Political and Moral Dissolution
By: Thomas E. Brewton
Liberals’ head-in-the-sand urge to pull troops out of Iraq is nothing new. Western democracies, entranced with liberal Progressivism, have failed repeatedly to preserve social and political stability.
In words that apply to public opinion today, Walter Lippmann, in The Public Philosophy (1954), described his dismay in the summer of 1938, when war in Europe seemed inevitable.
….there was no sure prospect that France and Great Britain would be able to withstand the [German] onslaught that was coming. They were unprepared, their people were divided and demoralized. The Americans were far away, were determined to be neutral, and were unarmed….. I began writing, impelled by the need to make more intelligible to myself the alarming failure of the Western liberal democracies to cope with the realities of [the 20th] century.
Today we are armed, albeit at only about half the strength level prevailing when Bill Clinton slashed defense spending to reap the “peace dividend” for new welfare-state spending programs. But we are again disastrously divided and demoralized, just as were Hitler’s adversaries in 1938.
There is a causal connection between moral dissolution in the 20th century and the end of the 19th century’s Pax Britannica, a period of unmatched social and economic progress, coupled with remarkable political stability.
The great social movements that outlawed slavery in the non-Muslim world, created free public education, and ameliorated working and living conditions were all originated by Judeo-Christian religious groups, notably the Methodists in England. Those impulses, based on the Bible’s instruction, were strongest in the first half of the 19th century.
Economic individualism resting on the moral sentiment of benevolence, identified by Adam Smith as the source of national wealth, led to an unparalleled rapidity of growth in world commerce that raised everyone’s living standard. Coupling economic laissez-faire with the Protestant ethic of hard work, saving for the family’s future, and applying money to God’s work, led to the rise of Great Britain and the United States as the dominant world powers.
By mid-century, however, the growing influence of amoral, atheistic, and materialistic doctrine, masquerading as science, began blunting the Judeo-Christian impulse. Auguste Comte’s socialistic Religion of Humanity in the 1820s preached that human reason alone (exercised by intellectuals, of course) was the route to social perfection. Materialism took a more dangerous turn in the 1840s and 50s, when Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels called for armed revolt by the workers to forge a new and perfected human character in the fires of revolution.
The violence of the French Revolution and Marx’s Communist Manifesto took hold on the Continent in the revolutions of 1789, 1830, 1848, and the Russian Revolution of 1917.
Not infected with socialism until after mid-century, England and the United States followed the non-revolutionary path laid out by Comte’s Religion of Humanity. Both here and there, the agency of diffusion for this morally-relativistic materialism was education in the colleges and universities.
By the end of the 19th century, Western intellectuals were confident that civilization was inevitably marching down the path of Progress to social perfection. Liberal governments were replacing autocracies; czarist Russia, the most autocratic of all, had abandoned the strictures of feudal serfdom in 1861.
Intellectuals understood this progress to be the result of abandoning Judeo-Christian religion and turning to the putative science of Comte’s Religion of Humanity. Scriptural dictates of morality, from the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic law to the teaching of Jesus Christ, were regarded as limitations on the human spirit and hindrances to Progress.
Human freedom was equated with the breakdown of Victorian principles of morality. As the Ethical Culturalists say, deeds not creeds. John Stuart Mill expressed it crisply in his 1859 essay On Liberty. By adopting the morally relativistic principle of tolerance for all viewpoints (today’s multi-culturalism), intellectuals in theory would liberate humanity for an explosion of creativity and entry into a new world of social harmony.
Scientism in the garments of 1859′s Darwinian evolution, taught that life itself and all life forms were the result of random chance, responding only to materialistic forces via the process of natural selection. Darwin and his early followers declared that God had no role in the process, and morality was a fiction; life was merely a matter of survival of the fittest, in which there was no such thing as sin.
In the ivory towers of academia, such doctrine was a heady brew that fired the imagination of social and political theorists. They hubristically presumed to reshape human nature and perfect the institutions of society. Progress was to be achieved by regulating the material conditions of human life so as to accelerate and channel the randomness of natural selection.
It is this doctrinal background that leads liberals today to attack evangelical Christianity as a worse enemy than Islamic jihad. The intensity of liberal emotions reflects the secular religious nature of their faith.
It is thus hardly surprising that every time a liberal Democratic Party administration takes office, we suffer a resurgence of this social fantasy, as we see now in the new Congress.
In their materialistic world, devoid of spirituality, liberals are confident that Islamic jihad is, at bottom, analogous to labor unionism, aimed at securing a bigger slice of the public welfare pie. They are equally confident, as were the Progressives in 1914 on the eve of World War I and again in 1938 at the outset of World War II, that diplomatic discussions at international conferences will satisfy belligerents and insure peace.
The common element in these recurrent, wishful delusions is an inaccurate understanding of human nature.
Contrary to the liberal view, God is not dead. Most people everywhere have spiritual longings, and everywhere instinctively perceive themselves to be creatures of a Being of infinite force and extent. People everywhere and at all times have sought revelations of spiritual truth as the source of order in political societies.
Voluntary compliance with the rules of social order historically flows from perception by the masses that those rules are grounded in God’s truth. The average citizen will not give the same measure of respect to orders from Washington bureaucrats as he will to the Word of God. True social freedom and order come from individuals’ self-discipline oriented by knowledge that their conduct will be judged in the Hereafter.
In contrast, the bloody 20th century demonstrates the failure of imposing social order via unaided human reason alone, manifested in the arbitrary regulatory force of intellectuals’ continually changing social and economic theories. In the USSR and National Socialist Germany, it was disastrous. In a spiritless world of Darwinian randomness, where survival of the fittest replaces morals, anything goes.
Wed to atheistic materialism, liberals still fail to recognize that, however misguided, Islamic jihadists are driven by spiritual urges, not material desires.
What Eric Voegelin termed the search for order is a metaphor for civilization itself. The critical question is whether the ordering principles of political societies are to come from a liberal elite, living in ivory towers far above the multitudes, or whether the ordering principles are to come from philosophical study of the human soul and from Divine revelation.
The development of Western civilization, from the time of Constantine in the 4th century AD, until the end of the 19th century, was guided by the Bible and Judeo-Christian instruction.
The horrors of both World Wars, the Russian Revolution, and Hitler’s National Socialism could only have come about after dismissal of the moral strictures of Judeo-Christianity and the accession to power of atheistic and materialistic state-planners, for whom the liquidation of a few million people was merely an unfortunate step along the pathway of Progressivism.
Liberals, unfortunately, are once again the untrustworthy gatekeepers at a critical turning point in Western history.
Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets. His weblog is THE VIEW FROM 1776 http://www.thomasbrewton.com/
Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.