Tuesday 1 October 2013

Secular 'Right' (alt-right, neo-reactionaries) have painted themelves into a corner...


Three things about the secular Right (which is actually part of the Left) are:

1. They dislike the politically correct Left

2. They dislike Christianity

3. They want to be on the winning side/ they don't want to join-up with 'losers' (too uncool)...


But none of these are desired to the extent of being prepared to give up the luxuries of modernity.

The secular Right still want prosperity, comfort and safety as the primary goods of life - they want modernity above anything else (certainly they want these things more than they want a society run on primarily religious lines: a society aiming at salvation).

Thus they want Leftism; but just a different kind of Leftism from the mainstream: a more realistic Leftism, a more efficient Leftism, a Leftism that actually does promote the maximal hedonic well-being which the politically-correct Left only pretends to advance....


So the secular Right are reduced to getting fun from intellectual analysis, model building, and debate.

Seeking the magic button, the chink in the armour, the vulnerable patch of soft underbelly, the microscopic software vulnerability... that, if precisely exploited, would swiftly and effortlessly yield-up modern society to themselves and their theories.

And these things are indeed fun - I like them myself, being still a boy in many respects - but they are no basis for life.


Meanwhile the world goes on...

Leftism continues to loathe, weaken and kill itself; sooner or later one or other religion will take-over.

And since the secular Right hate, despise and are bored-by Christianity; they will presumably be content to go along-with-whatever non-Christian religion emerges triumphant from the ruins of Leftism.



ajb said...

"since the secular Right hate, despise and are bored-by Christianity"

They certainly dislike certain forms of Christianity, but my sense with the secular right is that prior to this they simply don't think Christianity is true - that the historical claims don't hold up.

Samson J. said...

So the secular Right are reduced to getting fun from intellectual analysis, model building, and debate.

Yes. This mirrors exactly what I said at Zippy Catholic's recently, and the rest of your post is an expansion on it.

I've become very wary of the secular "neo"-reactionary blogs - and if I read one more person arguing that Christianity and "progressivism" are somehow related, I will probably swear them off for good.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SJ - since we are swapping blog comments:



Bruce Charlton said...

@ajb - There is that too - but the two are psychologically linked. I mean they seem to believe all that evidence-tortured nonsense about Christianity being intrinsically Leftist (and indeed they believe that Christianity is the source of Left/ Liberalism) because they *don't want* Christianity to be true - rather as liberals dis-believe in the facts about heritable intelligence and personality because they don't want the consequences to be true.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ajb - I also think that dislike is added to disbelief - for example the secular Right disbelieve Buddhism but don't dislike it.

Also, I have inside information on this one - because remember I am a recent convert - and therefore I know that secular Right find Christianity dull, boring, low status, embarrassing, irritating and pretty hateful - because that is exactly what I thought myself - and I moved in that climate of opinion.

e.g. About a decade ago I read the whole of Joseph Campbell's Four Volume history of spirituality/ myth "Masks of God" - and I read everything in it from animistic hunter gatherers, totemitic societies, via Zoroastrians and Mithras and paganism up to James Joyce and Thomas Mann - *except* the Christian parts.

Samson J. said...

@SJ - since we are swapping blog comments:

Aha, thank you, but I did read the discussion over there. I declined to participate precisely because of the sprouting of this "Christianity = Leftism" foolishness... and I really do commit to making efforts not to participate in those sorts of discussions in future.

low status, embarrassing

Ha. This ties perfectly in to your recent post on pride. For some years I have been enjoying the HalfSigma/LionoftheBlogosphere website, mostly because of what it has taught me about social class. The host has this ongoing theme that "being religious" is "prole". It's likely true, after years of Leftist cultural programming. I personally have relatives who are well-to-do, materially-successful professionals, who at times have expressed an interest in Christianity - but I know, because I know them, that one of the biggest obstacles in the way of their becoming Christians is that they don't want to be like those awful religious proles.

I don't want to imagine any of these folks standing before the Lord someday and explaining, 'Well, you see, I didn't want to follow you because it just would have been so declasse.'

Bruce Charlton said...

@SJ - I don't generally participate in these discussions but make an exception for 'Foseti' - because I think he is a decent chap who will probably become a Christian sooner or later, and there is no hurry about this (seek and ye *will* find, after all) - but just at present he is perhaps vulnerable to being de-railed.

Samson J. said...

I agree, and I like Big F too. I think at times I have rather less patience than I ought.

The Continental Op said...

Many of the neo-reactionaries are exploring illiberal themes, but they still have the emotional gestalt of libertarianism, whence many of them come.

Charlton, you are an interesting comparison, because you are a former libertarian, but you do not display an iota of libertarianism now, and have exposed and renounced its fundamental principles. Foseti, for example, is still a technocrat in his heart (that certainly may change...).

I think it's why they like the term "neo-reactionary" and not just "reactionary". In the same way, liberals who were mugged by reality called themselves "neo-conservatives", not conservatives. They never really went all the way to conservative, and neo-reactionaries aren't going fully reactionary. At this point, Foseti and Moldbug want to do an engineering re-design that makes things more efficient, more functional, more pragmatic.

The Continental Op said...

The apostle Paul reveled in the 'foolishness' of Christianity, a nice passage from one of his letters follows. It is this way by God's design; it's not just his design, but it pleased him to do it this way, so we can even laugh with joy about it! There is no need to be ashamed of it. Paul elsewhere calls himself a fool for Christ. Embrace it!

(1 Corinthians 1:18-25)

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

asdf said...

What I find amazing is that in another post in this batch Foseti talks about a correspondence between some leftists where they say that their purpose in life is to be shills for the establishment (in exchange for a comfortable life) and then proceed to talk about the various horrible engineering solutions that would bring about stability.

Yet, Foseti can't connect the idea that they are doing exactly what a secular would be expected to do. Why would the engineering solution they come up with be for the betterment of the rest of us? Wouldn't it simply be the most expedient way for them to achieve their own ends of power and stability. If lying about that to the masses is part of that stability then so be it, but the goal is still the goal.

The alt-right supposes that it would do something differently, I have no clue as to why. Their goals and motivations are the same (personal and this world). Would they not do the same in the same position? If they would not, can they explain why not back to first principals? No, which is why its all just parlor room theory.

asdf said...

The Continental Op,

Yes, I called someone out over the fact that they just seem to add neo- to everything in order to look cool. Neoreaction is becoming an increasingly nerdy movement full of all sorts of wacky terms and theories in search of the one true pragmatic solution.

asdf said...

Foseti is a nice guy if you meet him in real life. Mostly interested in taking in knowledge rather then talking.

In general I think internet communication is pretty low information and wisdom. It's mostly pursued because of logistical reasons.

Bruce Charlton said...

@COp - Great, inspiring words - I always get an inner shiver when I encounter them.

Here they are in the King James/ Authorized Version:

18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Tom S. said...

Do you guys feel that Christianity as it exists in the United States and Western Europe can actually be reformed to become reactionary by any means short of divine intervention?

My elderly, politically conservative parents have had a semi-recent religious conversion to moderate evangelical Christianity and I've had the privilege of witnessing its effects on them.

The practical effect has to been to move their behavior and attitudes decidedly leftward and to focus their attention and their resources on decidedly left-friendly causes. Like sponsoring the lifestyles of fallen women or sending their retirement money to increase the population of Uganda.

I'd love to see a mass conversion to a reactionary Christianity, but the leftist interpretations of the scripture are plausible enough that it seems unlikely, short of divine intervention.

Is the point you are making essentially that we should look to our own souls and give up on fighting progressivism in this world?

Bruce Charlton said...

@TS - Answers are all over this blog and in Thought Prison (my 2011 mini-book - see sidebar to the left for a link).

In a nutshell - secular progressivism is evil - therefore destructive not creative, therefore hates itself (as well as many good things), and is killing itself, at an accelerating rate; the big issue is what will take over from the collapse.

The answer - insofar as there will be an order (and not simply an increase in chaos) is some kind of orthodox traditional religion - the big question is which one.

What anyone needs to do who opposes Leftism is 'pick your religion' decide which you think is true, or true-est - and support that as best you can.

Arakawa said...

"Is the point you are making essentially that we should look to our own souls and give up on fighting progressivism in this world?"

It seems trite to quote Scripture at you, but:

"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" - Mark 8:36

Substitute 'if he shall save the world' for modern activists (of whatever political stripe).

To elaborate more, using decidedly a non-religious source, I found it interesting that Mencius Moldbug, the one time he tried to boil his theory down to a single action, wound up writing that the essential first step is to renounce the pursuit of political power (http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.ca/2009/10/gentle-introduction-to-unqualified.html). MM then elaborates:

"The spiritual core of the First Step is the famous and ancient Chinese principle of the Mandate of Heaven, or Tianming. This can be condensed as the principle that power flows toward the worthy. To attain power: become worthy to rule. Since becoming worthy is a worthy exercise by definition, it satisfies our need for quantum Buddha duality. It is simultaneously harmless and deadly - both, at once, completely. Moreover, no one can laugh at it, because I did not make it up myself. Tianming is quite literally ten times as old as American democracy, and far better proven by experience."

Which necessarily leads to the question -- what makes one worthy to rule? Which, for the thoughtful, leads to the question -- what makes one worthy to do anything whatsoever? (The problem of imperfect human nature.) And we are thus in territory that is most frequently covered by religion, of whatever kind. People on the reactosphere seem to lean towards the notion that Christianity is the right answer (and not, say, Buddhism), at least Christianity as it existed in earlier centuries; but it's a hellish time trying to convince them that the question is worth asking in the first place.

Samson J. said...

@Tom S.:

The practical effect has to been to move their behavior and attitudes decidedly leftward... Like sponsoring the lifestyles of fallen women or sending their retirement money to increase the population of Uganda.

It sounds like you are being a little bit glib and facetious with this. It isn't clear exactly what you mean by "sending money to Uganda", but if charity towards poor brown people in other countries is to be called "Leftism", then I am guilty as well.

I am beginning to see that part of the infernal problem with this whole discussion is an equivocation about the definition of "Leftist", and that I would rather stop talking about Left and Right and just talk about right (morally).

Anti-Democracy Activist said...

A couple of notes:

1) First, yes, it's all leftism. The French Revolution may have been the American Revolution's evil twin, but they were still brothers, and still had the same DNA.

2) It seems that what Tony Blair called the "Third Way" is now the model for the West going forward. In essence, it is what has resulted from the fact that big-business Capitalism has cut its deal with Cultural Marxist leftism. This is no surprise; it is in fact a symbiotic relationship. The 20th century experience of Marxism taught the left an important lesson about killing the goose that laid the golden egg - you can't redistribute wealth that never gets created in the first place. As for Capitalism, it is inherently amoral - its job is to generate profits for its shareholders, not to preserve traditional culture or uphold morality. That the two would make a deal is only natural.

I understand that many in the traditional right may still reflexively defend Capitalism because they remember the days when that word was normally followed by "...versus Communism", but that was a long time ago. The world has changed, alliances have shifted, and we can't afford to have our thinking stuck in the 1980s.

It's time for the traditional right to reevaluate its relationship with Capitalism. Especially now that it's clear that Capitalism has reevaluated its relationship with us.

JP said...


The host has this ongoing theme that "being religious" is "prole".

Not all religions reek of prolehood. Paul Fussell's book on class lays it out pretty well IIRC. The problem is that the non-prole sects take their religion much less seriously and are much more focused on Leftist worldly goals. Personally I can't see much use for unitarianism at all, even though it is not "prole".


The main thing is to understand that what is called "capitalism" these days isn't capitalism. The Right should support genuine capitalism, and oppose socialistic big business masquerading as capitalism.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ADA - I think that Third Way was the theory, that the productive sector would grow and the welfare state would lag this so that growth would not be damaged (too much); but we now know that covertly the welfare state in Britain was continuing to expand parasitically - at the expense of the productive sector; and that this was deliberately disguised by creative accounting from the deeply dishonest Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown.

Advocates of this Third Way way sincere but only weakly motivated and personally dishonest, so when the temptations of power came along they did whatever was expedient to them personally (including building up a client base by creating dependency using tax revenue - eg the new National Lottery profits) and lied about what was happening.

It was observing, again and again, this kind of failure of 'good ideas' due to weak motivation covered up with dishonest hype and lies, that was a factor in making me realize that secularism is intrinsically dysfunctional.

I know for sure that the same would happen with the neo-reactionaries and alt-righters. The only way that the secular Right can summon sufficient motivation to achieve anything is by inculcating Pride and Hatred (i.e. fascism/ national socialism) - but even this has proved extremely difficult to sustain over the decades except as a destructive force - to harness deliberately amped-up Pride and Hatred into construction and cohesion is... tricky.

Commodore said...

Is it really your impression that the amorphous blob of neoreaction on the whole is trying to fix things, though? My more general impression is that they are betting on a long fall and just taking grim satisfaction in "I told you so" after. They know that modernity is dying, and their way of life is ending sooner or later. So they seem to be rather fatalistic about it. Many seem to believe that Christianity might come roaring back in the after but as you say, that's not something they like much.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Comm - If you are enquiring about my motivation in writing pieces such as this one, it is to bring the secular Right to recognize that the future is a choice between religions. I hope that this realization will then concentrate the mind on fundamental matters - perhaps for the first time.

asdf said...


While your description is accurate you must understand the difference in focus between the religious and the secular. The religious is focused on individual souls. It would be good for people to live in a society that promoted healthy living, but it is not necessary to save souls. Christ can save any soul in any society no matter how lost it becomes.

For the religious any soul saved is a win, regardless of what happens to society (something that all of us, even very powerful people, have roughly zero control over), is a win.

For seculars I have no clue what would constitute "a win". Though Bruce has written quite accurately about the various petty goals and activities that tend to take up the seculars time and thoughts.