Without God, Everything is Permissible

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“If God does not exist, everything is permitted.”

  Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

 

A civilization where belief in God is on the wane, is a civilization where people are merely objects and will be treated as such.  The greatest thinkers of the human race have understood this.  Benjamin Franklin, who was far from being an orthodox Christian, saw what the world would be like without religion in a letter dated December 13, 1757:

Dear Sir,

I have read your manuscript with some attention. By the argument it contains against a particular Providence, though you allow a general Providence, you strike at the foundations of all religion. For, without the belief of a Providence that takes cognisance of, guards, and guides, and may favor particular persons, there is no motive to worship a Deity, to fear his displeasure, or to pray for his protection. I will not enter into any discussion of your principles, though you seem to desire it. At present I shall only give you my opinion that, though your reasons are subtle, and may prevail with some readers, you will not succeed so as to change the general sentiments of mankind on that subject, and the consequence of printing this piece will be, a great deal of odium drawn upon yourself, mischief to you, and no benefit to others. He that spits against the wind spits in his own face.

But were you to succeed, do you imagine any good would be done by it? You yourself may find it easy to live a virtuous life, without the assistance afforded by religion; you having a clear perception of the advantage of virtue, and the disadvantages of vice, and possessing a strength of resolution sufficient to enable you to resist common temptations. But think how great a portion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women, and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes, who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue, and retain them in the practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great point for its security. And perhaps you are indebted to her originally, that is to your religious education, for the habits of virtue upon which you now justly value yourself. You might easily display your excellent talents of reasoning upon a less hazardous subject, and thereby obtain a rank with our most distinguished authors. For among us it is not necessary, as among the Hottentots, that a youth, to be raised into the company of men, should prove his manhood by beating his mother.

I would advise you, therefore, not to attempt unchaining the tiger, but to burn this piece before it is seen by any other person, whereby you will save yourself a great deal of mortification by the enemies it may raise against you, and perhaps a great deal of regret and repentance. If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it?

We found out in the last bloody century the answer to that question.  When we believe in God a dignity is conferred on each man and woman as a fellow child of a loving God.  Abraham Lincoln saw this clearly:

These communities, by their representatives in old  Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: “We  hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are  created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with  certain unalienable rights; that among these are life,  liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This was their majestic  interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their  lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of  the Creator to His creatures. [Applause.] Yes, gentlemen, to  all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their  enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and  likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded,  and imbruted by its fellows. They grasped not only the whole  race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized  upon the farthest posterity. They erected a beacon to guide  their children and their children’s children, and the countless  myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages. Wise  statesmen as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity  to breed tyrants, and so they established these great  self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man,  some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that  none but rich men, or none but white men, were entitled to life,  liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look  up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to  renew the battle which their fathers began — so that truth,  and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues  might not be extinguished from the land; so that no man would  hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles  on which the temple of liberty was being built.

Abraham Lincoln, August 17, 1858

If men are fellow children of a loving God, then our worth is infinite.  If we are merely animals with pretensions, our lives of no more significance than those of gnats, we should not be surprised that men who believe this rubbish will act as if their lives, and the lives of their fellow men, are very cheap, and meaningless, indeed.

 

 

 

 

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8 Comments

  1. I recall reading somewhere that while in London, Franklin attended meetings of ‘The Hellfire Club.’ Do you know anything about this club, whether it was just skeptical, anti-religious, or whatever? Name could have been a joke.

  2. I had to read and write a research paper on The Brothers Karamazov in my college freshman year. Back in 1983 there were no word processors or $190 laptops or $50 laser printers. It took me three hours to typewrite seven pages. This was, again, 1983, and I was not interested in reading about 19th century Russia, the brutal empire that partitioned my ancestors’ Polish homeland and repressed the Polish people and the Catholic Church.

    Getting over that, the point was made that with no God, there is no right or wrong, and anything goes. Nikolai claimed to be an atheist, rejecting the idea of the existence of God, but he never completely bought into the idea.

    Modern atheists rail about organized religion (usually Christianity) blaming religion for all of the wars that have ever taken place. Religion is blamed for the tortures of the Inquisition (overblown in any case and the excesses of Queen Bess are ignored), the repression of science (Galileo!) and general stupidity.

    Atheists are the stupidest. They embrace science, except for when science goes against their political beliefs (when human life begins and the lie of global warming, to name two). Atheists murdered over 100 million people in less than 100 years.

    Atheism – the absolute stupidest idea ever thought up by man.

  3. “I recall reading somewhere that while in London, Franklin attended meetings of ‘The Hellfire Club.’ Do you know anything about this club, whether it was just skeptical, anti-religious, or whatever? Name could have been a joke.”

    There were several “gentlemen” clubs in London that claimed the name of Hellfire. Franklin attended several meetings of one of the milder variants in the early 1770s. He may have gone there to spy on several British aristocrats. He was in England as unofficial agent for the colonies and was the public face of America in England. His diplomatic entanglements got quite convoluted and he established an American spy ring in England. I would hate to have played whist or chess against the cunning Dr. Franklin.

  4. In our age, maybe in all ages, God and the government have been in competition for the hearts and minds of the people. When religion gets in bed with the government, as has been happening since Vatican II with the Catholic Church , the general moral level will tend to be what the government dictates.

  5. “In our age, maybe in all ages, God and the government have been in competition for the hearts and minds of the people. When religion gets in bed with the government, as has been happening since Vatican II with the Catholic Church , the general moral level will tend to be what the government dictates.”

    Exactly. Why the church thinks it can control govt bureaucrats-when no one has ever been able to control govt bureaucrats–I simply do not understand.

    http://www.newsbalance.com/governments-attempts-at-morality/

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