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The Great Awakenings

The Essence of Contemporary American Religion

Part Thirty-Three


By Shlomo Phillips © 1989
(most recent update February 26, 2015)

The Third Great Awakening Concluded

Interjacent of the Third Great Awakening and the modern Era.

The Scopes Monkey Trial

Traditional American religion was dying on the vine. Scientific and Secular Humanism was becoming the religion of the day. Charles Darwin (1809 - 1882) and his theories gained popular support during this period. The theory of natural selection gradually replaced biblical creationism in the nation's schools.

On May 25, 1925, John Thomas Scopes was legally charged with teaching Darwin's Third Great Awakening theories of human development. In the view of the town's irate, largely Christian, parents he was teaching their children that the Bible is not the inspired Word of God and that humanity had evolved from ape-like ancestors rather than having been created in the image of God! People felt that demons were taking over and seeking the souls of their children.

Today most religious and secular Americans accept these theories and those who do not just shake their heads at what they see as secular brainwashing. To the Christians of the day however these ideas posed fundamental threats to the Gospel of Jesus and the very core of their lives and traditions. If the biblical creation accounts could be discounted as myth, they reasoned, then the essential Christian doctrines such as Original Sin (without which there would be no need for salvation according to Christian dogma), the restoration of Paradise and the Kingdom of God, etc. would all be disproved. Bluntly stated, if Darwinian evolution (or the modern versions of this now largely reworked theory) are true, then historic Christianity is a lie! Already beleaguered Christianity was now facing its most serious challenge ever. With the general embrace of Darwinism Christianity began the final stages of it existence as the world's predominate religion.

For the nation's Jews the matter seemed like much ado about nothing. To them Torah was much more than a history book and many Orthodox rabbis were already debating and in some cases rejected any literal interpretation of the Torah before the Sinai revelation. Torah is much deeper than the surface reading. If educated scientists was developing a demonstrable theory about the origins of life, then mazel tov! Knowledge is good. Maybe tomorrow they will learn something more.

Judaism has always been an intellectual religion and for Jews no scientific theory was to be accepted or rejected at face value. All views should be studied, considered, and understood before determinations were made. Among the Orthodox this would take a few decades at least. The rabbis did not perceive the threat to our traditions in the same way the Christian Fundamentalists did. "Accept the theory or reject it. It changes nothing of reality." HaShem is Echad (One).

But it did matter!

The anti-Darwin Christians understood this. It was about much more than a theory. This was a debate about the very meaning of life and the future of the nation! The Scopes Monkey Trial was about something far more essential than Adam and Eve. It was about establishing a completely new global paradigm in which, according to its designers, there would be no place for God as historically conceived. That being the case, there would be no place for the Christian Church as it had historically existed.

To the Christians, the schools had been taken over by Secularist Atheists and they were seeking to program the nation's children to be people with beliefs their parents could neither understand nor accept. This raised significant questions that threatened the role of the family itself. Does the government have the right to legislate such profound social and religious changes against the will of the people? Do not such mandates violate the First Amendment? Did the government really have the authority to a person's children doctrines that violated everything wanted their children belief? Surely not! But the court ruling said they did.

When the trial ended the answer was affirmative. The Federal courts had become the final authority over the upbringing of children. The courts were establishing the new anti-religious consciousness of the nation. The nation and the world had fundamentally changed. Belief in God as historically understood had been defeated by the New World Order. "Ignorant and superstitious" individuals could believe as they wished, but their children WILL BE indoctrinated into the Universalism introduced at the World Parliament of Religions!

"We the People" could have stopped this government takeover of parental rights then, but as was becoming more and more common, most Americans remained either apathetic or agreed that religion could be regulated despite the First Amendment. The oft boasted freedom loving American image was collapsing.

In part because of the new religious and secular theories, many people were finding faith in the 'Old Rugged Cross' no longer tenable. Confused by the future shock of the post-industrial world they began looking at their traditional religious and ethical systems and finding them wanting. Faith in the Western myths (like the Bible) was being shattered by scientific reason and challenged by the comparative study of religion fostered by the WPR (World Parliament of Religion) and the growing interfaith movements. Christianity and Judaism were just two of the many religions one might like, the God they proclaimed was the Greek gods of the past, without real substance.

Perhaps the Bible wasn't really unique after all! The Bhagavad Gita is certainly beautiful and spiritually uplifting. People began learning that there had been several other virgin birth claimed by other religions. That was nothing unique. Other miracle workers had performed deeds equal to or even exceeding those claimed for Jesus. As such things were being contemplated many Christians, Jews and others began to feel somewhat embarrassed that they had ever believed what their parents had taught them. They wanted to find their own truth and they began seeking churches and synagogues began shrinking and/or closing their doors. Perhaps God had died, it was speculated. Certainly in His very existence was waning.

In India the god-man Krishna once lifted Govardhan Hill over his head and held it for days like an umbrella in order to protect his fellow villagers! Jesus never lifted the Mount of Olives! Of course, they didn't accept these stories either, but credulous faith in the Bible was no longer considered viable by growing number of American educated people (LM 47-78).

Christians began to redefine their faith in terms that were more modern and scientifically feasible. Ministers and Bible Colleges began teaching that the Book of Genesis could have been a metaphor. They argued that God could have created the world through the process of evolution couldn't He? Satan became an anthropomorphic symbol of negativity and God was recast as an energy more akin to the Force in Star Wars than to the supreme personal deity of the Bible. By such compromises of their beliefs, Christians were gradually being cut off from the "living, personal Christ" they had always depended on. Belief in God, as historically exercised in the West, had for many become untenable (PN 95).

Whether these reformed ideas were closer to the truth or not is irrelevant to my point. The point is that traditional religion was being fundamentally altered into something far less divine, something that required no faith. This growing trend within Christendom was gradually moving it towards the Universalism desired by the WPR and the social engineers. The Christian Fundamentalists continued to stand, albeit on sometimes shaky ground, while most others embraced the new beliefs.

Having lost faith in traditional Western religion, many found themselves spiritually and emotionally bankrupt. Without a meaningful spiritual belief system, their lives seemed hopeless, without direction. As Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 - August 25, 1900) had predicted in his The Gay Science, this loss of faith by the monstrous logic of terror came as a prophet of gloom, as a solar eclipse whose like has never before been seen (PN 447) (note 34).

This was largely the situation throughout the United States as the 1950's dawned. Americans were becoming the most materialistic people on the planet. The new society offered toys of ever kinds to distract the citizens. New cars, television, new kinds of music, all the latest fads kept them distracted. Religion had at best become rote observance, a weekly duty to be observed with neither intention nor faith. The nation had became a society of secular consumers. Television replaced Bible study and science supplanted religion. Religion was no longer an integral part of what one was, it became something one did, or did not do. Religion was becoming something more and more Americans were leaving behind. Those who continued to confess meaningful religious convictions often did so through beliefs reinterpreted by the new relativist religion of Secular Humanism. The beliefs, convictions and experiences that had once united Americans during the previous Awakenings were now losing their strength. Our sense of nationhood, our beloved e pluribus unum, was being supplanted by crass materialism, consumerism and, in all things, greed. Loving ones neighbor as oneself seemed naive in this brave new world. This was a dog-eat-dog world where only the strong survived! Forget about keeping up with the Jones', the new Americans had to crush them! Instead of being defined by ones spiritual and moral qualities, people were now being judged by their wealth and power, not by who they were as individuals.

Ask someone, "Who are you?" and they will usually reply, I'm a doctor, a cook, unemployed, etc. As the West lost its faith in God ("I'm a child of God"), it also lost its soul. Humans were being redefined in Secular Humanist terms as being little more than another species of mammal. The schools convinced us that we are no better than the rest, although quite likely worse!

The Honolulu Zoo had an exhibit when I was there a few years ago: A sign before a solid cage wall read, See the fiercest animal on earth! Following the arrow and walking to the other side of the cage to behold this terrifying creature, one found only an empty cage with a mirror on its far side. Witty? Perhaps, but while there certainly is some truth in the point the exhibit made, according to both the Bible and Western tradition, human beings are not animals. We alone are created in the image of the Almighty God. We have destiny and purpose.

Animals have neither need nor ability to observe moral codes. As the divinely wrought uniqueness and personal responsibility of humanity was diminished some people began acting like the animals they were told they were. Violence, hatred, rapes, infanticide, and crimes of all types increased dramatically.

Today the U.S. imprisons more of its 'free citizens' than any other nation on earth! We are all the poorer for the death of religion. As a society we have largely lost our moral compass. We deem evil to be good and good to be evil.

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