16 September 2011
God is dead and it’s killing our society
I was on holiday when the riots struck. As looters began to torch my city, I was on a plane with my family heading towards America. It was a disconcerting feeling being on the other side of the world watching footage of my country tearing itself apart.
In the weeks since, I've heard countless stories of businesses decimated, their owners losing everything and families who spent the week fearful and housebound, bags packed in case they needed to escape quickly. The consequences of these riots will be felt in our nation for a long time to come.
As I read various people's attempts to come to terms with what occurred, I was struck by the proliferation of voices, diverse in their worldviews and faith positions, but united in their diagnosis: 'This is exactly what happens when a society tries to kill God."
These recent riots are but one example of a larger epidemic. Just this week we have seen bandit attacks on the border of Somalia, a 20-hour multi-pronged attack by the Taliban in Kabul, and of course the 10th anniversary of the devastating attacks on the Twin Towers on 9/11. All point to the fact that society is broken.
In between seeing the sights of New York and catching up on the news from England, I read The Rage Against God by Peter Hitchens. He argues that without God, there is no reason to enter into the "inconvenient obligations" upon which our society is based, and where atheism has flourished at the hands of the "Militant Godless", society has been all the weaker for it.
As I watched the riots, and as I have read the news this week, I am inclined to agree.
From where does a decent, well-meaning, selfless human being get his internal sense of morality if not from a divine moral lawgiver? And from where do those who commit atrocities against their own kind get their permission to do so, if not from the denial of that same lawgiver?
Even Russell Brand, commenting on the riots, wrote: "I know, as we all intuitively know, that the solution is all around us and it isn't political, it is spiritual."
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks argued that we are now feeling the force of decisions made decades ago in which Judaeo-Christian morality was jettisoned. We thought we could do away with God and still maintain a strong society. How wrong we were. The West is particularly guilty of 'attempted deicide'. In fact as Micklethwait and Wooldridge of The Economist note in their book God is Back, Western Europe is one of the few places in the world where the belief that God is dead still exists!
Sachs cites a member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, tasked with finding out what gave the West its dominance. He said: "At first we thought it was your guns. Then we thought it was your political system, democracy. Then we said it was your economic system, capitalism. But for the last 20 years, we have known that it was your religion."
I was fascinated to read the BBC report this week suggesting there may be as many as 60 million Christians in China, more than in the whole of Europe! When other nations begin to covet our Judaeo-Christian heritage, this should cause us to think carefully about giving it up.
Society should think twice about killing off God, lest in so doing it signs its own death warrant.
For societies to flourish, they need at their core a belief in the existence of God. It is not simply the foundation for moral action, it's what gives us hope and keeps us straining and striving towards a better future.
David Stroud, Leader of the Newfrontiers UK Team and Lead Elder of ChristChurch London