Skip to comments.Modern, secular liberalism is a political religion
Posted on 03/02/2012 3:16:27 PM PST by NYer
Jonah Goldberg's most recent "Goldberg File" comments at length, and with several good points, on the maddening way that modern liberalism presents itself as an objective, secular belief system above the superstitious, backwards fray of traditional (and non-traditional) religions:
Speaking of Liberal Fascism, one of its core themes -- and mine -- is that modern liberalism is a political religion.
That's why I've been so intrigued and frustrated by the discussion around Rick Santorum and his various comments, including: His ham-fisted remarks about wanting to vomit after reading JFK's church-state speech, his defense of religious freedom, his insistence that Obama's environmental theology is "not a theology based on Bible. A different theology," his claim that David Axelrod is the reincarnated snake God Thulsa Doom. These have all sparked controversy, save for the last one, which I simply wish Santorum said.
I basically agree with the substance behind everything Santorum has said in this regard, even if I think his phrasing, timing, tactics, tone, tenor, and emphasis leave something to be desired. How's that for an "I agree with you in principle but . . . " statement?
The idea that liberalism is a political religion is not an obscure contention of crackpots -- even if I do hold it. As I've argued -- some would say incessantly -- the Progressives saw their political movement as a fundamentally religious one.
The 1960s have been seen by many liberal and leftist intellectuals as a religious awakening. As I wrote in LF:
The religious character of modern liberalism was never far from the surface. Indeed, the 1960s should be seen as another in a series of "great awakenings" in American history -- a widespread yearning for new meaning that gave rise to a tumultuous social and political movement. The only difference was that this awakening largely left God behind. Paul Goodman, whose 1960 Growing Up Absurd helped launch the politics of hope in the first part of the decade, came to recognize in the second half how insufficient his original diagnosis had been: "I . . . imagined that the world-wide student protest had to do with changing political and moral institutions, to which I was sympathetic, but I now saw [in 1969] that we had to do with a religious crisis of the magnitude of the Reformation in the fifteen hundreds, when not only all institutions but all learning had been corrupted by the Whore of Babylon."
And a bit later:
In 1965 Harvey Cox, an obscure Baptist minister and former Oberlin College chaplain, wrote The Secular City, which turned him into an overnight prophet. Selling more than one million copies, The Secular City argued for a kind of desacralization of Christianity in favor of a new transcendence found in the "technopolis," which was "the place of human control, of rational planning, of bureaucratic organization." Modern religion and spirituality required "the breaking of all supernatural myths and sacred symbols." Instead, we must spiritualize the material culture to perfect man and society through technology and social planning. In The Secular City "politics replaces metaphysics as the language of theology." Authentic worship was done not by kneeling in a church but by "standing in a picket line." The Secular City was an important intellectual hinge to the transition of the 1960s (though we should note that Cox recanted much of its argument twenty years later).
"Man is homo religiosus, by 'nature' religious: as much as he needs food to eat or air to breathe, he needs a faith for living," wrote the late Will Herberg. As the Chestertonian line goes, if man stops believing in God, he won't believe in nothing he'll believe in anything. You can make a religion out of anything. That doesn't mean it won't be a stupid religion.
I could go on. Really. ("Please, no more about Immanentizing the Eschaton, please." -- The Couch.) I honestly think that today's liberals have little to no conception of how liberalism has become a religion unto to itself. Indeed, modern politics could be seen as "a chapter in the history of religion."
This is a huge, fundamental, first-order point about the state of contemporary life that we don't have nearly the vocabulary to discuss adequately. And that's why Rick Santorum's discussion of this stuff is so frustrating: because he's right, and yet neither he nor the rest of us have the vocabulary to discuss it easily.
If you clear the public square of what we traditionally call religion -- Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, Buddhism etc. -- we will not have a public square free of religion. We have a public square full of religion fighting under the false flag of "secular values" -- with no opposing sources of moral authority to resist it.The utopianism, millenarianism and radical egalitarianism at the emotional core of liberalism are fundamentally religious in nature. That doesn't mean liberalism is evil or totalitarian. But it is less than totally self-aware. The nice thing about traditional religion is you know where it comes from. The unwritten faith of liberalism masquerades in the costumes of modernity, progress, social justice and the like without recognizing that liberalism requires leaps of faith, too.
Liberalism's lack of self-knowledge about its nature makes it very powerful and very dangerous. Liberals can simply claim -- without seeming like they're lying, because they actually believe it -- that they are cold, rational presenters of fact and decency. Comte's "religion of humanity" has forgotten that it is a religion at all. But forgetting something doesn't make it any less real. Wile E. Coyote forgets there's no land underneath him. His ignorance doesn't keep him aloft.
Goldberg's point about the lack of vocabulary is a very significant one, and evidence of it is all around us, if we are paying attention. One example from my own experience is that trying to explaineven to serious Christians or those who consider themselves politically conservativethat modern liberalism is essentially religious in nature often evokes either blank looks or even knee-jerk dismissals. People are even prone to saying, "Hey, we all really want the same thing; we just disagree on how to get there." Really? What, exactly, is that "thing"? Justice? Peace? Equality? Happiness? And what, exactly, do those words mean and upon what basisphilosophically, metaphysically, politically, otherwiseare they rendered, defined, and pursued?
These are issues that James Kalb, author of The Tyranny of LIberalism, has been and will continue to address in his CWR column, "Ecclesia et Civitas". His first column was titled, "The tyranny of misunderstood freedom", and his next column, "God and Liberal Modernity", which will be posted soon, will investigate some of the points above, but in a more systematic way, beginning with this question: "What lies behind the radically anti-Catholic form of society to which we are tending, one in which Catholic beliefs count as patently delusional and Catholic moral doctrine as an outrage that must be suppressed?"
Modern, secular liberalism is a political religion.....like Islam.
It is worse than just a political religion.
It is the embodiment of evil.
Rectitudine Sto! ‘Pod.
Socialism is a symptom of the political disease of democracy..
Democracy is and always has been Mob Rule by mobsters..
Democracy is a lie.. no democracy has ever yet been democratic..
Democracy is indispensable to socialism. The goal of socialism is communism. -V.I. Lenin
The meaning of peace is the absence of opposition to socialism .-Karl Marx
That's all well and good until life begins to kick us in the butt: getting old, having life-threatening diseases, accidents and such, watching our parents, spouses, children and friends NOT be as happy as they think they should be.
No matter how wealthy and educated people are they often end up on a hospital bed, with a hospital gown over their ravaged, naked body, wondering how that could happen to them. They thought perhaps that they would live the perfect life and live, maybe forever.
We LOST paradise and are here on earth for God's plan. Why wouldn't one, ANYONE, feel that it would really be a good plan to stay close to God, the Master Planner? Why would ANYONE be so
stupid foolish as to think that secularism, faith or not, is any kind of plan?
” . . . his claim that David Axelrod is the reincarnated snake God Thulsa Doom. These have all sparked controversy, save for the last one, which I simply wish Santorum said.”
He really had my hopes up until that last.
I’ve been saying basically the same thing for years. Liberalism, progressivism, Marxism, Communism - like all religion they make you feel good about yourself, that elevates you above others, causes you to look down on and criticize others with beliefs that oppose yours, and ultimately give you a smug self-righteousness and holier-than-thou attitude.
You think everything you do is to help others, when in reality it is only to help yourself, exalt yourself.
Exactly what Jesus described in Luke 18:9: “And He also told this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:”
Refer to rest of the parable.
Perfect description of liberals/progressives.
All their laws and programs and projects are to help others - yet all have unintended consequences of greatly harming those they think they are helping.
E.g. - look at the black community/culture and how they’ve destroyed it in 50 years.....
Liberalism's lack of self-knowledge about its nature makes it very powerful and very dangerous. Liberals can simply claim -- without seeming like they're lying, because they actually believe it -- that they are cold, rational presenters of fact and decency. Comte's "religion of humanity" has forgotten that it is a religion at all. But forgetting something doesn't make it any less real.The problem is compounded when the words used to label it are lies. It is called liberalism because that is the word which described the prevailing ethos of the American people in the 1920s, when - according to William Safire - the meaning of the word was inverted.
That was needed because the term Progressive had fallen into disfavor just as the L-word" has since. Note that progressive was also initially a positive label since Americans believed in progress as expressed in Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution:
The Congress shall have power . . . To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries . . .So liberalism wasnt liberal, and progressivism wasnt about progress as Americans understand the word. And neither is moderate about moderation.
But why was it possible to change the meanings of liberal, progressive, and moderate to mean essentially their opposite? It should be obvious that that would have been impossible without the cooperation of journalism. What is also clear is that objective journalism is perpetrated by journalists who are not even trying to be objective. Because, ironically, claiming objectivity precludes any serious effort at actually being objective. A belief in ones own objectivity is the essence of subjectivity.
Yet the cult of the objective journalist is the centerpiece of the ersatz religion of liberalism. And the god of that cult is the wire. The Associated Press, and wire services in general, have the effect of unifying journalism; the one thing which is the unforgivable sin in journalism is to question the objectivity of a fellow journalist.
The Achilles heel of wire service journalism, if such there be, is that the mission of the wire service itself is obsolete - bandwidth is now so plentiful that the Internet is no big deal. All journals, even blogs, can communicate worldwide at negligible cost. And the Associated Press was found to be in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act way back in 1945 . . .