The Deadly Double Game of Using Religion for Political Expediency: How Mainstream Media Have Gone Medieval

Reading through world history, it is fascinating to find precedents for the manipulation of public opinion. One of the most effective techniques has been the employment of religious sentiment to sway not only the public, but the kings and nobility. Such tactics bear striking resemblance to the mainstream media’s attacks on American political candidates who claim the religious mantle for purposes of political expediency.

The use of religion to bolster the political legitimacy of the ruling class is as old as the first ancient civilizations, such as Sumer, Akkad, and Egypt. But the relationship between the ecclesiastical caste and the kings has always been tenuous: the king-makers could become the king-breakers. What kings required from religion was two-fold: to instill widespread fear and mortification in the masses, either by the king claiming that he ruled on behalf of god or actually was god, and to give the slaves and helots something to look forward to in the afterlife, after they had been used up by the king and the nobility.

Continue reading “The Deadly Double Game of Using Religion for Political Expediency: How Mainstream Media Have Gone Medieval”

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The Role of Christianity in History

There are few subjects more controversial than the role Christianity has played in American culture and in the world. Catholics, who tend to value the stable institutions of their religion, and Protestants, who value the individual freedom that eventually and painfully resulted from their reforms, argue about subjects ranging from the alleged corruption of the Christian religion under the guidance of the Pope, to the Spanish Inquisition, to the Puritan witch trials, to the influence of religion upon the United States’ founding.

Objectivists, or those who follow Ayn Rand, tend to cast an extremely critical eye on the role religion has played in human history.  The ignorance and superstition of the Dark Ages in Europe overshadow any relative enlightenment that Christian monastacism might have brought to barbaric peoples. The Crusades are looked upon as unnecessarily adventurous and bloody scourges, and the torture and execution of religious heretics is rightfully seen as morally reprehensible and cruel.

Moral relativists, who tend to view cultures with unrealistically detached equanimity, are also unable to appreciate the positive and negative influences of particular religions upon peoples. By superimposing their aloof and supposedly “progressive” standards backwards in history, they distort both the relative improvements and declines in the living standards of peoples and the moral influence of various beliefs upon that process.

We live in an age of moral and cultural relativism, and the uninformed and prejudiced eye of the typical modern reader tends to unflaggingly hold imperialism and colonialism in contempt, regardless of what improvements are brought to the conquered, along with the immoral subjugation. There is a nuanced simplicity to the minds of many scholars, which comes from unmitigated rationalization in the defense of unrealistic but exalted beliefs, such as in the intrinsic value of equality and diversity, along with an unapologetic reverence for the “vigorous” state.

There is an inherent narcissism in this common prejudice. It presumes to hold aloft the mind who subscribes to such relativistic views, as if all of humanity has been equally wrong since time began. Only those detached and socially inculcated progressive values, a reflection of the glorious imaginary future, could save humankind if they are cynically, or even bloodily forced upon the people, and if need be, reality itself.  It is a comfortless and arrogant disposition that leads directly to mindless radicalism.

In juxtaposition to the vain scribblings of historical revisionists is the work of a writer whose explicit reasoning and judgment informs a sensible and useful reading of history, appropriately contextualizing peoples and events within the purview of their own day. It is Lord Macaulay’s A History of England; and what it may lack in the Byzantine rigors of modern history, as it has come to be defined, it makes up with in sensibility. It provides a potent elixir for the lack of judgment so sinuously interwoven in today’s histories.

An excerpt from Macaulay’s work will both show how Christianity has been unnecessarily slighted, and what reason proper employed looks like:

At length the darkness begins to break; and the country which had been lost to view as Britain reappears as England. The conversion of the Saxon colonists to Christianity was the first of a long series of salutary revolutions. It is true that the Church had been deeply corrupted both by that superstition and by that philosophy against which she had long contended, and over which she had at last triumphed. She had given a too easy admission to doctrines borrowed from the ancient schools, and to rites borrowed from the ancient temples. Roman policy and Gothic ignorance, Grecian ingenuity and Syrian asceticism, had contributed to deprave her. Yet she retained enough of the sublime theology and benevolent morality of her earlier days to elevate many intellects, and to purify many hearts. Some things also which at a later period were justly regarded as among her chief blemishes were, in the seventh century, and long afterwards, among her chief merits. That the sacerdotal order should encroach on the functions of the civil magistrate would, in our time, be a great evil. But that which in an age of good government is an evil may, in an ago of grossly bad government, be a blessing. It is better that mankind should be governed by wise laws well administered, and by an enlightened public opinion, than by priestcraft: but it is better that men should be governed by priestcraft than by brute violence, by such a prelate as Dunstan than by such a warrior as Penda. A society sunk in ignorance, and ruled by mere physical force, has great reason to rejoice when a class, of which the influence is intellectual and moral, rises to ascendancy. Such a class will doubtless abuse its power: but mental power, even when abused, is still a nobler and better power than that which consists merely in corporeal strength. We read in our Saxon chronicles of tyrants, who, when at the height of greatness, were smitten with remorse, who abhorred the pleasures and dignities which they had purchased by guilt, who abdicated their crowns, and who sought to atone for their offences by cruel penances and incessant prayers. These stories have drawn forth bitter expressions of contempt from some writers who, while they boasted of liberality, were in truth as narrow-minded as any monk of the dark ages, and whose habit was to apply to all events in the history of the world the standard received in the Parisian society of the eighteenth century. Yet surely a system which, however deformed by superstition, introduced strong moral restraints into communities previously governed only by vigour of muscle and by audacity of spirit, a system which taught the fiercest and mightiest ruler that he was, like his meanest bondman, a responsible being, might have seemed to deserve a more respectful mention from philosophers and philanthropists.

The same observations will apply to the contempt with which, in the last century, it was fashionable to speak of the pilgrimages, the sanctuaries, the crusades, and the monastic institutions of the middle ages. In times when men were scarcely ever induced to travel by liberal curiosity, or by the pursuit of gain, it was better that the rude inhabitant of the North should visit Italy and the East as a pilgrim, than that he should never see anything but those squalid cabins and uncleared woods amidst which he was born. In times when life and when female honour were exposed to daily risk from tyrants and marauders, it was better that the precinct of a shrine should be regarded with an irrational awe, than that there should be no refuge inaccessible to cruelty and licentiousness. In times when statesmen were incapable of forming extensive political combinations, it was better that the Christian nations should be roused and united for the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre, than that they should, one by one, be overwhelmed by the Mahometan power. Whatever reproach may, at a later period, have been justly thrown on the indolence and luxury of religious orders, it was surely good that, in an age of ignorance and violence, there should be quiet cloisters and gardens, in which the arts of peace could be safely cultivated, in which gentle and contemplative natures could find an asylum, in which one brother could employ himself in transcribing the Æneid of Virgil, and another in meditating the Analytics of Aristotle, in which he who had a genius for art might illuminate a martyrology or carve a crucifix, and in which he who had a turn for natural philosophy might make experiments on the properties of plants and minerals. Had not such retreats been scattered here and there, among the huts of a miserable peasantry, and the castles of a ferocious aristocracy, European society would have consisted merely of beasts of burden and beasts of prey. The Church has many times been compared by divines to the ark of which we read in the Book of Genesis: but never was the resemblance more perfect than during that evil time when she alone rode, amidst darkness and tempest, on the deluge beneath which all the great works of ancient power and wisdom lay entombed, bearing within her that feeble germ from which a Second and more glorious civilisation was to spring.

Even the spiritual supremacy arrogated by the Pope was, in the dark ages, productive of far more good than evil. Its effect was to unite the nations of Western Europe in one great commonwealth. What the Olympian chariot course and the Pythian oracle were to all the Greek cities, from Trebizond to Marseilles, Rome and her Bishop were to all Christians of the Latin communion, from Calabria to the Hebrides. Thus grew up sentiments of enlarged benevolence. Races separated from each other by seas and mountains acknowledged a fraternal tie and a common code of public law. Even in war, the cruelty of the conqueror was not seldom mitigated by the recollection that he and his vanquished enemies were all members of one great federation.

Macaulay’s A History of England looks to be an outstanding read spanning five volumes. It is available online or as a Kindle file.

Just Because You Can, Doesn't Mean You Should

The American teen who is struggling with his identity often seeks meaning in the attention and adoration of others instead of searching for meaning in himself. Without the guidance of adults, and without avenues for productive self-exploration readily available in the culture, and instead immersed in the world of superficial pop culture and frivolous mass entertainment, the teen finds himself drawn into an existentialist fugue state, one that often leads to crisis and self-destruction. Instead of being exposed to the profound thinkers’ ideas on what it means to be human, today’s teen is unhinged from reason and reality.  And thus without an anchor to prevent him from being sucked into destructive mob behavior, he is baited into experimenting with the phony alternatives of the left: “lifestyle choices,” that is to say, various ways to destroy his mind, and to temporarily end the teen’s identity struggle. “If one’s mind is being tortured by such questions,” the left seems to entice, “why not destroy one’s mind, one’s conscience, and thus end all the nagging questions that are troubling you?”

A fashion of aimless and mindless behavior is the peril of a society founded on freedom when it is detached from reasoned self-interest and from morality. It only takes a few institutional alterations, such as universal state-run education and fiat currency, for “freedom” to lead to self-destruction.  We see this in our own society, as virtue has been redefined by our culturally marxist-directed culture away from bettering oneself to seeking alternatives for alternatives’ sake and diversity for diversity’s sake. With such an ethos of valuing difference in and of itself, a freak show is sure to ensue.

Since rationality means choosing between available choices what is in the best interest of the individual, the left seeks to destroy rationality by selling the individual a line about the world abounding with “false choices”; proverbially, that one can have his cake and eat it too. The left thus keeps would-be men suspended in a childlike state; as a toddler is unable to choose between ice cream or a cookie, today’s adult male finds it hard to choose between playing X-box or improving his mind and job skills. Not that entertainment and fun are bad in and of themselves. But it is only a short leap from fostering an inability to choose wisely how to pursue one’s best interest, to provoking a desire in a teen to be both a man and a woman too, imitating the hyper-androgynous Lady Gag-gag of pop culture fame, who is non-coincidentally being aided by the State Department to go to Rome for the purposes of blaspheming the Catholic Church. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…)

This redirection of the individual away from productive achievement, and thus the suppression of her potential individual greatness, has to do with creating false expectations, and therefore, the disappointing results that come along with believing in easy fame or fortune. And with disappointment, one can either react by becoming demoralized by “the system”; radicalized to seek social or economic “justice” by taking away from “greedy” or undeserving others what one has not earned; or forced to seek the lonely path of finding meaning in unconventional wisdom.  All the while those who dare to ‘know themselves’ are told by the pseudo-intellectual destroyers on the left that one’s “selfish” ethics are actually inferior to their exhortations to find meaning in the collective meaningless of mob mentality.

What this boils down to is a matter of language, which is the left’s preferred weapon in the assault on the American mind (but not the only one – economic conditions surely condition one’s receptivity to leftist arguments). “Freedom” is such an overused word in today’s society that one can easily be confused by its multiplicity of meanings. Good luck to today’s youth trying to figure out on his own the term’s place in Western culture. Freedom today can alternatively mean the right of the individual to do as he likes, provided he doesn’t harm others; freedom from the strains and cares of individual responsibility; or freedom from the constraints of objective reality. (Of course, I am paraphrasing so as to expose the underlying meanings of the various usages of ‘freedom.’)

Society is destroying itself at such a breathtaking pace because we have lost what it means to be free by not exhibiting reasoned self-interest or teaching it to our youth. In practice, this means we should reinforce the importance of choosing among alternatives in the real world, and in particular, we must be aware that the fiat currency system is designed to destroy that faculty. If fiat currency and its twin of debt-spending is enabling the government to function as if there were no such thing as real means, and thereby mortgaging the future on the backs of today’s and tomorrow’s taxpayers, then one solution for us is to equip our youth with the faculties that will help them find a way out. These faculties can only come with training them to make hard choices, such as we serious citizens are faced with when dealing with a government that will not yield to reason, and with politicians who continue to abuse the government’s legitimate monopoly of force in immoral ways.

The foundational assumption of a free society is not that everyone is rational.  It is that everyone should suffer the consequences for his or her own actions, and therefore better act rationally, or else.  This assumption of individual responsibility supports both the complexity and stability of modern society. As this assumption is replaced by arbitrary force and fiat, and the left’s false choice of freedom and an easy life on the backs of others, our society will regress, and civilization will be replaced by chaos, and its associate, brutality.