The rhetoric of the American Revolution was mild compared to that of the French Revolution. In Great Britain the monarchy had long since been replaced by the republican form of government by those exercising political power enabled by the power of the new economy. The American colonies merely seceded from the union of Great Britain. The American Declaration stood for the local exercise of economic and human rights of which man was endowed by his creator. In contrast, the French revolutionaries were seizing political power directly from the old order, more than a century after the English Revolution. Their rhetoric was liberty, equality and fraternity, i.e. human rights without God.
Some two hundred years later in the American experience through secularization, the rhetoric has caught up with the revolutionary ideology in which liberty is not constrained by the scope of reason. The individual is at liberty to affirm no god and even to pray to a god of his own invention. On September 24, 2014, President Obama addressed the UN indicating God is irrelevant to human rights. The French revolutionaries of the 18th century had got it right. According to the President, pray to whatever god you please, but recognize that the source of human rights is the individual:
They remind me no matter . . . what God you pray to, . . . there is something fundamental that we all share. Eleanor Roosevelt, a champion of the UN and America’s role in it, once asked, ‘Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places,’ she said, ‘close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works.’
In this speech the word God is capitalized, but from the context, it should not be, because it refers to the irrelevance of the gods. The word is used one other time, earlier in the speech:
No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.
If he had said, ‘God does not condone this terror,’ the President would have been acknowledging at least some common understanding of God, shared by most men including radical Muslims. It would also indicate that in the use of the word God he was referring to an existing being and discussing objective truth. But, the context is that no one’s gods should condone terror. Why? Because the gods are irrelevant to, surely not the source of, human liberty which right, to do whatever one wills, trumps all rationale. But, don’t be violent, be tolerant.
How different is the meaning of God in the statement, “Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.” That declaration can be made only if we recognize the existence of God apart from the gods of our own creation. In addressing the question, ‘Does acting unreasonably always and intrinsically contradict the nature of God?’, in his address at the University of Regensburg, Benedict XVI went on to say:
Logos means both reason and word – a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist.
That there is no god, but only the gods of our creation to whom we pray is not the isolated view of the President or a faction within America. It is the common fabric of American life, in the economy and in politics and in the communications media, whether of news or entertainment. The Revolution has triumphed. Liberty over reason because there is no rationale in nature to which the human will must conform. There is no rationale in nature. There is no Logos. There is no God. There are only the gods we create to please us.
In Deuteronomy 32:21, it is said the people provoked God with their ‘no-god’. He threatens to provoke them with a ‘no-people’ or as we might say a ‘nobody-people’. Pray such does not apply to us in our time.
Because there is in nature no reason, which imposes any constraint on the will of man, he can do whatever he wishes. It is this false exaltation of the will over the intellect, first in God, then in man, which Benedict XVI identified as the dehellenization of western thought. However, he traced this back not to the 17th and 18th century revolutions, but the tendency in the early 14th century toward volunteerism, which emphasized the will of God at the expense of God identified as the Logos.