Secular Family Values—What’s the Point?

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Secularists are claiming that parents can raise good kids without God. A recent opinion piece in the LA Times by Phil Zuckerman discusses secular family values and concludes that children raised without religion “have no shortage of positive traits and virtues.”

He claims that studies have shown “strong ethical standards and moral values that had been clearly articulated as they were imparted to the next generation.” He quotes the leader of a study on secular family values who says, “The vast majority [of secular families] appeared to live goal-filled lives characterized by moral direction and [a] sense of life having a purpose.”

Well, having “strong ethical standards and moral values” and “goal-filled lives characterized by moral direction and [a] sense of life having a purpose” in a secular worldview is completely inconsistent. Without the absolute standard of God and His Word, morality becomes relative—there is no “moral direction!” You see, if God is not the authority, then man, by default, becomes the ultimate authority. But who is to say which man or which government or civilization is right and which one is wrong? Without an absolute authority, you can’t! These parents can raise their children to behave morally but, when they do so, they are being inconsistent and going against the very worldview that they hold. Actually, I would like to hear specific examples of what these people are calling “moral direction” and “purpose.”

It’s also inconsistent for these families to live “goal-filled lives characterized by . . . [a] sense of life having a purpose.” In an atheistic worldview you live and die and that’s it. You’re dead. You cease to exist. You won’t remember you ever lived and nor will anyone else eventually. What, then, is the purpose of life? There isn’t one! In the atheistic religion there is absolutely nothing to give life ultimate purpose or meaning. Sure, they could claim they have what they call “purpose” or “meaning,” however they decide to subjectively define that, while they are alive. But ultimately, so what?

According to Zuckerman, “for secular people, morality is predicated on one simple principle: empathetic reciprocity, widely known as the Golden Rule. Treating other people as you would like to be treated.” Now these secular parents can choose to raise their children to follow the Golden Rule (which is a biblical principle, by the way! See Luke 6:31), but why? And how do they decide what is supposedly acceptable behavior for such a rule anyway? The vast majority of secular parents are evolutionists and, according to evolution, it’s “survival of the fittest.” How does treating others the way I want to be treated improve my chances of survival? In this worldview, shouldn’t I be doing everything I can to further myself, without worrying about others? Also, if evolution is true, then I’m just a highly evolved animal. Animals certainly don’t live by what they call the Golden Rule, so why should I? We don’t discipline a lion for violently killing an antelope, so why do we convict and discipline someone for killing another human being? If secularists were consistent, they wouldn’t be able to say that any behavior was wrong because there is absolutely no basis for saying so! Of course they can claim subjective reasons, such as certain behavior not being what they have subjectively decided is good (however they define that word) for humankind!

In recognizing that there are moral absolutes, that we should behave in a moral and ethical fashion, secularists are actually acknowledging what they really know in their hearts. They know there is a God, the Lawgiver, but they have suppressed the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18–19).

True happiness, moral direction, purpose, and meaning will only come through life with Jesus Christ and by pursuing a righteous life with Him based on His Word. Only in Christ do we find true purpose: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Also consider King Solomon, who stated, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Note that keeping God’s commandments is not the basis of our salvation but the result of fearing God and working out the salvation that Christ has accomplished for us (Ephesians 2:8-10 and Philippians 2:12-13).

Without the saving work of Jesus Christ, we are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Life is devoid of purpose without Christ because we are made in the image of God and thus designed to fulfill our original purpose in Christ. We need to pray that these secular families—which are quickly on the rise in America—will come to realize their need of Christ and will repent and turn to Him. We also need to be salt and light in a dying culture, standing on the authority of God’s Word from the very beginning and pointing people to the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,


This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.

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