For a long time now the prospect of American religiosity has exercised a fatal attraction for the beleaguered European theist. The two sides of the Atlantic appear to present two alternative models of modernity which we might label theistic and agnostic neutrality. In fact, these terms are misleading but I begin with them because they correctly describe the perception, which is ultimately a misperception, that lies at the root of this attraction. It would seem that, despite a secularising Europeanised fifth column, the US takes the existence of God and our duty of worship toward Him as a given and leaves its people free to exercise that duty in whatever manner their conscience directs. Atheism is frowned upon by the population (if no longer the law). Freedom of religion, it would seem, for most Americans remains freedom for religion rather than freedom from.
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In Europe on the other hand ‘we don’t do God’. Religion is, at best, a (hopefully) harmless eccentricity. All too often it is an unwelcome interloper in the public sphere which is properly that of reason and therefore of hypothetico-inductive science and certainly not of God.
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It might appear that the distinguishing factor between these two worldviews is natural theology and the hypothesis of its success or failure. In a way this is true. In fact however, while the European model of freedom from religion is certainly dependent upon the hypothesis of the failure of natural theology, the hypothesis of the success of natural theology is ultimately fatal to the American model. For this reason the secularising Europeanised fifth column in the United States is not so alien a force as it might appear. In reality the logic of ‘theistic neutrality’ generates its own destroyers to preserve it from the confessionalism it was generated to suppress.
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If the invisible nature of God, His eternal power and deity, may be clearly perceived in the things that have been made (and it may) then the state most certainly needs to foster monotheistic religion because all blessings may be certainly known to flow from Him. More than this, if there is a true natural theology then there is an objective standard available to reason against which any actual cult may be judged and found wanting. Buddhism, Hinduism, perhaps Islam or certain forms of Cabalistic Judaism, Mormonism and the ‘Church’ of the Jehovah’s Witnesses can all be shown not to worship God but to be either polytheistic or idolatrous. Thus the religious tolerance of a genuinely theistically neutral state would be constrained within boundaries that are so close as to eliminate its attractions for a great many of those who might be expected to support it. And were it not, it would rapidly degenerate into a false agnosticism concerning religious truth which would inevitably impel it towards the European model.
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But the inadequacy of ‘theistic neutrality’ is more fundamental still. For, while it is possible in theory that God might leave us only with the knowledge available from natural reason with which to worship Him, there is something inherently unfitting about such a suggestion. Given the weakness of human reason and the consequent danger of adopting forms of worship prone to error or offensive to God it seems odd to suppose He would not assist us with positive revelation as to how He desires to be worshiped. If He were to do any such thing it would be necessary for Him to afford us subjective certainty of the truth of that revelation else its essential purpose would be frustrated. Furthermore, if God has appointed an end for man surpassing his nature or even nature itself man could never know this or attain it without revelation also endowed with certainty. In fact, even if God had not appointed an end for us surpassing our nature we would still require positive revelation to know it, because it is impossible to prove an existential negative that is not logically impossible. To err concerning the end of man and the appointed means for its accomplishment and for the acceptable worship of God may be shown by reason alone to be such a catastrophe (for the individual and society) that there is an unanswerable argument for the overwhelming antecedent probability of positive revelation.
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Thus the logic of ‘theistic neutrality’ impels us to identify and embrace such positive revelation as God has appointed not only as individuals but also as citizens. Nor may this process of identification be imagined legitimately to stretch over an extended period because its vital importance for the individual means that God must have made it an exercise, at least in principle, easily accomplished.
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So ‘theistic neutrality’ is inherently unstable. It has some legitimacy in the very short term as a stage on the way to confessionalism but if it seeks any kind of permanence it must necessarily sacrifice its theism to its neutrality.
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In the United Kingdom, or in England at least, there is something satisfactory in the unsatisfactory arrangements at hand. The Queen may be ex officio the follower of a false religion by law established but the framework itself is unobjectionable. We need only pray and preach and work for Her Majesty’s conversion and that of her subjects and with one minor modification to the Coronation Oath (a restoration of the original formula no less) and a faithful Parliament we may restore the civil order to a form acceptable to God. In the meantime we are free to continue as faithful subjects within the boundaries of the Natural and Divine Laws owing ‘no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law.’
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But if we are deceived by the siren call of ‘theistic neutrality’ we will surrender ourselves into the hands not of a benign deism but an ever more intolerant atheism and swiftly neo-pagan totalitarianism. For “he who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”