Because of this [the humility of Christ who willingly became a human being], men are easily set right, as they recognize humility as the road by which they are recalled. Because of this, the prince of evil, who is conceit itself, has been put to shame and overthrown — St. Gregory Palamas, Homily Fifty-Eight on the Saving Nativity According to the Flesh of Our Lord and God and Savior
I would hold that the reverse is also true — sans Christ, man is easily set astray and the prince of evil is empowered and his ways are honored. I am not alone. Though he might not phrase it exactly as I have, Peter Hitchens (the brother of uber-atheist Christopher Hitchens) has made this argument in his book The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith.
Despite the subtitle, Hitchens spends very little time on his personal journey that has returned him to the Anglican faith of his youth. Rather, he spends much of the book detailing the consequences of atheism. This flows out of two formative experiences — being a reporter in the Soviet Union in the years before its collapse and in Mogadishu during America’s attempt to save Somalia from itself:
When you have seen a place from which the whole apparatus of trust, civility, and peace has been stripped, you are conscious as never before of the value of these things — and more curious than ever about their origins, not in wealth or power, but in the mind of a man and in the better angels of his nature.
He goes on to make the argument that all atheists must answer for the tragedy that is the Soviet Union:
Only one reliable force forms the foundation of the concept of the rule of Law. Only one reliable force constrains the hand of the man of power. And, in an age of power-worship, the Christian religion has become the principle obstacle to the desire of earthly utopians for absolute power.
Once Christianity is eliminated (as the Boleshiviks brutally did — the Orthodox Christian Synaxarion [gathering of the daily saints] is littered by martyrs killed by the atheists) there remains nothing by which to determine what is ethical or what is good. As the Soviet Union so clearly and grotesquely illustrates, ethics sans Christ only exist at the whim of those in power. Released from the shackles of Christ’s humility, the devil has free reign to prey on man’s ego and lust for power.
The result is disgusting. All basic niceties that exist in a civilized society (meaning Christian society — because that is what Western civilization is) disappear. Hitchens recalls observing Soviet traffic coming to a halt at the beginning of a rain storm as every driver would retrieve their windshield wipers from their hiding place and install them. They needed to be hid because otherwise they would be stolen. I myself have seen this anti-civility. During the Soviet Union’s last winter before its collapse, I had to get out of the way of a truck trying to get around traffic as it drove up on the sidewalk with little regard of the pedestrians that occupied it.
I recommend the book. It is a clarion call to those of us of faith. If we value things like trust, civility and peace we must arm ourselves and challenge our secularist and atheist friends to answer for the Soviet Union. We must be able articulate the consequences of a world without Christ.