Religion the Only Basis of Society
I get very tired of hearing that Christians are out to "impose their
morality" on society. The fact is, we are getting somebody else's
morality imposed on us already -- and the bad effects are obvious.
William Ellery Channing (1780-1842) died well before our time, but if
he had lived to see the Clinton era, I doubt that he would have been
Religion is a social concern; for it operates powerfully on society,
contributing in various ways to its stability and prosperity.
Religion is not merely a private affair; the community is deeply interested
in its diffusion; for it is the best support of the virtues and principles,
on which the social order rests. Pure and undefiled religion is to do good;
and it follows, very plainly, that if God be the Author and Friend of society,
then, the recognition of him must enforce all social duty, and enlightened
piety must give its whole strength to public order.
Few men suspect, perhaps no man comprehends, the extent of the support
given by religion to every virtue.
No man, perhaps, is aware how much our moral and social sentiments are fed
from this fountain; how powerless conscience would become without the
belief of a God; how palsied would be human benevolence, were there not
the sense of a higher benevolence to quicken and sustain it; how suddenly
the whole social fabric would quake, and with what a fearful crash it would
sink into hopeless ruin, were the ideas of a Supreme Being, of accountableness
and of a future life to be utterly erased from every mind.
And, let men thoroughly believe that they are the work and sport of chance;
that no superior intelligence concerns itself with human affairs; that all
their improvements perish forever at death; that the weak have no guardian,
and the injured no avenger; that there is no recompense for sacrifices to
uprightness and the public good; that an oath is unheard in heaven; that
secret crimes have no witness but the perpetrator; that human existence
has no purpose, and human virtue no unfailing friend; that this brief life
is everything to us, and death is total, everlasting extinction; once let
them thoroughly abandon religion, and who can conceive or describe
the extent of the desolation that would follow?
We hope, perhaps, that human laws and natural sympathy would hold society
together. As reasonably might we believe that were the sun quenched in the
heavens, our torches would illuminate, and our fires
quicken and fertilize the creation. What is there in human nature to
awaken respect and tenderness, if man is the unprotected insect of a day?
And what is he more, if atheism is true?
Erase all thought and fear of God from a community, and selfishness and
sensuality would absorb the whole man. Appetite, knowing no restraint,
and suffering, having no solace or hope, would trample in scorn on the
restraints of human laws. Virtue, duty, principle, would be mocked and
spurned as unmeaning sounds. A sordid self-interest would supplant every
feeling; and man would become, in fact, what the theory in atheism declares
him to be,--a companion for brutes.
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