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Posted: November 16, 2017


The Convenient Religion

Everyone in America today—right, left, or middle, if there still is one—can agree that the explosive political response to Donald Trump’s presidency is unprecedented in American political history. Liberals’ clinically hysterical reaction to the President’s plans for The Wall, to the travel ban, to his response to the Charlottesville affair, and to his cancellation of his predecessor’s executive order permitting participants in DACA to remain in the country for a fixed period of time and apply for work permits here demonstrated that the nature of the profound disagreement between Trump and his critics is not essentially political, but religious. For liberals, Trumpism is heresy against what has been called the modern American civic religion, but is actually religion pure and simple. The reaction against the reaction is nothing less than the outraged response by America’s national church against dissenters from its unwritten creed. American politicians, Republican and Democratic, have been trying to conceal the fact from the country by their increasingly frequent and now frantic appeals to “America’s core values,” or, more simply and inexactly, to “who we are”—cant phrases which upon examination reflect only the “values” that liberals of both parties have invented and tried to impose on Americans for decades. Their appeals having failed to produce the desired effect in approximately half the American population, the high priests and metaphorical pew sitters of the Church of Christ Without Christ have turned from public exhortations to public demonstrations, often violent ones, to rally the troops at the beginning of what looks more and more to be the Second American Civil War.

The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (New York, 1967) defines Religion this way:

1.) Concern over what exists beyond the visible world, differentiated from philosophy in that it operates through faith or intuition rather than reason and generally including the idea of the existence of a single being, a group of beings, an external principle, or a transcendent spiritual entity that has created the world, that governs it, that controls its destinies, or that intervenes occasionally in the natural course of its history, as well as the idea that ritual, prayer, spiritual exercises, certain principles of everyday conduct, etc., are expedient, due, or spiritually rewarding, or arise naturally out of an inner need as a human response to the belief in such a being, principle, etc.

The boldface parts of this paragraph indicate those aspects of religious belief that modern, or advanced, liberalism shares with other religions. Taking these correspondences more or less in order, one notes that liberalism, excessively rational and even rationalistic in its classical phase, in recently embracing three basic axioms—the uniformity of societies everywhere, the radical sameness of their inhabitants, and the fact of near limitless human malleability—crossed the line that separates political philosophy from religious faith, or even from a cult whose primary aim is to control its members. Liberals believe that liberalism, their idea of the Way and the Life for mankind, has demonstrated to the satisfaction of all rational and educated persons that it can govern the world justly and efficiently and that it effectively “controls its destinies,” which are steadily converging toward the End of History under liberal tutelage. Regarding ritual, prayer, and spiritual exercises, liberals have been engaging publicly, en masse and ad nauseam, in these observances (“demonstrations”) since 1789, and they have redoubled their efforts since January 20, 2017. As for principles of everyday conduct, they have codified these in an elaborate and absolute system they call “ethics,” rigidly enforced. And beyond these things, liberals have a gallery of saints, many of them martyrs, that after a mere two-and-a-half centuries is large enough to fill the cathedral of Chartres and includes such notables as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Matthew Shepard, who, as liberal saints should be, are faithful representations of the morality of modern liberalism: the first a spiritual fraud whose chief accomplishment was to create social and political messes he later walked away from; the second a plagiarist, serial adulterer, and communist; and the third an aggressive adept at buggery and a dealer in drugs. Liberals have miracles, among them cleansing all men of their sins by denying sin and murdering the Deity by incantation—that is, writing learned treatises asserting His death. And liberals have their conception of original sin, the duality of racism and sexism, and their own Satan, the White Male. Having re-divinized Western politics by announcing the death of God, liberalism, the revolutionary secular commitment that has stepped up to His place, has arranged for His burial by the New Atheists who, dishonestly and with a fine disdain for rationality, deny the rationality of theism generally, and of the Christian faith in particular, by selective ignorance and deliberate misrepresentation of the classical proofs of the necessary existence of a Creator, while professing a self-assured atheism through the blindest of self-blinding faiths.

Liberalism was not originally a type of religion at all, having coexisted more or less comfortably with Christianity (though not with Islam and voodoo) for some time. But the transformation of science as essentially a metaphysical enterprise into a practical one that values material effectiveness over pure truth, and the subsequent issue of democratic politics from liberal political theory, ensured a rupture between the two things. For liberal theorists and democratic practitioners alike, Christianity seemed too humanly humble, too pessimistic, too confining a creed to fit with liberal and democratic aspirations for individuals and societies, an insult to pride of life and of the mind; increasingly so, as scientific power advanced together with human control over nature to the point where men could imagine becoming like gods themselves, and democratic theorists and politicians encouraged citizens in ever more egalitarian democracies to fancy themselves kings. Because the scientific spirit and the democratic one—the ultimate expressions of human pride—decline to subordinate themselves to anyone and anything, liberal political thought was driven, inadvertently at first, to invent a new religion for itself to supplant the Christian one that constrained it, and that it believed humanity had outgrown.

The liberal religion, like Christianity, is an improving religion, but there the likeness ends. Christianity looks inward and upward, liberalism outward and forward. Liberalism encourages its adherents to feel proud, confident, and uncritical about themselves; Christianity counsels humility, self-criticism, penitence—and penance. Liberalism works toward the end of history; Christianity toward the end of time. Christianity is a religion of self-denial and even of mortification; liberalism of self-indulgence and self-gratification, exactly suited to the needs (and wants) of democratic-capitalist-industrial-commercial-consumerist societies. Liberalism substitutes “ethics,” which can be satisfied by lip-service and virtue-signaling, neither of which costs anybody anything, for Christian morality, whose strictures, being divine, are frequently observed only painfully by fallen men and women. Christian morals condemn all-too-human desires, though they do so in mercy and understanding; liberal ethics allows them as being natural and human and therefore healthy and liberating, as the modern social and psychological “sciences” insist they are. And since liberalism has recently found the freedom to act according even to nature to be insufficient and repressive, liberal theory, impressed and inspired by medical technique, has lately discovered human nature to be actually nonexistent, allowing people living in liberal societies the freedom not only to have whatever they wish but to be whatever they want, regardless of their irrelevant chromosomes. Hence liberalism, at liberty to deny traditional morality based on man’s unique status as a son of God, replaces it with an ethical system that is natural, normative, relative, and directed toward personal “fulfillment,” individual happiness and contentment, social peace, political harmony, and—the ultimate goal—uninterrupted economic and technological advancement and the infinite freedom they supposedly bring. Lastly, liberalism demands no sacrifice from its devotees—no painful personal ones anyhow, since liberal sacrifice is collective and impersonal, and so in a way abstract, or simply someone’s else, almost always that of the One Percent, which, though mostly liberal itself, employs a staff of accountants and lawyers to minimize its generosity. All this explains why liberalism is the convenient faith that asks nothing of its followers save their willingness to deny their own humanity in exchange for enjoying the life of a happy herd of domesticated animals grazing across endlessly green parks shaded by luxuriant trees and carpeted by perennial flowers.

Nevertheless, the liberal religion has a critical weakness that is certain to bring it down in time. It is the final inability of men and women to believe that their humanity is illusory, but also that human nature is divine, or the closest thing there is to divinity. This explains men’s instinctual urge to worship a higher Being or beings, and in worshipping to make sacrifice to them. It is a fatal mistake to ask too much of people. It is fatal also to ask too little of them. For our human nature, self-subordination and sacrifice are deeply painful, but also deeply satisfying—and true. Adoration, which so far as I know is something unique to the Christian religion, is not exactly the same thing as worship, but it is equally rewarding, as the Catholic Church understood in its institution of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. We humans have a human need to adore, and if the object of fitting and proper adoration—the Holy Sacrament, the Blessed Virgin Mary—is removed from our sight, we will adore Madonna and Taylor Swift. Which is bad enough, but not as bad as adoring Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren, as much as liberals want Americans to do so.

It is a fact that while one of the other three major world religions (Buddhism), owing to its vague transcendent nature, demands less in the way of sacrifice and general human inconvenience to its adherents than Christianity asks of Christians (a Chinese Buddhist once assured me, whether truthfully or not, that I could be a Buddhist as well as a practicing Catholic), the other (Islam) is, or has become, a religion that imposes by its laws and strictures what frequently amounts to inhuman cruelty. The liberal religion has nothing in common with the Islamic faith—it is, rather, its exact opposite—and so liberals’ emotional defense of Islam, their siding with it against Christianity (though obviously it is everything liberals accuse Christianity of being), is the supreme example of liberalism’s fundamental hypocrisy. It is choosing Barabbas over Christ: “Anyone but Him!” The convenient religion is neither God’s religion, nor man’s, but the breathless unfeeling unthinking unseeing idol designed by a vast international committee operating over three centuries to suit its own purposes. It is yet another proof, as if any were needed, that men will not understand themselves until they are forced to violate their own nature, and thus begin to understand, and—as we are seeing in the international reaction against liberalism today—to insist upon that understanding.

Originally Published by Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture October 5th, 2017

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