Contemporary Liberalism is a Suicide Cult, not a Religion

Even though his Christianity is sometimes heretical, Bruce Charlton is often tremendously brilliant. And I mean “brilliant” in an almost literal way: Shining strong light to reveal an important truth. Witness his recent post, Is Social Justice/ Political Correctness/ New Leftism a religion? Actually *not* (despite superficial similarities).

I have been saying that liberalism is a religion. Not so, points out Charlton. Some quotes:

The Old Left, such as Communism, was very much like a Godless religion; and it did have saints- such as Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao. But the New Left of Social Justice and Political Correctness has only temporary idols, any of whom may be vilified and demonized at any time.

The idols of the Social Justice Warriors are not saints, but merely function as clubs, taken-up to beat the enemy – then usually discarded.

(snip)

And this is the essence of the beast: it is negative, oppositional, lives by subversion, inversion and destruction of the Good; its stance is perpetual opposition.

Stability and the status quo and tradition [are] attacked, but there is no alternative stable state in view; no Social Justice utopia being aimed-at; no end-point at which political correctness will say ‘enough’, ‘this is it’.

Classical liberalism was a de facto religion, with a plausible (although false) cosmic metanarrative, a code of ethics, “saints,” and even, as one wag put it, the New York Times as Holy Writ. But contemporary, politically correct leftism doesn’t deserve to be called a religion. It has no stable form, only a constant, intuitive hatred of the true, the good and the beautiful. It’s a civilizational suicide cult.

To be sure, the politically-correct Left frequently invokes the ideas of classical liberalism, which still command widespread respect. But when it does, it’s just a demon in wolf’s clothing. The current Left is all about destruction.

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Our job, then, as relatively sane men, is to dodge the falling debris.

Plotinus and Augustine on Gnosticism

Gnosis 02The trend of politics in the Western nations since Eric Voegelin’s death in 1986 has made his work increasingly relevant to any philosophically rigorous Conservatism or Traditionalism. In particular, Voegelin’s argument that liberalism and its Leftwing metastases constitute an evangelical religious movement, mimicking and distorting Christianity, has gained currency. The pronounced irrational character of the “Global Warming” cult and the obvious messianism of Barack Hussein Obama’s presidency have together sharpened the perception that contemporary Leftwing politics shares with history’s specimen-type doctrinally intransigent sects an absolute intolerance for dissent, even for discussion, along with a conviction of perfect certainty in all things. The sudden experience of Leftwing triumph attests that, indeed, utopian radicalism draws its strength from a deep well of resentment that puts it in conflict, not merely with those whom it regards as heterodox, but also with the unalterable structure of reality. Voegelin argued – in The New Science of Politics (1952), Science Politics & Gnosticism (1965), and throughout Order and History (1957-65) – that the rebellion against reality was a recurrent affliction of civilized life; he pointed to the acute anticosmic sects of Late Antiquity as offering a paradigm of the phenomenon and expanded the scholarly designation of them as “Gnosticism” to cover insurgent ideological doctrines of the modern period, particularly Marxism and National Socialism.

Thus Lawrence Auster, the late creator and supervisor of the (now inactive) View from the Right website, explicitly links his understanding of the Left and his idea of Traditionalism to Voegelin’s argument that modernity is essentially Gnostic. A somewhat less focused acknowledgment that the Left is cultic in its behavior has surfaced now and then at The American Thinker and the name Voegelin has occurred in that venue. Again, nationally syndicated “conservative” columnist and radio-host Dennis Prager, while not citing Voegelin, has nevertheless in a recent essay declared explicitly that Left-Liberalism is a religion and can be understand in no other way. In my own contributions to The Brussels Journal and in various print articles (for example, in a Modern Age essay on V. S. Naipaul) I have frequently invoked Voegelin, often quoting his pithy sentences, as a rich and clairvoyant explicator of our straitened times. Are we certain, however, that Voegelin’s disapprobation of Gnosticism is valid? And might Voegelin’s insistent parallelisms of the ancient and the modern be a result of an idiosyncratic view?

The topical literature is fortunately large. It reaches back to the Late Antique primary texts of Gnosticism – such as the Valentinian Gospel of Truth (ca. 150) – and the accompanying critical and anti-heretical discourses of the philosophers and the Christian Patres; and it embraces a rich scholarly investigation beginning in the early Nineteenth Century, continuing to the present. What do the ancient sources tell us about Gnosticism? And what does the scholarship of Voegelin’s Nineteenth-Century precursors, his contemporaries, and his successors tell us about it? Continue reading

The Modern World in a Nutshell

Our leaders want to create a new world in which nobody is mean.

(By “mean,” I mean “cruel,” not “average.”)

But this is impossible. Meanness cannot be eliminated. Just telling people “Stop being mean!” doesn’t work. So our leaders have decided to be mean to the mean people, in the name of anti-meanness, in the hope that this will stop the mean people from being mean.

And since being mean is to them a sin, our leaders don’t acknowledge that they’re being mean. In their own eyes, they’re not sinners. So they can’t be mean.

This makes them meaner, because they don’t recognize, and therefore seek to control, their own meanness. Their meanness isn’t meanness. It’s goodness.

And, of course, when ordinary people emulate our leaders’ meanness, they’re being good too.

Our leaders also want to create a new world in which nobody believes in truth or goodness. People who believe in truth and goodness care about truth and goodness. This makes them mean to the people who don’t care about truth or goodness, or who oppose truth or goodness. Can’t have that.

So in order to eliminate meanness, we have to be mean to the mean without admitting it, and we have to hate truth and goodness, because these are the ultimate cause of most meanness. And that means that we have to hate God, because He is the ultimate truth and goodness.

Welcome to the modern world.

 Postscript

You have to live in the modern world, but you don’t have to agree with it. You can disagree. You can say silently to yourself “That’s wrong.” This is the beginning of sanity.

Mere Reaction

Secular reaction can’t work. As Bruce Charlton pointed out yesterday, secular cultures must tend always leftward – i.e., toward chaos and death – because at bottom they are guided and governed by disordered passions and desires, and so furthermore are careless of their danger. This will be as true of their noblest exponents and leaders as of their common folk. And we won’t be able to persuade a whole people that the first principles of their secular society are insane using only secular arguments. To sway them, we’ll have to put the fear of God into them. And we can’t give them what we don’t ourselves possess.  Continue reading

An Orthogonal Turn at First Things

From its founding, First Things has been the premier journal of high Christian engagement with the public square in the West. The basic proposition of the journal has been that American liberal democracy could be domesticated to Christ by a concerted ecumenical effort of philosophical evangelism. First Things intended to provide a forum for that discourse, and a rally point. Much good has come of this project. But with the recent spate of stunning reversals on sexual policy, and with Christianity ever more clearly in the crosshairs of our secular overlords, the writers of First Things seem to be recoiling from the profane culture of the West and its liberal cult of Moloch. They begin to see that their project has failed, and that perhaps it was doomed to fail from the start. More and more, they seem to realize that rapprochement with liberalism is in any case a pact with the devil.

It’s not just that the editors saw fit to publish an article by our own Jim Kalb back in December. In the February issue, First Things took a decided turn toward orthogony to secular political discourse, as if they all with one mind awoke to a realization that dawned on most traditionalists several years ago: America is too far gone to be saved. As Lawrence Auster then began to say, “It’s their country now.” Likewise also for the West in general.

First Things seems now to have reached the same conclusion.

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The Inhumanities

Over at What’s Wrong with the World the redoubtable Lydia McGrew has one of those posts making a point that’s obvious in retrospective, except that (almost) nobody said it before. When conservatives decry all the emphasis on sending students to major in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), and call for a renewed emphasis on the humanities to produce well-rounded persons, they’re ignoring the obvious: The humanities have almost uniformly become cesspools of leftist perversion and idiocy. Sending students there does far more harm than good.

In response, reader Gerry T. Neal proposes a name for the newly-befouled districts: The Inhumanities.

So we may define any department or discipline ostensibly dedicated to English, Philosophy, Classics, History, or one of the “Studies” (Queer, Chicana, Black, etc.) as part of the Inhumanities unless it demonstrates clearly that its purpose is the study of truth, goodness and beauty.

Why Modern Authorities are (Generally) Dishonest Manipulators

[This will not be news to most Orthosphere readers, but we need clear statements of basic principles to educate the young.]

Not all authorities are dishonest manipulators, of course, but the higher their rank, the more dishonest and manipulative they tend to be. And this is not just an unfortunate fluke. In the modern world authorities have to be manipulators. They have no real authority but they must somehow establish and maintain order, so manipulation is usually their only recourse.

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A bit of history: Until modern times (roughly, before the end of World War I), most people made most of their important decisions based largely on tradition and authority. “Tradition” means the ways of thinking and living they inherited from their ancestors, and “authority” means the teachings and the commands of people such as lords, kings, pastors and teachers. Tradition and the authorities were recognized as having the right to answer the important questions of life and to tell us, in broad terms, how we ought to live.

But now, thanks to the successful liberal takeover of the West, tradition and authority are greatly diminished.  The liberal jihad fights, in large part, under the banner of personal freedom, and in the modern world we are all supposed to be autonomous, self-actualizing freedmen who accept no authority not freely chosen and who are liberated from the tyranny of tradition. Continue reading

The Liberal Cannot Stop Dancing

Long long ago, in another, an antediluvian world, way back in 2003, indeed so long ago that it was before Zippy Catholic became Zippy Catholic, he came up with the notion of the Hegelian Mambo in a comment thread over at VFR. This at least is how I recall that it happened. Zippy can correct the record, if he wishes. The basic idea is that liberal culture – composed as it is of left liberals and right liberals, of “progressives” and “conservatives” – must move always leftward: two steps left, one step right, or as Zippy put it:

Thesis step to the left,
Thesis step to the left,
Grab Antithesis on your right and step to the left,
Twirl around
Synthesize
cha cha cha

And step to the Left…

The rightward steps are feints only; they are accomplished via Auster’s Unprincipled Exceptions, and are entertained or undertaken only to obscure the absurdity of the two leftward steps.

The Hegelian Mambo may be understood as a repeated gyration of the liberal as he slides like a snowboarder down the Slippery Slope. It helps him keep a precarious balance, preventing his immediate crash. Thus it enables his continued steady progress toward the abyss.

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Reversion to the Mean

If there is a real world, and if it is consistently ordered, and if this consistent orderliness extends to the living portion of that world – these being the de minimis foreconditions of any sort of life whatsoever – then there must be some basic set of policies best suited to the lives of humans as we find them in the world as it is. Such is the proposition at the crux of philosophical Traditionalism, and of all the unconscious chthonic traditions that arose of old and organically from the practice of life, and were one day noticed and then taught by priests and sages. It is obviously true; it cannot but be true.

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Academic Freedom Means . . .

For those not following the case, Marquette University has decided to attempt to fire one of its tenured professors, John McAdams, for, well, something.  The letter by which the university informed McAdams of its plan is here. McAdams’ response to the letter is here. In summary, an undergraduate student was enrolled in a philosophy class which class was being taught by a graduate student, Cheryl Abbate.  The graduate student instructor asserted, one day in class, with little or no discussion, that gay marriage is an example of something that John Rawls’ Justice Principle protects.  After class, a student objected to her claim, counterclaiming that gay marriage is potentially harmful and thus not necessarily protected.  As their discussion unfolded, Abbate unburdened herself thus:

Ok, there are some opinions that are not appropriate that are harmful, such as racist opinions, sexist opinions, and quite honestly, do you know if anyone in the class is homosexual?  . . . Ok, well, actually you don’t have a right in this class, as –especially as an ethics professor to make homophobic comments, racist comments, sexist comments . . . This is about restricting rights and liberties of individuals. Um and just as I would take offense if women can’t serve in XYZ positions because that is a sexist comment . . . You can have whatever opinions you want but I can tell you right now, in this class homophobic comments, racist comments, and sexist comments will not be tolerated. If you don’t like that you are more than free to drop this class.

There is no debate about what Abbate said since the student recorded the conversation.

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