedies.