Friday, 10 January 2014

Neo-Reactionaries - When an ideology is pre-immunized against Christianity


I have written about this phenomenon in my own life; but it is striking how many of the secular ideologies are pre-immunized against Christianity: they are built on the assumption that whatever is the answer, Christianity is not the answer; that Christianity is at best useless, and at worse a major cause of the problem.

Their participants are 'free-thinkers' in all other respects, but making the simple philosophical 'move' that the correct answer being sought is 'anything but Christianity' -

(and they make this move because they believe that Leftism is a Christian heresy - when in fact Leftism is a Christian apostasy - always remembering that modern mainstream Christian Churches counts as significantly Leftist, hence mostly apostate)

- ensures  that in the end they will follow the same nihilistic trajectory described in Eugene Rose's Nihilism - the trajectory of Liberalism, Realism, Vitalism, Destruction...

The current secular (Neo) Reactionaries are getting terribly excited about having made the transition from Liberalism to Realism, and a few have gone further along the path - but it is an old, old story. 

Nihilism-lite certainly doesn't work at a societal level - except as a temporary distraction, and it surely does not work at a personal level - except as a temporary distraction.



Being immunized against Christianity is sufficient to ensure nihilism in the West; because nihilists never convert to other serious religions with serious obligations - Western reactionaries just don't take the non-Christian religions seriously enough. They just play-at them. The exception is Orthodox Judaism - but this option is only open to Jews.


Q: How can we tell what works? A: Who chooses Marriage and Family (coercion doesn't count).

Whatever is the answer must (at minimum - not sufficient) be an answer that gives people and societies the basic perspective from which they are motivated to commit to marriage and the family as the primary social unit, have more than two children (if possible) and raise them (if possible).

The tiniest coherent sect which achieves this level of positive, constructive motivation, is worthy of more serious consideration as an ideology than any number of expedience-wedded, self-distracting, sterile theorizers.


My minimum threshold for the seriousness of anyone who disputes the Marriage and Family Test is that they explicitly repudiate the sexual revolution - in other words, that since they will not marry that they personally make a vow of celibacy. 

If not either committed either to marriage or to celibacy, a man is just a dilettante, a flaneur; insincere in thought and weakly expedient in action - and someone who should be disregarded by those who are serious about life. 



Gyan said...

"What works" is wrong question. The question should be "Is it true?"

in 19C and early 20C, one would said that Protestantism "works" since Protestant nations were economic and cultural successes while Catholic and Orthodox countries were lagging behind.

Fortuna is a fickle deity. You can not argue from fortunes of the people or the nations as to the truth.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Gyan - What works is one way of knowing what is true. Of course it is vital to know what you mean by works - and also to take things over a reasonable timescale.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Gyan - Protestantism does work - it is in much better shape, better at sustaining a Christian life (in the *West*) than any of the Catholic denominations (Roman, Orthodox or Anglo) - although that is not to say Protestantism does not have serious problems.

(This is because Catholic denominations only really 'work' - fully - when the nation, including 'the state' is also Catholic.)

But if (Mere) Christians chuck-out Protestanism then there isn't much left - and what is left is actually in much worse shape than it superficially appears since Western Catholics are mostly old, have *very* small families, and generally very lacking in devoutness.

I would also say the same about the CJCLDS - if (Mere) Christians don't include Mormons, then they are excluding *by far* their most vigorous, dynamic and devout large grouping (e.g. 80,000 plus 1.5-2 year full-time missionaries).

Luqman said...

Moldbuggery, the lot of it.

AlexT said...

Bruce, i think you overemphasize the reliance of Orthodoxy on the state. The most devout practitioners of Orthodoxy are in fact persecuted even in nominally Orthodox countries, yet still manage to outdo their mainstream brethren in birth rate and church attendance.
About your definition of a working, healthy denomination, would you count the Plymouth Brethren (exclusive)? They seem to fulfill all your criteria.

Bruce Charlton said...

@L - Well, yes - but the question is why.

I think it is the exhilirating (pride-full) feeling of progress from having moved a step further away from both Christianity and Liberalism (mainstream Leftism).

Basic neo-reaction is Realism - that is the neo-cameralist type of Moldbuggery (very rational, calm, all about organization and system).

And Vitalism is the Nietzschian attempt to recover and harness *motivation* when it is realized that nobody really *wants* 'red pill' Realism (or not so much as to actually sacrifice anything or suffer anything for it).

This is Moldbug yearning for Burning Man type supporters (pretty lame, I agree; but there you go...)

And Vitalism is what comes next to try and garner courageous and committed supporters. And Vitalism is the fascist/ national socialist kind of ideology which is found in the comments of all the neo-reactionaries. (e.g. yearning to harness hoped-for nationalist pride plus/minus amplifying and channeling racial hatred... pretty much *anything* so as to get people to take *action*, to take *power*).

When this fails, then comes the final stage - exemplified by the ultimate egotism of Hitler in the Berlin bunker, let down (as he saw it) by everybody and everything (the ultimate Pride) - wishing and planning for utter destruction of everything that he had supposedly loved - and then suicide.

Turn away and walk ever further away from from God to society (Liberalism), science and reason (Realism), the passions and instincts (Vitalism) and then Destruction of all that is or contains Good, *because* it is Good - including ourselves... this finally revealing the demonic agenda behind the process.

But all this, all the stages of secular ideology, are built upon that first move of rejecting Christianity as the answer, of being *against* Christianity: the attitude of being open-to anything-but Christianity.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Alex T - wrt Plymouth Brethren - I certainly would not reject them; although they do seem to be incredibly unstable, and prone to schism. A quarter of my family ancestors went into the PB then all came out of the PB (into nothing, or the Salvation Army - where they have, mostly, remained).

So I have known or know about four *ex*-PB well as friends or family, but not anyone still in the Brethren (except the one who left about four months after I knew him, due to being jilted; and became a systemtic drunk as if strategically trying to kill himself).

SMERSH said...

Well, it's a tough situation.

Satan found an extremely effective way to lead us away from Christianity.

Intuitively, many of us know that liberalism is wrong. But from this starting premise, it is difficult to find Christianity.

Premise: Liberalism is wrong.
Observation: Actual existing Western Christianity is, almost (but not quite) exclusively liberal. (Eastern Orthodoxy is... non-Western).
Erroneous conclusion: Western Christianity is not the solution to liberalism.

If remnant Christianity is the solution to liberalism, it is very difficult for people to find it nowadays, because actual existing non-remnant Western Christianity does such a very, very good job of discrediting Christianity as a whole, by making it appear to be just another form of liberalism.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SMERSH - Good analysis.

Patience is certainly required for many/ most Christians.

(As I blogged the other day, I am currently 'unaffiliated' - supporting and attending a Conservative Evangelical church irregularly; and theoretically a Mormon. I hope I won't be stuck like this for too long, but at the moment I am sure that patience - but continued seeking - is what is needed from me.)

AlexT said...

The fact that the PB go through schism does not bother me as that seems to be a feature of protestant denominations. The brethren i've been reading up on seem to have stability thanks to a clear hierarchy in their church. This, coupled with a high birth rate and extensive in-group welfare and support is why i became curious about them. Structurally they actually remind me of hasidic sects in judaism. Just thought that was interesting, and somehow i'm not surprised you have a PB connection. The salvaton army is a curious thing, though. Is it more charity than church nowadays? I've heard conflicting reports.

George said...

The mainstream Catholic church appears to be committing suicide. Not really that slow, in the scheme of things. The fruits of Vatican II were clearly evil, and Benedict XVI was at least open to pre-Vatican II Catholicism, but the latest moves appear to be a doubling-down on modernism and a purging of anyone who doesn't abandon tradition. Sort of like the argument why Communism didn't work - "it just wasn't true enough, we just need to get rid of those last bourgeois influences!" Such evil is seen in reprimanding and shutting-down anyone who attempts to celebrate Latin Mass, because it's "schismatic", while hand-holding pedophiles and working on unity with liberal non-Catholic groups.

Theoretically the traditionalists would "win" in the long-run, as they are they largest sources of family, growth, and even priestly vocations - while the modernist Catholics continue to destroy themselves.

The main ideological issue appears to be that, being still Catholic, what happens if the Pope becomes fully heretical and not merely luke-warm modernist?

josh said...

"(This is because Catholic denominations only really 'work' - fully - when the nation, including 'the state' is also Catholic.)"

Catholicism 'worked' in the US for a long time when the state was simply less aggressively anti-Catholic.

I maintain that no traditional way of organizing life and defining reality could have resisted the social engineering to which American Catholics were subject beginning around the build-up to WWI. Even with a kind of total war, it 50 or 60 years to really break the Church's back in the US (and she still is not really broken whatever the media says).

Bruce Charlton said...

@AT - It took me a long time to find out about the LDS, so I try to refrain from commenting about other groups who people tend to be prejudiced against.

What we see of the SA looks like a charity, but they inspire a level of commitment (marrying in, for example) far beyond that, so I infer they have an intense spiritual life which is not obvious.

I have an exemplary Christian friend who was PB and says that the PB Lord's Supper was the most intensely prayerful experience ever.


@Josh - If you have found a niche, then stick with it! But if I was to become a Roman Catholic it would have to be SSPX (there are no other acceptable options here), and that would mean - at most - one shortish mass per week with an extremely aged congregation - and nothing else.

The more encompassing RC life to which you refer was linked with living in an immigrant ghetto without options, and kept together by religious conflict and mutual prejudice.

This is nothing like the ability of Mormons to start from nothing, and build a voluntary community of converts and their (chosen) large families in the midst of a modern secular society.

Or, for that matter, evangelical Protestants; who built a kind of alternative world in the USA - with churches that were a total social experience and a network of schools and colleges. I don't think it is lasting, because the mainstream evangelicals have - I think - increasingly chosen secular leftist ideology; but it worked for a few decades.

George - in the long term, if present social trends continue, the prospects are not good; because Christianity will be overwhelmed by its major rival.

The main current trend against this is Christianity in China -

If China became officially, devoutly, proselytizingly Christian; then the world trajectory might change significantly.

Adam G. said...

Can't comment on the neo-reaction stuff. But your rule of thumb that any group that isn't self-sustaining demographically is broken is a powerful one. It's so obvious too that I've found that it makes a useful screen for anyone who is worth talking to. Whatever their personal views and marriage status, if they don't acknowledge that the lack of births is a problem, they aren't smart or honest.

And, wow, do people go to utopian or anti-human extremes to avoid facing up to it.

Adam G. said...

At least in the US, viable protestant churches are those that have something that sets them apart from the mainstream enough that they can't go respectable, so they don't bother trying. Assembly of God/pentecostalists manage it by having a 'low class' hoot'n'holler religosity that is always going to be looked down on; the Mormons have their distinctive doctrines and eccentric historical claims; and the Amish have their bans against technology. I think this explains the move back to Calvinism in the more conventional denominations too. What Catholics would need is precisely the stuff they jettisoned in Vatican II to be more respectable--the fish and confessional and funny clothes and atrociously maudlin saints and virgin kitsch.

The Orthodox in America are almost too exotic to be horrifying to the mainstream, unfortunately.

josh said...

Bruce, I disagree with just about everything you said.

"linked with living in an immigrant ghetto without options, and kept together by religious conflict and mutual prejudice."

Well they *were* immigrants. Another word for immigrant ghetto is immigrant community. Of course, the communities continued well after the inhabitants were immigrants. The Irish arrived in the mid 19th century. Irish neighborhoods existed until 1960s blockbusting. And are you really suggesting that my wife's Nana's community was held together by religious conflict and prejudice. That's it? What about these people:

"This is nothing like the ability of Mormons to start from nothing, and build a voluntary community of converts and their (chosen) large families in the midst of a modern secular society."

The Irish and German Catholics did exactly this in America. As did the Italians, Lithuanians, Poles, etc afterword, with the exception that that these were not converts. They did even build their own row houses in places like Philadelphia. Granted, it wasn't the wilderness, but they certainly created their own community.

"evangelical Protestants; who built a kind of alternative world in the USA - with churches that were a total social experience and a network of schools and colleges."

Wait a second, this is exactly what Catholics did until the Supreme court destroyed the funding model or Catholic schools. Just about every Catholic went to Catholic school prior to the 1960s. Catholic Universities were sold out for foundation and later government dollars which meant they had to serve a primarily secular purpose. They became government schools.

Before the war, the life of an America Catholic revolved around the parish. If you asked a Philadelphian boy where he lived, he would respond with the name of his parish. His parents met at the Parish dance. It was absolutely inclusive and absolutely an alternative to Americanism.

This is exactly what Brand Blanshard discovered when investigated Bridesburg ({Polish Philly) on behalf of John Dewey during the first world war. he test of any institution or society," he wrote, "is . . . the extent to which it enables and encourages every member of it to enjoy complete freedom of growth." Polish Catholicism failed. "It is a world which is simply not our world, a world in which indepedent criticism and disinterested science is and must remain unknown, a world which still abounds with the primitive concepts and fancies of the middle ages." The church's influence presented a "many-sided and in some ways impossible barrier to the real democratization of the communities it controls."

They couldn't control them, so they marked them for (literal) destruction.

Samson J. said...

If China became officially, devoutly, proselytizingly Christian; then the world trajectory might change significantly.

My hope and prayer. (Seriously, I pray for this, as I have had many friends do missions in "East Asia".)

The Continental Op said...

Speaking of China, I had the chance recently to talk to a young missionary in China. We talked about some other religious groups... I asked about the Mormons. He gave me a very serious "No!" look, explaining that the Chinese reject it mostly, considering it "too American."

The Continental Op said...

But getting back to the neo-reaction, have you noticed that many of them were once libertarians? )But you were once a libertarian, too.) Do you think there is any connection to their former libertarianism, or am I just noticing an unimportant coincidence?

Bruce Charlton said...

@CoOp - "Do you think there is any connection to their former libertarianism, or am I just noticing an unimportant coincidence?"

Good question - I suppose what you are asking is the causality - why his sequence and direction?

For an American I think that libertarianism is a move within the secular Leftism that is more truthful, and indeed (in theory) more effective at attaining the goals that Liberalism only pretends to be aiming at.

In particular, libertarianism plausibly claims to generate more economic resources to expend on the same life goals as liberalism - notably the sexual revolution. So libertarians have a tough realism about the economy.

Tough, at least, when it comes to other people - I remember being astonished and amazed at the unprincipled way in which Professor Tyler Cowen defended academic tenure. His own job turned out to be *the one exception* from the general rule of open competition and easy hiring and firing. And it was a surprise to hear my libertarian friend Matt Ridley asking for - and getting - a government bail out for the failed-because-of foolish-policies bank of which he was Chairman. Or, when I met him, to hear Boris Johnson instantly abandon his libertarian principles when inexpedient for his career.

Eventually the penny dropped that libertarians always sell out because they are not really serious or principled or strong or courageous in the way that religious people are - or even the early communists were. It is an effete and decadent thing.

Neo-Reaction pretends to be tougher and more realistic than Libertarianism - by adopting some of the hierarchy and morality of religious conservatives (although justified in terms of long term utilitarianism) but does nothing to solve the problem of feebleness of motivation, and Neo-Reaction has even-less of a constituency than Libertarians do.

That is why N-R will either simply be an amusement of clever chaps who sell-out to Liberalism at the first whiff of inconvenience or chance of real power - or else will collapse into Vitalism/ populist fascism/ gangsterism motivated by tribal pride and some species or another of xenophobic hatred.

There really isn't anywhere else for it to go... unless, like me, you somehow get to re-examine the initial anything-but-Christianity assumption.

While some commenters see no connection between religious beliefs and observable behaviour, I was on the contrary very impressed that religious beliefs, and only religious beliefs, and only certain types of religious beliefs (and communities) were able to sustain reality-based actual behaviour.

For me, this test of pragmatism is very important. It is not the only test, but is is important as part of a 'triangulation' process with several methods of evaluation.

If Mormon beliefs (to take the actual example that applied to me - five years before I was more recently persuaded to adopt the Mormon beliefs in my own heart) really are as crazy and fantastic and made-up as the look to modern secular people, how come they work? And work in just the ways that I find most important - spiritually as well as practically.

It is the opposite to a reductio ad absurdum - in that the rational and desirable outcome validates the apparently absurd premises, and forces you to re-evaluate your own evaluation system which finds those premises absurd.

At any rate, your question about the origins of N-R leads onto the further question of what will happen to N-R WHEN (not if) it fails - and I think that is the answer...

In seeking motivation, courage, authenticity - something that works at some level and which engages the passions - N-Rs will either turn back to the very beginning and become traditionally religious, or will continue on the same path and become (for a while) fascist (at which point the same divergent possibilities will re-emerge - to turn back, even further, and become religious - or continue to the next step of full-on nihilistic embrace of destruction for its own sake).

The Crow said...

What are you referring to as 'Realism', here? I get the feeling our definitions of what that might be are quite different.

Adam G. said...

*Speaking of China, I had the chance recently to talk to a young missionary in China. We talked about some other religious groups... I asked about the Mormons. He gave me a very serious "No!" look, explaining that the Chinese reject it mostly, considering it "too American."*

The PRC government won't let Mormon missionaries in and the Mormon Church refuses to do it sub rosa. In Hong Kong and Taiwan there is a healthy Chinese Mormon presence.

The Continental Op said...

Thanks for the answer. I think there is something to the "if it works" argument, but I also recoil at Utilitarian calculation.

Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Holding to his teaching is a way to know it's truthfulness. Any Christian group not holding to Christ's teaching doesn't know what it is.

Ugh said...

@Adam G

"and the Amish have their bans against technology."

There is a growing movement towards Anabaptism without the shunning of technology like the Amish and the Mennonites practice. A sort of pre-Christendom reformation.

Steve said...

Bruce - Your comments at 19:09 illumine your thoughts about N-Rs well. Having been a Rand fan in my youth, I, too, think N-Rs would probably abandon their principles at the the first good whiff of power or adversity. It does seem that only religious beliefs (and communities) have the power to sustain reality-based behavior. Presently, the LDS would be hard to beat as they present a concrete and utilitarian salve (if not remedy) to Modernism. Nonetheless, as one presently reading Hosea (Osee) a prophet who warned Israel of some of their fallings away -- generations after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob(Israel), I would ask you don't dismiss the Traditional Catholics because they are old and small. Powerful graces come from God, not the corn floor or wine press. I'm thankful for the LDS, but like Gamaliel wonder about "staying power". So far so good for them. The RCs, much like Israel or Judah, may have to undergo decimation, captivity, and/or exile, but are they not children of the wife, not the handmaid? Christians don't have an easy time of it in the world.

Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

They believe that Leftism is a Christian heresy - when in fact Leftism is a Christian apostasy.

There is a confusion of meaning here. Apostasy concerns only baptized Christians and is restricted to the conscious act to reject the faith and leave the church. Until 2009, Canon Law required a written act. Now, apostasy is treated by Catholic law the same as heresy and schism, as it is in fact always motivated by some form of heresy.

Heresy in the strict sense is applicable only to religion, but in a more general perspective, it can be extended to any philosophy of life retaining beliefs or moral values pertaining to Christianity, no matter how warped or inverted. The fundamental moral option being actually a religious act towards or against the Good, these philosophies or morals of rejection are then quasi-religions or inverted religions. Maritain applied the word “Christian heresy” specifically to Marxism (Moral Philosophy) and the term “inverted religion” to absolute atheism (The Range of Reason).

Ephrem Antony Gray said...

Realism isn't perhaps quite what he means. See John C. Wright here

"The second school of thought is the sharp rebellion against this. Where the Worldly position seeks worldly wealth, civic peace, and the comfort of conformity in opinion, the radical rebellion seeks Heaven on Earth, Utopian visions made solid, and all pragmatism is rejected as treason against the Great Dream of the great cause. Religion and Worldliness are rejected with scorn in favor of Ideology. Ideals are impractical, so this school holds, only because men are weak vessels too selfish to practice them: all the world could be made perfect if only sufficient force was used on weak men by a sufficiently enlightened and despotic Glorious Leader."

Bruce Charlton said...

@Adam G "Whatever their personal views and marriage status, if they don't acknowledge that the lack of births is a problem, they aren't smart or honest. And, wow, do people go to utopian or anti-human extremes to avoid facing up to it. "

About the second sentence - yes indeed! I think this is a major driver behind transhumanism. When people are (finally) forced to confont one of the big but non-politically correct problems of modern life - they suddenly develop an extraordinarily long-termist attitude of faith in 'progress' which is utterly absent from their usual short-termist, hedonic expediency.

So, the aging population will be solved by anti-ageing technologies (and widespead 'access' to humane murder/ euthanasia) - in fact before too long we will live forever rendering Christianity obsolete; the decline in intelligence will be solved by genetic engineering (which will, in fact, enhance human intelligence to unimagnable levels - enabling us to solve all sorts of other problems); suicidal self-chosen sterility will be solved by massive artificial conception and rearing of embryos (and children); ecological damage will be solved by technology (including the ability to colonize other planets, terraforming, living on rafts (sea-steading) etc...

Hardly anybody really believes in this stuff to the extent of being prepared to die for these beliefs, - or even to suffer minor inconveniences for them - the advocates have careers built on their advocacy.

But transhumanist arguments have an important role as last-ditch attempts to ward off the need for a coherent religion, and reject unaccptable implications (such as that the sexual revolution has been a huge disaster which continues unfolding and destroying, and destroying).