Abolish religion if you like. Throw everything on secular
government if you like. But do not be surprised if a machinery
that was never meant to do anything but secure external
decency and order fails to secure internal honesty and peace.
No wonder there is so much emotional and relational emptiness. No wonder there is so much addiction and depression. If there is no purpose to life, then does it really matter what we do?… Our increasingly secular world wants to get rid of God and then act as if our lives still matter. But this is misguided. In fact, it’s like trying to play a game of Monopoly when people invent their own rules.
In the twentieth century, the secularists, still living off the spiritual capital of Christianity, often pretended to chide Christians for having invented the term “secularist,” a term which, they said, was devoid of meaning. Their leaders knew very well, however, that secularism, like any other parasite, derives its sustenance from the object on which it feeds, and so they were rather pleased when milquetoast Christians timidly offered, as a definition of secularism, “living as though God did not exist.” What Christians should have called it was, rather, “a contemptibly fraudulent way of living on the cheap, by reaping the maximum fruits of Christian effort, while contributing the minimum effort of your own.” When secularists accused Christians of “living in the past,” the Christians ought to have retaliated by pointing out that secularists were “living off the past.” By the time they got around to doing so, however, the majority of secularists had become morally incapable of seeing the point.
“Just when we are safest,” cries Browning, meaning just when unbelief has successfully thrown off the last clinging trammels of the spiritual interpretation of life, and eliminated to its own satisfaction every trace of a divine purpose for the universe, and secured its position by a confident, impregnable dialectic—
Just when we are safest, there’s a sunset-touch,
A fancy from a flower-bell, some one’s death,
A chorus-ending from Euripedes,—
And that’s enough for fifty hopes and fears
As old and new at once as Nature’s self,
To rap and knock and enter in our soul.
Do you see this lantern? cried Syme in a terrible voice.’Do you see the cross carved on it, and the flame inside? You did not make it. You did not light it. Better men than you, men who could believe and obey, twisted the entrails of iron and preserved the legend of fire. There is not a street you walk on, there is not a thread you wear, that was not made as this lantern was, by denying your philosophy of dirt and rats. You can make nothing. You can only destroy. You will destroy mankind, you will destroy the world. Let that suffice you. Yet this one old Christian lantern you shall not destroy. It shall go where your empire of apes will never have the wit to find it.