A Harvard professor confuses Evangelicals with the Progressive death cult
Harvard Professor and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, in his excellent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, elaborates on the indescribable cruelty of the pre-modern world as compared to the blessedly safe world in which we live. One of his examples of pre-modern cruelty is the Bible. He misses that the Bible, although a product of its time, was crafting an ethos that led to our world of less violence. Last week, Pinker again put his ignorance about Christianity on display in a since-deleted post about Republicans who want to end the lockdown.
The genesis for Pinker’s tweet was Gary Abernathy’s column in the Washington Post, “What’s really behind Republicans wanting a swift reopening? Evangelicals.” Abernathy does not believe that either the fear of economic collapse and the resulting despair or a genuine belief in constitutional liberty inspires Republicans to argue for the end of the lockdown. He argues that it’s the Christians’ God problem that makes them callous about death:
The National Association of Evangelicals has identified four statements that it says define evangelicals, the last of which is most pertinent for this discussion: “Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.” This literal belief in eternal salvation — eternal life — helps explain the different reactions to life-threatening events like a coronavirus outbreak.
The coronavirus? Christian fundamentalism is often fatalistic. As far as many evangelicals are concerned, life passes quickly, suffering is temporary and worrying solves nothing. That’s not a view that comports well with long stretches of earthly time spent waiting out business closures or stay-at-home orders. It should be no surprise that a person’s deepest beliefs about the world influence how they measure the risks they’re willing to take.
Pinker thought Abernathy was right. But while Abernathy purports to take a scholarly approach, Pinker added a genuinely nasty note in a since-deleted tweet:
Belief in an afterlife is a malignant delusion, since it devalues actual lives and discourages action that would make them longer, safer, and happier. Exhibit A: What’s really behind Republicans wanting a swift reopening? Evangelicals. https://t.co/ppo2bwiVGn
— Steven Pinker (@sapinker) May 21, 2020
Pinker misreads the Judeo-Christian doctrine, which is all about life. It is the atheism that Pinker prefers that is the death cult.
The Bible emerged from a world in which death was omnipresent. It wasn’t just that accidents and diseases were unstoppable and unfixable. Instead, as Pinker noted in The Better Angels of Our Nature, human cruelty in the ancient world was staggering. Power was the only thing that gave value to a person’s life.
The Bible was different. While the ancient Bible has stories of randomly inflicted human suffering (e.g., the story of Dinah), the message that breathes through it is that life is precious. To the extent that man is made in God’s image, each individual has value. In Deuteronomy 30:19, God explicitly charges the Jews to “choose life.” The Binding of Isaac ends human sacrifice amongst the Jews. Later, Christ’s willingness to die for the world ultimately ended all human sacrifice.
Because of these Biblical injunctions, Christians are life-affirming people (hence their opposition to abortion). While their faith leaves them more sanguine about death than the atheist is, they choose life. That’s why there’s a difference between Evangelical survivalists, who prepare for the world’s end, and the Shia Muslims in Iran who believe they are obligated to bring about the world’s end.
Atheists, of course, are not sanguine about death – at least, about their own deaths – because death is a frightening nothingness. That makes them fearful in a way that Evangelical Christians are not.
Atheists also have no moral high ground when it comes to death, for they are a death cult. Even as they weep for convicted killers on death row, they demand the endless slaughter of babies. Their lack of reverence for human life stems in significant part from their Nature worship.
Nature is unfeeling. Nature does not care that the lion, rather than lying down with the sweet lamb, eats it. Nature does not care that a drought can starve countries or that an earthquake can level kingdoms. Nature simply is. It’s a relentless, unfair force in which each living species’ prime directive is to cling to life in whatever way possible. Religion tempers that prime directive with morality. Marxism tempers that prime directive with raw power and selfishness.
That’s how you end up with a large segment of the American population arguing that it’s entirely “moral” to kill a human life for someone else’s convenience — an argument that sounds remarkably like the Nazi justification for the gas chambers. After all, once you decide that certain lives in the abstract are valueless, it’s as easy to kill them as it is to stomp a termite.
So when Pinker talks about a malignant belief that leads to death, he’s looking in the wrong direction.