Wednesday 8 June 2011

The new religion of liberalism (political correctness) - James Kalb


From The Tyranny of Liberalism by James Kalb, 2008. Page 94 (re-paragraphed):


The new religion, a system of moral absolutes based on a denial that moral truth is knowable, consists in nothing less than the deification of man.

To refuse to talk about the transcendent, and to view it as wholly out of our reach, seems very cautious and humble. In practice, however, it puts our own thoughts and desires at the center of things, and so puts man in the place of God.

If you say we cannot know anything about God, only our own experience, you will soon say that there is no God, at least for practical purposes, and that we are the ones who give order and meaning to the world.

In short you will say that we are God.


Skepticism invariably turns into dogmatism. 

We cannot help but act, and if skepticism makes all action nonrational we will nonetheless act on some principle or other. 

If, because we are skeptics, we cannot take arguments in favour of other principles seriously, we will treat our arbitrarily chosen principles as absolute and denounce those who question them as a threat to peace and public order. 


Liberalism (...) proposes a faith - man the measure as the highest truth and preference satisfaction as the summum bonum - but cannot discuss what it is doing or why. Any reasons it could give would fall far short of the clear demonstration it demands.

Rather than engage other beliefs it must obfuscate its position, claim that it wins by default, and declare other faiths out of bounds.


I can easily recall feeling just this way, for years; accepting that man is the measure of all things, having what felt like strong moral principles, but unable to discuss what I was doing or why.

It was - curiously - a very secure position, since it was so unclear, so impossible to pin-down, that it could never be refuted: there was, really, nothing to refute.

Unfortunately, my way out of this was so slow, multi-step and complicated that it is hard to seem how it could be of any value to anybody else.

But one aspect was that I eventually admitted to myself that I had 'always' operated on the basis of some kind of benign providence which was like a path to which I ought to adhere, and which was revealed by instinct and serendipity - then gradually recognizing that this lifelong mode of actual-living made no sense except if there was a God with a personal 'interest' in my 'salvation'.

(I recognized that this was entailed by Jung's ideas - which I had explored in some depth - but that Jung had himself not followed his own logic; then I diagnosed that neither had I.

Once that fact of living was recognized, once the human centred-perspective was rejected (or was recognized as always having de facto been rejected), then this - obviously - led onto other things.



Alex said...

The way out of the liberal dead end must involve a 180º turn - back to where we, the beneficiaries of Judeo-Christian civilization, came from ages ago. In other words, the way back requires a rediscovery of the transcendental values which once infused human life with meaning and gave authoritative guidance to human conduct.

I don't see a 'great awakening' and a return to traditional mores in terms of a mass movement led by a charismatic evangelist (e.g. a figure like Billy Graham.) The moral diseases we suffer from are too widespread, deep-rooted, and advanced for radical surgery to be effective.

I think those who make the 180º turnabout will do so in a personal quest for spiritual consolation and peace of mind. And they must move in an opposite direction to the hordes of sleepwalkers stumbling down the road to destruction. Struggling against the tide of humanity is a lonely predicament.

To paraphrase George Eliot's words at the end of Middlemarch; such awakened individuals will do good by means of unhistoric acts, and live faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Alex - I don't see any sign of a great awakening either. Indeed, what distinguishes this point is history is our societal incomprehension of sin and evil - which extends to most Christians - since they can only conceptualize sin and evil in legalistic terms.

(At a deeper but inarticulate level they may well have better understanding, but somehow this cannot be articulated.)

So, if there did emerge a popular, internationally-influential charismatic moral leader, he would likely be offering only pseudo-salvation (but actually self-gratifying hedonism): i.e. an Antichrist figure rather than a Christian revivalist.