the social function of the church

Churches in the modern world are irrelevant. They’re just social clubs. They perform no useful social function. They exist in order to provide a warm fuzzy feeling of self-righteousness and niceness. 
This might seem paradoxical since churches today appear to be obsessively concerned with their social rôle. This is an illusion. They are serving the liberal agenda, not a Christian agenda. They are merely acting as another propaganda arm of the state. They are serving the state and the corporate interests that control our society. They do not promote Christian values. They promote the values that the state and the corporate interests wish to impose on us. They have abdicated their actual social rôle.
Churches are not guided by scripture or by their own teachings. They are guided by opinion polls and by the media. They have become political entities (it’s a major feature of our society that every aspect of life is politicised). The churches do not lead. They follow. They follow the power and the money. 
They decided back in the mid-20th century that they needed to become more relevant. In fact they’ve become entirely irrelevant. They’re not much more than a branch of the entertainment industry. They sell good feelings.
The churches have abandoned actual religion and they have abdicated their function of providing a moral framework by which to live. They promote whatever values happen to be popular, which are of course the values of the state and corporate interests.
Christianity has become a purely personal thing. The churches have forgotten that they have a rôle to play in promoting an actual Christian society. If a religion does not provide a moral framework by which to live then it’s difficult to see what purpose it does serve, other than making people feel smug and self-righteous.

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There are still Christians who desire to follow Christianity as an actual religion but there is no place for such people within modern institutional Christianity.

the myth of moderate feminism

Some interesting feminism-related stuff on the web at the moment. Much of it concerns Jeanette Kupferman, a radical feminist in the 1960s and now a woman in her 70s. She’s now a grandmother and wondering if the world feminism has created is really going to be good for her granddaughter. 
Her doubts on this subject prompted these questions at The Knight and Drummer – Can a feminist be redeemed? Can a feminist  eventually turn out to be a good woman after all?
Reading what Kupferman has to say, I think we can answer those questions in the negative. 
The story has also been noted at Oz Conservative where it’s been pointed out that Kupferman still clings tenaciously to her core liberal and feminist beliefs. 
A feminist cannot be redeemed unless she is prepared to abandon feminism in its entirety. The truth is that there is no such thing as a moderate feminist, or a reasonable moderate feminist. Feminism is based on a fundamentally mistaken view of human nature. It’s wrong right from the get-go. There’s no way to do what Kupferman would like to do, to salvage the good bits of feminism. What she sees as the good bits are actually the very things that make it an unworkable and catastrophic ideology.
Also of interest in this context is this piece by Roosh V, Why The Female “Anti-Feminist” Is A Feminist In Disguise, in which he warns that women who claim to be anti-feminist should not be taken at face value.
I also read Dalrock’s blog fairly regularly. The comments are interesting as they provide a window into what really goes on inside mainstream American Protestant churches. The extent of the surrender to feminism is terrifying. The churches have made the classic mistake – they have assumed that with feminists they’re dealing with reasonable people. They have deluded themselves into thinking that there can be such a thing as a Christian feminist. It’s nonsense. You cannot be a Christian and a feminist. It simply isn’t possible. Women who claim to be Christian feminists are certainly feminists but they aren’t Christians.

Moderate feminists, like moderate liberals, are extremely dangerous because they can easily fool naïve conservatives into believing that feminists are capable of being reasoned with.
So can a feminist be redeemed? Yes, if she is prepared to admit that feminism is thoroughly and completely wrong from start to finish and if she is prepared to reject feminism totally and completely. Very very few feminists will do this. 
Can a feminist  eventually turn out to be a good woman after all? No, not so long as she clings to any part of the feminist ideology.

women, Christianity, superstition and heresy

The latest post at Oz Conservative, Male dominion, magical women, is extremely interesting and there have been a couple of interesting comments as well. It’s one of those posts that makes you think about an issue in an entirely new way.
There’s firstly the issue of whether women who conform to the traditional Christian virtues deserve to be considered to be “the crowning achievement of divine creation,” something that Mark quite rightly has some doubts about. He also mentions the extraordinary female attachment to bizarre beliefs in things like the Tarot and various forms of fortune telling. These are things that 99 percent of men would regard as laughable and nonsensical superstitions but a frightening number of women believe in such superstitions. What is really worrying is that extremely intelligent women are still quite capable of believing in stuff like astrology.
It’s another example of the profound difference between male intelligence and female intelligence. Men have the ability, to a large degree, to separate belief from emotion. Men tend to believe in objective truth, and they believe in weighing up evidence. Women believe in emotional truth. If it feels true then it is true. Of course this is a generalisation. But generalisations can be very useful things as long as you remember that they are generalisations and I think that this particular generalisation is both useful and mostly accurate. Certainly my own experience of women suggests that women do not perceive truth the way men do. 
I’m not suggesting that women are dishonest in this regard. It’s just the way they’re wired. They find it exceptionally difficult to make non-emotional judgments. Of course if society was still organised on the basis of traditional sex roles this would not matter, since in their proper domestic sphere emotional intelligence is a major asset. It becomes a problem when women take on roles for which they are unsuited, such as political leadership, where their emotional intelligence is almost certainly going to lead to disaster.
A commenter named Bruce added something that had never occurred to me before but which may well be very very important. He said that 

“…Christian women, at least the ones I know, are far more likely to claim that their decisions are based on direct conversations they have with God. They tell me that they literally speak to God and he speaks back – either in the form of “whispers” or direct conversation that they literally hear. I almost never hear Christian men claim this sort of thing.”

I think that this may explain a great deal about the current disastrous state of Christianity in the West. It seems quite possible that the female experience of religion is entirely and radically different from the male experience. For women religion may well be purely an emotional thing. That could be why women seem to be unworried by the widespread acceptance of heresy by Christian churches – women simply don’t care about theology or doctrine at all. Men will often choose a religion, or reject one, because there is a key point of doctrine that they simply cannot accept. It seems likely that for women what matters is whether a particular religion or a particular denomination seems to them to be emotionally true. Which means that as long as they get the emotional buzz they’ll accept any heresy.
This is certainly a very powerful reason to oppose the ordination of women and to oppose vigorously the appointment of women to any position of authority within the Church. Women are unlikely to oppose heresies or abominations like homosexual marriage because it simply doesn’t matter to them if such things are explicitly forbidden by scripture or by the historical teachings of the church. What matters are feelings.
A church dominated by women is inevitably going to drift towards heresy and doctrinal incoherence but it’s also going to drift towards New Age-y wallowing in superstitious wishful thinking or equally dangerous fatalism. Christianity cannot survive in any meaningful form unless men take back their proper leadership role. With women in charge Christianity is likely to do much more harm than good.

stability or progress

I’ve just been reading one of Robert Van Gulik’s Judge Dee mysteries. Why is this relevant? I’ll explain in a moment. Van Gulik was a Dutch diplomat who wrote a series of detective novels describing the cases confronting a magistrate in China during the Tang Dynasty (7th century AD).
What’s interesting is that Van Gulik’s knowledge of Chinese history, culture and jurisprudence was profound. And in his stories there is not the faintest hint of the cult of progress. He describes a society that valued stability and order to an extreme degree. This reflects the view that historians have always taken about Imperial China, although western historians have mostly seen this as a weakness. The Chinese developed a very advanced civilisation and then stopped. No further progress was considered to be necessary and in fact further progress would lead to instability and was therefore a bad thing.
While it might be an over-simplistic view of Chinese civilisation there’s undoubtedly a lot of truth in this view of a society committed to preserving what it already had rather than pursuing the phantom of progress. 
Looking at the world today it’s easy to believe that the Chinese had the right idea. This is especially so when you consider the misery and chaos that followed the overthrow of the last Imperial government in the early part of the 20th century.
The cult of progress is always tied up with utopianism. If we just keep progressing then sooner or later we’ll have a perfect society composed of perfect people leading amazingly happy and fulfilling lives. This is the philosophical view that started to emerge in Europe in the 16th century and it has taken a firmer and firmer hold with every year that has passed since then. By the beginning of the 20th century it was the one unchallenged dogma of our civilisation. Imperial China was dominated by Confucian thought and Confucian thought most certainly did not see things in this light. Medieval Europe was dominated by Christianity and medieval Christianity did not see things that way either. 
The point is that it is possible to have a fully functional and quite advanced civilisation based on the cult of stability rather than the cult of progress. 
The cult of progress is, by it very nature, destructive. To build a new society we must first destroy the old one. Everything that has happened has been an inevitable consequence of this. Whenever utopia fails to materialise it just means that more destruction is needed.
Should we abandon the idea of progress altogether? Surely the cult of progress has brought us many benefits? There is a genuine dilemma here. The answer is perhaps that the cult of progress needs to be balanced by an equally strong force advocating stability and order. Perhaps if progress could be slowed and controlled it might not be so socially destructive? It’s possible, but progress has a way of continually getting out of control.
Perhaps we need to ask ourselves exactly what kind of progress is actually useful? Technological progress has on the whole been pretty useful. Social progress on the other hand has brought us to the brink of ruin. We might need to accept the harsh reality that there is no such thing as social progress. We probably should ask ourselves also exactly what kind of scientific and technological progress we need. Do we need ever more advanced weaponry? Do we need faster and faster personal computers? Do we need smarter and smarter smartphones?
One conclusion that logically follows from this is likely to be unpalatable to many people who consider themselves to be right-wing. Taking control of progress would require a very strong government. Almost certainly not a democratic one. Imperial China survived for millennia because mostly it had a strong government. It also survived because those who ran the government, the countless bureaucrats that characterised Chinese government, were educated to believe in stability and order and the tenets of Confucianism. It seems to follow inexorably from this that rigid control of education is necessary for the preservation of civilisation and that dangerous and destructive ideas need to be suppressed. Perhaps that is the price that has to be paid if you want a successful stable culture.

the trouble with paganism

I’ve been reading Dan McCoy’s The Love of Destiny: The Sacred and the Profane in Germanic Polytheism which I guess could be described as an exercise in neo-pagan apologetics.

The problem of religion is one that has been exercising my mind for quite some time. I’m fairly clear about the natures of the problem. I don’t think atheism is healthy for society and I don’t think it’s healthy for the individual. What I’m not clear about is the solution to the problem.
It’s a problem that many (possibly even most) people in the dissident right, alt-right or whatever you want to use as an umbrella term for such groups are aware of. The two most popular solutions are a revived Christianity or some form of neo-paganism. It’s the neo-pagan solution I’m concerned with at the moment.
I understand the attraction of the neo-pagan solution. Christianity hasn’t done much of a job of defending our civilisation in the past century or so and neo-paganism has the advantage of offering a distinctively European alternative. Blood and soil and all that.
I have however always had reservations about neo-paganism. This is a short summary of my reservations (and as you’ll see they’re all pretty much related). 
Firstly, any kind of polytheistic religion by its very nature will tend towards fragmentation. There was a time when the whole of Europe was pagan but it was certainly not a golden age of religious unity. At the time that wasn’t a major problem but what we need today is unity.
Secondly, neo-paganism has always been short on doctrine. Certainly very short on anything approaching a unified doctrine. Within incredibly broad limits you can more or less choose your own beliefs. Every man can in effect have his own private religion. The difficulty with that is that it must inevitably lead to the kind of atomisation and sense of alienation which are the very things that make liberalism so deadly. One of the functions of religion is to bring people together, not to divide them.
Thirdly, there’s no standardised neo-pagan morality. Each cult can adopt its own morality and in practice every individual can adopt his or her own moral standards. Obviously that’s a recipe for social chaos.
Fourthly, neo-paganism can very easily become just a vague woolly New Age spirituality. Even worse, it can become a sort of glorified pantheism. And pantheism is itself a sort of glorified atheism.
Fifthly, not only is neo-paganism not conducive to social discipline it’s also not conducive to self-discipline. It’s an open door to every kind of self-indulgence – moral, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.
McCoy is aware of these weaknesses but unfortunately he considers them to be features, not bugs. This is one of the many disturbing things about this book.
McCoy starts out in his introduction by assuring us that he has no animus against the monotheistic religions. We then move on to the first half of the book which is a sustained, hysterical, intellectually incoherent attack on what he considers to be the many evils of the three great monotheistic religions. Interestingly enough for McCoy the three great monotheistic religions are Judaism, Christianity and Science. His main beef with these religions seems to be that they’re anti-Nature and moralistic. For McCoy Nature is all good and morality is all bad. Because we’re all part of Nature, man, and it’s all good because, well, it’s just all good because it is. Morality of course is bad ’cause it’s oppressive, man. This is pretty much the hippie worldview.
The second half of this brief volume is marginally more interesting, giving us a brief rundown on Norse mythology and the Northern European pagan worldview. The problem here is that, to me at least, that worldview sounds impossibly bleak, fatalistic and depressing. Submitting to fate seems to be the essence of it. 
Of course it would be unfair to dismiss neo-paganism out of hand based on this one book. Nonetheless this book does confirm every one of my worst fears on the weaknesses of neo-paganism and the unlikelihood that it is going to be of much use in saving our civilisation. Mind you I suspect that the author would not be bothered by this, since civilisation is oppressive, man.

Hilaire Belloc’s Elizabethan Commentary

I spoke in a recent post about foundational myths. Intriguingly the foundational myth of Protestant England is centred not on Henry VIII but on his daughter. Elizabeth I, or Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, is Protestant England’s Joan of Arc.

Hilaire Belloc’s Elizabethan Commentary, published in 1942 (and issued in the US as Elizabeth, Creature of Circumstance), is an entertaining hatchet job on this myth. Belloc believed, absolutely correctly, that the Reformation was the key event in European history and he retuned to it again and again. As a result some of the ground covered in this book is also covered in his other books on the subject.
Belloc approaches his task with his usual combative zeal and it follows his usual idiosyncratic approach to history. He has no interest in a connected narrative, or in any narrative at all. That does not mean this is social history in the generally understood sense of the term although there are elements of this. When writing about the past Belloc’s main aim is to capture the spirit of the age with which he is dealing and he does so far more successfully than most modern historians.
As in his other books he stresses the importance of the rising power of the moneyed class and the greed of that class. The Reformation saw the seizure of the abbey lands in England and this despoiling of the Church was on a breath-taking scale. As much as a third of the wealth of the country was involved. Had this wealth remained in the hands of the Crown the English Crown could have been the richest in Europe and subsequent disasters like the Civil War would have been averted. England might have remained a monarchy until the present day. Unfortunately the hapless Tudors allowed all of this wealth to slip through their fingers to enrich the already wealthy. More importantly this represented a fatal shift of power from the Crown to the moneyed class.
In some ways the highlights of the book are Belloc’s many digressions. He has some interesting things to say on the nature of monarchy. 
There’s also a fascinating chapter on torture. This was a fairly uncommon practice prior to the 16th century, became extremely common during that century and then fairly quickly disappeared from the English scene. Belloc stresses that the purpose of torture was not punishment but to extract information. It was widely used in the 16th century because there were so many plots and the government therefore had a very strong incentive to extract information from suspects possibly involved in such plots. In other words governments are inclined to use torture when their own power is threatened. The history of the past hundred years would appear to confirm this, with governments being very willing to use extreme methods to protect their own power.
He makes the further point, often overlooked, that to the 16th century mind it was almost unthinkable to execute a man unless he confessed. Without modern forensic science, and (another very intriguing point) without modern legal cross-examination procedures, it was difficult to establish guilt. The most effective way was to torture a man until he confessed. Torture was considered to be morally preferable to running the risk of executing an innocent man. It’s another example of Belloc’s thesis that you can’t hope to understand history unless you accept that the past really is a foreign country and they really do do things differently there.
Belloc makes no apologies for presenting a Catholic view of English history, as a counter-balance to hundreds of years of anti-Catholic propaganda. In this instance there’s also the need to present some kind of alternative to the myth of Elizabeth I as the great queen, a myth that remained unchallenged in England for centuries. It’s a task that he approaches with relish.

Foundational Myths and the Cult of Science

Every society has its Foundational Myths. I’m not talking about myths in the sense of mythology – gods and monsters and superhuman heroes and such things. I’m talking about the quasi-historical myths that define a society’s sense of itself.
For the Greeks it was the Trojan War. For the Romans it was Romulus and Remus and the founding of the city but the Romans elaborated their Foundational Myth by extending Roman history back to the exploits of the Trojan prince Aeneas after the fall of Troy. For French republicans it’s the Revolution. For Americans it’s the Founding Fathers and the Revolutionary War.
For modern secularists the Foundational Myth is the Rise of Science. Until around the 17th century there was an age of ignorance and superstition then along came Science! and everything was light. Science! ushered in a blessed age of reason and enlightenment.
Foundational Myths can be entirely mythical, or they can be semi-mythical or even mostly historical. The Trojan War might well have happened although the actual events were probably much more small-scale and much more tawdry than the version promoted by the Greek poets.
The Rise of Science is at least partly historical. There has been a great deal of scientific progress in the past 500 years. The benefits are more questionable.
A Foundational Myth should be inspiring. It should give people a sense of cultural identity but more than that it should give a society some sense of purpose or destiny.
Has the Rise of Science done that? In some ways, perhaps. Although it’s worth pointing out that a great deal of human progress in modern times has owed more to practical engineers than to scientists. The engineers who were responsible for providing Europeans cities with sewerage and clean water contributed more to human happiness and prosperity than any scientists.
The problem with Science! is that it has given us a worldview that is bleak and nihilistic. The followers of the Cult of Science! have rarely taken this into account. Did the acceptance of the heliocentric view of the solar system actually make the world a better place? Did the acceptance of the Darwin-Wallace theory of evolution by natural selection make us happier? Was there great popular rejoicing when the Big Bang Theory displaced the Steady State Theory of the universe? These things made liberal secularists happier because they provided them with ammunition with which to pursue their war on Christianity. Did it make society as a whole better? Are we better off now that we generally believe that the universe is entirely without purpose and meaning and that our ancestors were ape-like creatures?
Of course Science! may well be right much of the time. Nobody today disputes the heliocentric view of the solar system. The question is not whether the scientific view is often correct, it is whether that view of the world has actually represented genuine progress. Progress is after all always a good thing, or so we’re told. But what if the scientific worldview has actually left us without any purpose or meaning in our own lives?
There’s also another very great danger to the cult of Science! Even the craziest ideas can gain credence if they can be labeled as scientific. Marx claimed that his wacky and misguided theories had to be correct because they were scientific. Freud’s even nuttier ideas were sold as science. In the 20th century we were even told there was such a thing as social science, an oxymoron if ever there was one. Straight-out political propaganda can be promoted as science – the global warming hysteria being a fine example.
Rather than eliminating superstition the Cult of Science! has provided us with a whole grab-bag of new superstitions. Rather than ushering in an age of reason what we actually ended up with was a mixture of emptiness, despair and superstition. Some Foundational Myths seem to work better than others.