To start, I’ll define terms. I mean by decline, the ending of a culture. By Western civilization I mean the attitudes that result from a certain outlook on life, based mostly on European culture, more specifically post-Renaissance mercantilism and the Industrial Revolution. By moral decay I mean the results that this attitude has on the human spirit and the corresponding effect on the material world. By homicentric, the belief in the superiority of man. By Judeo-Christian paradigm, I mean post-Lutheran Christianity.
The decline of Western civilization manifests itself in two major ways, the spiritual and physical. The spiritual decline presages and is a cause of, the physical decline.
The spiritual decline is caused by the perception of a split between the spiritual and physical beings of man. This split has its root in Christianity itself, but is not the direct cause of the split. The cause of the split comes from the Renaissance and the scientific method.
Christianity teaches the split of man and spirit in the Fall, but resurrection and healing of the split by Christ on the cross. The true meaning of this is that resurrection is attainable, much like the remembering of a lost skill.
How the Renaissance made the split evident was by discovery, the realization that man is not the center of the universe, and the fact new things could be found by logical thinking, observation and measurement.
As time passed, this paradigm became the norm in the West, and began to result in significant changes to the way Man’s two natures were viewed. In essence, the physical was all that could be “real”, i.e. analyzed, dissected, and the spiritual was immeasurable and therefore there is doubt as to its existence. This is a matter of faith, not science.
As time passed, the split becomes one that was so obvious, it didn’t exist. All our lives are lived without a true connection to our spiritual beings, and no method to make the reconnection. The split is something that will be reconciled at death, so no need to worry about it now. This attitude becomes pervasive, and takes many forms. I will mention several as examples.
There is lack of commitment to spiritual progress. Worship is an activity that takes place in a specific time and place, on Sunday in a church.
There is a fatalism about the future of man. This takes many forms, but is most striking in the myth of Armageddon and nuclear holocaust, a “fin de siècle” “if it feels good, do it” outlook, and a lack of regard for human life, especially the lives of strangers.
There is preponderance of cult activity, fundamentalism, and an attitude of “let’s return to the good old days”. This is an attempt to try to heal the mind-body split.
There is an obsession with material objects, possession, and sensation. This is a result of focusing on the body as the only tangible expression of humanity.
There is a need to sublimate our personal lives in the lives of public figures. There is a corollary effect, the lack of interest in “real life”.
But, as there is a connection between the spiritual and physical, this spiritual attitude change causes a physical change. This physical change manifests itself in many ways, several critical among them. I’ll let you discover other effects of the attitude change.
First and foremost among these physical changes is the destruction of the biosphere. This is a result of the attitude that Heaven awaits, and our physical body is irrelevant.
Second is the population explosion.
Third is violence against fellow man, and a corresponding callousness.
To place all of these problems at the foot of Christianity is ridiculous, but some blame has to be placed there, and in Western civilization in general. Other civilizations have lived in harmony with the earth for much longer than Western civilization has been around. The major part of the decay has happened within the last two centuries, coinciding with the rise of the United States and its subsequent domination of cultural events. The United States is the full flower of Western civilization, and its last great blossom.
What are the roots of these problems? In essence, it is the mandate given by the Bible to the Hebrews in the first book, Genesis. The mandate is that man has dominion of the world. This is stated directly in Genesis 1:26, “…and let [man] have dominion over the fish…, the birds…, the cattle, and over all the earth…” Add to that Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it”. These phrases, written at the start of the primary text of two major religions, is a deep part of the Western mindset.
Taken literally, that man must tame a wild earth and take control of all things, is the ultimate justification for doing anything to the earth. Population growth fulfills part of the mandate, that of being fruitful and multiplying. Taming or destroying animals, rivers, the air, the earth fulfills the mandate of subduing the earth and dominating animals.
The evidence of the failure of this mandate is all around us right now. Air, water, land pollution, overpopulation, extinction of species, these are all the result of the Judeo-Christian mandate.
We need to change this mandate. To what, and how, are the questions to ask. Let’s start with subtly changing several phrases in Genesis. In Genesis 1:26 we change, …and let [man] have dominion over the fish…, the birds…, the cattle, and over all the earth…”, to …and let [man] have care for the fish…, the birds…, the cattle, and all the earth…” In Genesis 1:28 we change, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” to “Be fruitful, and respect the earth and worship it”. Finally, in Genesis 2:18, change …I will make a helper fit for him” to …I will make an equal worthy of him”.
With these changes in phrasing, the mandate is completely altered. Care, respect and equality are the words of the new mandate.