Jonathon Van Maren

From the front lines of the culture wars

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Gone are atheists like George Bernard Shaw, eager to take on apologists like G.K. Chesterton in battle. Instead, we have snarky, mocking snipes like Bill Maher, men who do not seek to understand.

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Atheists aren’t even trying any more…and why that’s terrifying

Jonathon Van Maren Jonathon Van Maren Follow Jonathon

Christian scholars, speakers, authors and apologists are beginning to notice a trend: Atheists no longer even try to understand Christianity. They don’t take Christian beliefs seriously, and they don’t find them relevant. Worse: They find Christians ridiculous, unintelligent idiots who believe in all sorts of ludicrous notions. Gone are atheists like George Bernard Shaw, eager to take on apologists like G.K. Chesterton in battle. Gone, it seems, are even atheists like Christopher Hitchens, willing to spar with philosophers like William Lane Craig. Instead, we have snarky, mocking snipes like Bill Maher, men who do not seek to engage or understand.

Simply put, secularists cannot understand why Christians act the way that they do, because their perception of reality is fundamentally different. For the secularist, there is only the physical. Things are what they are. For the Christian, the metaphysical is as real as the physical, and these realms interact on every level. A miracle may strike a Christian with awe, but the Christian possesses a worldview that allows him to understand what a miracle is—the Creator intervening directly in the created order in a visible way. A secularist insists that the miracle could not have happened, pointing out that the natural order does not function that way—in essence, accusing a miracle of being…a miracle.

Secularists claim to have placed their faith in “reason,” when in reality this is simply another way of saying that they have placed their faith in themselves. They will only believe in what they can understand. The problem is that the Religion of Reason is a circular feedback loop: Reason cannot in and of itself prove that reason is rational. One must have faith that it is. The secularist must believe that his brain, supposedly created by chance and programmed over millions of years of natural selection to react instinctively in certain ways, is capable of independent thought. A rather ludicrous notion, when you think about it.

As I said to one university student in debate: “Any god that can fit within the confines of your skull is a god too small for anyone to worship.” He was offended by this statement—a true secularist. As Chesterton wrote: “The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.” 

It’s important for us to realize that secularists and Christians don’t just believe different things, but see everything differently. In the secularist world, there is no Heaven, no Hell, no angels, no devils, no world unseen—or at least, no world that could not be seen.

Adding to that, of course, this means there is no soul, no good, and no evil. This is a fact that no secularist truly wants to confront: I remember my psychology professor calling off our seminar a half hour early after I asked her repeatedly to give me one philosophically coherent reason that rape was wrong in a world that slouched into existence by accident. Besides a few feeble appeals to subjective “social contracts” and the like, she could not. For there to be any objective moral law, there has to be a Lawgiver.

The chasm between the world as Christians see it and the world as secularists see it is deep, dark, and wide. That is why the presently raging culture wars so often seem as if the two sides are simply yelling into the abyss—because these battles mean very different things to the opposing armies.

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As I noted in my column on euthanasia last week, secularists see euthanasia more or less in terms of ushering a suffering animal out of his or her misery. Humans, in the materialist view, are soulless animals, and thus it may actually be more compassionate or merciful to kill someone suffering awful pain than it would be to consider palliative care. When secularism put the idea of human exceptionalism to death, it guaranteed that many humans would be put to death, too. After all, why not?

So it is too with abortion. Every once in a while when an abortion activist tells me that the human being in the womb is just a clump of cells, I like to point out that she is just a clump of cells, as well. But this argument isn’t always indicative of scientific illiteracy—although that is often the case. Sometimes, it is an accurate depiction of how they see human life. For people to value human life, they have to have a reason to value human life. Secularism has yet to mount a truly consistent, much less philosophically coherent, reason to value human beings. Instead, it puts forward the inherently discriminatory notion of “personhood,” which has been used to exclude and oppress women, African Americans, aboriginals, Jews, and now the pre-born. At no point in recent human history have all human beings been considered persons, and at no point in recent human history have we stopped killing those excluded from this subjective category invented by the strong to oppress the weak.

This chasm is also why secularists cannot agree with Christians on the Sexual Revolution—because no one can even agree on a definition of what sex is to begin with. For Christians, sex was created to be unitive and procreative, serving to bond the husband and the wife, with that love at times being blessed with the miraculous creation of a new human being. From the metaphysical standpoint, marriage represents the relationship between the Lord Jesus and His church.

While the secularist may agree that those are certainly options for sex, in their relativist world, sex is whatever makes you feel good. If one of those engaging in the interaction can extract some measure of pleasure, then it is “good”—and any orifice will do: two animals moving their soulless bodies about with one another to produce a pleasant sensation. Thus, hollowing out and redefining marriage, disregarding gender, and abandoning the traditional family structure are an inevitable result of the spread of secularism. Physical heresies multiply.

The culture wars have been fought for decades, and Christians have been losing. Secularists have long stopped trying to debate Christians or understand the Judeo-Christian building blocks upon which Western civilization has been precariously perched these last few centuries. From late night TV to Hollywood to the mainstream media, Christians are treated with contempt and scorn. That contempt is turning swiftly into intolerance, as many Christian beliefs are being recast as bigoted and hateful.

It is paramount that Christians arm themselves with the tools to fight back.

Editor’s Note: This is Part I of a Two-Part Series

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Jonathon Van Maren

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Jonathon Van Maren is a public speaker, writer, and pro-life activist. His commentary has been translated into more than eight languages and published widely online as well as print newspapers such as the Jewish Independent, the National Post, the Hamilton Spectator and others. He has received an award for combating anti-Semitism in print from the Jewish organization B’nai Brith. His commentary has been featured on CTV Primetime, Global News, EWTN, and the CBC as well as dozens of radio stations and news outlets in Canada and the United States.

He speaks on a wide variety of cultural topics across North America at universities, high schools, churches, and other functions. Some of these topics include abortion, pornography, the Sexual Revolution, and euthanasia. Jonathon holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in history from Simon Fraser University, and is the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

Jonathon’s first book, The Culture War, was released in 2016.