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The Age Of Willful Ignorance

Last Updated 3 weeks by Amnon J. Jobi | Amnon Front Page

The following essay originally appeared on Andrew Klavan’s Substack, ‘The New Jerusalem.’

Oklahoma’s top education official has ordered the state’s public schools to teach the Bible. State School Superintendent Ryan Walters says, “The Bible is an indispensable historical and cultural touchstone. Without basic knowledge of it, Oklahoma students are unable to properly contextualize the foundation of our nation.”

The mandate set off a wave of near-hysteria among establishment elites. The New York Times called it an “extraordinary move that blurs the lines between religious instruction and public education.”

But no. Superintendent Walters is fully in the right. Indeed, his statement doesn’t go far enough.

The fact is, you cannot understand the West without thinking about God and the Bible. You cannot understand Western man or Western history, Western literature, art, or philosophy, without considering them in the context of faith.

This is true whether you believe in God or not. Human beings act on certain basic drives and instincts. If you don’t acknowledge and account for those drives and instincts, you can’t understand what humans are trying to do and why. If you don’t know human motives and desires, you can’t make sense of human actions or see into people’s inner lives. History, culture, politics, even personal relationships become little more to you than a meaningless jumble of facts and events.

Wikimedia. Colin. The 12 Paisley Abbey gargoyles that were replaced in 1991. The set includes "see no evil", "speak no evil", "hear no evil" and an "alien".


This is basic common sense. People want to live and thrive. You can’t begin to understand them without examining the pressures of survival that form their priorities. People are driven to mate and reproduce. You can’t understand women without considering their maternal instincts. You can’t understand men without parsing the nature of their sexual longings. It makes no difference that your Aunt Matilda hates children or your Uncle Ned never looked at a woman. Even those experiences must be understood in the context of the norm. This is not an imposition of societal values. This is the way things work.

After the desire to live, which is common to all creatures, perhaps the most basic human desire — the most human human desire — is the desire for happiness.

“Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim,” writes Aristotle in the “Nicomachean Ethics.” The good, he goes on to say, “is generally agreed to be happiness,” because happiness is an end in itself. And he adds: “Happiness is an activity of soul in accordance with perfect virtue.”

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Through all of Western history, and most certainly in that portion of Western history dominated and shaped by Christianity, the form of virtue has been understood in relation to the will of God. This means that the central human drive for happiness is inseparably linked to faith.

“All men seek happiness. This is without exception,” wrote the great 17th century scientist-philosopher Blaise Pascal. “While the present never satisfies us, experience dupes us, and from misfortune to misfortune leads us to death, their eternal crown… These are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.”

For C. S. Lewis, the very presence of this God-shaped desire within us was cause for faith: “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Now, of course, Lewis could’ve been wrong about this. It may be that our desire for God cannot be satisfied. But that doesn’t make the desire go away any more than our sexual desires go away when they can’t be satisfied. As with sex, repression or abandonment of our God desire causes it to morph into other forms.

Those atheist philosophers honest enough to face the ramifications of their unbelief have acknowledged that, without God, both virtue and happiness must logically become manifestations of our will to power and pleasure.

The Marquis de Sade declared, “There is no God, nature sufficeth unto herself.” Therefore “if misery persecutes virtue and prosperity accompanies crime, those things being as one in Nature’s view,” isn’t it “far better to join company with the wicked who flourish, than to be counted amongst the virtuous who founder?”

Sade, the namesake of sadism, saw that the greatest pleasure of the strong is to satisfy their desires on the weak. One story has it that Sade helped spark the French Revolution by crying for help from within the Bastille. Though apocryphal, the story does illustrate this sadean insight: Seeking the basis of virtue within ourselves will quickly transform our quest for freedom into a riot of sadistic violence.

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Nietzsche agreed that, without God, objective morality vanishes. We are left to deconstruct the genealogy of our contingent morals so that the strong among us can impose a morality of their own “beyond good and evil.” After his death, this philosophy was used — unfairly, some say; inevitably, I think — to support the depredations of Hitler and the Nazis.

Nietzsche’s most influential disciple, Michel Foucault, likewise believed that what we call morality is merely power in masquerade. To move beyond power’s oppressive conventions, he sought to dismantle them within himself and so destroyed himself (and likely others) in an orgy of sexual masochism.

We long for happiness. Happiness derives from virtue. Without God, virtue is a manifestation of power and desire. If we seek happiness in power and desire, we become agents of destruction. As God himself warned: “All those that hate me, love death.”

This is not to say that atheists can’t be good people, only that they can’t make sense of their own virtue. They cannot explain why the strong should suppress their desires for virtue’s sake. Thus even atheists, one way or another, will ultimately be forced to confront their unbelief in the context of God.

READ: Find more in-depth articles from Andrew Klavan at ‘The New Jerusalem.’

Nevertheless, we seem to have entered a time in which the clerisy is desperate to ignore God’s presence even as a psychic construct. The panic over Oklahoma’s Bible mandate is only one example of the ubiquitous attempts to erase any mention of the source and motivation of our culture and history.

Brilliantly rational believers like C. S. Lewis and Rene Girard are relegated to second rate status beneath thinkers like Nietzsche and Foucault, whose philosophies led to disastrous outcomes. The atheist arguments of writers like Richard Dawkins, Stephen Pinker and Yuval Harari are praised and elevated, though it is clear these men, while obviously intelligent, have absolutely no understanding of what religious thinkers actually think.

In 2007, the European Union marked the 50th anniversary of its founding without once mentioning the religion that shaped the continent formerly called Christendom.

The brilliant Wall Street Journal book reviewer Barton Swaim recently remarked, “I don’t know how many lives I’ve read in which otherwise fair and capable biographers dismiss or minimize their subject’s expressions of faith for no obvious reason.” This is true onscreen as well where biopics about such fervent Christians as Louis Zamperini and Johnny Cash reduce their subject’s faith to a footnote.

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The resistance against — the hostility toward — considering life and culture in light of our God-shaped yearnings may have begun as a rebellion against superstition and church oppression, but it seems to have metastasized into something like the rebellion of Satan in John Milton’s Paradise Lost: an attempt to free ourselves from moral reality altogether, so we can define our own natures, genders, rights and wrongs and make “a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

But because neither reality nor our desires will reshape themselves at our command, the predictable result of our willful ignorance about God is that we have become stupid about ourselves and our human situation.

The 2022 Pulitzer Prize winning novel “Trust” by Hernan Diaz contains a remark being much quoted on the internet as a kernel of wisdom: “God is the most uninteresting answer to the most interesting questions.” Taken as an axiom, this strikes me as the opposite of the truth. Certainly, without God, we can answer the questions available to science, namely how do things happen. But the most interesting question is always: why? And if the universe came into existence without an act of sovereign will, there can be no why. Everything just is.

Only when we consider the universe, our world and our lives as conscious acts of creation, can we begin to wrestle with the reasons they exist at all. This, this alone, is the path to finding meaning, virtue and happiness. If we think we can create a different path on our own, we do not know ourselves. We cannot know ourselves.

* * *

Andrew Klavan is the host of “The Andrew Klavan Show” at The Daily Wire. He is the bestselling author of the Cameron Winter Mystery series. The third installment, “The House of Love and Death,” is now available. Follow him on X: @andrewklavan

This essay originally appeared on Andrew Klavan’s Substack, ‘The New Jerusalem.

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