The notion espoused by some in Christendom today that the United States was once occupied by an almost entirely God-fearing population is largely a myth. There has been and always will be a great deal of irreligious people in America, as there is in every place on this Earth. Historically speaking, the presence of a large population of atheists and agnostics is an important sign that a society is, at least to a large extent, free. Conversely, absolute uniformity of any kind is typically only accompanied by a tyrannical government.
In that sense—and in that sense alone—the lack of religion in the United States today can be viewed, even by Christians, as positive. But an equally fair analysis of our present state also reveals that our severe moral decay is destroying whole communities and creating a great deal of suffering.
For instance, Heritage Foundation Senior Fellow Robert Rector found U.S. Census Bureau data show being born into a household with two married parents decreases the likelihood of a child growing up in poverty by 82 percent. As Rector notes, only 6.8 percent of married, two-parent households with children are in poverty in the United States, compared to 37.1 percent of households with children led by only a female parent.
If you want your children to stay out of poverty and prison, the formula is very simple: Don’t have kids until you’re married, a position so taboo in our modern society that those who express such a claim are often deemed to be bigots.
What’s particularly troubling about America’s struggles isn’t that people are choosing to ignore their religious leaders—whether they be Islamic, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or another faith—it’s that most Americans have completely rejected the need for any religion or even some secular objective moral standard by which we all must be held accountable. This has created a society in which virtually anything goes—until, that is, most people decide that a particular behavior should not be tolerated.
The fear of a largely irrational tyranny of the majority is no longer theory; it’s supported by undeniable evidence.
Consider, for example, the public’s recent obsession with sexual harassment. You cannot turn on cable news or visit a news website without seeing a slew of stories identifying yet another example of a top Hollywood executive, member of the media, politician, or some other public figure who has recently been charged with sexually harassing someone (usually a woman). I’m sure we can all agree that people shouldn’t be sexually harassed, but why can’t we agree that our children shouldn’t listen to music in which artists glorify sexually harassing and objectifying women? (And if you don’t think this is a problem, watch the music video for virtually any Niki Minaj song or read this list of rape lyrics in rap music.)
Similarly, we can all agree that it is completely unacceptable for women to be treated as second-class citizens, but those who have been calling for a ban on Sharia Law and for immigration policies that would prevent people from becoming residents in America who believe in Sharia Law have been consistently labeled by many in the media as “racists,” even if they also advocate for allowing moderate Muslims to come to the United States.
Further, white supremacy and racism against African Americans and other minority groups are commonly (and rightfully) denounced, but many of the people focused most on issues of race are the first ones to support programs that deliberately favor certain minority students on college campuses over other racial groups, including some disadvantaged groups.
Politics is riddled with similar hypocrisies. For instance, many of the same people who are now calling for Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to end his campaign because he has been accused of sexual assault and dating teenagers (a reasonable position) defended and empowered Bill Clinton for more than two decades, despite the fact numerous women have accused him of rape or other inappropriate sexual acts.
Perhaps most notable is abortion. Americans literally cannot even agree on who qualifies to be considered human!
The root cause of these wild inconsistencies is that the void in our culture left by a rejection of religion has been filled by the news media and, to some extent, Hollywood, who spark moral outrage whenever it suits them.
Throughout the history of Western Civilization, many—perhaps even most—people may have privately chosen not to believe in God and/or the teachings of churches, but nearly everyone agreed in the importance of having a moral standard established by religion so that, at the very least, conduct could be judged fairly and somewhat consistently. The lack of such a standard today has effectively made the media, the only institution powerful enough to quickly engage with the whole populace, America’s new supreme moral law-giver, an incredibly dangerous development precisely because the media is incapable of applying its own shifting standards equally.
The Founding Fathers routinely explained that a free, peaceful society can only exist when that society’s population is deeply concerned with virtue, which they understood to be shaped by religious institutions.
George Washington wrote, “Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people.”
Patrick Henry said, “A vitiated [impious] state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom.”
Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.”
Without a clear standard of morality, virtue is impossible, and without virtue, freedom will inevitably fade away, because rather than respect the rights of our neighbors, people will use the institutions of society—chief among them, the media—to destroy those with whom they don’t agree on one or more issues.
Without a revival of virtue and a new emphasis placed on attaining a clearly defined moral standard or set of standards, the American ideal of individual liberty will not survive another century, and perhaps the country won’t survive, either.