CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Defending Faith in an Anti-Faith Age

Feb 25, 2019

OK, I admit it: my title is actually somewhat inaccurate. You see, it depends on what one means by the word “faith”. If we use the term in a more general sense of having a commitment, or a mental adherence, or a loyalty to something or someone, then basically everyone has faith.

The atheist, the secular humanist, the conservative, the leftist, the Hindu, the New Ager and the Christian all have faith, so one can argue that we live in an overwhelmingly faith-based culture. Basically, everyone has something they strongly align themselves with or put their hope in.

But I have used the word here in a much narrower sense – in a religious sense. And even there I primarily have the Christian faith in mind, although the Judeo-Christian worldview is also broadly in my sights. If we speak about our culture being anti-Christian, then my title is spot on.

We live in not just a post-Christian culture but an anti-Christian one. All over the West it seems that Christianity – at least the biblical version – is under attack and often in retreat. The attacks on the faith have been relentless over the past century or so. I have documented numerous cases of this on this site, and will continue to do so.

But despite all the various recent moves and claims by secular humanists, the new atheists, and others, the overwhelming majority of mankind both now and throughout history has been religious. Human beings are essentially religious creatures, and the desire to transcend the physical world is an ever-present longing.

Thus the freedom to worship and follow one’s religious convictions is a vital part of any modern democratic society. The mark of a truly democratic and free society is the way in which it allows for such religious freedom. While there are limits here – as with everything – generally speaking, religious freedom is an important and basic human right.

But throughout the West we are witnessing a war on religion. Religious freedom in many areas seems to be shrinking, not expanding. Secular humanism and leftism are a big part of this. They are increasingly turning religious folks – primarily Christians – into second class citizens.

We are seeing more and more restrictions on religious freedom and expression, and much of this is done under the guise of “hate crimes,” “hate speech” and the like. Often to simply stand up for one’s religious convictions will be deemed to be hateful, bigoted and intolerant.

Thus we find an ever-escalating war on so many forms of religious practice and expression, in particular on things like Christian teachers, pastors, bakers, florists, photographers, educators, and so on. Often the assault on these religious freedoms are coming from radical sexual activists who not only are pushing their agenda on the rest of society, but want all who differ to be silenced.

The recent homosexual marriage debate in Australia is a clear case in point. Often the attempts of believers to express their thoughts on this matter in the public arena were shut down, or at least attempts were made to keep their voices from being heard.

Venues were often denied such persons, public meetings were often mobbed by activists who wanted them gone, and various forums for public expression were closed to many. Much worse was when various outspoken Christians were actually taken to court by the militants.

Consider just one case – of many: back in 2015 a transgender Greens political candidate dragged Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteus before the Anti-Discrimination Commission because the Catholic Church dared to publish and distribute a booklet saying marriage is between a man and a woman. I discussed that case in an article at the time: billmuehlenberg.com/2015/11/13/the-greens-war-on-christianity/

When the heavy hand of the law is dragged in by the activists to silence those of a religious persuasion who happen to have a different view on things, you know we are in a really bad way. Bullying, intimidation and ugly anti-Christian bigotry is sadly now becoming the norm.

A brand-new piece by retired Scottish Presbyterian minister Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack is worth looking at here in this regard. The title is most revealing: “Progressives are the 21st century pagans”. Secular left activists are certainly dragging the Christian West back into paganism.

He writes: “Progressives would mostly deny it but they are today’s pagans. Today’s culture war against Christianity marks the return of a pagan religious conception and worldview.” This new paganism is really just a repeat of the old paganism. What the early Christians had to deal with 2000 years ago is happening once again, and we are simply seeing history repeat itself. He writes:

Today’s ‘tolerant’ progressives cannot tolerate the existence of Christianity for the same reason their pagan predecessors couldn’t tolerate Christianity in the Roman Empire. What made Christians so threatening to the pagan Romans? Christians tended to live law-abiding, peaceful lives, intent on raising their families and getting on with their work. They were honest, sober citizens who were prepared to submit to the authority of non-Christian rulers. Yet they met with sometimes deadly hostility.

The pagans saw that Christians in the Roman Empire were, as we are today, radicals. Their willingness to comply with the law came to an abrupt end when it came to accepting pagan deities. Pagans were flexible about incorporating newly encountered gods and mythologies into one multi-cultural mosaic. However, when it came to theology and morals Christians were unyielding. They insisted on the exclusive divine sovereignty of their own God. Christian morality seemed bizarrely demanding to the free-wheeling, anything-goes Romans, but the Christians insisted on biblical standards.
www.conservativewoman.co.uk/progressives-are-the-21st-century-pagans/ 

We now have a major war going on against faith, and so very much is at stake, just as it was at the very beginning of the Christian church. Now more than ever we must contend for religious freedom. Of course to offer such concerns and make such calls is not to suggest that all religions and religious beliefs are the same or share some sort of moral equivalence.

Some religions, or at least aspects of them, can in fact be incompatible with freedom, pluralism and democracy. For example, religious practices such as honour-killings or polygamy obviously run counter to the values of Western democracies and thus must be countered.

But generally speaking the free society extends as much latitude as possible to various religious traditions and customs. Yes, the balancing act can be difficult to achieve, but it is vital that we try. And none of this has to do with some vague separation of church and state. I have dealt with the faulty views on that elsewhere, eg: billmuehlenberg.com/2006/10/20/separation-of-church-and-state/

This discussion is about the right of religious individuals to freely share their values and points of view in public. Indeed, it can be argued that everyone is religious in a sense, with some overarching set of values and commitments. The US Supreme Court even once ruled that secular humanism is a type of religion.

And with the great majority of Australians still claiming to be religious, a genuine democracy will give them as much freedom to speak and worship as it will to those with no clear religious beliefs. The attempt to shut down religious discussion and crack down on religious practices and values is very worrying indeed.

There are many of us who will continue to fight for the right of religious freedom. As mentioned, there can be some limitations here, but the general principle of freedom of religious speech, conscience and worship must be upheld and fought for. The old saying certainly applies here: ‘the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.’

When forces are at work to curtail religious freedom, then we must resolve to stand strongly for the right of religious people to coexist in society, even in an increasingly secular society. As with free speech in general, freedom of religion means that some people might be offended by what another person says or does.

But that is how a democracy seeks to function. Banning everything that offends – in this case, religious beliefs and concerns – is not how we save a democracy but how we destroy it. As George Orwell once put it, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

If certain people are offended when a Christian or a Jew for example publicly defends their faith tradition on things like marriage and family, they have to learn to live with it. Seeking to shut down and censoring such speech and beliefs puts us on the road to the end of democracy and freedom.

I for one will continue to stand and fight against this new paganism and its wars against faith. Who will join me?

[1455 words]

10 Responses to Defending Faith in an Anti-Faith Age

  • Thank you Bill. Our pastor yesterday as part of his message spoke about have a faith to stand up and defend our beliefs with the scripture 2 Timothy 1 verse 7: For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.
    That fear of what people will say ,not rocking the boat. Yet God has called us as followers of Jesus Christ to be bold and courageous.

  • Isaiah 6:8:
    Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
    “Whom shall I send? Who will go for Us?”
    And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

  • I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: this is the result of two things: moral cowardice on the part of the hierarchy, and apathy on behalf of the laity.
    To use to example of the Archbishop of Hobart as an example: the proper response should have been for the archbishop to have sent a second circular condemning the Greens, the Anti-Discrimination Commission, and the law. Then he should have insisted on a sermon to that effect be read in every church in the state. Then all the other denominations should have done the same. Then every MP should have been bombarded with letters, e-mails, and phone calls demanding – not requesting – that action be taken to correct the problem.
    With respect to the laity, their main problem as that they vote according to (a) party loyalty or (b) their hip pocket. What they must do is, first and foremost, vote according to their Christian principles. If political parties realise that introducing immoral laws will cause them to lose the election, then they will stop introducing immoral laws. And remember: to control the political scene you don’t need 51% of the vote; you only need to control the swing votes. If politicians realise that a particular action will cost them the 10% of votes they need to hold on to power, they will avoid any such action.

  • Religious Freedom can be a trap.

    If we cannot have laws to protect Christianity, and only Christianity, we should oppose a Religious Freedom Act.

    Have a read of this submission from Samir Ekermawi of the Arab, Middle Eastern and Moslem League Australia calling for religion to be added to existing anti-discrimination laws:

    https://www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=ffea293f-23cd-4cc2-adf2-e3fc3aa6f208&subId=463000

    We should be VERY afraid when Muslim activists like Ekermawi are wanting discrimination on the grounds of religion to be made illegal.

    He has form. He’s a serial complainer to anti-discrimination bodies on the grounds of race, including persecuting Sonia Kruger. Imagine what he could do if he could file anti-discrimination claims on the grounds of religious too!

    Ekermawi has also has been charged with assaulting the totally uncucked Avi Yemeni, someone I admire a lot despite him not knowing Jesus. Of course I pray for Avi that he and other Jews like him accept the gift of being perfected by Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Thanks Michael. As mentioned in my article, we have a balancing act going on here. In a secular pluralistic democratic nation establishing a Christian theocracy is not going to happen. And general religious freedom for all is something to aim for, within reason. But as I also said, not all religions are equal, and some are more compatible with democratic nations, and some are more inimical to them.

  • Thankyou again Bill. Is the decay of our society and the attack on religious freedom a coincidence? I think not.
    On this day in 1941 – via twitter

    Hitler: “We have created a new world. I look to the future with fanatical confidence. A whole nation answers my call. Germany will march!”

    Can we learn from history?

  • The problem with vague separation of church vrs state arguments, such as those stemming from the 1st amendment of the American constitution, is that the meaning of the words has shifted over time.

    Put in its historical context, the 1st amendment simply argues that the state should not endorse any particular expression of the Christian faith, but general expressions are both desirable and necessary.

    Secularists and Marxists have twisted this to mean an ejection of Christianity from the public space, and Post Modernists have identified Christianity as white privilege (quite illogically too considering the numbers of Christians from other cultures) and thus as an oppression mechanism to be combated.

  • There has long been a more limited definition of religion than that one you rightly support, Bill: Some tell us “freedom of religion” ought only be “freedom to keep the religion of the faith tradition one was born into” – For such people, religious conversions are seen as a dangerous, destabilising politico-social phenomenon – a phenomenon often arising amid an environment of duress and/or unethical material inducements to convert.

    Those, who, like Bon Jovi, hail the era of “faith departed”, would rather a world of “freedom from religion”. Sadly, that faith which believes in man and refuses to believe in God ultimately tends to nothing but a thinly-veiled form of Satanism.

  • Mr M, you have a way of getting to the core of the secular nuclear reactor and exposing its lethal radiation as a warning to all including the secular.

    What is happening around Europe is a rejection of secular atheistic globalism, it’s slow and painful but it’s going in the right direction, people are starting to wake up to what a godless society looks like and strangely what it looks like I was told when I was 13. I was told repeatedly but completely miss understood what I was being told at that time. The reason why is simple its because at that time I was having debates with militant atheists what they were doing is throwing something at me to defend, sometimes it was a straw god, other times it was some passage of the bible they had taken out of context, but they would throw one comment often that I should have realised I didn’t need to defend but simply lay at their feet, it was this:-

    “Life has no higher purpose than to perpetuate the survival of DNA…life has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”

    My Instinct was to challenge that view of God’s creation, what a fool I was. They were telling me what their godless existence was, not what God had provided for me.

    What does their existence consist of according to them? Their life has no purpose other than getting to the end of the day with a sex partner, any sex partner will do. There is no plan or purpose for their lives, so have sex with immoral women since the act is the requirement, not any purposeful plans for the results of that act, what they were doing wasn’t evil or immoral as there is no evil or immoral they have nothing but blind indifference to their actions.

    You would think People can’t live that way; however, that is exactly the way the secular godless live, yet it’s not what we were created for and so the child living in the toy shop longs for the days when toys turned up with a blast of excitement. (my dad has a very embarrassing video of me when I was little going hyper over my dolls pram I had for Christmas.) Despair sets in, they have overdosed on pleasure to the point there is no pleasure, and it ends up with women living their lives as spinsters, sharing their bed with six cats that look on her as their slave, men are adrift just wondering where the next conquest will come from until there are no more conquests, just empty unfulfilled lives, their nations can’t even generate enough children to provide for a viable population. That is essentially what they told me and that is what I am witnessing, but not from the godless platform, but from the arms of God. Deuteronomy 31:6.

  • >>Kyle Bracher
    Isaiah 6:8:
    Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
    “Whom shall I send? Who will go for Us?”
    And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
    ——
    1 Samuel 3 relates too I think.

    There is a hymn which relates to that passage that the Catholics are fond of. One of my friends is Catholic, but she is allowed to come to my church once a month and she comes to youth with us too. At youth, she sang that song and I managed to borrow the music score from school so I could accompany her on Violin. The words are quite beautiful.

    I the lord of sea and sky
    I have heard my people cry
    All who dwell in dark and sin
    My hand will save
    I have made the stars of night
    I will make their darkness bright
    Who will bear my light to them?
    Whom shall I send?

    Here I am Lord
    Is it I Lord?
    I have heard You calling in the night
    I will go Lord
    If You lead me
    I will hold Your people in my heart

    I the lord of wind and flame
    I will tend the poor and lame
    I will set a feast for them
    My hand will save
    Finest bread I will provide
    Till their hearts be satisfied
    I will give my life to them
    Whom shall I send?

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