Is Religious Orthodoxy on the Attack?
Recently the Attorney General of the United States, William Barr, gave a speech to the Law School and the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame on religious liberty in America. I believe Mr. Barr’s speech is meant to rally Judo-Christian believers to attack non-believers in order to maintain the religious ground this antiquated religion still occupies. His remarks are inciting further tensions and division within an already divided nation.
In his speech Mr. Barr attributes many of today’s social ills to non-believers, i.e., those who do not believe in the Judeo-Christian religion. He calls them secularist. He makes numerous assertions about how secularists are ruining today’s culture. To read the full text of his speech click on reference 1 below. Here are some of Mr. Barr’s bizarre assertions.
- He asserts only “self-discipline and the virtue of the American people”1 will limit what he calls government’s “coercive power”1. He proclaims self-discipline and virtue of the American people stem from “inwardly-possessed and commonly-shared moral values” which come from a “transcendent Supreme Being”1. He further asserts the framers saw free government as only suitable and sustainable for religious people. By religious people I I’m presuming he means those who believe in the Judeo-Christian religion. “In short, in the Framers’ view, free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people – a people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order antecedent to both the state and man-made law and who had the discipline to control themselves according to those enduring principles.”1. As Attorney General isn’t Mr. Barr supposed to uphold the United States Constitution? Doesn’t the First Amendment explicitly state “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”? So how can Mr. Barr make such an assertion putting religion above the constitution? Doesn’t the first amendment imply that the government must observe a separation between church and state? Certainly, everyone is empowered to pursue their own beliefs including a non-Judeo-Christian belief. Mr. Barr’s assertions falsely establish the premise that secularists are to blame for all of today’s cultural ills. He implies that they lack self-discipline, virtues and moral values, because they do not believe in a transcendent Supreme Being. Again, I think this is all meant to incite Judeo-Christians to fight the non-believers.
- He asserts “religion helps promote moral discipline within Society”1; Christian moral standards come from God and anyone who dismisses these beliefs are “modern secularists”1. This is meant to reinforce the notion that non-believers (secularists) lack moral values.
- He asserts we are living in a post Christian era and he questions what has replaced the Judeo-Christian moral system. “We are told we are living in a post-Christian era. But what has replaced the Judeo-Christian moral system? What is it that can fill the spiritual void in the hearts of the individual person? And what is a system of values that can sustain human social life?”1 He concludes, by asserting “no secular creed has emerged capable of performing the role of religion”1. He is positing that secularism has no moral equivalence to that of the Judeo-Christian moral code, and any actions undertaken by so-called secularist are damaging society. These are some of the actions he highlights;
- "The reaction to growing illegitimacy is not sexual responsibility, but abortion"1.
- "The reaction to drug addiction is safe injection sites"1.
- "The solution to the breakdown of the family is for the State to set itself up as the ersatz husband for single mothers and ersatz father to their children"1.
Regarding illegitimacy, sexual responsibility and abortion, Judeo-Christians would promote sexual abstinence and eliminate abortion. Violators would be forced into a life of hardship with unwanted children. The right to choose would be gone. Mothers unable to care for their children, would be forced to give them up to either foster care or put them up for adoption. In other words, personal responsibility means, suffer the consequences of your actions. No one is there to help you through this difficult time.
Regarding drug addition, Judeo-Christians believe the solution to this issue is for the addict to take personal responsibility and work to overcome this difficulty on his/her own. Possibly look to their church and god for strength and guidance. Treating this as a health issue and using the government to seek assistance is not an option. The government of the people for the people is not there for them. Lastly regarding the breakdown of the family, the Judeo-Christian religion believes families should only consist of men and women as a couple. Any deviation is abhorrent to them. If anyone doesn’t abide by this belief, they are not following Judeo-Christian family values and will be ostracized. Does any of this seem Christian like? To me these Judeo-Christian alternatives lack love and compassion.
Read more of Mr. Barr’s extraordinarily “unchristian” like remarks and views within his speech (see reference 1 below).
With all this said Mr. Barr is correct when he states there is a changing religious landscape in America. Recently a study by the Pew Research Center found that “the religious landscape of the United States continues to change at a rapid clip. In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009“2. The study further states “Catholic losses have been most pronounced in the Northeast, where 36% identified as Catholic in 2009, compared with 27% today. Among Protestants, declines were larger in the South, where Protestants now account for 53% of the adult population, down from 64% in 2009”.2 To read the entire study click on reference 2 below.
The question is why a decline or more accurately why a change. Is it because more Americans are better informed and knowledgeable thereby realizing that Judeo-Christian religious beliefs are no longer relevant to them? Have they outgrown the traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs? In Julian Huxley's book Religion Without Revelation (see reference 3 below) he states. “No one expects a child of four to have the same kind of religious life as a boy of sixteen, or either of them as a man of thirty.”3 (Pp.21) He also states “Men will cease to be able to regard religion as a patent medicine of the spirit, but will be forced to see it for what it is, an art to be learnt. It is an art of spiritual health. They will be able to acknowledge the obvious fact that sanctity properly pertains to certain ideas and to certain basic human relations, and that it may come to lodge, through the accident of association, in particular places and events and things, without being thereby called upon to admit that a God exists in or behind the thing or idea, or has given supernatural sanction to the human relation.”3 (Pp. 34)
Mr. Barr asserts this change in religious landscape is because secularist have “marshalled all the forces of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values”1. Contrary to Mr. Barr's assertion, I whole-heartedly believe we have become more knowledgeable and mature in our understanding of the world around us and as a result our Judeo-Christian religious beliefs are continually changing. It doesn’t mean we’ve lost our moral compass it means we are no longer in need of the rules and traditions previously taught to us. Also, it doesn’t mean religion is thrown out, discarded. Religion need not only be defined as a Judeo-Christian religion. There are other ways to be religious/ have religion that is relevant and not based on a non-existing entity. I refer you to Reverend Joseph Ben-David (reference 4 below) on his thesis THE NEXT STEP IN THEOLOGICAL REALISM – The Humanist Unitarian Meaning of God. Rev. Ben-David posits that one can be religious and believe in god that is based on truth and reality. “God, as the creative process in nature, is an awesome, all-inclusive phenomenon. It encompasses everything that helps to transform a state of aggressive, chaotic wilderness into an environment of freedom, justice and peace. People of conscience, who are intellectually and emotionally aware, fuse their lives with this process and become creative themselves. They become God’s allies and coworkers by dedicating their lives to the actualization of ideal reality….This applies to all creative pioneers who serve to advance social justice, accomplish important scientific work or who bring people in touch with reality through the arts, particularly literature, painting, drama, music, poetry, etc. To see oneself as part of the creative process is the greatest experience one can have. The conscious attachment to God – to the highest good – will fill a person with a profound sense of purposefulness and gratification. Regardless of the religious or secular terminology they use, these people of the spirit are helping to advance philosophy, psychology and religion.”4
- https://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/attorney-general-william-p-barr-delivers-remarks-law-school-and-de-nicola-center-ethics. Speaker Attorney General William Barr October 11th 2019.
- https://www.pewforum.org/2019/10/17/in-u-s-decline-of-christianity-continues-at-rapid-pace/. October 17th 2019.
- Julian Huxley Religion without Revelation, Published as a Mentor book by arrangement with Harper & Brothers. Also, Mentor books are published by the New American Library of world Literature, Inc. 1957.
- THE NEXT STEP IN THEOLOGICAL REALISM – The Humanist Unitarian Meaning of God. By the Reverend Joseph Abraham Ben-David, Founder and Senior Minister, The Church of Humanism, USA Dean, The Humanist Theological Seminary Minister Emeritus, Religious Society of Czech Unitarians, Czech Republic, September 2019