How liberals perceptions of conservatives reveal liberalism as a religion
(This entry begins with a consideration of liberal bloggers’ cartoonish demonization of me, followed by Alan Roebuck’s remark that liberalism is a religion that must have it heretics. The discussion then shifts to the question, if we criticize liberalism as a religion, does that mean we are attacking religion itself?)
If you want to get a disturbing glimpse into the mental universal many liberals inhabit, take a look at this blow-by-blow account of my correspondence with David Horowitz at the blog firedoglake. It’s really quite amazing how liberals perceive things. For example, the mere fact that I asked Horowitz for an explanation of his correspondence with David Mills is characterized by the blogger as some out-of-control hysterical behavior on my part. You have to read the whole article to get the flavor of what I’m talking about.
I don’t generally read liberal blogs because they don’t interest me, but I have glanced at a few in the last few days because, as a result of David Mill’s posts at Huffington Post, lots of liberals have been writing about me and David Horowitz.
And what you see over and over is an inability to characterize anything having to do conservatives in a neutral, descriptive, accurate way—it’s all liberal hate, all the time. This is the way they’ve been taught to think and speak about politics.
In the current brouhaha it is Mills and James Wolcott who have set the destructive tone. Neither of them ever reports straightforwardly what I’ve written and then comments on it. Instead, each invests my simplest, most ordinary statements with fictional emotions and motivations designed to make me look base or ridiculous. Thus Wolcott mocks my factual account of my contacts with Mills, in which I deliberately avoided any emotional characterization of Mills’s behavior, as my “heartrending trail of betrayal.” Similarly Mills writes on May 8 that “Last Saturday… Larry Auster was thrilled to tell readers that his article about black-on-white rape (for Horowitz’s FrontPageMag.com) had ‘set off more discussion on the Web than anything I’ve previously written.’” Then he continues, “Yet as the days roll on, Lawrence Auster gets madder and madder at me for shining a spotlight on his scarcely-known ass.” However, Mills does not actually link my blog entry from which he draws the quote. In fact, the only emotion hinted at in the passage he quotes was my surprise that such a small article had received so much attention. (For the record, let me state that I do not get any thrills from being lied about and smeared by liberals.)
And thus it is with Mills, Wolcott, and the liberal bloggers—wild attributions to me of cartoonish thoughts, emotions, and motives that are not to be found in what I’ve actually written. Whatever I say, is to be fictionalized and cast in the most negative light possible.
This is not a new phenomemon. Starting in the early 1990s when Howell Raines became the editorial page editor of the New York Times, I began to notice how every single Times editorial that referred to conservative political or cultural positions would characterize them as driven by reaction, selfishness, greed, darkness, cyncicism, a desire to divide the country, and so on. No conservative position on any issue was ever described objectively. Conservatives’ own reasons for their positions were, needless to say, never given. In the Times version of reality, no conservative ever had a rational and good-faith, though mistaken, basis for his beliefs. Conservatives were simply demented or evil. This bigoted attitude against conservatives—greatly exacerbated by the anti-Bush hatred of the last six years—has now become the template through which many liberals view the world, rendering them incapable of thinking and speaking rationally about politics.
Of course, what I’ve written here will be portrayed by the liberals as further proof of what a whining hypocrite I am. This is because, from the liberals’ point of view, a conservative is inherently evil, an enemy of humanity who is at war with humanity, and therefore he deserves whatever filth is directed at him. For this evil conservative then to complain about the unfair untruthful attacks on himself, or even simply to provide a factual account of them, would be like the devil protesting mean treatment and demanding that people be nice to him. That’s the way Mills and his allies see the situation, and that’s why they react with such contempt to the slightest protest by me of wrong treatment.
- end of initial entry -
Paul W. writes:
Truth is subjective in Marxist terms; hence there is no need for rational argument. Truth is simply that which enables the ongoing Revolution, regardless of whether it is right or wrong.
Lenin, when speaking on morality, stated that what was moral, was that which furthered the Revolution.
When will the West wake up to the Revolution, which having being set out in the starkest terms by the Frankfurt school, and subsequently adopted by our present ruling elites, is destroying all that we are and were?
Alan Roebuck writes:
I want to sharpen my thesis that the racist is equivalent to a heretic.
It has become clear to me that the deepest way to understand liberalism is as a religion. Liberalism is not just a philosophy or a movement, it is a comprehensive system of thought that has something to say about every aspect of reality, that answers the big questions of life (often by saying “you know all the answers must come from within,” as the Edgar Winter Group sang), and provides individuals and society with a code of conduct. Furthermore, its devotees are passionately devoted to a redemptive movement that promises secular holiness in this life and a perfected society one day, analogous to Heaven. Liberalism is indeed a religion.
And if so, then any racist must, practically by definition, be either a heretic or an infidel, because he denies one of the cardinal doctrines of liberalism, namely equality. The distinction between heretic and infidel is that a heretic is one of us: he affirms most of the tenets of our religion, but perversely denies a few of the cardinal doctrines. An infidel is simply an outsider who has his own alien religion. This is why the heretic is hated more: he has betrayed our group.
With regard to your treatment by Mills and the liberal blogs, you would, strictly speaking, be an infidel rather than a heretic, because you reject most of the system of liberalism, making you an outsider. But being an American, you are still somewhat part of “our group,” and thus some of the stigma of the heretic attaches to you.
As for Don Imus, he was presumed to be a liberal by virtue of his membership in a society whose unofficial religion is liberalism, but was (in the minds of his persecutors) revealed to be a heretic by his words. Heretics are defined by their beliefs, and thus they are known by their words. The objective harm that the words may have done is of no importance: what we are is more important than what we do, especially since there is a campaign underway against racist heretics. Since Imus’s words were publicized literally around the world, he could not be let go unpunished.
And since a heretic is an evil person, he deserves whatever evil befalls him. This is the deepest reason why Imus was punished. Or consider the childish hostility displayed against you by the liberal blog, as they reacted to your words. Why do they see your words in this way? Because you are (to them) an evil person, which invests even your ordinary words with a special menace which they can now recognize, now that they know your villainy. Think of a particularly menacing movie villain: even when he says something mundane like “What time is it?,” the audience cringes, because every word and deed of his reminds the audience of his evil.
Mark P. writes:
The idea that all belief systems are really religious seems to stem from the fact that there are no truly atheist societies. Even so-called godless societies manifest the religious impulse one way or another. Since traditionalists recognize that religions are the basis of all civilization, Alan Roebuck’s observation that liberalism is basically a religion is no real surprise.
But I don’t believe Alan regards his observation this way. I think he sees it as something new and revelatory. If so, what does he hope to accomplish by identifying liberalism as a religion? If he hopes that such a revelation discredits liberalism, then he is actually reinforcing the liberal view of religion as something bad. This, indirectly, advances liberalism. If he hopes that such a revelation changes our approach to liberalism, then what does he hope that new approach to be? As it stands, Alan’s position seems to, ironically, undermine traditionalism.
Dealing with a religion seems to require one of two approaches. Either one approaches a religion the way the Protestant reformers approached it, by attempting to correct the “errors” of Catholicism among their fellow Christians, or one approaches religion the way Islam approaches it, through deception and warfare against infidels. More importantly, if liberalism is a religion, then we had better figure out now which approach liberalism is applying to us, the Protestant approach or the Muslim approach.
Maybe we’re better off not calling the major belief system of the West “religious.”
An interesting point I haven’t thought of before. Several conservative writers have argued cogently that liberalism is a religion. Don Feder as I remember has had good columns on this theme. What do the conservative critics mean by this, and what is their intention?
I don’t think their point is as invalid as Mark P. claims. The essence of liberalism is that it presents itself as the Un-Religion, the neutralizing, skeptical principle that expels fanatical religious partisanship from the public square and assures social comity. The essence of liberalism is that it denies that it consists of a substantive belief system concerning what is good and bad. This way, liberalism delegitimizes all non-liberal, i.e., all substantive belief systems, including religions, on the basis that they lack liberalism’s “neutral,” and therefore uniquely safe, character. But as Jim Kalb decisively demonstrated in his essay “The Tyranny of Liberalism,” the liberal claim to neutrality is false. Liberalism does have its own substantive beliefs, values, preferences. More than that, liberalism is a religion, as Don Feder and Alan Roebuck write. But it is a unique religion in denying that it is one. That denial has the effect of immunizing liberalism from the scrutiny that liberalism says must be applied to all other belief systems. Liberalism thus empowers itself to gain total power over society without being made accountable for what it is doing. Therefore, if liberalism’s illegitimate, sneaky, and tyrannical power is to be resisted and ultimately defeated, liberalism’s real character as a substantive belief system, even a religion, must be exposed.
So, to attack liberalism by exposing it as a religion is not necessarily to attack religion and to say that religion is bad. It is to say, first, that liberalism is a particular religion and not simply identical with the good. Given that liberalism is a religion and claims all power and authority for itself, its claims and its core beliefs need to be examined to see if they are true, an examination that liberalism avoids so long as it manages to fool everyone into thinking that it has no substantive beliefs but only defends “unquestionable,” “universal” goods such as equal treatment, tolerance, fairness, individual rights, and so on. Once we realize that liberalism is a religion that treats certain values as beyond criticism and certain people as heretics and infidels, we are then in a position to say: I agree with this religion, or I disagree with it; I agree with its principle of expelling and silencing certain views as heretical, or I disagree , because I think those “heretical” views are in fact true. None of that is possible at present, as we see by the treatment of principled dissidents from liberalism such as myself.
Thus to recognize that liberalism is a religion—and a bad religion—is not to attack religion and it is not to deny that every society is founded on a religion. It is to attempt to return society to a pre-liberal or non-liberal condition where liberalism can be challenged like any other belief system, and where we can more freely discuss what religion is really true and thus ought to be the basis of our society.
Mark P. replies:
That is a great response and one that I largely agree with. There is, however, an unanswered question. If liberalism is a religion, and not the “neutral” space it claims to be, then where does the meta-liberal space come from that allows the argument that liberalism is, in fact, a religion? It seems that we are using liberalism’s pretense as a “value-neutral” space to sneak in the idea that liberalism is, in fact, just a religion. But if we argue that liberalism is a religion, then the value-neutral space disappears and we expose ourselves to the methods religions have used to deal with troublesome malcontents. This is why I believe it is so important to gauge exactly what kind of religion liberalism is. I, for one, believe liberalism wants to handle its unbelievers that way Islam handles them, though I could be wrong. Of course, that would destroy liberalism’s pretense toward neutrality and probably discredit it…though I’d hate to play the role of Sir Thomas More burning at the stake for the sake of truth.
In reply to Mark, what prevents critical discussion of liberalism is not the fact that it’s a religion, i.e. a belief system with particular ideas about ultimate truth and ultimate right and wrong, but the fact that it’s a religion that falsely denies that it’s a religion. The spokesman of a religion honestly say, “Here are the things we believe: we believe that this is true and that this is false.” But liberals say, “Any assertion about what is true and false is itself false, discriminatory, judgmental, and dangerous to social peace and social equality, we believe in equal tolerance and acceptance of all views and behaviors. Religions seek power over society, and therefore they must be questioned and made accountable and restricted in their operation. But our view, because it is neutral as to all claims of truth, does not exercise power, in fact it is the opposite of all power-seeking beliefs, and so it cannot be questioned.”
It is, in short, the liberalism of liberalism that makes liberalism a uniquely threatening tyranny, not the religiousness of liberalism.
Alan Roebuck writes:
Your response to Mark P. first comment covers the most important elements: What we hope to accomplish by calling liberalism a religion is to understand it accurately and to remove its mask of neutrality, so that there can be a chance of fighting it effectively.
In writing what I did, I was not intending to explain fully the significance of liberalism as religion. but, some additional comments are in order:
Every society must have some sort of at least unofficial state religion, because the leaders have to have a philosophical system to guide their decisions, and the majority of the population needs to find the reasons the leaders give for their decisions to be at least tolerable.
Therefore it is no insult to liberalism to call it a religion. On the contrary, to do so is to take it seriously as a system of thought and governance. It is not its status as a religion that makes liberalism illegitimate; it is the specific doctrines of liberalism that make it illegitimate.
An America, the unofficial state religion is liberalism, but liberalism denies that it is a religion. Liberalism claims to be neutral in substance, and to consist in nothing but various forms: fairness, tolerance, equality, freedom, etc.
But man, being man, cannot live in a world where there is no substance. Man needs definite answers to important questions in order to live, and therefore liberalism must supply a substance in order to be a ruling philosophy. It is this specific content of liberalism that must be exposed and demonstrated to be false.
I would describe the primary goal of conservatism as the restoration of a properly ordered society. Conservatism should not aim simply to preserve the current situation, nor simply to defeat bad liberal initiatives. These will only slow the rate of destruction, whereas our goal should be to re-construct the good that has been demolished.
In order to do this, we need to critique liberalism fundamentally, and not regard it as just a random collection of absurdities and outrages. This requires that we understand the essentially religious nature of liberalism.
Also, Mark P. said:
Dealing with a religion seems to require one of two approaches. Either one approaches a religion the way the Protestant reformers approached it, by attempting to correct the “errors” of Catholicism among their fellow Christians, or one approaches religion the way Islam approaches it, through deception and warfare against infidels. More importantly, if liberalism is a religion, then we had better figure out now which approach liberalism is applying to us, the Protestant approach or the Muslim approach. We need to use the “Protestant” approach when dealing with liberalism: argue persuasively against its erroneous beliefs. This is, I would argue, the properly Biblical Christian approach, and it is the only approach that has the long-term possibility of inducing the masses to accept conservatism
It is clear, in general, that liberals apply the “Muslim” approach to their enemies: liberals rarely make more than a superficial attempt to use facts and logic to persuade rationally those who disagree. The typical liberal approach is to speak to the audience (I’m speaking metaphorically) rather than to the conservative who is objecting to their doctrine; this means that they ridicule conservative positions and identify conservatives as immoral people, with the clear intention of intimidating any onlookers who may be having conservative tendencies. Call it moral intimidation.
I notice the discussion you have of whether liberalism is a religion. I have long considered Marxism to be a religion. Being a religion doesn’t have to be bad, of course, but these political religions are dangerous because they do not identify themselves as religions. The most important distinction is not between traditional religions and political religions, but between religions that value individual life and religions that don’t. We see an alliance forming between adherents of a political religion, Marxism, and a traditional religion, Islam, in a common front against the individualistic religions of Christianity and Judaism.
Protestant reformer John Calvin in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1553 participated in the execution of Spanish physician Michael Servetus for heresy. This has been denounced for centuries afterwards by his own, Christian followers as a crime. It was. But contrast this with how Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara’s face is cropping up everywhere, from posters to t-shirts.
Guevara personally participated in the torture and execution of hundreds of people without trial. “Hatred,” he said, is important. It makes you “into an effective, violent, selective and cold-blooded killing machine.” He negotiated the stationing of Soviet nuclear weapons on Cuba in 1962, and later became furious when Moscow removed them. “If the rockets had remained, we would have used them all…” He spoke of “unimaginable destructiveness to defend a principle.” Yet this symbol of an ideology that killed 100 million people during the 20th century is treated as a pop icon.
Why this difference in attitudes between the followers of John Calvin and of Che Guevara? Well, I suspect that Christians, despite undeniable periods of intolerance and persecution, always viewed men as individual souls to be salvaged. For Marxists, they were merely raw materials to be used and abused in grand experiments of social engineering. The Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm has stated that had the Soviet Union managed to create a functioning Socialist society, tens of millions of deaths would have been a worthwhile price to pay.
I should add that one of the clearest impulses that has been passed on from Marxism to Multiculturalism is this callous disregard for human life and the tendency to view millions of people, one’s own country, as “an interesting social experiment.”
The Dutch writer Margriet de Moor lives in some kind of alternate reality where “Europe’s affluence and free speech” will create an Islamic Reformation: “When I’m feeling optimistic I sometimes see the Netherlands, a small laconic country not inclined towards the large-scale or the theatrical, as a kind of laboratory on the edge of Europe. Now and then the mixture of dangerous, easily inflammable substances results in a little explosion, but basically the process of ordinary chemical reactions just continues.”
Marxism is a religion. So is Multiculturalism.
But American neoconservatives also view their country as an “experiment.” And they don’t just use it as a passing phrase, the way George Washington did (at a time when the United States really was an experiment), they use it as their preferred name: the American Experiment.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 09, 2007 07:10 AM | Send