The Westering of Easter

EVERYWHERE this week, from “conservative” sources, I encounter the proposition that our society cannot be sustained as it was conceived without “morality”—and morality cannot exist without “religion”. George Washington sez so in his farewell address, and Franklin Graham sez so on Fox. See Roger Kimball’s piece on American Greatness today, “Then and Now”.

It’s clear what creed Graham means. Washington the Deist undoubtedly meant simply a Creator-God.

Washington didn’t need to be prescient to so opine about that: as Robespierre had found out a few years earlier, you can’t maintain civil authority and impose order unless the people believe in an even higher authority. Having banished God from France, Robespierre had to speedily re-open diplomatic relations with the Supreme Being.

As above, so below.

But, I’m finding it frustrating. To me it sounds like: “Christmas has never been the same since I stopped believing in Santa.”
Very true. And as Oscar Wilde said, “Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit: touch it and the bloom is gone.” The fact is, we can’t go back to swimming in what Arnold in his over-quoted poem called “the sea of faith”, any more that I can will myself to still believe in Santa Claus.

The other aspect of this is that the Right seems to think that now we are without religion. Maybe WE are, but, despite the fact that we keep calling Wokeism and Climate Eschatology “religions”, and every commentator presents this as though he/she had just,and alone, conceived the idea., it’s nothin* new. Actually, I think it’s well known that in the Soviet Union Communism was structured and presented in the image of traditional religion.
But - I don’t think we realize that they really are religions.

THEY are now that which Washington said we must have.
People on the Right seem to think this is a devastating point. Like “You think you’re so smart, but YOU’re religious, too, just like us! “ The ultimate comeback, y’know, like “I’m rubber, you’re glue…” it’s kinda embarrassing.

The real,problem is, WE gotta get a creed, too. Maybe a whole new one; I don’t think the Enlightenment ideas of our founders are gonna cut it. As Chomsky now says, the social Justice gospel is what the Enlightenment was preaching all along. When we quote Washington , Jefferson, et al, we are trying to say ,”This far, and no farther”.

And only a Supreme Being can make THAT stick.


Not sure I grok the direction of your message here, but I do know for sure that, in spite of language being corrupted, along with our social norms, our faith and force of will ensure that freedom will endure. This is hardly the first assault on Western Civ.


Okay here’s what I meant , I think: the Right keeps saying our country needs religion, but often stops short of prescribing a creed.
Do commentators on our side ever—well, maybe occasionally, but do they USUALLY—come out and say: okay this is IT: everybody run get baptized today, and you better be in church next Sunday or we’ll know the reason why? I think not.
Then, we accuse the Left of being religious in spite of themselves—slavishly devoted to a creed encompassing climate anxiety, political correctness, “equity”— and we find that ironic, since they profess to reject religion.

But while WE amuse ourselves chortling at the paradox that they are more “devout” than we are—
THEY are busy doing the work all real religions do: proselytizing, indoctrinating the young, infiltrating institutions.

It ISN’T that our country has lost its religion; it’s that it has found a new one.
The thing is, the Right doesn’t want to recognize that Progressivism IS, not a parody of religion, but the genuine article.
And the Left simply doesn’t care WHAT the Right calls it.


I understand where you’re coming from better now.

The major quibble I have is that it is a tortured definition that encompasses Progressive transgenderism as a form of religion. Reminds me of the old arguments about what porn is. I know religion when I see it, and what we’re seeing from the Communists today is a simulacrum designed to appeal to the human need for a metaphysical basis for life. Effeminate men gave Rome and Athens to the barbarians using similar tools.

Communism is worship of evil incarnate, and a substitution of pride and ego for true religiosity. AOC is Baal.

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One of the main differences between the traditional religions which have fallen out of favour and the new ones that the new ones mostly reject the notion of survival of the soul and life after death, which many (but not all) religions incorporate, whether in the concept of Heaven and Hell as in Christianity, Islam, and Graeco-Roman paganism, or reincarnation in Eastern religions. I first started to think about this after reading Dinesh D’Souza’s 2009 book Life After Death: The Evidence (link is to my review). A key take-away was the connection between life after death, cosmic justice, and morality.

The chapter on morality is particularly challenging and enlightening. Every human society has had a code of morality (different in the details, but very much the same at the core), and most of these societies have based their moral code upon a belief in cosmic justice in an afterlife. It’s self-evident that bad guys sometimes win at the expense of good guys in this life, but belief that the score will be settled in the long run has provided a powerful incentive for mortals to conform to the norms which their societies prescribe as good. (I’ve deliberately written the last sentence in the post-modern idiom; I consider many moral norms absolutely good or bad based on gigayears of evolutionary history, but I needn’t introduce that into evidence to prove my case, so I won’t.) From an evolutionary standpoint, morality is a survival trait of the family or band: the hunter who shares the kill with his family and tribe will have more descendants than the gluttonous loner. A tribe which produces males who sacrifice themselves to defend their women and children will produce more offspring than the tribe whose males value only their own individual survival.

Morality, then, is, at the group level, a selective trait, and consequently it’s no surprise that it’s universal among human societies. But if, as serious atheists such as Bertrand Russell (as opposed to the lower-grade atheists we get today) worried, morality has been linked to religion and belief in an afterlife in every single human society to date, then how is morality (a survival characteristic) to be maintained in the absence of these beliefs? And if evolution has selected us to believe in the afterlife for the behavioural advantages that belief confers in the here and now, then how successful will the atheists be in extinguishing a belief which has conferred a behavioural selective advantage upon thousands of generations of our ancestors? And how will societies which jettison such belief fare in competition with those which keep it alive?

The progressive religion and the doctrines of Marx and Nietzsche upon which it is based largely rejects the afterlife as irrational wishful thinking (except for the transhumanists, who hope to live forever as uploaded computer emulations, but they are overwhelmingly flaming libertarian gun nuts, not slavers). In the absence of reward (or punishment) in an afterlife, progressives seek transcendence in other ways, such as “saving the planet” (harking back to the traditional “Earth mother” worship) or building “heaven on Earth” in the form of the “Higher stage of communism”, which itself recapitulates the primordial “Primitive communism”. This drives them to seek utopian answers to every question, pushing each issue to its extreme limits and beyond. When you believe nature and reality are infinitely mutable, there is nothing the human will cannot accomplish. “Triumph of the will”—what could possibly go wrong?

Here is the British “Conservative” Party, currently governing a country with an established Christian religion headed by its hereditary King, wishing all a happy Spring Holiday, which is about rabbits and eggs.


You seem to be saying that morality is the same as altruism: sharing food with family or tribe. I think it was Stephen Pinker who pointed out that the remarkable thing about war is not aggression(willingness to kill) but altruism (willingness to die). But doesn’t “morality” as popularly understood involve more than altruism? Sexual continence or fidelity, for instance?
I’ve always felt that morality is fairly simple: we are all physical, mortal beings, we know what causes us pain and anguish, so: don’t inflict that stuff on other people. Do we need belief in an afterlife to see the logic, the inherent correctness/appropriateness, of the Golden Rule?
There is no afterlife in the Old Testament. A long earthly life, wealth and comfort, many descendants, victory, land, power—these are the blessings God promised to His favorites Abraham, Jacob, David, in the Old Testament.
But the “cause no pain” idea, which (unlike self-sacrifice) does not require any Higher Power to reinforce it, is considered “secular humanism” and is anathema to the church.
I mentioned the atheism of the 1789 French Revolution. The attempt to enthrone “Reason” in place of a judgmental deity didn’t work out too well—or rather, worked like you’d expect. If there is no eternal reward or punishment, then the debauchery which ensued at the “Festivals of Reason” was, in fact, supremely reasonable.
Oh, I don’t know: when people “imagine there’s no Heaven” , I reckon it could go either way. Judaism retreated into the scholarly mathematical / mystical conundrums of the Kabbalah. In revolutionary France the result was debauchery. In the Communist nations the result was mass murder. (But then, of course, lotsa people have been murdered in the name of various religions, too.)
Whether the deity leads us to good or ill, maybe it doesn’t matter; maybe Voltaire was right: “We need God as we need our dinners.” C’est ça!


That review is a wonderful example of why I so miss John Walker’s Reading List! Informative, thought-provoking, and so much more than a reading list.

As an aside, I have become interested in the efficiency of communication by different methods, such as video versus text. There are definitely occasions when a picture can be worth a thousand words. But I guess that most of us have experienced the half-hour video that could usefully be replaced by a 250-word text, readable with superior comprehension in 5 minutes. Maybe we are experiencing an analog of Gresham’s Law where the newer/less useful is driving out the older/more effective?

Which brings us back to the real topic of conversation:

Perhaps the converse is also true. Without morality (or at least a sense that we individuals came from a long line of ancestors and that the world will carry on long after we are gone), we abort the babies and demean motherhood. Groups which adopt such a philosophy are destined to disappear from the planet – vacating space for other groups. This Natural Deselection of failing groups (such as most of today’s Western world) is arguably a Good Thing.


This review scared the crap outta me. My main takeaway was that since we don’t know what consciousness is, we have no reason to think it may not continue after death.

Does it come into being at birth? As far as we know it does. So why would it continue after death? But if our polymath potentate takes it seriously that it might….

This has revived my childhood terror of eternal punishment. Thanks!