Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Immanentizing the eschaton

Melanie Phillips, writing in the UK's Standpoint, finds that the causes animating the Left demonstrate many of the less attractive characteristics attributed to religious fanaticism. From "How the West Took Leave of its Senses":
In the post-Christian West, it is an article of secular faith that religion and reason repel each other like magnetic poles. Religion, it is said, is not rational and reason cannot embrace anything that lies outside materialist explanation. ....

It is therefore odd that the great ideologies which currently consume the West — such as man-made global warming, scientism (the belief that science alone can explain the world), anti-Americanism and hostility to the state of Israel — all share characteristics of religious belief such as dogmatism, intolerance and evangelical fervour.

Even odder, they all display specifically Christian motifs of sin, guilt and redemption. Odder still, they all exhibit features of the millennarian apocalyptic beliefs associated with medieval Christianity, the pre-modern world and Islam throughout the ages.

Millennarianism is a religious belief in the perfectibility of mankind and life on earth through the collective redemption of sin. Contemporary secular ideologies identify the sins committed by humanity — oppression of Third World peoples, despoliation of nature, bigotry, poverty, war — and offer redemption and salvation by a return to the path of righteousness.

Dissenters are heretics forming diabolical conspiracies against the one revealed truth. Thus the decision to invade Iraq, Israel's military operations, scepticism of man-made global warming and the persistence of religious faith cannot possibly have any reasonable basis because they deny the unchallengeable truths of anti-imperialism, environmentalism and scientific materialism. The explanations must therefore lie in conspiracies by the neocons or the Jews, Big Oil or the Creationists, whose hidden hands are detected everywhere.

The left-wing intelligentsia, the environmentalists, the anti-Zionists and the militant atheists are, along with the Islamists, today's Gnostics. Their knowledge of a higher truth puts them on a plane above the rest of humanity, who have to be exhorted to change their ways in order to be saved from bloodcurdling apocalyptic scenarios: war and social disorder, floods, famine and pestilence, or slaughter perpetrated (solely) by religious fanatics.

These modern Gnostics all believe they can usher in a higher state of being. The greens believe they will save the planet. The leftists believe they will create the brotherhood of man. The anti-Zionists believe they will turn suicide bomb-belts into cucumber frames. The atheists believe they will create the Garden of Reason. And the Islamists believe they will create the Kingdom of God on earth. .... [more, although the full article is behind a subscription wall]
How the West Took Leave of its Senses | Standpoint