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Martin Luther opened pandora’s box

In the Second Foundation Trilogy, written by Greg Bear, David Brin, and Gregory Benford, we are told that Hari Seldon was one of the few individuals who was never infected with a particular virus endemic on his home planet. R. Daneel Olivaw had designed this virus to produce a fever. A major consequence of getting sick with this fever is that it made humans duller and less intelligent. This explains Seldon’s comparative brilliance. But why would the immortal robot want to do this? Olivaw had shepherded many planetary civilizations, and after a period of efflorescence and creativity, they would collapse in chaos. In contrast, less creative and duller humans could maintain themselves.

A similar conceit is at the heart of David Wingrove’s Chung Kuo future history. You find out that the enlightened despots who rule this earth consciously dampen technological innovation because they fear its social consequences. “Chung Kuo” maintains its stability through this process.

This was what came to mind when I read Brad Gregory’s Rebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts That Continue to Shape Our World. The author has a big thesis, that the Reformation is critical to understanding and explaining the modern world. That seems broadly correct, but the “Reformation” means so many things at an important place and time that it’s almost trivially true.

Gregory recounts what we know about Martin Luther, and how it influences his role in the religious revolution he spearheaded. Luther seems to have been a neurotic, very intelligent, and very stubborn, man. He was a professor, and when he began to push into heretical territory, he refused to conform despite the censure of his colleagues. No doubt many of these fellow professors would be swept along by the Reformation in due course, but they lacked the courage and conviction of someone like Luther. They were followers. He was not.

But, I do have to say that I believe Luther’s role was contingent. He was the spark, but another would have come eventually or may have come earlier. Huldrych Zwingli, for example, was only a few years behind Luther in his thought. The issues that Luther perceived in the Western Christian Church had existed for centuries. John Wycliffe and Jan Hus lived too early.

Though there were many aspects of the time and place that allowed the Reformation to explode in the 16th century in Western Europe, I believe that the ubiquity of the printing press was critical. This early information technology made it far more difficult for cultural elites to manage the flow and distribution of ideas.* In particular, culture elites in power that wished to maintain their power.

Imagined Communities is an overrated book, but it does a good job highlighting the role of information in shaping identities in early modernity. The printing press enabled the reproduction of ideas faster than authorities could crush and contain them. Even if most people were not literate, for various reasons most people knew someone who was literate. And, the press reproduced books so fast and cheaply that programs of mass literacy were finally implementable in much of Europe. In Northern Europe Luther’s emphasis on vernacular Bible reading resulted in much higher literacy quite rapidly in concert with the technological change.

Gregory argues that the Reformation began the long road down the path that led to liberal individualist democratic republicanism and secularism. Some have argued that Calvinism in particular disenchanted he world, and helped drive religion into the private domain, but Rebel in the Ranks points to the example of the Dutch Republic in the 17th century specifically, which introduced the idea of a pluralist society focused on material gains. The fixation on material gains, innovation, and eventually science, unleashed the productivity and cultural efflorescence we see all around us. Consumerism, secularism, and liberalism.

I believe that the likelihood that the West would “break-out” has deeper roots than Martin Luthern and the Reformation. But, the Reformation was an essential proximate mechanism that uncorked the bottle. Everything after follows.

Demotic societies driven by the masses are protean and change rapidly. Elites have less and less control over the tiger they’re riding. The bottom-up process is such that even those who drive it, the participants, don’t see the direction in which they drive. Rebel in the Ranks is about the past influence the present, but it’s hard for me not to think about how the present is going to influence the future.

* Protestantism was more likely to succeed the more printing presses a region had

25 thoughts on “Martin Luther opened pandora’s box

  1. I don’t think Luther is exchangeable and I don’t think that all kinds of Protestantism are the same. While Lutheran culture was a “modern state builder”, Calvinism was more like a “society transformer” and far more inclined to erode some of the pillars of the occidental culture as they existed before. It was more radical in its approach and far too materialistic in its practise. Predeterminism was used, on the long run, to justify “unjust and exploitative” Capitalism, like the stance of the Swiss confession on usury being abused too, as well as the forming of “wild religious” sects with absurd ideas and uneducated preachers on top. I might just refer to the “awakenings” first in Britain, then on a regular basis, an even much more chaotic and corrupt fashion, in the United States, leading, in the end, to some of the least useful, and most harmful, Christian movements since early Christianity.
    This, I want to stress, has little to nothing to do with Lutherans. This was because of Luthers work and ideas, as well as the fact that he allied up with the German sovereigns, whereas Calvinism was much more of a bourgeois movement probably. But its also really the ideas of people like Calvin and Zwingli which were not the same.
    Now Calvinism developed not everywhere the same way, and the closer to Lutherans, the better, but especially in England the role it played, as a source of rebellious religious movements, I see quite negatively.

    It took away a lot of the communitarian and state building qualities the Western church had (probably the only good thing of Christianiy as a whole?) and Luther didn’t ruin it, but strengthen these qualites. The destruction did others. But right, he, in a way opened the box (first).
    Both the Anglican church and Lutherans were much more “classic European” in their approach, less radical and destructive overall.

    Modern Capitalism without restraints was born out of Calvinism and Judaism, not Catholicism, not Orthodoxy, not even Lutheranism. The latter all had the moral standards and approach that “everyone should have his living” and making profit, especially by tricking customers and business partners, is immoral and not simply “business-minded” behaviour, even if the laws are not clear in banning it. If you think you are chosen and god knows “his people”, the righteous not only get into heaven, but they also “do better on earth”, by being both pious, industrious and enterprising minds, so you can blame those which got tricked for their “stupidity”, even if they just trusted in your righteousness, you create an environment of unprecedented individual competition and egoism.
    This can be, to some degree, productive, especially if its about tearing down the Medieval restrictions to trade and commerce, but you also have to question how far a state, a culture, has to go to achieve the positive effects and when its better to stop, for not going to far and eroding society as a whole.

    The Anglo-Calvinists really went too far on this, the Lutherans in general did not. And while I won’t say everything was down to Luther himself, he too made a difference, but also the fact that the German and Scandinavian Sovereigns got in charge of the new Lutheran churches, building up a hierarchical structure, an educational system, moral standards and an even more efficient state.

    On the contrary, the Anglo-Calvinist sects undermined the European moral, communitarian and state qualities on the longer run, some more, some less, but all in comparison to the other Christian denominations.
    I’m always amazed by the sheer stupidity and lack of education in a lot of the American Anglo-Calvinist sects. People can be popular preachers which would fail and never succeed in completing the education for a Catholic or Lutheran priest or pastor respectively. You listen to them and they only have “charismatic” qualities for simple minded people, but they lack any real substance, at all. If these are “the intellectual leaders”, what are the standards of “the followers”?

    The “fun fact” is that the Lutheran churches were always superiour to the American protestantism, especially in this respect, as long as the states they worked in were ok too. But after the 2nd world war, they became infected by Cultural Marxism more than almost any other institution than the universities. So today Lutherans are at the forefront, in some respects, of Liberal and even outright Cultural Marxist propaganda. Sweden might serve as the perfect example of what went wrong. That’s the price of being dependent from the state and its authority. Its a natural symbiosis, it works well, but if the state fails, the religious institutions will too.
    On the other hand, the American Christian sects are so individualised, often corrupt and uneducated, that I don’t see any “leadership” qualities or sufficient rationality.
    Which is, in my opinion, one of the main reasons why evangelicals will fail for good, unless they revert back to what Lutherans were before WW2, more educated and rational, with a more scientific mind, yet communitarian and state oriented, what they probably can’t be without a state and authority which is likeminded. So they are caught in their lower standards until replacement, most likely.

  2. wouldn’t a shift from a more centralized religion, more enmeshed in global economy and politics, to a patchwork of decentralized but equally autocratic splinter religious communities, tend to impede the progress of economy, technology and knowledge? A religion may not conjure up an image of progress, but a sect has even worse connotations.

    The post-Lutheran grand religious reforms in the Europe’s East (the Nikonian Schism, the Sabbatean and Chassidic reformations of Judaism) all had a very strong anti-innovation, anti-material knowledge flavors. Calvinism is credited as the cradle of precision mechanics technologies not BECAUSE it favored innovation but because it outlawed the traditional crafts of jewelers, and some of those industrious burghers sought a replacement income. IMVHO most post-Reformation progress was likewise rooted in the pre-existing technological and social base, and wasn’t at all helped by the new leaders and their doctrines (but sometimes took advantage of the destruction of the Reformation wars, exiles and prohibitions). The East lacked this base and their reformations only sank it deeper into backwardness.

  3. @Dx: You have to look at this from another perspective, namely the fact that the Catholic church is, and especially was before the Reformation, since it improved again with counter-reformation, a corrupted, inefficient, decadent, in part highly detrimental moloch which kept especially the German countries down.

    One of the first things all the protestant rulers did, was to take away the wealth from the Catholic institutions, it was actually stuck there, and use it for themselves or more efficient purposes, especially the monasteries and foundations. You have to consider that at first, when the civilisation was ruined by Christianity and Barbarian invasions first, the monasteries were centres of progress and economic growth. But at the time of the reformation, they became more of a burden than an asset, with rampant corruption and of course the taxes people had to pay for the church and not even just for the regional church, but the Pope and papal institutions in Rome. This was taking away wealth, money and flexibility from the regions of transalpine Europe, making it flow to the South.

    Also consider the highly detrimental effects of celibacy and again monasteries on the people, on the culture and population. I know from families, even just two generations ago, in which two of its only sons, its brilliant sons, became priests and one sister went to a monastery. I mean was is this? The pious mother was proud, but the family was DEAD! That is as bad as if they would become career-consumer-hedonist-homosexual or whatever oriented people without family and children.

    Whereas from the Lutheran pastor’s families some of the greatest Germans of all times came up, in science, in the military, in politics and new theologists too of course. There were priest’s children, especially in pre-counter-reformation Catholic countries, but the fathers couldn’t take care of them, usually, as they should have. It was not the same spirit and ethos like the fairly rational, even scientific minded pastor’s families, usually with a good man and woman, idealistic and intelligent, coming together, which would have ended up in Catholic zones in celibacy and monasteries probably.
    Take Luther as an example.
    Or where do you think the Jewish people and their intelligence would have been, without Rabbi’s children? That’s in the centre of all of what they are about, the highly educated, religious and intelligent priests and their helpers getting not just children, but MORE CHILDREN than the average even. That’s positive selection, whereas Catholicism created negative selection.

    Also, the Catholic church always interfered with the sovereigns, especially North of the Alps, the investiture conflict just brought it to a climax, this was a catastrophy. It prevented efficient state politics, efficient urban development and organisation, it was just a hindrance and burden in its form at this time. There are all this theories about the state : church interplay creating some of the Western advancements and freedoms, and I can, to some extend, agree with this. But then again, once a certain development was achieved again, like with crafts and guilds which created standards for craftsmen and merchants, a more efficient state could do it better. And the church prevented it, like for schooling too. Look at the literacy rates before and aftwards for example. Without the reformation, many positive, real advancements might have happened much, much slower or not at all.

    The interesting thing about the Catholic church is that it did many, many things wrong, but also did some things right, which gave kind of a solid ground for more development, but similar to the craftsmen’s and merchants organisations, like the crafts and guilds, they had their time, they helped to rebuild Europe up to a point, but then they became, in the form they had, a burden for further development. That’s where Protestantism, even Calvinism and Judaism, played a positive role, but like the Catholic church, they did damage and good, often at the same time. And it would have been possible to limit the damage and promote the good, but that’s from the current perspective, when we know the outcome, it was much more difficult and the conflicts were not even about progress or future organisation, but very practical interests and abstruse belief systems.

    Anyway, to sum it up, Catholicism and a central church had many bad aspects, especially for the regional development. It kept the people dumb, poor, some of the best of the lower class ending up in celibacy, the regional states dependent and inefficient, the economy strangled. It was no effective central organisation unit at all. And it was far worse than after the reformation, because you can’t put Catholic church from after the counter-reformation even in the same category.

    I’d say its even possible that there wouldn’t have been any successful reformation, even less so from Martin Luther, if the reforms the Catholic church did because of him before. The reformation didn’t just create more efficient churches for the North, but it also made the Catholic church itself different – not just in a good way, because the celibacy became even more strict, some pious practises too, as some limitations to cultural and economic development, but overall, especially for a believing Christian, the counter-reformation could only be seen as an improvemnt. The rituals and superstition, even stupidity of simple Catholicism for the majority of believers was just an embarrassment. They treated people dumber as they were.

    There are many more aspects to this, just to give you some ideas.

  4. I don’t think Luther is exchangeable and I don’t think that all kinds of Protestantism are the same. While Lutheran culture was a “modern state builder”, Calvinism was more like a “society transformer” and far more inclined to erode some of the pillars of the occidental culture as they existed before.

    this is just false. a lot of your assertions are false IMO, though they come from particular interpretations. IOW, you aren’t crazy to make the assertions you do, but they are not ones i agree with.

    i think the issue isn’t a particular type of protestantism, it’s that protestanntism increased heritable cultural variation.

  5. @Razib: The Medieval Catholic world had more of heritable cultural variation form my perspective than the Lutheran Germanic states, which were, in comparison, more of homogenisers actually. Medieval Germany was, in some respects, closer to a caste society with huge differences in how to see things and live your life. Protestantism exchanged the many, many socio-cultural groups with more general classes and larger groups of people. It teared down social and regional borders, made larger units more efficient and united.
    The flow of information and education was also increased and easier accessible, but that was also due to the printing press and educational innovations from which the new societies profted, but which they not necessarily created.
    So I can only agree with you on the increase of heritable cultural variation insofar, as it spread general novelties and true innovations in the “national” and even “trans-national” cultural “meme pool”, like tearing down genetic isolation for population genetics.

    This is something I even said above. I wouldn’t say it really increased the variation necessarily and everywhere, that’s probably more true for the non-state affiliated Anglo-Calvinist sects, but not for Protestantism in general. Because it actually annihilated and replaced a lot of rather inefficient and isolated niches by more general standards. That’s part of the state building effect it had.

    One example of this pattern is language itself, first written, second the spoken word. The German dialects were almost incomprehensible from North to South at this point, there was no general intelligible standards for the German language and Latin was, with the Catholic church, still quite dominant. So the “simple people” had big troubles with ideas from other parts of the German sphere, both because of the lack of literacy, as well as Latin & no standard German.
    The reformation created or at least spread the German language, it made a standard for all German people, it helped to spread ideas and an easily intelligible language far wider than before.
    This did reduce some of the variation which was present before, because a lot of niches got swept away.

    Protestantism did increase some heritable aspects of social and cultural variation, but I wouldn’t say more than before at all, but rahter it made it efficient and selection more efficient too. Many inefficient social and cultural norms, ways of living and seeing things got eliminated pretty fast. Most of this was good, some not.

  6. obs, appreciate your comments. but i’m gonna be honest and note that i don’t have the time to engage with your points in details as i’m working 😉 you make too many points in a single comment to even begin.


  7. Since Razib is done reading books about the Reformation, I guess he might be done writing posts about it, so since the world needs to have my thoughts on it displayed in Razib’s comment box, here goes.

    I think that the printing press was essential to the Reformation as to how the sequence of events and how it played out, and especially the particulars of the ‘mutations’ that were favored by the new environment that made Protestantism distinct from Catholicism. Necessary for religious schism in general,as in could there have been a Reformation without it, even if the particulars of it’s story would be different? No, plenty of religious schism and conflict without the printing press.

    That the Church, or more exactly churchmen, was very ‘worldy’, as in decadent and corrupt, was a necessary ingredient, just like the decadence of the French nobility was necessary to 1789. , Rodrigo Borgia openly had kids, one of whom supposedly murdered the other, and was the opposite of “saintly”. The most powerful sermon is an example. The closer one got the worse the Church looked too, Luther visited Rome in 1510. Thomas Cromwell was quite familiar with the Rome and the Roman Curia too. The Church had it’s ups and downs with the quality of churchmen, it was arguably worse in the 900’s than during the Renaissance, but if the Church of 1500 was run by the sort of people who were running it in the 1200’s, there would have been no Reformation. There were lots of religious rebels in the 1200’s, they’re not as well known since they didn’t succeed because the Church was staffed by better churchmen who were respected by the populace.

    One thing that is overlooked in a lot of books on the Reformation was what exactly was going on with the indulgences that got Luther going. The Church was always very good on the “you have to get to heaven on your own, you cannot pay us to get you there, and if Dante is going to meet you in the Inferno, no amount of money given to us will get you out”. The second part of Dante is Purgatorio, and the doctrine of Purgatory was abused by the Church with tremendous gusto. Purgatory is the anteroom to Paradisio, in Purgatory one is made perfect, purged of one’s imperfections or sins, sometimes in a very unpleasant manner, and then one enters Paradisio. Everyone who is saved goes there, some longer than others, saints maybe not at all. In Dante, the ones he meets in Purgatory are constantly asking for prayers since per Catholic doctrine, the prayers of the living could speed one’s way through Purgatory. In Dante it’s not corrupt, a man in Purgatorio might ask Dante to ask members of said man’s family to pray for him when Dante got back to the world. By Luther’s time, this had gotten very professionalized, they were selling time off in Purgatory, that is what indulgences specifically were, and what doesn’t seem to be appreciated much nowadays, a mass for the dead was often thought better than prayers, and one paid the local priest to say a mass for the dead. Some local priests would tell a grieving mother that her son wasn’t ever going to get out of Purgatory and enter Heaven unless she paid up for said masses. This made not only priests less respected, but the sanctity of the mass also, many early Protestants had a bee in their bonnet about the mass specifically, way more so than Luther, lots of masses were said to empty churches specifically for this purpose. Luther said a few such masses while in Rome in 1510, and at least I have read was somewhat appalled with the mercenary attitude towards the whole thing by the local priests in Rome.

    Every variety of Protestantism gets rid of Purgatory, and many books I’ve read about the Reformation don’t get into that, though to be fair, many, but I wouldn’t say most, do.

    Long enough, more thoughts on Reformation later. Last chance!

  8. @Obs

    “On the contrary, the Anglo-Calvinist sects undermined the European moral, communitarian and state qualities on the longer run, some more, some less, but all in comparison to the other Christian denominations.”

    Who exactly are these Anglo-Calvinist sects you’re referring to?

    “The “fun fact” is that the Lutheran churches were always superiour to the American protestantism, especially in this respect, as long as the states they worked in were ok too. But after the 2nd world war, they became infected by Cultural Marxism more than almost any other institution than the universities. So today Lutherans are at the forefront, in some respects, of Liberal and even outright Cultural Marxist propaganda.”

    You can look-down on American Protestants as much as you want, but even with the massive secularization that’s occurred in America in the past 30 years, Protestant religious culture is still a hell of a lot more vibrant in the US than Lutheran Europe, just looking at things like regular church attendance, self-professed importance of religion to one’s life, belief in God, regular prayer, etc. In all these metrics American Protestants absolutely outshine European Lutherans. Scandinavia and Lutheran Germany are some of the most godless places on Earth, so what good did that greater intellectualism get Lutheranism in the end? The more rational Lutherans rationalized themselves right out of religion and their communities into oblivion (in Europe anyway).

    And before you blame Calvinism or Judeo-Cultural Marxism for destroying the underpinnings of Western civilization, you ought to ought step back and reckon with the role Lutherans played in that process. 19th-century German Lutheran scholars and theologians did more than anyone before them to undermine belief in the historical authenticity of the Bible and orthodox Christian tradition through their development and ruthless application of textual criticism. Liberal/Modernist Christianity is a direct descendant of that tradition as much as anything to do with “Anglo-Calvinists.”

  9. I cannot distill and bottle the history of Europe in a few well chosen sentences, but I bridle at the idea that there is a single key.

    Luther, yes he was important although I think the role of the secular non Hapsburg electors was the difference between him and predecessors like Hus and Wycliffe. But, within 130 years the lands between the Rhine and the Oder were smoking ruins.

    Iberia was untouched by the reformation but its kingdoms built the first great global maritime empires that catapulted Europe into global hegemony. The Hapsburgs squandered the treasure of the Indies on wars, but the money fertilized the growth of the European economy.

    Italy’s biggest contribution came before the Reformation in the form of the Renaissance, but Galileo was well after it. And, Medicine begins in Italy. The printing press was very important, and the most important presses were in Venice. The commercial republic was created in Italy. the Dutch Republic was based on Venice, which was the model for Amsterdam. Which in turn was the model for Copenhagen and St. Petersburg.

    I will stop here. But, I could go on and on.

  10. @Mick: If you start that kind of debate, I have to make a reference to recent American politics towards Islamism. Why do you think the United States prevented any compromise with Iran and fight all Shia Islamists whereever they find them, but were, initially, under Obama, very nice towards the most extreme, radical Sunni Islamists that probably ever existed in recent memory, in the form of the Islamic state? They pretend to have invaded Iraq because of Al Qaida, yet they support something much worse, coming out of Al Qaida, while they are unwilling for peace with Shia Islam even though its much more rational and modernised its state, under an Islamic rule, much better than the vast majority of US allies in the region?!
    The reason is exactly because the Mullahs are more rational and can think, they can actually build rockets, while the others are irrational and incoherent, unable to even start rockets on their own.

    Looking at the American sects and Evangelicals, as representatives of a European Christian branch, to which group are fundamentalists of their kind closer, what do you think? Believing in the LITERAL TRUTH of the bible, even without text critique and interpretation, is no glorious chapter, its the marker of an infantile mind without guidance.
    Also I don’t care that much (would dislike it still) if people believe in a “flying spaghetti monster”, as long as their practise is good and rational. In the same way it doesn’t help that much if they might believe in something I would prefer, and might even believe too, but its still wrong if they do the wrong things.
    Now what exactly is better about American evangelicals, from a socio-cultural perspective? They get somewhat more children and have somewhat better family values. That’s it. Its good enough, since that’s one of the most important aspects of life, but they could as well be strict Islamists, strict orthodox Jews or members of a new sect which all manage to get even more kids than they do and have even stricter sexual and family moral than they do.

    Otherwise, they got tricked over and over again, being just the cannon fudder and half-conservative pillar for the American Plutocracy. You buy some of their preachers, corrupt them, make them participate in your schemes, and they do what you want. That won’t save the people, it won’t change anything, but they are allowed to do their show, until their flocks run away or thin out as well.

    Now the Lutheran religion had a natural evolution. It recognised reason and rationality, it developed a higher philosophy, it helped to produce a highly efficient society and state in all Lutheran countries. And not just there, the US and Canadian state is more efficient, better functioning on a higher and lower level where Lutherans live. But like in Europe they have a problem: They want a functioning and social state, but they also want a basically conservative and European society. This means they had a voting problem, especially in the USA, because of how the system worked, it made them “swing voters” since they never got the full package of what good politics is about, a state caring for its people and proteting them from internal and external threats, but don’t interfering with or harming them where it doesn’t need to be.

    One central aspect of their natural cultural evolution was that they left “silly beliefs” behind and got a more scientific mind and approach. Yet that doesn’t mean they left god behind altogether, not even all Christian values, they just got rid of “silly beliefs” which did not help, but were a burden and disgrace. Like in the initial reformation, you have just to look at what Catholic priests and culture did to the people, its was imbecile.

    Now Lutherans were not left alone by Americans, you know that very well, and they were easier to engineer and control, because of their close proximity to the state and their hierarchical structures. This needed probably two generations and the church was done. That (former) European Lutherans are now no believers and regular church attenders is the best thing they can do, because they could as well go to the university and listen to what the Cultural Marxists try to teach them directly. At least they don’t mix it up with “God and Christian moral”, so you actually can talk about their practical and factual arguments, as bad as they are, which is preferable from my point of view. Yes, the Lutheran church is so completely ruined, that it doesn’t even resemble itself any more. It became a mockery of itself.

    I have to confess that in the United States probably the Lutheran churches still exist which come closest to the original. Also because they were not so completely re-educated, there was the influence of other conservative Christian churches, and they decided on their own and the state didn’t interfere as much. That doesn’t mean I think all they do is right, but from the major branches, the American based Lutherans probably did the best, overall. And again they disputed about how to interpret the bible and how to take it literally. Yet they didn’t fall down to any sort of “literal interpretation” some of the Anglo-Calvinist sects adopted.

    The Christian sects in the USA were much less changed, but like explained above, because they are no direct threat to the Oligarchy, largely, can be easily manipulated and lack intelligence as well as coherence overall, also the tradition of a more strict distinction of state : religion in the USA, with all its good and bad effects.
    Many of the new sects have the intellectual level of children and as such they being viewed by the American elite. They just need to grab their hand and tell them a nice story, why they couldn’t help last time, and they will follow, once more. After all that times they were tricked already. “Pray together and thank god, and now get out and do your dirty job for me.” That’s how it works or at least worked for decades.

    Talking about the religious foundations of American Christianity would be an even longer debate. And we could go through it and sort out who was who, and who was more wrong or more right, did a better job for the community or not, whatever.

    But what I refer to if talking about the modern situation is mainly related to the “Great Awakenings”:

    In this time the Protestant American sects really became commercial and extremely individualistic, they completely left the path of European Christianity actually. I mean you had preachers which gathered money, also for themselves, made religious preachery their “business model” and they appealed to all people which paid for them!
    “You want to pay and pray for getting rich and famous, just follow me into my ‘church’ and Jesus will help you…”
    “Jesus wants you women to be on the forefront of the awakening and changing your male, leading you back to the true Christ…”

    And all this stuff came largely up in this period of time. This too, is like a mockery of what European Christians originally were. Its like a joke! But unfortunately, it was successful in the United States and now spreads from there to other places, without any chance of succeeding in forming a new peope or state, but just calming people down and giving them individual motivation. What can be a good thing, in a way, but it doesn’t make a difference in the bigger scheme of things.

  11. Obs, I realize now why your posts bother me. They’re so f*cking Marxian. The rich and powerful controlling and screwing everyone else. History as a succession of groups screwing other groups. Perhaps it’s your European background.

    The one good thing is that, like Marx, you realize that successes generally contain seeds of their future failure, that what is good at one time will be bad at another. The spirit of the dialectic.

  12. @Obs

    I note your disparagement of and distain for the low church people. FYCS. Then you go on to point out that present day high church is even more F***. I don’t grasp your point unless it is to demonstrate your erudition of the history of Christianity.

  13. Indeed, Christianity always had many bad aspects and needed correction, but the Lutherans and let’s call it “organised churches” did better as long as they were embedded in a functioning state and culture. They are screwed now, because their states and cultures got screwed too, whereas the low churches like you call them might do better, in some respects, for some individuals, but they form no alternative because they go, as a whole, in the wrong direction and lack cohesion as well as substance.

    @Roger: ” The rich and powerful controlling and screwing everyone else.”

    The point is not about people being rich & powerful, but how they use their power and how they being integrated in the greater whole of the society, the well-being of its people and how they direct it.
    If you have people on top which take care and direct correctly, you might very well just call it an “Aristocracy” in the true sense of the word, if they just rule from the background, with money, the moral of a merchant and against the interests of the people, its a negative Oligarchy.
    Look at the USA and tell me what you have. If you don’t see that your state being ruined by corrupt Oligarchy, you must be blind.

    Marxists always have a problem with what they call “suppression” and “class”. I want justice, including social justice, but not at the price of risking function and survival. That’s a huge, a major difference.

    Libertarians and Marxists alike have “ideals” which actually don’t care for function and survival, so do some religious fanatics, including some fanatic Christian sects. That’s their main problem, that they don’t act and think rational, not for their own people, not for the world. Stupid ideals determine how they want to see the world and they don’t want to give up on it, even if reality proves them wrong over and over again. Religious motivation is one thing, acting on practical grounds based on reality another.
    Any sort of belief or idealism should never ignore reality. But we live in a world in which that is the case.

  14. @Obs

    but they form no alternative because they go, as a whole, in the wrong direction and lack cohesion as well as substance.

    This is just opinion, unless you have some sort of manual explicating “the wrong direction.” Wrong direction for the individual? If the religion “works” for the individuals and communities involved, it meets its religious value, test, if you will. Whether a snake-handling congregation is led by a semi-literate redneck or Episcopalians are led by atheists makes no difference in whether the “religion” is of religious value to the individual and community. You seem to be arguing that church leaders and congregates should be as highly educated as possible, and I agree. Although, given what some educated people have come up with, for example, the current totalitarian dogma now destroying the Western world, a decent case can be made that objects to that ideal. Evangelical beliefs are as much an impetus to the elevation of education as are the high churches. The” value” of an Evangelical preacher who teaches himself Greek so as to “get closer” to sola scriptura is just as valuable, perhaps more so considering the starting points, as the Baptist who converts to Episcopalianism as a hoped for gateway to a higher social class.

    Any sort of belief or idealism should never ignore reality.

    This would seem to contain its own self-correcting mechanism. Anyway, religious views are a very important feedstock for one’s reality, perhaps the most important.

    I apologize for directing that obscenity at you, but the subject can be discussed without condescension and denigration.

  15. Look at the USA and tell me what you have. If you don’t see that your state being ruined by corrupt Oligarchy, you must be blind.

    Look at all the wondrous, complicated living things on earth and how well they fit together. If you don’t see that this is the result of a benevolent intelligent creator, you must be blind.

    (How can you believe that this happened without some intelligence guiding it, without some plan, without some direction?)

  16. (How can you believe that this happened without some intelligence guiding it, without some plan, without some direction?)

    Self-replicating “stuff” with no plan other than replication. Thank goodness the replication goes astray every once in a while.

  17. @iffen: I didn’t say it works for the individuals, and I certainly never said it works for the communities. It just works somewhat better than some alternative Western lifestyles for some individuals, not even all, and soem communities, not even all, but it fails as a complete package. Its still bad and won’t survive.

    The most basic assumption is that any culture which leads to the extermination and replacement of a people practising it can only be seen as a complete failure. Probably unless you can prove that their extinction would make humanity a better species and the world a better place, probably that’s what some people assume, especially in the Cultural Marxist camp, but otherwise that’s it.
    No way of life, no ideal, no political or cultural expression can be anything else but a failure if it fails to reproduce itself and the people carrying it. Simple as that.

    “A semi-literate redneck” led community, even if it survives short term, can only be tricked and exploited, or at some point defeated. Because it is, in itself, unable to evolve to a higher level or defend against better organised competitors. It might win in some “redneck communities”, but it won’t create a better people or state, yet a more competitive one or a structures which would be able to deal with major challenges for humanity. They would be like gazelles eaten by the next lion, the next pestilence or the next best meteorite and they could do nothing about it. Same goes for most low level religious fundamentalists, they reduce humans to an animal-like existence in a worst case scenario.

    “Although, given what some educated people have come up with, for example, the current totalitarian dogma now destroying the Western world, a decent case can be made that objects to that ideal.”

    That’s no case against the state or education, but only a case against the current “elite” and the current direction the state is going. You can’t do it without, like coming back to your “redneck example”, which I think is good and important actually, they can’t do it on their own, they need an intellectual, political, religious and state leadership which WORKS FOR THEM. Now they are thrown back to their lower level, without upper level support and protection and that’s exactly the problem you get if denying the value of education, an intellectual upper class of your own and a state which works for the greater whole.
    Libertarian alternatives won’t work and only keep a lot of right wing intellectuals and politicians from doing the work necessary, which is to get the control back, because that what is about. There is no insular survival or flight, there is the option of getting the control back or fading away.

    “This would seem to contain its own self-correcting mechanism. Anyway, religious views are a very important feedstock for one’s reality, perhaps the most important.”

    Look, not every part of society can or want to see the full picture and they don’t have to, actually. But the problem is that at least someone, and these should be the leading class, should be able to:
    – See reality as it is
    – Act upon it
    – Do so for the greater whole and good of the people and community they are leading.

    The problem is, the current Oligarchy fails in all three aspects. It is actually “not the job” of every farmer, worker or merchant to see the big picture. It would be nice if they would, but even if they can do so intellectually, what many can’t, that’s not their job, their specialisation. We have division of labour, we have specialisation for a reason. And the political class, the religous and philosophical, the educational and scientific, the economic and financial, the military and security, all these upper echelons were created and should be in place to do their job, in their respective field, for the greater good and whole.
    But that’s not the case, so the normal people on the ground AT LEAST need to recognise that and act accordingly, no longer supporting those which fight them, which ruin their healthy base and way of living, their chance for survival and a better future.

    Now if a religion allows or even encourage people to check that, and see reality good enough to realise that, I’m fine. But if its only distraction and makes people easier to manipulate, to lead, but by the wrong people, for the wrong reasons, there is a huge problem.

    “I apologize for directing that obscenity at you, but the subject can be discussed without condescension and denigration.”

    No problem. I think you are right. Also, this is an important hotly debated topic, and it will be much more so in the near future, by more people, I’m sure about it. Because we are shortly before a major decision as to where the Occident will go. And in the end its first and foremost, before any other politial and cultural decision, about whether the people give away their remaining freedom and power to a small group of Oligarchs and trust them doing just fine, or resist their plans for a totalitarian world controlled by Mammonism, but with deranged Cultural Marxist paroles to hide it.

    @Roger: “Look at all the wondrous, complicated living things on earth and how well they fit together. If you don’t see that this is the result of a benevolent intelligent creator, you must be blind.”

    Do you know what, the same applies here as to my example: It doesn’t matter how much of it was planned or happened randomly. In both cases we have a situation, in which humans need to interfere with what is, to create what would be better.

    You constantly do so as if I invent something, when in fact this are realities you can check. They use their money, influence and networks to spread Cultural Marxist propaganda. There are established organisations and networks which are active, which control things. You can debate the purpose and who is really in charge, inside of these structures, but you can’t debate the fact as such. Billions are going directly and indirectly from the Plutocracy to Cultural Marxist indoctrination.

    Besides, like explained, it doesn’t even matter. That’s like asking in a philosophical manner whether a child murderer is non compos mentis, whether he planned his cruelties, or whether it was a “sponteneous erruption” of a deranged mind. Does the decision on this matter make any difference for any sane parent on whether or not this person should be running free and probably even getting close to the own children?
    You can’t even say what’s worse!

    In any case it disqualifies people to be considered “elite” or to have anything to say about the future of Western states and societies if they act so wrong! Whether they conspired on it or did it because of stupidity and incompetence doesn’t make any difference at all! This would be the goal of extensive investigations into how all these failures of the last decades were even possible, who made them possible and why – under the assumption a good government and uncorrupted administration would be in charge again.
    I’m absolutely in favour of analysing every structural and personal causes for this and am open minded as to what outcome such investigation would produce. Such investitions would have to look deep and consequently into how Western organisations and institutions influencing the financial system, the state, polticial parties and the mass media worked and were directed.

    But I’m absolutely certain that such investigations are necessary and there are very, very fundamental problems of the US system in particular.

    The problem is, you will get such investigations only once the power of the Oligarchy being broken and before that, many people can, like you, just claim its a delusion to search for causes and networks behind some political “shifts” taking place in recent decades. Once you had anything to do with media and politics, you know how manipulated everything is, and always was. The best advice for any investigation is always:
    – Follow the money, who’s financing and supporting it?
    – Cui bono – who profits the most from this?

    Analyses which ignore those two crucial aspects almost completely, like most of the Western mainstream media do these days, at least if its about Cultural Marxism, are completely worthless.

  18. Of course, if something is organized, something must have organized it. Since societies have organization, something must have organized them. Some at least semi-conscious entity, like the Oligarchy, or the Patriarchy, or …

    That’s just the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Order can’t come from disorder. It can’t “just happen”.

    So simple, only the blind can’t see it.

  19. You know what, its you being Marxian with this kind of argument. Because you deny the personal agent and only see mysterious structures and classes at work instead, without accepting the role of human agents and their will to change things. Exactly like Marxists.

    Luther as a person was not arbitrary, nor are individuals like Soros. Their very specific biography and personality, their very specific options and networks make a huge difference. One might say something similar would have come up anyway, but something similar is not the same. And one stone kicks off the next one to roll or not too.
    History and historical decisions being made by people and these very people can make a big difference.

    In the same way it is not arbitrary which states win wars or who has the say in an Oligarchy. Just think about what small things could decide a presidential election. Yet some influential Oligarchs use their wealth and power to push society for decades in a specific direction doesnt matter in your model world.

    It all fell into place randomly, just like that, even though all polls prove that the population was pushed by institutional propaganda and the mass media.

    Why you defend the corrupted Plutocracy? Do you love them so much? Of what are you afraid?

    This is no intellectuals and no intellectual game deciding it, this are people using money and institutional power to get what they want. The intellectuals can only add details and otherwise make the cover up, knowingly or not.

  20. @Roger, Obs is kind of Marxian in the sense, but perhaps more similar to some early to mid 20th century mass collectivist movements of a different strand.

    Ideas from those movements which seem similar to his are like;

    – Humans through history are marked by incessant intergroup conflict in which only the fittest, most competitive, organized, warlike, territorial and disciplined on a group level, those who most aggressively seek “living space”, will survive.

    – Liberalism (of the English speaking tradition) and the idea of free societies is a mere cloak for plutocratic, oligarchic government. Worse, it gives rise to a weakening moral rot and hedonistic decadence in the people which is contrary to national strength.

    – What is needed, then, is for a radical reform of society that abandons constraints on the state, and puts in place a totalizing and rigidly hierarchical rule by people ‘enlightened’ as to both the true nature of society and the material and ideological ‘Laws of History’. They will then control all other aspects of society, including supposedly independent sectors like business. These people will ultimately guide society and all institutions towards national survival and expansion, which is the main or only criterion of cultural success (the survival of the ‘folk’ above all things).

    Like people who espoused similar ideas in the 20th century, there are some aspects from or shared with Marxism – the idea of a false consciousness engineered for the rich to control society and guide people against their true collective self interest by offering them mere “opiates”, the need to revolutionize society to prevent an apocalyptic scenario of immiseration and destruction, a justification by the revolutionary sect in knowing the ‘true and scientific’ laws of social development, history as overwhelmingly characterized by zero-sum competition between groups where one wins at the expense of the other (who are exploited or defeated and destroyed), the idea that there is really no unplanned society evolving “naturally” and freely in play and hence radical revolutionary attempts to gain formal control of and plan society are merely supplanting one planned system with another.

    While some other aspects differ greatly.

  21. Gee, what could those “early to mid 20th century mass collectivist movements of a different strand” be?

    Just like today, classical liberalism/libertarianism was considered hopelessly irrelevant and wrong.

    Matt, have you read Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939? It’s a short, interesting book. (And, no, it doesn’t say FDR was a fascist, just that anti-collectivism seemed to be discredited.)

  22. @Matt: You give me “strong position” in some of these areas I don’t want to be put in, yet you get the direction. So I will only answer where I definitely don’t want to be put or where your interpretation is questionable for ideological reasons from my point of view.

    “– Humans through history are marked by incessant intergroup conflict in which only the fittest, most competitive, organized, warlike, territorial and disciplined on a group level, those who most aggressively seek “living space”, will survive.”

    This is more prehistory than history, but you describe it in a one sided way, while its just what organisms always, including higher social species, always do: Individuals and groups compete. Who’s effectively surviving is a different matter, there might be different advantages at different times both the individual and group level.

    “– Liberalism (of the English speaking tradition) and the idea of free societies is a mere cloak for plutocratic, oligarchic government. Worse, it gives rise to a weakening moral rot and hedonistic decadence in the people which is contrary to national strength.”

    That’s not my position. Liberalism can open up the doors for corruption and decadence, that’s correct, but it depends on a variety of factors whether it really does or not and also whether its happening on a larger scale than in another societal system or not. From my point of view, and this applies to many of the following points too, the ideal is a moderate appraoch which compromises between individual and group interests. What’s definitely and always leads into decay is an ideologially which puts either extreme completely on top of the other. Even in soem areas of society or economy. The ideal approach is usually, a regulation moderation.

    Like Marxism wants to overregulate society to achieve absolute social equality, until every development being strangled, Libertarians on the other hand want to create absolute freedom and equality of chances, while forgetting about the cohesion and regulation every functioning and competitive society needs.
    The USA right now are neither socially equal, nor individually free, but an Oligarchic paradise in which the worst of both worlds being right now fused together. Absolute social control with Cultural Marxist social engineering and absolute Plutocratic control of the upper level structures and institutions which abuse this, with decreasing social justice AND freedom. So its a lose : lose approach for 99,5 % of the people. Neither social politics and security, nor freedom and development will come from this.
    Really the worst of the worse scenarios.

    “These people will ultimately guide society and all institutions towards national survival and expansion, which is the main or only criterion of cultural success (the survival of the ‘folk’ above all things).”

    A culture which leads the population practising and carrying it into extinction is suicidal. There is a difference between the “only criterion of cultural success” and a criterion for exclusion.
    Its an criterion for exclusion, not a “main or only criterion of cultural success”.
    Otherwise I could, possibly, endorse the most radical religious or other Fundamentalists, if they are likely to survive under the current circumstances, or why not devolve into amoeba if it doesn’t matter which cultural level and development humans can achieve?

    You put what I said upside down, because I just defined it, and that’s objectively so, from a strictly logical and scientific point of view, that a human culture which leads to the extinction of its carriers must be considered a complete failure.

    To name an example I used in this context, I might refer to Skopzen again, which castrated and mutilated themselves in a delusional religious frenzy of the extreme Christian kind, which also points to the possible degeneration of religious groups, especially Christian and Buddhist, which even give up on life completely.

    There were also other Christian sects which despised sexuality and reproduction, denied the material world altogether. Some of those build some villages and buildings in the USA, which being used until now. But they are gone, they are all dead, what they created, even if there social organisation was otherwise reasonable, is all but gone.

    So they were, from the beginning, because of the wrong direction they were taking, a complete failure.

    But then again, to repeat it a 3rd time, this is a criterion for exclusion, not success. Its like the minimum requirement any culture and society should have, its the “idiot test” for any human social creation: Does it more harm to its carriers than it does good?

    Like talking about sport, if a some sport action would result in a 90 percent probability of getting crippled or killed within one year, there must be huge incentive for any normal thinking individual to do it, like money, prestige and power for the own family. Yet that a sportly activity is non-deadly and not as dangerous, doesn’t prove its superiority. It just proves that its at least harmless and probably neutral.

    The same applies to any cultural creation of humans, any social practise and cultural value, it should be at least neutral and harmless for the people doing it. If its not, its a degeneration which not only lacks value, but is a threat.
    And it always the job of the leading elements of society, of “the elite” to prevent such harmful creations to enter and spread in the people they are responsible for. Now if this false “elite” does spread harmful memes in the culture of a people, they simply don’t do their job.

    And for that it doesn’t matter how they came into a position of power, to begin with. We have democracies doing better, others doing worse, with autocratic regimes, some doing better, others worse. I don’t think that’s decisive, what’s decisive is that there is a societal, economic and cultural problem and we need people in charge which take care of that.

    “the idea of a false consciousness engineered for the rich to control society and guide people against their true collective self interest by offering them mere “opiates”, the need to revolutionize society to prevent an apocalyptic scenario of immiseration and destruction, a justification by the revolutionary sect in knowing the ‘true and scientific’ laws of social development”

    Marxists base their ideas on false premises, they don’t even have the fundament to build upon. Their whole root is wrong.

    Now what I said is no opinion, but a description of reality. Like if you tell people that their own ethnicity will, if extrapolating the current development into 2 generations into the future, largely disappear, its a reality.
    People can say that they don’t care, or others might mean, like some Cultural Marxists, the world will be a better place with some European groups no longer existing as they still do, but that’s a choice most people don’t even have.
    Because what the corrupted mass media is telling them is that “they should not care”, that “this is all just a fake theory” and crap like that, while you just have to analyse the demographics.

    To use that as an example, of where I would want “the true knowledge” about biology and demography being practised, I would also say it needs to be discussed to begin with! But people are supposed to ignore or not realise what’s going on. That’s very different from the way you present it, as if it would be just a construct like any other, when in fact its first about having a choice and knowing what the choices are.

    Same goes for the concentration of economic wealth and power, which infiltrates and controls the society as a whole and strangles it. Its not about “secret knowledge” and “conspiracies”, its about facts which need to be told and discussed.
    Like if people are so slave-like that they say “we prefer to be under Plutocratic rule and don’t want a change”, well, than be it. But to tell people that’s everything fine and this society is improving, developing, getting more free, more democratic, and their own kind will still be around in 100 years, that’s a lie, and the mass media and educational system on the whole are lying on purpose. Individuals, not necessarily, but the systemic power behind this fraud is immense and it comes from the Plutocracy.

    And the worst fraud is that people defending this scam say those criticising it are just conspirational and use “-isms” or attack freedom, when the Oligarchy does, in practise, take away one freedom and option from the people after another. They are building a dictatorship, a totalitarian state. And the only way the answer criticism, even very factual and objective criticism, is using hate labels and allegations, institutional and economic power to keep people down.

    There is no factual discussion and debate any more, but just one dominant discourse which suffocates all others.

    In that sense we need another Martin Luther to start a rebellion, by writing some basic theses down on which the majority of those which don’t want to be Plutocratic slaves can agree, to break the silence and paternalism this Oligarchy wants to establish.

    @Roger: “It’s a short, interesting book. (And, no, it doesn’t say FDR was a fascist, just that anti-collectivism seemed to be discredited.)”

    The background is simple: Uber-Individualistic societies are inefficient and not competitive, but make the control of the populace easier as long as enough wealth can be created. But even then most societies profit from structural advantages and inherited privileges, as well as savings, from which they can live for some generations, before they go down or change the direction once more. Extreme Individualism is “for the sunny days” and even then not good enough for prepare for the rainy one.

    What FDR did was just to bring the USA out of the crisis and make it war-ready. That’s what he did. Of course, he could have left it the way it was, but then history would have taken a different path.

    Like written above, that doesn’t mean I’m not in favour of individualism and individual freedom per se, but it needs to be put into context and moderation. The extremes are worse than the middle way, like so often.

    Stalinism, Maoism, Khmer Rouge, as well as some religious sects, were the most extreme uber-collectivists, that’s wrong, but as wrong is to atomise society until money becomes the sole value. Also for a true Liberal it should be wrong, because in the end, what you create is the prerequisite for new Oligarchies and warlords. Once the state and communities leave the scene, they just leave a vacuum behind which will be filled. And in the US-Western style society its always being filled by the artificial products, by creating new demands from the economic sphere, in the end leading to a Plutocracy.
    You can’t defend your freedom by just letting them do what they want. By doing so you create an even worse totalitarianism, a totally corrupt one.
    The political class and administration must keep that under check, not getting corrupted itself. This was and can be done in democracies, it just doesn’t work any longer, because the path they Western democracies were taking in the recent years in particular (Neoliberal turn).

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