Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Is Christianity inherently left wing?

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The answer is given by the properly-formed question: Is Christianity inherently left-wing compared with what?

(And I mean compared with actual, real, historical situations - not with wish-list collages of 'these are the things I would like best in my perfect society' compiled by intellectuals.)

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Have radical Left leaders over the past centuries been famous for their orthodox Christian devoutness; or for their atheism, heresy, liberalism?

Are the most Leftist regimes of all all time (i.e. Communist) characterized by their promotion of orthodox Christian devoutness; or for their subversion, persecution, imprisonment and mass murder of Christians?

And so on.

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Mainstream modern Christianity is, of course, mostly led by Leftists - but then what isn't? The ruling elites just are Leftist. If you are not Leftist, then you are not a leader of anything powerful.

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But the debate is arbitrarily framed.

Someone comes up with their own personal, imaginary, ideal list of what it would be to be reactionary - then measures up real world things against that list.

But if reaction has reality, if the polarity between Left and not-Left has reality, then this procedure is nonsense.

We would, instead, need to perceive the diversity of actuality as imprecise and imperfect representations of underlying trends.

And these trends - of which actual political realities are imperfect representations, are:

A 'traditional' society organized around religious imperatives (of which Christianity is one) - this is The Right.

versus

A 'modern' secular society organized around the pleasure-pain axis, a utilitarian society, a this-worldly society. This is The Left.

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Real life is, of course, much more mixed-up and compromised and corrupted - but these are the underlying realities.

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Those who reject religion (of all kinds) are Leftists (differing only in strategy and priorities); and those who advocate a society which is ruled by religious imperatives are The Right (differing - profoundly - in their understanding of the Truth by which society ought to be organized).

And the rest are just sophomoric pick-and-mix wish-lists - intellectual collages. 

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32 comments:

Daybreaker said...

I don't think that's really accurate. Or close.

Christianity is the kind of thing that does not fail gracefully.

I posted that statement before and you did not allow it, which is fine, but I'll repeat my main point now: Christianity acts as a hot-house encouraging the growth of deadly forces and tendencies, to which it supplies the only and ultimately unavailing defense.

Over time it becomes a protection racket, offering the only refuge from terrible forces which would not have taken hold in the first place without Christians following specifically Christian logics inviting these forces in and letting them build up. (Better support the Church, poor peasant, or there's no telling what those guys might do. And you can't blame us for their deeds, because they hate us, even though we invited them in, and we consistently favor them more than you do.)

And then its tenuous control slips, and the people are plunged into a hell on Earth - one they would never have suffered had they been allowed to follow their more cautious and ethnocentric instincts.

In the meantime, Christianity leeches away tribal loyalties and other moral resources that people will need to save themselves, collectively, in the time of crisis. (In a way that Islam does not.)

Christianity is wedded to the "conversion of Rome" model, where the people that embraces it is overthrown and dissolved, but never mind, Christianity converts the barbarians as well.

Eagerly Christianity cooperates in the extermination of those that trusted it, confident that history will repeat itself.

When I was younger I could not see the significance of the fierce warnings in the Old Testament against Israel whoring off with "foreign" gods. Why was "foreign" the vital issue? True or false, good or bad, kind or unkind, surely that covers everything?

Well no it doesn't, and in the behavior of Christianity now we can see why. A foreign god is one that regards the people, the nation and even the entire race as expendable. New people can grovel before its altars as well as the old ones, so why should a foreign god not cooperate in calamitous betrayals? And indeed, that's how it works. No blood ties: no loyalty. No loyalty: no good.

We have gone off whoring with a foreign god, and that is why we are being destroyed, with the warm approval of the representatives of that god.

That is the deep source of the power of leftism. We cut off our connection to our blood, our ancestors, our kin. We abandoned the roots of loyalty, and without loyalty you've got nothing.

I don't expect you to publish this, and it certainly won't persuade you of anything, and that's fine. I just wanted to say it, because I think it's true.

Daybreaker said...

"Those who reject religion (of all kinds) are Leftists..." conceals more of the truth than it reveals.

Many and the most important leftists are motivated specifically by a religious loyalty. (Which is also an ethnic and racial loyalty.) Out of respect for the "house style" of this blog I won't name any books that give chapter and verse on this, but they exist. It is just a matter of fact that people push cultural Marxism and other left-wing causes because of their identities and in loyalty to those identities. The quotes are there to show it.

This is what anyone should expect, because collective strategies are overwhelmingly powerful against individual strategies. Armies beat individualist mobs.

In the left, the power, in the long run, is with those who keep themselves going as a multi-generational and international institution, while those who are committing genetic and ethnic suicide in supporting leftist causes are merely berserkers: spectacular and numerous, seemingly the fiercest because they hold nothing back for their own collective long term survival, but with little ability to sustain any strategy. They are weapons, not the stuff of market-dominant minorities or a religiously, ethnically and genetically distinct over-class.

Bruce B said...

Usually the argument that I run into on the secular right is that Christianity birthed the left-wing ideologies. They say things like “deification of the victim is at the heart of Christianity” and claim that Christianity holds this in common with leftism. They also focus on what they see as Christianity’s embrace of a “universal brotherhood of men” and point out the commonality with leftism. The secular/neo-pagan Alain de Benoist supposedly locates (so I’m told) the source of leftist universalism in the Catholic Church.

Bruce Charlton said...

@D - This is just wish list stuff, I'm afraid. The fact is that anyone can make a collage of stuff they like, and prove that Christianity (or anything else) does not live up to it - but all viable societies before the modern era were extremely religious; and the only non-religious societies have been extremely hellish (and nearly all very Leftist with the *partial* exception of National Socialism which was only mostly-Leftist and only survived for half a generation which is neither here nor there).

You are, it seems, a Nationalist - which was a brief transition between the religious and the secular societies - nationalism was a secular religion. But Nationalism is gone - it provides only very weak motivation.

As for the non-Nationalist secular 'Right' - that provides no motivation at all - it can't even support a newspaper.

Christianity is extremely corrupt in the West - but Christianity is 2000 years old and we know for sure that Christianity is capable of providing immense motivation, and underpinning very tough societies.

By contrast, the theories of the 'secular Right' are just words, words, words.

Of course, the strong horse at present worldwide is not Christianity - but it is a religion.

Over the timescale of 2000 years, it is Leftism that has almost killed Christianity, and not vice versa - and Leftism is intrinsically both atheistic and anti-Christian in tendency.

And, as for fertility - there is no significant secular group that is at replacement fertility in the world; all *chosen* above-replacement fertility is among the religious.


Really, there is nothing to debate on this. To say that Christianity is intrinsically Left Wing is so wrong, so foolish, and anti-correct that it is hard to know where to begin in discussing the matter rationally!

I personally believe that the explanation is psychological, not rational, and that those who spread this CiiLW meme want to hold-onto something that matters more to them than rationality - something which a sufficiently strong religion to structure-society-around would require them to give-up - most usually this something is some aspect of the sexual revolution (extra-marital sex, promiscuity or whatever), but it might be something else.

At any rate - to believe that CiiLW is not an intellectually-serious position.

Bruce Charlton said...

@BB - To this kind of argument I can only say that Christianity is 2000 years old - it is not 1000 years old (since the Great Schism) nor 500 years old (since the Reformation) nor even 180 years old (since Joseph Smith's Restoration) but 2000 years old.

Any theory which is refuted by the first 1000, 1500 or 1800 years of Christianity is ridiculous.

Daybreaker said...

I'm a little skeptical of any theory that supposes the roots of leftism are in the Catholic Church itself, directly and not in the sort of opposition it allows and provokes in the long run, and not just currently and in its corrupted state but inherently and always.

The Catholic Church has been a huge debating society. You can find so many "tendencies" in it that almost any actual course of events could have been pinned on some "tendency" or "root" within the Church.

If we still had kings by divine right, it would be just as easy to say that was inevitable, given Christ the King and so on.

Bruce B. said...

There’s also a belief floating around the secular and neo-pagan right that Christianity was Romanized (and then Germanized), fundamentally transformed, and that the Reformation put it on course back to its Grandmother-of-Bolshevism/slave-morality/deification-of-the-victim/etc. roots.

Daybreaker said...

"You are, it seems, a Nationalist - which was a brief transition between the religious and the secular societies - nationalism was a secular religion. But Nationalism is gone - it provides only very weak motivation."

That's a different time line and world map than I had in mind.

It's difficult for me to comment on, possibly because it's hard to suddenly think of something that's important to you and feels perennial to you as being a brief historical phase that provides only a weak motivation. I'm kind of snookered there.

Thursday said...

I've mentioned this before but there are two lines of evidence against the "Christianity is left wing" argument.

1. Jon Haidt's research that documents in excrutiating detail how liberalism (both left and right wing versions) is based on a purely secular, this worldly morality. It denies the transcendent moral foundations of purity, loyalty and reverence, which are in abundance in Christianity.

2. Something like liberalism arose quite independantly in China: Mohism. It is implausible that that was because of Christianity. Furthermore, we can see the rise of a similar utilitarian ethic among the atomist philosophers in Ancient Greece and Rome. Again, this had nothing to do with Christianity.

Thursday said...

I've been puzzled by the fact that women tend to be both more religious and more left wing. I've chalked it up to women both having stronger religious intuitions and stronger harm/care intuitions. Then typical female thinking being utterly dissociated, they have trouble noting that the two are sometimes incompatible.

Thursday said...

Daybreaker is wrong. The left has not succeeded because of organizational acumen and group loyalty. Left wing "organization" is a complete joke. They have succeeded purely because of numbers. Something (or somethings) in modern life have made people particularly succeptible to left wing arguments.

George Goerlich said...

The Christian church is the body of Christ, and as with any body we have a hierarchy of importance and functions. This hierarchy and separation of function was reflected precisely in medieval society. The idea of "equality" thinly-painted over Christian theology is a recent and heretical invention.

Further, historically all great religions must be Universal in spiritual focus, as in towards the God(s), but it is only secular modernism that attempts to gloss over the specific ethnic and cultural differences to build a "New World Order" of materialistic consumer workers.

Thursday said...

Of course, one should note that these are not either/or categories here. There were (are) many intermediate stages between Christianity and the full blown secular liberalism we have now. As our host well knows, the trajectory from Christian to secular in the West went from Catholicism to Puritanism to Unitarianism to Trancendentalism and only then finally on to secular liberalism. What we see is a very gradual secularization over time with people holding many intermediate positions between traditional morality and liberal morality.

Adam G. said...

If we accept that Leftism is an inevitable result of Christianity (I don't, but for the sake of argument) we should also accept that Christianity or something like it is an inevitable result of paganism. Paganism and Christianity had it out and Christianity won going away. Trying to return to the defeated pagan past is the kind of utopian, otherworldly political thinking in which some elements of the right betray the endemic Leftism of our culture.

josh said...

"I've been puzzled by the fact that women tend to be both more religious and more left wing. I've chalked it up to women both having stronger religious intuitions and stronger harm/care intuitions. Then typical female thinking being utterly dissociated, they have trouble noting that the two are sometimes incompatible."

I don't think this is everywhere and always. It may just have to do with the particular way that status works among women contra men.

asdf said...

Old Testament Christianity was state based Christianity. It posed a religious king ruling over a chosen people.

When Jesus came the Jews were living under a pagan ruler (Rome). They did not have the support of the state. So Jesus taught them how to keep their religion without having control over the state. Those that wouldn't listen triggered the Jewish Revolts and got smacked down hard by Rome.

Jesus did not teach people how to form this worldly societies. He taught them how to seek salvation.

Adam G. said...

Tribalism and nationalism are not the same thing. Tribes have a real-world blood link. Nations much less so.
Tribes are a real thing, not a catch-all term for anything not universal.

It's a matter of historical fact that nationalists were liberals. Nationalism was liberalism. In fact, nationalism was even universalist in a way. Liberal nationalists had a de facto internationale (look at Garibaldi, the Hungarian insurrectionsists, and the 1848 Germans offering their services to the Union in the Civil War, for instance--or the 1830 Belgian uprising touched off by an Italian nationalist opera. Indeed, most nationalisms tried to appropriate some kind of universal mission to their nation--the French had their mission sacree, the German nation was the synthesis of the Hegelian dialectic and had world-historic importance, the United States was the redeemer nation that was a light to the world, Britain was the New Israel, and etc. Nationalism was imperialist because nationalism believing in universal civilizing missions.



I don't think nationalism as such is wrong and needs to be rejected. But if you object to Christianity because it led to progressivism, you have to object to nationalism. Nationalism was an intermediary step from Christianity to progressivism.

Daybreaker said...

hbd chick argues that key genetic characteristics of white people, including a propensity for democracy as more than a passing experiment, are due to Christianity shaping the white gene pool. This is a serious argument. I'm not sure I agree with it, but it falls under the heading of arguments that suggest Christianity has indirect effects that support liberalism, even though it is conservative in itself.

Her argument goes like this. Christianity has pushed for a rare degree of out-breeding in the European-descended populations, over a very long time and with total success. That means all the "virtues" of inbreeding (which hbd chick does not like at all) such as clannishness, cannot be selected for, while all the high-trust, reputation-minded, civic-minded virtues that hbd chick loves and wants to preserve have been given an advantageous field of competition.

This is not a question of "religion" versus non-religion, or whether a religion is "liberal" in itself. Islam absolutely does not have a similar effect.

It's a Christian thing. And it's a Christian thing that means that where Christianity has prevailed for a long time, the people are going to have a weakened genetic capacity for tribal-mindedness.

Which is great if what you want is to be trusted and treated well by strangers, especially strangers to whom you are obviously not related.

So what hbd chick wants is to preserve the virtues of much outbreeding. (I can't remember if she says explicitly that she wants to preserve Christianity, but that is an implication of her position.)

The down-side, as it turns out, is that a population thus genetically reshaped is horribly vulnerable to being colonized, culturally overthrown and genocided by those who have not unilaterally disarmed in an ethnocentric arms race.

There's no immune system. There's no white cells. Nobody is guarding the sheep.

Liberalism, a weapon for seducing people away from their collective interests, is apt to prevail in this picture, "because of Christianity" but not because of any alleged Grandmother-of-Bolshevism/slave-morality/deification-of-the-victim/etc. roots.

George Goerlich said...

I don't think Paganism "lost" to Christianity, so much as paganism lost its ability to providing a spiritual basis for Empire and society. Christianity arrived with perfect timing in Rome (God's will) to bring about a rebirth of Europe and provide its people with a spiritual core.

interesting said...

The comparison needs to be made between Christianity, and non-Christian, non-semitic religions. In that comparison, the leftiness of Christianity shines through.
Compare Christianity, which answers YES to all the questions below, with Brahminical Hinduism, an example of Pagan religion, which answers NO to all of them.
1. Believes in equality of men
2. Values charity to the poor, as opposed to charity only to the priestly class
3. Guilt based vs Shame based
4. Golden point in the far future, as opposed to the far past
5. Linear as opposed to cyclical view of time (Cyclical time predisposes one to conservatism - linear time is tied to temporal progress)
6. Opposes ethnocentrism

These are only a few points, but any comparison of Christianity with pagan religions exposes the fundamentally left wing character of the New testament.
Nietzsche knew this - he commented on the difference in temperament between the NT and the Manu Smriti a century ago.

Jehu said...

Christianity created a high trust society. For instance, the original Quakers gave us something near and dear to most people today---fixed prices. No more haggling for hours every single day. Were that a technology in a Civilization-type game it would be loudly decried as obscenely overpowered. High trust societies have serious advantages both in organized military terms and in terms of getting rich.
Really rich societies like ours (fueled by fossil fuels which allows a holiday from Malthusian history of unknown length) are rich enough that people can peacock by pretending to believe noble-sounding rubbish like universalism. That, IMO, is the chain of causation.

Bruce Charlton said...

@interesting - What you are doing is exactly what I meant by comparing Christianity with "wish-list collages of 'these are the things I would like best in my perfect society' compiled by intellectuals". Your implicit definition of Leftism is such a collage.

I read a lot of Nietzsche over many years, and my conclusion is that he is nearly always wrong about nearly everything.

But of course he was 1. super-intelligent and 2. the greatest prose writer Germany has ever produced: so people tend to believe his self-refuting nonsense.

But really, the fact that Nietzsche says something is strong prima facie evidence that that thing is false.

Daybreaker said...

If Christianity in itself, directly, is inherently left wing, actual left wing nationalists seem confused on the issue, when you consider the militant de-Christianization of France in the French Revolution and the establishment of the Cult of Reason to replace it and then Robespierre's Cult of the Supreme Being to replace that (and again, Christianity).

People generally don't wade hip deep into absurdity to replace something they perceive as being inherently in their favor.

George Goerlich said...

Regarding equality again:

No, as first God's justice is very unfair to modern liberal ideals and not supportive of equality. Those who fail to turn towards Him go to Hell. Secondly, those who are members of the Church are all sanctified as part of God's body, but serve different and unequal roles.

Guilt based vs Shame based:

Sin is more than just an action to feel guilty about, and so change ones behavior, but an actual blemish that turns one away from God. Other religions support this same idea - if in part of your life you are "turned away" you can not fully "turn towards," Christian repentance serves as a mechanism of acknowledging ones faults, without failing to for pride, and reorienting one's path towards a higher spiritual plane.

4. Golden point in the far future, as opposed to the far past. 5. Linear as opposed to cyclical view of time (Cyclical time predisposes one to conservatism - linear time is tied to temporal progress).

Christianity is both, as in Adam and the reintegration of man with God. This is cyclic in the sense that we once were there, are no longer, but will once more achieve that golden age. In Christianity this cycle is not an exact repetition, just as birth is not, but certainly we know there is a pattern and God and Heaven are eternal - not limited to temporal spaces.

"And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." - Luke 17:20

6. Opposes ethnocentrism

Christianity does not explicitly oppose ethnocentrism, or ethnic uniqueness, but ethnic and cultural factors are traditions directly tied to religion. In various ways in different locals, Christianity integrated pagan expressions of faith. This certainly was very visible historically, though the entire world has been rapidly using its distinguishing ethnic factors in following the cult of modernism.

Adam G. said...

Daybreaker,
I think HBDchick is right, but realize what you're calling for. You're not saying we should be pagan instead of Christian, you're saying we should return to mostly marrying relatives.

JP said...

The left has not succeeded because of organizational acumen and group loyalty. Left wing "organization" is a complete joke. They have succeeded purely because of numbers. Something (or somethings) in modern life have made people particularly succeptible to left wing arguments.

Democracy works by force of numbers and the mobilization of envy? Who knew!

Imnobody said...

I could be wrong but I think that Leftism is a heretical Christian sect. Leftism is what remains of Christianity when you remove God and Christ (the most important things, granted). Of course, the other elements have to be reaccomodated when the center is removed and Leftism is the end result of this reaccomodation.

This is why it is so easy to mix Christianity and Leftism (Jesus saying rich people won't enter the Kingdom of God or Isaiah criticizing the rich can be interpreted as a support to redistribution politics).

This is why Leftism has persecuted Christianity so much (no one wants a rival worldview, and Christianity is dangerous because it shares the same concepts than Leftism, so the conversion from one to another is easy: see Hillary Clinton, which started as a Baptist, if memory does not fail me).

The same way Christianity was a religion born from Judaism (but clearly different) or Bahaism is a religion born from Shia Islam (but completely different), Leftism is the godless religion born from Christianity.

Let me summarize it this way:

Leftism = Christianity - God + State+Individual

Where the role of God in Christianity is inherited partly by the State and partly by the Individual (this creates a tension between the right wing of Leftism -neocons, Ayn Rand- and the left wing of Leftism - marxism, etc. The former emphasizes the individual and the latter emphasizes the state.

All the ultimate values of Leftism were produced by Christianity. "Citizens equals before the Law (the State)" is "Christians equals before God" (ancient religions did not consider other people as equal before the gods).

The Kingdom of God predicated by Jesus downplayed ethnic bonds or family (see the Parable of the God Samaritan, Mattew 8:21-22) whose importance was overwhelming in other religions. This is the origin of multiculturalism.

And redistribution of wealth to give to the poor has origins in verses like that: Luke 18:22.

Leftism misinterprets these Christian values, granted, and gives them a meaning they never had (for example, giving to the poor was voluntary in Christianity and forced by bureaucracy in Leftism).

But the origin of these values and the fact that they are considered good come from Christianity. This is logical: Leftism does not appear from nowhere but it is born within a Christian society and inherits most of its values.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Imn - You are committing all the fallacies I pointed-out in the post.

Imnobody said...

How so? I thought it was completely compatible. For example:

Those who reject religion (of all kinds) are Leftists [...]; and those who advocate a society which is ruled by religious imperatives are The Right [...]

I don't think this is incompatible with my view of Leftism being originated from Christianity when religion (God, etc) is removed. Of course, Leftism is anti-Christian and anti-religion but this does not mean that its origins are Christian (what other origins could Leftism had: Buddhist, Daoist?).

Bahaism rejects violence and Shia Islam justifies violence in name of religion. But it's a fact that Bahaism is born withing a Shia Islam tradition.

A 'modern' secular society organized around the pleasure-pain axis, a utilitarian society, a this-worldly society. This is The Left.

This is why I meant that the Individual partly replaces God in Leftism. Instead of the will of God, the will of the individual (meaning utilitarism) is the moral rule.

Well, maybe I have misunderstood you but I don't see where.

Kristor said...

European civilization has been Christian for a thousand years. Christian Europe produced Leftism. It also produced Scholasticism. It produced Hollywood. It produced NASA, the computer, science. It produced Reaction. It produced the novel. It produced wars of mass destruction. It produced industrialization and finance capitalism. It produced Nazism. Hell, it has produced almost everything now in use in the Aryophone world.

It seems silly to me to try to argue that Christianity is uniquely to blame for Leftism, when it has produced everything else as well. Blaming Christianity for Leftism is like blaming gravity for Leftism.

interesting said...

"A 'modern' secular society organized around the pleasure-pain axis, a utilitarian society, a this-worldly society. This is The Left. "

I think this leaves out many important features of the modern New left. This description seems to deal more with Stalinist Communism than the New left.

The new left is not entirely utilitarian. It has certain no-go areas, like the sacred status accorded to minorities, victim groups, animals, poor people etc.

Several core tenets of the left - Welfare, Affirmative action, open borders, non-violence and Political correctness are not utilitarian in any way. They are results of a process born in excessive empathy and compassion for those who are "suffering".

There are two major international faiths which ground themselves on compassion for the suffering, and in finding fault with yourself before finding fault with others - Christianity, and Buddhism.
It is not very surprising to me that young people in the ex-christian countries of the west take to Buddhism like a fish to water. Go to Reddit.com and see all the "atheist" cheerleaders fawning over Buddhism.

Bruce Charlton said...

@i - No, it certainly is not a complete explanation nor do I claim it is! I would not have bothered to write 25k word book if PC could be explained in 250 words!