True North - Christian
From hiking to ethics, politics, spirituality, psychology, relationships, in all areas of life in which decisions about reality are important, we really need a true reference point. We need the compass needle to point north so we can align ourselves with reality as it is, and not get lost. A reliable reference point.
For societies to function well together, a primary reference point needs to be agreed so we can all avoid conflict as much as possible. When I visit Indonesia, I know the local reference point is largely Islam, so I know how to get along. Even if I don't agree with Islam personally, I can accomodate wherever possible in good conscience. At Australian Federation we chose a generally agreed reference point in Judaeo-Christianity, the Bible, "under Almighty God." The consensus was that we all go along with this same reference point as a society. Besides, part of that Christianity was that "secular" meant non-sectarian, open to all, regardless of creed. So Christianity provided a good reference point for public ethical decisions and the moral conduct of society.
Spinning Compass - Agnostic
But from mid twentieth century, Australia's general population became less certain of Christianity, and even the idea of objective truth. With growing multiculturalism, the magnets of other ideologies made the public discourse agnostic: "we don't know what our public reference point should be." But instead of really thinking this through, broadcast technology rushed through the shallow, political-correct (ie. wrong in the real world) idea of "each to his own, you do you, I'll do me." Public media and politics mostly ignored the matter of truth, ultimate reality, and an agreed reference point.
This sounded democratic: "let's leave it as a private matter and not have a public reference point as such." And no doubt most Aussies still think that's what we have today... but not so!
Self-Aligned Compass - Naturalism
Most of us didn't even see it happen! Most assume we're back at Agnostic. But to the degree that we excluded religious / spiritual worldviews from the public square, one worldview took over the reference point. Naturalism asserts there is only the natural, physical world, and no super-natural, no spiritual or other dimensions. No God to answer to, no higher power, so do anything you want - but keep religion private. "Secular" has come to mean, "no religious views." In practice this became Australia's public reference point! Naturalism is now unofficially determining all our national, ethical, political decisions. Marriage, gender, religious education, terminating babies, the old and infirm, public narratives about science, climate, races, power/victim status, are all decided squarely on Naturalism as the reference point.
We were not asked if we wanted to shift our public reference point, let alone shift it to Naturalism. It just happened by excluding the other options. If we had been asked, "Do you want Naturalism as our new public reference point?" we would have certainly voted against it. Why?
1) Partly because more of us do experience spiritual realities than do not.
2) Also because with a little thought it soon becomes obvious that Naturalism is a really bad reference point. It inevitably leads to the Law of the Jungle, with everyone pulling for their own interests, and the most ruthless grab power to eliminate the competition. That's been the result in all socialist / communist governments, which are always based on, yep, Naturalism. We know where that road leads, and we don't want to go there.
The question now is, will we become publicly wise enough to thoughtfully choose our reference point before we descend into naturalist chaos? I know most Aussies think our reference point is agnostic, but in practice it's already been hijacked by Naturalism - is that what we want? Or do we want to choose a better reference point?
Which reference point would you choose and why?
- Which worldview actually produces freedom of conscience? (Not merely allows it.)
- Which has a proven record of producing moral societies, with humility and civic service?
- Which encourages separation of powers, and the idea that all of us are accountable under the Creator?
Even honest atheists admit that Christianity has yielded the best moral code for societies, and the safest freedoms for others to disagree. A Christian public reference point best serves everyone, including agnostics and naturalists.
Agnostic Jordan Peterson knows this: as a psychologist helping people to align their lives with reality, he says, “I live as though God exists, and I’m terrified that he might.”
That’ll work for Australia too.
(PS. After returning to the climate of freedom that Christianity brings, maybe we can also remedy that agnosticism about evidences for the Creator. But that’s another story.)