This prodigious event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the most distant stars—and yet they have done it themselves."
—Nietzsche, The Gay Science
What Nietzsche is really getting at in the above quotes (which are addressed to Atheists) is that people have not at all realized the impact the removal of God from society will have. I think this passage is very powerful, and I think Nietzsche is right in his assessment. Just like we see the lightning before we hear the thunder so the removal of God from the centrality of life in the west will have profound after effects.
Essentially what I want to get at is this: If you are an Atheist do you really know what the implications of such a position are? This is what Nietzsche is getting at here and what I also want to put forward. Western culture has been shaped primarily on a Judeao-Christian worldview, once that is removed there will be radical effects. I think one of the most glaring areas is that of ethics.
What I have found just in my own personal conversations with people as to the issues of morals and ethics is a great deal of confusion. People, everyday people, simply have no answers to questions about what is right and wrong behaviour, why are these things right and wrong, and how do you know these things. Again this does not apply to academics or the more philosophical types, this is just your average Joe. With the removal of a Christian base people simply have no idea whatsoever.
What I often find is that non-Christians and even Atheists will simply borrow from Christian ethics while rejecting the base, "Do unto others" is the most popular kidnapped Christian ethic. Like Nietzsche was saying, this is only done really without realizing the impact of rejecting Christianity means. "Do unto others" as an ethic is dead because the God who gave the exhortation is dead.
People will protest and say "I don't have to be a Christian to think that 'Do unto others' is a good ethic to follow." I agree. However, it is still meaningless, it is just now arbitrarily embraced. One could equally embrace Nietzsche's "Master morality" where really the moral and right are what you want to do even if it crosses others and hurts them. What matters is self glorification and acting on your natural barbarian desires. All "do unto others" is according to Nietzsche is a man made morality that was created by the weak to keep the strong from overpowering them by saying the natural impulses to conquer, rape, and abuse are wrong.
I think Nietzsche's take on morality is closer to the logical conclusions of and embracing of Atheistic evolutionary scheme of ethics. People erected walls of "right" as psychological weapons to protect themselves from the physically strong. So raping became "wrong". In reality what is is right, if you want to do something and you have the power to do it it is right.
Again, have people really faced this reality? In bits and pieces the vacuum seems to be being seen for what it is. There is no one ethical truth, people will decide for themselves what right and wrong are. What we are left with in the removal of the Christian base is a blank relativism and moral actions that have no real meaning and significance.
For myself an all too real example of this came in one of my Literature classes in which we were discussing abolitionist writings. One student who seemed to be very antagonistic to any Christian references angrily asked the professor: "Why do all these people cite the Bible as their reason for thinking slavery is wrong?!" the professor opened the floor to the class to answer this man's question to which I responded "Well, ultimately the Bible gives us a fixed reference point to know right and wrong, without that saying they thought slavery is wrong is just their subjective opinion, not objective fact."
People seemed very uneasy about this reply, they didn't like it. Not only because it was an apologetic for Christianity as the truth but it shined light on the bankruptcy of the prevalent morality which most probably unconsciously embrace, moral relativism. Honestly most people simply can not give anything that could be considered an answer as to why the abuse of Africans in slavery is wrong. By the way because it hurts people isn't an answer, that simply raises the question as to why hurting people is to be frowned upon.
This is the void rejection of Christianity creates ethically, my question to the non-Christian is simply this: have you faced this reality? Have you seen the implications rejecting Christian Theism brings about?
This issue ties in closely with the ethical dilemma above. Likewise, a rejection of the Christian worldview in a culture that has used Christianity as it's base leads to an inability to answer why human beings have any dignity. By dignity I mean intrinsic worth or value of the lives human beings. When an Atheism is embraced (I would apply it to all non-Christian worldviews) I can not see any rational way to avoid having no answers that give human life any real intrinsic dignity.
I think this is particularly glaring when we see things from a naturalistic evolutionary sense. Man is an animal, or a biological machine, that is what man is in a Atheistic evolutionary sense. So how can the value of a biological machine be accounted for? So often I think when we are faced with abortion and bio-ethical issues the question isn't when does human life begin (that is secondary) more foundationally we need to ask do we have any real reasons to think human life is precious and valuable at all?
If the answer is no man is just an animal, a biological machine, a zero. Then all bio-ethical hell is permissible. From euthanasia to infanticide, human experimentation, cloning for spare parts to sell, genetic manipulation to create a "Brave New World" scenario. All is permissible.
Christianity gives us answers as to the dignity of man, man has intrinsic worth and value because he is made in the image of God. Just think about that answer for a minute, can you even fathom any higher honor that could be given to human life? What can be more honoring or dignifying than saying to human beings that your life is valuable because you are made in the very image of the One who created everything that exists? This is simply the highest honor you can possibly give to human beings.
Once this Christian base is removed there is no rational basis for seeing that human life has intrinsic worth and dignity. Now don't get me wrong I don't at all think that most people are on board with infanticide or genetic manipulation to create ideal soldiers and things like that. However, does anybody have rational reasons for NOT endorsing such practices once the Christian base is removed?
What I mainly aim to do in this post is not paint a bleak outlook on the current status of American culture. Rather the main aim is to point out the tragic results rejecting God has on key areas of life. When I read men like Nietzsche and his ideas of calling traits like oppression, dominating, and inconsiderate the most commendable traits part of me thinks I am reading the silliest Novel I have ever read. Kind of like a Novel saying: imagine how screwed up everything was if we really had everything backwards and self-glorification and complete indifference to others pain really are the most commendable traits while meekness and humility are detestable.
Tragically, I don't think it takes much to connect the dots from Nietzsche to the gas chambers in Nazi Germany. The whole "master morality" concept can only fuel such a view of human life.
But then I realize that this man is completely serious. And if enough people gave as much thought to where they are they would say similar things. When I realize this I feel a great heaviness for my lost fellow man. That's what people are who think things like this, they are lost.
The good news is that there is hope. God is there and He has not been silent, He has given us truth about Himself and us as human beings in His word the Bible. In the Bible I know why men have natural desires as Neitzsche says to rape and pillage and conquer. It is because man is fallen and has a sin nature. So just because a desire exists "is natural" does not make it right (If you are a Materialist that is where you will end up if you are honest and it is the most popular argument for homosexuality today). I know this because man is no longer in the perfectly good state in which God made him.
Also we have answers as to why man has dignity and worth higher than animals, animals are not made in the image of God we are.
We have answers to these basic questions surrounding human existence because Christianity is the truth. It gives a real account of man's moral motions, it gives us a basis for seeing life as precious and valuable and ultimately it gives us meaning. These are all things that are basic to the human condition.