Sean Collins of Spiked interviewed Joseph Bottum who, in 2014, published a book explaining very well the etiology of the hysteria and insanity afflicting America these days. This one is a must-read item.
One person who has long been exploring the religious fervour of todayâ€™s increasingly moralistic politics is the essayist and author Joseph Bottum. Indeed, his 2014 book, An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America, seems almost prophetic. There he argued that the demise of traditional Protestantism in the US has led liberals to transfer their religious beliefs, habits and passions into the political realm, moralising it in the process. Our age of â€˜post-Protestantismâ€™, he concludes, has eroded the boundary between the religious and the political, infusing politics with a religious mindset and discourse. …
The Mainline churches helped define American culture in several ways. First of all, the churches were mostly apolitical, which has had a profound effect on American culture. For instance, thereâ€™s never been a great American political novel. The average French streetwalker in a novel by Zola knows more about politics than the heroes of the greatest American novels. What is it to be an American? At the highest artistic level, it is to be concerned about the cosmos and the self. Politics is incidental to Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter and Huckleberry Finn. And thatâ€™s because Mainline Protestantism rendered politics secondary to what it deems is most important â€” namely, salvation and the self.
Second, Mainline Protestantism defined the structure of the family, and the shape of everyday life â€“ baptisms, marriages and funerals. It effectively shaped the social life of communities. When Tocqueville talks about these non-governmental associations in America that he found so fascinating, the two examples he gives are volunteer fire departments and burial societies. People banded together to make sure they had funding, and attendees, for each otherâ€™s funerals. This Protestantism will also shape the idea of the nuclear family, provide a sense of the arc of life, and frame how we understand whatâ€™s driving our behaviour, and how we think about politics. So when 50 per cent of the country belonged to these churches, these churches were still shaping social life.
The third thing Protestantism gave us was a shared language of the Bible. When Adlai Stevenson, the former Democratic governor of Illinois, was asked why he decided to run for president for a second time in 1956, he said, â€˜It was not like Paul on the road to Damascusâ€™. There was a cultural assumption that people would get this sort of Biblical reference. That too gave a unity to American culture. As much as the Lutherans were not the same as the Methodists, and so on, the churches shared what Tocqueville called the central stream, the main current in American life.
In the 1970s, the old Mainline Protestantism starts to break down. A question of what might replace its centrality in American culture emerges. There is a period in the 1990s and 2000s when it seems that Catholicism might provide the moral language that Mainline Protestantism no longer did. In the event, that project failed, primarily because liberal Protestantism did not disappear â€“ it just shifted into post-Protestantism. ….
What weâ€™re seeing now is an amplification of what I wrote about five years ago: an intense spiritual hunger that has no outlet. Thereâ€™s no way to see people kneeling, or singing â€˜Hands up, donâ€™t shootâ€™, or swaying while they hold up candles, and avoid acknowledging that itâ€™s driven by a spiritual desire. I perceived this when I wrote about Occupy Wall Street, and itâ€™s become even more like this. It is an intense spiritual hunger that is manifesting itself more violently. Because to the post-Protestants, the world is an outrage and we are all sinners.
As a follow-up to The Anxious Age, I wrote an essay in 2014 in the Weekly Standard, called â€˜The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideasâ€™. The first idea I addressed was white guilt â€“ that there is this inherent guiltiness that comes from being white. This notion has the same logical shape and the same psychological operation as Original Sin. The trouble is that, unlike Original Sin, thereâ€™s no salvation from white guilt. But the formal structure of white guilt and Original Sin is the same. How do you come to understand that you need salvation? By deeper and deeper appreciation of your sinfulness.
Similarly, there is ostracising and shunning. Cancel culture is just the latest and most virulent form of the religious notion of shunning, in which people are chased into further appreciation of their guiltiness. Two years ago, the Nation published a poem about an older panhandler giving advice to a younger one, about how to get people to give you money. The Twittermob went after that poem, on the grounds that the poet was a white man from Minnesota. And the magazine apologised, and the poet apologised for writing the poem. Thatâ€™s what the shunning is looking for. If you profane, if youâ€™re shunned outside the Temple, the only way back is to become fanatic, to convince people that you understand how guilty you are. And even then Iâ€™m not sure thereâ€™s any way back.
At the very least, one of the effects of the shunning is to frighten everyone into silence. Its purpose is to get people fired, to put people beyond the pale, to get them out of our sight. This is for a couple reasons. First, it is to ensure we are not infected by this sinfulness. And second, it is a public declaration of our power. It says, look how powerful we are, that we can do this to people.
We live in just the strangest times. But understanding the historical roots of these radicals as post-Protestant, and understanding the spiritual hunger which has no outlet for them, helps us to explain it.
There can be no question that he is right. Leftism generally is nothing other than the recrudescence and amalgamation of several earlier prominent Christian heresies, and contemporary Woke Leftism is an obvious outbreak of religious hysteria based on that heretic cult.
Bari Weiss of The New York Times takes a fearful peek down the rabbit hole of the Intellectual Dark Web.
What is the I.D.W. and who is a member of it? Itâ€™s hard to explain, which is both its beauty and its danger.
Most simply, it is a collection of iconoclastic thinkers, academic renegades and media personalities who are having a rolling conversation â€” on podcasts, YouTube and Twitter, and in sold-out auditoriums â€” that sound unlike anything else happening, at least publicly, in the culture right now. Feeling largely locked out of legacy outlets, they are rapidly building their own mass media channels.
The closest thing to a phone book for the I.D.W. is a sleek website that lists the dramatis personae of the network, including Mr. Harris; Mr. Weinstein and his brother and sister-in-law, the evolutionary biologists Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying; Jordan Peterson, the psychologist and best-selling author; the conservative commentators Ben Shapiro and Douglas Murray; Maajid Nawaz, the former Islamist turned anti-extremist activist; and the feminists Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Christina Hoff Sommers. But in typical dark web fashion, no one knows who put the website up.
The core members have little in common politically. Bret and Eric Weinstein and Ms. Heying were Bernie Sanders supporters. Mr. Harris was an outspoken Hillary voter. Ben Shapiro is an anti-Trump conservative.
But they all share three distinct qualities. First, they are willing to disagree ferociously, but talk civilly, about nearly every meaningful subject: religion, abortion, immigration, the nature of consciousness. Second, in an age in which popular feelings about the way things ought to be often override facts about the way things actually are, each is determined to resist parroting whatâ€™s politically convenient. And third, some have paid for this commitment by being purged from institutions that have become increasingly hostile to unorthodox thought â€” and have found receptive audiences elsewhere.
Thomas Hobbes has a little fun imagining a future very different from the present.
The triumph of the Recovery was marked most clearly by the burning of the Episcopal bishop of Maine.
She was not a particularly bad bishop. She was in fact typical of Episcopal bishops of the first quarter of the 21st century: agnostic, compulsively political and radical, and given to placing a small idol of Isis on the altar when she said the Communion service. By 2055, when she was tried for heresy, convicted, and burned, she had outlived her era. By that time only a handful of Episcopalians still recognized female clergy, it would have been easy enough to let the old fool rant out her final years in obscurity.
The fact that the easy road was not taken, that Episcopalians turned to their difficult duty of trying and convicting, and the state upheld its unpleasant responsibility of setting torch to faggots, was what marked this as an act of Recovery. I well remember the crowd that gathered for the execution, solemn but not sad, relieved rather that at last, after so many years of humiliation, of having to swallow every absurdity and pretend we liked it, the majority had taken back the culture. No more apologies for the truth. No more â€œYes, butsâ€ on upholding standards. Civilization had recovered its nerve. The flames that soared above the lawn before the Maine State House were, as the bishopess herself might have said, liberating.
Ross Douthat, in an argument with William Saletan, makes the point that Liberalism, aka Leftism, is merely the same Christianity we are all familiar with, modified into a materialist heresy with the scientific state at the center of the cosmos instead of Jehovah, no afterlife, and all the traditional teachings regarding celibacy and sex reversed.
[W]hen I look at your secular liberalism, I see a system of thought that looks rather like a Christian heresy, and not necessarily a particularly coherent one at that. In [his recent book] Bad Religion, I describe heresy as a form of belief that tends to emphasize certain elements of the Christian synthesis while downgrading or dismissing other aspects of that whole. And it isnâ€™t surprising that liberalism, which after all developed in a Christian civilization, does exactly that, drawing implicitly on the Christian intellectual inheritance to ground its liberty-equality-fraternity ideals.
Indeed, itâ€™s completely obvious that absent the Christian faith, there would be no liberalism at all. No ideal of universal human rights without Jesusâ€™ radical upending of social hierarchies (including his death alongside common criminals on the cross). No separation of church and state without the gospelsâ€™ â€œrender unto Caesarâ€ and St. Augustineâ€™s two cities. No liberal confidence about the march of historical progress without the Judeo-Christian interpretation of history as an unfolding story rather than an endlessly repeating wheel.
And whatâ€™s more, to me, contemporary liberalsâ€™ obsession with the supposed backwardness of Christian sexual ethicsâ€”an obsession that far outstrips sexâ€™s actual role in the preaching and practice of Christian faithâ€”reflects a subconscious liberal knowledge that Christianity is their theological mother, and theyâ€™re its half-rebellious child. You can see in it the childâ€™s characteristic desire to finally overthrow the last bastion of parental authority, joined to a continued desire for the parentâ€™s approval for their choices and beliefs. …
[T]he more purely secular liberalism has become, the more it has spent down its Christian inheritanceâ€”the more its ideals seem to hang from what Christopher Hitchensâ€™ Calvinist sparring partner Douglas Wilson has called intellectual â€œskyhooks,â€ suspended halfway between our earth and the heaven on which many liberals have long since given up. Say what you will about the prosperity gospel and the cult of the God Within and the other theologies I criticize in Bad Religion, but at least they have a metaphysically coherent picture of the universe to justify their claims. Whereas much of todayâ€™s liberalism expects me to respect its moral fervor even as it denies the revelation that once justified that fervor in the first place. It insists that it is a purely secular and scientific enterprise even as it grounds its politics in metaphysical claims. (You will not find the principle of absolute human equality in evolutionary theory, or universal human rights anywhere in physics.) It complains that Christian teachings on homosexuality do violence to gay peopleâ€™s equal dignityâ€”but if the world is just matter in motion, whence comes this dignity? What justifies and sustains it? Why should I grant it such intense, almost supernatural respect?
He’s perfectly right. What is modern environmentalism, after all, other than a particularly infuriating recrudescence of Dualism?
Andrew Thomas observes that liberals want to be punished. Liberalism is a lot like BDSM. Liberals yearn to surrender to a domineering master. For them, pain turns into pleasure.
[L]et’s objectively review the initiatives in the neolib agenda: Environmentalism, global passivism, overpopulation, socialized healthcare, and promoting government intervention into all aspects of life. All of these priorities require individuals to sacrifice their lifestyles, their income, and/or their basic comforts.
This past week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi exhorted, “Every aspect of our lives must be subjected to an inventory…” in order to sacrifice ourselves to the gods of global warming. As presidential candidate Obama said, “We can’t drive our SUVs and, you know, eat as much as we want and keep our homes on, you know, 72 degrees at all times…” He seems to indicate that he wants us to starve and freeze.
Most of these initiatives involve the inflicting of pain and misery. Tom Daschle, in his book “Critical: What We Can Do About The Health Care Crisis” says health-care reform “will not be pain free” and that seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of having them treated. In other words, you will suffer a slow agonizing death under government mandate.
As a final phenomenological exercise, impassively observe the level of neolib support for this agenda. It has not appeared to wane. In fact, neolib fervor continues to increase as the promised level of suffering increases.
Hatred of life, detestation of abundance and material success, self-infliction of pain are all very old patterns of perversity associated with extreme forms of religious aberration. In the Christian context, this sort of thing was usually classified as a heresy, being rightly identified with Manicheanism, a mystical Middle Eastern sect which viewed the universe as dualistic, featuring a good spiritual world created by a positive “Father of Greatness” and a fallen and defective material world created by the “Prince of Darkness.”