A God Wrought by Caesar: Modernity and the New Secular Faith
When religion exits a culture, belief tends to stay. Often, the new faiths are inhumane, while the fear and reverence men felt for their God turns to the arbitrary worship of deeply troubled rulers. In the end, reason falters into absurdity without a faith to ground it.
The great British parliamentarian, Edmund Burke, argued that the human propensity to believe would not go away with the abolition of faith. As “religious animals,” he wrote, men would replace the tolerant systems of Christianity with bigoted, secular ones. A zeal for new creeds, unrestrained by the traditions and customs of the Church, would prove far more destructive than anything that came before. Not only would a tyrant like Napoleon seize power when the moment was ripe, but those of the new liberal faith would welcome him with open arms.
The 20th Century that followed Burke’s prophetic words has been filled with hideous displays of Secular faith: the mass graves of China and the Soviet Union, the gas chambers of Nazi Germany, the killing fields of Cambodia, to name but a few. But we need not look to such extreme cases to see the effects. Displays of secular faith have made themselves known in our Western Democracies as well.
The most recent display of secular faith in America comes in the axiom, “#believeallwomen.” In the case of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the line between observable facts and religious tenants became blurred. The left would sooner #believeallwomen than assess the nuance of a case, line up accusations against evidence, or place the person who must be “believed” under the conventional categories of jurisprudence, such as the unreliability of human memory, any proof of corroboration, etc.
The faith of #believeallwomen, meanwhile, is not isolated; it extends into every political and social category used to assess the disparities of the world. It is bigotry, not biology, that somehow explains every gender based disparity. It is bigotry, not psychology, that makes those practicing “alternative lifestyles” unequally depressed and suicidal. It is bigotry, not culture, that creates disparate outcomes between racial groups; even in sports.
Listening to these screeds, I hear Thales of Miletus, the pre-socratic philosopher widely ridiculed for believing everything in the universe originated from water. Can the same not be said of our new secular monks? At least Thales can be excused for having lived before Socrates and Aristotle. Pre-Socratic barbarism, it seems, is precisely what is spawned when our arguments detach from a compelling tradition of rational inquiry.
Secular belief structures form religious systems of their own when they reject all religious foundations. They mandate who to believe, what to believe, and how to believe it. The inquisitions and witch hunts that follow, resurrected from the dusty pages of Scarlet Letter, envelop every matter of our social life, from preschool to the corporate office. The creed-toting believers merely dig in their heels when contrary evidence, facts, or science challenge them. The new disciples of our secular order continue to abide to their ideologies with a near mystic conviction.
Burke prophetically wrote that secular ideologues would come to renounce “monks with the spirit of a monk,” placing reason above faith at the expense of both. Perhaps it is too late to curb these trends. But believing all women, or anyone with such blind fervor, is the surest way to guarantee a further descent into madness.