Tuesday 24 October 2017

Why I am dismayed by the materialism of the current international pseudo-right-wing backlash

Don't get me wrong - the enemies of the Brexit-Trump-Euronationalist backlash are much worse than the thing itself - but the backlash is in reality merely a different species of leftism: a more nationalist and efficiency orientated materialism. And materialism is what got us here.

The primary problem of the West is not the declining efficiency of the economy under political correctness, nor the destruction of mass immigration; the primary problem is that we have lost our religion hence sufficient reason for living.

All secular societies and peoples without any exceptions are well-advanced en route to self-chosen extinction... The average age of native English people is in the middle forties (ie. more than half the population are older than middle aged!), the average number of children per woman is nearer one than two - and among the most intelligent, wealthy, educated and capable women it is nearer a half-child than one. The average age of marriage and first child has passed thirty. There are half a million people aged 90 or over (of whom more than half have advanced dementia) - approaching one percent of the population! This situation is unique in the history of the world.

All this has happened in the context of the greatest and most-sustained-ever era of wealth, peace, prosperity, science, technology, comfort, convenience, amusement, and availability of education - so clearly material lack Is Not The Problem.

The problem is that we have no religion: specifcially we do not live by Christianity. We have rejected the Christianity of our grandparents and great grandparents, but we have not replaced it - hence we are bunch of short-termist, hedonistic cowards. Yet still we grasp after more stuff - and that is the promise of the New Right: even more stuff!

Nationalism cannot replace religion - the days of nationalism as a prime motivation in human affairs are long gone; but even in its heyday it could not sustain the population among the elites (i.e. the elite existentially-despaired, as could be seen from their art and philosophy); and nationalism was only able to hold nations together in a state of war or preparation for war - so the cure was at least as bad as the disease.

It is crystal clear that even in strictly biological terms, humans simply must have religion or we will despair and want to die and hope-for extinction. Against this the New Right is utterly powerless - or indeed counter-productive.

We are in a spiritual war, and in this war the New Right are on the same side as the Social Justice Warriors and the Establishment political mainstream; both wings are materialists against religion in general and Christianity in particular. They want a society run with a political/ economic/ utilitarian bottom-line; not religious. Do not be fooled by the tactical alliance between Political Correctness and the other great monotheism - there is nothing important in common; each is merely trying to use the other. Obviously.

You will say, and I will agree, that there is no sign of any spiritual Christian revival in the West. That is the current situation. But such an awakening is our only hope, and awakening starts with each individual person: with you, specifically.

Real Christianity cannot be adopted for expedience, it must be believed - it is not a route to more peace, prosperity, wealth and the rest of it. It cannot be a tool of politics. But you absolutely need to Know For Yourself whether or not Christianity Is True.

The churches are not going to be of help in this - because most of most self-identified Christian churches are on the other side from real Christianity.

You are going to have-to take responsibility for your own life, and for your own destiny and eternity; you are going to have-to Work It Out For Yourself, and to-your-own-satisfaction. You will need to find your own method and path - nobody else can help, because you do not (yet) know who you can trust.

This is urgent. Nothing is more important. For Heaven's sake - Get on with it!



Unknown said...

We have been born into a world that is thick with lies and deception, and this is especially true for younger people. The fog of falsehood is so thick that nothing but it can be seen. While people may on their own feel that something is terribly wrong, on their own they have a low chance of seeing exactly what the source of that feeling is--there is nothing to grasp onto.

This is why it can be important to talk about truths that are perhaps merely materialistic. If you jump straight to the core, point to the necessity of choosing to exist, and the necessity of connecting with God, you will most likely be completely misunderstood. An unthinking algorithm in your audience will likely categorize you into some "religious kook" bucket that wards off further thought.

Telling someone that they're swimming in a flood of lies means nothing to them, but if you show them specific examples of lies that are widespread, pushed by the supposed authorities, and patently false when actually examined, you give them a handle with which to pull themselves out, because they now have something they didn't have before: a reason to doubt the mainstream, and thereby a chance to find something better. For someone like me, the specific example of the truth about human differences and the obviously negative effects of mass immigration have done this; perhaps other truths will be more effective for others.

That's perhaps the reason (or one reason) for this shallow opposition in the new right/alt right that you're describing. There are several layers of lies that need to be uncovered, and going through them outward-in is the only way we know how to remove them effectively.

I completely agree that much of this new movement is inadequate at best, but I view it as the first few steps towards the Good.

Bruce Charlton said...

@PW - Well, that's the theory! People have been saying this kind of thing for a long time, first steps, incremental awakening...

But observation suggests that it simply does not happen. Materialism just leads back to itself. No change (in things that really matter) *at all* so far.

Metaphysics (our fundamental beliefs and assumptions about the nature of reality) must change First; or else everything just gets explained-away within the existing paradigm.

Chiu ChunLing said...

The key thing to understand is that material prosperity can never save us, because if it is not received with a humble spiritual appreciation for the goodness of God, it will only lead to prideful rejection of truth about our own limitations. When people refuse to acknowledge their limitations, they exhibit the Dunning Kruger effect (what used to be called simply pride or arrogance), and a society composed of and led by such will destroy itself.

Only a rich spiritual life of deep and meaningful connections to God and our neighbors (as also God's children) can save us from self-destruction.

"And now, because of this great thing which my people, the Nephites, had done, they began to boast in their own strength, and began to swear before the heavens that they would avenge themselves of the blood of their brethren who had been slain by their enemies. And they did swear by the heavens, and also by the throne of God, that they would go up to battle against their enemies, and would cut them off from the face of the land. And it came to pass that I, Mormon, did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people, because of their wickedness and abomination."

Michael Dyer said...

I'm not sure there is no sign of a spiritual revival. Just that it is small.

I've heard reports in Catholicism of a near spontaneous interest in spiritual practices from surprisingly young people. Jordan Peterson has exploded in popularity and has been described as a "gateway drug to Christianity". Speaking more for myself, there are embers in the evangelical side of the house yearning for a deeper experience. Among the secular, stoicism, real Epictetus and Seneca stoicism, has grown in popularity and oddly enough one of the stronger movements towards purity, NoFap is largely secular.

I think something is rumbling. We all sense that the train is coming off the rails. There is a steeling happening and it's not "huge", but it doesn't have to be at first.

Bruce Charlton said...

@MD - I can only speak from what I personally perceive. Jordan Peterson is not himself a Christian, nor is he saying anything new or different (I had similar, libertarian-type views long before I was a Christian).

It is an evasion to regard various ways of Not being Christian as being en route to being Christian... of curse, for any specific individual, there is a pathway with stages - there are early phases - but they are extremely varied, and none are a sign of progression.

In our materialist culture, people stay within materialism until they stop being materialists. For me, a breakthrough was to grasp (from reading Rodney Stark) that I was *assuming* materialist explanations must be true, and that all reports of divine revelation must therefore be explicable in material terms (the only uncertainty was which particular materialist explanation applied to a given case). Once I realised that materialism truly was an assumption, it lost its grip on me.

Ian said...

Great post.

To Paul Warkin's comments:

...if you show them specific examples of lies that are widespread, pushed by the supposed authorities, and patently false when actually examined, you give them a handle with which to pull themselves out...

I think this can be true for an individual here or there. But does it ever happen at the level of a whole movement? It seems that the much more common thing is for a movement to grab on to the specific lower-order truth that it has discovered and transform this into the ultimate truth, the grand unifying principle, the key to history. We see this with the current incarnation of the secular right, a.k.a the alt-right. Since it believes it has already discovered the ultimate foundation for a successful society, it has no motivation to uncover any deeper layer of lies: its denizens believe they've already uncovered the deepest layer.

While of course the approach one should take toward various individuals who reject Christianity will vary with the individual, the correct approach to such a movement as a whole is not to mollycoddle it and pat it on the back for discovering some lower-order truth, but to criticize it for rejecting the ultimate truth. How will they ever even have a chance to know the truth if no one criticizes their false views?


Bruce Charlton said...


" grab on to the specific lower-order truth that it has discovered and transform this into the ultimate truth, the grand unifying principle, the key to history" - Yes, this is the mode of effective evil. It may be more than one truth - but all evil must contain some significant truth to be effective, albeit the truth may be twisted as well as exaggerated, and I can't think of any exception.

Your last paragraph raises the rather different matter as to what strategy is likely to be effective in the modern West from a 'missionary' point of view, and that I don't know because nobody is succeeding in converting modern Westerners to Christianity in any significant numbers; and even recently successful denominations have hit a wall. Probably it can only be done at an individual level, and it seems impossible to know in advance what will work.

I do know that it took me decades to extricate myself from materialist metaphysics and into Christian conviction, despite being far more self-critical and open to change than most people - and the path I traversed would be very unlikely to be of value to another individual...

In the end it was perhaps a sequence of shocks that did it, horrified shocks at various implications of my own beliefs - and even then it was shamefully slow.

Ian said...

Prof. Charlton,

True, it is not obvious what the most effective strategy for converting the modern West might be, if it is even possible. My comment was in part directed more at Christians who nevertheless identify with the secular right, who defend it, and who want to suppress legitimate criticism of it made by other Christians (e.g., “don’t punch right!”) because they think that at least the secular right is ‘moving things in the right direction’. In my view, this is completely misguided and wrongheaded.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ian - Agreed.

Everyone who believes in 'don't punch right' is on the Left:

1. Because they cannot be primarily religious (or they wouldn't say it - they are putting a political rule above Christian morality), and

2. Because they obviously are anyway; also the saying goes along with advocacy of some aspect of the sexual revolution that they personally favour - usually male promiscuity.

In these times, things have 'come to a point' - and there is no wriggle room. We cannot put any kind of politics above Christianity; we cannot defer Christianity until after we have done something or another political, or elected someone or another, or defeated some ideology or another; we cannot conflate Christianity with Western Culture - nor put culture above religion.

Without religious awakening first we cannot do anything net positive, overall beneficial - our perspective will be false, our motives will be poisoned.

Our era is really very simple - which is one good feature it has! We know exactly what we need to do, and need means need...