Secular progressivism as church

Secular progressivism as church June 23, 2016

Secular progressivism has assumed the form of an institutionalized religion, complete with orthodox dogmas that may not be questioned, saints and demons, sacraments and rituals.  It has become a church–not the beneficent kind, but the sort that squelches liberty and seeks to punish non-believers.

So argues Mary Eberstadt in a book on the subject and in an article excerpted after the jump.From Mary Eberstadt, The First Church of Secularism and its Sexual Sacraments, National Review:

Today’s secularist progressivism is not a nihilistic worldview. To the contrary: It embraces an alternative orthodoxy and a well-developed body of beliefs. The fundamental impulse leading to the penalizing of moral traditionalists today is not libertarian. It is instead neo-puritanical — that is, it is aimed at safeguarding its own body of revealed and developed truths, and at marginalizing, silencing, and punishing competitors.

This substitute religion mimics Christianity itself in preternatural ways. It offers a hagiography of secular saints, for example, all of them patrons of the revolution: proselytizers for abortion and contraception, such as Margaret Sanger and Helen Gurley Brown and Gloria Steinem; crypto-scholastics whose work is revered by generation after generation of the faithful and off-limits for intellectual revisionism, such as Alfred Kinsey and Margaret Mead; quasi-monastic ascetics, such as the grim public custodians of the National Abortion Rights Action League and Planned Parenthood; and even foreign “missionaries,” in the form of representatives within progressive charities and international bureaucracies — those who carry word of the revolution, and the secularist sacraments of contraception and abortion, to women in poorer countries around the world.

Similarly well-developed is the demonology of this substitute faith, which now includes, say, the Roman Catholic hierarchy; the major spokesmen for evangelical Protestantism; legal groups involved in religious-liberty cases; most political conservatives; all social conservatives; and the occasional apostate who deviates from the secularist code.

The followers of this newfound code further accept as Holy Writ a canon of texts and doctrine — a body of literature and commentary that cannot be questioned without risk of excommunication from the group. It is also ruled by a certain kind of logic — not Aristotelian logic, but some other kind, whose syllogisms include “if you are against abortion, therefore you are anti-woman”; “if you oppose same-sex marriage, therefore you hate people attracted to the same sex”; and related formulations that Aristotle himself would rule fallacious.

Whether the close overlay between the architectonic of secularist progressivism and Judeo-Christianity itself speaks to the inescapabilty of two thousand years of religious history, or rather to the resonance of those religious traditions themselves with the deepest and most ineradicable human longings for transcendence — or both — is a fascinating subject that deserves to be explored. But that today’s progressive ideology shares recognizable features with Judeo-Christianity, even as it repudiates all traditionalist tenets that threaten its substitute theology, seems beyond dispute.

The bedrock of contemporary progressivism can only be described as quasi-religious. The followers of this faith are, furthermore, Kantians regarding these beliefs, in the sense that the philosopher’s categorical imperative applies: Exactly like followers of other faiths, they believe both that they are right, and that people who disagree are wrong — and that those other people ought to think differently.

The so-called culture war, in other words, has not been conducted by people of religious faith on one side, and people of no faith on the other. It is instead a contest of competing faiths: one in the Good Book, and the other in the more newly written figurative book of secularist orthodoxy about the sexual revolution. In sum, secularist progressivism today is less a political movement than a church.

[Keep reading. . .]

HT:  Michael F. Bird

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