Burn families, barbecue chickens

Posted: May 06, 2003 12:00 AM

It is of utmost importance to understand the roots of the latest project of the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), "The Holocaust on your plate," a campaign that morally equates killing chickens with the Holocaust.

When you do, you will also understand the roots of the moral chaos of our age.

How does a person, let alone hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people, come to equate killing chickens with murdering human beings? How does such a group raise millions of dollars each year from normal people? How can educated people believe that chickens "suffer" (as opposed to feel some primitive form of physical pain) in any way even remotely comparable to the self-aware, self-conscious, emotional human being? How does contemporary society produce these frightening idiots in such enormous numbers?

The most important reason is secularism. As G.K. Chesterton said about a hundred years ago: "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing, they believe in anything." Those prophetic words restated what the Psalmist wrote 2,500 years before: "Wisdom begins with fear of God."

No God, no wisdom.

The death of God-based values is the major reason for the moral wasteland known as the university, the one place where America is regarded as a villain and the U.N. as morally progressive; where male and female are regarded as subjective constructs, not naturally distinctive identities; where Fidel Castro is a hero and Palestinian terrorists are freedom fighters.

And secularism explains the widespread belief in the equivalence of people and animals. The breakdown of belief in the God of the Bible has led to the demise of the belief in the sanctity of human life. If human beings are not regarded as created in God's image, but only in the image of animals, there is no reason to regard human life as worth more than that of an animal, including chickens.

It is not a coincidence that no mainstream Jewish or Christian denomination, no matter how liberal, agrees with PETA's campaign or teaches its adherents that humans and animals are of equal worth. You have to enter the moral chaos of full-blown secularism to believe that people burned alive, slowly frozen to death, medically experimented on, stripped naked and machine gunned family-by-family, forced to watch their children burned, or slowly asphyxiated in gas chambers suffer no more than slaughtered chickens, and that both acts are morally identical. It is impossible to believe in any normative expression of Judeo-Christian values and believe this.

I first realized this 30 years ago, in my early 20s. I was seated on an airplane next to a woman who was having a vegetarian meal. After ascertaining that she was a vegetarian, I asked her why she was one.

"Because we have no right to take an animal's life. Who are we humans to think we are more valuable than animals?"

That was the first time I had ever heard such an idea, and I was dumbfounded.

"You don't really mean that, do you?" I asked. "After all, which would you save first, a human or an animal?"

I was certain that this was a rhetorical question. But to my amazement, no answer was forthcoming.

Finally, I said, "Did you hear my question?"

"I'm thinking," the woman responded.

Those two words were an epiphany. I immediately suspected that this woman might not be an anomaly, but rather a perfectly normal product of a secular society. To confirm this, I decided to pose this question to others. For 30 years, I have asked high school seniors throughout America which they would save first, their dog or a stranger. In every instance (except some religious schools), one third have voted to save their dog, one third for the stranger, and one third just didn't know.

These students are now adults. Some of them work for PETA, and many of them support an organization that believes in the equivalent worth of humans and chickens.

The thing to understand is that this makes sense. When people stop believing in God, they believe in anything.

In the Muslim world today, we see the dangers of religious fanaticism. In the Western world we see the dangers of secular nihilism. America, with its unique blend of secular government and Judeo-Christian values, is in the middle. We better guard this unique blend. Or we will all be barbecued.