Don't Leave God Out

When the topic of abortion or a variety of issues comes up, I sometimes hear people say, “Let’s make sure we leave God and religion out of this discussion.” That may seem like a reasonable request, but we need to realize that if God does not exist and religion is irrelevant, there is no solid moral foundation for addressing any social issue. If God and religion would have been kept on the sidelines, William Wilberforce would have never combated the British slave trade, Abraham Lincoln would have never freed the American slaves, and Martin Luther King would have never fought for civil rights for people of every ethnicity.

Friends, a belief in God and various religious convictions form the foundation of our understanding of morality, justice, and human rights. Though it is frequently claimed “you can’t legislate morality,” most legislation is indeed an effort to persuade people to act according to certain moral standards. Laws against murder and theft are obviously rooted in a belief that such behaviors are wrong. Laws (and taxes) which seek to provide food, shelter, and health care for the poor are rooted in a belief that helping those in need is the right thing to do. Laws which seek to protect women and children from physical and sexual abuse are rooted in a belief that it is wrong to allow the stronger to simply impose their will on the weaker.

Some folks, of course, claim we can still have morality, justice, and human rights without God or religion. These advocates of “positive law” insist that a society has the ability to define human rights and can then seek to make sure these rights are respected. In other words, “we don’t need God or religion to determine what is right and wrong. We can trust the majority of people, working through the political system, to do that for us.” I am convinced, however, that this argument leads us down a very dangerous path.

As I noted earlier, God and religion have long played a key role helping us determine what should and should not be in a society. Our Declaration of Independence maintains “we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.” These natural, “God-given” rights cannot be created or taken away by the government or any other human institution. Governments which have consciously tried to remove God and religion from the discussion of public policy have a horrible record concerning what most of us consider basic human rights. Soviet Communism and Nazi Germany both insisted they were relying on “science,” not religion, to guide and shape their policies. These societies refused to recognize any inherent, God-given rights. Individuals were at the mercy of whatever the government decided was “good for the people,” which really meant good for the state. Borrowing from Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” these non-theistic societies became a very hostile environment for racial and ethnic minorities, people with handicaps, and political or religious dissidents.

Certainly, some of what is spoken during political discussions in the name of God or religion is counter-productive and better left unsaid. As Christians, we must be careful not to twist the meaning of the Bible in order to justify our own prejudices and support our personal preferences. As Abraham Lincoln advised, we need to focus not on proving that God is on our side, but on making sure we are on His.
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Dan Erickson