Of all the commentary on the recent Charleston shooting, perhaps the most intriguing comes from one David Noise, writing on psychologytoday.com. In his article, Noise attempts to make the case that “anti-intellectualism” and the abandonment of reason are to blame not only for the Charleston tragedy, but also for what he terms, “the killing of America”. “America,” Noise writes, “is killing itself through its embrace and exaltation of ignorance, and the evidence is all around us.” This is an interesting take on things, but hardly unique or original. David Noise is falling into precisely the same grave error that spurred what was perhaps the greatest tragedy in the history of mankind. He claims that, “the impact of fundamentalist religion in driving American anti-intellectualism has been, and continues to be, immense.” This writer, however, begs to differ.
Noise goes on to cite several examples of anti-intellectualism in America, and his thesis could be summed up thus: Pure human reason is the answer to all of society’s ills. His pride in such a claim is palpable. It is this pride that is so terribly blinding and crippling David Noise’s judgement on the issue of anti-intellectualism. The problem in America is not anti-intellectualism insofar as anti-intellectualism is a lack of human reason. The real culprit in the killing of America is the separation of human reason from morality. Morality is the law of God, and when our human reason rebels against this law, it is known as sin.
Sin is the primary cause of the darkening of the intellect. Thus it could be said that anti-intellectualism is essentially nothing more than sin, and in that sense Noise is correct in labeling it as the killer of America. Sin is the real evil in America, and religion is the only antidote to sin. This pure human reason that Noise is so enthralled with is precisely what causes tragedies such as the Charleston shooting, and religion is precisely what prevents such things from happening. This is where Noise has gone wrong. He has inadvertently come close to diagnosing the problem within America, but his faulty logic has led him to arrive at the exact wrong conclusion for his solution to the problem.
Human reason is only capable of evil when it is not coupled with morality. Reason without the foundation of morality is little more than animal instinct. If one completely disregards morality and only weighs pure human reason in his decision-making, he will act essentially the same as (or worse than) an animal. The atheistic mass-murderers of the twentieth century attest to this simple truth. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and all the rest were vehement atheists and anti-religious zealots. All were intellectually gifted men who relied only upon their own pride. The results of such a decision-making process speak for themselves. If morality is not coupled with human reasoning powers when making decisions, wouldn’t we all act like or at least sympathize with the mass-murdering dictators of the twentieth century? When only human reasoning is employed, it makes perfect sense to simply dispose of those who do not agree with our agenda. It makes perfect sense to do away with the lame, crippled, and weakest members of society. The only reason such mass-murders are an aberration is because morality tells our human reasoning that such actions are immoral.
Even the most hardened atheist will have to agree that morality is necessary in order for any society to function. The debate, then, must center upon where morality comes from. The religious person will say that our morality is a result of our following a religious code set forth by God, but the atheist will always counter that they do not need God to be moral. This was the constant arguing point of the late, famous atheist, Christopher Hitchens. He never denied that morality was imperative, but always rejected the notion of morality stemming from religion. Hitchens’ frequent debate partner, Dinesh Dsouza, pointed out time and again that atheism is responsible for an overwhelming majority of the most terrible crimes throughout history, even when juxtaposed with all of the combined religions throughout the world. Noise attempts to counter such an argument by pointing out that rates of teen pregnancy in America are highest inside the so-called “Bible Belt” of the U.S. The most religious Americans can be some of the most immoral, Noise is essentially stating, so morality apparently is not derived from religion. Noise is wrong, however, because morality can in fact only be derived from religion.
Morality is not something that can discovered with pure human reasoning. Actually, morality is oftentimes contrary to human reason. If one is in desperate need of money, for example, and happens upon a wallet filled with cash, pure human reason would dictate that the person take the cash and run. It is only when morality is weighed along with human reasoning that the person leaves the cash alone and returns the wallet to its rightful owner. From where does this sense of morality stem if not from human reason? The answer has to be religion. Even if the individual is not themselves religious, they are the product of a religious society which has morality interwoven into its fabric.
One simple example will suffice to prove that morality comes from religion, and, ironically, it can be found in the history of the Ancient Greeks—the very people who first truly discovered and appreciated the reasoning powers of the human mind. It was a common practice in Greek societies to leave newborn babies out in the elements overnight in order to weed out the weakest members of society. If the baby survived the night, they had proved themselves a worthy member of society and would then be taken in by their parents. If the baby did not survive, however, it was considered a good riddance and a great deed for the society. Now only the most fringe, Peter Singer-devoted-lunatic could ever approve of such terribly cruel and inhumane actions. Yet the great minds of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and all the rest had very few qualms about the practice. It wasn’t until Greece was Christianized did the people begin to have a respect for human life. The reasoning powers of some of the greatest human minds in history could not reach the conclusion that abandoning newborns out in the cold was immoral. It was religion and religion alone which made this truth so crystal clear.
Ultimately, David Noise’s error is that he trusts too much, and has too much pride, in our weak human reasoning. This is the same human reasoning that has produced all of the atheistic mass-murdering regimes, and while Noise certainly isn’t advocating murder, he is on a dangerous path. This obsession with reason is extremely reminiscent of one of mankind’s greatest blunders, the French Revolution. The parallel between David Noise’s and (the father of the French Revolution) Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s rhetoric is striking. The entire French Revolution, which tore France from its position as perhaps the greatest country in the world to perhaps the worst country in the world practically overnight, was wholly based upon the exact same obsession with human reason. This obsession with reason led the French people to murder thousands upon thousands of religious citizens simply because religion was seen as the enemy of reason. Reason was the god of the French Revolution, and religious morality was its enemy. David Noise is preaching the French Revolution.
Once morality is divorced from human reason, we are left with the same recipe that produced the terrible French Revolution, which in turn inspired each and every mass-murdering dictatorship the world has ever seen. We simply cannot fall into this snare again. Human reason was not powerful enough to tell the great Greek minds the immorality of their terrible actions, nor was it strong enough to enlighten the intellectual men who turned into mass-murdering dictators. Only morality, which stems from religion, is capable of steering human reasoning in the correct direction. This, then, is our recipe for success in America: More religion and more morality. We must humble ourselves enough to understand that our lowly human reasoning powers are nothing when compared to the great mind that created us. Our only successful course of action for eliminating all of our problems is for Americans to stifle our pride and honor our God by practicing the moral law which He has given to us through His great religion. Only then will we begin to see the healing of America which David Noise, this writer, and every true American so desires.