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secular moralityI grew up in a secular humanist home with highly “educated” parents who were very much the product of the modern age when it came to morality. My parents were good folks, and when I would ask for advice about a particular moral quandary, they would invariably tell me to “pick a course of action and make it work.” This “secular morality” accidentally lined up in several ways with Christian morality, thus  making the two hard to differentiate.

Though some might deem such an ethical schema salutary from a Christian point of view, I ascribe the moral decay of this country, in part, to the prevalence of secular morality. I would argue that each successive generation degenerates in virtue where the effort to cultivate explicitly Christian virtues is absent.

We are, all of us, inevitably formed in terms of our morality by our families, and we then make our contribution to the public ethos. When infected by the assumptions of secular morality, however, our contribution to public morality is corrupted. Tragically, secular morality is being infused into our decaying culture not only by the family but also by our second most prominent means of potential cultural renewal: the teaching class.

The Great Western Tradition, where Athens and Jerusalem meet, is the torch-bearer for the “best that man has said and done,” especially where morality is concerned. The Great Western torch of truth, painstakingly kept aflame for the last several millennia by the brightest lights of the Great Western Tradition, is difficult to extinguish due in part to the resilience of the human soul and the innate drive to seek wisdom, which is inscribed on every human heart. However, the efforts to quench the torch have been in full force since the fourteenth century when William of Occam and his ilk began to use their razors to cut the strings tying the human intellect and will to universals and transcendent realities. Man is thus now cut off from his final cause, his true end and purpose. Authentic morality is tied up in our final ends. Eliminating the final cause disconnects us from our rightly-ordered bond to act morally according to objective moral standards.

The final blow, the point of no return, may have been the French Revolution. These rebels against hierarchy, truth, and order resorted to machetes and torches of their own, first to cut the final remnants of our ties to God, and then to sever the bond of philosophy to theology, and finally to enslave reason to empirical science. The revolutionaries replaced the virtues with the new values of equality, fraternity, and licentiousness (fraudulently called “liberty”). The torch of the Great Western Tradition has largely been extinguished from the public square, but its embers still burn in the families who continue to cultivate Christian virtue.

The fact is that ontological good, the ground for the objective standard of morality, is prior to and independent of all created souls. It comes not from man, but God. By contrast, “secular moralities” come from the mind of man and they constitute merely a multitude of idolatrous moral systems, which cater to the arbitrary vagaries of men seeking to advance, not truth, but their own schemes to amass power and attain control of a polis. These fetid moral codes are a reaction to a set of practical circumstances, and though intended to solve practical problems, they inevitably lead to further chaos and degradation.

Sober and sane men know that the idea of secular morality is disordered, but the majority of our citizens are intoxicated on their own high opinion of themselves. Secular morality leads to the evolution that we have seen in the Great American Experiment from rugged individualism, to radical individualism, to unabashed narcissism, and eventually to self-deification. Famed psychologist Paul C. Vitz claims that America is the most poly-theistic nation in history boasting 350 million individual gods. Goodness is unitary; evil is manifold.

With no more public ties to the authentic virtues discovered by true theologians and philosophers and modernity’s blind and full embrace of the vices, the middle of the nineteenth century saw the advent of ideology take the world by storm. Subjectivism and secularism dominated and, as Richard Weaver remarked, this made everyone his own “priest and professor of ethics.” Secularism by definition “denotes attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis.” Secularism seeks to develop man to the highest possible level by a purely material means. As George Jacob Holyoake said in The Principles of Secularism, “Secularism is a code of duty pertaining to this life founded on considerations purely human, and intended mainly for those who find theology indefinite or inadequate, unreliable or unbelievable.” Holyoake names as one of secularism’s most prominent principles that “science is the available providence of man.”

Secular morality implies as true the untruth that nature explains itself. It does not. Modern man foolishly believes that empirical science can answer all our most pressing existential questions. This is merely another aspect of the inversion of reality wherein the secular moralists necessarily have to give primacy of place to empirical science as the best way of knowing. To disabuse a secular humanist of his notions of secular morality is a nearly impossible task. There is no language to dissuade him because in order to cling to a notion as absurd as secular morality, the secular humanist has to proclaim that language has no universal meaning.

Despite the deconstructionist claims of the meaninglessness of language, “secular morality” is doomed by its etymology. “Secular” denotes something solely of this world; “morality” implies a transcendent standard oriented to a good–the good discoverable, not created by man. “Secular morality” is an oxymoron because secular and morality are mutually exclusive by their natures: One is grounded in the temporal, and the other is grounded in the timeless. It is an illicit marriage. It denotes the inversion of reality that accompanies the denial of the Creator’s authority. It is the attempt to make wine into water. Because moral good precedes the created man, and created man precedes secular considerations, secular cannot predicate morality any more than man can predicate God.

The idea of a secular morality improperly assumes that it is the creature–mankind–who makes the rules that govern human behavior, and as such, we ascribe to the faulty notion that “man is the measure of all things.” Being fallible creatures, we invariably measure incorrectly because there are limits to human perception and reason. The simple fact that there is not consensus among disparate claims of measures ought to demonstrate this clearly, but even this parade of incongruence is incapable of dissuading modern man. To pull off this self-deceit, it is necessary for the secular humanist to jettison the principle of non-contradiction, to decree that truth is subjective, and to make sitting comfortably with cognitive dissonance a mark of erudition.

As Fyodor Dostoevsky said “If there is no God, everything is permissible.” If everything is permissible, there can be no morality because there is no longer the distinction between good and evil. Secularism excludes God, universals, spirituality, and the transcendent. There is no theology in secularism. What a secularist might call “philosophy” is the handmaiden of empirical science; thus it is no philosophy at all, but sophistry masquerading as philosophy. Let the world deny the Creator, universals, the natural law, the divine law, the objective moral standard, the uncreated virtues, but it cannot claim truthfully that secular morality is moral, for it cannot be.

Secular morality leads to moral depravity because at the heart of these inventions is intellectual dishonesty. Dietrich Von Bonhoeffer said that “you do not believe, because you will not obey.” Like Lucifer, the rallying cry undergirding each and every secular morality is “I will not serve!” To pursue the development of secular morality is cultural suicide. The essential problem with secular moralities is that they are wholly human creations, which inevitably result in the continued degradation of civilization. “Secular morality” is an oxymoron, and if we continue down this wide and easy path it will surely lead to the end of the Great Western Tradition.

The author wishes to thank his friend Rodney Peterson for his contributions to clarifying the arguments made in this essay. Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore

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Published: Feb 19, 2015
Author
Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg
Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg is a Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. A convert to Catholicism, he is a catechist, a school teacher, and a writer and speaker on matters of faith, culture, and education. He holds a degree in History from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Steven is a member of the Teacher Advisory Board and writer of curriculum at the Sophia Institute for Teachers, a contributor to the Integrated Catholic Life, Crisis Magazine, The Civilized Reader, The Standard Bearers, Catholic Exchange, and a founding member of the Brinklings Literary Club.
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21 replies to this post
  1. What this article argues for is really authoritarian, Church rule over society because it is only from Christianity that society-maintaing values can come. Unfortunately, even the historical example cited contradicts the assertion made. For if the only criticism one has of the French Revolution was the sins of the Revolutionaries, then one is advocating of unconditional elite rule that is supported by the Church. Such ignores the injustices and basic deprivations visited on the population by the Church supported elites of that time and place. And perhaps if the Church had not so supported the aristocracy, it would not counted as an an enemy by those looking for relief from oppression and hunger. We should ask what morality was the Church promoting back then.

    Then we could compare the morals practiced and supported by the Church during the times leading up to the French Revolution with the morals demonstrated by many atheists in this country who joined the Civil Rights movement during the 1950s and ’60s. How could the Church’s morals during the French revolutionary times ever compare favorable with the morals of atheists who battled hierarchy and racism here?

    The Left’s criticism of the Church is that it is just another institution of indoctrination used to maintain the status quo for the benefit of those with wealth and power. This article seems to go out of its way to confirm that criticism.

    • Curt, you assert “this article argues for … authoritarian Church rule over society”, completely without evidence. So the author does not think secular morality makes sense – great. But that does not logically imply any desire for an alternative system of morality – let alone desire for a completely different system that you suggest.

      You need to ask Rummelsburg what he thinks, not put words into his mouth.

      There are many other options than you suggest. For instance, why can’t we still continue to have democracy (so, not authoritarianism), but with greater emphasis on Christian morality, noticing that Christian morality benefits humanity?

      • Nathan,
        I disagree in that there is evidence for what I asserted. It’s not just that, as he falsely claims, that valid morals can only come from a Christian point of view and that the decay in this country comes from the ‘prevalence of secular morality,’ it comes from his assertion of what the possible last straw for Western Tradition was:


        These rebels against hierarchy, truth, and order resorted to machetes and torches of their own, first to cut the final remnants of our ties to God, and then to sever the bond of philosophy to theology, and finally to enslave reason to empirical science.

        What was the situation in France before the Revolution? Wasn’t it that the aristocracy was in control with Church, which had tremendous political power then and there, watching its back? So in other words, the overthrow of the Church and the aristocracy, in Rummelsburg’s opinion has doomed the West for it separated it from its ‘great’ tradition by removing it from the public square. And that occurred by the Revolution cutting God loose.

        It has become quite common, because of some Conservative Christian influences, to define times and situations in ways that demand that they have a privileged status in controlling the laws and mores of society. Such is a hierarchical approach, as Rummelsburg laments the loss of due to the French Revolution. But the history of us Christians having such a privileged in society is that many innocent people were pushed to the margins.

        So I have respectfully disagree with you here.

    • I’m not sure if Curt read the same post that I did. Where does the author say anything remotely like being in favor of “church rule over society”. The whole point of it was to explain how morality is not grounded in human desires and/or institutions, but in a transcendental source.

    • What did the Church specifically do? You keep saying it supported the French aristocracy? Other than the contingent of the Third Estates leadership, the lower clergy actually supported la révolution. In fact it could be argued that the Church, which was allowed to exist in France after the revolution, was later targeted by the National Assembly. This came after the Parish priests pushing to reform and remove the tithing requirement. Hell…Talleyrand, the bishop of Autun, even argued in favor of the new government’s nationalization of the Church. So again considering the anger of the French Revolutionairies against authority why was the Church spared if they were intertwined in the problems facing France at the time? Your stance makes no sense when you study what motivated the Jacobins and how they dealt with problems.

    • Unfortunately for your argument Curt, 300 year old narratives in regard to supposed mistreatment are no basis for invalidation of the morality that underpins civilization. Additionally, the family is the bedrock of democratic power. Without the community that it incubates, we are only millions of warring individuals. There is no moral basis that requires anyone to find precise equivalencies between secular morality and causes and traditional morality. To state otherwise is to state that any whim of the left must be the religious morality of the future. Today, the frontier is transsexuals. What will tomorrow’s frontier be?

  2. Excellent essay. The authoritarian secular regime we now live under preaches its socialist-egalitarian religion through all the tools at its command so Executive orders, Supreme Court decisions, the Press, Madison Avenue, Hollywood, and the halls of Academe, all force this egalitarian “morality” upon the rest of us through a very thorough indoctrination of the masses. Weaver’s Great Stereopticon at work.

    Some write of fear of a new Throne and Altar from the right, a laughable proposition since the spirit of the age repudiates listening to a perspective informed by a theological perspective; the purely secular and materialist perspective dominates such that it is the neo-pagan religion of the Grove and Idol on the Left that permeates our culture and should incite fear except most are too comfortably numb to perceive it.

    Liberalism was not a bulwark against this pagan spirit as liberals themselves are devoured by their own revolutionary children, as Gregorio Maranon said long ago, and cannot stand against the ever increasing demands by individuals to say they simply have a “right” to their every wish and whim, and thus they become enablers. We end then with a social-milieu wherein the enablers and the makers of the new temples amongst the Groves beget those that worship themselves, their idol. As you said, man the measure, or in the words of a very different spirit from that which is Holy, “you shall be as God.”

    • Kevin,
      I am a socialist. And like my fellow socialists, we see neither socialism nor egalitarianism in Obama. Rather, we see the typical liberal provide some fringe benefits to certain groups approach to government. And btw, in America there is a greater difference between Leftists and Liberals than between Liberals and Conservatives.

  3. “Is “Secular Morality” an Oxymoron?”

    In a word – YES.

    It is impossible to invent a secular “Morality” that isn’t ultimately self-serving. The only question is whether that morality is honest in its intentions, as with Ayn Rand, or covered in a pack of lies, as is the case with the motives of all left wing ideology.

    • Eric,
      There are two ways to try to answer your question. You can try to answer it using deduction. Or you can induction. The latter method takes more work and, from what I’ve seen in instances, would answer your question with a resounding ‘NO!’

      The former method, however, is more fun because it takes less work and allows us to vent our preconceived ideas about people.

  4. “For if the only criticism one has of the French Revolution was the sins of the Revolutionaries, then one is advocating of unconditional elite rule that is supported by the Church. ”

    The problem is the French “Revolutionaries” claimed to be morally superior to the people they were killing, yet their own behavior was far worse. It’s like complaining that your neighbor spanks his child while you beat yours with a whip.

    • Eric,
      You not only pinpointed the problem with the Revolution itself, you identified the problem with the conditions that led to the Revolution. In other words, the superior-than-thou attitude was also the problem of the Aristocracy and the Church.

      Those who are involved with any cause must remember the parable for the two praying. For it was the Pharisee who not only claimed to be superior, he went home condemned before God.

  5. ” “you shall be as God.”

    Think of the political left wing as like the snake in the garden of Eden, whispering seductive little lies “Ye shall be as gods … if you just kneel before me.”

  6. Brothers,
    The reckless irresponsibility of an ideologue who openly refers to himself as a socialists is a spectacle to behold on this rarest of internet locations. Here at the Imaginative Conservative we eschew the misuse of language and speech by the arbitrary manipulation of ideology as we ponder the absurdity of the tail wagging the dog. Mr. Day cuts a sympathetic figure. I take him to be sincere which would clear him from some of the deeper culpabilities concomitant with his foolish assertions.

    It surprises that you good men responded to Mr. Day at all, but all of you did so as gentlemen and with as much charity as would be required of you as good Samaritans. Nathan, you make an excellent point, it is in fact Mr. Day who would defend the authoritarianism of a social utopian despot, one who would in fact have to implement his own secular morality. Mr. Day takes it further and implements his own secular logic, his own secular history and his own secular casuistry, all of which fail as badly as the already failed notion of secular morality. The simple and certain answer, if you ask me, is a recovery of the natural law. How do we recognize it? By a recovery of Aristotle’s four explanatory causes along with his epistemology and metaphysics. The final cause and formal cause are particularly conspicuously absent in this present setting and from Mr. Day’s purview.

    It is a fool’s errand to address Mr. Day’s confusion in whole, and really a one way trip down a gargantuan rabbit hole. But how utterly absurd was the comparison between those very good atheists who marched for civil rights along the good Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (just who are these fine atheists exactly?) as compared to those evil Catholics in pre-revolution France. This simple monstrosity of an argument is full of too many fallacies to count. But considering his bizarre admonition “You can try to answer it using deduction. Or you can induction. The latter method takes more work,” it must be glaringly apparent to more than just me that Mr. Day has no idea what is meant by rigorous intellectual work.

    I told Mr. Day many long months ago that he and I don’t speak the same language, for even if we use the same words, we mean contrary and disparate things. This is not an invitation to dialogue for where there is not a correspondence between words and truth, there is no real communication, only the semblance of it. I write here briefly only to complement my colleagues Nathan, Eric, Michael, Cassiodorus, and Kevin, and to applaud your restraint and good nature when confronting the absurdities proffered by Mr. Day. I salute you all and suggest that we keep up the respectful end of our argument in spite of the offenses to truth that constantly bombard us.
    I leave you with the words of Cicero- “Est proprium stultitiae aliorum vitia cernere, oblivisci suorum”

    • Steve,
      Did you realize that Socialists are not a monolithic group? Certainly, we do have authoritarians amongst us though some of us question their socialist credentials because of that. Rosa Luxemburg questioned Lenin’s socialist credentials when he hijacked the Russian Revolution. So did Karl Kautsky. Both make excellent points though I favor Kautsky because while most others were so focussed on revolution and proletariate control, Kautsky had a broader vision. His vision was to eliminate oppression regardless of the source. Also realize that both Luxemburg and Kautsky were socialist contemporaries of Lenin. In addition, Lenin himself criticized the Russia’s Leftists because they opposed what he did.

      So again, do you realize that Socialists are not a monolithic group. That difference continues today as some Socialists follow Lenin, Trotsky, and even Stalin while others, such as Ezequiel Adamovsky, Noam Chomsky, and perhaps Richard Wolff speak from bottom-up socialist approach where socialism is first defined by worker control of the workplace.

      Please realize that I have no love or attachment for Lenin and his followers and successors except for some moderate respect for Gorbachev. They are without excuse regarding their totalitarian control. I agree with Chomsky when he says that Lenin was just a different repeat of the Tsars. BTW, my regard for Gorbachev comes from how he met with the West and his desire to base Russia’s economy on Sweden’s system. And, while you are projecting that I would defend the ‘authoritarianism of a social utopian despot,’ something I’ve never done, you criticized the French Revolution for opposing ‘hierarchy, truth, and order.’ Please note the historical hierarchy and order they were opposing. And while the Aristocracy and the Church strongly demonstrated a ‘superior-to-others’ mentality, the revolutionaries’ primary sin was that they externalized evil. One cannot afford to do that while meditating on Jesus’ parable of the 2 men praying.

      Finally, the only confusion–actually, dissonance is the appropriate word– that exists here is caused by those who hold to a pejorative stereotype of socialism, seeing it as a monolith which can only be done by ignoring the writings of many past and present socialists, while reading my approach to socialism. In addition, I come to my politics as a Christian Fundamentalist and a socialist–remember that there are many kinds. And what you might interpret as my adopting a secular morality is simply the belief that Christians and nonChristians must share society as equals. And that appeals to natural law must be examined closely simply because they can be used by Christians as a backdoor method to gain a privileged position in society. I don’t think any of us Christians can share society with atheists as equals with your view of secular morality. Sharing society with our unbelieving fellow citizens as equals is my main concern and the basis for my criticisms of your approach.

      BTW, the link below is evidence that at least some socialists do not regard my version of socialism as being confused. Consider that the website that used my article is a socialist website and they have some views with which I disagree. But they liked the article of mine that they published.

      http://www.greanvillepost.com/2011/05/16/where-is-the-beef-against-socialism/

  7. Curt Day, you misunderstand how I used the terms liberalism and liberals. It would be in the classical liberal sense which a hint to a reader should have been my reference to Gregorio Maranon since that is the sense in which he would have understood the term in his time. Another hint would be the past tense in which I said “Liberalism was not a bulwark….” Liberalism grew within the Christian milieu and apart from it becomes, or did become, untenable.

    Also, I made no reference to the current iteration of the regime we live under but perhaps my use of the phrase “we now live under ” mislead you. But rather I refer to one that has for a longtime now used what Weaver called in the 1950s the Great Stereopticon, along with Executive orders and Supreme Court decisions, to centralize power; both were over the top long ago so that the usual comment from a politician on an Executive Order is for example, “But there’s precedent for this, as so and so did it too.” The “progressive” era in America began long ago.

    On socialism itself, I’m not going to do a back and forth on the definition of it, not with someone who may think of Lenin as being to his right.

    You often speak of the Pharisee and the publican. I don’t think you realize how you come off here at The Imaginative Conservative. As you said in another comment, “That parable is a foundational part of my activism because as my activism demands that I announce the sins of others, that parable tells me that I am being a prophet to equals and thus I must regard the people I am acting against as fellow sinners.”

    Announce the sins of others? Being a prophet? But then you do come down to our level with “to equals” “as fellow sinners.” Well thank goodness that you condescend to our level and do after all consider yourself a sinner also. But still, you’ve come here to lead us out of our sins. Look to your own sins Mr. Day as that is all we can do, as Robertson Davies put it, “You are working for mankind are you? Well, the best thing you can do for mankind is to devote your best energies to making the best possible job of yourself; then you will have something to give mankind that will really rouse its attention.” An imaginative conservative could not have put one of the cardinal tenets of a conservative spirit better, personal moral effort as the building block of a truly civilized culture. Not externalizing evil, Mr. Day, but internalizing it.

  8. Kevin,
    Regarding Lenin, all one has to do is examine the historical documents, documents that include criticisms of his contemporaries as well as Lenin’s own ridicule of left-leaning comrades in Russia.

    Here, Rosa Luxemburg’s criticisms of Lenin pretty much hit the mark when she described his authoritarian rule as a ‘bourgeois dictatorship.’ She went on to state what what the alternative to the people she criticized would be (she also criticized Karl Kautsky). That alternative would be a proletariate dictatorship which would actually be a democracy run by the proletariate. You can check the following link to verify:

    https://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1918/russian-revolution/ch08.htm

    If you want, I could provide links to articles written by other Marxists who also criticized Lenin’s actions.

    As for your reference to my use of the parable of the two men praying, your comments there are understandable. But please note that in another thread, I criticized Lenin as well as the French Revolutionaries. I also stated that when I write what I do, I am simply writing as a fellow sinner.

    And I feel compelled to write here because the authoritarianism and tribalism promoted by the reverence here for a true conservatism both idealizes conservatism and externalizes evil.

    There is no perfect system. But what is more important is that each ideology and system must avoid externalizing evil. For once that such a view of evil becomes firmly entrenched, there is neither a limit to what one will say or do to an opponent if ordered to nor will any reflection be given to one’s own approach and some of the negative side effects and harm that it might be bringing others. Without believing how one’s system could bring harm, there is no reason to listen to others.

  9. Curt Day, again on Lenin, all you’ve said is what I have already said, that you would consider him to be to your right, and you’ve only added that many other socialists would also consider him to be to their right, which adds nothing as Rosa Luxemburg’s views are not new to me. But all of that is a difference without a difference to me as it does not make Lenin “of the right.” I really don’t divide political ideology on a left-right continuum, but if you wish to use that taxonomy then the French Revolution had a left and a right as St. Just and Voltaire would not have had agreement on property he being a capitalist that spent more time with his financial advisers then with his fellow philosophes; but nonetheless both were of the Revolution and not the counter-Revolution; thus both are criticized by a traditional conservative, or those that were called counter-Revolutionaries; and Lenin as well falls under the revolutionary category.

    On the idea that this site promotes authoritarianism, that can be thrown back at you and those you travel with, such as the Occupy movement, since you would like your views to become the mainstream in this country and the West, would you not? How will you make the socialist-egalitarian perspective the mainstream when many do not wish it to be so? Authority of some kind we will always have with us, as also poverty, but your egalitarianism makes you appear to be very afraid of a Christian perspective gaining “privilege” but the truth is as I’ve quoted Matthew Arnold before “Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar” continues now, and many that you travel with wish it so. We’ve passed the tipping point where a traditional Christian perspective has any real say in our culture, the 1960s at the least being that point at which a secular and purely materialist philosophy became dominant, or “privileged” as you say.

    I don’t acknowledge reverencing a “true conservatism” as study over the years always brings at least nuance on principle and change in some matters of policy. So I will disagree with some here on certain matters, and many here will have disagreements amongst themselves, and the conservative writers whose books I’ve studied have differed on politics and economics, if not on many principles. But even if your charge were true again the same criticism could be pointed back at you as do you not, and others as well, idealize a “true socialist” perspective in your criticism of Lenin? During the French Revolution those that participated were each looking for the most “virtuous” amongst them, the most ardent for the Revolution, and those found wanting lost their heads; today perhaps an icon of a revolutionary movement found wanting simply loses reputation and is called out as being one that was not “true” to the revolution.

    You are right about there not being any perfect system, economically or politically. It is a cardinal belief of the conservative perspective to distrust human nature and that because evil is not external but lies in the breast of each member of the human race. Only an historically informed imagination that takes man as he is combined with religious insight can bring about any improvements in our circumstances, and our circumstances will never be anywhere near perfect and will even wax and wane over time. The conservative accepts that “tragic” view of life. It is hardly the conservative that thinks society can be made perfect or that externalizes evil, rather it has always been the revolutionary that does so, particularly in thinking that ridding the world of capitalism is the panacea, or at least the beginning of a perfect world. The truth is the problem is not capitalism, but the propensity to do evil in the human race, in our breasts, and to say that socialism is the answer is to externalize evil and to say that evil does not lie in the human breast but in our institutions, the “system” we live under. This is to misunderstand the problem as even if you were to make everyone economically equal and cleanse the world of the sin of greed you would still be left with the sin of envy in the breast of each member of the human race; only now it’s someone else has a prettier wife, or a better relationship with God (think Cain and Abel). The things one will envy another for are only left for a sinful imagination to conceive. So even were you to say as a Christian socialist that capitalism gives sway to our sin of greed, I can equally say that socialism gives sway to our sin of envy and there would be no end to our envy.

    • Kevin,
      In Russia it did because all Lenin did was to imitate the Capitalists who preceded him.

      BTW, the fault of the French Revolution was a failure to take into account Jesus’ parable of the two men praying. And, isn’t it true that the leaders of the French Revolution were the middle class, not the working class? Again, a bit of elite-centered control vs elected committee control from the lower classes. The end of the French Revolution was elite-centered control and a beginning of implementing Liberty, fraternity, and last of all, equality. Can’t have true equality with elite-centered control.

      What this brings me to is this, yes, we can debate left vs right exclusively. Or we can include other models of thought into the debate because those other models allow us to account for more nuance and outliers. The blogpost linked to below gives a rudimentary different approach to looking at things.

      http://flamingfundamentalist.blogspot.com/2014/06/reviewing-cultural-case-for-capitalism.html

      Now if you want to compare the religious authoritarianism that comes from most of the articles here with OWS, I wouldn’t argue against the fact that we are on the same continuum. I would argue that we are on significantly different places on the continuum. Yes, we were inconsistencies and made errors. My criticisms of Occupy are in the blogpost linked to below:

      http://flamingfundamentalist.blogspot.com/2014/01/refining-revolution.html

      BTW, we can’t force the socialist-egalitarian approach on anyone. We can provide flawed examples and we can seek to persuade people. But if they don’t want to adopt that approach, there is nothing else we can do. That approach differs from the revolutionary approach. But then again, the Russian Revolution was hijacked by those who favored elite-centered approach where there was a vanguard protecting and enforcing the ideology. Others, were stageists.

      Finally, the conservative approach of not trusting human nature is selective. And it is selective against democratic rule and in favor of elite-centered rule by the “right” elites, especially those from the private sector. So if the conservatives were to do battle with the Leninists-Stalinists, it would be a war of the elites who would muster their minions into fighting the battles for them.

      There is something else that both democratic rule and elite-centered rule share here. In that both believe that improvement or flourishing, depending on one’s acceptance of the status quo, depends on both the ethics of the people along with the correct political structures. On the democratic side comes the ethics involved with sharing society with others as equals. On the Christian right hand part of the elite-centered rule comes the insistence of personal responsibility and an adherence to morality. Note that leftist elites and other right elites use force to compensate for any lack of ethics of the populace.

      The difference comes in the political structure and what leeway is given to popular control. Regarding governing, the democratic approach says ‘the more the merrier.’ Here, we need to realize that real equality implies including those with whom you disagree the most. The elite-centerd approach involves this king-of-the-hill battle between the elites on one side vs the elites on the other. This maintains a pendulum swing between the rule of private sector elites vs public sector elites.

      And while the elite-centered approach calls the democratic approach, ‘mob rule.’ The democratic approach calls the elite-centered approach, ‘the mob rules.’

      Finally, the panacea isn’t found in ridding the world of capitalism. Accomplishing that implies nothing about its replacement. Rather, improvement comes when we look to share society with those who are different as equals and that requires democratic rule to be more prevalent than elite-centered rule. Note here the implied antagonism between capitalism and democratic rule. But we should also note that there is a balance to be struck that Martin Luther King Jr. noted. We have to realize that life is both social and individual and thus try to combine the best of all ideologies to forever search for the optimum mixture of the two.

  10. Curt Day,

    “In Russia it did because all Lenin did was to imitate the Capitalists who preceded him.”

    Despite Plekhanov’s writing that Lenin had taken a “fall into sin,” that is mere in-fighting amongst collectivistic revolutionaries and does not dispute the fact that Lenin was a revolutionary so that it is a distinction without a difference from the conservative perspective. Again, I don’t really use left-right speak as I pointed out Voltaire and St. Just were both revolutionaries although they would not agree on things economic or even on how the revolution should proceed for that matter. Revolutionaries both still.

    The fact that the French Revolution began with those in the middle classes is not conducive to your perspective, since again the revolution in structural changes you call for comes also from those in the middle classes, people such as yourself. Unless you wish to claim being of the poor class, but I believe you wrote somewhere of being a retired educator and I don’t include such amongst the poor classes. Understand that I am not attacking your profession since I highly value true education, particularly of the didactic kind, but I am making the point that the ideology you subscribe to does not emanate from the lower classes and is indeed of the Western bourgeois mind and even possesses the same doctrine as that revolution which you admit came forth of the middle classes.

    “Again, a bit of elite-centered control vs elected committee control from the lower classes. The end of the French Revolution was elite-centered control and a beginning of implementing Liberty, fraternity, and last of all, equality. Can’t have true equality with elite-centered control.”

    You speak of “elected committee control from the lower classes” and I take that then as the base for your model society as it was for the French revolutionaries with their popular committees. So your new elite then is simply from a different class and that class shall rule, or perhaps you’d like to use different terms such as “manage” rather than rule, and “elected managers” rather than elite. But in any event the elected managers shall manage without a trace of the old elitist and authoritarian taint since both come only of the bourgeois mind and the old capitalist system, and are not products of the socialist-egalitarian philosophy. And because they are both “elected” and also hold this philosophy once the rest of us have been properly “instructed” and made ready for this right ideology to take hold in society then there will be liberty, fraternity, and equality for all. The fatal flaw with such a view is human nature; we are sinners with all that entails including libido dominandi which will also come to taint your elected-committee controlled society. And no, the conservative distrust of human nature is not selective, but rather perceives that our very nature can and will taint all that the human race may endeavor to do, even your committee controlled society which would also soon bring forth committees with names like Committee of Surveillance, etc. To think otherwise is to possess the pride that comes before a fall, to think that your ideal society would escape the facts of human history soiled as it is with sin, and to most egregiously deny the strength of that sin and to externalize evil. Additionally, this isn’t an argument for maintaining the status quo; conservatives do not believe a static society to even be possible, the conservative temperament being itself a theory of change, something that you apparently do not understand as you reveal by your comments here at IC concerning conservatives wishing to merely uphold the status quo. Lastly, the oversimplified view that revolutionaries present doesn’t even make for good propaganda; human beings are complex and few if any amongst us have a perfectly thought out worldview so that a person can hold to contradictory propositions. Thus the events humans provoke or partake in can be complex so that interpretation becomes difficult, for example that of the French Revolution so that a George Lefebvre can make some valid points, and an Alfred Cobban make valid counter points. There is no one theory that will crack the code of history.

    On the rest of it, you believe in a leveled world without hierarchy and authority, one that as in all collectivist theories is predicated upon the idea that for society to become truly just the authority of man over man and the institutions thereof must be eradicated and replaced with the perfect moral ideal of equality. It is a worldview that is evermore rampant in the West which is one reason why I find your protest of not trying to force the socialist-egalitarian view upon anyone disingenuous as if propaganda does not have its ill affect upon the youth in the halls of academe and upon all through the various media in addition to the use by revolutionaries of the so-called judicial system wherein its force is used by revolutionaries to gain five votes to do violence upon us all, the epitome of authoritarianism.

    For myself, this ideology is not anything new as it certainly has a tradition as mentioned above, one that can be found for example in St. Just’s Institutions republicaines. In the end revolutionaries always think themselves better than the rest, that the pull of sin with its libido dominandi does not pertain to them and if the rest of us would only follow….There is only One that will make the world right Mr. Day, and neither you nor any of your fellow travelers are Him. Until then we’ll just have to do what the human race has always done, muddle through.

  11. The premise is offensive and fallacious. I’ll defer to my personal preference for appeal to authority: “I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science. My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance — but for us, not for God.”

    – Albert Einstein, from Albert Einstein: The Human Side

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