Tim Dunkin: Worldviews Matter

Perhaps the oddest news story from the past week was the one where PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is suing SeaWorld, alleging that the water-based theme park's holding and use of five killer whales in its shows constitutes “slavery” that is illegal under the 13th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Yes, you read that right. PETA has filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court complaining that whales are being denied their Constitutional right of protection against involuntary servitude. In PETA's view of things, keeping a non-sentient animal in a tank of water and encouraging it to do tricks so it can receive chunks of tuna as rewards is on the same moral and ethical plane as holding human beings in bondage and forcing them to work in cotton fields in the hot sun for 14 hours a day. What's more troublesome is that this case wasn't immediately thrown out on the grounds of sheer stupidity – this nonsense is actually going to most likely receive a day in court, wasting taxpayer money and the time of an already overloaded legal system in the process.

Can anybody out there remember when America was a serious nation?

Unfortunately, in the last few decades this sort of idiocy has become increasingly commonplace. The reason for this is that the Judeo-Christian worldview upon which this country was founded, and which is the most reasonable and rational view of our world and human society, has been disregarded and rejected by an increasing number of Americans. This is, has been, and will continue to be to the detriment of this country and her people. In place of this reasoned worldview, two alien systems, both inane in their own ways, have arisen. It is to these that most of the ills of the modern world are related.

Let's face it – as much as many might like to deny it, the Judeo-Christian worldview was what allowed Western civilization to “break out” from so many of the ills that held other civilizations back. In no other intellectual and moral climate did you find the understanding of the “essential individual” that stems, ultimately, from the biblical view of man as a special creature, made in the image of God, who deserves to have his individual humanity affirmed and respected. This is why slavery – that great evil that has afflicted most of mankind for nearly all of our history – was only broadly and firmly opposed in Christian lands. Only in the Christian West did it come to be understood that owning another human being as if they were an animal or a piece of furniture was morally wrong, in and of itself. Certainly, even our pre-Christian Western forbearers – the Greeks and the Romans – did not arrive at this conclusion. Aristotle defended slavery as entirely natural, saying that mankind naturally divides into two types of people – freemen and slaves. Plato felt that it was “natural” for the superior to rule over the inferior, thus justifying slavery. The Romans, who were tremendous enslavers of their fellow man, believed that slaves were on par with household furniture, to be dealt with only and entirely as the master felt should be done. Slavery, of course, has been a feature in every pagan society across the world, past and present, still existing within Islamic societies to this day.

For those who might wish to rebut by pointing to the antebellum twisting of the Bible to justify slavery by some in the American South, we should note that Southern society was also at this time in the grip of a Neo-Classical “revival” that went along with the rise of Romanticism in the early-to-mid 19th century. Hence, the reason for the Roman-style architecture, and the reason for the Roman-style defenses of slavery as “natural” (when the Bible itself never defends or condones chattel slavery). Southerners defended slavery because they were being misled by neo-classical ideas gotten from the revival of interest in the classical world. In essence, they were misusing the Bible to defend Classical conceptions, rather than submitting to the biblical message.

The Judeo-Christian worldview of the post-classical West led gradually to the acceptance of the end of slavery as an institution. Likewise, this worldview is the reason why we even have such concepts as “human rights,” “individual liberties,” and “political freedom.” There could have been no Magna Carta, Mayflower Compact, Charter of Privileges, Declaration of Independence, or US Constitution in a pagan society dominated by a pagan worldview. In fact, there never were. Likewise, there could have been no division between the religious and the secular realms into separate areas of competency as has really only been seen in the Judeo-Christian West, starting with the Aquinian teachings on subsidiarity and finding its fullest fruition in the Baptist-inspired freedom of religion enshrined in our Constitution. In pagan societies, the priests rule the kings with complete control, and the kings are worshipped as gods on the earth. Not so in even the most medieval of Western societies that arose after the fall of the western Empire.

Only in the Judeo-Christian West has mankind really and truly broken free of the sense of fatalism that drives mankind to simply accept his surroundings as they are, rather than seeking to change them for the better. Indeed, it was this sense of fatalism, the resignation to the inability to do anything about one’s circumstances, that crippled Hellenistic man, with his astrology and his slavery to Fate, and from which Christianity freed him. Christianity, in essence, gave man free will and the responsibility to exercise it, and to face the consequences of his actions. From this, Western man received the drive to improve his surroundings and his own lot in life that led to things like free-market capitalism and industry.

Without the Judeo-Christian worldview, there would be no science as we know it. This worldview presupposes that the universe was created by a God who has chosen to make His handiwork knowable. The world around us is investigable, friendly to discovery, and in fact, we are given the mandate to do so through the injunction to “subdue” the earth in Genesis 1:28 – the earth is something that it is within our power to understand, to control, to use for our own benefit, within the bounds of the stewardship we are to exercise. It was only in the Christian West that science and the scientific method really flowered. Even in ancient Greece, as rational and scientific as it is reputed to have been, there was little in the way of true experimental, investigative science, rather than haphazard attempts at some data systemization engaged upon by a few thinkers. Science and the scientific method flowered along with, and because of, the Reformation and the Scottish Enlightenment (which, unlike the Italian Enlightenment, was not enamored with Neo-Platonism and neo-pagan thought in general), and it was at the hands of Christian scientists that many of our most fundamental scientific disciplines were founded and built up.

Now, however, we here in America, and the West in general, have faced the undermining of this formative worldview by two alien concepts – atheistic materialism and neo-pagan spiritualism.

In many ways, these two concepts give similar results, because they both deny specific things about the Judeo-Christian worldview that gave us the benefits listed above. They both discard the notion that mankind is a special creation of a loving God, separated from the rest of the created order and given dominion over it. They both reject the special individuality of the human being, the notion that each one of us is a special creature, made by God, individual and unique, with a particular purpose and plan for our lives. Each denies that man has free will and freely makes choices that have moral content and consequences, instead saying that we are all driven by unfeeling, blind, unalterable forces of chance and determinism.

And as these competing worldviews have gained ground in our civilization, we have seen that all of the things that made our Western world unique and great have been decaying. We are lapsing back into the morass of totalitarianism and the submission of the individual to the faceless mass and the soulless state. The divisions of power that helped to make Western societies freer are being replaced by a recentralization of power back into the hands of a small elite. The optimism and hope for the future is disappearing, being supplanted either by the determinism of blind chance taught by materialists, or by the nebulous, contentless mindfuzz of the Oprah-style “spirituality” that empties the mind of objective thought and reason so that it can be filled with subjectivity and

unreason. Even the quality of science is declining – real investigation is being replaced by cherry-picked and engineered results designed to “prove” the reality of some leftist bugaboo like global warming, regardless of what the full body of data actually says. Science, in many cases, is not so much interested in finding out how the world really works, but how politicians with an agenda would like for it to work.

Obviously, both of these competing worldviews are non-reasonable. Atheistic materialism, despite its self-proclaimed “rationality,” is simply irrational in many of its tenets. It’s irrational to dismiss causality by believing that everything started from nothing, with no cause, without the input of an extra-temporal and extra-systematic Intelligence. It’s silly to posit that life started from non-life, relying upon arguments about chemistry that a sophomore chemistry major could refute. It’s obvious foolishness to believe that consciousness consists “merely” of chemical reactions inside physical organs of the body – reactions which are still there and doing their thing, even shortly after death has occurred. It’s simply ludicrous to believe that man is just another animal – like a slug or a blue jay – and has no moral difference from them.

It is this materialism that led to all kinds of evils from Robespierre to Kim Jong-il. Materialism, it can be fairly said, killed more people in two centuries than all the religious wars one could care to name or imagine in the previous fifty-eight.

The neo-paganism of the new spirituality that has enveloped the West for the past century and a half, starting with Transcendentalism, continuing through Theosophy, Anthroposophy, esotericism, the revival of astrology and other forms of divination, down to today’s obsession with false teachers like Deepak Chopra, Oprah Winfrey, Wayne Dyer, and the rest, as well as Eastern mysticism, has done even greater damage to our civilization at a root level, even if it has not (yet) caused the massive wars of ideology that started with the French Revolution and continued to the Cold War. Abortion could never have made an inroad in America if the ground had not already been prepared with the notion that an unborn child is not “really” a person, and what does a person matter for anywise, since we’re all just part of a great big, ever-changing “system”? Homosexuality has become accepted only because so many people have rejected the notion that there are clear rights and wrongs, and that “boundaries” should be removed – not just the boundaries of social taboos, but even the boundaries inherent in nature, such as “male” and “female.” Our liberties in so many areas are being taken away because of the neo-pagan environmentalist agenda that views the good of “mother Gaia” as being more important than the good of human kind. As the notion that mankind is separate from and has dominion over the natural world has been replaced by the Lovelockian “Gaia hypothesis” in which we are just another part of a greater, interlocking, self-correcting planetary system, the notion that human kind might not even be good, but is instead a “virus” that needs to be “removed” by mother Earth has taken root in some circles, and even in broader circles has led to more “benign” notions about “population control,” “sustainable living,” and the like.

“Well,” you might say, “I don’t really care about all that religious-sounding hocus pocus because I’m an economic conservative, and all I care about are pocketbook issues.” Okay. Well, you still need to be concerned about worldviews. After all, the fact that the neo-pagan enviro-spirituality has gained such a foothold in our policy-making apparatus is a lot of the reason why your life is so much more expensive and troublesome than it would otherwise have to be. This is the reason why your gasoline and electricity are so expensive, since we are being hindered from burning clean coal and drilling for more oil. This is why you can potentially be fined thousands of dollars and/or be thrown in jail for accidentally disturbing a “wetland” you didn’t even know what on your property. It’s why you can’t build that treehouse for your kids in the back yard, and is why you have to pay “compensation” for “greenway” you pave over when improving your own land. It’s why your food is more expensive as farmland is artificially restricted because of environmental concerns about some endangered species. It’s even why you have to use that more expensive coolant in your air conditioners, rather than the CFCs that we formerly used, but were banned on spurious environmentalist claims – thank James Lovelock of the Gaia Hypothesis for that one.

And it’s why you, as a taxpaying productive citizen of this Republic, may well have to help pay for a federal court trial to decide whether whales have the same constitutional rights as you do.

Further, you, as a good capitalistic free-market, liberty-living economic conservative, have benefited from the Judeo-Christian worldview in our civilization. It’s why we even had true free-market, laissez-faire capitalism in the first place; why you, as an autonomous economic actor, could start a business or otherwise work to advance yourself as you saw fit. This worldview is why you enjoy the comfortable, high standard of living that you do today. It’s why you’re free to worship as you see fit, or not to at all. The Judeo-Christian worldview is what makes your libertarianism possible.

Hence, we see that worldviews really are important, and we need to be concerned about the direction our society is taking as a result of the shifting of worldview paradigms. They’re not dusty old concepts that should only matter to the kind of raving ideologues who would write articles about worldviews. They impact you and me in our daily lives. How a society views itself, views its constituent parts, views the nature of man, views our interaction with the natural world – these will go a long way towards determining the objective character of that society. Some worldviews are better than others – and the Judeo-Christian worldview is obviously superior to its two challengers, because of the results we see from each. If you don’t care about the fundamental bases of our society, maybe it’s time you started?