Judeo-Christian values. Like many phrases, the word amalgamates a certain brand of values that Christians ought to respect and follow. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Honour thy father and thy mother. But the subject of this Prager University’s lecture will be the “Thou shalt not kill.” Radio talk show host, columnist, author, and public speaker Dennis Prager gives the amoral atheists a “gotcha” question: without God, there are no moral facts?
Folks, I am sorry to say that there are no moral facts. I am no more heartbroken than you are, that if I murder (or hell, brutally rape) a random stranger, no one from the heavens above will wag their finger at me. Are these “Judeo-Christian values” all that I need to NOT slip my fingers inside the next wallet of a nearby student in my university? Maybe, but the prospects of off-campus housing is really making it hard to resist.
However, no matter how depressing that murder is neither sanctioned nor heralded by an invisible man in the sky, there are those “secular values” Prager dismisses. These secular values more represent the Enlightenment values than Judeo-Christian values, it would seem, because the Christian Bible does teach us the importance of a God-centered education rather than one based on contemporary knowledge and empiricism, that a country must always stay in line with a convent of the Lord or face demise, and that hatred, no matter how tempting that freedom of speech and expression may be, is inexcusable because “love thy neighbor” yadda yada… In contrary to Prager’s insinuation that the rejection of Judeo-Christian values leads to the acceptance of governments such as Nazi Germany, Mao’s People’s Republic of China, and Stalin’s USSR, one ought to be more imaginative. Because the latter two are no more tied to secularism than the goal of universal healthcare is to the recent Democrat Party platforms, let’s focus on the definitely atheistic, maybe Satanist Muslim country known as Nazi Germany.
Nazi Germany and Christianity
Though the worship of the Fuhrer was almost quasi-religious, the Nazi Germany was not exempt from a religious influence; rather, the Nazi Germany gave birth to a hybrid between the dominant ideologies (Nazism) and the Christian Bible, Positive Christianity.
On April 12, 1922 at Munich, Germany, Adolf Hitler identifies himself as a Christian during his speech, declaring his duty as Christianity to his people. This was no coincidence as “almost all Germans were Christian, belonging either to the Roman Catholic (ca. 20 million members) or the Protestant (ca. 40 million members) churches” at the time. Furthermore, there was an extent of guilt and complicity from religious entities during the rise of Nazism and subsequently the Holocaust; though the Nazi regime harshly persecuted religious organizations and leaders who dissented from the “Positive Christianity”, the German Evangelical Church “viewed itself as one of the pillars of German culture and society, with a theologically grounded tradition of loyalty to the state”. This is not exactly orthodox as the Romans 13 explicitly suggests an almost divine right for rulers of nations:
“Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” Romans 13, KJV
This is shown in the development of the Deutsche Christen movement, who sought to align Judeo-Christian (or “de-Judaized” Christian values) with the Party’s value. Even in the reactionary opposition church, the Bekennende Kirche, the matter itself was “mostly an internal church matter, not a fight against National Socialism“. In Wolfgang Gerlach’s And the Witnesses Were Silent: The Confessing Church and the Persecution of the Jews, the author writes that the “German Evangelical Church struggled to avoid a schism”, that the Bekennende Kirche was “decidedly heterogeneous” in their association with the Nazi Germany. There was a general silence in the opposition to the rise of Nazism from the Protestant Church despite all the believer’s so-called Judeo-Christian values, it would seem. Not that I would blame people for instinctually fearing retaliation from a mortal man rather than an imagined Supreme Being.
And contrary to the impression of a sudden rise of anti-Semitism among other abhorrent beliefs in Nazi Germany, Christopher J. Probst writes in Demonizing the Jews that “despite very different historical circumstances, unmistakably similar patterns of thought about Jews existed among Protestants in Luther’s Germany and in Hitler’s”, further implicating the relationship (or lack thereof) between secularism and Nazism. This is, of course, a logical conclusion as secularism suggests a separation between the church and state, whereas totalitarian states with religious elements such as Nazi Germany must exert a continuous pressure and control on its citizenry from within the religious sphere, given the relationship between an individual and their religious beliefs.
But to answer the question, “Do you believe good and evil exists?”, I would say yes, but do I believe in objective morality? No, why would I? Objective morality indicates an absoluteness, something discovered rather than invented. If there is no God, there are no objective values, but we should not drink ourselves to death in a pity party over the uncertainties and bleakness of a material, impermanent world. For me, this gives us near infinite opportunities to reinvent new beliefs, values, and goals for us to better pursue happiness for one and another and to continue to improve upon oneself, their communities, and an understanding of the world that surrounds us.
Why would I ever want to hold “Thou shalt not kill” so solemnly in my heart when I know that there are exceptions to this simple rule? Self-defense? The doctrine of necessity? Euthanasia? Revolution? War?
On the other hand, Judeo-Christian values trouble me because they may easily represent a devotion to a Lord, a genuine love for one’s neighbor, or not murdering someone in cold blood. Dormant ignorance at best, right? However, Judeo-Christian values may very well represent a lack of resistance against the ironclad, deplorable rule of a Christian despot by the name of Adolf Hitler because of the “ordinance of God” delineated in Romans 13, enslaving one another because Titus 2:9-10 teaches us that those in the same category as a lamp or livestock ought to be obedient to their “masters”, or that certain wars are noble such as the wholesale slaughter waged against Amalekites (or Muslims in the medieval crusades according to Pope Urban II).