We are told that Britain is a place of ‘tacit atheism’.
Whether it is the tragedy of St. George’s Tron being thrown out of their building for taking a stance for biblical standards or the economic recession our greed brought upon us or ongoing cover-up that seems to now be coming to light about Sir Jimmy Savile’s abuse of young girls, it is the laissez-faire attitude to morality which atheism promotes which underlies most news stories in our country.
Although atheists like to give the impression that they are very modern, avant garde and daringly radical, actually there is nothing new about saying there is no God (see Psalm 14.1, Psalm 53.1). And, interestingly, Moses, some 500 years before David the psalmist, explained one of the primary reasons for ‘forgetting God’. He warned Israel. He told them that once they entered the Promised Land they would become prosperous. The land was so fertile that their labour would produce much more than they needed. It would be then that they would be tempted towards tacit atheism. Prosperity gives us the illusion of human independence (Deuteronomy 8.11-18).
Prosperity and ‘no God’
This connection between atheism and material prosperity has been traced by academics. For example, in her book Holding Up A Mirror: How Civilisations Decline, Anne Glyn-Jones explains the findings of the Russian-American thinker Pitirim Sorokin. Sorokin classified societies according to their ‘cultural mentality’ (the way they think about the world). This can be ‘ideational’ (reality is spiritual), ‘sensate’ (reality is material), or ‘idealistic’ (a synthesis of the two). He suggested that major civilisations evolve from an ideational, to an idealistic, and eventually to a sensate (atheistic) mentality. Each of these phases of cultural development not only seeks to describe the nature of reality, but also stipulates the nature of human needs and goals to be satisfied. Sorokin interpreted contemporary Western civilisation as a sensate civilisation dedicated to technological progress and prophesied its fall into decadence.
Putting his theory of the decline of civilisations simply, Sorokin said that society requires a moral framework to function in a stable way. The authority of morality has always been derived from a sense of the divine or the supernatural. It is religious in essence. However, here a dynamic begins to come into play. The proper functioning of a stable / moral society produces economic prosperity. But, as this grows, it tends to influence people to think that material things are all that is really important. From here society feels that it does not need religion or a sense of the divine. This undermines the authority of moral standards, and so leads eventually to the decline of the very social stability which caused the society to prosper in the first place. Sorokin’s work sought to trace this trajectory in the rise and fall of civilisations such as ancient Greece and ancient Rome.
So he, too, would not be surprised at the denial of God in the prosperous contemporary West. This is the big picture for Britain. This is how we got where we are.
The atheist experiment
Since the 1960s, we have decided that we don’t need God. So, we have turned the UK into a gigantic nationwide laboratory to see what happens to life when God is sidelined. Now, after 60 or so years, the results are coming in. Romans 1, which describes the consequences of denying God, has come to life before our very eyes. It’s a rough ride for Christians at present. But have courage. God knows all about the landscape through which we are travelling.
This article was first published in the November 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
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