InDisorientation: How to Go to College Without Losing Your Mind (which I highly recommend), I contributed an essay on the Soft Tyranny of Sentimentalism, wherein I wrote:
If 20th-century atheism rode in on the backs of totalitarian regimes, the 21st-century has delivered unto the world an anti-God, anti-Church movement that fits seamlessly into shallow, postmodern popular culture. Having no need for uprisings and the hardware of destruction, the new fog of faith has crept in on the little cat feet of Sentimentalism and it now sits on its haunches, surveying its splendidly wrought sanctimony.
Sentimentalism is the force of feel-goodism, the means by which we may cast off the conventions of faith and casually dismiss those institutions that refuse to submit to the trending times and morals. The Sentimentalist trusts his feelings over hallowed authority or the urgings of his reason, frequently answering hard religious questions with some noble-sounding phrase like “The God I believe in wouldn’t . . . ” (fill in the blank). What fits in that blank is typically some tenet of traditional faith that isn’t currently fashionable, some moral demand that pop culture considers impossible—and hence, not worth even trying. Thus the Sentimentalist, while believing he follows the inviolate voice of his conscience, is really sniffing after trends, forming his heart according to the sensus fidelium of middlebrow magazines and public radio.
A Sentimentalist cannot reconcile religious convictions—whether rooted in scripture, tradition, or cultural practice—that do not correspond with his own considered feelings, which for him are both weighty and principled. Convinced that the people he loves cannot possibly be denied anything they want by a just God, or that the same just God would not permit deformities, illness, war, childhood abuse, or any of the human sufferings common to us all, he will not participate in a Church so fault-riddled and out-of-step with a generous and enlightened generation as . . . his own.
Sentimentality lead to violence when sentimentality becomes an ideology. An ideology is a single driving idea that sweeps every other consideration aside. Those who follow an ideology are always self righteous, and they will use every means possible to enforce their ideology. The ideologue may attempt to argue logically or philosophically, but this will only be a tactic–it is not because he believes that logic, philosophy or theology have any real weight. These disciplines will serve the ideology–the ideology itself may never be questioned. Not only logic and philosophy are subject to the ideology, but all things are subject to the ideology. All other considerations are subject to his ideology–including moral considerations.
So the sentimental ideologue will eventually force his opponent to conform. He will use any means possible–political legislation, financial pressure, social pressure, shouting more loudly, imprisonment and persecution and finally bloodshed if necessary.
Almost makes you want to run off to a hermitage, somewhere! Read it all!
Related: The Caper of the Grape!