FORWARD BASE B

"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

Towards A Post-Secular Religion

Religion remains widespread but we can’t pretend it exerts the same power over human imagination and behavior as it used to.   No one takes it quite seriously.  There are many who still go to church but with the notable exception of Muslims it would be difficult to find more than a handful of zealots who would kill or die for their religion.  And this is probably because Islam is not just made of airy ideas of God and heaven but is at least as heavily concerned with governing earthly culture, law, and politics.  By this comparison we can readily see that separation of church and state is a death blow for traditional religions.  A serious religion cannot be excluded from the state any more than gravity or magnetism could be excluded from the purview of science.  So a modern religion must encompass the entire spectrum of humanity and human endeavor and not linger as a weak, de-fanged figurehead.

We have discovered through hard trial and error that a society without a sense of larger purpose drifts into nihilism and despair.  Ever since the Enlightenment gave rise to the “separation of church and state” leaders have looked for a convincing tofu substitute for meat.  From Lenin and Hitler to Lincoln, leaders all over the world have tried to create the sacred from the secular.  Of all the secular ideologies, Nazi-ism may have come closest to generating real religious zeal but it burnt out in a few short years.  The American faith of individual and national Exceptionalism also has shown potential to inspire, but only when the going was good.  It’s easy to cheer for a home team that’s winning, so it doesn’t really count.  It’s a weak religion that can be killed by a slow economy when Judaism survived repeated conquest and exile.  All attempts at Enlightenment secular faith have ultimately failed at the thankless task of cultivating vigor and cohesion from barren soil.  No matter how it gets re-packaged, a society that is for everyone is for no-one.

The first step is to have some sort of core identity.  Islam requires enough hard-to-fake signalling that it actually means something to be part of the in-group.  Meanwhile, most Christian denominations welcome any warm body that shows up and aren’t too much more than a weekend social club for adults.  Some kind of ethnic and cultural identification helps form the core, even if it just applies to the founders.

Next, a core group has to have a grand mission to fulfill, usually to help the in-group against the out-group.  For Judaism it was the imperative to preserve and pursue the interests of the chosen people against every conceivable obstacle.
A successful mission has the ability to inspire from the top to the bottom.  A religion requires a mainstream version that addresses the needs of most people but it also needs loftier schools of philosophy, scholasticism, and mysticism to satisfy the intellects of smart and educated people.  One thing I admire about Catholicism is its scholarly tradition.  It has lasted as long as it has because it had roles for outliers.
This is a major failing of Protestant Christianity.  Because it was a reaction against Catholicism all emphasis was on the needs of the common man while neglecting the intellectual traditions.  Like most reactions, including the Enlightenment, it overcompensated in the opposite direction rather than finding a golden mean.  I was stunned when I opened a catholic bible for the first time as a teenager and saw archaeological explanations of the origins of each book with an analysis of the time and place.  To this day, many Protestant strains offer up a bible of texts from thousands of years ago without any interpretation.  It’s a mind-numbingly stupid approach for anyone who likes to think.  Protestantism as a newer experiment in religion hasn’t yet developed the traditions of exegesis that provide endless hours of entertainment for nerds and shore up the philosophical foundations of the faith.
Meanwhile, more estoteric schools of Buddhism like Zen might be examples of ideologies that favor the intellectual side with little to offer to ordinary people, but there’s mass market versions of Buddhism out there too.
The modern religion of secularism backed by holy science fails completely, though, because it offers no mission to anyone, really.  We’re just here on this rock in space, everyone’s interchangeable, and there’s a faith-based doctrine of eternal progress that inevitably gets discredited with time.  A real religion has to have answers during down times if it wants to last, not just when things are going forward as planned.  People have to have a reason to keep going even when the home team loses.  The insipid gruel of modernity has never yet succeeded in sustaining a people.  We need something better.

The chaos of impending neo-tribalism will give us plenty of new groups all looking for their own answers to the big questions within the secular vacuum.  Those that come up with the best formulas will become the ruling tribes and the lesser tribes will be placed in castes beneath until a new order eventually emerges from our modern dark ages.

5 responses to “Towards A Post-Secular Religion

  1. guest May 20, 2016 at 8:44 am

    Isn’t the doomsday cult of modern liberalism DE-facto it?

    I mean it is essentially a re-branded offshoot of Christianity, guilt, penance, flogging and all. Evolved just enough to bypass the separation of state and church nuisance, with pseudo science replacing god as the final instance. My Catholic family members at least know not to bring up the bible during a Sunday barbecue, they have a clear line, while my liberal friends are all in, 24/7, no breaks for them. The same people who want Christmas banned in schools and who wish you happy generic holidays, have no problems with climate doom being taught in the very same schools. The apocalypse is crazy bible talk, but climate doom, pure cold logic (no pun intended)!

    And to quote The Z Man:

    “It is why I argue liberalism is a religion. It demands the adherents immerse themselves in the faith and judge everything through the lens of the faith. When you talk with a moonbat, it does not take long before they are hectoring you about some outrage or another. Even discussions of the weather will eventually turn into a debate about global warming. They may not sport crucifixes, but they are going to signal their commitment to the one true faith and proselytize if the chance arises.”

    Liberals really do believe they are above it all, that they shed partisanship, ideology or mere subjectivity like the Homo sapiens shed it’s tail. As far they are concerned, modern science affirms all of their basic premises, consequently the moral high-ground is assumed, and good intentions are just given. Hence there is no reason to tolerate our hateful, dangerous, ancient, and outdated conservative assertions. Progressives are almost orthodox at this point, all they need is a matching dress code!

    • Giovanni Dannato May 21, 2016 at 1:41 am

      Yes, the secular order has tried to brand itself as a lasting religion. Since science as the lone arbitrator of reality leads to empty determinist materialism, they try to formulate more inspirational doctrines such as universal equality, the sacred nation state, or even the environment itself. Nothing they try really sticks though because it’s still just a lame attempt to make materialism exciting. There’s still no real reason why it matters if people are stripped of their “human rights”, the nation-state gets replaced by empires, and we drive the whales extinct with tactical nukes.
      I think the zealotry you observe is more “doth protest too much” rather than real devotion. For all their frantic signalling, you don’t see them doing any deeds to further the faith. Acting offended is not the same as going out proselytizing or crusading. Your catholic friends feel a bit more secure that their belief system isn’t going anywhere. The adherents of Enlightenment materialism can sense that a few re-alignments over a few years, could send their religion to the pages of the history books, just like Nazi-ism. Fragility makes them nervous.

  2. Larry May 20, 2016 at 11:12 am

    What about environmentalism as the new religion?
    The mission is to save Nature.
    Plenty of out groups that don’t care about Nature.
    Maybe the ultimate goal will be to save Nature from humanity, that is population dilution till only the in group survives, living happily ever after in harmony with Nature.

    • Giovanni Dannato May 21, 2016 at 1:47 am

      I think environmentalism is actually a possible step in the right direction, which I will elaborate on in a new post.
      The trouble is that there’s no reason it matters in a stubbornly materialist universe. They try to promote the environment as something beautiful and sacred but it comes across as hypocrisy. Right direction perhaps but it’s hard to build on a faulty foundation.

      • sunhater May 22, 2016 at 10:53 am

        As part of the article I am currently writing I have included a simple thought experiment to to viscerally teach people why they should REALLY care about Nature.

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