Atheism, Christianity and Liberty: My Uncertain Spiritual Quagmire

I cannot walk down a street, go into a shop, board a train or bus, without coming under the surveillance of close circuit television cameras. Why is this? Because I am no longer trusted. When a society ceases to be guided by personal restraint, conscience and a God-fearing unalterable moral code, then how else shall order be kept? The state shall be forced to keep order that’s how. This is why we have security cameras, this is why our emails are monitored and we are on our way to having armed police, and the general acceptance of many other infringements upon our civil liberties. This is what happens when we reject the Christian religion which has kept a check upon our behaviours for centuries. Now we subscribe to the ad-hock ethic of ‘selfism’, which demands we are guided by our desires, whims and fancies. ‘Selfism’ despises the idea of absolute rights and wrongs and necessitates personal autonomy over one’s body regardless of any consequences.

A small and somewhat trivial but illuminating example highlighting the general abolition of liberties can be seen in our very student bars where I am forced to drink out of pathetic, flimsy plastic cups instead of stalwart glass ones. For why? Because I cannot be trusted to not smash the glass and brandish it as a make-shift weapon. This and the previous more pertinent and serious erosions on liberty, are the gradual consequences of a society which has rejected its moral code. Worse is to come.

Our moral system, coded in the education system, justice system, Habeas Corpus, Magna Carta, and jury trial, has been the absolute bedrock beneath the success of western civilisation for centuries, and is of course the Christian faith. I mention Christianity because it is the faith of this country and has been since the first century.  I also believe it to be the religion of: love, tolerance and turning the other cheek instead of bottling someone. It is important for me to say now that I am an atheist, I see no reason to think there is a God. But likewise, I do not have a objective account of existence, as no-one else does. As I am making clear from this article I am currently living in a somewhat sticky and uncertain spiritual quagmire of which I have one foot in both the Christian and atheist camp. Nonetheless I shall say there is no longer a part of me which is desperate to drive God out of society and undermine the Christian moral code which kept us civil for centuries. I wish this country to remain a Christian nation as it always has been, I find much of the cultural-relativism which has paralleled secularisation worrying.

When on this subject I am always reminded of one of the most profound questions I have ever heard, one which was posed by the atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel, who asks of himself and his contemporaries: ‘Why are atheists so desperate for there not to be a God?’ No other question has irked more than this one. Do we not want a meaning, order and eternal justice?

I am also aware of the fact that as an atheist who has the opinions I do, it is clear I wish to benefit from a society guided by the Christian faith, but I am simultaneously unwilling to pay my dues and be the change I wish to see in the world. I have no current answer to this due to that aforementioned quagmire I find myself in.

In making these points, I am aware of where they lead. A much deeper question becomes apparent: ‘what do we put the highest purchase on, what is true or what is good?’

In conclusion I’d like to make a final point with some poetry . . . for those who appreciate that sort of thing. It is from Chapter 38 of the book of Job (King James version):

‘Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,

Who is this that derketh council by words without knowledge?

Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee and answer thou me.

Where was thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?

Declare if thou hast understanding.’

None of us have that absolute understanding so perhaps what the real debate is about is choice. A choice of do we build a society as if the universe were a cosmic car crash without meaning? Or as if it had some order and purpose? If taking the later view, then as so far as possible follow a belief which will help us live our lives and discover that meaning.

If anyone else wishes to enter personal religious limbo and indecision then the best way of doing so, is by reading Christopher Hitchens’ book: ‘God is Not Great’ then Peter Hitchens’ book: ‘The Rage against God’.

By Matthew Page


[Image Credit: Kiran Foster]


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