Without faith man becomes sterile, hopeless, and afraid to the very core of his being.

Erich Fromm, in Man for Himself

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To say that religion can be separated from state is to say man can be divided from himself, for the human person is spiritual by nature, longs for good, for God, and truth, peace, beauty, friendship, and love.

Likewise to think of a state without religion is to think of chaos, crime and violence, the gulag and political “correctness,” hostility and distrust, the human reduced and unhappy, addictions and fetishes, isolation and suicide.

State without faith is fiction, with suffering, hopelessness, despair and depression.

Given that, what corrupts religious belief?  The dominance of exclusionary secularism in mass communication culture reduces man and converts him to the state and its ideology, to appearance, conformity, dependence, and the desire for power and control.  Yes, that corrupts religious belief.

So, too, is religious belief corrupted when the elites (even religious leaders) seek the favor of those who rule, abandon virtue and courage to be among the “accepted” and privileged ones.  Yes, to court Herod is to corrupt religious belief.

In our own time and circumstance, religious belief is corrupted by radical egalitarianism – the advancement of one’s own racial, gender and sexual desires above other people, ideas, institutions, above common virtue, morality, historical practices, accepted norms and established beliefs and above truth and God.

Indeed if one is to diffuse conflict in interfaith dialogue, one’s culture must not be devoid of faith, must not have driven faith from its center and its public square.

An interfaith dialogue demands that faith be present.  Likewise does our health and well-being.

But what is the cost to America and the West when faith is lost, or driven away?

Yes, as Fromm says we become sterile, and hopeless and afraid.  And I add: prone to conflict, and pride, and arrogance, to self-deception, hostility, division, dishonor, and loneliness, and sickness in mind and soul.

Just as one without faith cannot have union with others, a nation without faith cannot form allies; for without faith fidelity does not exist, common values erode, friendship and sacrifice wane, and common objective cannot be sustained.

Some months ago I listened to a former Israeli Defense Forces officer discuss the existential threat to Israel because terrorists had constructed elaborate tunnels into Israel from which they kidnapped and killed private citizens and members of the Israeli military.

This man wondered how it was that Americans could not understand this threat and understand the vulnerability that it posed.

His search for an answer from the large audience got no response, except from me and I said this: “You are encountering a language problem.”  He looked puzzled, and so I said: “Israelis still live informed by their faith.  Americans do not.”

My point is Fromm’s point.  Absent faith we live poorly, we are less evolved, less complete, less who we can be and have been.  Yes, further from self, and God.

Yes, we are not subject to religious conflict, but rather in conflict with religion. We are far poorer and at far greater risk for this.

Shalom.

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