American Atheism, Vintage 1960

You can learn a lot about a society by studying the artifacts of its popular culture.

Last night we watched a classic Twilight Zone episode that suggested that maybe the good old days weren’t so good: “Long Live Walter Jameson,” broadcast in 1960 (when I was 11 years old). Before I tell you anything more about it, first consider that The Twilight Zone was a very popular TV show and definitely within the pop culture mainstream; and consider these closing words by Rod Serling.

“Last stop on a long journey, as yet another human being returns to the vast nothingness that is the beginning and into the dust that is always the end.”

Is that a comment indicative of a healthy Christian culture?

“Long Live Walter Jameson” was written by Charles Beaumont, considered a great writer of TV fantasies. Beaumont’s scripts, especially some of the ones he wrote for Twilight Zone, reveal an obsession with death and dying. He died at the age of 38 from early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, after five or six years of suffering a progressive loss of his faculties. I think he knew his body was trying to tell him something. No wonder he was obsessed with death and dying. It was happening to him.

The story is about a man who is immortal. He has lived over 2,000 years so far, and he wants to die. I found it to be, for all its artistic excellence, as dark a story as has ever been aired on American TV.

And in 1960, no less! An era I remember as being good. I can still say I think it was better than the era that we’re stuck in now–but here was overt atheism coming into Christian families’ living rooms, and who complained?

Were we that far down the pipe in 1960? Based on my examination of popular culture, I suspect that Christianity in Britain was in deep trouble 100 years ago; and that, by the 1980s, it was taken for granted that English people didn’t believe in God. That’s what comes across to me from their old TV scripts.

But is Christianity that much better off in America? When did the toxin begin to seep into our culture, to the point where a popular, mainstream TV show could take an atheist stance in 1960, and remain popular?

Pray for our nation. Pray hard.

8 comments on “American Atheism, Vintage 1960

  1. Would not what happened 100 years ago as was not there. Also would not know about England as I am Scottish.

    1. It just seems to me, watching as much English TV as I do, that, since the 1980s, it’s taken for granted that most English people do not believe in God.
      I hope the Scots are made of sterner stuff.

  2. By the late nineteenth century, New Age ideas were beginning to take hold, even in the U.S. I can’t remember the source, but I recall reading that one of the founders of the New Age movement opined that our God was the villain in Eden, not Satan.

    If you scratch deep enough, all of these ideas eventually lead back to either deal of, or rebellion against the Creator. Satan does not care if you worship him directly and overtly as long as he can deflect you from worshiping the creator. Any sort of diversion from true worship of The Living God pleases Satan.

    So, while shows like The Twilight Zone were well written and entertaining, at their root is a perverse world where good does not necessarily triumph in the long run.

    1. “God was the villain”–that’s an old, old, ancient Gnostic heresy. But then all the heresies are just the same old antique heresies, given different names from time to time.

  3. In Judge Robert H. Bork’s book “The Tempting of America” he blames America’s cultural downturn on the decade of the 1960’s. I would blame it on the teaching of macroevolution as settled science. Dennis Prager blames is on TV, birth control pills, and easy divorce.

    1. I think there’s something to all of those causes. The ’60s were a train wreck and planted the seeds of some very bad social trends. Strangely, it seemed to calm down for a while, but now the hateful, even demonic behavior seems to have come back into fashion.

      Evolution removes accountability in the minds of its adherents, enough said.

      TV is something I could go on about all day. It’s a true cesspool and has been for some time now.

      Birth control has its uses, but the mental separation of sex from reproduction has had only bad effects. Our Creator tied sex to reproduction and that, in itself, was adequate reason to make people think twice. It’s a real shame that people no longer realize this.

      Easy divorce has certainly played a role. Single parent kids were a rarity in my childhood days, but not anymore. It’s a real problem. Just as sex is naturally tied to reproduction, marriage should be thought of as a permanent arrangement, not a disposable thing.

  4. My dad used to say television was a bad influence and closely monitored what we were allowed to watch. He also said the same about rock ‘n roll music. At the time I was in my early teens and had no idea what he meant. That revelation came a little later in life and he certainly had a point..

Leave a Reply