I end this chapter with the warning I alluded to at the beginning. It’s a warning that was first issued by Nietzsche. The life of the West, Nietzsche said, is based on Christianity. The values of the West are based on Christianity. Some of these values seem to have taken a life of their own, and this gives us the illusion that we can get rid of Christianity and keep the values. This, Nietzsche says, is an illusion. Our Western values are what Nietzsche terms “shadows of gods.” Remove the Christian foundation, and the values must go too.
True, values like equal dignity and equal rights will persist for a period out of sheer unthinking habit. But their influence will erode.
Consider the example of secular Europe. Secularization has been occurring in Europe for well over a century, and for a while it seemed as if the decline of Christianity would have no effect on Western morality or Western social institutions. Yet if Nietzsche is right we would expect to see the decline of Christianity also result, over time, in the decline of one of the great legacies of Christianity, the nuclear family. We would expect to see high rates of divorce and births out of wedlock. And this is what we do see. Secular trends in America have produced the same results, which are not as advanced in America because Christianity has not eroded as much here as it has in Europe.
As secularism continues, Nietzsche forecasts that new values radically inconsistent with the Christian ones—the restoration of infanticide, demands for the radical redefinition of the family, the revival of eugenic theories of human superiority—will begin to emerge. These, too, are evident in our day. And they are some of the motives for attacking Christianity and insisting that its values are outmoded and should be replaced.