CNN: shame on you. Not for publishing Larry Alex Taunton’s (“Special to CNN”) opinion piece on why the country would decline without Christian belief: My Take: When Bedford Falls Becomes Pottersville. Not per se. But for making it their main story. This was what greeted me when I turned on my screen this morning:
The 1946 classic "It's a Wonderful Life" is a fitting metaphor for a nation absent Christian belief, author Larry Taunton says. Those wanting to do away with the faith should be careful what they wish for, he says.
After a brief summary of the film and a couple of paragraphs of how “voters think America is in decline” he gets down to the thing he believes is causing all the trouble:
Richard Dawkins, the Oxford scientist and atheist provocateur, calls Christianity a “mental virus” that should be eradicated.
The professor should be more careful in what he wishes for. Like many others, he grossly underestimates the degree to which his own moral and intellectual sensibilities have been informed by the Judeo-Christian worldview.
Or alternatively, Larry Alex Taunton grossly overestimates such things. The notable thing about these ‘oh noes, without Jesus life would be terrible’ pieces is just how little evidence they offer to support their view, and this one is no exception. Look at the arguments presented and marvel that CNN thought this worth publishing:
Jesus Christ said that his followers were to be like “salt”; that is, a people whose presence is felt for the good that they do. As a man or woman’s evil nature is gentled and restrained by the grace of God, there is a corresponding outward transformation of society. The data bears this out. According to the research of The Barna Group, Christians are the most charitable segment of the population by a substantial margin. Hence, any society that is liberally sprinkled with them has a greater concern for the poor, sick, orphaned and widowed - “the least of these,” as Jesus called them.
And yet the USA, of the rich nations in the world is one of the most religious, but has the greatest income inequality. While Sweden and Denmark, the least religious, are the most egalitarian with a comprehensive social safety net. More Than 9 in 10 Americans Continue to Believe in God, so how can unbelief be responsible for the problems Taunton identifies? How does Taunton explain all that? Well, by ignoring it.
(This is precisely what Nietzsche, and Hitler after him, hated about Christianity.)
Except that Hitler was a Christian, and Nazi racial ideology was religious, creationist and opposed to Darwinism.
But Christian influence goes well beyond benevolence: Our laws, art, literature and institutions find meaning in a rich Christian heritage. In his new book "Civilization: The West and the Rest," Harvard historian Niall Ferguson argues that the decline of the West can, in part, be attributed to the decline of a robust Christian presence in Western culture.
Note, not “Niall Ferguson,” but “Harvard historian Niall Ferguson.” Classic appeal to authority without, you’ll note, one shred of evidence to support the “argument.”
Ferguson’s point is largely an economic one, but the inference that Christianity has served to strengthen the fabric of life in the West as we have known it is unmistakable. T.S. Eliot made a similar observation: “If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes.”
T.S. Eliot now. Taunton sure loves his argument from authority.
That is just another way of saying that the difference between a nation with meaningful Christian influence and a nation without it is the difference between Bedford Falls and Pottersville.
It may be “another way of saying” it, but that doesn’t make it true.
To summarize, Taunton’s arguments that Pottersville shows us what life would be like without Jesus, were:
- Jesus said so
- Hitler (seriously)
- A Harvard historian said so
- T.S. Eliot said so
- er… that’s it.
Pottersville doesn’t even show us what life would be like without religion, it just shows what life would have been like if just one man hadn’t been born. The other inhabitants of the town were presumably just as religious (or non-religious) as they were before. As I recall, there was not even a suggestion that mean old Potter wasn’t religious. In reality, if we want to know what life would really be like with less religion we only have to look at Sweden and Denmark. And CNN is still the mistrusted name in news.