Wednesday 4 September 2019

Who are the worst? Apostate/ lapsed/ ex-Puritans, -Protestants, -Anglicans, -Mormons, -Roman Catholics, -Jews... or what?

I don't intend to answer this question (nor to publish comments that try to give answers) - but I ask the question to highlight a common and deadly assumption built into modern discourse.

We commonly fail to distinguish between those who genuinely hold to a religion (in whatever way that religion defines) and those who are apostate. By an apostate I mean someone who has (to a significant, and perhaps near total, extent) abandoned, forsaken, left his or her religion; who has lapsed, and - usually - absorbed mainstream secular materialist Leftist values and embraced some or all aspects of the sexual revolution.

Also among the apostate are those who now actively oppose their earlier religion - by mockery, subversion, attack - and by inversion of key doctrines and practices (usually in the name of 'reforming' them).

It is usually a matter of human judgement to discern the apostate from the adherent (which is Not the same as discerning the heretic from the orthodox!). But this discernment is absolutely vital for religious adherents.

For Christians, it is vital to discern who is Christian and who not; and, when considering churches or denominations, it is vital to discern who is 'in', and who is not.

So what kind of apostate is the worst - Christian, Jew or something else? What type of ex-Christian is worst? The answer does not depend primarily on the religion or denomination, but on the motivation for leaving it.

The real reason/s for leaving do, admittedly... to an extent, depend on the religion and what it emphasises and requires of its adherents (and, of course, the characteristics of its adherents; which vary considerably for various reasons). But probably most apostates end up aligned-against any and all religions; that is, their motivation is implicitly against some-thing/s shared by all religions.

When discerning the status of apostates, the key factor is therefore motivation: why did that particular person leave a church, denomination, community; why did that particular person cease to practise? When that person ceased to put religion first; what did they substitute for religion? - And what was it that became his or her first priority instead?

The specific person is often, indeed usually, deluded and dishonest about what made them apostate; and that is itself related to why they are apostate. A specific person may try to achieve high status or approval for their decision to leave or lapse - and the community from-which they seek approval may be an indication of their underlying motivation.

As usual, such a judgement cannot be made on the basis of factual or objective 'evidence' - because it requires personal, conceptual, ultimately metaphysical evaluation in order to make-sense of 'facts'. Because there is no such thing as 'evidence' without a theory that states what is evidence and what evidence means: Theory Comes First.

So our judgement - and any possible judgement - will be from-a-perspective; yet we must judge, we must evaluate, we must discern...

Our world is full of fake and lapsed religious people - many in positions of power and influence; and since religion was once of primary importance to these people, we need to know what replaced it in their hearts.

Because there is always, for everyone, a bottom-line; there is always something they value more than anything else. As GK Chesterton said; the single most important thing to know about a Man is his philosophy - but we must also be aware that this ruling philosophy may be something of which a Man is unaware, or something he denies; it is something we must usually infer, as best we may. 


Anonymous said...

Based on what I've gleaned from the Anglican Unscripted webcast, I think the more important question is the one you briefly mentioned: orthodox versus heretic, wherein both remain on the inside.

Or, perhaps this: Which is worse, the lapsed person/apostate who leaves the religion, or the heretic/disbeliever who stays inside in order to subvert it?

Again, based on Anglican Unscripted, the greater danger seems to be from those who are subverting/inverting othings from inside.


Bruce Charlton said...

@B - I distinguish between heretic and apostate - the apostate has weakening faith; the heretic may well (often does) have a stronger faith but one which does not fit into the denomination.

Heresy is important for churches, which cannot continue unless they have and sustain an orthodoxy (of course that in itself isn't sufficient) but heresy is 'just' a 'church order' issue - not a matter of salvation.

The Monophysite heresy led to the first major persecutions and split of the ancient church, but the so-called heretics - Oriental Orthodox; e.g. the Copts of Eygypt, Ethiopans, the Orthodox in India) - are still with us more than 1000 years later, having remained faithful through tremendous pressures and persecutions.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

This made me think a lot, since I am, or have been, an apostate Mormon. What replaced religion in my heart? When I try to answer that question, I just can't come up with anything -- which is perhaps why in the end I gravitated back to religion again. I never got into politics; I never bought into the sexual revolution; my layman's interest in science continued apace but did not expand to fill the void left by religion. I just sort of bumbled along without any overarching philosophy or goal. I think people can and do do that. Nihilism is a real thing.

"There is always something they value more than anything else" is true only in a trivial sense. If there were no sun, then logic dictates that some other star would necessarily be the brightest in the sky -- but that wouldn't mean it would or could "replace" the sun or play its role. If someone isn't in love, what takes the place of being-in-love in his life? Well, nothing in particular, in most cases. He still has his friends and his family, his job and his interests, and so on, and one of those must necessarily be the thing he his most passionate about -- but that doesn't mean there's necessarily anything he's obsessed with in the way that a lover would be obsessed with his beloved. He just doesn't have that in his life. I think many people without religious faith are in a similar situation. "If you don't worship God, what DO you worship?" is a natural question to ask, but sometimes it just doesn't have an answer.

Or maybe I'm still deluded and dishonest about my apostasy. Maybe something did replace religion for me, something to which I myself am (perhaps willfully) blind. I always have to admit that possibility, but I really don't think it's likely. So many years down the road, I no longer feel defensive about my apostasy or feel the need to justify it, and if there had been some sordid motive for it, I think, I would be willing to admit it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - From what I know of you, I agree. You are an exception - and a very exceptional one!

But there 'must have been' something that was the bottom line for you - perhaps science, logic, reason? And the question is how long that would have held things together in the modern context, with the escalating and ever-more invasive social pressures towards evil.

What would happene when you were made to doubt science/ logic/ reason (or whatever held things together for you) because immediate and urgent expediency (and being altruistic and socially-minded) pointed the other way? I have seen many, nearly all, scientists abandon science to become dishonest-careerist bureaucrats, pseudo-politicians and/or entrepreneurs; simply because they lacked a strong faith in anything that stood outwith society. Some hardly resisted, others did good work for a while; but I think all succumbed, sooner or later.

Especially since so many people now live into their 80s. I have seen plenty of people of little or no discernable faith who remained basically decent (and presumably 'saved') into their sixties (and who - in the past - would have died as such); only to become New Left, Virtue-inverting, beauty and truth-denying, evil-seeking leftists, sexual revolutionaries and environmentalists In Old Age.

Looking around, it is easy to see that most people are on a downward trajectory - usually beginning around 9 years old; and that this tendency never really stops or goes away. This is part of things coming to a point; that we are now compelled to decide, compelled to take sides -- there is no longer the possibility of comfortable conformity and faith, nor of decent apostasy or atheism - not in the long run. Vague deism used to suffice to live well - but no longer; more and more the choice is knowing a personal God, or embracing destruction.

Any persons who seem to be exemptions are only temporary!