Santa Clarita Signal • Ethically Speaking Column • For July11th weekender, 2015
Testing the Strength of our Pluralism
David W. Hegg
If you look closely at a dollar bill, or any place the great seal of the United States of America is found, you’ll see the words e pluribus unum. This Latin phrase translates to “out of many, one.” Though never officially adopted, this phrase was considered the motto of the United States throughout the first centuries of our history.
E Pluribus Unum describes a fundamental principle held by our founding fathers that has come to be known as pluralism. As founded, America is a pluralistic nation. That is, from the beginning we have recognized the reality that a democracy made up of different people from different ethnicities and different cultures and different religions could only exist if they considered their diversity a privilege to honor rather than an irritant to destroy.
Today we are watching the genius of pluralism die an agonizing death. Here’s why. When our country’s founding documents were written there was an unusual unanimity among leaders and people alike that God existed, and had some sort of controlling influence over creation. Simply put, there was an acceptance of a creator-creature distinction. The idea of religious freedom, guaranteed in the First Amendment, arose from the knowledge that, while there were many differing views on the nature of God and the level of his engagement with creation, all views could and should tolerate one another for the greater good.
This apparently lasted at least until 1956 when “In God We Trust” was officially adopted by Congress as our national motto. But since then we have suffered a monumental shift. With the rise of scientific naturalism, any sense of a creator separate from creation has become a greatly mocked belief system, held only by those who are uninformed and addicted to ancient myths.
Scientific naturalism is the belief that our universe is a closed system made up of only natural processes. All life and all experience can be accounted for through purely chemical processes. There is no spiritual side to life, and thus, there is no god, no designer, and certainly no design in the universe. All has come about through natural, random selection.
Those who hold this worldview cannot abide the thought of God. For them there can be no God. Their worldview demands it. And this worldview is the dominant one in our world today, especially in our public schools and universities, and apparently, in our highest courts.
And so we face the greatest ethical challenge in the history of our union. Can a worldview dedicated to scientific naturalism allow the presence of a worldview built on the Bible with its dedication to a personal, sovereign God who is in charge of all things, and has designed the universe according to his will? In other words, can we still say as Americans “In God We Trust” and be appreciated by those who think our worldview is detrimental at best and dangerous at worst?
It is clear we are experiencing the clash of diametrically opposed worldviews, and we’d better be prepared. The thought police now in charge of our university system have long been shaping the minds of our students away from any sense of the divine. And with the eclipse of the divine in our society, the individual has been raised to the level of sovereign. We have marginalized God, deified man, and thereby granted ourselves the privilege of minimizing all sin. We no longer need God because we have taken his place.
So, will this pluralistic experiment last? Or will the emergence of neo-liberalism become the new fundamentalism? Will those who have gained the ascendancy use their position to honor our pluralistic foundations, or instead use their power to stamp out all opposing opinions? What is really at stake is whether it will remain a patriotic gesture to proclaim “In God We Trust.” If not, then God help us.