A House Divided

In June of 1858, Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous “house divided” speech.  Quoting Jesus, he said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  Lincoln didn’t expect the Union to be dissolved, but that the American house would cease to be divided.  “It will become all one thing, or all the other.”  Either the spread of slavery will be stopped, and slavery will be “in the course of ultimate extinction.”  Or the spread will continue until slavery “becomes lawful in all states, old as well as new – North as well as South.”

An old-fashioned Christian, either a Catholic or an Evangelical Protestant, might say something similar today with regard to the current American struggle between Christianity and atheism.  The Christian might say that the United States will become either one thing or the other: either it will become a society in which the taken-for-granted worldview will be atheism, or it will return to the “good old days” when the taken-for-granted worldview was Christianity.

The typical American, in other words, will hold one of two beliefs:

(1) Either that God exists; that God created and governs the world of nature; that God is the foundation of human rights and duties; and that Jesus Christ was God Incarnate who died for our sins.

(2) Or that God is a myth, rather like Santa Claus; that the world of nature and the laws that govern it are the byproducts of chance; that there is no moral law higher than man-made law; and that Jesus Christ, a generally admirable ancient celebrity, was judicially murdered for being too liberal in his moral teachings.

Prior to the twentieth century, anti-Christianity in America was rather a moderate thing.  It opposed Christianity without definitely advocating disbelief in God.  It took the form of Deism or pantheism or agnosticism or a very watered-down Christianity (liberal Protestantism).  But in the twentieth century, anti-Christianity, perceiving that belief in God is the first article of the Christian creed, became frankly atheistic.  Do away with God, and you do away with Christianity and the Christian moral restraints that stand in the way of happiness and human progress.

Even then, however, atheism rarely proclaimed itself by shouting from rooftops.  The single most important American atheist of the first half of the twentieth century was the once-famous philosopher John Dewey.  But Dewey, while not exactly concealing his atheism and anti-Christianity, didn’t put these things front and center in his writings.  He let you find them by reading between the lines of his cloudy and tedious prose, or by noticing broad hints dropped here and there.

But no sooner had we entered the second half of the twentieth century than our anti-Christianity atheists made a great strategic discovery.  The way to destroy Christianity was not by writing books that questioned the Bible, or by offering refutations of traditional arguments for the existence of God, or by hammering home the “problem of evil” by dwelling on the enormous amounts of pain and suffering that are found in the world.


No, the way to destroy Christianity – and with it belief in God – was to encourage college boys and girls to go to bed with one another; and then, after they had committed this “sin,” to say not, “Oh we have done a naughty thing,” but “We have done a fine thing; for we have done harm to nobody; and if your behavior does no harm to anybody, it is morally good.”

Using this moral logic, more and more Americans came to believe, as the decades of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries went by, that there is nothing morally objectionable in sexual promiscuity, unmarried cohabitation, out-of-wedlock childbirth, single-parenthood, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and – in a recent and very weird leap forward – in being “transgendered,” not to mention recreational drug use and euthanasia.

Who knows what’s coming next?

Personally, I am grateful that most of my fellow Americans still object to sex with animals, even though the objection many liberals have to this is more aesthetic than moral. I expect to wake up any day now, however, and hear that I am a narrow-minded bigot if I object to bestiality.  I have been told that my objection to homosexual conduct is homophobia, a vice as wicked as racism. I fear that I’ll soon be told that my objection to sex with animals is as wicked as objecting to that splendid thing that all right-thinking people admire, homosexual sodomy.

You don’t have to be an atheist to believe in the never-ending sexual revolution – but it helps.  The revolution stems from atheism, and once embraced it quite naturally and quite logically leads back to atheism.

The people who dominate America’s most important organs of moral propaganda – our journalistic mass media, Hollywood, TV shows, the popular music industry, our best colleges and universities and law schools, and our public schools, not to mention the intellectual elite of the Democratic Party – are atheists or near-atheists.  Every day they inflict damaging blows on Christianity and its “outdated” Biblical beliefs and sexual ethic.

In the last month or two, they have vociferously expressed their moral indignation that anybody – especially parents – would be so hate-filled as to block their humane attempts to provide an essentially atheistic sex education to kids aged five to nine.  Or à la Disney World, to insinuate the same into children’s entertainment.

Despite some victories in Florida and the Midwest, Christians are losing this war.  If I were a betting man, I’d bet that – absent a huge effort on the part of Christians and other traditional believers – atheism and near-atheism will be completely triumphant in America by 2030.

Unless we get energized, and fast, Christianity will be no more than a hole-in-the-corner religion.  The remaining Christians will be so few and un-influential that they won’t even be worth euthanizing.

I’m old and don’t expect to see this happen.  Nor will I see the collapse – not the liberation – of American society that will follow the demise of Christianity, America’s once-upon-a-time foundation.


*Image: No title by Eva Hesse, 1969-70 [Whitney Museum, New York, NY]. From the Whitney’s description: “Hesse dipped two separate pieces of knotted rope into liquid latex. The rope then hardened, providing an underlying weblike structure for the sculpture’s gracefully arching loops and dense, twisted segments.”

You may also enjoy:

St. John Paul II’s Practical Atheism

Carlos Caso-Rosendi’s Light Shining on Hidden Things

David Carlin is a retired professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island, and the author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America, Three Sexual Revolutions: Catholic, Protestant, Atheist, and most recently Atheistic Humanism, the Democratic Party, and the Catholic Church.