Our View of Man Matters

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 03/28/2012

I wrote earlier this week about how the values of Christianity affect economics. Now here’s a quote from Larry Taunton, a Christian and friend of Christopher Hitchens, on how our view of man affects the role and power of the government:

How we answer the question of God’s existence or non-existence will largely determine our view of man and that, in turn, will determine our view of government. 

If, for instance, you do not believe in God, you are likely to conclude that man is a temporal being meant to serve the state, an eternal institution. This is the view of the communist world. Sacrificing a few million people for the sake of building socialist paradise was always deemed an acceptable price to pay. 

If, on the other hand, you believe in a just, benevolent God who made man in his own image, you will likely draw a very different conclusion: man is an eternal being that the state, a temporal institution, is meant to serve.

Proponents of a society free from religious influence can point to no nation or civilization that was founded upon atheism that we might call even remotely good. The story of those regimes is well documented and may be summarized in a word—murderous. 

Our view of man affects countless cultural practices and laws. Are human beings valuable in themselves, or do others grant them value based on a standard of acceptable characteristics? Do we all have equal intrinsic value, or do we need to enforce equality of outcome (roles, wealth, etc.) in order to be equal? Do we have a fixed human nature that the state must respect, or can we recreate ourselves (or be forced by the state) into whatever we wish?

The idea the United States government is built on—that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights—is one that grew out of the Christian worldview. There is no sense in which we’re all equal if there’s no shared, intrinsically valuable human nature; and there’s no sense in which we have unalienable rights if the state grants all rights and there is no one higher than the state. What the state gives, the state can take away.

This is obviously a very brief discussion of a large issue. But I wanted to illustrate again that, agree or disagree with Christianity, one thing it is not is the nonsensical silliness many atheists make it out to be (see my last post). Rather, as Taunton puts it in his article, “Christianity, whatever the faults of its adherents, has a rich intellectual tradition that has a comprehensive view of life.”