Thursday 30 May 2019

Primarily political? Politics versus religion and the nature of modern demotivation

Building on the point made in yesterday's post; it could be said that the majority of Westerners are primarily political in their motivation - and in this group are mostly those who are atheistically-political, but also a range of people who are religiously-political (with a variety of religions and denominations).

It might be asked: What is wrong with being primarily political? The answer is that it does not work as a strategy for life - because it is insufficiently motivating. This can be seen everywhere in the developed world among all groups that have abandoned religion as their core value system.

This is evidence that being primarily political does not work, anywhere or among any group, as a long-term strategy for human living. That seems to be a fact - for what its worth - which is not much, since one aspect of being primarily political is a denial of facts. Since, the more political a person, group or nation becomes; the less concerned they are about reality - and all genuine facts derive from a knowledge of reality. 

Of course, this is the opposite of what the primarily political say - they say that it is religion which distorts and denies reality and facts; and in support they will provide a great litany of falsehoods and distortions... (such as the myth of Galileo).

Why? because religion (taken as primary) can and should be about reality; while politics (taken as primary) can only be about 'psychology' - can only be (at bottom line) about how people think, feel, are made happy or miserable etc - and one thing we all learn is that how a person or group thinks, feels and is happy of miserable is labile and incoherent. Politics is as incoherent as its bottom line in human emotions.

Jumping ahead several steps - my point is that a world in which politics is primary, and in which people operate on a basis of being primarily political, will be a demotivated world in the medium to long term.

Almost anything can be made or become a strong motivator in the short term (sex, for example; but also any of the many carrots and sticks of the modern mass media, any of the incentives of a modern employer...) - but not many things work as motivators in the medium to long term; not many things are able to provide strong and strategic motivation.

In fact there is is one thing that can provide a strong and strategic motivation - and that is religion, and furthermore only some religions.

But we live in times when almost all religions (for one reason or another, or for several reasons) fail to provide a ready-made motivation

Past generations could usually choose to go along with - become motivated by - a strong, local, social religion. these are pretty much destroyed, and usually corrupted to be primarily political - hence not-motivating.

Therefore (as I understand things):

1. We must become primarily religious - or else our motivation will be too feeble to live; and we will in practice pursue a life of short termist pleasure seeking, long termist suicide.

2. We must put in considerable individual work on our religion - we must actively do for our-selves most of what was (in the past) passively absorbed from already-existing religious institutions.


Ed said...

This reminds me of a comment in C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, in which Screwtape instructs Wormwood to get his 'patient' in the "Christianity And" frame of mind, meaning Christianity "And" some other cause. As I recall, Screwtape instructs that the "patient" should become focused on the other cause to the point that Christianity becomes valued solely as a source of arguments for that other cause. And the interesting thing is that Screwtape doesn't really care what the other cause is.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ed - Yes, that's exactly the point. Lewis foresaw the consequences perfectly accurately - but 70 years later we can also know these consequences as a matter of history.

Yet it seems that nearly three generations of experience makes no difference to the 'liberal Christian' mindset; they *still* claim that If Only Christianity would fall into line with current mainstream secular ethics (especially about sex and sexuality), then this would be *exactly* what is needed to revitalise the faith...

Francis Berger said...

I like the point you make about politics and reality denial. You're right, the purely political is not real, in any metaphysical sense anyway. Politics stays on the surface and never gets to the depths.

I suppose this is why all purely political attempts to herald in a new world and a new form of being end so tragically. The motivation cannot be sustained. In this sense, subverting religion in favor of politics is not only foolish, but harmful and dangerous.

Would it be accurate to say secular politics lacks creativity? That it amounts to nothing more than rearranging rather than creating?

David said...

What is your understanding of 'the myth of Galileo'?

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - Barfield makes clear (in Saving the Appearances) that Galileo asserted that his discoveries were true; true now and forever - and therefore that his method was The method for discovering the truth. The Vatican said that Galileio's work was a theory that better explained the observations, but was not a total eternal truth. Galileio was wrong and the Pope was right.

@Francis - "Would it be accurate to say secular politics lacks creativity? That it amounts to nothing more than rearranging rather than creating?" I wouldn't put it like that. It does indeed lack creativity; but it does more than merely rearranging. Because its view of reality is limited and distorted, politics-as-bottom-line actively destroys that which is Good.

Karl said...

I agree to your conclusion, but don't think that the problem of primarily political persons is that they are less concerned with reality. Rather the problem is that they lack an anchor that keeps them from shifting their position by adding one comprise after another. They are on a slippery slope and move in lockstep with the Overtone window.

The secular political people that I know, are aware of reality. Most of them don't like the present state of things, but any political move they make is the result of a mental cost-benefit calculation. Therefore there is no line they can't be dragged across. Nothing they will make a stand for. In any political program they have, everything is just a detail that can be bargained away.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Karl - good points - and reminds me of something I meant to write as a post, and which will now do so.