Religions tend to set limits. Those limits come with the force of God or some spiritual force that transcends man. Otherwise, a religion would be nothing more than man-made rules enforced by the strongest. This is why laws in most of the world are rooted in the dominant religion of the region or country. The local religion is a list of restrictions and limitations placed on the believers. Naturally, when it came time to form a government and write laws, they relied upon the laws and rules of their religion.
This may seem rather obvious, but the concept of the limiting principle is easy to take for granted. This is a core feature of most religions and it easiest to understand by considering our laws. Take two people who are not robbing banks. Just as long as both are not robbing banks, neither is more or less of a bank robber than the other. Both are simply not bank robbers. In other words, while there may be degrees of bank robbery, there are no degrees of not bank robbery. Not being one is the limit of that virtue.
This is true of religion, of course. The sinner can be someone breaking a minor rule or someone violating the big rules. Their degree of sinfulness can be established, but their degree of virtue does not exist. If you are not violating the rules of the faith, then that is as good as it gets for you, at least in this life. In other words, there is a limit to virtue. That limit is the rule or prohibition. You are either within the rules or not. Efforts to out-virtue others are usually seen as vanity, unjustified boasting about one’s spiritual state.
The limiting principle keeps religions and the law from going crazy and descending into virtue spirals. After all, if one can be more virtuous than the next guy, then the next guy can be even more virtuous. The cycle ends only when everyone is dead. The same is true of the law. Utopian schemes like communism are aimed at constructing the perfect society, but since perfection is impossible, it is a never ending cycle of madness to make society better, which means making people better. It’s why they always end in violence.
This has always been the problem with efforts to create a civic religion. Robespierre and his radical buddies figured this out quickly, which is why they came up with the Cult of the Supreme Being. Of course, their new reason cult got weird in hurry and contributed to the demise of Robespierre. The reason is any effort to invest moral authority in men or their creations turns those men into gods. The madness of the French Revolution was a virtue spiral, as there was no transcendent limit. The radicals could always be more radical.
We see this with the nature movements that have been a feature of the Left for as long as anyone reading this has been alive. The greens always aim for some sort of Edenic outcome. Their goal always lies just a little further. The idea of “good enough” is outside their comprehension. Couple that with their preternatural belief in the sinfulness of man and you end up with a nature cult that borders on being a suicide cult. The end point of every Progressive nature movement is the end of mankind.
The greatest impact individuals can have in fighting climate change is to have one fewer child, according to a new study that identifies the most effective ways people can cut their carbon emissions.
The next best actions are selling your car, avoiding long flights, and eating a vegetarian diet. These reduce emissions many times more than common green activities, such as recycling, using low energy light bulbs or drying washing on a line. However, the high impact actions are rarely mentioned in government advice and school textbooks, researchers found.
Just look at that list. It sounds like a combination of the Shakers and 1970’s new age mysticism. In order to save the planet, according to researchers and experts no less, is to avoid having more humans and make the ones waiting around to die as miserable as possible. The unspoken reason for selling the car and sitting in the dark with your nothing burger is so you can suffer and atone for your sins. In other words, it is not enough to be a green, you have to kill yourself as the ultimate sign of your virtue.
This is not new. The Shakers, obviously, are an example of what happens when a religion cannot imagine a limit to virtue. The Shakers, though, had the decency to mind their own business and not try to inflict themselves on the rest of the world. In the long run, they were a slow-motion suicide cult, but they were willing to let nature take its course. The modern nature cults not only want to rush their demise, they want to take the rest of us with them, or at least make us suffer for their religion.
This is the problem that has haunted the Left in America. There’s no concept of good enough. They are always chanting, “we can do more” or “there is more work to do.” No matter how much damage they do in the holy cause, they are sure that more needs doing, more must be done. It’s why their causes tend to burn out in fits of insanity like we see with the whole transgender thing. The quest for the ultimate victim has led them to celebrate mental illness as a virtue and deny biological reality.
There’s another point here worth mentioning. A reason Progressives lack the concept of the limiting principle is that the modern American Left grew out of the postmillennialism of the 19th and early 20th century. This was an American Protestant movement based on the belief that the time between now and the end times would be one where the Church came to dominate the nations of the earth and usher in an era of peace, prosperity and righteousness, signally the return of Christ. Abolitionism was a product of this movement.
Modern Progressives have abandoned the language of Christianity, but they retain the characteristics and much of the language of their spiritual forebears. Instead of spreading the Word, they spread democracy. Instead of defeating Satan by expanding the kingdom of God on earth, the modern Progressives expands the inclusive Community to defeat the Hate. Saving the earth is, in a way, the restoration of Eden. When the goal is to immanentize the eschaton, it is no wonder they set no limits for themselves.