The New Gods and Your Radio Dial


A crucial aspect of the worldview differences between an evangelical Christian view of things and that of progressivism is that they represent two opposing views of reality at the absolute root. Christianity understands reality, "Life, the Universe, and Everything," to have a design. God ordered things for the purpose of human flourishing. The cosmos has design features.

Foundational to the progressive worldview that emerged from Continental Europe in the form of German philosophy is that "God is dead." This was not a literal sort of claim, as though the Maker of Heaven and Earth had actually been killed. It is a sentiment that expresses that the Creator hasn't existed all along. Philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche, G. W. F. Hegel, and Ludwig Feuerbach believed that there is no God "out there," and believing that there is had shackled humanity in primitive superstitions. Humanity has been stuck in arrested development, mentally deficient little children fantasizing about somebody greater than themselves. By asserting that "God is dead," they meant that the old view of a Supreme Being who created and "ordered" the universe is but a figment of our imagination. What is needed is to "kill" off this concept of God and replace it with a far different vision: Nietzsche's "Superman," or, as Hegel put it, collective humanity embodied in the State as "God walking on the earth." If there is no God who has ordered the cosmos with built-in design features, then it is up to human beings themselves to "order" the universe and create the design features they desire. People need to grow up and realize that it is they, collectively, who are the true god.

The engine or institution through which humanity exercises these divine capacities is the State. Political observers often speak of the "Nanny State" or "Paternalism" to describe these new-found divine powers of the civil government. Government is the only providence, the only thing regulating reality and keeping you from catastrophe. It is not God who has ordered things for human flourishing; it is the State that must order things for human flourishing.

We might (and often do) find it profoundly irritating when civil governments start regulating our sugar or salt intake, banning soft drinks over 16 ounces or removing salt shakers from New York City kitchens. These may seem very small, relatively benign things. After all, is this not for the common good? I suggest that people are mostly right to call this phenomenon the "Nanny State" or "Paternalism." The civil government wants to protect you from yourself. Nanny doesn't want you to drink that Big Gulp. Daddy doesn't want you to have access to a salt shaker. (I'll just note that far from the usual caricature of the biblical God as an angry killjoy, he is more generous by far than his human upstarts. God has no problem with sugar and salt: he created them.)

But understanding the bigger picture, the background worldview, leads to a slightly more robust critique: this isn't a "Nanny" or a "Daddy." This is the God-State. City Hall, Capitol Hill, and The White House are collectively the new Mount Olympus. They are homes of gods who mingle in every single petty affair of men. We are in dire need of their intervention. Without them, we will be ignorant and obese. And, like their ancient forbears, these gods are tyrannical, capricious, and whimsical, rewarding their friends and punishing their enemies. They are mere men fancying themselves gods.

It is with that background that I have noticed a very small something recently. When driving in my car listening to the radio, I have been bombarded with radio advertisements teaching me, promising me, and warning me about the best way to live my life. I am told that I need to beware the evils of lead paint; if I don't, my children will be deaf, dumb, and blind. I am told that I need to replace all the windows in my home with "Energy Star" windows and light bulbs, which will use less electricity and save the planet. I will even be able to afford to take my kids to the state fair next year with the money I will save, so they tell me. My all-time-favorite is the radio spot telling me to wash my cutting boards and cooking surfaces. No, I am not making this up. Apparently there are vast numbers of sentient human beings living in 21st century America who do not know about bacteria.

What do all these radio spots have in common?

They all give out sponsoring Internet addresses that end with: "dot-GOV." As in, GOV-ernment.

It might as well be "dot-GOD."

I do not wish to minimize the problems of lead paint, expensive electricity, or food poisoning. I have a problem with the State fancying itself god. Teaching, promising, and warning us from on high, the benevolent State intrudes into our kitchens and living rooms with only our best interests at heart (and not, surely, the interests of the Sierra Club or energy efficient window manufacturers).

Progressives "killed God" because they wanted to be free of that allegedly miserable and miserly killjoy.

Talk about projection. The killjoy, scolding gods of the new Mount Olympus are hardly an improvement. They don't need Oracles to speak, because you supply the advertising money and they've got your radio dial.

Brian Mattson