Ingrained in our national history is a belief in God. By no means were all of the Founding Fathers Christians. In the 18th-century America the line between Christianity and deism was not as distinct as today. (Basically deism is the belief that God created the world and established the moral law and stepped away.)
Thomas Jefferson is a classic example of a deist of sorts. He did not believe in the divinity of Jesus or the miracles. Patriots such as Patrick Henry, John Jay, Samuel Adams, and John Witherspoon were conscientious Christians. Most were Protestants. Charles Carroll who signed the Declaration of Independence was a Catholic. George Washington was an Episcopalian. John Adams was a Unitarian who often referred to the virtues of the Christian moral system.
In the work entitled “Indivisible,” authors Robinson and Richards remind us that with rare exception all opposed the establishment of a federally endorsed church. A vital sidebar to this is historically indisputable. Though they did not favor a state church they did believe that God existed and the basic principles of morality were public truths, not sectarian religious doctrines. They were not secularist, who believed practical atheism was the only neutral ground. They revered God in public and often officially. We have gradually evolved away from doing so to the point God is basically excluded from the market place of ideas, omitted from education, banned civilly, and banished to houses of worship where He is almost incidental in many.
As a result a large segment of a generation is emerging with little or no knowledge of God. One major study revealed that seventy percent of today’s teens have no Christian memory. That is, they have experienced no relevant Christian experience. To them it is as though God doesn’t exist or at best is irrelevant.
Back to Dostoevsky’s conclusion. Does it give us a clue as to why immorality and crime has proliferated? Without God there are no moral absolutes and therefore no good or bad.
That is not to say there are no moral or good people who don’t believe in God. There are. They have been reared in a culture where biblical moral tenants espoused by our forefathers have for generations been the norm. Often without realizing it they have subscribed to the norm.
Without God there is no universal moral norm. Morality in such a culture becomes subjective. “I,” the subject, determines what is right or wrong. Objective faith is essential for there to be a cultural norm and the object is God.
This very concept is under attack. If successful the last best reason for being good will have been removed. If things are as they are with God being partially factored out of lives what will it be if the trend continues?
Do a personal inventory. What role does He play in your life?
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church.