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The end of secularism is nigh The West's ability to market this culturally conditioned assumption is dying

Once again, the Hagia Sophia is a Grand Mosque. Credit: Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Once again, the Hagia Sophia is a Grand Mosque. Credit: Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


August 12, 2020   5 mins

Last week, on 5 August, the Prime Minister of India laid a foundation stone and helped bury a distinctive period in global history. Narendra Modi had travelled to Ayodhya, a city long identified by Hindus with one of their most beloved gods. Lord Rama — avatar of Vishnu and hero of the Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana — was said to have ruled within its walls as the very model of those who uphold truth and justice. Like Camelot, the court of Rama glimmers tantalisingly in the imaginings of those who fall beneath its spell: the reminder of a vanished golden age, the hope that it might come again.

In recent decades, the mingled regret and yearning that the memory of Rama’s capital can inspire among Hindus had come to be focused on one particular location in the modern city of Ayodhya: the Ram Janmabhoomi, the ‘birthplace of Rama’. At the moment, nothing serves to mark the sacred spot. But soon enough that will change. A great complex of buildings will rise. As Modi, officially declaring the process of construction begun, put it: “A great temple will now be built for our Lord Rama.”

A fortnight earlier, the President of Turkey had celebrated a similar reconsecration. In 1453, when the Christian capital of Constantinople fell to the Ottomans, its most stupefying building, the great cathedral of Hagia Sophia, had been converted into a mosque, and duly served for almost half a millennium as a monument to the triumph of Islam over a defeated and superceded order. Then, in 1935, a decade and more after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and its replacement within its heartlands by a Turkish republic, the mosque of Ayasofya was turned into a museum. So, for decades, it remained. Then, this summer, the museum once again became a mosque. On 24 July, Hagia Sophia opened for Friday prayers. “It is breaking away from its chains of captivity,” President Erdogan declared rhapsodically. “It was the greatest dream of our youth. It was the yearning of our people and it has been accomplished.”

The synchronicity between Modi’s trip to Ayodhya and Erdogan’s to Hagia Sophia is striking, and only flimsily obscured by the fact that the Prime Minister of India is trampling the legacy of an Islamic empire much as the President of Turkey has trampled the legacy of a Christian one. In the early sixteenth century, shortly after the Moghul conquest of the lands that once, so Hindus believed, had constituted the Ram Rajya, the ‘realm of Rama’, a mosque was built in Ayodhya. By the twentieth century, large numbers of Hindus had come to believe that this same mosque, the Babri Masjid, stood directly on the site of the Ram Janmabhoomi. In the 1980s, the BJP — the party to which Modi belongs — began a campaign to demolish it. In 1992 a mob duly tore it down. Communal riots exploded. Thousands died.

Last November, even as the site was formally granted to Hindus, the Supreme Court of India condemned the demolition of the mosque as a crime. But a crime by whose standards? Not, it would seem, by Modi’s. Just as Erdogan justified the conversion of Hagia Sophia to a mosque by “right of conquest”, so the Prime Minister of India, hailing the opportunity to build a temple on the site where the Babri Masjid had stood, invoked the ancient traditions of his country. It was, he declared, “a unique gift from law-abiding India to truth, non-violence, faith and sacrifice.” History as well as justice stood on his side.

That both developments — the building of the temple and the reconsecration of the mosque — have provoked very similar expressions of alarm from secularists illustrates the degree to which the Hindu prime minister and the Muslim president, despite their many differences, are at war with a common enemy.

Modi, in his speech at Ayodhya last week, made a telling comparison between India’s freedom struggle and what he described as the “centuries-old penance, sacrifices and resolve” of those who had campaigned to raise a temple to Lord Rama on the site of the god’s birth. The comment infuriated India’s secularists — as well it might have done. Modi, in effect, was accusing them of collaboration. The British Raj might be gone, but not so its pernicious legacy. The founding fathers of independent India, who had constituted the country as a secular republic, had betrayed its primordial characteristic of Hindutva: the qualities that for millennia had defined it as Hindu through and through.

In like manner, Erdogan’s real target was not Byzantium, nor the Orthodox Church, nor even Greece, but the secular status of the country which he rules as president. Just as Justinian, the emperor who originally built Hagia Sophia back in the sixth century, had claimed to have vanquished Solomon, so might Erdogan, by abolishing its status as a museum, have claimed to have vanquished AtatĂŒrk. The father of Turkish secularism, whose contempt for Islam had been matched only by his admiration for the model of modernity provided by Europe, had consciously sought to wrest his country from the hold of its history. Now, no less consciously, Erdogan is engaged in a mighty effort to redeem Turkey from secularism, and restore it to the embrace of its Islamic past.

All of which should serve as a wake-up call to the West that it is not only its financial, economic and military muscle that is currently atrophying. So too is its ability to market its culturally conditioned assumptions as universal. The concept of the secular is not, as many in West like to think, a neutral one. Quite the opposite. As the very word betrays, it derives from the distinctive theology and history of Latin Christendom: for ‘saeculum’, the word given by the Romans to the endless flux of things, was counterpointed by St Augustine and his heirs to the religio, the ‘bond’, that, so Augustine had taught, joined the pilgrim Church on its journey through the centuries to the radiant eternity of the City of God.

Over time, these two words had evolved to become words in the language that the British had then exported to India, and around the world. That there existed things called ‘religions’ — ‘Hinduism’, ‘Islam’, ‘Judaism’ ­— and that these functioned in a dimension distinct from entire spheres of human activity — spheres called ‘secular’ in English — was not a conviction native to anywhere except for Western Europe. None of which had prevented it from proving an astoundingly successful export: no less influential in AtatĂŒrk’s Turkey than in Nehru’s India. Long after the collapse of Europe’s empires, its colonisation of elites around the world endured.

Yet if the West, over the duration of its global hegemony, had proven itself skilled in the art of repackaging Christian concepts for non-Christian audiences, then the spread of secularism inevitably depended for its success upon the care with which it covered its tracks. Those tracks, as the era of Western hegemony slips away, are becoming ever more evident. Modi and Erdogan have certainly spotted them. The summer of 2020, notable as it already is, will surely be remembered by historians of the future as a key waystop on what is likely to prove perhaps the key narrative of the 21st century: the decline of the West and the rise of a multi-polar world. The temple of Lord Rama and the mosque of Ayasofya will stand as monuments to a changing of the global guard.


Tom Holland is a writer, popular historian and cricketer. He is not an actor. His most recent book is PAX

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Nick Whitehouse
Nick Whitehouse
3 years ago

The relative decline of the West, is encapsulated in the fuss over school exam results.
In Scotland the results will be, on average, much higher this year than before. This large increase has taken place, when schools have been closed for months.

Presumably, one can draw two lessons from this.
One is that if schools are closed for ever the number of children achieving top grades would be 100%. I seem to remember the head of Ofsted saying that all children are excellent!

Secondly, the desperate requirement that “fairness” takes over from reality. I am sure that most of the people who read this website could think of their own examples.

Perhaps this new religion, which has replaced Christianity in the West, is causing our downfall.

Malcolm Beaton
Malcolm Beaton
3 years ago

Jorda Peterson has also put his finger on this point
Man does not live by bread alone-he needs inspiration and beliefs and those that give it him will be the leaders-especially in disruptive times like these
I am sure populists like Trump,Boris and Sturgeon function as low grade quasi religious leaders
The other thing to recognise is that religious ideas will trump economics( and reason)
People can suffer great privations for a long time if not indefinitely- if they have a functioning belief System especially of a religious type
As a child of the sixties I always thought that we threw the baby out with the bath water with our new secular rational philosophies
I note that many people still marry and get buried in a religious manner
Secularism and Rationality is not enough for the human condition
Faith -blind or otherwise-is a fearsome force
It will reappear with a vengeance in tough times!

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Beaton

What you need to add to Secularism and Rationality is Ethics – not religion …

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

It’s not happening though. Social Justice and the rhetoric surrounding LGBQT-rights and Systemic Racism are replacing Ethics. They’re the ‘ethical’ face of Corporate Values which is about replacing self-reliance with reliance on institutions.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Yes, spot on. Ethics is almost a forgotten word these days, and certainly not part of the national curriculum. Imagine if it was? Would ‘we’ be the morass we now are? Beset by shriekers on all sides.

cptlago
cptlago
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

I don’t think ethics would suffice. I think It lacks drive and motivational power by itself.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Religion is not something you can “add on”, and neither is a system of Ethics. They are the well from which all other motivation is drawn.
But Ethics itself cannot stand alone: Without a Lawgiver there can be no Law. And what human would you trust to give us the Law? Not me; not you either. I’m not preaching, simply pointing out the wall that all philosophers of ethics come up against, occasionally with comical or dangerous results.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Beaton

No one has a quasi-religious devotion to Boris. They are fond of him partly because he is a great buster of such bubbles, but mainly for the simple reason that last year he was the only party leader prepared to defend democracy.

Will D. Mann
Will D. Mann
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Beaton

I can’t imagine Boris Johnson inspiring devotion in any one.

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson
3 years ago

Identitarianism, BLM, global warming, correctness, hate crime….
All these things the West has set up to replace religion.

Frankly, the sooner the West is eclipsed the better.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Lee Johnson

Sadly, you are probably correct. The West threw off the madness of religion only to dream up even greater insanities – from Robespierre to the BLM/Antifa mob in the US who are proclaiming that 2+2=5 and aiming to strip STEM from the curriculum. It’s not going to end well…

Geoff Cox
Geoff Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Of course because Stem or, as the US National Museum of African American History & Culture calls it, “the emphasis on the scientific method”, is a sign of whiteness and disadvantages black people.

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Quite.
24/7 communication, information, wealth, education long life – and what did we do with it ?

rlastrategy2
rlastrategy2
3 years ago
Reply to  Lee Johnson

Vastly overated it …

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Source for stripping of stem from the universities. I mean if a country wanted to destroy the US that’s what they would do. Meanwhile the (mostly) ” Eurocentric” scientific method is all the rage in China.

Dean Barwell
Dean Barwell
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I seem to remember the head of Ofsted saying that all children are excellent!

“fairness” takes over from reality.

The dumbing down to lowest common denominator started with television. 2 years after I was born Cathy Come Home was televised. Between the ages of 10 and 20 I would watch Play For Today, a series that birthed us such fine works as Boys From The Black Stuff. There was of course light entertainment but nothing so banal as today’s offerings. Clever comedy like Porridge and Only Fools replaced by Mrs Browns Boys? Music has fared better. Bands like The Jam, The Specials, SLF, sat side by side with the Durans, Frankies and Spandaus of the day, now Idles and Blinders are niche compared to the awful so called talent paraded as pop, but do at least get some airplay. Education has sadly joined this downward spiral. The one size fits all Blair push has, much the same as your comments on US curriculum, got us to the point of, make exams easier, or mark them up higher to make reality fairer as WH says in his post. We are getting very close to removing four strings from all guitars and claiming everyone can be/is Hendrix. Sadly the woke generation believe that is how it should be.

Dan Vesty
Dan Vesty
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

So how can you be so sure that religion is ‘madness’ if what has replaced it is an even greater insanity ? I’m not a particularly religious person myself, but it seems to me that once they have entered their mature phase they do a better job of keeping people sane than any of the ideologies that have replaced them.

rlastrategy2
rlastrategy2
3 years ago
Reply to  Dan Vesty

But you cannot keep intelligent people following a god delusion for ever …

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  rlastrategy2

Yes, you can!

T Doyle
T Doyle
3 years ago
Reply to  Lee Johnson

Don’t forget Extinction Rebellion!

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  T Doyle

Aren’t they extinct yet ?

Ray Zacek
Ray Zacek
3 years ago
Reply to  Lee Johnson

They don’t even rebel that effectively. They LARP.

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Ray Zacek

LARP ?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Lee Johnson

Don’t be so feeble, pull yourself together!

Yes, there is a certain lack of moral fibre in some sections of our society, but they can be brought to heel. ‘Shriekers’ mature, eventually, and are you seriously postulating that ‘we’ hand the globe over to the dog eating Chinese?

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

‘We’ don’t need to hand it over. They are taking it anyway through our inaction.
Go to China (I bet you haven’t) and see what I mean.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Lee Johnson

Only to HK.
You are not alone on this site with those sentiments.

However get yourself a decent military appreciation and you will find that the US will be able to annihilate the CCP without suffering any retaliation for at least the next five years if not more.

The Allies of the US, Taiwan, S Korea, and Japan will not be so fortunate, but perhaps this will be a necessary sacrifice?

Either way, the CCP is doomed to oblivion, as they do richly deserve, don’t you think

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Having seen at first hand the poverty that hundreds of millions of Chinese have been lifted out of I would say definitely NO.
The CCP has done a miracle in a few decades. They are not our friends because they work in the interests of the Chinese nation and not our own

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Lee Johnson

Some might say that poverty the CCP has lifted “hundreds of million out of” is one of the problems. Particularly the massive increase of “meat” in the diet, dogs, bats, pangolins, in fact nearly every living thing that crawls across the face of this planet.

This additionally brings with it the public health dilemma of excrement management, water supply, cross species contamination and so forth.

There is a price for everything in this life, but to be charitable, at least they are not eating their own children as they did in “The Great Leap Forward”.

However now that poverty is solved they want ‘our’ place at the top table, and that can never be tolerated.
Hence Chinageddon, QED?

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

So you want a huge nuclear war to stop china becoming top dog even though the UK hasn’t been top dog for a century? Insane.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Not the UK, as you say.our days as ‘top dog’ are long gone, great fun though they may have been.

No I mean our ‘prodigal son’ the USA, hopefully assisted by her allies, to the best of their rather limited abilities.

However I see no other solution, as compromise with the current CCP is not an option. I believe the USN think likewise, and are preparing accordingly. If not we are in very deep trouble wouldn’t you think?

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

No I was clear why I don’t think that. China is a regional power, that’s all. The US, and it’s increasingly insane ideologies, is a greater threat to Europe.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Don’t forget the Prodigal son was actually the more adventurous one, while being, in the end, the favored one. Oh ye Brit elder brothers, forget not our exuberance, zeitgeist and l’esprit de corps. God bless America, and Rule Britannia too, if ye can bear it. Oh, and btw, Vive La France!

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  LCarey Rowland

I agree completely.

Ed Brown
Ed Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Old Chinese saying, roughly translated, ‘We Chinese eat every part of everything on which the sun shines on its back’.

Don Lightband
Don Lightband
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

So rural Chinese tended more to vego, pre-Nixon rapprochement? Where might one read more on this?

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Mark. What do you mean by “annihilate” the CCP. Do you mean china? How many Chinese will die. Are you expecting nuclear weapons to be used? How many deaths in Taiwan or S Korea? How will this effect the world economy? Why do you expect to be safe in all this?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

No I mean the approximately 90 million Card carrying members of the CCP.

I gather the technology is now available to the US via Satellites, Drones, telecom intercepts etc that makes it possible to track every waking moment, and hopefully every sleeping one of the above 90 million potential targets. I trust that nuclear weapons will be used whenever it is expedient to do so.

Allowing for perhaps 10% target error that would mean only about 100 million Chinese dead or looked at the other way 1.1billion Chinese survivors. Not bad?

However, as I have mentioned before the US’s local allies, are impossible to defend adequately and thus will be hammered, with perhaps another 100 million dead. As the Chinese say “tough”.

Which off course, is why ‘we’ should done this twenty or more years ago, when the Chinese defences were still in the Stone Age, and ‘we’ had an absolutely overwhelming military advantage.

The economic damage will be severe, but we should be used to that after this current C-19 fiasco.

“Do I expect to be safe in all this”? Yes, off course, as you yourself admit the UK is a military pygmy and therefore an unlikely target, even, in the extremely unlikely event that the Chinese have a weapon capable of reaching Arcadia.

So cheer up, it’s not that bad, certainly better than Kowtowing and been stuck on a diet of boiled dog and noodles, washed down with Tsingtao Beer for the rest of ones days, wouldn’t you say?

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Mark you are quite mad. Calling for the death of 100M people is pathological. I don’t see how anybody is going to force you to eat booked dog or drink Tsingtao, which is ok anyhow.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Eugene, please don’t think me patronising when I say we are both products/children of our time.
When you saw ‘the dawn of reason’ at about the age of 10 in say 1990, the putrefying monster that had overshadowed Europe for the previous forty years, the USSR was in its death throes. Its record of barbarism was only rivalled by that other communist abomination, China. You would have been blissfully unaware of all this, as you hopefully enjoyed an ‘Enid Blyton’ childhood, as I had done.

For the rest of it was all very real. We had lived for years under the threat of Armageddon, and the “four minute warning”. Splendid films such Dr Strangelove (1962) and “Failsafe’ (1963) kept up our spirits. In fact unlike today’s hysterical Great Panic over C-19, we were fairly phlegmatic about
the whole Cold War.

However, whilst victory over the wretched USSR somewhat lifted the threat over Europe, the pestilential threat of communism remained in the form of a very malignant China.

Unfortunately the late President Nixon initiated a policy of rapprochement with China in the early 70’s, leading to full recognition in 1979, just prior to your nativity. The ‘liberal theory’ was that by some miracle of osmosis with the West, China would metamorphisise into a benign liberal state. Economically it was to become an infinite source of cheap labour, to supply the West’s insatiable desire for consumer trinkets, electronic junk and the like.

All too predictably, although China dragged itself out of poverty, become a titanic industrial power, it remained an authoritarian hell hole, and began a massive military build up to validate its ludicrous geopolitical ambition. Thus today its War/Defence Budget is three times that of India, a country of similar size and standing.

In the West we are beset by legions of “useful idiots” singing China’s praises and berating the “wicked” USA. For many of them China is Marxism’s ‘second chance’ after the fiasco that was the Soviet Union.
China believes its day has finally come, but is the US seriously just going to “roll over”?

War is inevitable, it just a question of when. As Heraclitus is reputed to have said ” War is the father of all, and the king of all”, well over two thousand years ago. History seems to have proved him right wouldn’t you say?

rlastrategy2
rlastrategy2
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

“Its record of barbarism was only rivalled by that other communist abomination”
I suggest that the US capitalist heaven is about to overtake that. You seem to have an obsession with communism. I see North Korea as the only ‘genuine’ communist country remaining. Russia is more of a fascist oligarchy.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  rlastrategy2

How on Earth is the US going to equal or even exceed either Stalin’s murderous behaviour in the Ukraine, or Moa’s lunatic “Great Leap Forward”?

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

God forbid we yanks should ever do that!

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Mark. Before I go on to disagree on the points, I have to say I enjoy your writing style.

I was aware of the Soviet Union. At age 8 I looked at a map with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact (in bright red!) and realised that they ran most of Northern Eurasia. There were dozens of countries facing down half of Germany and all of France to get to the Atlantic. Without the US we were doomed.

But China is not the Soviet Union. For one thing it is on the other side of the world. For another it isn’t really communist.

Although it is too long an argument to get into in detail here I believe the modern successor of the USSR is the US. A belligerent military force and an ideological force too – don’t you think that the influence of identity politics has been malign? Isn’t identity politics and multi culturalism a mechanism by which is US exports its own internal ideologies and expects the world to be refashioned in its own image – as if we were all nations of immigrants.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Well Eugene. I am very impressed that at the tender age of eight you had discovered the USSR. At the same age, I recall the world map also being covered red, but that off course was with the shortly to be destroyed, British Empire.

I agree calling China communist is a bit anachronistic, so now I just settle for dangerous, or similar expletives.

We obviously differ on the USA, although much of what you say has a certain validity, particularly the pernicious rise in “identity politics and multi culturalism “. Off course we
should not automatically accept its (US) “internal ideologies”, as so many of them are patently bovine.

However we have to acknowledge that the US is the ‘Great Power’, for better or for worse. Given the depth of European culture and sophistication, we should deploy subtlety and support, rather than supercilious, and often downright spiteful criticism.

If say, two thousand years ago you and I were sipping a glass of vino, comfortably in the shade of some Stoa on the edge of the Athenian Agora, we would almost certainly be discussing the merits or otherwise of the prevailing Pax Romana.

You would be recalling the great days of Ancient Greece and I, the stability and prosperity Rome had brought to whole of the Mediterranean world. Ultimately we would be drinking from the same well, although using different cups, don’t you think?

,

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

This rings true.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

I almost forgot, but yes “mad as a hatter”, at least according to my grandchildren, and Springer Spaniels. But as they say “you can’t put in what God left out”.

I also needlessly maligned Tsingtao Beer, excellent stuff, originally German I believe.

Incidentally some of those ‘rinky dink’, noisy, Chinese subs are kept ‘just round the corner’ from the Tsingtao Brewery.

Don Lightband
Don Lightband
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

You will be assimilated

rlastrategy2
rlastrategy2
3 years ago
Reply to  Don Lightband

… or your children will be …

mj1_phillips
mj1_phillips
3 years ago
Reply to  Lee Johnson

Totally agree. But it will take a long time. The French still own the Catholic churches and associated property, Still regulate what a Catholic may do as to religious practices and schooling, as they do to the Moslems in France. Only little local Catholic mayors disregard those 100 year old restrictions. We, in the Anglo-Saxon-Irish west, have just bowed to the weight of the same empty culture of secularisation, blatant consumerism and the greed of the atheistic elite.

Geoff Cox
Geoff Cox
3 years ago

I’m an atheist, but I’ve come to realise the only thing that can stand up to a religion is another religion.

Warren Alexander
Warren Alexander
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cox

I understand that even God is an atheist.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago

But is He a Protestant, Catholic or Muslim atheist?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Has to be Cathoiic…have you seen the Catholic Art?

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

The Passions of J S Bach make me hesitate but yes, Chartres and Durham Cathedrals, Renaissance polyphony, baroque churches, Romanesque sculpture, Gregorian chant (need I go on?) are enough to persuade me that God is a Catholic. What has secularism given us to compete with any of these?

liamfriedland
liamfriedland
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Shopping! /sarcasm

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

A Roman Catholic, please.

Classical secular architecture exceeds or at least exceeded any of the greatest fanes. Music, we have little idea about as virtually nothing has survived.
Classical sculpture again surpasses both Romanesque or even Gothic work.
Poetry,Theatre, Literature again the Classical world is supreme.

This is not say that the Roman Catholic Church wasn’t capable of some stupendous artistic achievements, it was.

However, for example, if one follows the ideas of the late Banister Fletcher in his, ‘A History of Architecture on the comparative method’, it becomes abundantly clear that the Classical world set an impossibly high standard in architecture, that has remained unbeaten to the present day.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

The prefix ‘Roman’ isn’t used outside Anglicanism, a very minor outpost of Christendom. But the Eastern church has of course given us a lot. As of course did the architecture of classical antiquity, although I find its appeal is more to the intellect while Gothic moves the heart and soul. The earliest Christian architecture (the Constantinian basilicas of Rome) was of course both Roman and classical – a fact ignored by Pugin, who thought Gothic the only true Christian architecture. I’ll grant you your defence of the ancients, but the question was, what has secularism given to equal any of this?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Yes, I am with you on how Gothic “moves the heart and soul”.

There is an account of an English classicist returning from Greece in the mid nineteenth century and spending the night in Rouen, where he somewhat reluctantly visited the stupendous Abbey Church of St Ouen. He was so “blown away” by it, as we would now say, that he nearly became a Catholic! To visit it today you can see why. Sublime is the only word to describe it.

Post Classical secular architecture I would agree has been unable to compete in this field. I would posit the Escorial as the only edifice that gets near. As for Versailles, Caserta, Blenheim, and say the Zwinger, kitsch monstrosities, with poor to non existent sanitation. However the one magnificent secular exception must have been the magnificent Gothic Cloth Hall in Ypres. Essentially two ‘Cathedrals’ in parallel, but devoted to the god Mammon!

Putin and Ruskin did much to resurrect ‘Gothic’, from the pasting it had had from Raphael, Vasari, Wren & Co. Yet even today some our greatest Gothic masterpieces still remain unfinished for want of piffling amount of cash. Just think of how say Wells, Peterborough, or Beverley would look complete?

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Putin for Pugin is a delightful Freudian slip! Agree with you about the cloth hall at Ypres, although it is almost entirely a post-WW1 rebuild. I think it was the inspiration for Gilbert Scott’s Midland Hotel at St Pancras – often described as a cathedral of the railway age. But isn’t it telling that the most sublime secular buildings are those which ape sacred ones? As for real cathedrals, yes, why not finish off Wells, Peterborough etc? The nearest we’ve got to it is Stephen Dykes Bower’s central tower at Bury St Edmunds, a beautiful scholarly effort realised by his proteges Hugh Matthew and Warwick Pethers

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

I agree, Bury St Edmunds looks splendid and is, albeit belatedly, some recompense for the great Abbey church.

I was hoping it might start a trend, but with the notable exception of the brilliant work currently in progress at Bishop Auckland, nothing else seems to be happening.

Of the two, Beverley and Peterborough, I think I would prioritise Beverley as the completion of the central tower would make it an a absolute jewel among our great churches. When nearby Hull was celebrating its City of Culture 2017, an opportunity was lost. Probably because nobody knows where Beverley is, and if they do, it’s perceived to be in the ‘flat’ East Riding and near to Hull!

Incidentally thanks to the massive EU “bail out” package, the Italians now have a splendid opportunity to finally finish Brunelleschi’s work in Florence, rather than waste it on tunnel to Sicily as reported!

Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

It’s used by other Protestant churches that use the Nicene Creed

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Jackson

Sorry, didn’t mean to downvote you. Meant to reply, because I’m interested in which Protestant churches those might be

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

You can un-downvote him simply by clicking again on the relevant icon.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago

Thank you!

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

“Poetry, Theatre, Literature again the Classical world is supreme.” No doubt it’s a defensible opinion to prefer Sophocles to Shakespeare (though I don’t share this opinion myself). No doubt it’s reasonable to prefer Homer to Dante (though again, I don’t myself). But one surely couldn’t argue that the classical world produced any narrative literature of a realism and psychological sophistication equivalent to George Eliot or Tolstoy.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

As I am sure know, it is estimated that 99% of everything in Latin and 90% of everything in Greek was destroyed on and subsequently after the fall of the Classical world.

Therefore, reluctantly, I have to agree with you about narrative literature, and the absence of any classical equivalent to Eliot or Tolstoy.

Perhaps archaeology will unearth something, someday, Cicero’s ‘Golden River’ perhaps?

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Of course that loss is a tragedy, but I think we also know that we have much of what the Ancients themselves considered their finest achievements. The Greeks did not consider any literature they had produced to have surpassed Homer. Six of Aeschylus’ seven surviving plays (the seventh being, in any case, of disputed authorship) won the top prize at the Dionysia. It would be wonderful if we had the Cypria or the Telegony, or plays by Phrynichus or Philocles, but I would be surprised if they turned out to be better than the works that the Greeks themselves most highly esteemed. I’d be still more surprised if they rivalled the psychological depth and precision or the breadth of social analysis that we find in Middlemarch or Anna Karenina. Classical literature simply didn’t aspire to the qualities of those novels, which exemplify the values and achievements of a different civilisation.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

I must agree, Classical literature seems to have ignored the concept of the novel. Perhaps it just wasn’t heroic enough. Normal life was just too banal to be worth recording in any major work.

If we are to believe the inscription on Aeschylus’s tomb, he was indifferent to his literary triumphs and only wished to be remembered for fighting at Marathon.

The only example I can think of that even approaches the novel, is the Metamorphoses of Apuleius. A most amusing tale, but not up to standard of Middlemarch, I’ll grant you.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Interesting the Japanese produced something akin to the modern realist novel a thousand years ago. The Tale of Genji has an almost modern psychological realism, although its focus is still on a courtly hero; and other “monogatari” (tales) and “nikki” (diaries) are remarkable for their quotidian banality. From the Kagero Nikki (“Mayfly Diary” aka “Gossamer Years”):

“These times have passed, and there is one who has drifted uncertainly through them, scarcely knowing where she is. It is perhaps natural that such should be her fate. She is less handsome than most, and not remarkably gifted. Yet, as the days go by in monotonous succession, she has occasion to look at the old tales, and has found them masses of the rankest fabrication. Perhaps, she says to herself, even the story of her own dreary life, set down in a diary, might be of interest; and it might also answer a question: has that life been one befitting a well-born lady? But they must all be recounted, events of long ago, events of but yesterday.”

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

“Nothing new under the sun”

This reminds one of ‘Emma’ don’t you think?

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Yes indeed – you are not the first to make that comparison!

Allie McBeth
Allie McBeth
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Science

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  Allie McBeth

There was no conflict between religion and science until the nineteenth century challenge to biblical literalism. And there’s no conflict now, unless you’re a biblical literalist. The Jesuits made enormous contributions to astronomy and seismology. Copernicus, Descartes, Pasteur, Newton were all Christians, as are many scientists today

Ian Wigg
Ian Wigg
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Rational thought as opposed to superstition?

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Wigg

Aquinas? Erasmus? Descartes? Pascal? Newman? Edith Stein? E F Schumacher? There are plenty of rational religious thinkers (as well as plenty of ignorant and superstitious atheists). I say this as a sceptic/agnostic

rlastrategy2
rlastrategy2
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

There’s no such person as a Muslim (living) aetheist …

Janice Mermikli
Janice Mermikli
3 years ago
Reply to  rlastrategy2

I like your addition of the word “living” in parenthesis!

Trishia A
Trishia A
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cox

It shouldn’t be about “standing up” to religion. It should about valuing truth and investigation above and beyond “identities” and “feelings”.

It’s not “religion” per se that’s at fault, but the very essence of ANY faith in ANY concept.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago

Meanwhile, here in Britain, we are giving our undivided attention to gender pronouns, the evil of micro-aggressions and instances of racism that can only be detected with a microscope.
Turns out Private Frazer was right.

Janice Mermikli
Janice Mermikli
3 years ago

Yes, we are indeed all doomed!

Andrew Russell
Andrew Russell
3 years ago

The first episode of Kenneth Clark’s excellent series Civilisation was titled “The Skin of Our Teeth” – that was how he described the survival and subsequent flourishing of European civilsation. It’s a situation that applies now, but (as Clark also mentioned when speaking of Classical civilisation) the West has lost confidence in itself and is very tired. Is it even worth preserving any more? Technology keeps people distracted. There is no core culture or religion and a culture which doesn’t value itself is doomed to obsolescence and worse.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Russell

Yes, Civilisation was a great series. I had to look up the precise wording, but one sentence that resonated (in the chapter called the Fallacies of Hope) was his list of ‘all those forces that threaten to impair our humanity: lies, tanks, tear-gas, ideologies, opinion polls, mechanisation, planners, computers – the whole lot’.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Russell

Teeth being the operative word, in Kenneth Clark’s case, but still a brilliant series, the like of which we will never see again.

It’s a great pity he didn’t start earlier, say with Peloponnesian War, if only to describe the foundations of the Western Civilisation.

However, even by the late sixties, many people, including the sainted BBC, were fed up with Classical World, and with some reason, it must be said.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Russell

If by the west you mean the US and the islands off Europe (wot used to be British), and parts of north Western Europe, well then perhaps that is doomed. The centre and east of Europe are awakening.

Andrew Russell
Andrew Russell
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

I hope they are. I’ve lived in Eastern Europe and it seems to me that they are much more interested in their own culture. They know what it is like not to be free – it’s something within recent memory. Western Europe, Britain and Ireland cannot wait to turn themselves into culture-free corporate zones whose populations are encouraged to applaud as they are replaced. Seen from C and E Europe, it looks like we are the victims of an insane and self-destructive delusion.

Janice Mermikli
Janice Mermikli
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Russell

Agreed. but i would go even further than that and say that our culture doesn’t only fail to value itself but evidently hate itself. All other cultures, most of them manifestly inferior to European ones, are considered to be superior.

Andrew Russell
Andrew Russell
3 years ago

True. Keith Woods and Endeavour speak about this on their respective (and excellent) YouTube channels.

Graeme Cant
Graeme Cant
3 years ago

“the rise of a multi-polar world”

What makes you think it will be multi-polar?

It has been mult-polar for centuries. The West only thought it was dominant by ignoring the gigantic Islamic world – stretching from Bosnia to Vladivostok.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Graeme Cant

In terms of hegemony/dominance/influence to the world – whilst a geographically large part of the physical world, the area you talk of was of limited significance since the decline of the Ottoman empire, if not outright irrelevance.

Put flippantly – almost nobody has been buying Bosnian products, watching Bosnian cinema, or reading Bosnian intellectual/academic developments over the past 200 years (or much in the way of anywhere in that large region you outline)

The growth in influence of Turkey (and Iran I’d add in that realm) and others such as India is relatively new after a large 200 year period of European then US/Soviet/Chinese dominance.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Graeme Cant

Japan (tiny by any comparison) has been far more influential to the global economy/polity (including the Muslims) than the whole Islamic world.

singh.vishal971204
singh.vishal971204
3 years ago

It’s unfair to draw binary between hagia Sophia and Ram Mandir both have distinct status ,Ram Temple was lingering in legal dispute before Independence during British Rule which was Hindu Temple earlier after Mughal squattered on it , Erdogan went on to chage UNESCO status without any discussion ,Here in India we knew Court will render the status of disputed site
Hinduism is most Liberal neither we assert ourselves in Western Nation’s as Hindu nor we play identity Politcs like Islamophobic Card ,We accomodate ourselves in Western Nations with thier values unlike orthhodox Muslims

Janice Mermikli
Janice Mermikli
3 years ago

Agreed.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

How many centuries will it take for the failure of the UK to integrate it’s immigrant population(s) to eliminate any hopes of maintaining a peaceful secular society ….

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

What do you mean by ‘how many centuries’? This failure is already with us and visible across urban Britain.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Agreed – and I could have worded it better – but I’m also questioning how long it will take to get to a point where UK society will sadly become dominated by a single state religion (again) ?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

The religion of which you speak is already, effectively, the UK”s state religion.

Andrew Shaughnessy
Andrew Shaughnessy
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Erdogan is telling Turkish immigrants, “Have not just three but five children… The place in which you are living and working is now your homeland and new motherland. Stake a claim to it… because you are the future of Europe.” It seems Douglas Murray was right.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Yes, but Turks in germany are not having 5 kids.
Alevi Turks don’t care much about Erdogan, nor do the Kurds.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

It is already. It is called NHS and it is as powerful as the Catholic church ever was, though much less amusing than the Church of England

bramma58
bramma58
3 years ago

Mr. Holland. You seem to have failed to grasp the mood or the reasoning in India. The supporters of Modi are not only practicing Hindus but also secular Atheists. A temple structure was also recently found under the mosque. The Supreme Court simply did not eradicate a Mosque, it promised Muslims in the region a new mosque with the consultation and agreement of India’s Muslim organisation.Indian’s know many secular Muslims to discard secularism. India is becoming more secular and demands secularism from minority groups unlike the previous decade where secularism was only expected of Hindus.

Rob Newman
Rob Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  bramma58

A much needed response to the article, which seems to be rather myopic when it comes to the nature of religion in India and any growing or hidden trends there. I imagine the article is trying to point to the decrease in secularism only in governance and not perhaps in its people. But even in governance it is much more complex, as is religion in general in India. Also, to conflate Turkey with India is not that helpful, and to assume present day Governance is to be the future in those said states, is not, perhaps, the most accurately predictive.

bramma58
bramma58
3 years ago
Reply to  Rob Newman

Exactly, It’s a huge mistake to conflate Turkey with India. Indians and in general Hindus, Sikh, Jains, Buddhists were naturally secular even before they knew it was a thing. Until, recently Muslims could divorce their wifes with 3 word Talaq which is even banned in hardcore Islamic countries. Such was the secularism in India. The India now demands everyone to be secular. There is a growing movement to amend a Uniform Civil Code which would benefit Muslim women from Islamic Sharia compliant civil code that is currently in use for and by Muslims.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
3 years ago
Reply to  bramma58

Aurangzeb did indeed ponder a “rule of law” to a certain extent.

We should also bear in mind Travancore’s tolerance of minorities. I have yet to read of any British resident complaining about maltreatment of Christians and Jews there. I hope I do not find anything of that nature.

bramma58
bramma58
3 years ago

No, in fact the Christian churches in India had a hard time converting people to Christianity. One of the obstacle was people simply included Jesus in their pantheon of gods they worshiped. The other obstacle being caste system. The converted Christians could not let go of the caste system and still stuck to their caste identity but were considered outcast by Hindus. Catholics in my region in India still sport bindis and tie the traditional knot during weddings. Protestants or Pentecostals along with Muslims are the not so secular cases in India, they don’t even visit the architectural areas in the temples or monuments. Most of them do not even wish us for Diwali nor eat food prepared during festivals or religious ceremonies. While us Hindus, sing carols with Christians and celebrate Eid with Muslims.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  bramma58

Interesting stuff. Would you say India is following under more tribal or traditionalist lines? Rather than religious in the sense we know it.

(I say tribal as for example my understanding of the naming of Mumbai was that it was driven by a particular group, rather than wider residents of Bombay/Maharashtra)

bramma58
bramma58
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

I don’t quite understand your question. But, definitely not tribal. The word tribe is used only for or identified by Muslims and Scheduled tribes living in certain remote areas and North East India. Most of India (North and South are Hindus with their own major Gods and mix of other Gods). For Example, Murugan for Tamil Nadu, Ram for North Indian regions, Ganesh for Maharashtra, Tirupati for Andhra, Kali for Kolkata. The Naming of Mumbai was driven by a Political party called Shiv Sena that was pro Hindu and had clash Muslims in the early 90’s. It’s not driven by tribal values but a combination of linguistic, ethnic and religious values. This party stands for Marathi people (local ethnicity), Hindu values, and regional identity ( Maharashtra, Mumbai).

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  bramma58

Thanks – really interesting!

To clarify I meant tribal in the generic sense meaning ‘group’ – not in any literal or specific meaning. Like ‘tribal politics’ in the UK for example could mean Labour, Tory etc.

sarah.brown1
sarah.brown1
3 years ago

Although Erdogan’s move is certainly unwelcome (particularly given whole context of his record) the decision to turn Hagia Sophia into a museum seems almost to be beyond just being ‘secular’ – it seems an extraordinary move, given it had functioned as a mosque for 500 years and that Turkey was a Muslim majority country.

Geoff Cox
Geoff Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  sarah.brown1

Hi Sarah – I believe it was all part of Kemal Ataturk’s noble attempt to modernise Turkey and allign it much more with the West. Ataturk was a strong man and no doubt there are quite a few bodies to be discovered, but he saw Turkey’s future as secular and western. Until Erdogan he has been regarded as a national hero with statues to him everywhere. But in the East, where they are more religious and where Erdogan gets most of his support, they want to undo much of that.

Andrew Shaughnessy
Andrew Shaughnessy
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cox

True. Mustapha Kemal dragged Turkey into the 20th century. Erdogan, like all Islamists, wants to drag it back to the 7th.

Trishia A
Trishia A
3 years ago

In the West, identity politics is the driving force of the de-secularisation of our society. Every damned religious nut is using the language of racism and bigotry and “identity” to enforce religious positioning in civil society.
Identity politics and “freedom “OF” religion” are erasing 60 years of secularisation in the West. “Tolerating” faiths is antithetical to western society.

Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
3 years ago
Reply to  Trishia A

Every religious nut I know hates it.

Go Away Please
Go Away Please
3 years ago
Reply to  Trishia A

I don’t think that’s true. No religion goes on about identity politics. That is something that has come about in the post-Christian secular West.
The traditions of the West run far deeper than the shallows of last 60 years, but it is the last 90 years or so that have led us to the state you describe.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Trishia A

Identity politics is its own form of religion. They don’t need any other religious nutters to help them.

K Sheedy
K Sheedy
3 years ago

The problem with religion as the basis for a state is that it panders to the less intelligent and their need for certainty. Certainty supports intolerance – if I am right than everyone with a different opinion is wrong. This leads to monoculture which stops invention and progress. Just look a N Korea or the great civilisations of China and Japan when they both closed their borders to the ‘savages’ outside.
For progress the formula is obvious.
Embrace difference, accept uncertainty, and tolerate everything except intolerance.

Adrian Maxwell
Adrian Maxwell
3 years ago

So, we are heading for a post modern world of sword and sorcery, narrated by Ursula LeGuin. One old man in the sky to be replaced by myriad beings in the sky who overtly or otherwise require the removal of those who don’t believe. And what of the Chinese, what medieval God(s) will they resurrect as they counterfeit everything and anything at very low unit cost? The renaissance of religion, the Temple of Lord Rama and the Ayasofya Mosque will simply be the Stonehenge and Pyramids of history. There is no permanency and the ‘decline of west’ is just another step predicted by Olaf Stapledon in The Last and First Men. The sooner we are off to Mars the better. Apologies for trying to stick to Tom’s thesis.

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Maxwell

That would be funny, first we destroy, pollute and submit almost everything we encounter on this green and blue planet and then, when the job is done, we leave for a new start on some boring red rock with (almost?) no life at all, luckily there is some water I was told…But still, why did these damned monkeys ever leave the jungle and quit eating banana’s? Anyways, if we survive long enough, at some point the sun will explode, together with my question about the monkeys.

rlastrategy2
rlastrategy2
3 years ago

Perhaps a boring red rock is mankinds deserved Hell (certainly the USA’s.)

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  rlastrategy2

That’s a bit grim isn’t it?

You need a stiff drink to restore you morale. May I suggest a G&T? I find it does wonders, when spirits are low.

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

It’s true that some drinks have a very high spirit

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago

Mr Holland is making very grand claims in this article, but he’s doing it on the basis of a very short time frame. If we date the modern resurgence of religion and the anti-secularist agenda to the Iranian Revolution in 1979, then this is a phenomenon that to date has lasted no longer than have neo-liberal economics and considerably less time than did the Soviet Union. On the basis of similar time frames (e.g., the Turkish secularism that had endured since 1923), writers in the 1960s and 1970s similarly concluded that the march of secularism was unstoppable.

By 2060, if we live to see it, we may well be pondering this renewed religious zeal as another passing phase in the history of the world. After all, while Mr Holland is right that the reconsecration of the Hagia Sophia and the laying of the foundation stone in Ayodhya are very 2020 indeed, the sense in which they are so is that both are basically a manifestation of conservative identity politics.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
3 years ago

I am reading “The Ivory Throne” by Manu S. Pillai. One Indian kingdom’s beginning is essentially in a horrific massacre in the 1720s. Nobles executed and their wives and children sold into slavery. Then it slowly develops, with coercion from the British, but by the 1850s, the most productive parts of said kingdom are Syrian Christian communities. The Brahman areas are still economically underdeveloped. That is in Travancore, the “model” princely state.

I can understand why Indians want to see their own successes on their own terms, even if the facts (as presented by the Indian authors I’ve read) are increasingly pointing to all moral development being British. Reconciling that desire to see your culture/religions as worthwhile, while also acknowledging any good things the British did is going to be difficult.

All nations need a “deep history” to be proud of. Us Brits have a civilised history back to 1600 at the very least. We have it easy. More modern states with more blood-soaked pasts have it very difficult. I don’t envy them. I hope they can find more examples of institutional mercy and moral development in eastern civilisation as more research is done into the matter.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago

Why 1600? 1485 surely, when Henry Tudor firmly closed the box of medievalism, and Britain began its walk to tolerance and liberty. But with that minor caveat, a very sensible comment

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Sensible maybe, but it means that the east was inferior to even Russia, a murderous despotism.

One thing pro-British empire commentators forget, is that their view essentially reduces the entire world to a wasteland. History is important to us Brits, and I have always wanted to feel pride in our allies. The cheerful sensible pro-empire comments by Indian authors, Robert Tombs and Daily Telegraph commentators ironically makes that difficult. Slavery and slaughter everywhere.

As children we are taught to see “good” and “bad” european states. Sadly, even the “bad” states like Spain and Kaiserine Germany are morally superior to the East. I honestly think that conservatives should campaign against orientalist thoughts developing in young minds. It would save alot of pain and wasted time if people like me didn’t spend their formative years trying to find any, literally any comparable civilisation beyond the Dardanelles.

Apologies for the whinging comment, but facing the facts generally induces abit of despair in me.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Fat Henry’s head chopping would beg to differ.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Henry’s “head chopping” as you so amusingly call it was a minor detail compared to outstanding job Thomas Cromwell did bringing the Church to heel.

1540 can be said to be the final year of the Middle Ages, not 1485, commemorating as it does only an obscure skirmish, in a boggy field somewhere in Leicestershire.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

To heel I think. Heal is one thing he didn’t do

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Well said. I shall have to ‘chastise’ my young scribe!

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

If you google ‘scribal abuse in the middle ages’, you’ll find a learned article with plenty of tips!

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

England not Britain “began its walk to tolerance and liberty “.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Japan? Korea?

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Japan had no real system of ethics until the American occupation. Charity was minimal and the less said about the comfort women, the better.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

What about all that ‘Bushido’ stuff, and those sword slashing Samurai?

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

I hear you, but all the texts on Japanese history I have make some reference to a lack of morals in ancient Japanese culture that carries forward. I honestly hope I’m wrong.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago

The moral structure of the native Shinto creed was inadequate, as was the moral structure of Viking paganism. That’s why Japan ending up having to import Buddhism, longer ago than Scandinavia accepted Christianity.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

Perhaps you are correct.The recent ‘Olympus’ scandal seemed to rather smack of that, I thought.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

I think you and Mr Hicking are both making the same error: you are choosing to regard particular scandals and atrocities as representative of Japanese culture in a way that you wouldn’t do if we were discussing instances of similar corruption and cruelty in the West. Mr Hicking points to the Edo Period as one of particular cruelty; I pointed to the Heian Period as one of remarkable benevolence. Why should we assume that the former is representative and the latter aberrant?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

Yes I maybe.

In 1975, I and many others were ‘introduced’ to Japan, thanks to James Clavell’s splendid novel, ‘Shogun’.
Off course at that time we were still unimpressed by Japan’s wartime behaviour, but it did stimulate an interest in Japanese history for many of us. I was particularly intrigued by the UK’s close relationship with Japan from 1860 to 1922.

The Anglo-Japanese Naval Treaty of 1902 and its subsequent revocation in 1922 were seminal events, that rather explain the unfortunate state of affairs that followed.

I had read that the Heian Period was looked upon as golden era of peace, prosperity and cultural advance. This combined with the advent of Buddhism, seemed to be diametrically opposed to what happened later in the somewhat violent Edo Period

Thus presumably the seeds of Edo must have been sown in the era of internecine strife, that Heian finally descended into.
This then leading to the rise of those ‘revered’ homicidal maniacs we call Samurai!
A warning for us all.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

The Edo Period was actually not very violent by international standards – Japan enjoyed two and a half centuries of internal peace and stability, while opting for near-total isolationism in foreign affairs. Samurai had virtually nothing to do at this time! This state of peace, however, was bought at the cost of cruelly repressive government and a rigid class system.

The really violent period in Japanese history (apart from the “Fifteen Years War” between 1931 and 1945) was the phase in between Heian and Edo. Indeed, the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries are referred to as the “Era of Warring States” (Sengoku jidai in Japanese).

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

Yet the ‘West’ seems fixated on the Samurai culture and Hollywood almost obsessively so. Why?

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Because samurai culture is exciting and exotic? Actually if you watch the many distinguished Japanese period films set during the Edo Period, one of the recurrent themes is samurai who don’t really have a useful job to do!

The class that really defined the Edo Period was the merchants, who made Edo (present-day Tokyo) into arguably the world’s first modern city: a cultivated, leisured place obsessed with novelty and fascinated by art, sex and money.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Well, presumably because samurai and their conflicts are exciting and dramatic. And after all, the medieval period provides much relevant material. But if you look at some of the many Japanese films set in the Edo Period, the plight of samurai with no real martial duties is a recurrent theme.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

A very good point, how to employ the redundant thug?

Frankly ‘we’ in the West have become so anaesthetised by comfort and decadence, that martial behaviour is rather attractive is it not? Particularly if you are a spectator and not a participant.
“Bread and Circuses” as Juvenal so succinctly put it.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

And the Edo (present-day Tokyo) of the Edo Period was, for some social sectors, a very comfortable and in some respects decadent society. The real dominant class was the merchant class, who devoted much time to pastimes and travel, the beauties of the arts and the pleasures of the flesh. Saikaku is another classic Japanese author who seems startlingly modern; he brilliantly captures the ennui and satiation of the novelty-seeking leisured classes of old Edo.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

Saikaku is unknown to me, so thank you for that. I can foresee some interesting reading.

It is interesting how it always the merchant/middle class who seem to be the true vanguard of any civilisation.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

That really did unnerve me.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

Sadly, rather like the “master race” and the Emissions Scandal.

Still, we mustn’t revel in smugness, “self praise is no recommendation ” as the adage goes.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago

What utter nonsense! Buddhism, with its sophisticated and compassionate ethical code, was introduced into Japan in the seventh century. Between the ninth and twelfth century, Japan didn’t even use the death penalty, which arguably made it the most enlightened country in the world at that time. What happened in the 1930s and 1940s was, like what happened in Germany at the same time, a tragic moral collapse in a formerly noble civilisation.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
3 years ago

I suggest you read about the Edo period. An utter hell-hole. Samurai could behead peasants without punishment. The word of the Daimo was law, with no room for dissent. Japanese jails were essentially slow execution chambers.

Japanese fairy tales and fables lack a moral dimension. One features two characters encouraging a rabbit to torture itself to death. They are praised in the narrative for doing this.

The only civilisation that encouraged mercy and institutionalised that, was the West. I have been tiptoeing around that fact for years, but it is time for me to grow up and accept that.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago

Thank you, I am familiar with the Edo Period, which indeed was notable for cruelties roughly on a par with many areas of medieval Europe.

The two Japanese stories involving a rabbit that I know are the story of Kachi-kachi-yama and the story of the Moon Rabbit. Neither corresponds precisely to your summary. In the former, the Rabbit exacts a horrible revenge on a tanuki (raccoon dog), but this is after the tanuki has killed a woman and served her flesh to her husband. It’s a nasty story, but no nastier than many of the harshly moralistic folk tales we know from the West, and based around a straightforward theme of crime and punishment.

In the story of the Moon Rabbit, familiar in Japan for a thousand years, three animals agree to practice charity. The rabbit, unable (as his companions could) to forage food for a beggar, sacrifices itself by throwing itself into a fire to roast. Presumably if this folk tale had come from the West, you would be praising it for exemplifying Christlike self-sacrifice?

Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
3 years ago

‘Secular’ is literally accurate if ‘civitas non religiosa’ means constantly exploring a space of maximal complexity. I hope the author is just upping the ante, not really saying there is no alternative to random chaos than a sticky concoction of traditions, mythical beings and manufactured narratives. Likening the ‘decline’ of the West to that of earlier empires neglects the vastly greater experience of historical ebb and flow it can call upon compared to theirs, and that other societies have no greater claim to permanence simply because they temporarily lack self-doubt. For 2500 years, the thread of universalist reason running through European civilisation has weathered regression into Christian theocracy, corruption by foreign adventures, and internal brainstorms. Christianity, which features prominently in the argument, is a fusion (or confusion) of Greek, Jewish, Roman and pagan sensibilities that has not entirely lost that thread. Unlike other religions, I believe it can strip off its supernatural baggage without losing its identity or humanistic principles. I suggest European hegemony stemmed from opportunism not from deep character (though extending that to ‘Western’ might be a step too far). If so, it can strip that off too. Europe is not just another bloc on a Risk board. With its offshoots (at least when following the Greek not the Roman model), it is unique geographically, demographically, culturally and in achievements. Are we really going to be spooked by single-issue upstarts? Have we learned nothing from history?

Michael Koch
Michael Koch
3 years ago

Ironically this “Western Secularism” has turned out to be nothing other than another “religious” movement. It is followed by rabid adherents with the equivalent zeal and irrational obedience present in most other religions. The penalties for straying from the dictates of the Woke are severe and swift.

bramma58
bramma58
3 years ago

Modi and Erdogan cannot be compared. I have gone from disliking Modi to finding him favourable. Though I don’t support some of his policies of his government, most of it has been very fruitful for India. I don’t think there has been a time when his government implemented any policy that can be even remotely construed as authoritarian.

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago

There is another important piece of historical context for this. The European consensus on the distinct neutrality of religion arose from the continent’s failure to resolve its differences in the Wars of Religion from roughly 1517 to 1648, cemented in international politics by Westphalian sovereignty. It is not an eternal moral principle, but a contingent fudge, and it does not apply to civilisation groups that have successfully united around one core doctrine.

David Bottomley
David Bottomley
3 years ago

I think it’s certainly true that the first half and maybe more of the 21st century are ‘way stops’ although i think it’s too early to be sure of what. Certainly there are massive changes in the world , not least in areas not touched on in this article I.e China and the Far East. How it’s all going to play out is anyone’s guess.

Miguelito
Miguelito
3 years ago

You mention St Augustine but not St Thomas Aquinas. His distinction between the divine and the secular was to prevent Christianity from falling into the trap of stagnation that claimed Islam where science had no value and only scripture was considered truth. I wish people could just accept two aspects in their mind instead of only one.
Mr. Trump was propelled to the Presidency largely by the right-wing machine pioneered by talk radio. At its base is not just the fear, anger and hatred that it sells, but even more is grievance focused around abortion and other unwanted change… but it was abortion that allowed it to harness religious fervor. (The origin of abortion as a religious issue actually had a lot to do with the desire of Christian Schools to stay segregated and still be able to keep their tax exempt status.) Still, it is religion that stoked the right wing media machine. Better still, go back further than the Trump Insurgency and you see that while called the “Culture Wars”. It, like the “War between Science and Religion”, are just more battles in a much more ancient war. Heck, Socrates was found guilty of impiety if you want to look closer to its source. Is it really a war between religion and the secular though? Actually, it’s not. The main aspect of religion is as an institution that husbands and teaches morality. That is critically important and gives religion its immense power. The trouble is that that power always attracts those that want power and their power grab, like Mr. Trump’s, has little to do with the institution of religion or democracy other than to grab its power. Think of the distinction between those that use religion as a moral guide and those that use it for power. It’s a pretty big noticeable difference.
If you want to go down this rabbit hole just a little further, this war is between the roots of humanity. It was the pastoral tribes such as wrote the Bible that have always by their nature sought power. It worked in their world. Civilization was more complicated and needed the more sophisticated moral direction of philosophy and religions to guide the cooperation required of different peoples. There power was that of creativity from their minds and labors. They were the farmers and builders of civilization. They created the wealth of civilization and moral power of religion. The rulers of civilization, using war, economics and manipulating religion, were the pastoralists who grabbed the power. It wasn’t all bad. They created great things but they kept the secular controlled on a leash. In this day, it is the same drive for power we see as “Southern Ideology” that was of “pastoralist” slave herders that now use religious manipulation to grab political power in American Democracy. Theirs is not a law of a nation. Theirs is the Law of the Jungle. Both secular democracy and religion must beware those who try to grab power for their benefit instead of the people that both religion and democracy is supposed to serve.
It’s not going to work in the future. Science is too great a power to remain harnessed and it cannot be manipulated as easily as civilization has been in the past. You have to work too hard for knowledge and pastoralists do not have the fortitude or discipline of those that built civilization. Civil War military technology removed the niche of the ancient hereditary military ruling class. The Monarchies are gone. The development of science and technology will continue to remove more of the power of those that claim power by right, divine or military. Religion must understand their power is moral and must protect it from those that would steal it. Civilization must keep its power instead of allowing it to be squandered on war. That power will be needed for other challenges in a changing world.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Miguelito

When St. Augustine (or Aquinas) developed their doctrine they were not thinking about technological stagnation, your claim is absurd.
The Western World (unlike Islam) has fully embraced the legacy of Greece & Rome. Athens, Greece, Jerusalem are the 3 pillars of Western Civ.

rlastrategy2
rlastrategy2
3 years ago
Reply to  Miguelito

Real future civilization will and must depend on the complete shedding of pie-in the-sky religious superstition.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  rlastrategy2

Ancient Rome followed that principle. You could even worship crocodiles if you so wished.

The two golden rules were you were not were not allowed to kill/sacrifice people, and you mustn’t ask/demand State cash. Otherwise you could very much do as you pleased.

Clay Bertram
Clay Bertram
3 years ago

Russia under Putin reasserting Russian Orthodox values in Russian culture, Erdogan reconsecrating the Hagia Sophia back to a place of religious devotion and Modi’s recent intensification of Hindu values and places of worship – is any of this really surprising?

Judged through the lens of history of all 3 of these examples (I’m sure there are other examples more learned minds than mine could give) aren’t these decisions just a reassertion of very deep rooted, long-held impulses in the national psyche of those countries?

In Turkey for example, which impulse has the deeper roots and associated staying power – Ataturk’s secularism or Erdogan’s reassertion of Islamic culture, devotion and worldview?

I am not making a value judgement, but I think it’s slightly naive to think that secular rationalism and the current rot of postmodernist thinking is any sort of viable, long-term alternative to Erdogan, Modi’s or Putin’s assertions of national, religious and cultural pride.

Maybe I’m missing the point, but historically, the roots of western secularism appear very shallow to me…

Lillian Fry
Lillian Fry
3 years ago

Very much related to “the rise of the civilization state” article published here a few days ago.

We in the west lack this glue of a common religious tradition to inspire our own civilization.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
3 years ago

If we Christians and Jews may be allowed some credibility for our multi-millennial, pre-Enlightenment contribution to “the West”, perhaps our secular fellow-citizens would allow a factually descriptive adjustment of the nomenclature to . . . “Judeo-Christian West.”

alberto.menoni
alberto.menoni
3 years ago

Another reason why China will sprint, free of the shackles of institutional religion.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  alberto.menoni

Not sure – though lots could happen.

Depends if the ‘religious’ aspect is used to unify and increase general societal/community solidarity. In which case it could be a multiplier. If India continues and manages to not alienate the more minority religions in the process, it could fortify its position. In Turkey’s case it is hard to see the current resurgence without the religious aspect attached to it.

I say this without necessarily passing a judgment, just a statement.

dave.harbud
dave.harbud
3 years ago

So we forget about secularism as one of history’s dead ends? Once more British identity is tied to Anglicanism. The atheists go to church, sing the songs and stay shtum when the subject of evolution comes up. Any LGBTQIA+ people do the same and keep their heads down. What of those with ironclad convictions of their own? What of the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Mormans etc? Let them practice their false beliefs behind closed doors as long as they say nothing that offends Christian folk? Do they get the choice that my Huguenot ancestors did in France?

Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
3 years ago

QUESTION TO THE EDITORS – no reply asked for. Sometimes when I login to this essay I see one lot of comments like these 145. Other times I see only 4, different, comments. I noticed this puzzling effect when I first joined Unherd.

Frederick Foster
Frederick Foster
3 years ago

What Tom is describing has nothing to do with esoteric Spiritual Religion which was at the root of the historically dominant cults. It is just the resurgence of these now essentially obsolete tribalistic cults.

The age in which we live is culturally distinct from times past, in which tribal and nationalist movements, founded in ancient popular ideas and ideas, produced society, and politics, and the now world dominant religious cults.
By contrast the age in which we live was brought into being with the worldwide emergence of the industrial technologies of scientific materialism (science being the “religion” of the left brain). Therefore humankind is now obliged to root itself in the disposition or larger (even universal) purposes., and our concept of the future must be projected against the infinite scale of the total universe, rather than the provincial tribalistic scale represented by gross self interest, and ancient tribal and national divisions.

What is now commonly recognized and defended as religion in our Age is only the most superficial and factional and most often dim-minded and perverse expressions of ancient national and tribal cultism which are now engaged in fight to the death global warfare.

In this Quantum Age of worldwide political and social interdependence and of super technology the people must not fail to be equipped with a true, practical, supremely intelligent, universal, and full understanding of Esoteric Spiritual Religion. If they remain in the embrace of the archaic, myth-laden, exoteric, divisive religions of the past , they will only be subject to exploitation and negative dominance by the popular persuasiveness of scientific materialism.

To persist in the old cults is, in effect, to be bereft of True Religion in this Quantum Age of instantaneous inter-connectedness and inter-dependence.

The human world is now ruled and controlled by the ideology of scientific materialism which has deprived humankind of all profundity of view, relative to what we are as human beings, the nature of the natural world, and relative to the Divine Nature of Reality Itself

To persist in the old cults is, in effect, to be bereft of True Religion in this Age.

authorjf
authorjf
3 years ago

Seems to me the Western world need to try and understand what it is that WE are ‘not getting.’ So often, politicians and others assume that the rest of the world is just obtuse; what if our leaders are the obtuse ones? What if pluralism would be better served by a post-secular, multifaith democracy than by secularism?

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
3 years ago

This idea had never occurred to me, although it rings true. Thanks, Tom, for this panoramic view of history. We’ll keep an eye on it.

Josef Oskar
Josef Oskar
1 year ago

Secularism (a word of very difficult definition) started to take off because religion lost it’s way and instead of caring about the souls of the people (all people,not only the powerful ones).
So the best way is always to lokk back at what our ancestors thought about it. The Hebrew Bible reminds us
Proverbs 14:21 Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.

Will D. Mann
Will D. Mann
3 years ago

It is looking less and less likely that we will get through the 21st century without a major ( and probably terminal ) world war. Global secular internationalism was for a time our best hope of overcoming nationalism , religious fundamentalism and all the other things pulling us apart.

Maybe a world domination by Communist China is now the human races best chance of survival.

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
3 years ago

Surely it’s true that secularism (or whatever other name we give to the fact that for our guidance we do not trust an irrational divine force anymore outside the empirical world)
have changed the world rapidly. This form of cultural evolution is here to stay for quite a while I guess.

But although history does not repeat itself in an identical way, it still is a bumpy road with resurgences of old habits, religion being one them. Since religion as we know it has been around for thousands of years it is not so surprising that modernity can not destroy it within 200 years or so. For sure the forces that have been unleashed by humanity on itself since the French revolution are powerfull, analogous to the atomic bomb, but nevertheless these modern forces are still embryonic from a psychological point of view. People need stories they can understand or better: stories that they can have feelings for, believe in. The culture of globalism for the time being only gives warm feelings to a very small and rich elite. Meanwhile most people still feel more comfortable in a green environment and in small communities. A bit like monkeys still. No more than 200 friends and eating banana’s in the forest (we have barbecues). The big international metropolis tries to take this fact into account, sometimes with succes, but mostly not, it’s work in progress. My point is that ultimately the metropolis was not so much an individual choice but a common economic necessity to survive as a species in the most effective way, it’s a matter of numbers, 8 billion by now.
So has religion still fertile ground in the modern world ( because modern it is)? I think it does as long as the modern world finds no better alternative for its one and only economical dogma: the accumulation of purchasing power.

In its most dystopic version a temporary resurgence of religion could look a bit like the
international bestseller ‘A Handmaids Tale’ . In that respect I also enjoyed watching the american sequel The Leftovers. But ofcourse the Islam is very different from Christianity. The first is damaged but still very much alive and kicking and the second is more like a zombie walking through the streets of modernity. Let’s see what mixture the Turkish people,
among many other upcoming more traditional powers, will end up with in dealing with modernity. In the end the truth always is that what works a philosopher once said.

Paul Whiting
Paul Whiting
3 years ago

Holland’s anti western, pro Islamic bias is showing here more than ever. This is just race bating. If Turkey and India abandon secularism they will both sink into the miasma of superstition and magical thinking.

Andrew Best
Andrew Best
3 years ago

You can’t build great monuments to beings that don’t exist.

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Best

So why are there so many wonderful churches then?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Best

Well quite plainly you can. From St Pauls to the Hagia Sophia to this thing in India to all manner of religious buildings and structures around the world. If you cannot even acknowledge that basic reality then you will find the world to be a very disappointing place.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Best

Perhaps the greatest building in the world, the Pantheon, was built for precisely that reason, nearly two thousand years ago.

Amazingly it is still standing, and well worth a visit if you happen to be strolling nearby.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Best

Err….Harry Potter world!

I’ll get my coat (and wand)…

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Best

“You atheists always underestimate religion and its adherents. That is probably why you have such trouble comprehending Islamic extremists.”

What do you mean by this?

Some of the greatest critics of the excesses of Islam over the past 20 years have come from a distinctly atheist school of thinkers (Dennet, Hitchens, Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali). And indeed on average those who proclaim to be atheist (or agnostic) have been shown to know more about religions than the religious – see here

For what it’s worth – agree that the first comment was a strange remark and very inaccurate

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Thanks – but no apology needed at all!

Yes I think I understand what you mean, I am just not sure why Atheism is being conflated with appeasement of Islamism and the more naive programmes of rehabilitation ?

Hitchens, Dawkins and Ali all specifically point out that the so called “extremists” are actually the ones following their religion to the letter, and that actually those with moderate religious beliefs are naively enabling the more dangerous sections.

I don’t want to put words in your mouth but are you conflating the left’s common appeasement of any non-christian extremism with their apparent atheism (therefore atheists are likely to appease)?

On a related side note, the apparent atheism of the extreme left I would argue is a de facto atheism rather than a measured and considered rejection of religion. Much like other fanatics, there is no room for religious doctrine or values if you subscribe to a more dominant ideology (communism and similar), especially when considering that in most nations the religious and the institutions have generally over the last 200 years sided with conservative and more right wing groups, or at least the establishment.

(Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris are the other two. Harris has been particularly measured and thoughtful in discussing on the current state of affairs in the US if you’re interested)

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Ace thanks.

1 – Agree with most of your point – but not necessarily that socialism and other ideologies are driven by rationalism at all, even if they claim it is. Much like a lot of hocus pocus alternative remedies are often now clothed in sciencey-sounding words (e.g. salt lamps “ionise the air”). Right now, the far left is actively rejecting rationalism (it’s oppressive and western-centric apparently). Moral bullying is most certainly present though.

On KSM – agreed that many true fanatics will exploit any attempt at reaching middle ground as a weakness. Again – it seems to me that the atheist thinkers were the ones who “got it” far better than non-atheist (or at least not overtly atheist) apologists who felt that the extremists were just misunderstood or misguided. As mentioned above – the thinkers’ view is that the extremists are arguably more logical (perversely) as they are actually following the literature. Moderate religious are the enablers as they are picking and choosing to ignore the bad bits, but excusing the overall ‘delusion’ (if you will) as not the problem.

2 – The main atheist thinkers most certainly do not think of it as a social construct – rather an evolutionary one. Not sure where that comes from. Again are you meaning that by “most atheists” you mean those that believe the world is made up of social constructs are often atheist, therefore atheists think that?

I guess our conversation boils down to what prominent atheists think and what the majority of those who are atheists think. My defence would be that the prominent ones have been overwhelmingly on the right side of this issue for some time now. I cannot speak for all atheists though (funnily enough) and don’t know what the overall trends are – do you know of anything? My overall impression is that a large part of the atheist movement has been consistently partnered with more rational scientific thought for some time (largely driven by Dawkins and Harris) – though I perhaps have not paid much attention to those who claim atheism but not from a scientific angle

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Ha no good to discuss – and thanks back

1. Points taken on the history of people supporting/rejecting communism.

Where I think we part company on opinion is the atheism/communism conflation – as mentioned above, the atrocities of communism were not caused by the atheism, no less than the excesses of Facism were caused by the Catholicism of Franco or Mussolini (and to a degree Hitler).

There is no room for religion in communism because it is replaced totally by a new doctrine. This doctrine is driven by a semi-religious cult – the book Wild Swans ably demonstrates this religious fervour and evangelism that affected the deluded Maoists in China. To be clear it shows the worst of a religious mindset – the fanatical, evangelical and worse.

By contrast nobody has ever killed anyone out of the absence of a belief in something. People don’t kill people because they are not vegetarians to use a silly example.

On KSM – will check it out thanks. An area I used to have a lot of interest in. In turn I would recommend “Blood Year” by David Kilcullen – non-religious but very military oriented but deals with a lot of the thinking behind ISIS and the collapse of Iraq post surge.

2. Fair points and matches a lot of my experiences! Baffling how it’s almost socially acceptable that someone could go on a pilgrimage to Lenin, when someone would (most rightly) get lambasted for going on a Nazi tour.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Best

Andrew, buy some books on architecture and monuments, ancient and modern. You will find we can and did.