Merry Christmas...without the 'X'

'Tis the season for the atheist/humanist crowd to make fools of themselves.  As millions of Americans celebrate Christmas, the American Humanist Association is in the midst of their annual membership drive punctuated by smart-aleck billboards and city bus placards that mock the existence of moral authority and belittle faith in Christ.

Two years ago, their motto was "Why believe in a god?  Just be good for goodness' sake!"  Last year, they were more direct: "No god?  No problem!"  But this year, as they feebly attempt to detract from the celebration of Christ's incarnation once again, perhaps it's a fruitful exercise for our civilization to consider their overtures and weigh the merit of their message.

As far as I can tell, the mantra "No god?  No problem!" has but one minor flaw: the entire record of human history.  It is no coincidence that as German atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche boasted, "God is dead ... we have killed him ... must we not ourselves become gods[?]" (which, by the way, is the entire basis of humanism dating back to the Garden of Eden), he simultaneously predicted that the 20th century would be the most murderous in human history.

That Nietzsche was right is actually of secondary importance.  Most significant is the apparent recognition Nietzsche had that man, left with no moral authority beyond his own impulses and passions, would devolve into self-destruction.

Indeed, the banner slogan of "No god?  No problem!" could hang poignantly over the ovens of Auschwitz, the killing fields of Cambodia, and the trash bins of Planned Parenthood.

Though it might be more difficult to squeeze onto a billboard, the American Humanist Association needs to correct its jingle to convey the more accurate message: "No God?  No problem...except the one that even the greatest atheist thinkers have recognized: when a belief in God dies, man dies."

Moreover, the phrase "be good for goodness' sake" is meaningless unless we can define what "goodness" is.  For the believer, that is a relatively easy question to answer.  Goodness is measured by the extent to which man's behavior conforms to the character and the will of his Creator.  That is why the Christian believes the Bible is an irreplaceable component of human existence -- its revelation serves to guide us towards that divine will.

But the atheist/humanist has no such moral center...no fixed point of reference.  Such people may talk at length about the need to be "good," but in the final analysis, their presuppositions fundamentally reject any concrete basis for morality. 

That is not to say that anyone who is atheist or humanist is a murderous butcher ready to pounce.  Certainly there are a great number of nonbelievers who are benevolent, caring, and kind.  But while the atheist points to these upstanding godless citizens as proof of the theory that you can be good simply for goodness' sake, he conveniently ignores the cultural foundations that taught those individuals good from bad.

As columnist Jeff Jacoby observed, "[i]n our culture, even the most passionate atheist cannot help having been influenced by the Judeo-Christian worldview that shaped Western civilization."  Put another way, the American atheist who boldly touts his morality and decency is humorously doing so only by appealing to the very Christian ethic he seeks to denounce.

Though this conclusion is inescapable, the pride inherent in humanist thought forbids them from admitting it.  Consequently, we are persistently treated to their vapid musings that one must choose between religion and reason.

But suggesting that reason alone is sufficient to direct behavior is intellectually dishonest.  Human reason will always be guided by presuppositions.  That is why civilizations like ancient Rome found it reasonable to murder handicapped children while we in the Western world find that abominable.

Jacoby noted that Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger wrote, "'We drown even children who at birth are weakly and abnormal,' ... stressing that 'it is not anger but reason'" that provides justification for such an act.  This horrific practice is the result of reason built upon a godless foundation.  In contrast, American civilization bears the fruits of reason based on a Christian ethic that teaches submission and obedience to a transcendent moral authority.

That fact alone should cause the atheist to pause as he taunts believers with signs proclaiming "Merry X-mas."  Creating a Christ-less holiday season may seem like a worthy cause until you realize where it leads.  Civilizations torn free from the moorings of moral authority are not the kind anyone would want to live in...not even a fervent atheist.

Peter is a public high school government teacher and radio talk show host in central Indiana.  E-mail peter@peterheck.com or visit www.peterheck.com.
'Tis the season for the atheist/humanist crowd to make fools of themselves.  As millions of Americans celebrate Christmas, the American Humanist Association is in the midst of their annual membership drive punctuated by smart-aleck billboards and city bus placards that mock the existence of moral authority and belittle faith in Christ.

Two years ago, their motto was "Why believe in a god?  Just be good for goodness' sake!"  Last year, they were more direct: "No god?  No problem!"  But this year, as they feebly attempt to detract from the celebration of Christ's incarnation once again, perhaps it's a fruitful exercise for our civilization to consider their overtures and weigh the merit of their message.

As far as I can tell, the mantra "No god?  No problem!" has but one minor flaw: the entire record of human history.  It is no coincidence that as German atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche boasted, "God is dead ... we have killed him ... must we not ourselves become gods[?]" (which, by the way, is the entire basis of humanism dating back to the Garden of Eden), he simultaneously predicted that the 20th century would be the most murderous in human history.

That Nietzsche was right is actually of secondary importance.  Most significant is the apparent recognition Nietzsche had that man, left with no moral authority beyond his own impulses and passions, would devolve into self-destruction.

Indeed, the banner slogan of "No god?  No problem!" could hang poignantly over the ovens of Auschwitz, the killing fields of Cambodia, and the trash bins of Planned Parenthood.

Though it might be more difficult to squeeze onto a billboard, the American Humanist Association needs to correct its jingle to convey the more accurate message: "No God?  No problem...except the one that even the greatest atheist thinkers have recognized: when a belief in God dies, man dies."

Moreover, the phrase "be good for goodness' sake" is meaningless unless we can define what "goodness" is.  For the believer, that is a relatively easy question to answer.  Goodness is measured by the extent to which man's behavior conforms to the character and the will of his Creator.  That is why the Christian believes the Bible is an irreplaceable component of human existence -- its revelation serves to guide us towards that divine will.

But the atheist/humanist has no such moral center...no fixed point of reference.  Such people may talk at length about the need to be "good," but in the final analysis, their presuppositions fundamentally reject any concrete basis for morality. 

That is not to say that anyone who is atheist or humanist is a murderous butcher ready to pounce.  Certainly there are a great number of nonbelievers who are benevolent, caring, and kind.  But while the atheist points to these upstanding godless citizens as proof of the theory that you can be good simply for goodness' sake, he conveniently ignores the cultural foundations that taught those individuals good from bad.

As columnist Jeff Jacoby observed, "[i]n our culture, even the most passionate atheist cannot help having been influenced by the Judeo-Christian worldview that shaped Western civilization."  Put another way, the American atheist who boldly touts his morality and decency is humorously doing so only by appealing to the very Christian ethic he seeks to denounce.

Though this conclusion is inescapable, the pride inherent in humanist thought forbids them from admitting it.  Consequently, we are persistently treated to their vapid musings that one must choose between religion and reason.

But suggesting that reason alone is sufficient to direct behavior is intellectually dishonest.  Human reason will always be guided by presuppositions.  That is why civilizations like ancient Rome found it reasonable to murder handicapped children while we in the Western world find that abominable.

Jacoby noted that Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger wrote, "'We drown even children who at birth are weakly and abnormal,' ... stressing that 'it is not anger but reason'" that provides justification for such an act.  This horrific practice is the result of reason built upon a godless foundation.  In contrast, American civilization bears the fruits of reason based on a Christian ethic that teaches submission and obedience to a transcendent moral authority.

That fact alone should cause the atheist to pause as he taunts believers with signs proclaiming "Merry X-mas."  Creating a Christ-less holiday season may seem like a worthy cause until you realize where it leads.  Civilizations torn free from the moorings of moral authority are not the kind anyone would want to live in...not even a fervent atheist.

Peter is a public high school government teacher and radio talk show host in central Indiana.  E-mail peter@peterheck.com or visit www.peterheck.com.

RECENT VIDEOS