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The Modern and Post-Modern Attack on Christianity


Dr. Ryan maps the evolution of the anti-Christian campaign waged against Christianity by modernist liberal-left ideologies through the 19th and 20th Centuries.


William L. Ryan

 Author Notes

Former Professor of Moral Philosophy at McGill University in Montreal, now retired, Dr. Ryan makes his home in Nova Scotia.

 Essay - 1/1/1998

The attack on Christianity began in earnest in the 19th Century, with Darwin seemingly able to provide an alternate explanation for God's creation; with Freud providing the view that man cannot be master of himself but is rather the victim of his unconscious; and with Marx providing a deterministic, historical dialectic which incorporated materialism, class warfare, and a negation of God and the family.

Of course, much of this had its roots in the earlier rise of science and the loosening of Church authority during the Reformation and the Renaissance. We do know that most of the earlier scientists were devout--if not always wise--Christians, but it did not take very long before the scientific method proposed by Bacon resulted in materialism, the glorification of science (scientism), and the downgrading of religion by people like Compte.

These anti-Christian elements were thrust into mainstream thinking by Voltaire, the Encyclopedists, and Rousseau, who created a French Revolution against much of traditional authority. The foundation for slogans like "liberty, equality, and fraternity" was the glorification of Reason above all Faith and Revelation. This explains why there has been so much slaughter in the name of liberty and equality. As the founder of real conservatism, Edmund Burke, noted, it was the gallows which awaited those who oppose the utopian dreams of social engineering.

In the pre-war (WWII) 20th Century, the so-called social sciences and Marxism began to dominate the academic scene in universities, most of which had been founded by Protestant and Catholic Churches. This set the stage for the post-war period to witness the destruction of much of the Catholic school system and Catholic institutions of higher learning.

John Dewey became the philosopher for the social scientists. His evolutionary empiricism meant the destruction of moral absolutes and the family. He also influenced the communists, who invited him to Russia. If not a communist himself, Dewey associated with left wing groups and agencies. He glorified the scientific method, which he reduced to relativism and equated his system with democracy. It must also be remembered that Dewey's system and his notion of progressive education influenced ninety or more percent of all teachers and educators at the public school level, together with most of the social scientists on the college level.

The universities were (and still are) steeped in neo-Marxist, relativist social science thinking, which, after the war, was made even more individualistic and relativist with the influence of European existentialism. In the post war period the thinking of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir began to permeate the social sciences, especially psychology. De Beauvoir's thinking also influenced the rise of radical feminism, which was further expanded into a militant social and political movement led by Jewish leftists like Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Naomi Wolf, Bernard Nathanson, Larry Lader, Allan Ginsberg, Arthur Kunstler, and many other leaders of the 1968 Chicago riot and the anti-war movement.

The universities became the spawning ground for every kind of radicalism, which later developed into autocratic political correctness. Of course, there is a basic conflict between individualistic relativism and the authoritarian demands of political correctness, but logic and consistency were never strong points of the liberal-left.

In the '50s, '60s and '70s, the universities were inundated with the humanistic, self-esteem, feeling-oriented psychology of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, along with that substitute for religion and objective morality--"values-clarification." These movements purported to be both scientific and democratic, but were nothing more than an extension of existentialist philosophy.

While all this ferment was going on in the post-war universities, there was added confusion as a result of the rapid growth of cities and suburbia. The baby-boomer generation was raised in a social environment of permissive liberal psychology. The anti-war movement, fueled by communists and naive liberals, was a product of this "new" thinking, which now possessed the added massive educative power of television together with a growing and powerful fifth estate.

Today, these T.V. journalists along with their counterparts in the print media, law school faculties, and the movie industry producers and directors are, for the most part, steeped in the social sciences, and the resulting warped liberalism from which they draw their philosophy of life. For this group and for the myriad left-wing student activists, freedom--especially sexual freedom unchecked by authority--and tolerance are the only virtues in a democracy.

These groups, together with liberal left politicians, who are guided by advisors and spin-doctors who make them sensitive to potential votes available if they will cater to blocs like the radical feminists, homosexuals, and every other minority group that cries for special consideration and affirmative action, now dominate the agenda of the traditional political parties. In Canada, we now have one socialist party and two liberal-left parties--one mislabeled Conservative.

For the most part, the education provided in the little old local red schoolhouses of yesteryear was as good, if not better, than what is provided in today's centralized, co-ed schools. Local community schools supported the philosophy that parents have the first right with regard to the education of their children, especially in the area of virtues and morals.

Secondly, it is elected governments that have an additional say with regard to the objectives and ends of education. The role of the teachers is to implement the curriculum designed to achieve the ends and objectives proposed. It is not the business of the teachers' union s or any other left wing groups to decide what the education curriculum should be.

Outcome based education is just a rehash of Dewey's progressive education with the addition of values-clarification (also influenced by Dewey) and humanistic, non-judgmental, self-esteem psychology. Governments may be bunglers, but we elect them to fulfil the common good; we do not elect union leaders.

In schools today, one of the objectives for education is to get students to accept homosexuality as "normal" and morally neutral. As with Dewey, the domain of feelings and emotions, rather than academic excellence, is the primary focus. Teachers' unions will not tolerate the Ten Commandments, but support homosexuality and "sexual freedom" in general.

The new United Nations is strapped by the same social science trained bureaucrats that infest our governments. They are certainly a threat to our homes and families. Phyllis Schlafly edited a book of parent testimony given before the U.S. Senate sub-committee on the Hatch amendment. It shows that the teachers unions and the Federal Department of Education, staffed by ex-teachers, have tried to bypass the Hatch Amendment, which protected parents' rights over values education of their children.

The shift from the anthropocentric to the biocentric--the environment and animal "rights," is also a product of social science thinking, and is leftist to the core. It is bent on extending the liberal emphasis on change to the socialistic level by forcing a utopian vision upon society. This is done by teaching, by media indoctrination, by laws and punishments, and by courts and tribunals like the Human Rights Commissions.

I am personally concerned for the environment, and for its flora and fauna, but I realize that modern thinking can warp such concerns to a level of stupidity and political correctness. The mindset of the liberal left searches for anything and anybody they can consider as downtrodden and oppressed--blacks, aboriginals, women, homosexuals, lesbians, animals, etc. The problem is that they are more concerned with animals than with the butchery which is going on at abortion clinics.

Liberals and leftists generally lack background in religion, philosophy, and morality. They are armed with sophomore psychology and sociology, together with neo-Marxist political science. They sentimentalize basic questions in such a way that they can convince themselves that abortion is a woman's right.

The suddenness of social change in our era is due to the post-war factors cited above which led to a social and pseudo-intellectual revolution. We do not live in our towns and villages in the same way that our fathers and grandfathers did. We live in a mobile, insecure society with its modern entertainments, its instant communication, and its constant change of issues. Young people are being corrupted in our co-ed high schools where no principles of morality or even politeness are taught, and where little or no authority or discipline is enforced.

The issues and problems presented by the media today are not the issues and problems of yesterday. There is no time for thoughtful consideration or tranquil thinking. We jump into our car, a plane or a train. Our children do the same and too often move beyond our influence. It is no wonder that there is so little stability in family life today.

Many young people have very little hope for themselves or for society. They are encouraged both directly and indirectly to gain satisfaction from sexual experimentation, drugs, and alcohol. Their teachers no longer represent the community, but more and more they represent the ideologies of their universities and unions.

Dr. William Coulson, a Catholic psychologist, was an associate and editor for Carl Rogers. He was instrumental in helping Rogers destroy the Immaculate Heart nuns in California. Today, he realizes the terrible folly of this feeling-oriented, non-directive, inner self-esteem movement. Although he apologizes for his part in ruining so many children and adults, my thought is that Coulson is a product of poor American education, which enabled young men like Coulson to mould a pseudo-philosophy and pseudo-morality out of a nonsensical social "science," without the benefit of studying either philosophy or theology in depth.

American philosopher Mortimer Adler notes that the greatest weakness in the Liberal Arts education is the Dewey child-centered view that all subjects are merely electives which are chosen on the basis of individual interest. Only subjects of personal interest are relevant in the Dewey sense. What subjects would a young activist of the sixties or seventies take for his or her degree? Neither theology nor philosophy, not science or mathematics, but rather political science, psychology, and sociology, with spin-offs like sexology, criminology, urbanization, black studies, women's studies, and so on.

Most frightening is the anti-intellectualism of today's professionals and other college-educated people, who are more often than not city-dwellers. To generalize, the yuppie thinker is put of touch with the past--even more so the younger "Generation-X and the "boom-echo" generations. Few of these people seem to care about intellectual rigor and sound philosophy.

Today, leftist thinking and values dominate all levels of power, the bureaucracies, and most political parties--even nominally "conservative" ones. The left-liberals and a good many neo-conservatives hate "the religious right," which they are incapable of defining adequately. However they make certain that no one fitting that caricature is hired or put into a position of power who does not share their version of tolerance, equality, and democracy.

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