Friday, January 29, 2010

Religion is Destroying America

America's transformation into a welfare-warfare state in the 20th century is a well-known phenomenon. Much less well-known, and perhaps even more profound, is the gigantic change that took place from roughly the mid-19th century through the early 20th century.

By the middle of the 19th century, the U.S. was probably closer to a libertarian society than mankind had ever got before or has ever been since then, perhaps with the infamous exception of slavery in the South (which is, by the way, characteristic of societies where the boundary between a slave and a freeman is very clear, as opposed to a lack of distinct boundaries in many despotic societies). The education and healthcare systems were largely private, taxes and government spending accounted for less than 10% of GDP, specie-backed bank notes were issued by many privately-owned banks, gun possession was not restricted in any way whatsoever, infrastructure was mostly privately-financed. There were few vice laws. There was neither pre-publication nor post-publication censorship, even for pornography (for comparison, pre-publication censorship, which is the most severe type, existed in most of Europe, while France still retained post-publication censorship, with the only notable exception being the U.K.).

Government was by and large limited to its proper functions - law enforcement and defense. Freedom seemed to reign supreme: free speech, free thought, free banking, free trade and free markets.  

But no sooner did humanity reach the highest point in its development than its fall into the abyss began. From the 1840s on, a tremendous change took place.

The government started financing infrastructure, an embryo of the welfare state emerged as workers' compensation laws and so-called mothers' pensions were enacted, coercive labor legislation was passed, the regulation of utilities and railroads began, the government began subsidizing farmers, customs tariffs were drastically increased, and antitrust laws were passed. Progressive income taxes were introduced by some states since the mid-19th century and by the federal government in 1913. Government control over the monetary system was gradually introduced. In the mid-19th century, the government authorized a system of decentralized quasi-central banking known as "national banks". In 1913 the Federal Reserve was established.

Moreover, immigration was restricted, and gun control came into vogue. Censorship was resurrected first during the Civil War and then during the World War I. Slaves who became free for a brief moment soon became crushed again by compulsory segregation laws. Forced sterilization laws were passed to promote eugenics agenda.

The abomination of public schools spread throughout the United States and more and more states made education compulsory. Government control over education was also increased when the land-grant college system was introduced.

Prostitution and pornography became illegal, drug bans were imposed, prohibition of alcoholic drinks was initiated first by states and then by the federal government, and abortion was banned. At the same time, more and more sexual activities became covered by the absurd sodomy laws.

The paragraph above is evidence for what actually stood behind the statist drive. These restrictions are clearly religiously motivated.

To understand what was going on, one needs to research the cultural atmosphere of that era. The pro-reason Enlightenment had ended long ago, and the Counter-Enlightenment held sway. After being relegated to the periphery in the 18th century, religious mysticism again raised its ugly head.

After the "indecent" and life-affirming Enlightenment era, a revival of 17th-century Puritanism came to the fore in the Victorian era. It's worth mentioning that the word "leg" was deemed improper and it was quite common for a Victorian-era girl to be ashamed of her own body in the bathroom, as contemporary literature suggests.

Enlightenment deism was being forgotten as faith peddlers sold their Third Great Awakening. The progressive movement's agenda was religious through and through, with State and God bullying the believer-citizen into submission and crushing the infidel-enemy of the state under feet.

Religious sentiments and the birth of the modern left were so closely intertwined then that sometimes they are hard to separate. For starters, Marx started off as a Christian communist and a Hegelian and only later became an atheist and materialist (changing his beliefs in name only but not in essence). Dickensesque hysteria over "slums" and "lower classes", calls for spurious "social reform" and false and hypocritical concern for "fallen women" (which led to bans on prostitution) were shared by atheist leftists and Christian social gospel peddlers ("Christian democracy", "Christian socialism", "Catholic social teaching" and that kind of thing). The modern welfare state itself is no more than an outgrowth of Christian almsgiving and tithe-financed poor relief.

At the root of both ideologies is an archaic, uncivilized mentality, aversion to a free, capitalist society where no authorities, religious or secular, prevent the individual from realizing his unlimited potential. Both Christianity and socialism preach a static society based on blind obedience to the will of God or State. Both involve victimizing the poor, the usual target group of all populist tyrants, pandering to their lowly instincts and turning them into a subservient clientele always eager to kill the rich or the "ungodly."

By the early 20th century, however, religious hysteria was wearing thin, while socialism - i.e. a quasi-religion with a false modern façade - was gaining momentum. Now it seems that the reverse is happening, when primitive and barbarous fundamentalism (Christian and Muslim) and environmentalism, which is sloughing the modernist façade characteristic of Marxism, are coming to the fore. If old-style socialism was medieval hogwash wrapped in Enlightenment clothing (that is, allegedly pro-industry and pro-progress), environmentalism is the next step in the process of destroying not only the essence but the symbolism of the Enlightenment. While Marxism still claimed to appeal to rational values, envirofascism no longer does. Quite logically, going back to the primitive superstition of the Dark Ages - i.e. religion - is the next and final step towards the death of civilization.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you that religion is a problem in the usa. But since religion has been around for > 3000 yrs, how is it an explanation in and of itself for the usa switching from what you describe relatively accurately as a libertarian like society to a society which has a greater socialistic nature? it is a known fact in the world of data mining that focusing on the exact correlations usually do not give much insight into what answers you are actually seeking; if I am trying to understand why hamburgers are the most popular drive through item, focusing on whether one drives a minivan or not will not be a very credible explanation, although the correlation might be close to 1!

Reasonsjester said...

Or we can use the ice cream as an explanation for drowning analogy (or murder, alternatively), since both happen more often in the summer months. But ReaganX here points out one of the "Great Awakenings"; all of these spiritual revivals did have an immense effect on mass culture and politics in the U.S..

Reaganx said...

Anonymous, correlation as such, of course, does not prove causation - cum hoc non est propter hoc. To understand historical events, one needs to understand the fundamental facts of human nature and – more generally – of reality. One of them is that libertarianism (in the proper sense) is an extremely complex and profound set of ideas based on facts of reality 1) reason is man’s basic means of survival 2) in so far as coercion is initiated against a human being, the functioning of reason is impeded or even stopped 3) therefore in so far as coercion is used, man’s survival is thwarted.
Religion is based on faith, which is the opposite of reason. Therefore 1) a profoundly religious person is not interested in cognizing reality by using his reason and his basic assumptions are the opposite of those on which libertarianism is founded 2) a profoundly religious person is not interested in terminating restrictions on rational thinking. Therefore we find that the correlation between religious fanaticism and tyranny is not a coincedence. The correlation itself does not prove anything, the nature of religion does.
Socialism, on the other hand, claims to be an ideology of reason on the face of it, but upon closer scrutiny, it turns out to be an irrational faith claiming to be rational.

James said...

The "you're all going to hell" Baptist church in town has had this on its sign for a while:

"Pride is the deification of self."

I couldn't agree more, in a sense, but on the other hand the message that it sends to the god-fearing men and women who subscribe to that church's teachings is that if you work hard and reap the reward, you're wrong. You should work hard and give away the reward, which will bring you closer to god.

Aside from emphasizing one of the base arguments of all Christian sects (that you are guilty of original sin and must accept that you are a grotesque and corrupt creature, therefore you must do as we say to overcome this) it's clearly altruism and likewise a gateway to socialism.

How long will it be before the Christian Right accepts what it really stands for and becomes the Christian Left?

The "tea party" movement is disconnected with the teachings Christian churches in a number of ways.

I'd love to see the conservatives in America split into the fundie Christian folks and the tea party folks.

Likewise, I'd love to see the libtards split into the folks that want a handout, and the folks that want personal liberties.

Maybe a libertarian vs Christian communist political landscape awaits? I can dream, can't I?

Reasonsjester said...

A very interesting question, James: "How long will it be before the Christian Right accepts what it really stands for and becomes the Christian Left?"

That would be great if old school social liberals and fiscal conservatives united under the banner of libertarianism, while philosophically sound libertarians (?) like ReaganX enlightened them with the fundamental tenets of the ideology.

Reasonsjester said...

I was just reading Bukharin and Preobrazhensky's "The ABCs of Communism" and was struck by the dedication:

"We dedicate it to the Party which commands an army of a million men, dwells in the trenches, administers a vast realm, carts wood on Communist Saturdays, makes ready for the resurrection day of mankind."

The cross-pollination of Christianity and Marxism is kind of blatant, huh?

And on a more conspiratorial note, isn't it freaky how "Communist Saturdays" follow "Thank God It's Fridays"?