Do worldviews matter? You bet they do. Ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have bad consequences. Bad worldviews lead to some very bad outcomes. Take but one example: infanticide. The ancients practiced it with impunity, but Jews and Christians strongly opposed the practice.
So much so that the practice was made illegal in the fourth century. That was because Christian influence had by then thoroughly permeated the Roman Empire. And yet our secularist buddies keep telling us how terrible it is when religion gets mixed with politics. There are millions of people who were spared infanticide who would very much disagree with this secularist nonsense.
So the old adage about bad trees and bad fruit is worth keeping in mind here. Some of the more consistent atheists such as Nietzsche recognised that Christian morality springs from Christian teaching. He knew that if you kill the beliefs, the ethics will soon give way as well. One commentator writing back in 1996 for First Things put it this way:
“In the nineteenth century, Friedrich Nietzsche denounced the Victorians and ‘little moralistic females a la [George] Eliot’ as ‘English flatheads’ for thinking that they could preserve Christian morality without God. Nietzsche was no proponent of a Christian ethics, but he saw clearly that such ethics relies on the publicly held proposition of God’s existence. Neither Jews nor Christians have always lived up to their ethical systems, but the notion of reverence for individual lives is born (in the West at least) solely from a Judeo-Christian impulse.”
Dinesh D’Sousa picks up this idea in his 2007 volume, What’s So Great About Christianity?: “As secularism continues, Nietzsche forecasts that new values radically inconsistent with the Christian ones – the restoration of infanticide, demands for the radical redefinition of the family, the revival of eugenics theories of human superiority – will begin to emerge. These, too, are evident in our day. And they are some of the motives for attacking Christianity and insisting that its values are outmoded and should be replaced.”
So worldviews matter, and the consequences of bad worldviews are clearly evident. One overseas commentator has recently picked up this theme of infanticide and lousy worldviews. Wesley Smith notes that infanticide was quite common in pagan societies, with both Aristotle and Plato advocating the practice. But Jewish and Christian beliefs led to its demise in the West.
While we should all be grateful that the Judeo-Christian worldview helped put an end to this barbarism, unfortunately it is making a comeback in a largely secularised West. Says Smith:
“As the West loses some of its Biblical moral footing there is a new effort to decriminalize infanticide. In ancient Rome, babies born with disabilities or serious illnesses were often exposed on hills, a barbaric practice that was eventually stopped when (and because) Christianity became the Empire’s official religion. Alas, killing babies born with birth defects is making a comeback in our Post Christian times. Indeed, support for infanticide is not only gaining respectability among the bioethics and medical intelligentsia – it is becoming positively trendy.”
And of course a leading proponent of infanticide today is philosopher Peter Singer. The former Melbourne-based academic now lectures at Princeton in the US. He is a leading figure in the new movement to once again make infanticide acceptable. Indeed, “Singer deserves much of the blame for this change. Back when infanticide support was still an anathema, Singer began advocating for the right of parents to kill unwanted newborns. He didn’t put it that starkly, of course. He always used the example of babies born with serious disabilities such as Down syndrome.”
Notice the chilling, dehumanised way Singer advocated infanticide back in 1994: “Both for the sake of ‘our children,’ then, and for our own sake, we may not want a child to start life’s uncertain voyage if the prospects are clouded. When this is known at a very early stage of the voyage we may still have a chance to make a fresh start. This means detaching ourselves from the infant who has been born, cutting ourselves free before the ties that have already begun to bind us to our child have become irresistible. Instead of going forward and putting all our efforts into making the best of the situation, we can still say no, and start again from the beginning.”
Remarks Smith, “Singer is a master of using passive language and euphemisms to mask the brutality of what he advocates. But make no mistake, his phrases, ‘detaching ourselves,’ and choosing to ‘start again from the beginning,’ refer to baby killing.”
All this is not mere theory. Holland is a good case in point where horrible worldviews lead to horrible outcomes: “After doctors from Groningen University Medical Center in the Netherlands admitted in 2004 that they euthanized dying and profoundly disabled babies under what has come to be called the ‘Groningen Protocol,’ support for infanticide appeared in some of this country’s most prestigious professional journals and newspapers. Unsurprisingly, the charge was led by Singer, who defended the Protocol in the Los Angeles Times (‘Pulling Back the Curtain on the Mercy Killing of Newborns,’ March 11, 2005).”
Smith quotes from a number of prestigious medical journals that are now actually suggesting that infanticide should be viewed as a legitimate option. He continues:
“And now in ‘Ending the Life of a Newborn,’ the Hastings Center Report – the most important bioethics journal in the world – has just published another pro Groningen Protocol article, granting even greater support for Dutch infanticide among the bioethics intelligentsia. Not only do the authors, a Dutch and an American bioethicist, support lethally injecting dying babies, but also those who are disabled, writing, ‘Critics charge that the protocol does not successfully identify which babies will die. But it is precisely those babies who could continue to live, but whose lives would be wretched in the extreme, who stand in most need of the interventions for which the protocol offers guidance.’
But as Smith notes, the “article assumes that guidelines will protect against abuse, but infanticide is by definition abuse. Moreover, even if undertaken in good faith, Dutch euthanasia guidelines for adults and teenagers have continually been violated without legal consequence for decades, and so why would any rational observer expect anything different from infanticide regulations?”
Concludes Smith: “It wasn’t many years ago that almost everyone accepted that infanticide is intrinsically and inherently wrong. Clearly, this is no longer true. With growth of personhood theory that denies the intrinsic value of human life, and with the invidiously discriminatory ‘quality of life’ utilitarian ethic permeating the highest levels of the medical and bioethical thinking, we are moving toward a medical system in which babies are put down like dogs and killing is redefined as a caring act. But bigotry is bigotry and murder is murder – even if you spell it c.o.m.p.a.s.s.i.o.n.”
Exactly. Secularists can talk all they like about compassion and such things. But without a solid worldview that makes sense of, and gives moral warrant for, human dignity, then in the end, infanticide is as good an option as any. Worldviews matter. Bad worldviews bear bad fruit. That is why we need to keep hammering away at bad worldviews.