A trusted anonymous source has sent me a press release from the Pennsylvania Pastors’ Network (PPN) with headlines Atheist Mom Touts Next Generation for Free Thinkers and Pennsylvania Pastors’ Network Cites Unbelief of the Rising Generation as a Threat to Liberty and Freedom. The press release responds to a recent piece on CNN.com which discusses parenting within a non-theistic framework and asserts that the rising demographics of persons who lack belief in any gods is a “primary reason that liberty is at risk in America.”
See the full press release here.
Sam Rohrer, President of the PPN, says that the belief system of ‘atheist mom Deborah Mitchell,’ who wrote about her secular parenting, “serves to undermine the very liberty and freedom that she wants to protect for her son.” The press release, quoting Rohrer, states,
The notion that civil freedom, prosperity, and security can exist separate from God is fallacious. Even William Penn here in Pennsylvania made it very clear that only if the citizens self-govern themselves can there be a free nation, otherwise tyrants and dictators rule,” said Rohrer.
“Penn said that the “Experiment” of self-government could only occur, however, if people governed themselves according to the 10 Commandments of God. This was the basis for Penn’s “Holy Experiment.” Years later, Benjamin Franklin made it clear that no nation could rise, and no republic could be maintained without God’s direct help. As the Scripture makes it clear and history confirms, “blessed only is the nation whose God is the LORD.”
Rohrer does not seem to understand that the United States Constitution establishes a secular government.
Nowhere in the Constitution is God mentioned in reference to granting rights or being essential to any freedoms, but rather “we the people” — as the Preamble to the Constitution states — ordain and establish[ed] the United States of America. No matter what the founding fathers signing the constitution believed — although many of them believed an impersonal deistic ‘god of nature’ exists — a secular government was established – a largely new experiment which was not “Holy.”
Civil freedom, prosperity, and security exists because people have worked to ensure this whether it be the result of an unwritten social contract, philosophical reflection, legal intervention, a moral sense which is largely due to evolutionary development as social animals, a basic want to be nice to other people, or a combination of all these items. Morality exists apart from God and any ten commandments (which really aren’t that profound) that largely have nothing to do with ethical behavior. The United States government, of course, is not a theocracy and does not derive or claim to derive its power from any gods or religious texts.
The release continues,
Rohrer and the Pennsylvania Pastors’ Network believe that if Biblical morality – which
provided the foundation for the American constitution – is completely lost in a generation
of non-believers, that government infringement and tyranny will be the necessary result.
‘Biblical morality’ did not provide the foundation for the American constitution. Which ‘Biblical morality,’ anyway, is Rohrer referring to? Should we adhere to rules pertaining to owning other human beings? Shall we make ‘Do not use the Lord’s name in vain’ the law of the land and establish a theocracy? Shall we just throw out the Old Testament all together and follow a ‘Jesus meek and mild’ message (although we’d have to remove a literal hell out of the picture along with some other items)? Shall we ask the Westboro Baptist Church for their interpretation of the Bible?
One of the problems with looking to the Bible or a particular religion for moral guidance is that the government would be favoring religion over non-religion and would be imposing the moral guidelines from one religious interpretation onto all, codifying a religious interpretation into law. Rather than, as the PA State Constitution suggests, ‘worship almighty God according to one’s conscience,’ one religious interpretation would be imposed on all if ‘Biblical morality’ were the law of the land.
Additionally, as was shown in Plato’s Euthyphro dialogue, morality cannot be said to come from any god. If God determines that which is moral, morality is arbitrary because God could declare anything which is viewed as morally repugnant — like torturing babies for the fun of it — as moral. Since this can’t be the case, there would be an external standard — if God existed — and God would only recognize that which is moral; morality would be independent of God and God would not be needed to codify that which is moral.
Toward the end of the release, the following is found:
In order to preserve this common moral code, Rohrer and the Pennsylvania Pastors’
Network are urging pastors to better equip congregations to understand more precisely what
is in the Bible, what God expects of His people, and what practicing Christianity looks like
in daily life.
Perhaps Rohrer — or others from his organization — will follow what the Bible says in 1 Peter 3:15, to prepare a defense for faith and do so provided someone asks. I have a wonderful idea for pastors to better equip congregations and do what God expects of His people – let’s organize an in-person recorded debate about these issues in a formal setting and donate the proceeds to an agreed upon charity. Feel free to contact.