Sunday, March 3, 2019

The War on Religion

The Western war on religion has been raging for more than two centuries now. The peace loving folks who brought us the Enlightenment saw religion, especially orthodox religion, as the source of all human ills. They turned against it. They wanted to eradicate it. When their acolytes gained power, as happened in the French Revolution, they went to war against religion. They turned Notre Dame cathedral into a cult to the goddess of reason. They slaughtered tens of thousands of Christians in the region of the Vendee. Their crime: refusing to turn away from Christianity and toward enlightened paganism.

Religion still exists in the West. Yet, fewer and fewer people attend religious services. Congregations, Joel Kotkin explains, have become smaller and older. Young people seem drawn to spirituality, but they want to find it outside of the dread organized religion. In many cases they have found it under the aegis of therapy— of a pseudo-science that pretends to be providing mental health treatment, but that is really providing a spiritual experience for unbelievers.

In reality, people who look for spirituality outside of organized Western religions often end up as cult followers. They are drawn to sectarian groups that worship at the altar of one or another ideal.

You might have imagined that when the most grandiose attempt to produce an atheist culture went down in flames, people would have turned away from atheism. Has there ever been a more spectacular failure than Communism? Has there ever been a more concerted effort to produce a godless culture? Didn’t Communism show us that attempts to put atheism into practice produced one or another form of pagan idolatry?

And yet, the war on religion continues. Those who are attacking religion are primarily on the political left. They want to produce a nation of cult followers and seem threatened by Scripture.

Kotkin explains:

Religious institutions and ideas are currently under political attack, predominantly from the left, with some progressives, such as California’s Dianne Feinstein or New Jersey’s Cory Booker, appearing to see embrace of Christian dogma, or even membership in such anodyne organizations as the Knights of Columbus, as cause for exclusion from high judicial office.

Of course, the media has become a massive propaganda machine, and not just against Republicans. It always sees and always reports the worst about religion, never mentioning that religion might be of value to people. And yet, we do know, because social psychologists have studied the question, that people who regularly attend religious services are mentally healthier than those who do not. 

As for the media’s war against religion, Kotkin offers some examples:

This trend is reinforced by the media , which is often dismissive of traditional faith. There has been a powerful tendency to demonize and suggest the worst of motives among the faithful, which was evident in the rush to judgment about the alleged racism of the Covington, Kentucky, religious students. Before the facts proved claims of racism to be false, newspaper accounts and tweets from journalists endorsed actions against the students, sometime including violence, in ways more reminiscent of Joseph Goebbels than Joseph Pulitzer.

Some religions, from reform and conservative Judaism to many protestant sects and to the Roman Catholic Church under its Argentinian pope, have tried to solve their problem by taking up the cause of social justice… that is, of making their services into propaganda exercises where the dogmas of the Church of the Liberal Pieties have supplanted the teaching of Scripture:

In this difficult environment, many religious movements—Reform Judaismmainstream Protestantism, and increasingly the Catholic Church under Pope Francis—have sought to redefine themselves largely as instruments of social justice. Although doing good deeds, or mitzvot, long has constituted a strong element in most religions, the primary motivation of the faith community traditionally focused on heritage, spirituality, and family. In their haste to be politically correct, even Catholic private schools such as Notre Dame are rushing to cover up murals of Columbus, and, in one California case, a private Catholic grammar school has gone as far as hiding statues of saints.

Being instruments of social justice, some religions are now finding themselves allied with groups that abhor everything they hold sacred:

The Catholic left, for example, allying itself with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, implicitly embraces the advocates of the most extreme abortion liberalization. Sometimes, these linkages are ironic: Faith in Public Life, for example, a strident “religious” group advocating a progressive anti-Trump line, gets much of its funding from George Soros, arguably the world’s most well-heeled and active promoter of atheism.

I suspect that the Catholic Church elected an Argentinian to the papacy because it wanted to stem the loss of parishioners in South America. It has not worked out as planned. Kotkin writes:

Catholicism, now under a reforming and politically progressive pope, faces a similar challenge. It is losing adherents, not only in North America and Europe, where his views are popular, but also his homeland of South America, where the church is steadily losing out to more conservative evangelical churches. Until the 1960s, at least 90 percent of Latin America’s population was Catholic, but that number has fallen to under 70 percent. Today, roughly 1 in 4 Nicaraguans, 1 in 5 Brazilians and 1 in 7 Venezuelans are former Catholics. The one place where the church is growing most, Africa, is dominated by conservative bishops often at odds with Francis.

The same is true of progressive Jews. They find themselves supporting the nation’s leading anti-Semities:

For their part, progressive Jews, embracing the notion of tikkun olam,face a similar dilemma. In their rush to oppose President Trump, with his occasional despicable winks at alt-right groups, many Jewish activists have collaborated with the organizers of the Women’s March, including enthusiastic backers of the most influential anti-Semite of our time, Nation of Islam head Louis Farrakhan.

Deep blue cities and the progressive feeding lots of the academy—strongholds of progressivism—are precisely where support for such anti-Jewish measures as the BDS movement is strongest. Anti-Semitism is particularly rife not in conservative Southern schools but in progressive places like San Francisco State; in that city, the ultimate progressive stronghold, a leftist gay Jewish cafĂ© owner recently has been subject to repeated protests for being a “Zionist gentrifier.”

And, of course, with notable anti-Semites like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

Recently progressive heartthrob Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, herself an adopter of anti-Israel memes about Gaza and other occupied areas, gushed over her recent “lovely and wide-reaching” conversation with Corbyn, the West’s most politically prominent Judeophobe.

If you are looking for the real anti-Semites, they are not on the right, but on the left. Kotkin explains:

Indeed, despite the impression left by some progressive Jews, the largest threat to Jews in America stems not from the isolated and pathetically small lunatic fringe of white supremacists. The most anti-Israel members of Congress, as well as on the local level, come primarily not from the right wing of the GOP but the burgeoning left wing of the Democratic PartyDemocratic voters—as well as key constituencies like minoritiesand millennials—poll consistently less sympathetic to both Jews and Israel than older, generally white Republicans.

Obviously, giving their institutions over to social justice warriors has done nothing more than empty the pews:

However satisfying to its practitioners, the emphasis on social justice is clearly not attracting more worshippers. Almost all the religious institutions most committed to this course are also in the most serious decline, most notably mainstream Protestants but also, Catholics and Reform and Conservative Jews. The rapidly declining Church of England, which is down to 2 percent share among British youth, is burnishing its progressive image by adding the use of plastics to its list of Lenten sacrifices, but seems unable to serve the basic spiritual and family needs of their congregants.

Kotkin recommends that religions abandon leftist politics and work as part of the local community:

To survive, less traditionalist faiths need less “virtue signaling” and more emphasis on serving the needs of congregants. Marshall Toplansky, who advises Church World Services, a major Protestant aid group, suggested that groups like Mormons and evangelicals who focus on providing services for families and their local communities fare far better than those more tied to strictly a social gospel. Toplansky said that many mainstream churches “have overlooked the value of building grassroots relationships with their donors,” who sometimes do not share the progressive ideology of the clerical class. Without engaging the faithful and addressing their needs, he noted, “people stop identifying with their local institution and stop participating in the local activities that defined them to begin with.”

Alternately, these churches and synagogues should recognize that social justice warfare is a form of paganism. They should return to the great tradition of Western monotheism and to Biblical Scripture:

As we already see in Europe, churches and synagogues could become ever more like pagan temples, vestiges of the past and attractions for the curious, profoundly clueless about the passion and commitment that created them.


UbuMaccabee said...

As ethical monotheism dies, the West as we have known it, will die with it. Western Civilization and ethical monotheism are inextricably linked. The common conceptions of good and evil that exist among secular people are just refugees from the great religious tradition they arrived with. Secular people inherited the idea of being a "good person" from a religious tradition they know nothing about. Their beliefs are ethical ghost limbs. Soon, it will all come unlinked entirely and we will become beasts again. The pagan prow of a Viking ship is on the horizon.

ted said...

Yes, this is a huge issue! Young people that are not interested in the spiritual, but not religious, and turn to traditional religion are looking for something with intellectual/moral rigor and as well as a religion that places demands on them. Only in the way, they will receive as much back from their faith as they can give it. Otherwise, religion just adopts the political correct milieu along with a belief of God, but no need for internal change/struggle. The most counter-cultural thing a person can do is find a traditional faith, and follow its core principles.

UbuMaccabee said...

I often tell people that, "I'm religious, but I'm not spiritual." It's fun. You should try it just to gauge the reactions.

Sam L. said...

As I've said before, the msm is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Left, which HATES religion and religious people. Pope Frank was a bad choice.

trigger warning said...

Reinforcing UM's comment, David Aikman, head of the World Economic Forum's China desk, quotes a leading Chinese economist...

"In the past 20 years, we have realized that the heart of your [Western] culture is your religion: Christianity. This is why the West is so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don't have any doubt about this."

The Left obviously realizes this, too.

Ares Olympus said...

I was talking to an atheist friend who said society was prejudice against atheists, like you can't run for higher office and expect to win, although I don't know if that's true. I was also mentioning the progressive idea of proportional representation and he was against it, and I asked why and he said because the Creationists wanted to get on the school board. I asked what he'd do if the young earth creationists got into the majority, and he said he'd move, and I couldn't argue with that.

Now-a-days we're afraid of the Muslims but that's not because of religion, but because of political Islam so we're allowed to be prejudice. Perhaps that's always true, live and let live, until someone else's religion tries to tell you want you can and can't do.

sestamibi said...

The fastest growing religion in the West today is environmentalism.

Anonymous said...

Eric Hoffer said it so well: It is a lot easier to love humanity as a whole than to love one's neighbor.

David Foster said...

"Spiritual but not religious" is a common self-definition used especially by millennials.

In Goethe's Faust, when the title character is in the process of seducing the innocent and devout Gretchen, she becomes concerned about whether or not he is a Christian.

GRETCHEN: ... Do you believe in God?
FAUST: My darling, who can (really) say:
I believe in God!
You may ask priests or wise men,
And their answer seems but a mockery
Of the questioner to be.
GRETCHEN: So you do not believe?
FAUST: Don't misunderstand me, you lovely sight!
Who may name Him,
And who declare:
I believe in Him.
Who can feel
And dare
To say: I do not believe in Him!
The all-embracing one,
The all-preserving one,
Does He not embrace and preserve
You, me, (and) Himself?
Does the sky not arch above us up there?
Does the earth not lie firm down here?
And do not with kind glance
The eternal stars rise?
Do I not look at you eye to eye,
And does not everything press
Upon your head and heart
And weave in eternal mystery
Invisible and visible around you?
Fill your heart, as big as it is, from that
And when you are completely blissful in the feeling,
Then call it what you like:
Call it happiness! Heart! Love! God!
I have no name
For it! Feeling is everything;
(The) name is sound and smoke,
Enshrouding heaven's glow.
GRETCHEN: That is all quite fine and good;
Much the same thing says the pastor, too
Only with slightly different words.
FAUST: It is said everywhere (by)
All hearts under the heavenly day,
Each in its own language:
Why not I in mine?

Spiritual but not religious!

Richard said...

In another century the novelist D. Keith Mano described the Catholic Church as Unitarianism with a pope. The current ostentatiously humble Pontifex Maximus is the man to lead the circus.

Anonymous said...

Okay, seems we have some problems with definitions here!

"Evangelical" and "mainstream" -- the MSM way to describe Christians. The real "mainstream" is heavily Baptist and secondarily Methodist, but the "media" does not know that. They call the lesser-attended churches "mainsteam" (Presbyterian, Episcopalian and Lutheran) implying the others are "fringe" when it's the other way around!

MSM: Not all Christians (those who are not leftists) are "evangelicals." That is like calling all therapists "psychiatrists." "Evangelical" is a specific type of Christian, a sect or group of sects if they like, a description of a small part, but the urban creatures who write what goes for "news" these days (which is really on the websites, we all know-- the rest is party politics)are so far removed from Christianity that they don't have a clue about it, so they just lump 'em all together as "evangelics" who are bitter-clingers, too. (Sniff in contempt)

Churchgoing" and "religious" or "Christian." Many of us are strong Christians but not church-goers, through introversion, not being joiners, enjoying our time away from the public, etc. But we keep hearing from those writing about it "There are fewer Christians" because "fewer people go to religious services." Not the same.

And last, when they write of churches being into "social justice," they need quotes around those words because there is no definable thing called "social justice" -- it's a leftist trope for "what we believe is right" and it mainly involves asking other people to give up part of their incomes to give to the gov., so they can siphon a bunch of the top for themselves and their friends before wasting the rest. Then there's the other part, about supporting and promoting anything non-traditional and bashing anything traditional (like borders)

Geez, it's like we need the Devil's Dictionary just to write the truth about religion these days.