Before we begin, a disclaimer:
From the title, you have probably already figured out that we will be talking about a very sensitive subject—religion. My father told me as a young adult that there were only a few subjects to avoid when in a crowd: sex, politics, and religion. Well, I have already failed with politics, so here I go violating another one of my father’s don’t do’s. But before we dive into it, I wanted to emphasize that the opinion I present to you is all mine. And if it offends you in any way, it is not intentional. The emphasis of the blog is not to point out the advantage of any one religion or to condemn any non-believers. I actually think they all fit into the core precept (point) of the discussion. But, in my view, there is one religion, in particular, that has influenced America more than any other. And it is this influence that may be the answer to America’s degeneration?
So, let’s begin…
I want to start out this discourse with an admittance. I do not necessarily believe in God, but strongly feel we need one. As I will explain, we all possess an innate desire to believe in something beyond us. A spiritual inkling to be comforted with wondrous answers to life’s biggest questions. But we are also grounded-creatures yearning for guidance and expected outcomes. Outcomes that require structure, resiliency, and a moral direction to achieve.
Now, let’s set up the problem…
Over the course of American history, we have experienced a revolution, fought devastating wars, rectified civil mistakes, and defeated dangerous ideologies–a resiliency like no other. One grounded in freedoms and liberties painfully forged, laboriously maintained, and routinely tested.
But our resiliency did not happen on accident. It was not a freak of nature. It was the strength in our governance, principles, and traditions that bolstered the way. Ones guided by sound morals, values, and beliefs. A set of structured standards, guidelines, and thresholds that was the light on our path. A luminous direction that got us through thick and thin–at every level.
Yet, today, America is witnessing its fall from grace. It is stepping away from its moral roots, dismissing the very framework of our past success and sliding into a degenerative state. Such that, societal failure may be just around the corner?
And the answer to this dilemma? Well, it starts with us…
The Greatest Creation
We [Humankind] are a remarkable achievement. A wonder of our world. Intricate and complex in design, we are nothing short of an evolutionary miracle. But what really makes us stand out from any other creature is that we are cognizant, as French philosopher Rene Descartes proposed, “I think, therefore I am.” So impressive is our conception, we manipulate, change, and create all on our own—an incredibly complex machine. To the world around us, or for that matter the cosmos, we are unmatched. Yet, with all this preeminence and power we cannot survive unbounded. Structure, order, restraint, and responsibility must underpin our nature—a need to protect us from us.
As conscious and intelligent beings, we are in the driver’s seat of our future. Or for that matter, the future of the planet. It is an incredible responsibility. A responsibility we cannot get wrong. Yet, throughout our history, more specifically social evolution, we have struggled to understand the authoritative power over ourselves and other things. Destruction, war, genocide, conflict, and deviants dominate the past. To survive we developed rules and measures of behavior–a set of boundaries. A civil code of conduct that discourages poor behavior and anarchy and encourages decency and rule.
Every tribe, society, or civilization required it. A fundamental understanding of principles, laws, or guidelines that promoted order, to the point of cultural adaptation and tradition. Otherwise, those who failed this provision of social harmony were doomed for decay or worse, collapse. Good vs. evil, lawful vs. lawless, greed vs. generosity, compassion vs. cruelty, or order vs. disorder, all highlight the conundrum of our social existence.
Ok? How do we solve this conundrum and promote an environment of principled and righteous behavior? One that will set us on the path of societal success.
Actually…the answer is right in front of us, and it is in our flaws that we will find the solution.
We are imperfect creatures and throughout history required some boundaries to protect ourselves from us. But, in America? Are we not the beacon of liberty, freedom, and everything that is good—civil, moral, fair, and orderly? And is this not the 21st century and incivility a thing of the past?
Unfortunately, the answer is no.
America is losing it’s moral, ethical, and civil values—it is degenerating, as defined by Webster, “falling below a normal or desirable level in physical, mental, or moral qualities.” What was once a country grounded in virtuous principles is becoming a country of discord and relativism. Anything and everything goes. Morality is not absolute. Personal guidance, rules or sacrifice are up for interpretation. It is no longer, as the late John F. Kennedy famously stated, “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country,” it is now, my way or the highway.
How Bad Is It?
Here are a few telling trends.
Recently, New York State legislators passed New York’s Reproductive Health Act which allows late-term abortions past 24 weeks and up to delivery. Virginia governor and state legislatures doubled down on abortion with a controversial bill allowing full-born terminations. When asked “how late in the term can a woman consider abortion,” the Virginia governor described “…the infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between physician and the mother…” In other words, infanticide.
Lauded and praised by pro-choice advocates, their principal argument is to protect a women’s health and decision to choose, as stated by New York’s Governor Cuomo, “Today we are taking a giant step forward in the hard-fought battle to ensure a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own personal health, including the ability to access an abortion.”
Does this mean a woman can terminate an unborn child (or in Virginia, born) because it affirms the right to make her own decision? Have we forgotten about the life [right] of the child? Have we degenerated to the point where life or death rests on individual preference? These are decisions with no moral consequence. An illustrative example of our desperate need to protect us from us.
There Is More
Further adding to a laissez-faire consequence environment, sex is a given. No longer is it emphasized to wait until you are married, or enjoy the act with someone you love, or at least have responsible sex. It is causal, on the first date, and expected (demanded) by most men. Its freelancing behavior is promoted and celebrated in social media, movies, and TV. And its outcome is consequential…promiscuous behavior has ramifications.
For example, sexually transmitted diseases have skyrocketed (even in high schools). As a matter of fact, just since 2013, Chlamydia is up 22%, Gonorrhea up 67%, Syphilis up 76%, and congenital syphilis is up 154%. And of all sexual orientations, male sex with males has over five times the cases of sexually transmitted diseases. I highlight this point not to condemn homosexuality but to emphasize promiscuity and its repercussions. In other words, morality applies regardless of sexual preference or for that matter, race, gender, or ethnic background–morality is universal and so are its consequences.
To further add to misguided decisions, sexual assault is up 205% on college campuses. The sexual misconduct revelations in Hollywood have highlighted an overt and disgusting abuse of power—the “me too” movement is long overdue! In fact, these types of unmitigated actions add to other problems. Accepted sexual casualness is exposing women (and our young) to a larger predatory group—socially conditioned to expect and demand sex. Gender confusion and pronouns, and overtly celebrating sexual preferences is the norm. No longer is it private, it is celebrated. It is in your face whether you want it or not–unconstrained and promoted.
And sex has an insatiable appetite.
Sexual addiction ranks number six in America ahead of drugs and alcohol. Pornography is a growing problem with our children. According to the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families, “47 % of U.S. families reported that pornography was a problem in their home.” The most at risk? Teenage boys, 12 to 17 years old. “Addictions typically happen with adults—we’ve never had a group addicted which is so young and growing in numbers,” says Dr. Weber, an osteopathic family physician certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.
Even more alarming is that over 20% of porn consumed by children is under 10 years of age. Studies have shown that it is an addiction much like drug abuse that physically reshapes the pleasure centers of children’s brains leaving them with insatiable sexual desires eventually leading to predatory tendencies as young adults.
And along with it comes a backlash—promiscuous behavior does not go unpunished.
Out of wedlock births have increased from 12% in 1960 to over 40% in 2014. It is ok today to have babies with no father…celebrated in fact…who needs a man? Unfortunately, children living without a father have a higher chance of early pregnancy (71%), committing crimes (85% of young prisoners), drug abuse (75%), homelessness (90%), dropping out of school (71%), poverty (48%), and obesity (2 times the average). Today, 40% of school kids in America are fatherless! In 1960, it was 9%. And most unfortunate is that it has hit worse among minorities, further making their climb out of social inequity more difficult—58% of black children and 32% of Hispanic children are in fatherless homes.
Broken families, social conditions, little parental oversight, and we have a growing moral epidemic on hand.
It Doesn’t End Here
Our internet addiction ranks number five in America also ahead of alcohol and drugs. Social media is exposing our children to things they are not prepared for…children growing up too quickly and emotionally ill-prepared. Parents and society are unable to keep up with social trends or outlets resulting in unmonitored exposure to our children. And it has severe repercussions.
Social media addiction is adding to an already insecure generation. Bullying, internet obsession, distractions, pornography, sexting, and now unknown and unchecked internet role models influencing our children. 80% of kids have smartphones and 85% had youtube accounts, not to mention 72% on Instagram and 69% on Snapchat—uncurbed and unmonitored.
Young adults have shed historical boundaries of behavior or social interaction. Social engagement is online. Hiding behind a screen or device, spawn fearless eruptions shedding any etiquette or moralistic presentation—what goes viral is often debauchery or harmful behavior–the more outrageous the better.
Further, famous booty showing dysfunctional reality TV families dominate the airways celebrating unwed pregnancies, drug use, alcohol, and vulgar language, illustrating to us what it’s like being trash with money…and of course, few limits. Their influence on our children is setting the conditions for a new norm…one that is degenerative and destructive.
The bottom line is that technology is moving forward at an unprecedented rate and the social rules for its conduct are failing to catch up.
Our moral dilemma has also hit home. Today, almost half of all marriages end up in divorce, with 60% of divorced children going to the mothers, further exasperating the fatherless (or single parent) dynamic. It is no longer a commitment to each other but an easy out in difficult times. Commitment, adversity, sacrifice, understanding, and “till death do us part” no longer ready us for one of the biggest decisions of our lives. The American family is eroding.
But, Here’s the Kicker
The most concerning change in our society is moral relativism. In general, Relativism, “is the philosophical position that all points of view are equally valid and that all truth is relative to the individual,” meaning, moral understandings are personal. Your gender, your beliefs, your values, or what is right or wrong are all up for grabs and defined by social associations, personal surroundings, and individual preference.
This one philosophical doctrine underpins much of our degeneration. For example, social media’s connection is at the individual level—unchecked, unguided and boundless–individually dependent on understanding and guidance. No longer are there any structured morals or ethics that counsel us. Everything is up for interpretation.
Is that bad?
The challenge with relativism and randomness is that we are structured creatures. Aimlessness is not in our nature. We would never have survived as a species if we had haphazardly hunted for food. We are planners, predictors, and adaptors, a wondrous survival ability. Every day we get up we plan the day, predict changes and then adapt, whether we are aware of it or not.
As such, we have designed a complex but structured environment with numerous rules, laws, and understandings of how things work. Predictable paths to be expected and followed. Once practiced over years, these understandings and paths become standards, norms, and conditions we expect, eventually ingrained as permanent associations or traditions—in a sense, cultural. No society in history has survived without these basic precepts, at least for any length of time.
“A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.”
The Answer to This Dilemma
But, before we answer it, the solution requires some background.
What changed? Why this degeneration?
Today, 80% of Americans believe in God but only 48% believe as said in the Bible. In 1965, 97% of Americans believed in God and 90% believed in the Biblical version. God is not dead, but his teachings are. The almighty’s traditions, morals, and values have gone by the wayside. Any reference to him had been eradicated out of the public school system (remember separation of church and state?). God is a bad word in our civil systems. Today, traditions, morals, and values are left to the government, social media, lawsuits, and broken homes—remember, morals and values are taught, not inherited.
In some respects, there is good news. God may be dead in the public system but he is not dead in our communities. He (and the belief in him) is still a vibrant piece of our culture and traditions but his teachings and guidance are continually being challenged. Progressives are trying to completely obliterate him and along with it, God’s timeless disciplined instruction—anti-God is in vogue (really, anti-Christian, but more on that later). As such, the faithful are many times looked down upon and considered zealots or in the political spectrum, right-wing religious-loonies hanging on to non-progressive traditions and thought.
But before we dismiss our religious background and flush America down the moral toilet, let’s look at us. Our history, our traditions, and our values. What got us to where we are? What subliminal moral guide not only forged us as a nation but kept us from the brink of disaster?
What will save America?
It’s time to talk about Christianity. The reason I emphasize it is not to take away from other influential monotheistic religions such as Judaism and Islam but because we are examining the degeneration of American society. Currently, over 70% of the U.S. population identifies as Christian with only 6-7% identifying as either Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist. Even though religious freedom is an important constitutional right, the discussion is not as much about freedoms as it is about influence and traditions.
Further, for the sake of our examination, we will reference Christ as synonymous with God (or the word of God).
Why is Christianity so important in our discussion? Because our current moral and ethical compass, as well as values and traditions, have Christian roots. Even with the great differences between Christian faiths each is grounded in the teachings of Christ. Our own Declaration of Independence was heavily influenced by Christians. God or creator is mentioned four times in the Declaration of Independence, whose purpose was to explain and justify a rebellion to secure God-given rights. Further, there are over 200 references of God or the Divine in State Constitutions. Out of the 55 delegates who debated, drafted and signed the U.S. Constitution, 100% were Christian (over 50% were Episcopalian or Anglican).
Thomas Jefferson who is credited with writing the Declaration of Independence and much of our Constitution was not fond of biblical religion (a Deist, or believed in the rejection of God’s revelation) but understood and appreciated the ethical and moral teachings of Christ. So much, that he spent his later years writing his own version of the Bible (The Jefferson Bible), omitting the words that he thought were inauthentic (Jesus words corrupted by biblical authors) and retained those he believed were original (moral and ethical principles).
Even Benjamin Franklin who was also a deist, said in his speech to the constitutional delegates, “At the beginning of the contest with Great Britain when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered.”
The Real Meaning to Separation of Church and State
When people refer to the constitutional underpinning of separation of church and state as an argument for the omission of any religious ideas or guidance, they are misunderstanding the rationale of the Founding Fathers. Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin were in fact deeply suspicious of European governmental involvement in religion. They saw government as corrupting religion, emphasizing the separation of church and state.
But not because of Christianity’s grafting influence on government but because government’s involvement ultimately fouled religion—parishioners did not need to hear the word of God from the government they need to hear it from their ministers–far cry from today’s rationalization of separation of church and state.
To further illustrate, religious principles were first laid out in the Declaration of Independence as God-given rights— “We hold these truths to be self-evident…all men are created equal… endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…,” and “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.”
A clear delineation between a God-inspired declaration and the government’s implementation of its principles. In other words, the Declaration declared the rebellion under God-given rights, and the constitution directed the government to protect them—a radically different approach to governance–grounded in faith.
And there’s more
For those of us who remember, it was in our pledge of allegiance in school, “…one nation under God.” It was printed on our money, “In God we Trust.” Grounded in our national anthem, “…In God is our Trust…” (read the whole lyrics), and emphasized in the song, America the Beautiful, “…God shed his grace on thee…” It is in the oath of office for almost every government position, “…so help me God,” and finally, in almost every political speech made by a politician, “God Bless the United States of America.” An unquestionable part of our American Heritage.
Christianity Is the Bedrock of Our Nation and the Invisible Hand in Our Lives
Our traditions, economics, laws, behavior, and governance were influenced by Christian beliefs, morals, and values. It is bedrock to everything we do. Why? Because we grew up with it. It surrounded us. We practiced it and we followed its moral compass. Whether we admit to it, follow it, or try to ignore it, it is the underpinning of our American traditions and culture. If not obvious in our daily lives, it is most certainly lurking behind the curtain influencing decisions and behavior—call it the devil and angel on your shoulder battling for influence.
Further, Christianity or our belief in God, is the invisible hand in our lives, as taken analogously from Adam Smith’s Wealth of a Nation metaphorically describing the invisible power of free markets. Like a free market economy where “individuals operate through a system of mutual interdependence to promote the general benefit of society at large,” so too does Christianity’s invisible moral hand “operate through a system [daily actions] of mutual interdependence [common traditions and beliefs] to promote [guide] the general benefit of society at large.”
Where do we go from here?
The Road to Salvation
America is on a degenerative road. Or to be specific, the “the loss of physical, mental, or moral qualities considered normal and desirable.” We are killing unborn babies up to delivery and in some States legislating laws to kill them out of the womb. Sex is no longer a private affair but wide open and promoting out of wedlock children, fatherless homes, gender confusion, disease, addictive pornography, and sexual harassment or worse abuse.
Right or wrong is up for interpretation as relativism, or anything goes, clouds our behavior. Drugs are at epidemic levels, depression in our children is at an all-time high, and helping your neighbor is no longer a given. Our moral compass is spinning out of control and with it our values and traditions. It is our societies road to failure.
What Do We Do? The Answer Is in Our Evolution
We are spiritual creatures. It is written into our DNA. A characteristic developed in our evolutionary process based out of fear. A means to make us safe and feel comfortable when we ask about the unknown. And it needs to be filled. No secular government, society, or even science can fill it. But with it, comes the ability to faithfully spread a moral code of conduct–a spiritual belief of right or wrong.
Yes, governmental laws help the harmful effects of wrong, meaning they establish protections against criminal or negligent acts, but who writes the code for what is right? As is prescribed in Galatians (5:22), “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” It is these types of teachings that fill the spiritual void–Christian based and deeply rooted in our society. These are the beliefs that guide our values, set standards for behavior and establish what is right in our lives–foundational in design, guiding in practice, and written into our being.
As Kent Nerburn so eloquently describes in his book Simple Truths,
“We are all born with a belief in God. It may not have a name or a face. We may not even see it as God. But it is there. It is the sense that comes over us as we stare into the starlit sky or watch the last fiery rays of an evening sunset. It is the morning shiver as we wake on a beautiful day and smell a richness in the air that we know and love from somewhere we can’t quite recall. It is the mystery behind the beginning of time and beyond the limits of space. It is a sense of otherness that brings alive something deep in our hearts.”
The Path We Must Take
It is a mistake to push these beliefs aside or ignore their positive influence. We need them now more than ever, as the title of this blog expresses, We may not believe in God, but we sure need one. It is not as much the faith in God as it the moral grounding his teachings provide. Governments, leaders, organizations, communities, and even families struggle to spread a consistent moral message. But it is God in America, and specifically Christianity, that has corrected our dark past, gotten us through civil conflict, and pushed us to reach to the stars.
God is deeply-rooted in our freedoms, hardened by revolution, tested in civil conflict, and a beacon of liberty that shines across the world. America did not achieve its greatness because of random acts or progressive movements. Our progress is rooted in moral structure and composition, a God-given framework that is the web in our social fabric.
People who came to America did not come to spread their beliefs they came to experience ours. Hope, freedom, liberty, and opportunity are all etched in God’s instruction, “…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness….”
Whether we know it (or want it), our nation’s principles are God-given, God-inspired, and God-guided. If we let them go by the wayside, or let progressive thought eradicate them from our values and traditions, then it is merely a matter of time before our republic dives into the abyss of moral degeneration.
I will leave you with two of Christianity’s bedrock teachings:
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 3:16).
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 7:12).
There is no secular government, law, mandate, statue, code, or rule that can compare!