Saturday 1 August 2015

Choose your religion - or else religion will choose you

It is interesting that, at root, so many groups of people - whether that be in religion or in politics, actually offer explicitly what they are able to give. It is a kind of basic honesty, that seems to bind even the worst people and groups.

I have commented on this in religion - it is surprising how little most religions offer their adherents. Christianity offers far more than any other major religion (as Pascal noted - the only coherent reason for not wanting to be a Christian is that you think it is untrue - otherwise it offers far more than any rival religion or ideology), and even within Christianity some denominations offer more than others.

This is surprising in the sense that I would have supposed that there would be a lying bidding-war between religions, each striving (or pretending) to offer a more wonderful life or afterlife than the rivals.

Somehow this doesn't happen.

For example, modern liberal Christianity might be supposed to be offering its adherents more than some traditional types - in the sense that there is no Hell, and no strict rules about sex, fasting, attending Church etc.

But in fact liberal Christianity offers its adherents nothing at all - no miracles, no answered prayers. no healings, no experiences of contact with the divine, no afterlife, no resurrection of the body...

The advertised fate of a liberal Christian is that same as that of any other secular modern person - a purely subjective 'god' and extinction at the point of death.

Something similar applies to politics. The secular Left parties are, of course, fundamentally dishonest - but they are strangely honest about what they offer and what they do not offer.

They offer a focus (ie. lots of talk, lots of bureaucracies, lots of taxes) on themes such as equality, diversity, inclusiveness and so on. By means of affirmative action - preferences according to sex, sexuality, race, religion, ideology - the Left indeed offer a bit of the actuality.

But interestingly Leftist parties do not offer greater economic efficiency and growth, better science and more breakthroughs, an impartial legal system, greater military power, civil peace and public good behaviour, control of borders... or any of the things that the Right offers.

Of course the Left does make an occasional, sporadic (and dishonest) claim to fix anything and everything - but over time, day by day, in terms of strategy and propaganda the Left hardly mentions such things, avoids the subject, changes the subject. It is very obvious indeed that the Left is not going to do any of these things, and the Left don't make any serious or sustained effort even to pretend that they will.

Why don't they just say they will deliver on such matters? Why don't they pretend they will do everything? Perhaps because they are averse to these other 'goods' - certainly they are uninterested by them, don't like the subjects to be discussed... but then, that itself seems to suggest that they do not want to be put into a position of lying about them.

It is as if even these habitual and fundamental liars are constrained by some basic truth: if and when the Left has ruined a society by imposing equality, destroying Christianity, wrecking the economy, subverting marriage, breaking-up families, and encouraging unrestricted mass immigration... or whatever - then they can at least claim that they were merely doing what they said they would do!

This explicitness is odd, on the face of it; because the Left do lie about many, many things, for years and decades, and they get away with lies because the Left is the mass media, and modern populations are addicted to the mass media. But there are some things that they don't lie about...

The same basic and overall honesty applies to the more Right Wing Left parties (all mainstream modern politics is extremely Leftist, by world historical standards, so it does not make sense to call mainstream conservative, republican, libertarian type secular groups 'Right' wing parties, they are merely slight less Left wing than their rivals: the only truly Right wing parties are religious parties that want to run society on religious line, i.e. ultimately according to religious priorities and evaluations) - and it also applies to idealistic secular Right wing theorists, self-proclaimed reactionaries, for instance.

I refer to these groups as basing their appeal on Common Sense: they are characterized by common sense policies on economics, the law, immigration - their claims are that they will make things more efficient, more effective, make their nations more secure and powerful, make their societies more peaceful, favour their own native people and races rather than other people and races etc.

The problem is this mainstream or idealistic secular Right wing politics is so deadly dull, boring, pedestrian, prosaic, small minded, selfish. In a word sensible! 

It really is. This is not an illusion. Secular 'Right' politics presents its vision of Life very lucidly (and honestly) as an ideology that drains away everything except... functionality. It offers a future of highly efficient nothing.

(Does this explain why people have a horror of sensible people and parties? That if the secular Right got what it wants, if we really were sensible in a secular world, people would mean nothing, life would mean nothing, Men would be just so many cogs in an abstract machine. In our personal lives, among those we love, we do not want people to be sensible about us.)

Mainstream (secular) Rightism offers more of what we have already had - especially a generation or two ago, when things were far more sensible than now - increasingly prosperous, powerful, rational, fair etc. social systems whose aim is... increasingly prosperity, power, rationality, justice etc.

The secular Right offers a nightmare of means but no ends. The vacuum of ends is indeed proclaimed as a virtue, as freedom, as individuality - there isn't even an attempt to claim that there is any point to the secular Right vision - its utter pointlessness is proclaimed as a benefit.

The West has been more sensible than any other society in the history of the world. We have had sensibility, and we have been made plausible offers of even-more sensibility - and we have rejected it: decisively.

So modern life is divided between these options - Common Sense versus Leftism - and Leftism has won. The public have decided that they prefer lying and nonsensical but very-slightly idealistic, very-slightly and very-vague Utopian Leftist dreams over the sensible, value-free, dead, dull functional efficiency offered by the Right - because even a glimmer of idealism is preferable to deadly, dull, functional efficiency; any values (however feeble) are preferable to no values.

There is no way out of this unless or until a truly Right party emerges (i.e. a religious party) which offers more than the Left to feed the ineradicable religious hunger in Men's souls. Eventually this will emerge - one religion or another will displace the Left, because the religions have so much more to offer - and in a broad brush sense, each probably religion delivers what it offers.

We will easily see this when it happens, there will be no doubt or uncertainty about what is happening, it will be an extraordinary shock - because the whole tone and content of public discourse will change utterly.

There will be a vision presented, and the vision of any religion is qualitatively different from any vision presented by modern politics. The concentration of discourse - the mass of what people talk and wrote and read about - will move to the divine, to the divine plan, and to the afterlife.

Suddenly the concerns of modern mainstream Western politics will seem pathetically dull, shallow, trivial when compared with the scale and scope of a religious perspective.

And this could happen very quickly indeed, in just a few weeks a religious fever could - and indeed will - sweep through the West.

It will happen quickly because there is nothing to stop it happening, no resistance to it happening, because the alternatives are so utterly feeble.

The devastation this will undoubtedly cause to the normal running of society will, quite suddenly, seem unimportant - people will be filled with, pumped-with, motivation and they will find it intoxicating and overwhelming - they will realize that the secular society is pointless.

When they glimpse a vision of purpose, and this vision begins to spread, they will embrace it, they will be fuelled by it, swept-up in it - they will want more of it whatever the cost - and the cost will surely be immense; but that will not stop it happening, because the idea will be that any cost is worth it.

The stability of the modern secular West is extremely feeble, requires continual vast and expanding expenditure of bribes and propaganda. The West is indeed 'metastable' - which means there is a much more stable configuration into which it could move at any point - and that configuration is religion.

All the main Western political and social trends are draining away stability, all the satisfactions of modern life are ephemeral, there is less and less motivation because there is less and less reason to be motivated.

The modern secular 'religion' (ideology) is that each of us is alone, life has no meaning, and when we die we are annihilated. Really, it is not difficult to offer more than that! Any religion offers more. Any religion could displace the West.

The question will be which religion, or religion, suddenly emerges - which will be the one or ones that suddenly sweep an particular Western nation or region or ethnic group - what will be on offer that suddenly makes secular politics - whether of the Left or secular Right -  seem trivial, shallow, pointless - which religion galvanizes people with a sudden motivation so strong that all the substitutes of the past two hundred years will be discarded with hardly a glance back at them,

I am not asking for speculation on which specific religion, or which various religions, will suddenly emerge and within weeks sweep aside two centuries of triumphant secularism - because in a metastable state nobody knows.

Also this process will not necessarily be good, may well leave things much, much worse than they have been. May be - in terms of health, happiness, comfort, convenience, pain and misery - an absolute disaster.

The religion that wins in some places, or in most places, may be a very bad one, by Christian standards.

But that will not stop it happening. Unworldly, non-rational mystique, magic, and religious idealism are utterly irresistible to alienated, nihilistic secular politics. Religion will spread like wild-fire, perhaps like fiend-fire - but the only remotely effective resistance to Hell-fire will be Heavenly Fire.

There is a message for each and every Western person:

Choose your religion, or else religion will choose you. 


Freddy Martini said...

Bruce, you are a prophet. Long time reader, here. Keep it up, and never lose Hope. Thanks for all you have written!

Bruce Charlton said...

@Odin's Raven - You ask which religion. That depends on what people choose. If Western people will not choose a religion, they will have to accept whatever religion non-Westerners have chosen.

Odin's Raven said...

Thanks for your response. I'm not sure people can always make a choice, individually or collectively. Collectively, the institutions through which a group identity is expressed, including the religious, have been so corrupted and co-opted by Leftism, that they can't work properly, and the identity they are supposed to express is being destroyed, and so will not be much longer available to articulate a choice. Individuals, and sometimes societies, can be seized by religious enthusiasm, which doesn't leave them much choice. Christian examples may be Methodism in early 19th c England and the Great Awakening in mid 19th c America.

Bruce Charlton said...

@OR - One of the things I am trying to do via this blog is put forward the idea that we have individual responsibility to consider Christianity as a serious choice, quite apart from the actuality of any accessible or existing churches. We (like that most fanout modern convert CS Lewis) should have the option to become 'Mere Christians' before (and distinctly from) joining a church.

No matter how corrupt and apostate and anti-Christian are the actual churches - this is always a possibility.

I think if there were to be a widespread embrace of Christianity, then either existing churches would reform or else new churches would arise; but the conversion would (under modern conditions) probably need to precede church renewal.

One way I think this could happen would be that a mass of such 'unaffiliated' Christian individuals, would lead to conditions propitious for the rise of a leader who was guided and aided by the Holy Ghost.

Of course there would be counterfeit 'Antichrist' pretenders as well; but mass conversion would also bring enhanced powers of discernment - so over time and with experience, genuine believers ought to be able to tell the real from the fake - especially if (as I imagine would happen) the new leader would work by direct personal contacts (eg. multiple group meeting, lectures, sermons etc. rather than by the mass media).