If chance be the Father of all flesh, disaster is his rainbow in the sky and when you hear: “State of Emergency! Sniper Kills Ten! Troops on Rampage! Youths go Looting! Bomb Blasts School!” It is but the sound of man worshiping his maker. – Steve Turner, “Modern Thinkers’ Creed”
Here in the West, we are all people of the Book. Society as we know it, founded in the Old World and refined upon the shores of the New, derives its fundamental axioms from the Hebrew Scriptures and its New Testament interpretation. The Book, referred to as the Bible, or more accurately the compiled Library of books that comprise the Judeo-Christian canon, stands at the bedrock of Western society. This is not a theocratic claim or an argument of religious supremacy. Specifically, here in the melting pot of the States, the debt owed to Greek, Roman, and certain tenets of Eastern thought within our civic institutions is undeniable. The fact of the matter is, regardless of religion, race, sex, or creed, here in the West we inhabit a civilization that was built primarily on a Biblical understanding of the world and the humans that inhabit it.
All our secular institutions are infused with the theological/philosophical assumptions of the Biblical corpus. The presumption of innocence, the oath to do no harm, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: all of the pillars of Western civilization, whether they be Greco-Roman, English common law, or European Enlightenment in their origins, are at their core an expression of the divine worth of each individual human that is first found in the opening chapters of Genesis. If man is made by God, formed specifically in the image of his Creator, then a certain level of respect is his due on the grounds of shared humanity, a humanity that shares the Divine Image that the Bible claims was impressed upon each individual since our first ancestor’s conception. This level of respect due to each individual human is outlined in the legal, health, economic, and political systems of the West, and wherever that level of respect is denied is the place where those institutions are considered to have failed.
A few verses after the Imago Dei is placed upon mankind, we find the claim that all men share a second attribute: a flaw, a blemish that stems from the first man, a sexually transmitted disease that has been the curse of each generation since our first parents fell from God’s grace. The depravity of man, his ability to engage in evil, and his propensity to live in discord with and make decisions that are contrary to the will of his Creator, is one of the most intellectually resisted and yet empirically verifiable facts of the world we live in.
In this post-modern age there is an ever-increasing intellectual ferocity on the battlefront between the spiritual and the secular. Gone are the days where debate was a conversation, an intellectual exercise. Differences of spiritual opinion are no longer delineated and discussed, rather they are dismissed and ridiculed, and ironically in this enlightened and tolerant age there is the return of battling out opinions by force, not between religious systems, but against them. This day and age sees the prevailing transcendent ideal to be the belief that transcendent ideals don’t exist, and therefore must be eradicated. Rather than clearly drawing lines of argument for and against, the post-modern pulls his sleight of hand and claims that every intellectual battle takes place on no-mans-land: life contains no meaning, let alone a transcendent one, and the chaos of the world today is both a present sign of progress and a proof of past errors.
Throughout our culture and society this post-modern view seems to be the lens through which the majority view the world. No longer people of the Book, we are now people of the Screen, trading meaning to be mined between the pages of the written word for pleasure to be grafted onto our imaginations from images with which we barrage ourselves. We claim reality is all but shadows, mere manipulations thrown on the wall of the cave by those in power, and yet refuse to look away from the silhouettes. To remove the chains and believe in an escape from the darkness or in a Sun outside that provides light is considered laughable, even as we admit the images we crave are indeed manipulation. We seem to have forgotten the cornerstone to our societal foundation, even though it was that cornerstone that generated the society that gives us the freedom, the luxury rather, to forget it.
So how do we cope, as what was holiest and mightiest of all the world has yet owned bleeds to death under our knives? Without the transcendent, how has our society grappled with its self-imposed absence of meaning? In the increasing amount of generated “content” and the rapidly decreasing moral conscience within it, we see the festivals of atonement, the sacred games invented to comfort ourselves, the murderer of all murderers. In his parable, Nietzsche prophesied over one hundred years ago that the madman had come too early, warning the death of God. While it was yet all quiet, he knew soon enough it would be all chaos on the Western front.