It has been said that when Man stops believing in God, he will believe in anything. And while this maxim is both insightful and witty, and well-worth repeating, I would like to propose a sister maxim to this one. It is something that I have been thinking about for some time, and which I wish to dub ‘Michael’s Maxim’. And this new maxim is as follows:
When Man stops worshiping the God, he inevitably starts to worship a god (and that is when things go wrong).
Now, the general thrust of this maxim should be quite clear. But specifically, the point of this saying is to summarize the idea that man is a religious animal who has a religious impulse to worship something and consider that thing utterly sacred. However, this religious instinct does not go away when God is denied; instead, it merely seeks a surrogate god to replace the God it lost. Thus, when people stop worshipping God, it is inevitable that they redirect their religious energy into something worldly, thereby treating that thing as sacred, which is an insight expressed in the first chapter of Romans. And indeed, this is why, for example, certain people seem to literally worship the environment, while others seem to venerate “science” and imbue the universe with divine-like powers, and still others make their progressive politics so sacred that those politics form the main meaning of their lives. And yet the reason that these “religion” replacements either lead to bad ends or are incoherent is precisely because the spirit of the religious worship is directed at the wrong thing, thus making the whole situation a mess. It is like a woman who fails to have children, and so then begins to treat her pets as if they were literal children. She dresses her pets. She talks to them as if they could converse. And she babies them as if they were innocent infants rather than furry fanged creatures with claws. And we find such a situation pathetic, and mock such women as ‘cat-ladies’ or ‘dog-freaks’; and indeed, there is something profoundly wrong with a woman who treats a chihuahua like a child simply because she forgot about the latter due to being too busy babying the former. Well, it is the same for individuals who treat trees, or progressive politics, or ScienceTM as if they were sacred and had essentially divine importance. And sadly, we are seeing more and more of this every day. Furthermore, it is dangerous, because when the religious impulse is directly towards worldly things, then there is often very little that a person will not do to protect that worldly thing that they have begun to worship. And all too often, people who stand in the way of the earthly utopia that the secular worshipper is trying to create—be it the deep environmentalist, or the progressive politicians, or the scientistic geek who wants a ‘New World’—will be treated as heretics and unbelievers worthy of punishment, persecution, and even death. And the history of secular revolutions—from the French Revolution to the Communist ones—are sufficient to support this claim with some serious weight.
So, in the end, that is why losing God is so dangerous, for the religious fervor is not lost, but it is simply redirected at something that it was never meant to be directed towards in the first place.