The Second Tragic Flaw
have realized that the integral Old Order can never be re-established, and many would not want to now if they could. Modernity’s material advantages are too great. Instead they sing the praises of ‘traditional religion’ in today’s world as providing
society’s needed moral ballast.
This religion is the scriptural transcendental monopolistic masculine monotheistic religion that initially generated the cultural crisis conservatives were trying to resolve. This religion was to counteract secular
modernity’s own tendency itself to degenerate into nihilism.
Nihilism is the belief that the universe is meaningless, no values are intrinsically better than any others, and power, by default, is the only reliable arbiter of differences.
In making their case, conservative arguments in favor of religion utilized
modernity’s rational, evidence-based thinking rather than arguments rooted in
mythos, in understanding the meaning IN life, the intrinsic value and meaning of things. They adopted the style of reasoning
that characterized the secular modernity they distrusted, trying to defend against
modernity’s amoral implications by using its strongest tools against it. Bad things happen if a society becomes irreligious,
therefore society should be religious became a major conservative argument for religion.
I want to make a small backtrack for a
couple of paragraphs. to explain why this was an important and disastrous move.
at least with the Enlightenment, growing numbers of political and religious
thinkers adopted modern reason and evidence as their primary means for accessing knowledge. They chose to accept only evidence that could be observed, weighed, and
measured. Inner realities were to
be defended by evidence of the external senses and instrumental reasoning.
This attitude spilled over into
religion reasoning. The Bible was
true and science could supposedly be used in its defense.
This tactic opened defenders of Western religion to serious problems as
science developed. How could
people continue to believe when the evidence and reason both spoke increasingly
strongly against any literal understanding of scripture? Some fell away, other increasingly argued commitment and will could trump reason and evidence.
Thus, the conservative appeal to instrumental reason and empirical
evidence to win a point about the importance pf religion dealing with inner
meaning was endorsing the narrowing of thinking that has undermined traditional
Western religion in so many eyes.
With every slash of the sword of reason and brick of evidence thrown
against their opponents, they cut and bruised themselves, whether they hit
their target or not.
Most people do not
adhere to a religion simply because they think it’s a good idea. They adhere because they think it
accesses some aspect of truth and meaning better than any other approach they
know. Yet this conservative argument was only a pragmatic one. Religion may or may not be true, but
it’s socially advantageous.
However, that argument does not work very well at the personal level.
Try accepting social peace as a reason to believe during a wrenching personal
crisis or when on your death bed.
When religion was freed from mythos
and linked to instrumental reason and empirical evidence, both of which then
undermined scriptural religion, the only path left open within traditional
scriptural monopolistic monotheism was the path of Commitment and Will: I make my commitment, and that’s
that. I rely on my will to
overcome temptation. End of
When conservatism continued to support the central role of traditional
religion after so many believers had made this final fateful move, I think conservatism
opened itself up to becoming its opposite. Commitment and Will trumping reason and evidence are and
always have been the territory of fanatics and utopians. They undermine the respect for established
ways of life and humility before a world we will never understand that had been
traditional hallmarks of conservative thought.
But one more step speeded up this
degeneration in our day, to make what calls itself conservatism a philosophy of
always culturally specific regarding the mores, customs, and habits it defends. Conservatism always reflects its roots. After World War Two Northern
conservatives increasingly embraced their Southern conservative brethren without fully
appreciating that they came from different cultures. Both Northern and Southern
conservatives appeared to dislike ‘big government,’ both emphasized the
importance of scripturally based monopolistic transcendental masculine monotheism, and both had a
strong racist element, but they looked at these issues from very different
perspectives. But the similarities
were more superficial than the differences.
Northern culture had never rejected
the principles underlying our Declaration of Independence, They saw themselves as defending them. However, major Southern leaders, such
as John C. Calhoun and Alexander
Stephens, explicitly did. Southern opposition to national government did not grow from a belief in
local control or that government received its power from delegation by the
people, it grew from a belief that after the Civil War they were a conquered
province, and so could only control things locally. Therefore they wanted Washington to stay out. Given access to Washington’s halls of
power, they had no compunction about centralizing power farther than ever
This explains why
‘conservatives’ in power under Bush rode roughshod over traditional principles
of American government, and now are shrilly exaggerating them once out of
power. It is hypocrisy from an
American perspective, but not from a Southern one. Conservatives regarding
national government when out of power, when given national power Southern
Republican politicians were radicals with regard to the country as a
whole because they did not really share Northern values about constitutional government..
More troubling yet, Dixies’s conservatives honored a culture that had deliberately turned its back
on the Enlightenment, in order to embrace a literalist Biblical religion they
interpreted as justifying slavery. This led to a difference between Southern and Northern Christianity that we see reflected today in the splits within Baptist churches.
As I understand it, both northern and Southern Protestantism accepted the need to commit to Jesus, but the South, especially many Southern Baptists, included a commitment to the inerrancy of scripture. Dixie had been strongly shaped by a belief the Bible was literally true and
that commitment and will trumped evidence and reason on religious issues. Therefore their approach to the Bible
replaced the principles of the American Revolution as the basic myth underlying
Crucially, the demands on commitment and will overriding reason and evidence increase dramatically when a specific interpretation of scripture is added to to a personal commitment to Jesus as your savior.
Devotion to will and commitment trumping reason and evidence in religion spilled over
into politics, undermining any real conservatism they might have had. By identifying itself with the
South, and incorporating Southern leaders into its ranks, American conservatism
was turning itself inside out even more quickly than might otherwise have been
I think that there are
so few real conservatives in today’s “conservative” movement of
radical utopians supports the basic accuracy of my analysis. It is not conservative any more, but
emerged from out of the internal weaknesses and contradictions within
conservatism. And these weaknesses
are often religiously based in their commitment to monopolistic scriptural
monotheism as the only truly acceptable religion for America.
Conservatism contributed to the rise of Western nihilism because first,
it confused an appreciation of why religion is important with the monopolistic
claims of a religion emphasizing only a slice of spiritual reality, excluding
the feminine and the immanent,.
Such an approach could never carry the weight American conservatism
placed on it. Second,
conservatives accepted the Western model of knowledge as solely that which is
based on scientific standards and when that failed to reinforce traditional
religion, fell back on pragmatic arguments for religion’s utility. This led them to supporting those
particularly in the South who argued for the power of Will and Commitment to
overcome doubts raised by evidence and reason. When these people entered the political arena, conservatives
found themselves in close alliance with a politics of Will and Commitment.
think this problem is almost entirely the result of considering religion and
meaning in terms of a transcendental God removed from the world. When the Sacred is immanent, these
problems wither away except for the fact that people intoxicated by power will
still act in hideous ways. A conservatism that embraced a rich and diverse spiritual reality, one both Immanent and Transcendent, with the Sacred Feminine as equally important to the Sacred Masculine, would ironically be in a far better position to make its case against secular modernity.
soon post an analysis of liberalism and how it also changes its appearance when
viewed from a Pagan perspective that recognizes Sacred Immanence and