England: The Matrix has Had You for Five Centuries

The English Reformation was not a religious breakthrough but a cultural calamity, covered up by lickspittle propaganda and a civilizational brainwash job unparalleled in history.  It was a revolt by the rich against the poor and its victims were classic examples of Stockholm Syndrome.

And it marches on in the post-Protestant secular press of the Country that Used to be England, still as bitterly hostile to the Catholic Church as ever, but now contemptuous of Christ too.

Chesterton describes the process as it stood in his time (the 1920s).  It has slid far since he wrote:

looking back on older religious crises, I seem to see a certain coincidence, or rather, a set of things too coincident to be called a coincidence After all, when I come to think of it, all the other revolts against the Church, before the Revolution and especially since the Reformation, had told the same strange story. Every great heretic had always exhibited three remarkable characteristics in combination.  First, he picked out some mystical idea from the Church’s bundle or balance of mystical ideas.  Second, he used that one mystical idea against all the other mystical ideas. Third (and most singular), he seems generally to have had no notion that his own favourite mystical idea was a mystical idea, at least in the sense of a mysterious or dubious or dogmatic idea. With a queer uncanny innocence, he seems always to have taken this one thing for granted.  He assumed it to be unassailable, even when he was using it to assail all sorts of similar things. The most popular and obvious example is the Bible.  To an impartial pagan or sceptical observer, it must always seem the strangest story in the world; that men rushing in to wreck a temple, overturning the altar and driving out the priest, found there certain sacred volumes inscribed “Psalms” or “Gospels”; and (instead of throwing them on the fire with the rest) began to use them as infallible oracles rebuking all the other arrangements.  If the sacred high altar was all wrong, why were the secondary sacred documents necessarily all right? If the priest had faked his Sacraments, why could he not have faked his Scriptures?  Yet it was long before it even occurred to those who brandished this one piece of Church furniture to break up all the other Church furniture that anybody could be so profane as to examine this one fragment of furniture itself. People were quite surprised, and in some parts of the world are still surprised, that anybody should dare to do so.

Again, the Calvinists took the Catholic idea of the absolute knowledge and power of God; and treated it as a rocky irreducible truism so solid that anything could be built on it, however crushing or cruel. They were so confident in their logic, and its one first principle of predestination, that they tortured the intellect and imagination with dreadful deductions about God, that seemed to turn Him into a demon. But it never seems to have struck them that somebody might suddenly say that he did not believe in the demon.  They were quite surprised when people called “infidels” here and there began to say it. They had assumed the Divine foreknowledge as so fixed, that it must, if necessary, fulfil itself by destroying the Divine mercy. They never thought anybody would deny the knowledge exactly as they denied the mercy.  Then came Wesley and the reaction against Calvinism; and Evangelicals seized on the very Catholic idea that mankind has a sense of sin; and they wandered about offering everybody release from his mysterious burden of sin. It is a proverb, and almost a joke, that they address a stranger in the street and offer to relax his secret agony of sin. But it seldom seemed to strike them, until much later, that the man in the street might possibly answer that he did not want to be saved from sin, any more than from spotted fever or St. Vitus’s Dance; because these things were not in fact causing him any suffering at all.  They, in their turn, were quite surprised when the result of Rousseau and the revolutionary optimism began to express itself in men claiming a purely human happiness and dignity; a contentment with the comradeship of their kind; ending with the happy yawp of Whitman that he would not “lie awake and weep for his sins.”

Now the plain truth is that Shelley and Whitman and the revolutionary optimists were themselves doing exactly the same thing all over again. They also, though less consciously because of the chaos of their times, had really taken out of the old Catholic tradition one particular transcendental idea; the idea that there is a spiritual dignity in man as man, and a universal duty to love men as men.  And they acted in exactly the same extraordinary fashion as their prototypes, the Wesleyans and the Calvinists.  They took it for granted that this spiritual idea was absolutely self-evident like the sun and moon; that nobody could ever destroy that, though in the name of it they destroyed everything else.  They perpetually hammered away at their human divinity and human dignity, and inevitable love for all human beings; as if these things were naked natural facts. And now they are quite surprised when new and restless realists suddenly explode, and begin to say that a pork-butcher with red whiskers and a wart on his nose does not strike them as particularly divine or dignified, that they are not conscious of the smallest sincere impulse to love him, that they could not love him if they tried, or that they do not recognize any particular obligation to try.

It might appear that the process has come to an end, and that there is nothing more for the naked realist to shed.  But it is not so; and the process can still go on.  There are still traditional charities to which men cling.  There are still traditional charities for them to fling away when they find they are only traditional. Everybody must have noticed in the most modern writers the survival of a rather painful sort of pity.  They no longer honour all men, like St. Paul and the other mystical democrats.  It would hardly be too much to say that they despise all men; often (to do them justice) including themselves.  But they do in a manner pity all men, and particularly those that are pitiable; by this time they extend the feeling almost disproportionately to the other animals. This compassion for men is also tainted with its historical connection with Christian charity; and even in the case of animals, with the example of many Christian saints.  There is nothing to show that a new revulsion from such sentimental religions will not free men even from the obligation of pitying the pain of the world. Not only Nietzsche, but many Neo-Pagans working on his lines, have suggested such hardness as a higher intellectual purity. And having read many modern poems about the Man of the Future, made of steel and illumined with nothing warmer than green fire, I have no difficulty in imagining a literature that should pride itself on a merciless and metallic detachment.  Then, perhaps, it might be faintly conjectured that the last of the Christian virtues had died. But so long as they lived they were Christian.

And that, children, is where Hitler, Stalin, Mao, postmodern “Sure Abortion is Murder, So What?” agitprop–and Republican Intellectual Leading Light Ayn Rand–came from.

For further reading:  The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580

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  • Tom R (Australia)

    And yet, if Jews start worrying about anti-Semitism recurring among Christians, Catholics (well, the non-Trads anyway) will shake their heads in wonderment: “For heavens’ sake, Jews, it’s a whole five decades since Vatican II removed ‘perfidious’ from the liturgy and the Popes declared hatred of Jews to be a sin! Can’t you people just move on?!”

    This double standard is common among many religions (our martyrs’ suffering feels like only yesterday; but your martyrs suffered centuries ago, in lands far away, and under people who may share a sectarian label with me but who have nothing to do with the TRUE teachings of the One True Sect to which I belong…”), but Catholics seem particularly prone to it, perhaps because of the prominent role of saints and martyrs as intercessors in Catholic theology: whereas, say, Protestants won’t be praying to Graham Staines http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Staines 500 years from now. Thus Foxe’s Book of Martyrs gets called “tired old sixteenth-century propaganda” by Catholics who know chapter and verse (so to speak) of which Christians were martyred fourteen centuries before that by the pagan Romans for praying before statues or whatever the reason was the pagan Romans used to martyr the early Christians.

    • Tom R (Australia)

      The equivalent Protestant double standard, at least in the US, revolves more around race than religion. Hence (a) “Here, read the writings of John Locke and James Madison denouncing the absolutist kings of England – these timeless truths are as relevant as ever today and we ignore them at our peril!” vs (b) “Sheesh, African-Americans, a whole six decades have gone by since the Southern States stopped practising Jim Crow and winking at lynchings. The moment the federal government made a law saying that racial discrimination was illegal, we started complying immediately. Time to move on!!”.

    • Ronk

      Oh come on now, take note fo the facts. Anti-semitism occurred among Catholics (though much less so than among ANY other religion) and was never dictated from the top but arose as an aberration from the ill-educated gutter dwellers. There was a reason that for 1900 years the majority of the world’s wandering Jews CHOSE to make their homes in Catholic-majority countries. In fact a lot of Catholic anti-semitism was a way of attacking the Pope who was the traditional protector of the Jews. For the last several centuries at least, the vast majority of the world’s anti-semitism has come from Moslems and atheists.
      In contrast the persecution of both Catholics and Jews among Protestant-ruled countries was dictated from the top and implemented in obedience to the protestant bosses.
      Under every Pope since St Peter, the Catholic Church has continuously declared hatred of Jews or anyone else to be a sin, and has NEVER taught that hatred of Jews is not a sin. The word “perfidious” was (unfortunately in my opinion) removed from the Good Friday prayer (which by the way is a prayer to God FOR THE JEWS) because in English and other languages it had come over recent centuries to acquire a somewhat pejorative meaning which affected the way some people viewed the word in the Latin liturgy (even though Latin is in theory an unchanging language) which referes simply to teh fact that the majority of the Jews of the first century did not recognise the Messiah when He came (though a very large minority did).