Flannery O’Connor famously wrote that the American South, while not necessarily Christian by the mid-20th century, was still “Christ-haunted.” In other words, reminders of Christianity abounded there, and people were continually confronted by a Christian heritage even if they rejected it.
I just finished reading an interesting piece on the ISI website titled “Christ-haunted Modern Morality.” Much of the essay is a commentary on the “sentimental” content of the philosophies of John Stuart Mill and John Rawls. What really grabbed me, though, was the problem for Western atheists illustrated at the beginning of the essay: Are they really entitled to appeal to traditional Western standards of aesthetics, given the classical and Christian foundations of those standards? More generally, how can conceptions of the good, true, and beautiful be structured and defined in a secular context? Obviously, many have attempted to answer these questions, but so many have borrowed from Christian antecedents that they open themselves to the accusation that they are “taking a loan out on Christian teaching, which [they refuse] to pay in belief or in deed.”