Spiritual Battles and Contemporary Politics, continued

A couple of weeks ago, I commented on an article by Joseph Bottum about the search for spiritual meaning as a driver of “progressive” politics.

Comes now an essay by David Goldman–The Rise of  Secular Religion–which is in part a review of Mr Bottum’s new book, An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America. Recommended reading. Excerpt:

America’s consensus culture, Bottum argues, is the unmistakable descendant of the old Protestant Mainline, in particular the “Social Gospel” promulgated by Walter Rauschenbusch before the First World War and adopted by the liberal majority in the Mainline denominations during the 1920s. Although this assertion seems unremarkable at first glance, the method that Bottum brings to bear is entirely original. A deeply religious thinker, he understands spiritual life from the inside. He is less concerned with the outward forms and specific dogmas of religion than with its inner experience, and this approach leads him down paths often inaccessible to secular inquiry. The book should be disturbing not only to its nominal subjects, the “Poster Children” of post-Protestant America, but also to their conservative opposition. The battle is joined on a plane far removed from the quotidian concept of political debate.

Closely related: Carbon Dioxide as Original Sin. Excerpt:

Thanks to this new green faith, our smallest acts have incalculable repercussions. The world seems literally to hang on whether we leave the water running as we brush our teeth, take the subway rather than drive, or flick off the switch as we exit a room. The humblest objects are alive with meaning. Bruckner calls it “post-technological animism” (33). Environmentalist discourse, he suggests, is a variation on the Fall of Genesis: eating of the fruit of the tree of scientific knowledge has driven us from God-given Paradise.

(link via American Digest)

Also see Paul Gottfried on the lack of interest in logical argument prevalent among today’s leftist campus professors, and how this differs from the attitudes of their predecessors of a few decades ago. Indeed, if contemporary “progressivism” is a religion, it is not a religion of the intellectual system-building type represented by, say, Saint Thomas Acquinas or William of Ockham, but rather of the most emotionally-driven type of snake-handling fundamentalism.

Also related to this topic of spiritual hunger as a driver of political belief: Arthur Koestler’s novel of ideas The Age of Longing, which I reviewed at length here:  Sleeping with the Enemy.

25 thoughts on “Spiritual Battles and Contemporary Politics, continued”

  1. Re CO2: I noticed long ago that many environmental acts, such as recycling, were much like religious rituals, and primitive ones at that – leaving an offering for the goddess of the spring. The objective good that they did was largely theoretical and symbolic. Indeed, many were a net loss, such as paper cups versus lighter, more transportable styrofoam. But they told the world – not the people of the world, but the earth itself – see, I care about you. Be healed.

  2. Climate Change is a religion. It preaches that because mankind is behaving badly that the world will come to an end. This is the millennium and the traditional time for the world to end.

    “We need to be penitent, to punish ourselves” say the climate change clergy. This is the same message of the Flagellants preached in much the same fashion- they group of heretics that predicted global warming would come and end the world because people were behaving badly.

    However the First Amendment prohibits establishing a religion, even if doing so will save the world. So we should close down the EPA and every other agency that and every law that promotes the Climate Change heresy.

    I want my TV, my air conditioned house, I want to live well fed with the lights on.

    I’ve discussed this with the First Eagle and He says the Climate Change religion is false. He says a mini-ice age (live to one from 1500-1800) is coming soon and it will be part of the normal 500 year climate cycle.

  3. Recycling is easy. Here they charge me for my garbage and have made all recycling free. It pays me to deliver clean paper, cardboard, metal, glass and electronics to people who can make a few $s from consolidating and reselling the ‘retail’ incoming recyclables, as I would have to pay to toss them.

    Spiritual malaise is the term that’s useful here. The people of the book are all in some kind of crisis or other. The Christians, Muslims and Jews are all in serious trouble on a fundamental level. That the new Pope is such a breath of fresh air, should inform ones thoughts about where Catholicism has been. Fred Phelps thankfully is dead but the evil that fueled him lives on. That Muslims are in a schismatic war of Sunnis against Shia speaks to the fundamental breakdown of the religion. The Jews have sullied both their culture and religion with the jack booted conquest of Palestine right after the Holocaust. Not just the book, we have Buddhists killing people in Myanmar and there is almost no excuse at all in my religion for what has happened there.

    Yup, interesting times. Should get … more interesting … people are stupid.

  4. “post-technological animism” – Brilliant.

    My experience as a minimally religious person is that I tend to have more in common with religious Jews and Christians than I do with the secular-religious people I know.

    Pengun, your ignorance of history and your ability to misinterpret current events in unintentionally ironic ways are impressive. You do realize that it’s the most traditional Christian and Jewish communities that are doing best nowadays, and in particular that traditional Christianity is expanding at a high rate outside of the developed West, don’t you?

  5. One of the key sacraments of the “progressive” religion is **shopping**. The believer who is shopping at, say, Whole Foods can get the religious charge of feeling he is connected to something larger than himself (“the planet”) while at the same time enjoying the ego enlargement of spending money on more-than-necessarily-expensive stuff.

  6. “people are stupid.”

    Yes, we know a couple if only through the internet.

    Global warming alarmism is closely related to Original Sin, in my opinion. Man is fouling the planet and the anointed must do something about it. Michael Crichton (State of Fear) and Tom Clancy (Rainbow Six) have written pretty good novels about it. I only hope the novels remain fiction. When I was in college, I read Neville Shute’s novel “On the Beach,” which put me into a tailspin I barely pulled out of before flunking out of college.

  7. Glass? GLASS????? Hey, everyone, PenGun said “Glass”!!!!!!!

    Seriously, how do you not know: recycled glass is basically unsalable, that places that haven’t given up on glass recycling are accumulating vast indoor or outdoor glass repositories???

  8. Oops, anon @ 4:03am (NOT my local time, thank Ghu!) is me.

    Hey, TPTB! How about a tiny/simple mod that will just bounce back the submission (with all the text intact) if one posts it w/o entering date in any of the ID fields?

  9. “Recycling is easy. Here they charge me for my garbage and have made all recycling free.”

    Lack of self awareness in lefties is amusing. There is no understanding that “free” means paid for by taxes. Environmentalism is clearly a religion. Children are taught about recycling as they were once taught simple catechism. It is a way to make the common person feel as though they are performing “good works” as I was once taught by nuns 70 years ago.

  10. I don’t recycle as it’s against my religion. I find that believers in the religion of environmentalism tend to be highly intolerant of my anti-recycling views and indeed of anyone who expresses skepticism about their religion.

  11. This topic reminds me of one of my high-school history teachers, who was a bit of a character and enjoyed tweaking the sensibilities of new-age types. He wore turtlenecks under his sport coats, and usually a large, silver horn-shaped pendant that looked like it might be the symbol of some kind of spiritual movement but in reality was of an arbitrary shape and signified nothing. He said that sometimes earnest people would ask him what the pendant represented and he would tell them indignantly that they were insulting his religion. This might be a good way to respond to meddlesome enviro believers.


    Enviro Believer: Why don’t you recycle?

    Me: You are insulting my religion.

  12. >>Seriously, how do you not know: recycled glass is basically unsalable

    I didn’t know this. Can you point to some data? I looked, didn’t find any.

  13. Michael,

    Google “why don’t we recycle glass” and you’ll get some links.

    That being said, it looks like the buildup is far smaller than it was for a while, probably thanks to all the places that have decided to exclude glass from their curbside recycling programs. Heh–market forces at work again…

  14. Reading skills people, reading skills.

    I pointed out that it costs to dispose garbage and we charge for it.

    Our recyclers, simple businesses, take recyclables for free and sell the result to companies that can use them. Glass excites you so these guys should not exist:


    It’s simple, pays for it’s self and has minimal government involvement. You guys should love our method.

  15. For sure, if there *really* are no hidden government subsidies than yours is much saner than ours.

  16. >> Google “why don’t we recycle glass” and you’ll get some links.

    OK, thanks. That makes sense.

  17. ***Shopping***
    A key concept of true environmentalism that I picked up many years ago is that of “embedded energy” The bricks used to build your house were started out as clay in a claypit, and some claypits will be either better purer clay that is easier to extract or just will have better equipment, so they produce more tons of clay per unit of fossil-fuel energy than the lesser ones. Then they will be formed and fired, and again some operations will be better than others. Then they will be transported. In fact, this transport, often through many middlemen, is often the biggest user of fossil energy in the whole scheme.
    One of the things that I discovered was that a very robust proxy for embedded energy is the retail price of an item. A good way to reduce the embedded energy is to reduce the number of intermediate warehouses that a product must rest in, and thus the number of stages of transportation needed to get it to the consumer.
    In this way anything that is available at my local Walmart for a lower cost is quite likely to have less embedded energy (and less environmental impact) than even the same item from the same manufacturer purchased from a competitors shop at greater cost.

  18. We are in the midst of a third Great Awakening, witnessing the birth of a new morality. The only comparable transformation is the Christianizing of the Roman Empire.

    Who knows, perhaps in the future our Lightworker will be compared to Constantine.

  19. Douglas2…price is partially a proxy for embedded energy, but it is also a proxy for the labor used in making the product, and the capital equipment employed. (Indeed, it’s interesting that many worshipers at the Church of Environmentalism seem to put no value on human labor: waste of energy BAD, waste of human labor JUST FINE.)

    It also reflects the differential costs of labor and energy in different countries, as well as transportation costs: if you make clothes in China, you will pay probably a little more for electricity used in the process, and a lot more for transportation, than if you made the same product in the US, but you will pay much less for what will probably be a somewhat larger amount of labor.

  20. It’s a bit dated, but John McPhee’s “Encounters with the Archdruid” is still worth reading for those who want some insight on this subject.

Comments are closed.