posted by Gene on Jun 25
In this section Keller defends Christianity as a force for peace. Well, actually, no he doesn’t. He admits that religion causes violence and war by tracendentalizing already present cultural differences, making it possible to conflate disagreements into a “cosmic battle between good and evil.” He doesn’t give in entirely, though. He goes on to say, well, secularism is just as bad as religion. He sites several examples I’m sure we’re all familiar with, the Nazi’s, the Soviet Union, and a few others. He adopts Allister McGrath’s idea that in the absence of god, society will “transcendentalize” something else in order to appear morally and spiritually superior. So, to clarify, secular societies worship something else (like the state, or a race) in place of god, with the same negative effects.
Mostly we agree, since Keller is mostly conceding on this one, at least so far. I would like to point out a few things about his half hearted defense.
First, it’s not necessarily either or. I mean, you can have religious conflict, and other conflicts based on a religious like connection to another concept. Usually the two become muddled, religion is used to justify the other conviction, but the root cause is still separate. I mean to say that just because a society is religious, doesn’t mean they aren’t also racist, for example. So religion isn’t an alternative form of justification for violence, it’s an additional form. Just because it’s not the only problem, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be solved.
Second, the examples of terrible secular societies are the ones that completely abolished religion. It is a special sort of authoritarian government that can do something like abolish religion. The sample is biased. Societies that abolish religion are more likely to commit acts of violence just by their authoritarian nature. Societies with high secularity that are not authoritarian are less violent than similarly free, religious nations, see Scandinavia.
The notion that man will necessarily trancendentalize something is not well demonstrated. It is certainly true that societies can, as demonstrated by history, but it has not been demonstrated that it must be so. In fact, the evidence used to suggest such a notion is certainly biased. Even if the tendency to trancendentalize non-religious ideas is pervasive, that is no excuse to continue to allow religion as a further reason for bloodshed.