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A Culture without Christianity? Imagine.

In 1971, John Lennon wrote a hymn for the secularist faith. The song, “Imagine,” fantasized about the state of world affairs if everyone were stripped of all beliefs and prejudices—with the notable exception, of course, of the former Beatle’s favorites. “Imagine there’s no heaven,” sang Lennon,

It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today . . .

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace . . .

Now while there is certainly nothing wrong with peace, love, and understanding, the evidence suggests that Lennon’s dream world would in fact turn out to be a nightmare. That’s the conclusion of recent historical and sociological studies from two of America’s leading scholars: Rodney Stark from the University of Washington1 and Samuel P. Huntington from Harvard. Without any collusion, they have both found that the animating features that have made the West great—modern science, medicine, democracy and its attending freedoms—were the products of irreducibly Christian thinking derived from central biblical traditions.

In his 2004 book, Who Are We?, Huntington, arguably the most respected political scientist of our time, contends that the United States in particular faces a national identity crisis. What was the original identity? Beginning with G. K. Chesterton’s analysis of America as “a nation with the soul of a church,” Huntington lists the following traits as explanatory of America’s success and global appeal:

the English language; Christianity; religious commitment; English concepts of the rule of law; the responsibility of rulers, and the rights of individuals; and dissenting Protestant values of individualism, the work ethic, and the belief that humans have the ability and the duty to try to create a heaven on earth, a “city on a hill.” Historically, millions of immigrants were attracted to America because of this culture and the economic opportunities it helped to make possible.2

In sum, the Harvard professor avers, it is the Anglo-Protestant culture that arose from scriptural foundations that made the United States great. Attempts to undermine this tradition, whether one ethnically arose from this context or not, he argues, are a misguided and dangerous social experiment which could unhinge the entire project.

In a similar manner, sociologist Rodney Stark tackles the secularist’s mantra that serious Christianity inhibits progress. This, Stark argues, is pure myth. To the contrary, for example, he demonstrates with lucid historical detail that “science could only arise in a culture dominated by belief in a conscious, rational, all-powerful Creator.”3 Further, against the charge that orthodox Christianity is inherently repressive, he makes the case that while believers have sometimes behaved horribly toward others (i.e., witch hunts and inquisitions), only people who believed “that slavery was an abomination in the eyes of God” were poised to defy the evil. “It was that conclusion,” writes Stark, “and only that conclusion, that enabled the West to abolish slavery.”4 The fear of God, in other words, means freedom for men.

Imagine a world without the Bible, without Christians, and without God? That is truly a frightening thought. It would mean more slavery, far fewer freedoms, and unchecked disease. Without the moral restraints inspired by God’s people, the world would no doubt be an unthinkably worse place in which to live. Even a self-professed relativist can appreciate that. All those who love liberty, or so it would seem, have a vested interest in the continued influence and vitality of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.


Stark began teaching at Baylor University in 2004.


Samuel P. Huntington, Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004), xvi.


Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch Hunts, and the End of Slavery (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 197.


Ibid., 3.