Notes #2 A Recurrence in Forms

A Recurrence in Forms

One of the fundamental mistakes of the American experiment was the separation of church and state.  Now ostensibly this was about freedom of religion.  As with everything that was written in words and not men, it has become about the denial of religion. The trick to taking over a secular state is to create religion that doesn’t call itself one.  Now whether this religion was grown in a lab or just appeared in the wild one day is neither here nor there.  Such things exist we’ve seen plenty in the 19th and 20th and century. So what’s the solution? Why, state religion.

If you’ve hung around these parts for long enough you’ve probably heard the idea of state religion.  Not the state running religion mind you, just admitting that if a state religion is inevitable we might as well pick a good one and write it down on paper.  Of course, paper doesn’t make a religion people do.  The paper is just for show, and record keeping, the people are what counts.  Tolerance, as it turns out is not a property of the writing on the paper but the people and what they believe.  If you have tolerant people, even if everyone in the state believes the same thing, the state is tolerant.  If you have intolerant people even if you have a bouquet of belief systems they’re still intolerant.   So what do they believe?  Us today?  What do our actions tell us about our beliefs?

I have taken some selections from the preface of Maps of Meaning, by Jordan B. Peterson. This gives a basic overview of his life.  His life followed  the basic progressive trajectory however unlike most progressives at some point he became self-aware.  This means his abbreviated autobiography is much more useful, just because it points out the important stuff: what he believed.  In doing so, it points out common patterns around us.

I was raised under the protective auspices, so to speak, of the Christian Church. This does not mean that my family was explicitly religious. I attended conservative Protestant services during childhood with my mother, but she was not a dogmatic or authoritarian believer, and we never discussed religious issues at home. My father appeared essentially agnostic, at least in the traditional sense. He refused to even set foot in a church, except during weddings and funerals. Nonetheless, the historical remnants of Christian morality permeated our household, conditioning our expectations and interpersonal responses, in the most intimate of manners. When I grew up, after all, most people still attended church; furthermore, all the rules and expectations that made up middle-class society were Judeo-Christian in nature. Even the increasing number of those who could not tolerate formal ritual and belief still implicitly accepted – still acted out –the rules that made up the Christian game.

-Maps of Meaning

The Christian church, even many of the protestant ones, has quite a bit of inertia.  Even a number of pious brahmins wish to make sure they reconcile with some heretical shadow of Christianity.  At this point, the mainline protestant churches could very well just become fold themselves into the progressive machine.  Yet they persist in carrying on.  Maybe they are looking for new converts?

This inertia certainly carries through in the culture.  There may certainly be a generation gap.  Where many Boomers might go through the motions or at the very least not actively signal that they are apostates, there are quite a number of millennials who actively signal that they are fedoras.  Just look at Peterson’s qualifications of his mother’s beliefs.  Dogmatic and authoritarian are cringeworthy qualifications.  Although it is certainly possible that one could be abusive through misguided religious zeal, this is not what people mean.  To say someone is NOT dogmatic or authoritarian is to say that they are one of the good Christians, which implies that there are bad Christians out there.  Not only does it imply that there are bad Christians out there but there are so many that one must actively disassociate oneself from them.  The brahmin proudly declares themselves a Democrat, progressive or liberal.  They do not qualify.  After all, there are no enemies to the left.  They do not consciously know that, but they see that their betters never attack liberals so why should they? A good brahmin knows that whenever they are attacked there are priests out there who have their back ready to banish the vulgar conservatives back into the shadows whence they came.  A good Christian which is to say a good progressive and a Christian heretic needs to watch themselves, lest they be associated with a progressive heretic (who may or may not be Christian).

Peterson clearly grew up during the tail end of the edifice of Christianity.  The morals, hierarchy, traditions and belief had eroded and yet the edifice still stood teetering in the wind. Notice that it is the middle class that was acting out these Christian rituals.  What was the upper-class doing?  I can only guess.  This quote may be key: “increasing number of those who could not tolerate formal ritual and belief still implicitly accepted”.  Typically, in a classless society at least, the middle class begins to adopt social signals which trickle down from the upper class.  We can see the fallout of these signals permeating today.  I’m guessing that the spiritual but not religious (not tolerating formal ritual) which has seemingly become the norm on the two coasts was a direct result of the past attitudes of the elites.  Of course the elites have now embraced unbelief.  Progress must not stop.

Peterson continues:

When I was twelve or so my mother enrolled me in confirmation classes, which served as introduction to adult membership in the Church. I did not like attending. I did not like the attitude of my overtly religious classmates (who were few in number), and did not desire their lack of social standing. I did not like the school-like atmosphere of the confirmation classes. More importantly, however, I could not swallow what I was being taught. I asked the minister, at one point, how he reconciled the story of Genesis with the creation theories of modern science. He had not undertaken such a reconciliation; furthermore, he seemed more convinced, in his heart, of the evolutionary viewpoint. I was looking for an excuse to leave, anyway – and that was the last straw. Religion was for the ignorant, weak and superstitious. I stopped attending church, and joined the modern world.

-Maps of Meaning

If you didn’t think this story was about class the second sentence brings it home.

I did not like the attitude of my overtly religious classmates (who were few in number), and did not desire their lack of social standing.  -Maps of Meaning

Again we bring the tension from the comfort of tradition, the atmosphere that one was brought up in and status.  True believers in Christianity, or at the very least progressive heretics are low status.  Why wouldn’t they be? They are infidels from the state religion.  The state of course must fight the good fight and evangelize, that’s what mass education is for.

I asked the minister, at one point, how he reconciled the story of Genesis with the creation theories of modern science. He had not undertaken such a reconciliation; furthermore, he seemed more convinced, in his heart, of the evolutionary viewpoint. -Maps of Meaning

We see here one of the classic elements of the culture war.  I’m not a young earth creationist, nor do I think that it is actually a tenant of Christianity, however, the insistence of beating children over the head with not being a young earth creationist is part and parcel of the progressivism. It is not enough to teach evolution, it must be taught as a counter signal to the infidels.  It would be perfectly possible to teach evolution without mentioning creationism or better yet to teach it as merely irrelevant to theology.  Part of the problem of having one state religion is that other religions tend to suffer.  If all the brightest minds are flocking to gain status in the church of progress, you have many fewer minds to managed unofficial religions.  Even when you do have great minds in the Christian tradition they are drowned out by the archetypes reinforced by the narratives of the church of progress.  If religion is backwards why should the media give a platform to great minds of old tradition?  That would undermine the narrative.

Religion was for the ignorant, weak and superstitious. I stopped attending church, and joined the modern world. -Maps of Meaning

Here Peterson buys the narrative hook line and sinker.  Modern as opposed to backwards, education as opposed to ignorance and reason as opposed to superstition.  Where have I heard this before?  If the modern world has it out for tradition there must be a culture war.  If there is a war there must be sides.  One can’t have a war without sides otherwise, it is just random acts of violence.  What if there was war and no one showed up?  Well then, the barbarians rape your wives, sisters and daughters.

     The status relationship between Brahmins and Townies is clear: Brahmins
are higher, Townies are lower. When Brahmins hate Townies, the attitude is
contempt. When Townies hate Brahmins, the attitude is resentment. The two
are impossible to confuse. If Brahmins and Townies shared a stratified dialect,
the Brahmins would speak acrolect and the Townies mesolect.

In other words, Brahmins are more fashionable than Townies. Brahmin
tastes, which are basically better tastes, flow downward toward Townies. Twenty
years ago, “health food” was a niche ultra-Brahmin quirk. Now it’s everywhere.
Suburbanites drink espresso, shop at Whole Foods, listen to alternative

Thus we see why progressivism is more fashionable than conservatism. Progressive celebrities, for example, are everywhere. Conservative ones are exceptions. This is cold calculation: Bono’s PR people are happy that he’s speaking out against AIDS. Mel Gibson’s PR people are not happy that he’s speaking out against the Jews.

So when we question conservatism, we are thinking in a way that is natural and sensible for people of our tribe: we are attacking the enemy. And the enemy is, indeed, a pushover. In fact the enemy is suspiciously easy to push over.

-Mencius Moldbug An Open Letter to Open-Minded Progressives

Fortunately for us, our overlords are not some barbaric tribe, they’re just evil.  They let the Dalits do the raping.  Well, this is war you know somebody’s doing the raping.  Is the problem merely that progressives are intolerant?  When I look at America I am constantly reminded of the tired trope of the peaceful principled hero.  Have you ever watched or read that story where the hero just keeps letting the evil antagonist live.  They escape people die, havoc is wrecked, people are scared and broken, but they stuck to their principals didn’t they?  That’s what is important.  Evil and heroes can live alongside each other in glorious chaos as long as we stick to our principles.

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. –2 Corinthians 6 (KJV)

Democracy has yoked us to chaos.  Conservatism has tried to scold the liberal tradition.  It has taken many forms over the years, but when you let evil try over and over again eventually it will find a way to win.  However godly one is if you let your children grow up in a caustic environment eventually one generation or the other will fall away.  Whatever traditions you hold dear will be thrown aside and you have another fresh convert to the Church of Progress.  When you have enough converts the cycle resets and chaos and decay begin anew with a new creed and a new vision for society.

What really does the traditionalist have in common with the progressive?  We can say conservatism is a broken tradition a sad shadow of progress.  Yet it holds onto something, this, of course, is unacceptable to the progressive.  The solution if of course to reject the progressive frame altogether.  We have no duty to uphold this secular facade.  We have no duty to let chaos reign.  There is no communion between light and darkness.

Although I had grown up in a “Christian” environment – and had a successful and happy childhood, in at least partial consequence – I was more than willing to throw aside the structure that had fostered me. No one really opposed my rebellious efforts, either, in church or at home – in part because those who were deeply religious (or who might have wanted to be) had no intellectually acceptable counter-arguments at their disposal. After all, many of the basic tenets of Christian belief were incomprehensible, if not clearly absurd. The virgin birth was an impossibility; likewise, the notion that someone could rise from the dead. Did my act of rebellion precipitate a familial or a social crisis? No. My actions were so predictable, in a sense, that they upset no one, with the exception of my mother (and even she was soon resigned to the inevitable). The other members of the church – my “community” – had become absolutely habituated to the increasingly-frequent act of defection, and did not even notice. -Maps of Meaning

There was nothing standing in Peterson’s way.  The door was left open, the barricades were undefended and the world was let in.  As Peterson admits it was practically expected that they would lose their children to an alien and artificial religion.  Would Christians be so happy to see their children becoming Muslims?  Wait don’t answer that, I don’t even want to know.

I abandoned the traditions that supported me, at about the same time I left childhood. This meant that I had no broader socially constructed “philosophy” at hand, to aid my understanding, as I became aware of the existential problems that accompany maturity. The final consequences of that lack took years to become fully manifest. In the meantime, however, my nascent concern with questions of moral justice found immediate resolution. I started working as a volunteer for a mildly socialist political party, and adopted the party line. -Maps of Meaning

Here we have the perfect metaphor for America, or really any secular nation.  Without guiding traditions and philosophy the nation wanders until it is captured by an alien (I use alien to mean strange and radical not foreign) religion.  Having left his own tradition, being a smart guy, he was attracted to the religion of the famous and powerful.  In short Peterson merely followed the path of least resistance.    Now the Peterson’s story doesn’t end here and it’s ending does have a redemptive note. But I will leave the tale as it stands and return to it later.  This is not the tale of redemption but of the fall.

State religion, that is a proper state religion, is the state having an official religion, tolerating other compatible religions being intolerant of the incompatible ones but the church itself being independent of the state.  Tolerance of evil is incompatible with a moral society.  Tolerance of chaos is incompatible with order.  People will not walk the high road.  They need to be prodded, poked and herded by a good shepherd.  It is best to make the path of least resistance being a good Christian.  That may require a great deal of resistance against heresy and apostasy but grace does not come easy.  Just as tolerance of one’s own evil actions is not a virtue neither is tolerance of evil writ large.

Something we cannot see protects us from something we do not understand. The thing we cannot see is culture, in its intrapsychic or internal manifestation. The thing we do not understand is the chaos that gave rise to culture. If the structure of culture is disrupted, unwittingly, chaos returns. We will do anything –anything – to defend ourselves against that return.

“… the very fact that a general problem has gripped and assimilated the whole of a person is a guarantee that the speaker has really experienced it, and perhaps gained something from his sufferings. He will then reflect the problem for us in his personal life and thereby show us a truth.” 1 -Maps of Meaning

[Author’s note:  I wrestled with whether to refer to progressivism as an ideology or religion in this post.  On one hand many of the failings of progressivism are ideological it does over simplify and descend into absolutism.  Yet I have a feeling there is something much deeper.  It has an eschatology, it has its mythologies and it has a broken and twisted metaphysics it is not merely any of the ideologies which compose it.  An ideology can be defeated, and yet even as one or another version of the progressive ideology is killed progressivism lives on.  I can not help but call it an evil religion.  Which shouldn’t imply that I have a poor opinion of religion ( I don’t) or that I conflate religion with ideology but to say that there is something powerful and ancient and built into humanity.]

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Notes #2 A Recurrence in Forms

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