More than any other topics, politics and religion bring out the belligerence in people. And that’s even though freedom and love are being discussed. Or because they are! The reason is simple. Politics and religion manage the two greatest domains of human allegiance: the nation and the universe. Humans live and flourish in their nations, owing to them their culture and their civilization. And from the universe humans get their other fundamentals: being, time and death.
An allegiance is a belief that humans will fight and even die for because it provides them with the spirit of life. As for internationalism — of the Third International or United Nations variety — that’s only nationalism with mandatory or creeping socialist homogeneity.
And notice that although people yell, fight, and kill for the objects of their allegiance — nation and universe — by doing so they fight for themselves. That’s because without a world allegiance, humans lose their world identity. And without a world identity humans are lost. And to be world lost is to be even more ineffective than nothing. You don’t need existentialism to know that. One slow night of the big nowhere in your soul will tell you that with the utmost personal urgency, and without French turgidity or German scholarship.
What’s surprising in all this is that although politics and religion can so quickly come to fighting words — Clinton v. Trump! — they aren’t inevitably belligerent. At least the topics aren’t, I mean. The problem is that most people have faith in their nation and religion — or anti-faith! — and little else. They actually know very little about either. They cannot argue, illustrate, demonstrate, or persuade in the name of their faith. They can only repeat the formulas and the phrases they’ve been taught or uploaded with, and each time louder as evidence of the truth. And when the yelling can’t get any louder, the fighting begins.
You might be thinking that people fight more today over sports than politics and cosmology. Everyone has seen news coverage of soccer crazies. And I’ve personally been imbedded in college victory riots. Such secular enthusiasm tells us how much sports has supplanted patriotism and religion in the average American life. The same thing happened with the year-round games in pre-ESPN Rome. The Colosseum and the Circus became the forums of people’s living allegiance. And then Rome fell. Twenty centuries and many beliefs later, college students now wear not religion and nation insignia on campus, but team symbols and equipment logos. Not flag and crucifix, but swoosh and leprechaun! Here indeed is their identity! Thus most people know more about their sports beliefs than their political and religious allegiances.
And perhaps you’ll now personally complain that you don’t believe in anything — or so your last post implied. And I enjoyed the ardor of your insistence. It displayed the passion of impatience. That’s good. Youths who aren’t in a hurry will soon be slow adults. As for an insistence on not believing in anything — not anything! — notice as mathematicians do that 3 and -3 are identical in magnitude. Arguments between the religious adherent who swears to a belief in God, and the materialist atheist who swears to a belief in nothing have produced some of the most belligerent meaning debates in history. And that’s because “I don’t believe in anything!” is clearly a belief statement. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a fight, only a smile or a shrug. Furthermore, “I believe in nothing!” is an oath of bravura and fear. It’s a dare to the universe. And it’s a dare to human nature. And both dares are hard for humans to sustain for long. Humans might be the thinking animal, as Aristotle said. But then humans are the believing animal, too. (See Reality 101, Lectures 3-5) Meanwhile, if we weren’t in a republic where arguments can flare in fire-proof forums, the pyres would be burning. And where anti-religion fire codes are posted in socialist squares, the work camps and death houses are busy.
Now let’s turn to several of your points, again, as before, briefly.
- You say, first, “The United States was meant to be secular.” True, the Founders meant the new national government to be secular. And that is all. This national absence of an established religion didn’t extend to the states let alone the citizenry. Indeed, many ex-colonial states continued to maintain their established religions well into the 19th century — at least on the books.
And, second, you then observe that the Founders “granted a special place” for religion “tucked away in the private lives of citizens.” As rhetoric goes, that’s excellent and even masterful. But as you know, I’m wrapping up the semester right now, and I’ve been teaching the logic of rhetorical devices and other tricks and traps of language persuasion.
So let’s load up right now with one of our classic ammunitions, and try a little target practice on your rhetoric. Wahrheit or Veritas? You choose. Six rounds. Lock and load. I’ll shoot.
First, the Founders granted religion no such “special” place — or any place at all. It wasn’t in their power to grant such things.
Second, the place where American religions reside isn’t special. It’s civil society. It’s the forum of republican reality. It’s the main square of civic civilization. And therefore it is special, but only because for once in history the public isn’t owned by a government.
Third, in 1787, civil society in America was the single largest social entity — as it still is. If there was a special little place in America then, it was the District of Columbia.
Fourth, religion was never tucked away. Religion in America isn’t like the “Eumenides” at the end of Aeschylus’ Oresteian Trilogy. There the “new and improved” nicer Furies get euphemistically tucked away in a snug and comfortable retirement home as the curtain falls on the end of revenge.
O joy Orestes, slayer of mean mammas!
And now to bed betimes, begone pajamas!
The Founders weren’t in the tucking business — except for tucking into their dinners after a hard day’s work designing America. And the Founders weren’t in the euphemism business. They had the power and the happiness to be honest: history and the world were on their side. Meanwhile many of the Founders — usually the lesser ones — were religious in range anywhere from vacuous habit to personal passion.
Finally, fifth, religion was out in the open throughout American civil society. Never since the Middle Ages have so many churches, temples, meeting houses, etc. been built as in America.
Now let’s check our target. Five bullseyes! Wow, good ammo! Shoots true. And we’ve still got one round left ready to go. Good! Put it safely aside. You never know when a fast falsehood needs to meet the swift truth with a name and date already engraved on it.
- Consider again the virtue and the advantage of having diversified religions in a republic — if only for managing socialism. The greatest diagnosis of factions, and the best ever prescription for faction management are both in The Federalist (#10). According to Madison, religion is the second greatest cause of interpersonal disagreement, civil agitation, and political discord. And diversity is the therapy. Notice that there is no cure. Marx was so very religiously wrong about that. But then humans aren’t angels, not even when they’re provided with an abundance and even glut of goods. Furthermore, real history doesn’t end like a happy morality play. But it does in monotheism and Marxism.
Meanwhile, according to Madison, economic interests are the first and foremost cause of discord.
Think about that for a minute. Haven’t we all been told that Marx discovered the priority of economics in human affairs? Or did Marx just over-discover economics while erroneously dismissing everything else as superstructural and therefore secondarily real — including human nature? In contrast, the Federalists never put human nature anywhere except first in their calculations and considerations for humanity’s American happiness. As Hamilton says in the greatest of the Federalist papers — appropriately #1 — America has a unique opportunity to be the test platform for the rest of mankind, an opportunity never again to occur in history. Pray that it succeed, and that it do so along with some general progress in popular taste.
Now let’s analyze socialism’s strategic relations with religion. Socialists are atheistically opposed to all religions because socialism is unconsciously a religion. Socialism is an all-knowing or know-it-all world allegiance regime going back to the prophet Marx. In his later works — like Das Kapital — Marx was coyly fond of denying any influence that Hegel might have had on his thoughts. Marx could have affected this intellectual fraud for the pride of originality — or, rather less likely, vanity, which is pride in search of self-esteem. Regardless, Marx most certainly should have cast Hegel out of his sub-consciousness, and that for a much better reason than personal legacy management. Hegel’s system of the universe is a God logic. As for what Hegel meant by God, we’ll leave that to graduate Hegel seminars. I religiously attended two such courses, one for credit, the other for pleasure.
What Marx unwittingly accomplished by being an Hegelian – a left Hegelian — was to be a materialist atheist who reveled unconsciously on the surface of a God cosmos like a giddy child splashing in some sparkling waves while being held up by a flotation device. Marx was a superstructural epiphenomenon of Hegel! If you remember your Marxist economics, you’ll know what that means. Marx merely changed the cosmic product name of the universe from God to Freedom. Meanwhile, the same problem, somewhat diluted, lives on in liberals who now devoutly practice socialism lite. The invisible hauteur of religious exclusivity haunts their thoughts. And the spirit of their intolerance is no spooky specter. It’s the holy ghost of Hegel. Socialist epiphany! But to be a patsy of history is to suffer what Hegel called the cunning of Reason. And then Hegel described the whole of world history — the forum of God — as one big slaughter bench. Above the meat market of the 20th century, post the proprietary name of Karl Marx, Trier & London. “Marx’s Meats. Retail. Wholesale. No quantity too large. Orders shipped world-wide.”
With the sensibility of a pre-law student, you might now object that liberals are very protective of Islam. And Islam is a religion. Objection sustained. But that’s all just a liberal tactical maneuver. Liberals demean Christianity throughout the media and the arts while insisting on every solicitous privilege and tender consideration for Islamic sensibilities. The resistance to Trump’s brief travel bans on a half dozen Islamo-centric nations is an indication of that.
Let’s autopsy the liberals’ artificially vital tactic. Liberals push Islam right up to the face of Christianity and then rub it in, knowing full well the centuries of animosity between Christianity and Islam, animosity as much geographical as doctrinal. In other words, liberals mean to weaken and incapacitate Christianity until it has little pride, dignity or confidence, and even less public influence and political pull. When that’s accomplished, you may be confident Islam will receive the same treatment. Socialists don’t like Islam any more than France liked Turkey 400 years ago. France merely found Turkey to be a convenient ally against the Austrian Hapsburgs. As for idea alliances with religions, Nietzsche used the same tactic against Christianity in the 1880s, only with Judaism rather than Islam.
Now notice a political discord in the inner person of your own position. You appear to be presently post-religious: secularist, materialist, atheist, etc. Fine. But such anti-religious views of the universe are precisely those held by liberals, socialists, Marxists, etc. In other words, for purposes of cosmological allegiance, you should be a democrat! And, of course, you certainly shouldn’t want to write for something so loadedly called The Republican Gun! Hey, how about a liberal edition? The Republican Hug? You could tell euphemisms about the truth and lead group coos! And there’d be toy guns provided for the children to smash into plastic plowshares to slash at each other with. And then we could all come together in the end in a pub called The Gun and Hug.
But of course you’re not a democrat. Why? Perhaps because your instincts have saved you. Perhaps you’ve intuited the intolerant religiosity that socialists so complacently practice with unconscious confidence and spiritual imperialism. Socialists insist upon a moral monopoly of the cosmos. And the monopoly and the cosmos are theirs — in the name of diversity and freedom!
Ironically, Marxism was already dogmatically obsolete a hundred years ago — even before 1917. Lenin wrote a substantial book in 1908 — Materialism and Empirio-Criticism — denouncing late 19th century science. He especially objected to the Humean-skeptical disappearance of determinate matter in the physics of Mach and other world-class physicists. Meanwhile what happened? The quantum was identified in 1900. And in 1905, e = mc2 was announced. In 20th century science, matter disappears in a post-determinist physics of energy. (See Reality 101.) Except for the atomic bomb, the USSR would have totally denounced Einstein’s relativity theory as “bourgeois” and “Jewish”: reactionary hocus-pocus! Indeed, whole colleges of Soviet “logicians” probably “dialectically” solved the materialist “contradiction” of an energy universe the same way the transubstantiation problem of the sacramental bread was “solved” in the Middle Ages. In both cases the people were reassured. The experts were employed. And the skeptics were silenced.
- To answer whether the Founders treated the Enlightenment as a religion would require a substantial specification of what religion is. For now let’s just remember that Neoplatonism in Renaissance Florence was probably a sect-substitute for establishment Catholicism. (See Reality 101 for details.) And the Renaissance love of classicism — of ancient Greece and Rome — got its institutional start outside the academy because access to the universities was controlled by obsolete medieval theologians.
Now fast forward a couple of centuries. The universities — think Oxford and Cambridge — were now dominated by classics studies. And the old theology? That was called priest-craft and logic nonsense. And it was contemptuously buried along with celestial anthropomorphism and human sacrifice.
Now fast forward a few more centuries. In the early 21st century, the classics departments are dusty, cobwebbed, or closed. “Classics? Oh, you mean that white male hang-out for war stories and rape?” In other words, Men’s Studies! Instead, the humanities are now controlled by socialism. The goal of liberal arts studies today is to teach a belief in equal global results for everyone equally to be diversely the same. Or almost everyone. Men of European descent will now undergo centuries of Dante-esque moral contortions for the sins of their fathers, sins which they themselves would continue to commit — if only they could! — in the name of their shameful classics. And their manly classics, if not burnt, banned or bowdlerized — “we’re modern today!” — must be socially sterilized and surgically improved with encompassing explanations that intolerantly understand the proud errors of a cocky past!
Are any of these academic dispositions actually religions — or at least religious in their devotions? Medieval theology, or reason obeisantly serving God and Church? Yes. Renaissance classicism, or aesthetics imitatively serving Greece and Rome? Yes. Condo socialism, or sympathy apologetically serving the lazy and the luckless? Yes.
- You’re right. Obviously America isn’t a Christian nation. And Israel isn’t a Jewish nation. And most Americans probably don’t know that. They don’t know that Israel is a secular country — even though it’s predominantly populated by citizens of Jewish descent, or religious persuasion, or both. True, a small and vocal minority of Jewish fundamentalists dogmatically works for the legal specification of Israel as “the Jewish State.” But the vast majority of Israeli citizens resist such scriptural enfranchisement. Amongst other things, Deuteronomy and Numbers would then become sharia-like state law. Likewise, a fundamentalist minority in America eagerly seeks to legally convert America to “a Christian nation.” The result would be the spiritual intolerances of the colonies, something the Founders made sure were never models for the United States.
- With a hint of stridency, you criticize the sanctifiers of St. George of Washington. You especially object to a bad apotheosis ceiling painting. Well, even the good ones in Europe are bad! More saliently, you insist that the nationalist portrayers of Washington’s “assumption” forgot that all men are created equal.
Of course the word “creator” was applied to God — and only God — back then. And therefore it was exclusively a religious word. Even Jefferson toed the line on that one in the Declaration of Independence. And that’s even when he referred to that strangest of Enlightenment deities, “nature’s God.” And I believe Jefferson spelled “God” in his manuscript with a small “g”. Now recollect the whole phrase: “the laws of nature and nature’s God.” Note especially the position held by God. Surely that’s the strangest great phrase in all American history. As for the monotheistic religiosity of it, I’m not sure the concept of nature ever appears in the Bible. But I doubt it. Meanwhile, only in the 19th century were the words “creator” and “create” coopted from God and assigned to artists by the Romantics. Was Romanticism the religion of a God proxy? Probably. Or, at the least, it was a passion sect that loved to enthuse in soft and effusive or stormy and emotive pantheism. Romantic pantheism is a cosmo-holism invigorated with the fresh air of nature, and religionized with the fear of progress.
As for men being created equal, I don’t recall seeing that anywhere in my Bible, either. Or for that matter in Aquinas. Indeed, in both Augustine and Luther humans are specifically created unequal by their Creator. That is, by way of predestination, a few people will go to heaven, and the rest will go to hell. Surely that isn’t equal! And yet when Luther — Luther, the founder of Lutheranism — was asked at his table where he thought he would be going, he cheerfully said, “Probably hell!” Whereupon he then called for another beer and carried on with the world, breaking bread with his ardent ministry position students and his hot ex-nun wife. But then Luther was no egalitarian. Just ask the revolting peasants whose deaths Luther spiritually approved.
And notice now how atavistically I said “all men are created equal.” I did that in the name of scholarship, which I do hope will always be gender- and everything else-neutral — like the truth, or any of its credible successors. But personally I’m glad to update any onto-occidental minister imposition of habitual position to SLGBTQUCELW*!@. That is, “straight lesbian gay bisexual transsexual queer uncertain confused eager lonely will-try-anything” and some presently as-yet-unspecified alternative equally unoppressed gender progressive expressivities. Think what a placid distraction such a smorgasbord of sex provides compared to bookstores of revolutionary and redemptive literature!
As for the origins of the concept of equal creation, I haven’t studied the history of that idea — or dis-idea. But I’d professionally guess that Rousseau originated the idea, or that he popularized it, or both, even if only indirectly in his name for an assault on French civilization. That professionally covers me! Meanwhile, in the Declaration, the phrase “created equal” was indeed an attack mantra — a war word. (See my Republic, Ch. 41) But it was directed only against the royalty and aristocracy of England. At the same time, it’s obvious the Founders weren’t egalitarians in much of anything except access to the law and any subsequent procedural treatment under it. In no way did a universal judicial process entail a Constitutional requirement that everyone wins, especially the losers. In other words, with the retirement of the aristocrats from history — etymologically “the best” in Greek — the middle class became the best. (See the first chapters of my Republic.) John Adams, of course, like Richard Nixon, may have been a bit of a royal recidivist. But, hey, history is slow, and human nature is even slower.
- Finally, I’m pleased to see you remember from last year’s lectures the singularly peculiar case of the Lincoln Memorial. Inside some immense and ascendant columns a pharaoh-sized statue is seated on a prodigious throne eternally welcoming mortals to enter and approach with an appropriate sense of hush and awe. And no touching! Behind this piety-commanding colossus is a reminder hewn in marble that this eternal monument is a “temple” for the “enshrinement” of Lincoln’s memory. In 1st Amendment America? Huh. In any America? Huh. This preposterous sanctification of a president — like the elevation of a Roman emperor to state worship — can be attributed to, one, the decline of religion; two, the rise of nationalism; and three, the substitution of the power of the state for the potency of the cosmos in the hearts and minds of the people.
A few years back I asked a class, “What do you think Lincoln would think — homely rail splitter and putative man of the people that he was — were he to return to life and ascend the steps of the Unlike Lincoln Memorial and suddenly be confronted with His Majestic Marble Immensity?
“What the beep!!!”
That was the loud and clear answer that instantly leapt from a student’s innermost American sensibility. And just like Lincoln himself, that famous purveyor of around-the-stove from-under-the-counter cracker barrel jokes, I can assure you that the student didn’t say, “Beep”!!!