Vaclav Have, former presiden of the Czech Republic, a survivor of a Communist culture that earnestly tried to live without God, stated the problem:
I believe that with the loss of God, man has lost a kind of absolute and universal system of coordinates, to which he could always relate everything, chiefly himself. His world and his personality gradually began to break up into separate, incoherent fragments corresponding to different, relative coordinates.
Havel saw the Marxist rape of his land as a direct outgrowth of atheism. “I come from a country where forests are dying, where rivers look like sewers, and where in some places the citizens are sometimes recommended not to open their windows,” he said, racing the cause to the “arrogance of new age human beings who enthroned themselves as lords of all nature and of all the world.” Such people lack a metaphysical anchor: “I mean, a humble respect for the whole of creation and awareness of our obligations to it… If the parents believe in God, their children will not have to wear gas masks on their way to school and their eyes will not be blinded with pus.”
We live in dangerous times and face urgent questions not only about the environment but also about terrorism,war, sexuality,world poverty, and definitions of life and death. Society badly needs a moral tether, or “system of coordinates,” in Havel’s phrase. We need to know our place in the universe and our obligations to each other and to the earth. Can we answer those questions without God?
Modern literature exalts as a hero the rebel who defiantly stands his ground in a meaningless universe. Evolutionary philosophy holds up Homo sapiens, a species much like any other, destined to live out the script of selfish genes. What if both views of the world are missing something large, important, and portentous for our future—like the natives of South America who simply ignored Magellan’s ships sailing past?