December 5, 2004

The Religion of the Left

There is a world dimensional
For those untwisted
by the love of things irreconcilable.

--Hart Crane

In the endless squabbling of ten thousand web sites this week, the best retort I noted was, "Oh yeah? If you're so smart, why aren't you in power?"

The inundation of wails, moans, and screams of pain sweeping through the intellectual deserts of the left like a flash flood show that the election of 2004 wasn't, when all was said and done, about a stolen election. It was about a stolen world.

The outraged screeching of those undone by the democratic process they so adored at noon on the 2nd, and loathed so deeply on noon of the 3rd, wasn't, after all, about the fact that Bush in 2002 was selected, not elected, but that he was selected then as he was in 2004 by the wrong people, by people who were -- all the wise pundits of the Liberal/Left now agree -- "not our sort" and therefore "not real people at all." And the reason that this group of malcontents has been so vocal about this is that, as everyone knew going in, this election was a religious confrontation.

I've written elsewhere that one of the "things you can't say about the First Terrorist War" is that it is, at bottom, a war of two religions. So it is with the culture wars of which a central battle has just ended in a rout of the Liberal/Left in America. It too is, and you are not supposed to say this either, a war of TWO religions.

Then again, that is not quite right. Try it this way.

What we are engaged in currently is a war of two religions in which only one side is allowed to be designated as a religion -- the Right. "The Right" in these terms is always code for "The Religious Right" (Except when it is flatly written out as "The Religious Right."), which is, in turn code for "Christianity." This is sometimes, by the legion of scribblers ready to push out the party line at the drop of a hat, modified for form's sake into "Christian Fundamentalism." But realistic observers of this game are not fooled and know it to be the same sort of bearded shorthand by which "Islamic Fundamentalism" is made to stand in for Islam, pure and simple.

In whatever form it takes, we have seen, and will continue to see, an attack on Religious Americans, by another group of Americans that previously identified themselves as "secular," but who in the last few days are trying, as John Kerry did in the waning days of his misbegotten adventure, to wrap themselves in the raiments of religion to a greater or lesser extent. I am expecting a plethora of articles to be published soon that include the phrase, "Some of my best friends are Christians." If genuflecting towards God could get a Great Satan like George Bush elected perhaps a small, public conversion of Hillary Clinton might not be too much to pay for power after all.

But this tactic will, in the end, not suffice. It will fail because those of real faith see through those of false faith rather easily. And to profess a faith is worse than to remain simply agnostic. Still, it will be tried because, if this week's election and the last two years of campaigning show anything, they reveal that the Religion of the Liberal/Left is not a religion of the people, but of those who would be master. In the coming years, the acolytes of this Religion may attempt to don the fleece of the flock, but the Shepherd will always be able to tell between the quick and the dead.

The real disaster for the Liberal/Left in this era is was not that George Bush was religious, as were many of his selectors, but that Bush's religion was not the Liberal/Left's approved religion; the Religion of the Self.

In a way, the Religion of the Self is one of the most ancient of faiths. Indeed, many faiths were created or revealed and promulgated to contain the Religion of the Self. I say "contain" because real faith is always a struggle to contain the Religion of the Self in the hopes of a more transformative life and a closer approach to God. In the age of myth, the Religion of the Self first arose in the Garden as a result of a persuasive conversation between Eve, Adam, and a Serpent. As we know, but do not learn, it did not work out well for Eve or her husband, and humanity has been struggling to get back to the state of the Garden ever since; a state that, without true faith, will forever withdraw beyond its grasp.

For the Religion of the Self does not rest upon selfless service but upon ego. Today's Religion of the Self spends a good many cycles advocating that others should serve its endless causes; that others should obey its endless requirements; that others should speak only its approved speech; and that, above all, others should reach for their wallets to pay for it all. The Religion of the Self puts forward a candidate for high office that promises tax equity but pays but 12 percent himself. The Religion of the Self is composed of many millions of believers whose primary aim is good works for their own glory and at someone else's expense. It is little wonder that the high priests of the Religion of the Self are today known as "celebrities," and that the highest state sought by members of this religion is to be, themselves, "celebrated."

A poet, who was taken for many decades to be one of their seers, but who has recently revealed he merely used them for his own,deeper purposes, once wrote of them:

"But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody...."

And they agreed as long as it was clear that the somebody they were to serve was always going to be the Self.

This religion, after all, taught as its first and last precept that there was nothing in this world greater than the self and -- beyond this world, out beyond even the unimaginable edges of the universe -- there was... well... nothing at all; "purposeless matter hovering in the dark." After all, there was, in our young, ignorant and still stumbling science, no proof or evidence anywhere they looked -- out to the edges of the cosmos or down into the stringed heart of matter -- that appeared to echo the Biblical. All was merely the blunt physical, the unbearable heaviness of animated meat.

The only thing these "Believers" could sense that partook of the spiritual was the Self and the Self alone. Thus they made the Self into their idol and set it on the altar of their brief lives. Obsessed with embellishing this idol many spent large sums and long periods of introspective analysis with professionals that were paid handsomely to confirm to them, at all times and in all places, that the grim visage of the Self reigned supreme, and that only the Self and only this life in this world could be validated.

It did not matter, or it somehow escaped their otherwise sharpened intellects, that all men and all worlds dwell within a miracle and a mystery so deep and so far beyond the understanding of the human mind that we simply lacks the senses to perceive it -- except through faith alone. Indeed, relying on the fact that "faith" is not obviously tied to any single sense organ, they would deny that it is a sense at all.

Had they looked closely at the infinitely little that is now known at the outward edges of cosmology and quantum physics they might have dimly sensed that the exercise of the power called "faith" was actually the only exercise that would allow them even a glimpse of the glory behind the material manifestation. But the worship of the Self not only obscures all dimensions outside of it, it demands their obliteration.

The reporting of and affirmation of faith by billions of human beings was to the worshipers of the Self only ancient superstition. That which was known for aeons as wisdom was to them mere myth. And the things that myth, wisdom and faith pointed towards and revealed were all foolish because at the center they denied the primacy of the Self; reduced the Self a small clot of cells, a few insignificant cubic centimeters of brain matter. This cannot be tolerated, for the Self is the most jealous and wrathful of all the gods. The Religion of the Self cannot tolerate faith.

For what faith does, among many other things as it reshapes a human life, is the reduction of self to its proper scale; to remove forever the capitalization of self, and render it as it is in the vaster scheme of things as they are. This reduction also means the diminution of all that the self holds dear, the sense of "I" above all, of Ego Uber Alles. Faith silences the infernal music of "Me."

This song of the self is a song our current believers learned in the cradle or, if not there, on their way into the upper realms of higher education. It was a song that needed to be sung for the proper matriculation of the intellectual into the material world. And this matriculation was important because, for all the protestations; all inane bromides of spirituality; all the endless bland pseudo-theologies that asked not for faith but for mere affirmation; all the ballyhooed new-age cults, psycho-babble and boutique spirituality... all these were nothing but paper-mache puppets dropped over their souls to disguise what The Believers of the Self really were -- material boys and girls on the make in a material world.

And being of that world, like religious fanatics throughout history, the members of the Religion of the Self, would not be content until all others joined with and affirmed their Religion as the way, the truth and the light.

Those that voted against the Religion of the Self were seen not just as citizens who preferred to be left to their own devices, but as heretics and apostates and, worse still, unlearned and ignorant. After all, all those who were of the Religion of the Self were secure in the certain knowledge that there was but One Way; theirs. To discover, within one day, that their way was not the only way and was, indeed, rejected by the majority of their fellow citizens was, in the end, irreconcilable with their religious view of the world.

Their reaction was the same that we have always seen when religious fanaticism dominates large groups of people: rage, scorn, mockery, anger, denial, threats of violence in some quarters, and plans for some sort of exodus to a better land over the far horizon. At the same time, the irony of their situation was that they knew, better than most of their less-travelled fellow citizens, that, absent the possession of real wealth, there is no better land.

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Posted by Vanderleun at December 5, 2004 12:01 PM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Well said, indeed.

What truly amazes me is the number of physisists that have become Christians. In all the vastness of the universe, with all the theories and counter theories, none explain the precision, the attention to detail or the sheer magnitude of creation. One scientist I heard recently gave this explanation: If one could take some galactic size ruler and lay it across the cosmos, it is a well known fact that movement by so little as an inch, by any one body, would cause the entire universe to fall into complete ruin and chaos.

Another example is that of so-called evolution. Taking the one cell approach scientists have calculated the chances of life ever evolving from a single cell into the complex form of humanity. The odds are beyond unimagineable. They are so infintely small that they are virtually impossible.

The Religion of the Self explains in great clarity, the need to promote the culture of the left. Lack of moral values, self-centered indignation, ego, sloth, vanity, vulgar sex for exploitation, all are part and parcel of the Self. You reason accurately, I believe, that it is an inbred trait few Christians will not be able to see through when the anti-Christ appears, though the Bible says otherwise. Modern day quasi-christians, as you say, will fair no better in their zeal to embrace that which they do not believe.

Posted by: Ron at November 6, 2004 8:13 AM

"What truly amazes me is the number of physisists that have become Christians."

Where do you get your numbers? It's simply not true that physicists are moving toward Christianity.

"Most U.S. scientists do not believe in a god,
but 40 percent do -- the same percentage as did in 1916."

"And although biologists showed the highest rate of disbelief for doubt......that ranking is now given to physicists and astronomers."

So out of all scientists, physicists and astronomers have the most unbelievers.

Posted by: political at November 6, 2004 9:01 AM

This is a very good piece, touching on a theme that I have been chewing on for a while, now. I've been calling it Self-worshipping Nihilism, but it's the same thing: "Be your own pagan idol." The observation that this is not a new thing, but the natural state of man absent real religion (or the state man is pulled into by the Enemy whenever he turns his back on God) is an important insight, I think.

BTW, I am a neuroscientist and a Christian of the Catholic persuasion.

Posted by: DTLV at November 6, 2004 9:41 AM

Self-worshipping Nihilism, but it's the same thing: "Be your own pagan idol."

Very good.I like that formulation quite a bit.

Posted by: Van der Leun at November 6, 2004 10:23 AM

"Be your own pagan idol."

The ultimate application of Nietzsche, to become your own god unto yourself. The deification of the self.

Posted by: FH at November 6, 2004 10:41 AM

Thank you for a good piece of writing. I concur with your observations, and will send it on to some of my kids raised inside a mileu of self above all. (they don't worship at the altar of self like most but its hard for them...)

Posted by: pbird at November 6, 2004 12:08 PM

This was well said. Chesterton-like. The entire Old Testament can be reduced to one thought - I am the Lord your God, and you are not God. Now listen to me.

Posted by: mark butterworth at November 6, 2004 1:24 PM

For Hollywood, religion is just like the backdrop on a movie set: pretty, but two-dimensional and false -- to them. A church wedding is just for the scenery, and not for the content. The odd thing is that their misplaced compassion also comes from religion, but they're too busy sniping at "The Religious Right" to admit it.

Posted by: Stephen B at November 6, 2004 1:52 PM

In this acronym riddled world, it only seems appropriate to assign one here.

I submit that Religion Of The Self should be henceforth called:   ROTS.

Posted by: Jim at November 6, 2004 6:26 PM

It strikes me that ROTS (I love that acronym!) can be equated with Original Sin. Tremendous post Gerard.

Posted by: Bill at November 6, 2004 7:39 PM

It seems we all have similar thoughts on the subject. As a Democrat who crossed party lines, I realized several years ago that the party had lost it's focus. It was supposed to be the party of the people. Average Joe America. Instead, it's guiding people talk about being for the people but it's headed by elites, socialist left, and celebrities.

Basically, they don't know who the "people" are so they can't be them anymore. They can't represent average Joe America when they embrace people that spit on America and thinks they are all stupid sheep.

Even stupid people don't like to be called stupid. A serious mis-step in "nuance"

While Mr. Luen's post was a very serious review of the situation, I poked a little more fun at the problem:

Hope you don't mind a little humorous light on the subject.

Posted by: kat-missouri at November 6, 2004 11:45 PM


I didn't cite numbers.

Posted by: Ron at November 7, 2004 10:04 AM


i've been annoyed by this for a long while now. how come my values, as a Christian, shouldn't have representation in our representative democracy when everyone from those practicing ROTS to "moderate" Muslims can?

i think this election was a clear message from those marginalized as the "religious right" (most, like myself are actually politically moderate) to the Left: "You are irrelevant. Now, go away, or we will taunt you a second time!"

Posted by: Justin Moser at November 7, 2004 11:46 AM

Self-worshipping Nihilism, but it's the same thing: "Be your own pagan idol."

If one could travel back in time and kill one person to make the world a better place, it wouldn't be Marx, or Hitler, or Basil Zaharoff, but Nihil that I would go after.

Posted by: triticale at November 11, 2004 7:01 PM

Here's an article from "First Things" that had a deep effect on me when I came across it awhile ago, that talks about the some thing (though not really in a political context):

Posted by: jimbo at November 11, 2004 8:20 PM

The Religious Divide Explained
Glenn linked to a good article at TECHCENTRALSTAION by Fred Turner.
RTWT - even though it COMPLETELY misses the point.
Turner creates a false dichotomy: religious versus secular voter.
Many religious people - myself and Bush included - are both deeply religious and committed secularists.

The true opposition is religious voter versus atheistic voter.

The fact is that democracy was founded by religious people, and this is because democracy is historically based on the first principal of Natural Law : that all humans are created equal and endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights. The State does not grant or define these rights; UNIVERSAL Human Rights exist a priori.

Most of atheists - and ALL of cultural relativists and moral relativists - are opponents to any notion of Universal Human Rights because they believe that Human Rights can only be defined culturally/relatively. Such a view provides no universal moral basis for democracy or democratic revolutions; such a view can ONLY explain revolutions as struggles between competing power bases. Which is exactly how Marxists, and moral relativists and cultural relativists explain history. And I would include most of the Left; the Left has become overwhelmingly redefined by its relativism. This fact has been true since at least post-WW2, when post-modernism took root in the Left.

This post-modernist Leftist creed cannot offer a way to universally abolish slavery or sexual inequality, or racism, or genocide EXCEPT if-and-when there is CONSENSUS from all the world's nations and cultures - which is precisely why these relativists value multilateralism and the UN so highly: it is the only place where international/cross-cultural consensus can be reached, and for relativists cross-cultural consensus is the only means to temporal universality. This is also why they have so often stood back and done nothing as genocide has been openly committed - they can't act if they canít forge a consensus.

But true morality is NOT on based on polls; it is NOT relative; it is Universal; it holds that all homo sapiens are entitled to the same rights because we are literally and figuratively ONE FAMILY. And in this family we should not tolerate it when our relatives are systematically denied their innate Human Rights. It is our duty to help our brothers and sisters.

This concept was enshrined as part of the UN Charter when the UN adopted the Declaration of Universal Human Rights - at the time a liberal notion embraced by all of the West.

Since then, it has become regarded by the Left as a neo-con notion - an attempt by the West to culturally hegemonize the world. This shift occurred around the time that the Left realized that the working-class in the West would not lead the proletarian revolution (because of the enbourgeoisment - [their term] - of the working class - or so the Left claims), and that the revolution would be led by the Third World - especially the former colonies of the West.

This is why the Left (the hub of of atheistic, post-modernist, cultural & morally relativist political ideology) aggrandizes any Third World dictator who opposes the USA or the West, and abhors only dictators who are pro-USA or pro-West. To the extent that OBL and Saddam and Zarqawi can be seen as anti-USA/anti-West, the Left embraces them. The actual extremely low living standards and lack of basic human rights and liberties that our brothers and sisters have in totalitarian regimes doesn't matter to the Left as long as the regime is anti-USA or anti-West - like North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Iran, Syria - etc...

The Left in the USA is no different in this regard than the Left in continental Europe, and this is why they have such great affinity. They're against Natural Law; Natural Law is antithetical to their core beliefs.

The UK has a deep tradition of Natural Law and this is why they are natural allies of the USA. Ditto Israel.
posted by reliapundit

Posted by: reliapundit at November 11, 2004 8:21 PM

Thank you for that link to "Christ and Nothing. "

An illuminating work.

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at November 11, 2004 10:46 PM

If all men are born equal why are we prepaired to pay a far higher price in innocent Iraqi civilians than US soilders? Look at the most optimisitc figures and it's still about a 1:10 ratio, yet to who do we devote our attention and prayer?

All men are quite clearly not born equal in the trails they will face in this world nor the resources (both spiritual and material) they have available to face these trials.

Posted by: Mesic at November 20, 2004 8:58 AM
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