What Our Objections to God Say about Us

Most objections to Christianity, or to religion more broadly, are hardly unique. So, encountering this fairly typical description of six “paths to atheism” seems as good an opportunity as any to address them.

I’ve come to realize that our objections to God’s existence tell us more about ourselves than about Him. Most can be boiled down to three basic realities of our psychology and the human condition:

1. The limits of the human brain to fully comprehend the world,

2. The human inclination to doubt, and

3. The human inclination to sin.

First, the limits of the human brain. The author of this post, blogger Chad Becker, begins with the question of God’s infiniteness. He simply cannot wrap his mind around the idea that God has existed for all of time. It is so obvious as to be cliche. Thus, this is his first path to atheism.

But is it really easier for us to fathom a point in time at which there was no universe and no God? Either way, we cannot comprehend God’s nature in the same sense that we can comprehend the nature of an orange. The part can never grasp the whole, and we are most certainly but a part of the universe we inhabit. Even if my thumbnail possessed consciousness, along with a vague awareness that it was part of something bigger than itself, could my thumbnail ever fully comprehend the human body in all its intricate complexity? Certainly not. But it would make even less sense for my thumbnail to cling to the belief that it was all there was, denying the existence of the greater body.

Becker also admits to being unable to fathom heaven (point six). To which I would respond that neither can anyone else. But saying “I’ve never been to the center of the earth; I just can’t imagine what it would be like there,” is not to admit that the center of the earth does not exist.

Religion is not the only field to offer seemingly incomprehensible conclusions; just look at science. People struggled to accommodate themselves to Copernicus’ heliocentric theory, Newton’s physics, and Einstein’s theory of relativity. When we study the world from a scientific perspective, as from a religious perspective, there exists the same condition of knowing something without fully comprehending it. I know that time and space are relative, but my brain still struggles with what that means. I know that God is infinite, but I am likewise at a loss to articulate all the implications of this concept. Don’t even ask for a precise explanation of the trinity. Likewise, even the best, most brilliant scientists struggle to explain the origins of human life or the exact nature of matter. We are time and again forced to admit that there is much we do not know. Thus, Christianity has always acknowledged the existence of mystery. The fact that we cannot comprehend something does not make it untrue.

Secondly, doubt. It is in many ways a mark of intelligence and maturity to be willing to doubt what one has been taught, especially when one encounters different teachings. The alternative would be to refuse to consider opposing views, insisting that one already possesses all the answers and therefore everyone else must be wrong.

So what are we to make of all the religious diversity we encounter? Becker admits this to be the true source of his doubt (point two). He realizes that if he were born into a Mormon family, he would likely be a Mormon. If he had been born in India, he would likely be a Hindu. Religion, then, is just each unique culture claiming an unfounded monopoly on truth. So what if Christians have a book they use to justify their claims? Islam has a book. Mormonism has a book. In Becker’s words, “Nothing distinguishes one religion’s claims as more valid on an evidence based level.”

While this is certainly a common objection in the modern, globalized age, it is not too difficult to dispense with. One can start by pointing to all the similarities between the world’s great religions. Doesn’t the fact that certain teachings crop up in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and Taoism support their validity? Take, for instance, the obligation to care for the weak and needy, the understanding of man as a basically flawed being, the need to cultivate virtue, and the possibility of life after death.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis observes:

If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks, and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own… Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of doublecrossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two make five.”

The commonality of many belief systems from around the world supports natural law theory — the idea that we can use reason, common sense, and experience to arrive at a set of universal moral norms. Any child who has every screamed “That’s not fair!” has appealed to the idea of a universal code of human behavior that all should be able to recognize (though all don’t always follow). It is as if a moral code had been inscribed upon our hearts, a “conscience” if you will. If there is a universal, natural law (beyond mere human laws, which will vary), then there must be a universal law-giver, and this we know as God.

And yet while the world’s diverse cultures have long subscribed to a set of strikingly similar norms of behavior, they are not all the same, and they are not equal. In Hinduism, widows were once burned to death. Various cultures have practiced some form of human sacrifice. Around the world today, there are certain cultures that continue to victimize women and children. The Gospel of Matthew instructs “by their fruits you shall know them.” It is no coincidence that the very idea of human rights and women’s rights first emerged in a Christian context. Christians were the first to oppose infanticide, establishing the first orphanages to care for unwanted children. While some have perverted scripture to attempt to justify slavery, as Becker notes, Christians were also the first to abolish slavery entirely on the grounds that it was in fact anti-Christian.

While similar to other religions in its basis in natural law, Christianity is also unique. It is the only religion to claim to have been founded by God Himself. Muhammad is to Muslim’s but a prophet; Buddha and Confucius were to their followers but wise teachers. Yet Christians believe that Jesus was and is God, the Word made Flesh. No other religion has anything like the Incarnation or the Resurrection. No other religion can provide as firm a foundation for human rights. By becoming human Himself, God endowed humanity with a unique dignity and worth. This fact should be enough to make us pause and consider Christianity as more than just one of many moral systems from which to choose.

People often criticize Christians for trying to convert people of other faiths, as if such an action was based in a negative judgment of their existing faith. But imagine we are all in a river (life), headed for a great waterfall (death). The end seems inevitable, except there is a narrow stream – partially obscured by branches – leading off to the safety of land. Would we criticize someone for venturing out into the raging waters to help others reach the stream of salvation? Or would we more criticize the one who contents himself with his own salvation, letting others choose their own way though knowing it leads to ruin? The latter course is “tolerant,” the former loving.

Becker’s fourth and fifth paths to atheism stem from a complete misunderstanding of the nature of the Bible, which is not one book but a library of seventy-two books, varying greatly in their authors, contexts, and purposes, collected and compiled over the centuries. A mass of writing such as this cannot be expected to be fully understood without a great deal of careful study. If one is intent to cherry-pick verses, it can be easily misread and misunderstood. (This is why the Catholic Church has always pointed to the need for authority in interpreting scripture, and why Luther’s Reformation wrought so many conflicting interpretations.)

However, it is impossible to consider the Bible as a whole and miss the essential message of God’s love for humanity and the importance of compassion and repentance. In his effort to instruct humanity, God did not begin by unloading the entire truth in one sitting, just as we would not begin instructing a child in Shakespeare and Einstein. We would first prepare a foundation, instilling basic concepts of reading, writing, and arithmetic. A child passes through many teachers in his life to prepare him to for his ultimate career, just as God sent many prophets to prepare the way for His Son. In the Gospel, Jesus clearly states that he is establishing a new covenant, not to replace God’s covenant with Abraham, but to complete and perfect it.

The third human obstacle to understanding God is a big one – sin. Beginning with Adam and Eve in the garden, the very first sin sprang from doubts about God’s ultimate goodness (the idea that He might be selfishly hoarding wisdom) and the desire to be like Him: to possess knowledge of good and evil. At the root of all sin is rebellion against God; specifically the desire to replace His judgment with our own. Returning to natural law, C.S. Lewis states:

These, then, are the two points I want to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious desire that they should behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it.

A consequence of human sinfulness is that we live in a pretty messed-up world, a world where even professing Christians do terrible things – not because they are Christian, but because they are human beings, and therefore fallen. The schoolyard bully knows full-well that it is wrong to pick on the weaker kids. He does so anyway. But we humans are also masters of self-delusion. Often at the earliest sensation that what we want to do is wrong, we come up with elaborate justifications, even telling ourselves that it is all for the best.

In Becker’s third point, he criticizes Christians as narcissistic for attributing all the good in their lives to God, as if God cared more about them scoring an “A” on that test or landing a new promotion than the welfare of the millions of people in the world left to suffer. Certainly Christians are not immune from the very human vices of narcissism and vanity. All that is good in our lives does ultimately trace back to God, but what the world calls good is not what God calls good. For example, most people long for riches and would thus celebrate an increase in their personal fortunes. But from the perspective of one’s soul, riches may impede the path to heaven and eternal life; thus they can be bad. As Christians, we should perhaps begin to thank God more for the challenges and obstacles in our lives, especially those that provide opportunities for spiritual growth, and get rid of this notion that God just wants us to be happy and comfortable.

All this talk of sin makes atheists like Becker especially uncomfortable, as it leads to the most abhorrent of states – guilt. This is no surprise, as the creed of postmodernism may as well be “always feel good about yourself, no matter what!” How terrible to sense that one may not be as good as one would like to believe! How awful to imagine that one’s sexual desires should sometimes (as in the case of homosexuality and adultery) be suppressed and not indulged! How can man ever be truly happy if he is always obsessed with following rules?!

To Becker, there should really only be one rule – “just be a nice person.” In this very popular line of thinking, we should stop preaching our “thou shalt not’s” and just leave people alone for goodness’-sake. Remove the warning lights and the guardrails. Because the last thing we would ever want is to make someone feel like they are not “just fine the way they are,” like they have the potential to be so much more, like this life is not the end. Becker finds the very concept “gross,” and he is glad to be free of it. But returning to the analogy of the waterfall, is it “nice” to watch as people float by towards the waterfall, oblivious to the impending disaster? Or is it at best moral laziness and cowardice? The path of repentance is uncomfortable to be sure, but the path of sin does not lead to happiness, in this life or the next.

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A Question for Atheists

In 2012, a Gallup International poll found that 12% of global respondents identify as “convinced atheists.” In China, the figure is 47%, followed by Japan at 31% and France at 29%. In the United States, self-identified atheists have risen from 1% in 2005 to 5% in 2012. While this is still a very small figure, atheism predominates in certain metropolitan areas and career fields. A friend of mine living in Seattle recently expressed her frustration over the intolerance of the secular Left: “Up there, people think you’re an idiot if you believe in God.”

Make no mistake, even the historically religious United States is becoming increasingly atheistic. Since 2005, America has seen best-sellers on atheism by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and others. Religion is routinely mocked on social media and television, while atheism is portrayed as mature, rational, and tolerant.

America’s religious divide is also generational. Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) are the least religious demographic in America, and they are bucking past trends by becoming less religious as they age. Even writing from the Bible Belt, I have observed signs of a rising atheism amongst my high school students. A couple years ago, I was surprised when nine or ten students in a single class decided, unprovoked, to proclaim their atheism (I would never question students about their personal religious beliefs; we happened to be discussing the role of religion in early societies). Their line of reasoning went something like this: “Religion is great for people who find comfort in all that ‘God’ stuff, but as an educated person, I know better.”

Which leads to my question for atheists: where do you get your faith?

I understand people who believe in God, but have been turned off by organized religion. Periodic scandals, perceptions of moral hypocrisy, and revulsion over past misdeeds may be enough to discourage potential followers. On the other hand, a culture steeped in secularism or just general apathy might prevent someone from going to church, though they still believe in God and even pray on occasion. These are the unaffiliated believers, and their position (though not one I would endorse) makes a certain sense. It offers a starting point, at least, from which to move towards a deeper encounter with God.

I also understand people who feel that we humans simply cannot reach definitive conclusions regarding the divine, including some agnostics. Catholicism teaches that the exact nature of God is a mystery beyond humanity’s power to fully comprehend. The Trinity and the Incarnation cannot be rationalized without losing an essential part of their Truth. This makes some people uncomfortable, and they would rather not even attempt to understand something beyond the limits of human reason.

But to look out at creation and proclaim: “I know there is no Creator!” is beyond me. How do you know?

Imagine that I were to place a sealed up cardboard box in front of you and ask you what was inside it. You could shake, smell, and feel the box, but not open it.

If you were to hear clucking and the flutter of feathers, you would rationally suspect that the box contained a chicken. Even if no noises were to come from the box, you would be unable to rule out the possibility that it contained something very light or inanimate.

An atheist is someone who looks at the box and confidently proclaims: “There is nothing inside that box!”

Really? How do you know?

Merriam-Webster defines atheism as “a disbelief in the existence of divinity” or “the doctrine that there is no deity.” Both positions contradict logic and experience, but the latter is just absurd. How can one ever be 100% convinced that God does not exist?

Here’s another popular thought experiment. Imagine the world is made up of little cardboard boxes. You open the first to discover a red ball. You open the second and find another red ball. This goes on for hundreds and even thousands of boxes—all contain red balls. Just as you are about to open the millionth box, I ask you what it contains. “A red ball,” would be your likely answer. But what if the millionth box contains a white ball? You have no way of knowing until you open it.

Atheism is thus unscientific. It presupposes not only that mankind has never discovered support for the existence of a Creator, but that it will never discover evidence of a Higher Power at any point in the future. In fact, much of science already points to the existence of God. The most persuasive of these arguments is the sheer improbability of life in the universe. Scientists used to believe that the only necessary conditions for a planet to support life were size and distance from a star of sufficient warmth. But they have since discovered a multitude of other conditions, the absence of any one of which would render life on Earth impossible. It’s almost as if Earth was designed for life.

Atheists cannot explain the origin of the universe. The Big Bang theory supports the idea of a Creator by positing that all matter originated from a single point. In fact, if one little thing had gone differently at the moment of the Big Bang, none of the elements would have been able to form.

Atheists cannot explain the origin of life. They would rather believe that life originated from an improbably lucky accident or outer space (which, if so, how did it get there?) than entertain the possibility of a creator God.

Ironically, atheism is not without its crowned saint – Charles Darwin. His theory of evolution has long been atheism’s best argument or most cherished dogma, depending on your point of view. Never mind that atheists cannot explain how the universe or life originated; they claim to know that human life evolved from the most basic single-celled organism over millions of years by pure chance.

While persuasive on some level, this argument still has several holes. We can observe natural selection at work, or the process by which a species better adapts to its environment. But, to use the classic example, the fact that more black moths survived to reproduce that white moths in industrial Britain does not in any way refute the existence of God. What we have never observed is a species becoming another species. Currently the best theory as to the mechanism of evolution on a macro scale is random genetic mutation. But this explanation cannot account for the fact that most genetic mutations are harmful and/or can’t be passed on to offspring. The theory of Intelligent Design seems a persuasive alternative to me, but to many atheists this position is no better than Creationism; to be taken seriously, one must deny any role for God at the outset.

So what explains atheism’s appeal, especially among the young, urban, and educated?

My guess is that some people are just confused. They would like to believe in God, but falsely believe God has been disproved by science. Others are apathetic; they just don’t care. But for others, atheism fits nicely into their secular worldview. If there is no God, then I get to be my own god. If I was made not by a Creator, but by a series of lucky mutations, then there is nothing to keep me from remaking myself in the image of my choosing. I get to set my own rules, unconstrained by divine teaching or natural limits. Furthermore, I get the elitist’s satisfaction of believing myself superior to the ignorant masses, along with the occasional chuckle at their expense.

Atheists like to point to all the wars that have been fought over religion, but they ignore the far greater number that have been fought over just this sort of hubris, including the worst tragedies of the 20th century. The Nazis and the Soviets both rejected God, whether explicitly or implicitly, and decided to take human evolution into their own hands. They sought to remake not just society but mankind himself, with disastrous consequences. In the case of the Nazis, they even quoted Darwin in the process.

This is not to say that atheists are bad people—far from it. There can be and have been many good atheists or agnostics, just as there have been religious people who nevertheless committed heinous crimes. To worship is natural, and so is to doubt. But to categorically deny the existence of a Creator is unscientific, and atheism requires far greater faith than Christianity. My question once again for atheists is: where do you get your faith?

In Defense of Matt Walsh and Jesus Christ

I am a follower of the Matt Walsh blog. While I would not always use his choice of words, I tend to agree with about 95% of what he has to say. I like the fact that we are both young, Catholic conservatives and parents of small children. Reading his posts reminds me that I am not completely alone in my generation, which is reassuring to say the least. I often wish I had Matt Walsh’s courage. As his site claims, he is a “professional speaker of truths,” someone who doesn’t care about making friends or being universally adored. Unfortunately, I know that this sort of honest, no-holds-barred approach to blogging could easily cost me my job as a teacher at a secular public high school. Since my blog provides approximately $0 in income, I need to be very careful about what I say and how I say it. Some topics I have to avoid altogether.

I often write, reread, rewrite, and rearrange my posts for hours before I feel like I have finally gotten my point across in a way that is both effective and safe. I try to be objective and dispassionate, to the extent that this is possible. Still, my best blogging (or most popular, at least) usually pours out in a stream of consciousness when I am particularly ticked off about something. So far I’ve had two posts garner over 2,000 hits. Both were quickly-written and barely-edited pieces on “controversial” topics making points so obvious they would have once been considered common sense (birth control is your own responsibility; Bruce Jenner is not a woman). But until I can actually quit my day job and make a living as a professional truth-speaker, I will be forced to engage in some level of self-censorship.

Well, a few days ago something really ticked me off. I saw on my blogging site that someone had written a viral hit-piece on Matt Walsh entitled “Jesus Would Hate This Christian Blogger Just As Much As You Do.”

The title alone pretty much identifies the piece as complete and total bullshit. The dead give-away is that it puts “Jesus” and “Hate” in the same sentence. Author Jennifer Martin goes on to adopt a format she must think is extremely clever: contrasting excerpts from Walsh’s blog that have been completely taken out of context with verses from the Bible that have been completely taken out of context.

True to form, Walsh has already written an excellent response in which he utterly destroys Martin’s “logic,” so I’ll let him speak in his own defense. As a fellow Christian blogger with about 1/1,000,000 of his audience, I know a bit of what it’s like to be attacked for your views, and the courage it requires to go against the cultural mainstream. Whether liberal or conservative, Christian or atheist, blogging on controversial topics is always a risk. Being attacked on the Internet isn’t just an occupational hazard; it’s a job requirement. If you’re not being slammed by someone, chances are you’re doing it wrong.

No, my irritation is not on Walsh’s behalf—a man I don’t know and have never met. He has clearly done very well for himself and is quite capable of handling the daily attacks launched in his direction. Rather, my frustration is on behalf of Christians everywhere who are tired of being told what Jesus would do by people who so clearly don’t know and don’t care. I’m tired of the innate openness and understanding of many Christians being used against them in a sort of cultural jujitsu. I’m tired of Christians feeling like they have to constantly prove their tolerance to their progressive friends, lest they be labeled a bunch of bigoted haters. Most of all, I’m tired of the true message of Christ being watered down into an impotent, wishy-washy compilation of slogans better suited for bumper stickers than leading anyone to salvation.

By now we are all familiar with the liberal line on Christianity. According to progressives, Jesus was basically a bearded, peace-loving hipster who came to earth just to tell people to “Chill, man! Be cool! Don’t judge, and all that.” We are told that, were he around today, hipster Jesus would be picketing with Occupy Wall Street or leading a Pride rally.

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I’m sorry, but that is not my religion. Jesus was not about going along to get along, and neither is my faith. When reading the Gospel, I have never been struck with the revelation of “Oh! So we’re just supposed to let people do whatever they want and mind our own business!” That kind of understanding of Christianity can only result from a very minimal and selective reading of the Bible, if in fact the Bible is consulted at all. If that was all there was to Christianity, why did much of Jesus’ society and the most powerful empire in the world find it so threatening? Conversely, why did his early followers find it so appealing that they were willing to lay down their lives in His name? If all Jesus wanted was for people to be tolerant and get along, why was he put to death? You would think Caesar would have wanted him front and center.

Instead, Jesus was publicly humiliated, beaten, and ultimately put to death for his refusal to compromise or water down the truth—that He is the Son of God. Pilot did not want to kill Jesus. He offered him several chances to take the easy way out. But the real Jesus of the Bible—not hipster Jesus of the liberal imagination—was not afraid to rub people the wrong way. He was not afraid to call people out for their immoral behavior at the risk of personal ridicule (much like Matt Walsh, though I’m obviously not proposing his deification). Jesus was unpopular, controversial, and at times confrontational. He lived and dwelt amongst sinners, showing them great love and compassion, but He never condoned their sin.

The truth is, Christianity is a very demanding religion, a radical creed that is not for the faint of heart. I realize this may come as a surprise to some, as what passes for Christianity these days can seem like nothing more than feel-good, prosperity-Gospel platitudes, but that was not the original message. True Christianity requires even popes and kings to acknowledge their sinfulness and to humble themselves before the Lord. True Christianity makes no promises of worldly success; rather it risks great persecution and suffering. True Christianity demands the radical giving of oneself to others and accepts nothing less. (Recall the wealthy man who could not bring himself to give up his riches to follow Jesus.) Like Judaism and Islam, Christianity demands adherence to a system of moral laws that must be followed, even when they contradict one’s personal desires or ambitions. If you want a religion that allows you to make your own rules and just do whatever feels right, you should look elsewhere and leave Christianity alone.

Unfortunately, the progressive attempt to redefine Christianity is working. We have become so thoroughly secularized that even many Christians are uncomfortable with public displays of faith or prayer (“I’ll pray for you! Um, I mean, I’ll send you good vibes!” “Merry Christ— er, Happy Holidays!”). Many Christians now truly believe that it is not for them to judge anything anyone else does. You do you, and I’ll do me. But here’s the truth: sin hurts. Sin hurts the sinner, and sin hurts everyone else. There is no such thing as a “victimless sin.” When we stand by and ignore sin, when we “tolerate” it, we are letting people hurt themselves. If you saw someone preparing to slash their wrists or fall off a bridge, would you stand aside and think, “Hmmm, maybe not the best idea, but it’s not for me to judge?” Or would you at a bare minimum point out the harm that person is about to do to themselves and others who might copy their example? Aristotle recognized that there is no happiness outside of virtue; likewise, there is only pain in vice.

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Sorry Jennifer Martin, but you do not get to redefine Christianity to suit your progressive purposes. No, Jesus was not an early supporter of the transgender movement (a conclusion you support pretty weakly with His acceptance of eunuchs and celibacy). Jesus was not a radical feminist, or a communist. You are free to be all of these things, but don’t project your secular values onto Christ.

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Liberals like Martin are particularly fond of quoting Luke 6:37, “Judge not, and you will not be judged.” There are 807,361 words in the Bible, but these eight are their favorite. However, then as now, there are two different meanings of the word “judge.” One meaning is to discern between two things (i.e. good and evil); the other is to condemn. Given the full context of this verse, and the context surrounding Matthew 7:1 (“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.”), Christians are clearly instructed not to judge only in the second sense of the word.

The rest of Luke 6:37 reads “Condemn not, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” The point is clearly that we are to show forgiveness, love, and mercy to our fellow man; not tolerance of their sin. It is not our place to condemn others. We sit in final judgment of no man’s soul. However, we are specifically instructed on numerous occasions to discern between good and evil, and to act accordingly. Take the following examples:

“Do not judge according to appearances, but instead judge a just judgment.” John 7:24

“And why do you not, even among yourselves, judge what is just?” Luke 12:57

“The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom, and his tongue talks of judgment.” Psalm 37:30

“You shall not do what is unjust, nor shall you judge unjustly. You shall not consider the reputation of the poor, nor shall you honor the countenance of the powerful. Judge your neighbor justly.” Leviticus 19:15

“Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:9

“Whoever despises me and does not accept my words has one who judges him. The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him on the last day.” John 12:48

How can anyone read this and still believe Christianity is just about tolerance? My guess is Jennifer Martin has not read the entire Bible, or even the majority of it. Rather she has sought out a few odd verses to assist in her condemnation of Matt Walsh, thus engaging in the very sort of judgment Jesus actually proscribes.

Dictionary.com defines a hypocrite as “a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.” Martin compares Walsh to the Pharisees, but he is no hypocrite. He judges in the proper sense of the word—that of discerning between good and evil—while always acknowledging his own sinfulness. Ironically, Martin and others like her are the real hypocrites. They loudly proclaim their tolerance, and yet refuse to tolerate Christians. They attack conservatives for their arrogance, but they have the arrogance to believe there is no law greater than their own. They feign outrage at “judgmental” Christians, but are the quickest to judge all who do not agree with them.

Secular liberals know that true Christianity is the largest obstacle standing in the way of their quest to radically transform society and human nature itself. They know they cannot defeat Christianity outright, so they seek instead to neuter it—to deprive it of all its power and beauty by reducing it to a handful of feel-good platitudes. They have been trying to redefine the Christian faith for the last 2,000 years, and they will continue to do so until the final Day of Judgment. We cannot let them.

We Need More than a Strategy for ISIS

By Lauren Gillespie

In what may come to be regarded as a low point in his presidency, Obama admitted at a press conference last week that “we don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with ISIS. It’s bad enough to witness the leader of the free world golfing and fundraising while barbarians are beheading American journalists, persecuting Christians, and clearly signaling their intent to strike the homeland. The thought that he would do so in the absence of a clear strategy to defeat (degrade? contain?) them is beyond comprehension.

Much could and has been written about the shocking level of incompetence necessary to produce such words. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that our problem with Islamic supremacism in general and ISIS in particular goes beyond having a clear strategy to defeat them (though this is certainly important) and cuts to the very core of our identity. It’s not enough to oppose the mission of ISIS; we need to have a greater one of our own.

This starts with recognizing what it is that makes radical jihad appealing, even to certain segments of our own population. This is necessary not to excuse or emulate their ideology, but rather to understand it. Something attracts young men in particular to their cause, or else 100 Americans (that we know of) and 1,500 Britons would not be fighting alongside an enemy that has sworn our destruction. It’s not wealth. It’s not the promise of a long, comfortable life. So what is it?

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a George Orwell review of Mein Kampf from 1940. In it, he rightly condemns Hitler as a lunatic, but also notes the underlying appeal of Nazism. Orwell observes that Hitler “has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude” and the progressivist view that “human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security, and avoidance of pain.”

Like Nazism, Islamic extremism offers neither comfort nor security — the ostensible goals of the welfare state — but rather sacrifice in the name of a sacred mission. In the end, the differences between Aryan supremacism and Islamic supremacism are minor. Both are fascist, as they meld religion and government into one and the same thing. Both call their members to fight for a glorious cause, to be part of something greater. Both view themselves as liberators from an enemy that is both decadent and despicable, grown weak and soft in nature and yet wielding a power disproportionate to its merits. In other words, the jihadists view us the way the Nazis viewed the Jews.

ISIS is a militant ideology. To defeat them, we need both a better military (check) and a better ideology. What do we stand for? What are we willing to die for?

These questions are perhaps not as easy to answer as they once were. We seem to lack even the language necessary to frame such a cause, so afraid are we to give offense. Diversity and tolerance are good to a certain degree, but who would lay down their lives in the name of multiculturalism, or even libertarianism? No soldier ever charged into battle crying: “I risk my life for the right of everyone to do whatever they want, no matter how perverse, so long as they don’t directly harm anyone else!”

This is not to say that our culture need be monolithic. The Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War and the brave men who stormed the beaches of Normandy had ancestors who hailed from Ireland, Germany, Italy, and West Africa. But while their backgrounds and origins were diverse, the vast majority accepted Judeo-Christian principles of freedom, inclusiveness, and the intrinsic value of human life. Like our Founding Fathers, they acknowledged the existence of good and evil, as well as the human temptation to choose the latter. You don’t have to be a Jew or a Christian to share these values, but it helps to recognize that they arose in a specifically Judeo-Christian context.

In Turkey, Obama famously declared: “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.” A few days ago, Alveda King called him out on this, asking that he bring us back to God and supply some righteous indignation. This goes beyond politics. When it comes to rallying a population in the face of an existential threat, even the dollars and cents capitalism favored by so many fiscal conservatives falls short. If we are all just here by accident, if our goals in life are merely material and temporal, then what does it matter if a community thousands of miles away is tortured, displaced, and persecuted?

Like Orwell observed, people desire more than material comfort. On a fundamental level, we yearn for a higher purpose– for truth and justice. But in the place of our traditional values, new beliefs have seeped into our culture that divide Americans by class, gender, and race, eschewing the very notion of a common purpose. In order to ignore the gross injustices that abound in the world and our own society, we seize upon the slightest perceived offense. We waste ink and breath debating the name of the Washington Redskins and the existence of a “war on women” while studiously ignoring the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East and the unborn in our own communities. Western feminists do nothing to address the atrocities committed against women in Africa and Asia, including genital mutilation, acid attacks, and rape, while devoting themselves to the causes of free birth control and unlimited access to abortion. It’s embarrassing.

Many Americans today, especially in my own generation, would rather adopt an attitude of “don’t judge me and I won’t judge you” than expose themselves to increased scrutiny and charges of hypocrisy. But multiculturalism, consumerism, and moral relativism will not be enough to defend ourselves against Islamic supremacism and other fascist incarnations. Neither will adopting our own “convert or die” extremist mentality. We defeated Nazism and Soviet communism in large part because we believed our values of freedom and democracy were worth fighting for. We need to figure out how to fight ISIS. But we also need to remember why.