An unnamed Catholic priest is led to his execution in Kalisz, Poland, in 1939. (Tadeusz Kur, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Secularism is deadly, but it’s on the rise in both Europe and the United States. When will we ever learn?
It is said and, more to the point, it is true that those who fail to learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.
Another way of saying the same thing is to say that those who are ignorant of the past are condemning themselves and others to its follies and tragedies. This should be so obvious that it should not really need saying. If a person fails to learn the lessons of his own past, making the same pathetic mistakes over and over again, turning his life and the lives of his friends into a living misery, most of us would blame him for his culpable ignorance. And yet secularism always fails to learn the lessons of its own past, making the same pathetic and ghastly mistakes over and over again, turning the lives of millions of its victims into a living misery, generation after generation. It is time, therefore, to point the finger of judgment and scorn at secularism and to blame it unequivocally for its culpable and incorrigible ignorance.
The problem with secularism (or, actually, one of its problems; it is beset with so many!) is that it holds the past in contempt. Rooted in pride and prejudice, which is akin psychologically to racism, it sees the past and the people who lived in it to be inherently inferior to itself. It believes itself to be enlightened and therefore at liberty to treat the past as the dark ages. Why learn from primitive people, such as our ancestors? What have they to teach us?
Armed only with the intellectual fads and fashions of its own time, secularism scorns the past and puts its faith in its ideological fantasizing about a mythical future. It dismisses religious faith and rational philosophy, the priceless fruits of civilization, and blames all wars on religion. Only a creed rootless in ignorance of the past could seriously believe that religion and not secular ambition is behind the wars that have continually plagued the story of Man. Any study of history will show that secularism and not religion causes war. Even the so-called “wars of religion” were the cankered fruits of secular ambition, in which rich and powerful secular rulers used religious conflict as an excuse or a smokescreen to disguise their Machiavellian drive for power.
And what of the secularist creed’s own record? Does the rejection of religion and the embrace of atheism usher in an era of peace?
The first great secularist uprising, the French Revolution, was an anti-Christian revolt inspired by the cold scientism of the Enlightenment and its spurning of religious faith and also by the iconoclastic contempt of western civilization inherent in the proto-hippy musings of Rousseau. Did this first great secularist Revolution usher in a time of peace? Hardly. It ushered in the Reign of Terror and the cold-blooded butchering of the people on a scale rarely seen in the wretched annals of history. In its wake, and as a direct consequence of it, Napoleon rose to dictatorial power and led Europe into almost 20 years of bloody warfare. The age of secularism had ushered in an age of war.
Refusing to learn from the mistakes of the past, the following century was doomed to repeat them in a plethora of abortive socialist uprisings, culminating in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. As with its secularist progenitor in France, the Russian Revolution followed the same predictable pattern, descending into a Reign of Terror in which tens of millions of people were sacrificed on the altars of atheism. Aping the Revolutions in France and Russia, Chinese communism would claim tens of millions of additional lives, each of which was sacrificed in the name of secularist “progress.”
And this brings us to the Nazis, the National Socialists, who were as anti-Christian and as secularist as were their international socialist rivals in Russia. Like the French and Russian Socialists before them, the National Socialists had their intellectual roots in the anti-Christian secularist philosophies of the 18th and 19th centuries, though the Nazis preferred the anti-Christianity of Nietzsche to the anti-Christianity of Marx. Like other secularists, the Nazis believed that big problems require Big Government to solve them; like other secularists, the Nazis imposed a national curriculum, ensuring that all children were “educated” to conform to the government’s own beliefs; like other secularists, the Nazis believed in eugenics and euthanasia and encouraged abortion (except for members of the Master Race). Like other secularists, the Nazis hated Christianity, condemning countless Christians to concentration camps.
The evidence is clear enough. Secularism in any of its guises is deadly. And yet, in spite of the catalogue of horrors that it has unleashed on humanity, the same ugly brand of secularism is in the ascendant in both Europe and the United States. When will we ever learn? The unsettling answer is that we will never learn until we learn to respect history and the lessons it teaches.