Escaping the religion trap
So we're pulling out of Afghanistan at last, and the Taliban are cheering as though the U.S. would ever enable them to produce another al Qaeda.
But idiocy is real and it's still posing a threat to us. Both the regimes of Saudi Arabia and Iran are seeking to repress left-wing activism all over the middle east. It's obvious why: the left-wing is the beginning of secularism and denies the relevance of the Talmud. Why the right-wing adores the Talmud so much, is not so obvious.
The international Right has three distinct parts: a far-right half and two center-right quarters. Only two of these is strongly disposed to religious feeling; the other third is variably anti-dogmatic (with type traits, attitude quirks, and environmental factors all influencing dispositions to specific dogma) and constitutes the swing vote in democratic countries. Of course, there are disbelievers even among the far right (few NTs attend church), but these are a minority.
Religion is a kind of myth, and as such is disposed to be an eventual loser in the war for public opinion: people turn to religion only when science offers unsatisfactory answers. As science grows, education levels rise, and technology increases apace, belief in myth declines. Religion may endure, however, if science seems to suggest that postmortem resurrection is unlikely or impossible, because most brains are discomforted by the thought of oblivion. Unless science offers such a satisfactory answer, religion will not disappear completely, even though the influence of its dogma on society will wane.
Judeo Christianity is the natural religious outcome of Western cultural values. Western values diverge from eastern values in that the individual is prized over the community, where in the east the community is prized over individualism. Buddhism represents desire for repressed individual happiness, where Judaism represents repressed community obligation. In particular, Judaism represents forced community obligation via strict laws that represented rational thought in low technology situations. To observe the law was to decent, to understand it was to be wise. It is precisely the science which is codified in Judaism that suggests it to be a natural religion. Christianity, likewise, was the natural outcome of the Hebrew's defeat by Rome, the nation of rational cynicism which, through guile unknown to theocracies, inevitably dominates them. Rome of course sought to suppress the Hebrew theocracy, whose integrity threatened its guile, using a puppet ruler (exactly as America does -- or did) who cared nothing for their people. Jesus arose as the reaction to this brutality, the beguiling redeemer of the forcibly corrupted religious state. The Roman Empire eventually dissolved, conquered by the same guile that created it, and the until it gradually succumbed to fusion with capitalism. That led to the Reformation which was the spark for the collapse of religion.
Today we live threatened by the dying of these myths. Terrified of an unpleasant afterlife, a minority is willing to kill to win the appeasement of god. An additional segment is willing to vote in the name of god. This sector, the social conservatives who appreciate the perfect promise offered by Christianity, and the socio-cultural conservatives (the center-right believers) who question technology, is increasingly anxious as it becomes apparent that democracy is ultimately secular. Of these, the Christians are bound by Jesus' warning against living by the sword, and the Jews are bound by the commandment not to kill. They still vote, but are unwilling to press their claims beyond the ballot box. An aggressive pro-science push by the Left, coupled with efforts to integrate the anti-dogmatist wing of the Right, will ensure the (something that is already the norm in much of Europe). For many years, British Labour exemplified this alliance, and Canada upheld it as well. However the Iraq war has divided the alliance on moral and rationalist grounds, leading to a resurgence of far right fortunes in these countries.
What we see today in the U.K and the U.S. is the consequence of this resurgence. Skepticism (not to be confused with cynicism -- see Rick's blog) is hardening the center right against the left, enabling the far right to push its agenda. Skepticism also feeds the Eden curse myth, that life on Earth is not worth trying to improve. This in turn leads to more skepticism and more rationalization, which leads the uneducated back to religion, which leads back to the feudalistic system of estates.
To arrest skepticism, the Left must change itself. It cannot merely "be the change it wants to see"... it must be willing to change itself, to self-moderate. It is faced with a complex international enemy, and each head on this hydra must be hit with a club suited for it. Sometimes the answer is diplomacy, sometimes it is patience, others it is war. In each nation, the Left requires something different for victory. The Left needs to be sensitive to the anxieties of the anti-dogmatists in every nation, so as to keep them out of the hands of the religious. It must look responsive, competent, and when necessary aggressive. It must resist being bullied on the right and must operate as an international entity, reaching out to the centrists in every nation. The Labor Alliance must be rebuilt.
tcaud, you're an interesting person.
I want to see him bash hinduism yet. That is going to be interesting taking into account its influence on modern physics.
Originally Posted by redbaron