I’ve written a lot about the religious aspects 0f modern liberalism. The idea is not my creation. Rousseau wrote about Civil Religion in the Social Contract. His was a compromise between a religion of the state, the Catholic religion, with which he was most familiar, and Christianity in general. Later writers picked up on this theme. HG Wells pitched socialism as a universal religion. American Progressives in the early 20th century argued for a social gospel that was a fusion of Continental socialism and American Protestantism.
This concept was fairly well known and understood amongst leftist writers and thinkers into the 20th century, then it sort of disappeared. Talk to a modern liberal today and they will think you’re nuts if you compare their thing with religion. This is especially true of economists and fake nerds. They have it in their heads that their thing is a model of dispassionate logic, the very opposite of religion. That post the other day where I called Neil deGrasse Tyson a circus clown is a good example. To the people worshiping Tyson, religion is the opposite of science. In their binary world, the former is evil and the latter is good, Satan versus God.
Back in 2000 when Al Gore wandered off to Mt. Sinai to get the good word on climate change, I pointed out to the amazing number of new converts in my peer group that Al Gore was falling back on his religious training. He was playing the role of Old Testament prophet. It was pretty obvious that he was having a breakdown during the campaign. His bizarre behavior in the debates was later explained by his wife as him cracking under the pressure. She went onto to say that losing the election to Bush sent Gore into a tailspin and she thought he was having a breakdown. Instead, he came back as a convert to a new religion that looked a lot like the Old Testament.
Anyway, there’s a long piece in The Weekly Standard from a month back that comes at modern liberalism from the religious angle. I’m behind on my magazine reading so I’m just getting around to it. The fact that no one on the Right in the chattering classes has mentioned it says a lot, I think, about the general dimness of modern conservative movement. It’s well worth reading. The writer comes at it from a slightly different angle than I do, but it is a good take. Bottom, despite being a Catholic, really gets the messianic quality of 19th century American Protestantism.
I would quarrel with him on the apocalyptic section of his piece. I’m not so sure the Zero Hedge crowd is preaching doom because they think the gods are angry. They simply think they are right about the current economic arrangements. Similarly, the preppers and doomsday types building bunkers in the woods have always been with us. They think the fragile nature of society will inevitably lead to collapse. That and many of them are just nuts. They are not motivated by religiosity. The various end of times fads on the left, however, are a part of their over all religious impulse.
The lack of interest by the professional Right in this way of looking at the American Left has always puzzled me. Reagan, having gone head to head with commies in Hollywood, knew they operated with a religious zeal. He was a big fan of Eric Hoffer, from whom I got my understanding of the Left. Reagan is practically worshiped by the professional Right, yet this part of Reagan’s thinking is never mentioned. That Bottom article should be the sort of thing to get the chattering skulls on the Right going as it is easily quotable. But, they skip past it.
There’s a reason for it, but I don’t know it.