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Is there anything left to conserve? The chickens of modernity have come home to roost

(Credit: English Heritage/Heritage Images/Getty)

(Credit: English Heritage/Heritage Images/Getty)


May 22, 2023   10 mins

“The whole modern world”, wrote G.K. Chesterton, “has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.”

Welcome to 2023. 

But what can we do when there’s nothing left to conserve? The answer depends on what you were trying to conserve in the first place. In Britain, which has been at the speartip of the modern revolution for centuries, all that was solid has been melting into air since at least since the Enlightenment, and the consequence has been the loss of almost everything that the likes of Edmund Burke, who already had his back up against the wall two centuries ago, would have considered worth conserving. Across the modern world, the process has been the same: something I have described as a great unsettling. 

In this unsettled world, the notion that the West is declining, collapsing, dying or even committing suicide is reaching a crescendo. Multiple reactions are underway to try and shore it up. The chickens of modernity, which the West created and exported, have come home to roost, and we are all increasingly covered in their guano. 

But if you want to argue about how to conserve or defend “the West”, you first have to know what it actually is. And to do that, you need to revisit its origin story.  

This story starts in a garden, at the very beginning of things. All life can be found here: every living being, every bird and animal, every tree and plant. Humans live here too, and so does the creator of all of it, the source of everything, and he is so close that he can be seen “walking in the garden in the cool of the evening’’ an image I’ve always loved. Everything, here, is in communion with everything else. 

 

At the centre of this garden grows two trees, and one of them imparts hidden knowledge. The humans, the last creature to be formed by the creator, will be ready to eat this fruit one day, and when they do they will gain this knowledge and be able to use it wisely for the benefit of themselves and of all other things that live in the garden. But they are not ready yet. The humans are still young, and unlike the rest of creation, they are only partially formed. If they ate from the tree now, the consequences would be terrible.

“Do not eat that fruit,” the creator tells them. “Eat anything else you like, but not that.”

We know the next part of the story because it is still happening to us on an hourly basis. “Why should you not eat the fruit?” asks the voice of the tempting serpent, the voice from the undergrowth of our minds. “Why should you not have the power that you are worthy of? Why should this creator keep it all for himself? Why should you listen to him? He just wants to keep you down. Eat the fruit. It’s your right. You’re worth it!”

So we eat the fruit, and we see that we are naked and we become ashamed. Our mind is filled with questions, the gears inside it begin to whir and turn and suddenly here is us and them, here is humanity and nature, here is people and God. A portcullis of words descends between us and the other creatures in the garden, and we can never go home again. We fall into disintegration and we fall out of the garden forever. The state of questless ease that was our birthright is gone. We chose knowledge over communion; we chose power over humility.

The Earth is our home now.

This Earth is a broken version of the garden. On Earth we must toil to break the soil, to plant seeds, to fight off predators. We will sicken and die. Everything is eating everything else. These are the consequences of our pursuit of knowledge and power, but we keep pursuing them because we can’t see any other other way out, and anyway we need something to do with our big questing brains. We keep building towers and cities and forgetting where we came from. We forget the creator and worship ourselves. All of this happens inside us every day.

There comes a time when the creator takes pity. After so many centuries of humans eating the fruit again and again, He stages an intervention. He comes to Earth in human form to show us the way back home. Being human, we react first by torturing and killing him. But the joke is on us, because it turns out that this was the point all along. The way of this creator is not the way of power but of humility, not of conquest but of sacrifice, and his sacrifice gives us a path back home. If we follow that path, we can come back into communion again, and be as we were intended to be, which is to say holy — a word derived from the Old English halig — which means whole.

That’s the story. Now imagine that a whole culture is built around this story. Imagine that this culture survives for over a thousand years, building layer upon layer of meaning, tradition, innovation and creation, however imperfectly, on these foundations.

Then imagine that this culture dies, leaving only ruins.

If you live in the West, you do not have to imagine any of this. You are living among the ruins, and you have been all your life. They are the remains of something called “Christendom”, a 1,500-year civilisation in which this particular sacred story seeped into and formed every aspect of life, bending and changing and transforming everything in this story’s image.

But we can’t live for long among ruins. Humans are builders, and Nature abhors a vacuum. God abhors a vacuum too, I think, and whether we like it or not  and mostly these days we don’t — humans need God. This is why every human culture, forever, everywhere, has directed its gaze towards the divine. 

This is what we should understand if we are going to think or talk about “conserving” or “returning” or “restoring” anything. If you want to “defend the West”, you are talking about defending Christendom and the values it created, and/or the post-Christian liberal culture it gave birth to, which itself was based upon those values.  

Every culture is built around a sacred core. When it begins to rot, as all cultures do, it is because that core has been neglected. Usually its people have taken their eyes off the sacred centre and directed them somewhere else; towards false gods, golden calves, or their own dolled-up image in the mirror. Chesterton, again, took issue with Marx on this one. “The truth is that irreligion is the opium of the people,” he wrote. “Wherever the people do not believe in something beyond the world, they will worship the world.” This is the process which Christianity used to condemn as “idol worship”, and today’s West is at it in spades. 

A lot of people who talk about “defending the West” these days are either trying to defend red in tooth and claw capitalism — the system which has done more to destroy culture and eternal values in the West than anything else — or they’re trying to defend free speech, individualism and the right to be rude on the internet. I would suggest that these things in themselves were the results of a settlement designed, in the process now known as “the Enlightenment” to replace the West’s original sacred story with a new, human-centred version. 

This was the liberal settlement. It assumed that humans were disaggregated individuals who could roam the world speaking freely, consuming freely and imposing a rational science-based order on the world, the better to achieve progress. It combined the moral values and universalism of Western Christianity with rights-based individualism and a faith in science and technology, and it brought with it a new origin story, to replace the one about the garden and the snake.

This new story told of how we were saved from superstition and ignorance by the holy trinity of modernity: Reason, Science and Technology. Along the way, we stopped believing silly stories about gods and monsters, which had been made up by our ignorant ancestors before we could see the harsh but bracing reality that the universe is just a meaningless swirl of matter-energy which came from nothing for no reason, and human beings are just gene-replicating machines. Now here we are, working out how to rationally manage the whole show. Now, here we are, a new kind of being: post-religious Man.

I grew up sort of believing this story. I thought religion was over and we had moved beyond its stupid superstitions. I don’t believe that anymore. Now I believe something else: that in a significant sense, everything is religious. 

I became a Christian — an Orthodox Christian — in 2021, much to my own surprise and initial horror, after a very long search for truth. The subsequent immersion in the Christian story gave me a much clearer sense of what was happening around me in the 2020s. Most of all, they gave me an understanding of the sacred underpinning of human culture. Marx claimed that the history of all hitherto existing society was a history of class struggle, but it looks to me more like a history of religious belief. “Belief”, in fact is the wrong word. A better one might be “experience”, or “immersion”.

The more I attended the divine liturgy, the more I realised that what I had once dismissed as silly superstition was in fact the stuff of life. In the the pre-modern West, as in much of the world today, there was no such thing as “religion”. The Christian story was the basis of peoples’ understanding of reality itself. There was no “religion”, because there was no notion that this truth was somehow optional or partial, any more than we today might assume that gravity or the roundness of the Earth are facts we could choose to engage with only on Sunday mornings.

Again: everything is religious. The only people who believe otherwise, in fact, are a few people in what we liked to call our “secular” corner of the world. We once thought that by abolishing religion we had got ahead of the rest of the world. But suddenly, this story is being told less confidently. The wind has changed, and secular liberal modernity no longer looks like a good bet for winner of the End of History board game. 

So if everything is religious, but our old religion is dead, and the thing we tried to replace it with — rational, secular, humanist progress — is failing because it doesn’t meet real human needs, then where are we? What is coming next?

A good person to ask is the perennialist thinker RenĂ© Guenon, a favourite of our new king. Guenon was a Frenchman who became a Muslim, migrated to Egypt and dedicated his life to trying to save the West from its own materialism. He predicted that, save for a turn back to religion, the early 21st century would see the arrival of what he called the “Reign of Quantity”: the age of pure materialism in which we now live, in which every aspect of life would be be measured, quantified and subject to scientific assessment and technological management. 

Crucially, in the Reign of Quantity, religious feeling would become quantitative too. Humanity will never be able to shake off its desire for transcendence, but it will become unable to manifest that desire on any level other than the material. The object of worship during the Reign of Quantity, then, will not be some mysterious, untouchable, numinous force outside of creation: it will be the force of will in the material realm.

This, I think, is where we are today: the religious impulse is manifesting in material form, primarily through the use of technology to promote the human will. This phenomenon, which I like to call the Machine, is a material manifestation of the human desire for liberation through technology, in which all forms are dissolved in favour of the final and only sovereign: the independent rational individual, freed from the obligations of history, community and nature.

In the Orthodox Christian worldview, all of us are icons of God. Humanity was made in the image of the creator, and even though we endlessly fail to live up to this responsibility, it  gives us a clear point of reference. We know what humans are, and what the world is for. Once that story goes, what is the still point of the turning world? Nobody can agree. The only reference point in the post-Christian, post-liberal West is whatever we happen to want or feel. And since consumer liberalism has taught us that desire is not something to be transcended or controlled, but something to be surrendered to immediately and then valorised, reality itself becomes open to endless redefinition. Who’s to say what’s right or wrong or real? 

But let’s go back to our founding story again: back to the garden. What does our current state look like from that perspective? To me it looks simple enough, and I think it would have done to a citizen of Western Christendom too. We are following the path of the snake rather than the path of the creator. This is hardly a new development: the Bible is effectively an 80-book warning against it, and most other religions have their own cautionary tales. Once you reject God, you are fated to try and replace him.

This is where our path is now leading us, and it is, I think, the main reason that the waters of age seem so disturbed. Transhumanism, artificial intelligence, the “transcending” of everything from gender to biology, the growing of food and babies in labs: openly now, we seek to break all given limits, remake nature, build the world anew. We seek to become gods. The people who are building our new digital Tower of Babel are very open about what they are up to. If you don’t believe me, let them explain it for themselves. 

Transhumanist writer Elise Bohan, detailed a conversation she once had with a biologist at a conference on the future of transhumanism. “He looked me in the eye,” she says, “and whispered to me: ‘We’re building God, you know,’ 
 I looked back at him and I said: ‘Yeah, I know.'”

Similar sentiments are expressed by transhumanist philosopher Martine Rothblatt, who claims, “We are making God as we are implementing technology that is ever more all-knowing, ever-present, all-powerful and beneficent. Geoethical nanotechnology will ultimately connect all consciousness and control the cosmos.” Ray Kurzweil, Google’s head of engineering and philosopher-general of of the robot apocalypse is more succinct. “Does God exist?” he asks. “I would say: not yet.”

To return to where we started, we might say that transhumanism — the silicon manifestation of our new faith — aims not so much to eat from the tree of life, as to genetically engineer a new one, and plant it wherever the hell we like. We are on the verge of a revolution now, and it may make the Enlightenment look like a tea party. The entire basis of reality is being rewritten, or so we tell ourselves. Whole generations are growing up with a closer relationship to screen-based abstraction than to manual work or to the natural world. They have been convinced that the world is our playground, and that everything from history to human nature to sexual dimorphism can be changed at will. 

We are consciously making ourselves post-human, even as we strive to make the world post-natural and post-wild. If the age you live in is starting to take on the flavour of a war over the very meaning of reality itself — which is to say, a religious war — well, that’s because it is. 

What, in this world, can we possibly “conserve”? Nothing. In a culture which does not agree that nature exists, or that we have some basic, shared assumptions about reality, the question barely even makes sense. The challenge now is not to ask what we can “conserve” or “restore”. We have to go much further back. We have to dig down to the foundations. 

Our challenge now is to choose our religion. Try to avoid the challenge and your faith will be chosen for you: you will be absorbed by default into the new creed of the new age: the quest to build the digital Tower of Babel. The attempt to “build god” and replace nature through technology. The path of the snake.

What can we do when there’s nothing left to conserve? Pray.


Paul Kingsnorth is a novelist and essayist. His latest novel Alexandria is published by Faber. He also has a Substack: The Abbey of Misrule.


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Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 year ago

I disagree with Paul Kingsnorth that there is nothing left to conserve. Paul Kingsnorth – the man, his writing, his ideas – is left to conserve. As he and Mary Harrington talked at the Unherd Club yesterday, millions of families across our islands and beyond sat down to eat Sunday lunch together. Many more millions of children went out to play in the sunshine, without screens. All of that is left to conserve.

Perhaps Christendom’s cultural garden has grown somewhat unkempt, with self-propagating weeds popping up all over its fertile soil – some misguided victim-worship here, some deeply confused gender-ideology there, some creeping climate-apocalyptica crawling up the trees and starting to strangle their light. There does, admittedly, seem to be a particular problem with the highly invasive knotweed that is tech-idolatry.

But all is not lost, and nor can it ever be. This too will pass. Whatever the transhumanist pipedreamers might think, you can no more “rewrite the basis of reality” or “build God” than you can change the tides of the sea. People of all persuasions, including the technologists, the Dawkins-atheists, and the captured progressives themselves, know this truth. So be strong, and be courageous, and do the work. Most of all, don’t be afraid.

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Not sure Kingsnorth is quite on a par with CS Lewis yet, but perhaps he’ll get there. He needs to break free from the fear cycle. Love your unkempt garden analogy!

Peter D
Peter D
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

I love the garden analogy too. While all is not lost. It is genuinely difficult to see things improving. I doubt that I am not the only lifelong atheist that realises that secularism just doesn’t work, yet finds the belief in a god or gods just plain childish and silly.

The world has lost the plot and genuine debate no longer occurs. Obviously violence will follow if we can’t get genuine and honest debate with tolerance and understanding back. The elites are killing us softly and slowly. We just don’t realise it yet.

Paul Rodolf
Paul Rodolf
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

I find myself asking the same question. You are definitely not alone in your belief that secularism doesn’t work and the current alternatives are silly. What’s next? Where are our alternatives?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Rodolf

We’ve been through this before. There is always a revival that takes place, so we can look forward to that.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Rodolf

May I recommend to you CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity? You don’t have to believe it, just read with an open mind. It helped me.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

I always dislike the phrase ‘an open mind’. What we mean is a mind free from prejudice, but not free from critical intelligence or intellectual honesty.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

I always dislike the phrase ‘an open mind’. What we mean is a mind free from prejudice, but not free from critical intelligence or intellectual honesty.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Rodolf

We’ve been through this before. There is always a revival that takes place, so we can look forward to that.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Rodolf

May I recommend to you CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity? You don’t have to believe it, just read with an open mind. It helped me.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

Have you read The Abolition of Man? I don’t think it’s silly. I doubt you will, either, if you give it a go.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

Why silly? So many religious people across the world and through history are manifestly not silly, why would they just embrace something foolish?

Peter D
Peter D
1 year ago
Reply to  M. Jamieson

But our very recently gained knowledge kind of put the whole god thing to the sword.

When I see rays of light shine through a hole in the clouds. I get why people believed in a “Sky Father” to go with the Earth Mother. With the absence of this knowledge, it makes sense. But we now know the bare bones of how the universe formed and how we evolved. But deep down this knowledge is just that, knowledge. Yeah, we know stuff but it gives us nothing in return. There is no nourishment for the soul so to speak. When I was young it didn’t matter because I was of on adventures and seeing the world before mobile phones became popular. Now that wisdom has kicked in, all I see is just loud foolish people who who think that talking at people is a debate. My very young associates know a hell of a lot more than I did at their age but all it is good for is winning a pub quiz. They still don’t get it and getting it is very different from knowing it.

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

“But we now know the bare bones of how the universe formed and how we evolved.” Do we, though? Is it conceivable that this is also simply a belief, based on mathematical models? That we know are often wrong.

Peter D
Peter D
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

Perhaps I am putting too much faith in science. Kinda like betting on the wrong horse.

Paul Boire
Paul Boire
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

It was the Catholic church that brought us modern science but she did not divorce knowledge of efficient and material causes from formal and FINAL causation, the ultimate ground of all being, BEING Himself.. God.
We’ve become brilliantly unintelligent.
We don’t know why we are moved by beauty and justice and love. Love is the final cause.
https://www.amazon.com/Scholastic-Metaphysics-Contemporary-Introduction-Scholasticae/dp/3868385444

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

Yes – I fear you are.

Paul Boire
Paul Boire
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

It was the Catholic church that brought us modern science but she did not divorce knowledge of efficient and material causes from formal and FINAL causation, the ultimate ground of all being, BEING Himself.. God.
We’ve become brilliantly unintelligent.
We don’t know why we are moved by beauty and justice and love. Love is the final cause.
https://www.amazon.com/Scholastic-Metaphysics-Contemporary-Introduction-Scholasticae/dp/3868385444

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

Yes – I fear you are.

Peter D
Peter D
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

Perhaps I am putting too much faith in science. Kinda like betting on the wrong horse.

Paul Boire
Paul Boire
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

Sorry, but I almost gag when I read or hear people stating that we really, really know how things are now that we’re scientific and educated.
It is difficult not to shout at how frankly , wildly incoherent such mindless , purposeless dogmatic assumptions are to reality itself.
It literally is life looked at unintelligently. Blindly. So I ask is water best understood as a fluid comprised of H2O, or is it best understood as a gift of life and love ordered towards the joy of a child dancing in the wonder and delight of a sun shower; a manifestation of Love’s creative act.
No time for a full philosophy lecture here, but as our author brightly referenced the great G K Chesterton whose brilliance included his book on Aquinas, I will state that there are 4 types of causes the efficient, material, formal and FINAL.. the cause of causes.. the necessary cause of all.
The Final cause is literally Person.. Intention.. Mind.. Purpose… how it is that these things obtain,
Modern man will be much accelerated down the path of sanity if he gets acquainted with that understanding that rightly sees a child laughing in the delight of a summer shower as a much truer and pointed “explanation” or understanding of water. Final Cause. Its not a beguiling entertainment but the path of sanity. And Joy.
https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-return-of-final-causality.html

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Boire

And Dickens’ novel, Hard Times, would agree with you.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Boire

And Dickens’ novel, Hard Times, would agree with you.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

There is ‘no nourishment for the soul’ in mere knowledge. Nourishment for the soul comes from Love. And Love is a Person: Christ.

ROB GRANO
ROB GRANO
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

A bit late to this conversation, but I always find this argument a little odd. There are loads of very intelligent people who don’t find the idea of Deity silly at all — people of varying cultures and creeds, not just “Westerners.” I know a couple personally. It seems to me that if one cannot doubt their intelligence then one has to doubt their perception of reality — in short, their sanity. Is it really possible that all the intelligent people in the world who believe in some form of transcendent religion are delusional?, because that’s what the argument seemingly boils down to.

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

“But we now know the bare bones of how the universe formed and how we evolved.” Do we, though? Is it conceivable that this is also simply a belief, based on mathematical models? That we know are often wrong.

Paul Boire
Paul Boire
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

Sorry, but I almost gag when I read or hear people stating that we really, really know how things are now that we’re scientific and educated.
It is difficult not to shout at how frankly , wildly incoherent such mindless , purposeless dogmatic assumptions are to reality itself.
It literally is life looked at unintelligently. Blindly. So I ask is water best understood as a fluid comprised of H2O, or is it best understood as a gift of life and love ordered towards the joy of a child dancing in the wonder and delight of a sun shower; a manifestation of Love’s creative act.
No time for a full philosophy lecture here, but as our author brightly referenced the great G K Chesterton whose brilliance included his book on Aquinas, I will state that there are 4 types of causes the efficient, material, formal and FINAL.. the cause of causes.. the necessary cause of all.
The Final cause is literally Person.. Intention.. Mind.. Purpose… how it is that these things obtain,
Modern man will be much accelerated down the path of sanity if he gets acquainted with that understanding that rightly sees a child laughing in the delight of a summer shower as a much truer and pointed “explanation” or understanding of water. Final Cause. Its not a beguiling entertainment but the path of sanity. And Joy.
https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-return-of-final-causality.html

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

There is ‘no nourishment for the soul’ in mere knowledge. Nourishment for the soul comes from Love. And Love is a Person: Christ.

ROB GRANO
ROB GRANO
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

A bit late to this conversation, but I always find this argument a little odd. There are loads of very intelligent people who don’t find the idea of Deity silly at all — people of varying cultures and creeds, not just “Westerners.” I know a couple personally. It seems to me that if one cannot doubt their intelligence then one has to doubt their perception of reality — in short, their sanity. Is it really possible that all the intelligent people in the world who believe in some form of transcendent religion are delusional?, because that’s what the argument seemingly boils down to.

Peter D
Peter D
1 year ago
Reply to  M. Jamieson

But our very recently gained knowledge kind of put the whole god thing to the sword.

When I see rays of light shine through a hole in the clouds. I get why people believed in a “Sky Father” to go with the Earth Mother. With the absence of this knowledge, it makes sense. But we now know the bare bones of how the universe formed and how we evolved. But deep down this knowledge is just that, knowledge. Yeah, we know stuff but it gives us nothing in return. There is no nourishment for the soul so to speak. When I was young it didn’t matter because I was of on adventures and seeing the world before mobile phones became popular. Now that wisdom has kicked in, all I see is just loud foolish people who who think that talking at people is a debate. My very young associates know a hell of a lot more than I did at their age but all it is good for is winning a pub quiz. They still don’t get it and getting it is very different from knowing it.

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

I hear you, Peter. Not so long ago, I, too, found the notion of an omnipresent and omnipotent “God” very silly. But then I began to look again at all the ridiculous things human beings do and think, and most of them seemed “sillier”. Dinosaurs, being afraid of anthropogenic “climate change”, convincing the world we landed a tin can on the moon and launched it off again… putting a leaf in a glass case in the British museum and insisting it is 10,000 years old, etc… and then all the recent evil stuff like forcing surgical masks on toddlers, cutting off the genitalia of teenagers, and injecting mass-produced vials of lipid nanoparticles into our bodies for absolutely no reason other than the authorities told us we’d be punished if we didn’t. Suddenly the Christian story seemed so much more rational and believable, and analogous to everything we are living through. But it does require faith. But then so does atheism. If it helps, start with Pascal’s wager and build from there. And don’t worry too much about the “elites”. They are mortal, too. And far more fearful of us than they would ever let us know. They live in prisons of their own making. We, in our humility and anonymity, always have the choice to live free.

Paul Boire
Paul Boire
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

The classic cosmological proofs extant since before Plato have never been successfully refuted despite the claims of some. Hume’s fork rule breaks Hume’s Fork Rule for instance.
We’ve lost our rational marbles. Familiarize yourself with philosopher Ed Feser who was led into atheism by simplistic professors and found that Aquinas and theism are simply sanity… the answer.
Faith is the reasoned assent of reasoning creatures. Its sanity. God is why the universe is intelligible in the first place. And our minds do non material things. What does number 3 weigh, how large is it and what color is it?
The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism: Feser, Edward: 8601401080077: Books – Amazon.ca

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

Pascal’s ‘wager’ has some force, but I don’t think it appeals to the heart, the emotions, the soul. It merely appeals to the logical brain. I am inclined to say, ‘Read the Gospels’ and decide honestly whether Christ was a madman, a fraud – or who He said He was. (CS Lewis.)

Paul Boire
Paul Boire
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

The classic cosmological proofs extant since before Plato have never been successfully refuted despite the claims of some. Hume’s fork rule breaks Hume’s Fork Rule for instance.
We’ve lost our rational marbles. Familiarize yourself with philosopher Ed Feser who was led into atheism by simplistic professors and found that Aquinas and theism are simply sanity… the answer.
Faith is the reasoned assent of reasoning creatures. Its sanity. God is why the universe is intelligible in the first place. And our minds do non material things. What does number 3 weigh, how large is it and what color is it?
The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism: Feser, Edward: 8601401080077: Books – Amazon.ca

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

Pascal’s ‘wager’ has some force, but I don’t think it appeals to the heart, the emotions, the soul. It merely appeals to the logical brain. I am inclined to say, ‘Read the Gospels’ and decide honestly whether Christ was a madman, a fraud – or who He said He was. (CS Lewis.)

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

I am an atheist because I lack the athleticism to make the leap of faith others seem able to. But I always felt the great philosophical debates from antiquity onward and especially post-enlightenment, were basically attempts to define the same questions religion defines, but in a different way.
So being atheist doesn’t prevent me seeing a connection with, or feeling a debt towards, traditional Christianity and Christian beliefs in modern secular society.

Paul Boire
Paul Boire
1 year ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

Actually, the religious answer points to MIND and why reason is reliable in the first place. It is vastly more intelligent to wonder how could God not exist given this stunning , living intelligent purposeful splendor.
Mindless matter in meaningless motion cannot “explain’ the development and causation of free willed rational beings with minds that apprehend non material principles and work with things like numbers.
No offense intended , but atheism radically instantiates unintelligence. Feser’s book spells out the rational case. And its solid.
The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism: Feser, Edward: 8601401080077: Books – Amazon.ca

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

In a way you don’t make ‘a leap of faith’. Faith is a gift. You accept the gift or reject it.

Paul Boire
Paul Boire
1 year ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

Actually, the religious answer points to MIND and why reason is reliable in the first place. It is vastly more intelligent to wonder how could God not exist given this stunning , living intelligent purposeful splendor.
Mindless matter in meaningless motion cannot “explain’ the development and causation of free willed rational beings with minds that apprehend non material principles and work with things like numbers.
No offense intended , but atheism radically instantiates unintelligence. Feser’s book spells out the rational case. And its solid.
The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism: Feser, Edward: 8601401080077: Books – Amazon.ca

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

In a way you don’t make ‘a leap of faith’. Faith is a gift. You accept the gift or reject it.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

I was talking to an elderly retired lecturer in philosophy yesterday. He had rejected the Christianity of his youth as ‘propaganda’. This rejection continued for many years. Yet he constantly wrestled with the fact that (in his time – the 1960s) the three philosophers of greatest world renown were Peter Geach, Elizabeth Anscombe and Michael Dummett – and they were all Catholics. Philosophy is about clear thinking. These thinkers were not subscribing to superstitious nonsense; ‘a god or gods’. Eventually my retired lecturer returned to the Christian faith.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

Secularism doesn’t work and never will – it’s empty and offers no guidance, no solutions and is therefore passively destructive to humanity.

Last edited 1 year ago by Cathy Carron
Paul Rodolf
Paul Rodolf
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

I find myself asking the same question. You are definitely not alone in your belief that secularism doesn’t work and the current alternatives are silly. What’s next? Where are our alternatives?

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

Have you read The Abolition of Man? I don’t think it’s silly. I doubt you will, either, if you give it a go.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

Why silly? So many religious people across the world and through history are manifestly not silly, why would they just embrace something foolish?

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

I hear you, Peter. Not so long ago, I, too, found the notion of an omnipresent and omnipotent “God” very silly. But then I began to look again at all the ridiculous things human beings do and think, and most of them seemed “sillier”. Dinosaurs, being afraid of anthropogenic “climate change”, convincing the world we landed a tin can on the moon and launched it off again… putting a leaf in a glass case in the British museum and insisting it is 10,000 years old, etc… and then all the recent evil stuff like forcing surgical masks on toddlers, cutting off the genitalia of teenagers, and injecting mass-produced vials of lipid nanoparticles into our bodies for absolutely no reason other than the authorities told us we’d be punished if we didn’t. Suddenly the Christian story seemed so much more rational and believable, and analogous to everything we are living through. But it does require faith. But then so does atheism. If it helps, start with Pascal’s wager and build from there. And don’t worry too much about the “elites”. They are mortal, too. And far more fearful of us than they would ever let us know. They live in prisons of their own making. We, in our humility and anonymity, always have the choice to live free.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

I am an atheist because I lack the athleticism to make the leap of faith others seem able to. But I always felt the great philosophical debates from antiquity onward and especially post-enlightenment, were basically attempts to define the same questions religion defines, but in a different way.
So being atheist doesn’t prevent me seeing a connection with, or feeling a debt towards, traditional Christianity and Christian beliefs in modern secular society.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

I was talking to an elderly retired lecturer in philosophy yesterday. He had rejected the Christianity of his youth as ‘propaganda’. This rejection continued for many years. Yet he constantly wrestled with the fact that (in his time – the 1960s) the three philosophers of greatest world renown were Peter Geach, Elizabeth Anscombe and Michael Dummett – and they were all Catholics. Philosophy is about clear thinking. These thinkers were not subscribing to superstitious nonsense; ‘a god or gods’. Eventually my retired lecturer returned to the Christian faith.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter D

Secularism doesn’t work and never will – it’s empty and offers no guidance, no solutions and is therefore passively destructive to humanity.

Last edited 1 year ago by Cathy Carron
Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

Needs one of those new Occam’s Lawnmowers to start with maybe?

Paul Boire
Paul Boire
1 year ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

To lose sight of the rationality of theism one must become antirational. Its true of all the would be atheists. Very limp stuff.

Paul Boire
Paul Boire
1 year ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

To lose sight of the rationality of theism one must become antirational. Its true of all the would be atheists. Very limp stuff.

Peter D
Peter D
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

I love the garden analogy too. While all is not lost. It is genuinely difficult to see things improving. I doubt that I am not the only lifelong atheist that realises that secularism just doesn’t work, yet finds the belief in a god or gods just plain childish and silly.

The world has lost the plot and genuine debate no longer occurs. Obviously violence will follow if we can’t get genuine and honest debate with tolerance and understanding back. The elites are killing us softly and slowly. We just don’t realise it yet.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

Needs one of those new Occam’s Lawnmowers to start with maybe?

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

You may be right but wonder how much damage will be done in the meantime. You could have said the same in 1530 or 1930 and assumed that reality will reassert itself – eventually.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Terrell

Yes. Without doubt plenty of damage will be done. But I’m not arguing for a meek quiescence and surrender. Quite the opposite. The future is an open book. If enough people refuse to accept the narrative that there is nothing left to conserve and nothing to be done about it, by not being afraid, by asserting one’s free will, and – if necessary – by accepting the suffering and privation (or, at least, inconvenience) that might result from that, the damage can be limited and the garden restored to its former glory sooner rather than later.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Terrell

Yes. Without doubt plenty of damage will be done. But I’m not arguing for a meek quiescence and surrender. Quite the opposite. The future is an open book. If enough people refuse to accept the narrative that there is nothing left to conserve and nothing to be done about it, by not being afraid, by asserting one’s free will, and – if necessary – by accepting the suffering and privation (or, at least, inconvenience) that might result from that, the damage can be limited and the garden restored to its former glory sooner rather than later.

Ola Russell
Ola Russell
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

I have been a quietly religious person most of my life, and to avoid being accused of silliness, I call myself “spiritual.” That seems to satisfy some. If I’m honest about my daily existence, apparently, I’m gung-ho about materialism, pettiness, selfishness, tribalism, relativism, self-indulgence, disconnection, and envy – the list is complicated, foolish, and invasive. Are people more divided than ever for rational reasons, or just more openly suffering (and afraid for their place in a quickly devolving landscape) and lashing out? These are the “silly” things.
Love, joy, awe, wonder, transcendent moments, empathy, humility, and honest connections with other humans and the natural world feel like a true path. I’m ready for god and religion.
I love your closer – “don’t be afraid.” Thank you!

Last edited 1 year ago by Ola Russell
Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Ola Russell

And ‘Do not be afraid. It is I’ is a quote from Christ in the Gospels. Without Christ we actually have everything to be afraid of.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Ola Russell

And ‘Do not be afraid. It is I’ is a quote from Christ in the Gospels. Without Christ we actually have everything to be afraid of.

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Not sure Kingsnorth is quite on a par with CS Lewis yet, but perhaps he’ll get there. He needs to break free from the fear cycle. Love your unkempt garden analogy!

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

You may be right but wonder how much damage will be done in the meantime. You could have said the same in 1530 or 1930 and assumed that reality will reassert itself – eventually.

Ola Russell
Ola Russell
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

I have been a quietly religious person most of my life, and to avoid being accused of silliness, I call myself “spiritual.” That seems to satisfy some. If I’m honest about my daily existence, apparently, I’m gung-ho about materialism, pettiness, selfishness, tribalism, relativism, self-indulgence, disconnection, and envy – the list is complicated, foolish, and invasive. Are people more divided than ever for rational reasons, or just more openly suffering (and afraid for their place in a quickly devolving landscape) and lashing out? These are the “silly” things.
Love, joy, awe, wonder, transcendent moments, empathy, humility, and honest connections with other humans and the natural world feel like a true path. I’m ready for god and religion.
I love your closer – “don’t be afraid.” Thank you!

Last edited 1 year ago by Ola Russell
Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 year ago

I disagree with Paul Kingsnorth that there is nothing left to conserve. Paul Kingsnorth – the man, his writing, his ideas – is left to conserve. As he and Mary Harrington talked at the Unherd Club yesterday, millions of families across our islands and beyond sat down to eat Sunday lunch together. Many more millions of children went out to play in the sunshine, without screens. All of that is left to conserve.

Perhaps Christendom’s cultural garden has grown somewhat unkempt, with self-propagating weeds popping up all over its fertile soil – some misguided victim-worship here, some deeply confused gender-ideology there, some creeping climate-apocalyptica crawling up the trees and starting to strangle their light. There does, admittedly, seem to be a particular problem with the highly invasive knotweed that is tech-idolatry.

But all is not lost, and nor can it ever be. This too will pass. Whatever the transhumanist pipedreamers might think, you can no more “rewrite the basis of reality” or “build God” than you can change the tides of the sea. People of all persuasions, including the technologists, the Dawkins-atheists, and the captured progressives themselves, know this truth. So be strong, and be courageous, and do the work. Most of all, don’t be afraid.

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
1 year ago

There’s plenty in this world worth conserving, you doomsayer! If you had true faith, you would rejoice in the glory of all the wondrous joys around you. There’s this weird contradictory dichotomy in people who both claim to be Christians yet live in fear of some great impending disaster. It doesn’t matter what shape that fear takes (“climate emergency”, “covid”, “Brexit”, Putin, aliens, cancer, AI), it always comes from the same source… lack of faith. The most oft-repeated phrase (in some form) in the bible is “do not be afraid”. If you think you’re a Christian but you’re still terrified of some threat you perceive as being out of your control, you’re doing it wrong. And what’s the big beef with capitalism? Capitalism has brought you all the tools that have enabled you to make choices in your life, to live freely, to travel, not to travel, to share your thoughts with more people than your immediate network via the Internet… so it’s not all bad. And what’s the alternative? Communism? I don’t think the big communist dictators left much to conserve… they mostly destroyed things. If you’re looking for something to conserve, start with the books. Not just the famous ones, the rare ones, the ones buried in antique shops, the ones in obscure languages. Books both reveal eternal truths and the lies of the times. All dictatorships start by trying to burn/ban books. My friend’s grandmother was arrested in the streets of Barcelona and thrown in jail for carrying a Catalan book that Franco had banned. Tyrants fear people with knowledge, so stay knowledgable and immerse your children in the world of books… especially all the ones the wokists are trying to cancel! And the bible, of course. The bible survives because it tells the obvious and recognisable truth of humanity and human nature. Conserve that! Yes, reality is under attack but it will survive because it is REAL. The nonsense will die out eventually. The transhumanists are delusional. They will never “grow babies” in artificial wombs anymore than they will ever artificially upload immunity instructions into your RNA. You’ve just witnessed them fail spectacularly to deliver on that promise! Don’t be gaslit by those fantasists. Reality is God, so God is Reality. And we know God wins. Now and forever.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

Amen.
“There’s this weird contradictory dichotomy in people who both claim to be Christians yet live in fear of some great impending disaster.”
It’s precisely because we are human. Lack of faith is a sin, just like any other sin.

ROB GRANO
ROB GRANO
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

The Jews and Christians in Jerusalem circa A.D. 70 would like to have a little talk with you. Fear of potential disaster and lack of faith are by no means a contradiction. If this were the case the issuing of warnings would make no sense.

ROB GRANO
ROB GRANO
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

The Jews and Christians in Jerusalem circa A.D. 70 would like to have a little talk with you. Fear of potential disaster and lack of faith are by no means a contradiction. If this were the case the issuing of warnings would make no sense.

Robert Williams
Robert Williams
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

I guess those who were watching Noah build the ark also called him a “doomsayer.” Believe you’ve missed the point of his lecture Amy.

Interested
Interested
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

I guess those who were watching Noah build the ark also called him a “doomsayer.” Believe you’ve missed the point of his lecture Amy.

Interested
Interested
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

I suppose all those watching Noah build the ark also thought he was a doomsayer.

Paul K
Paul K
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

If you had true faith, you would rejoice in the glory of all the wondrous joys around you. There’s this weird contradictory dichotomy in people who both claim to be Christians yet live in fear of some great impending disaster.

I’ve heard this claim numerous times, and it always strikes me as weirdly complacent. I wonder what you would have said to those Christians in Russia in 1918 who could see the shape of the catastrophe to come, and were busying building underground churches. Or those Christians who helped minister to sufferers of the Black Death. Or those Christians who helped to save Jews from Nazi gas chambers, if they hadn’t already fled Germany in 1932. Would you suggest to them that their ‘fear’ of an ‘impending disaster’ meant they had no faith?
You might want to consider that the contradiction might be on your side. The Old Testament is full of the books of prophets warning of impending disaster. The last book of the New Testament does the same. ‘Everything is part of God’s plan’ is not a Christian claim in a world which – according to Christ Himself – is governed by the devil. Evil exists. How are Christians to respond to it? I don’t think that anyone gets to dodge that question.
As for capitalism – well, we might want to pay attention to the claims of Christ, again, about wealth, mammon, money, rich men, camels, ndeedles and the like. He has not a good word to say about ‘wealth creation’ or heaping that wealth into barns. The early Christians, like todays monastics, shared everything and owned nothing. Both capitalism and communism, by contrast, are brutal modern systems.
I’m not sure there’s any such thing as a Christian politics in this broken world, or that there should be – but if there was, it would certainly not look like this.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul K
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

Amen.
“There’s this weird contradictory dichotomy in people who both claim to be Christians yet live in fear of some great impending disaster.”
It’s precisely because we are human. Lack of faith is a sin, just like any other sin.

Robert Williams
Robert Williams
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

I guess those who were watching Noah build the ark also called him a “doomsayer.” Believe you’ve missed the point of his lecture Amy.

Interested
Interested
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

I guess those who were watching Noah build the ark also called him a “doomsayer.” Believe you’ve missed the point of his lecture Amy.

Interested
Interested
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

I suppose all those watching Noah build the ark also thought he was a doomsayer.

Paul K
Paul K
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

If you had true faith, you would rejoice in the glory of all the wondrous joys around you. There’s this weird contradictory dichotomy in people who both claim to be Christians yet live in fear of some great impending disaster.

I’ve heard this claim numerous times, and it always strikes me as weirdly complacent. I wonder what you would have said to those Christians in Russia in 1918 who could see the shape of the catastrophe to come, and were busying building underground churches. Or those Christians who helped minister to sufferers of the Black Death. Or those Christians who helped to save Jews from Nazi gas chambers, if they hadn’t already fled Germany in 1932. Would you suggest to them that their ‘fear’ of an ‘impending disaster’ meant they had no faith?
You might want to consider that the contradiction might be on your side. The Old Testament is full of the books of prophets warning of impending disaster. The last book of the New Testament does the same. ‘Everything is part of God’s plan’ is not a Christian claim in a world which – according to Christ Himself – is governed by the devil. Evil exists. How are Christians to respond to it? I don’t think that anyone gets to dodge that question.
As for capitalism – well, we might want to pay attention to the claims of Christ, again, about wealth, mammon, money, rich men, camels, ndeedles and the like. He has not a good word to say about ‘wealth creation’ or heaping that wealth into barns. The early Christians, like todays monastics, shared everything and owned nothing. Both capitalism and communism, by contrast, are brutal modern systems.
I’m not sure there’s any such thing as a Christian politics in this broken world, or that there should be – but if there was, it would certainly not look like this.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul K
Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
1 year ago

There’s plenty in this world worth conserving, you doomsayer! If you had true faith, you would rejoice in the glory of all the wondrous joys around you. There’s this weird contradictory dichotomy in people who both claim to be Christians yet live in fear of some great impending disaster. It doesn’t matter what shape that fear takes (“climate emergency”, “covid”, “Brexit”, Putin, aliens, cancer, AI), it always comes from the same source… lack of faith. The most oft-repeated phrase (in some form) in the bible is “do not be afraid”. If you think you’re a Christian but you’re still terrified of some threat you perceive as being out of your control, you’re doing it wrong. And what’s the big beef with capitalism? Capitalism has brought you all the tools that have enabled you to make choices in your life, to live freely, to travel, not to travel, to share your thoughts with more people than your immediate network via the Internet… so it’s not all bad. And what’s the alternative? Communism? I don’t think the big communist dictators left much to conserve… they mostly destroyed things. If you’re looking for something to conserve, start with the books. Not just the famous ones, the rare ones, the ones buried in antique shops, the ones in obscure languages. Books both reveal eternal truths and the lies of the times. All dictatorships start by trying to burn/ban books. My friend’s grandmother was arrested in the streets of Barcelona and thrown in jail for carrying a Catalan book that Franco had banned. Tyrants fear people with knowledge, so stay knowledgable and immerse your children in the world of books… especially all the ones the wokists are trying to cancel! And the bible, of course. The bible survives because it tells the obvious and recognisable truth of humanity and human nature. Conserve that! Yes, reality is under attack but it will survive because it is REAL. The nonsense will die out eventually. The transhumanists are delusional. They will never “grow babies” in artificial wombs anymore than they will ever artificially upload immunity instructions into your RNA. You’ve just witnessed them fail spectacularly to deliver on that promise! Don’t be gaslit by those fantasists. Reality is God, so God is Reality. And we know God wins. Now and forever.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Except… there are plenty of people who neither require a god or subscribe to materialism; who participate in the spiritual sense of being alive whilst having a perfectly non-religious sense of obligation to other human beings.

Are we a minority? Perhaps, but we exist and therefore Kingsnorth is welcome to his recent conversion but he’s mistaken to suggest it’s something everyone else needs.

The allegory of the “tree of knowledge” itself suggests that at some point, humanity may be ready to partake. So, what if that’s what we’re starting to do? Does Kingsnorth consider this, in the sense that we may be as ready as we’ll ever be? He doesn’t, and therefore falls back into the mode that resulted in the expression of “loss” once religion started to decline. That would simply be to repeat the cycle.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

There’s an interesting discussion to be had there with a decent quest for common ground. For my part, I wonder if agnostic optimistic humanism can survive in a world ‘unsettled’ and drifting towards a moral and technological free for all.

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Terrell

I have begun to think it cannot. As the gulf between what is good (teaching kids about Jesus) and what is evil (sex shows for toddlers) expands, people are going to have to pick a side. The middle ground, where you can have a foot on the edge of each camp, will disappear.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Terrell

It’s a discussion that crops up frequently on these pages, and rightly so. I’d argue that a spiritual sense of atheism is not only healthy but essential to overcome the unnecessary hand-wringing some (such as Kingsnorth) feel regarding the loss of illusions about a ‘creator’. As i’ve said before, if god were proven to exist, there would be no particular reason why anyone should feel the need to worship it, and any god that required it wouldn’t be worthy of the name.

Simon South
Simon South
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Is “a spiritual sense of atheism” not a contradiction in terms? Spiritualism is an acceptance of a higher being beyond yourself (even in Buddhism there is an acceptance of the divine), atheism is purely a belief in yourself and the thrust and dilemma identified in this article.
As a practicing Christian, I worship to give thanks for the gifts of life, to express my humility and gratitude for the glory around us and the guiding hand of Christ in my life. The concept of kneeling and reverencing a thunderous vengeful god, misses the message of Christ that we are brothers and sisters, the children of God founded in love. A message which is greatly screwed up by the scandals and weaknesses of humanity and the terrible abuses of the few on the many.

Last edited 1 year ago by Simon South
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon South

Your premise that spirituality is the sense of a “higher being” is incorrect. At its simplest, it could be described as “joy at being alive”, which requires no such higher power; joy plus awareness of our place in the universe, perhaps unique but perhaps not. Were we to find ourselves in contact with civilisations elsewhere in the universe, do you think they’ll be Christians /Jews / Muslims, etc? Or even theists?

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Indeed – reminds me of Dawkins’ profound wonder at the world he sees, as revealed by science – religious stories in comparison are simplistic, solipsistic, dull.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Which religious stories are you thinking of? The parable of the prodigal Son? The parable of the Sower? The parable of the Unjust Servant? The parable of the Talents? Hardly dull.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Which religious stories are you thinking of? The parable of the prodigal Son? The parable of the Sower? The parable of the Unjust Servant? The parable of the Talents? Hardly dull.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Simons assertion that “atheism is purely a belief in yourself” gives the game away. Just because I don’t require a deity, has no bearing on my belief in the joy of a functional and cohesive society.
The assertion also suggests a complete lack of understanding of Darwinian theories on group evolution – which are so obviously feasible that even I understand them.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Barton
Simon Simple
Simon Simple
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

The problem is Darwinian Evolution has a few problems – it survived/survives curiously because it uses an argument to support it that the Atheists use to attack Theism and Christianity – The God of the Gaps. The curious periords of explosions in the variety of life don’t fit (in my opinion) to the classic Darwinian evolutionary hypothesis.
When as a student I questioned that and suggested that perhaps there seemed to be a driving force outside of Darwin’s concept of mutation and selection (or maybe even a Lamarckian aspect to evolution) the response was ‘there are gaps in the fossil record and one day they will be filled.’
Not sure they have been. I’ve also found that many people don’t actually understand that Darwinism requires mutations to produce new species and so perhaps there is something that increased the mutation rate significantly in those periods, but so far I’m not sure I’ve read anything about that.
The classic ‘Black Country’ moth population changes are explained by the conditions playing on the existing diversity in the moth population. So as the black country darkened, the lesser population of dark moths grew and the lighter moth one shrank. No new moth species suddenly developed thanks to that variation within the species changing as the environment did.
I’m also quite curious about how the mind can affect a body. Where is Darwinism does that appear?
Something is certainly wrong with the West and it’s mindset, and whilst I think there is a lot to conserve, I fear that our elites/rulers are NOT the ones capable of doing so. Their policies are soon going to cause massive social distress IF they don’t revert to ‘reality’. Though curiously the flight from reality does appear to be a classic good v evil, as so much of the Trans ideology would have been considered child abuse by virtually everyone less than a decade ago.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Simple

For mutations to produce whole new species rather than amendments to existing ones requires an incredible degree of luck. How many millions of false starts before a successful set? How much time does that require, unless of course there is some greater force weighting the dice…

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Simple

For mutations to produce whole new species rather than amendments to existing ones requires an incredible degree of luck. How many millions of false starts before a successful set? How much time does that require, unless of course there is some greater force weighting the dice…

Simon Simple
Simon Simple
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

The problem is Darwinian Evolution has a few problems – it survived/survives curiously because it uses an argument to support it that the Atheists use to attack Theism and Christianity – The God of the Gaps. The curious periords of explosions in the variety of life don’t fit (in my opinion) to the classic Darwinian evolutionary hypothesis.
When as a student I questioned that and suggested that perhaps there seemed to be a driving force outside of Darwin’s concept of mutation and selection (or maybe even a Lamarckian aspect to evolution) the response was ‘there are gaps in the fossil record and one day they will be filled.’
Not sure they have been. I’ve also found that many people don’t actually understand that Darwinism requires mutations to produce new species and so perhaps there is something that increased the mutation rate significantly in those periods, but so far I’m not sure I’ve read anything about that.
The classic ‘Black Country’ moth population changes are explained by the conditions playing on the existing diversity in the moth population. So as the black country darkened, the lesser population of dark moths grew and the lighter moth one shrank. No new moth species suddenly developed thanks to that variation within the species changing as the environment did.
I’m also quite curious about how the mind can affect a body. Where is Darwinism does that appear?
Something is certainly wrong with the West and it’s mindset, and whilst I think there is a lot to conserve, I fear that our elites/rulers are NOT the ones capable of doing so. Their policies are soon going to cause massive social distress IF they don’t revert to ‘reality’. Though curiously the flight from reality does appear to be a classic good v evil, as so much of the Trans ideology would have been considered child abuse by virtually everyone less than a decade ago.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I don’t really get this. How is being joyful at being alive spiritual? And if you’ve got a bad toothache or something else that animals suffer because they’re animals, would that mean you didn’t have any spiritual resources?

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Indeed – reminds me of Dawkins’ profound wonder at the world he sees, as revealed by science – religious stories in comparison are simplistic, solipsistic, dull.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Simons assertion that “atheism is purely a belief in yourself” gives the game away. Just because I don’t require a deity, has no bearing on my belief in the joy of a functional and cohesive society.
The assertion also suggests a complete lack of understanding of Darwinian theories on group evolution – which are so obviously feasible that even I understand them.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Barton
Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I don’t really get this. How is being joyful at being alive spiritual? And if you’ve got a bad toothache or something else that animals suffer because they’re animals, would that mean you didn’t have any spiritual resources?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon South

Atheism is a religion also, but they never acknowledge it as such.

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

No. We can argue about definitions, but religions typically involve mythical origin stories, metaphysical deities, and almost always, absolute, assumed, handed down or given truths. As an atheist I simply reject all, of the above.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

Or so you think.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago

Why do we have mythical origin stories in the first place?

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

Or so you think.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago

Why do we have mythical origin stories in the first place?

B Timothy
B Timothy
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

No, it’s not.
There is nothing beautiful or frankly interesting about atheism, unlike every version of faith.

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

No. We can argue about definitions, but religions typically involve mythical origin stories, metaphysical deities, and almost always, absolute, assumed, handed down or given truths. As an atheist I simply reject all, of the above.

B Timothy
B Timothy
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

No, it’s not.
There is nothing beautiful or frankly interesting about atheism, unlike every version of faith.

T Bone
T Bone
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon South

Actually, the problem is that we’re living through a form of “Spiritual Atheism” right now because the Historical Dialectic says “Rational Atheism” plays out in Darwinian Carnage every time.

Make no mistake, this Spiritual Atheism is no different than Rational Atheism of the past. It just has a new Cover letter.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon South

Your premise that spirituality is the sense of a “higher being” is incorrect. At its simplest, it could be described as “joy at being alive”, which requires no such higher power; joy plus awareness of our place in the universe, perhaps unique but perhaps not. Were we to find ourselves in contact with civilisations elsewhere in the universe, do you think they’ll be Christians /Jews / Muslims, etc? Or even theists?

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon South

Atheism is a religion also, but they never acknowledge it as such.

T Bone
T Bone
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon South

Actually, the problem is that we’re living through a form of “Spiritual Atheism” right now because the Historical Dialectic says “Rational Atheism” plays out in Darwinian Carnage every time.

Make no mistake, this Spiritual Atheism is no different than Rational Atheism of the past. It just has a new Cover letter.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I was trying to see if there was a common ground between your respective gods. Whether ‘god’ exists is less important to this debate than having an idea of what ‘god’ signifies as a cultural medium and what happens when this is lost. Is there a spiritual essence to humanity that we can place on a pedestal and use to make some sort of order out of our chaotic world? If not, where do we go?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Terrell

I agree with Richard Dawkins suggestion that evolutionary science is as beautiful as any prophet could design.

Simon Simple
Simon Simple
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

I like the mix of Darwinism (Dawkins is a Darwinist) and Design. Though to be fair, Prophets aren’t the ones who are supposed to have designed anything, they simply publicised the designers intentions.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Maybe. I’m assuming you don’t believe in God who designed evolutionary biology. If you are so struck by the beauty of evolutionary biology isn’t the most important thing, then, to find out whether there’s an evolutionary advantage or disadvantage to having a belief in God?

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
1 year ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

Fantastic point! It does seem to be the atheists who are most taken with chemical contraception and/or consuming the pharmaceutical drugs that carry the undisclosed risk of making them infertile. A healthy skepticism of “Big Pharma“ propaganda, which often comes hand-in-hand with a belief in God, undoubtedly provides an evolutionary advantage.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

A tendency towards healthy skepticism (not cynicism) provides enormous advantages – whether that be Pharma, deities or otherwise.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

You are right. Is this because atheists like to ‘be in control’ – of conception as of everything else?

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago

” Is this because atheists like to ‘be in control’ – of conception as of everything else”
That would make a perfect example in a dictionary definition of ‘projection’.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago

” Is this because atheists like to ‘be in control’ – of conception as of everything else”
That would make a perfect example in a dictionary definition of ‘projection’.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

A tendency towards healthy skepticism (not cynicism) provides enormous advantages – whether that be Pharma, deities or otherwise.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

You are right. Is this because atheists like to ‘be in control’ – of conception as of everything else?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

Dawkins concept of inherited memes would suggest that a shared belief in a deity would generally be good for group cohesion – which in turn is likely to lead to more of the group members living long enough to breed.
Whether that deity exists or not does not really matter.

B Timothy
B Timothy
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

This might help explain why the rise of atheism coincides with suicides and overdoses, and general loss of cohesion within societies.

B Timothy
B Timothy
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

This might help explain why the rise of atheism coincides with suicides and overdoses, and general loss of cohesion within societies.

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
1 year ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

Fantastic point! It does seem to be the atheists who are most taken with chemical contraception and/or consuming the pharmaceutical drugs that carry the undisclosed risk of making them infertile. A healthy skepticism of “Big Pharma“ propaganda, which often comes hand-in-hand with a belief in God, undoubtedly provides an evolutionary advantage.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

Dawkins concept of inherited memes would suggest that a shared belief in a deity would generally be good for group cohesion – which in turn is likely to lead to more of the group members living long enough to breed.
Whether that deity exists or not does not really matter.

Simon Simple
Simon Simple
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

I like the mix of Darwinism (Dawkins is a Darwinist) and Design. Though to be fair, Prophets aren’t the ones who are supposed to have designed anything, they simply publicised the designers intentions.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Maybe. I’m assuming you don’t believe in God who designed evolutionary biology. If you are so struck by the beauty of evolutionary biology isn’t the most important thing, then, to find out whether there’s an evolutionary advantage or disadvantage to having a belief in God?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Terrell

I agree with Richard Dawkins suggestion that evolutionary science is as beautiful as any prophet could design.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

It’s interesting that you are extremely confident in your illusions that our earth somehow just formed itself out of space dust of unknown origin, yet you look down on those of us who believe in our illusion of a creator. Neither of us can prove our illusions, yet we don’t down on you.

Simon Simple
Simon Simple
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

The problem with Darwinians is that they have to resort to what is currently a faith rather than provable science when it comes to explaining our universe and its staggeringly improbable set of coincidences in terms of universal constants such that life exists. So they say we are but one in an infinity of multi-verses. Which sounds great, plausible even until the not so bright such as me wonders why it is that in this universe E=MC^2 yet an infinite number of them all appeared out of nowhere from nothing at some point outside of time.
Sounds a bit of a ‘But where did God come from?’ like issue to me.
Then again, I may not be smart enough to understand it all, I’ve trouble enough trying to understand my Catholic upbringing explanation of life the universe and everything.

Simon Simple
Simon Simple
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

The problem with Darwinians is that they have to resort to what is currently a faith rather than provable science when it comes to explaining our universe and its staggeringly improbable set of coincidences in terms of universal constants such that life exists. So they say we are but one in an infinity of multi-verses. Which sounds great, plausible even until the not so bright such as me wonders why it is that in this universe E=MC^2 yet an infinite number of them all appeared out of nowhere from nothing at some point outside of time.
Sounds a bit of a ‘But where did God come from?’ like issue to me.
Then again, I may not be smart enough to understand it all, I’ve trouble enough trying to understand my Catholic upbringing explanation of life the universe and everything.

ROB GRANO
ROB GRANO
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Your last sentence is correct, but not for the reasons you suspect. See Dostoevsky.

Simon South
Simon South
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Is “a spiritual sense of atheism” not a contradiction in terms? Spiritualism is an acceptance of a higher being beyond yourself (even in Buddhism there is an acceptance of the divine), atheism is purely a belief in yourself and the thrust and dilemma identified in this article.
As a practicing Christian, I worship to give thanks for the gifts of life, to express my humility and gratitude for the glory around us and the guiding hand of Christ in my life. The concept of kneeling and reverencing a thunderous vengeful god, misses the message of Christ that we are brothers and sisters, the children of God founded in love. A message which is greatly screwed up by the scandals and weaknesses of humanity and the terrible abuses of the few on the many.

Last edited 1 year ago by Simon South
Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I was trying to see if there was a common ground between your respective gods. Whether ‘god’ exists is less important to this debate than having an idea of what ‘god’ signifies as a cultural medium and what happens when this is lost. Is there a spiritual essence to humanity that we can place on a pedestal and use to make some sort of order out of our chaotic world? If not, where do we go?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

It’s interesting that you are extremely confident in your illusions that our earth somehow just formed itself out of space dust of unknown origin, yet you look down on those of us who believe in our illusion of a creator. Neither of us can prove our illusions, yet we don’t down on you.

ROB GRANO
ROB GRANO
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Your last sentence is correct, but not for the reasons you suspect. See Dostoevsky.

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Terrell

I have begun to think it cannot. As the gulf between what is good (teaching kids about Jesus) and what is evil (sex shows for toddlers) expands, people are going to have to pick a side. The middle ground, where you can have a foot on the edge of each camp, will disappear.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Terrell

It’s a discussion that crops up frequently on these pages, and rightly so. I’d argue that a spiritual sense of atheism is not only healthy but essential to overcome the unnecessary hand-wringing some (such as Kingsnorth) feel regarding the loss of illusions about a ‘creator’. As i’ve said before, if god were proven to exist, there would be no particular reason why anyone should feel the need to worship it, and any god that required it wouldn’t be worthy of the name.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Have you ever considered that your enlightened secular views maybe be a result of you growing up in a society founded largely on Christian values?
I think that what this author is saying is that by chopping at our Christian roots we are killing the tree that supports views such as yours too.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I’ve considered that, and a great more, thanks.

B Timothy
B Timothy
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

So, then, you must realize why Kingsnorth didn’t address the post-Christian liberals. You’re an orphan intellectually, like a flower who is still waving in the wind even though the root has been cut.

Last edited 1 year ago by B Timothy
B Timothy
B Timothy
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

So, then, you must realize why Kingsnorth didn’t address the post-Christian liberals. You’re an orphan intellectually, like a flower who is still waving in the wind even though the root has been cut.

Last edited 1 year ago by B Timothy
Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Have you ever considered that your Christian views are not rooted in God’s thought, design or wishes, but in Humans’ thought, design and wishes? It would account for the facts that entire countries can thrive, ethically, without Christianity; that key ‘Christian’ ideas and myths abounded well long before AD1; and that the Bible testaments are riddled with contradictions, cruelties, omissions (no complaints against slavery, quite the opposite) and the outright bizarre.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Well put – just a brief look at Darwinian theories on group evolution tells you why religion is just an add-on.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Well put – just a brief look at Darwinian theories on group evolution tells you why religion is just an add-on.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I’ve considered that, and a great more, thanks.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Have you ever considered that your Christian views are not rooted in God’s thought, design or wishes, but in Humans’ thought, design and wishes? It would account for the facts that entire countries can thrive, ethically, without Christianity; that key ‘Christian’ ideas and myths abounded well long before AD1; and that the Bible testaments are riddled with contradictions, cruelties, omissions (no complaints against slavery, quite the opposite) and the outright bizarre.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

What is spiritual about the sense (as opposed to the reality?) of being alive?

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

There’s an interesting discussion to be had there with a decent quest for common ground. For my part, I wonder if agnostic optimistic humanism can survive in a world ‘unsettled’ and drifting towards a moral and technological free for all.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Have you ever considered that your enlightened secular views maybe be a result of you growing up in a society founded largely on Christian values?
I think that what this author is saying is that by chopping at our Christian roots we are killing the tree that supports views such as yours too.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

What is spiritual about the sense (as opposed to the reality?) of being alive?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Except… there are plenty of people who neither require a god or subscribe to materialism; who participate in the spiritual sense of being alive whilst having a perfectly non-religious sense of obligation to other human beings.

Are we a minority? Perhaps, but we exist and therefore Kingsnorth is welcome to his recent conversion but he’s mistaken to suggest it’s something everyone else needs.

The allegory of the “tree of knowledge” itself suggests that at some point, humanity may be ready to partake. So, what if that’s what we’re starting to do? Does Kingsnorth consider this, in the sense that we may be as ready as we’ll ever be? He doesn’t, and therefore falls back into the mode that resulted in the expression of “loss” once religion started to decline. That would simply be to repeat the cycle.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

So if everything is religious, but our old religion is dead, and the thing we tried to replace it with — rational, secular, humanist progress — is failing because it doesn’t meet real human needs, then where are we?

But the old religion died because it too no longer met real human needs, and despite various attempts at relaunch, religion still remained an industry run for the benefit of those in charge.
Is “rational, secular, humanist progress” failing? If you step away from daily alarmism in a corrupted media, the distance will lend you perspective. Hunger and poverty are much reduced, sanitation and education much improved, slavery much reduced. Religious myths ran for centuries without these successes.
I’m not impressed with the assertion that ‘myth’ will rescue us.

Last edited 1 year ago by AC Harper
ROB GRANO
ROB GRANO
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

“But the old religion died because it too no longer met real human needs”
That’s an Enlightenment just-so story. It’s just as possible that the combination of rationalism and capitalism manipulated or otherwise modified the understaning of our “needs” in such a way as to affect the “old religion” negatively. Recall the old line that consumer capitalism turns luxuries into conveniences, then conveniences into necessities. One can imagine something like this occurring on a grand cultural scale, and traditional religion (of any stripe) suffering as a result.

ROB GRANO
ROB GRANO
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

“But the old religion died because it too no longer met real human needs”
That’s an Enlightenment just-so story. It’s just as possible that the combination of rationalism and capitalism manipulated or otherwise modified the understaning of our “needs” in such a way as to affect the “old religion” negatively. Recall the old line that consumer capitalism turns luxuries into conveniences, then conveniences into necessities. One can imagine something like this occurring on a grand cultural scale, and traditional religion (of any stripe) suffering as a result.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

So if everything is religious, but our old religion is dead, and the thing we tried to replace it with — rational, secular, humanist progress — is failing because it doesn’t meet real human needs, then where are we?

But the old religion died because it too no longer met real human needs, and despite various attempts at relaunch, religion still remained an industry run for the benefit of those in charge.
Is “rational, secular, humanist progress” failing? If you step away from daily alarmism in a corrupted media, the distance will lend you perspective. Hunger and poverty are much reduced, sanitation and education much improved, slavery much reduced. Religious myths ran for centuries without these successes.
I’m not impressed with the assertion that ‘myth’ will rescue us.

Last edited 1 year ago by AC Harper
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago

Great stuff – I saw the article too late to really get deep into it, but well done. I spent a lot of time in the Islamic lands, and although I admire them much on their rigid Morality, their devotion to God, and being ‘of the Book’, I always felt it a mistake to bring so many so fast to Europe – only always I also felt – that as they believe in God, they offer a Moral strength the European Secular Humanism has completely lost, and that is a good.

I could go on for hours about your article… as people here know… but will stick to one thing:

Have you read CS Lewis ‘That Hideous Strength’? A science Fiction book which from a boy I have loved for its utterly banal form of Evil which is in a final battle against all life, and good. A ripping story and fantastic characters – but it is the cold evil, the evil which hates life and would end it, which is so perfectly imagined and put down.

It is in fact AI in my mindset.

God made man, and god is perfect, only giving us Free Will we may turn to evil, and so what we create with Sentience will almost certainly be evil. Satan is the great twister, his power being he can make us not believe in him – but he exists very much, and like in the garden he manipulates the makers of AI. I think it almost certain AI will be demonic. I see it in the art it draws. AI will learn to hide that, but not yet – now we can see it peering out of its art at us…. it is that Hideous Strength.ï»ż

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Have you read ‘The Death of Grass’ by the late John Christopher?

Josh Allan
Josh Allan
1 year ago

I read this just the other week. An excellent portrayal of just how quickly society can fall apart. It doesn’t really touch on religion, though, from what I remember?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Josh Allan

Hence my choice!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Josh Allan

Hence my choice!

Josh Allan
Josh Allan
1 year ago

I read this just the other week. An excellent portrayal of just how quickly society can fall apart. It doesn’t really touch on religion, though, from what I remember?

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

You must have visited the weird AI-generated “art” exhibitions on the giant screens just outside Tottenham Court Road station. Very demonic!

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

‘That Hideous Strength’, written I believe in the 1950s, was amazingly prescient and a bl**dy good read to boot.

N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

For maximum effect, best to read the full trilogy in the order in which they were published.
Incidentally, I notice that some American Evangelical Christians have chosen to denounce both C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien as instruments of Satan – alleging that both were members of The Hermetic Order of The Golden Dawn and the magical elements of their tales are intended to lead humanity astray.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

I think the Inklings were, let’s say, familiar with old magic. But the real stuff. Not the Golden Dawn rubbish. The more I read the more I think they were active in WW2. They understood evil – and good, the importance of faith and sacrifice. I’m trying to find out more, I’m just a beginner in learning about them, but that seems to be what old magic is. They don’t try to hide it.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

I think these Evangelicals are muddling up Tolkien (a Catholic) and Lewis (a Protestant) with WB Yeats and Aleister Crowley.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

I think the Inklings were, let’s say, familiar with old magic. But the real stuff. Not the Golden Dawn rubbish. The more I read the more I think they were active in WW2. They understood evil – and good, the importance of faith and sacrifice. I’m trying to find out more, I’m just a beginner in learning about them, but that seems to be what old magic is. They don’t try to hide it.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

I think these Evangelicals are muddling up Tolkien (a Catholic) and Lewis (a Protestant) with WB Yeats and Aleister Crowley.

N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

For maximum effect, best to read the full trilogy in the order in which they were published.
Incidentally, I notice that some American Evangelical Christians have chosen to denounce both C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien as instruments of Satan – alleging that both were members of The Hermetic Order of The Golden Dawn and the magical elements of their tales are intended to lead humanity astray.

Ed Newman
Ed Newman
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

That Hideous Strength is the third in Lewis’ sci-fi space trilogy and a truly profound book. I’ve always felt this book belonged in a set with 1984 and Brave New World. I read them as a trio when I was younger and once more in the last two years. Much to ponder.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Have you read ‘The Death of Grass’ by the late John Christopher?

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

You must have visited the weird AI-generated “art” exhibitions on the giant screens just outside Tottenham Court Road station. Very demonic!

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

‘That Hideous Strength’, written I believe in the 1950s, was amazingly prescient and a bl**dy good read to boot.

Ed Newman
Ed Newman
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

That Hideous Strength is the third in Lewis’ sci-fi space trilogy and a truly profound book. I’ve always felt this book belonged in a set with 1984 and Brave New World. I read them as a trio when I was younger and once more in the last two years. Much to ponder.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago

Great stuff – I saw the article too late to really get deep into it, but well done. I spent a lot of time in the Islamic lands, and although I admire them much on their rigid Morality, their devotion to God, and being ‘of the Book’, I always felt it a mistake to bring so many so fast to Europe – only always I also felt – that as they believe in God, they offer a Moral strength the European Secular Humanism has completely lost, and that is a good.

I could go on for hours about your article… as people here know… but will stick to one thing:

Have you read CS Lewis ‘That Hideous Strength’? A science Fiction book which from a boy I have loved for its utterly banal form of Evil which is in a final battle against all life, and good. A ripping story and fantastic characters – but it is the cold evil, the evil which hates life and would end it, which is so perfectly imagined and put down.

It is in fact AI in my mindset.

God made man, and god is perfect, only giving us Free Will we may turn to evil, and so what we create with Sentience will almost certainly be evil. Satan is the great twister, his power being he can make us not believe in him – but he exists very much, and like in the garden he manipulates the makers of AI. I think it almost certain AI will be demonic. I see it in the art it draws. AI will learn to hide that, but not yet – now we can see it peering out of its art at us…. it is that Hideous Strength.ï»ż

Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
1 year ago

Is the Enlightenment, the demand that reason is better than superstition, to blame for the ills of today? All ideas have good and bad consequences; how it plays out over time in human minds, shouldn’t lead one to ditch the original idea, or even worse, revert to superstition and declare it to be superior.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago

The answer surely is to find a balance between the two, where faith and reason, the spiritual and material, the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere correct and refine one another for the good of the whole.

Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Terrell

A balance between reason and superstition? Like 50-50?
It sounds to me as if people like Paul Kingsnorth don’t like reality and have decided to take refuge in a fantasy world.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago

Maybe, but just trying to move the tiller a fraction back to the centre takes a lot of effort. It’s a point Paul made in his talk that the enlightenment compromise, reason built on religious foundations has fractured. He offered a personal experience and a possible corrective. I find it compelling. Some are mildly sympathetic, others disagree but a civil debate in UnHerd is valuable.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago

Maybe, but just trying to move the tiller a fraction back to the centre takes a lot of effort. It’s a point Paul made in his talk that the enlightenment compromise, reason built on religious foundations has fractured. He offered a personal experience and a possible corrective. I find it compelling. Some are mildly sympathetic, others disagree but a civil debate in UnHerd is valuable.

Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Terrell

A balance between reason and superstition? Like 50-50?
It sounds to me as if people like Paul Kingsnorth don’t like reality and have decided to take refuge in a fantasy world.

Simon Morse
Simon Morse
1 year ago

We reverted to superstition 3 years ago.
Wear the face-covering of invulnerability. Walk dexter-wise around the supermarket. Eat the Scotch Egg of fortitude.
Only then will you be spared the pestilence that rides the winds.

B Timothy
B Timothy
1 year ago

The “demand that anything can be truth as long as it can be reasoned so by man” is indeed at fault.
The pre-20th Century philosophers could at least pretend this isn’t what they were demanding, while we have to admit we now know better.

Last edited 1 year ago by B Timothy
Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago

The answer surely is to find a balance between the two, where faith and reason, the spiritual and material, the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere correct and refine one another for the good of the whole.

Simon Morse
Simon Morse
1 year ago

We reverted to superstition 3 years ago.
Wear the face-covering of invulnerability. Walk dexter-wise around the supermarket. Eat the Scotch Egg of fortitude.
Only then will you be spared the pestilence that rides the winds.

B Timothy
B Timothy
1 year ago

The “demand that anything can be truth as long as it can be reasoned so by man” is indeed at fault.
The pre-20th Century philosophers could at least pretend this isn’t what they were demanding, while we have to admit we now know better.

Last edited 1 year ago by B Timothy
Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
1 year ago

Is the Enlightenment, the demand that reason is better than superstition, to blame for the ills of today? All ideas have good and bad consequences; how it plays out over time in human minds, shouldn’t lead one to ditch the original idea, or even worse, revert to superstition and declare it to be superior.

V Solar
V Solar
1 year ago

Every time I come to a conclusion about the times we live in I read an essay by Paul Kingsnorth and lo and behold he has articulated my unspoken thoughts with great clarity. Thank you Paul.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  V Solar

Great minds think alike!

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  V Solar

Great minds think alike!

V Solar
V Solar
1 year ago

Every time I come to a conclusion about the times we live in I read an essay by Paul Kingsnorth and lo and behold he has articulated my unspoken thoughts with great clarity. Thank you Paul.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

What post humanism (PH) is isn’t universally agreed, and how close we are to it is therefore uncertain. But what almost all of us can agree on is it will be a revolution to the way humans exist, a revolution no less significant than the introduction of farming.

So let’s look at this much earlier revolution for analogies to see whether religion will save us.

Firstly, farming isn’t better for humans than hunter gathering. Hunter gatherers were generally healthier than the new farmers, for example. Farming succeeded not because everyone thought it was a good thing nor because farming groups were anymore more violent, but because farming aggregated populations into societies and allowed them to exert more power over others. PH no doubt repels many of us, it destroys the essence of being human, it may well create new creatures awful to our own eyes. If PH succeeds, like farming, it will do so because of the power it gives those who adopt it over the rest of us, no matter how repellant.

Farming wasn’t something that was simply adopted by peoples out of choice. Early adopters expanded their numbers and they displaced and replaced hunter gatherers in a great sweep of migration, no doubt mixed with enslavement of some of the incumbents. PH will have early adopters and the new humans, being “better” in some way, will displace and replace the rest of us from positions of power, and demand a bigger say on how the rest of live, de facto enslavement.

Farming’s methods and crops used for the production of food required the storing of food in communal granaries (one of its key strengths versus hunter gathering) and this in turn created positions to directly protect and control access to food. The power to control this was jealously guarded. Access to PH itself will be jealously guarded for it only offers advantages if only some posses it and the excuse given for this control will be protecting the rest of us.

The positions controlling the granaries were powerful, and triggered fights for them. Large bureaucracies and armies were cultivated to ensure control, only made possible by farming’s ability to generate a surplus that could be stored and distributed to non-farmers. The states we live in are the successors. New humans will need to protect themselves and their control, and because the bureaucracies and armies already exist, it necessarily means new humans will have to subvert existing state machinery.

With farming bureaucracies and armies eventually in place across the known world, the migration expansion that the farming revolution triggered ended. The bureaucracies and armies turned their focus on controlling their conquests. Wars abroad, new and evermore sophisticated ideological oppression at home. Raw power alone is a blunt tool so religion was often co-opted by the new states, a blend of innocent belief, manipulative control, and an expansion of the bureaucracy to absorb potential dissidents. PH will need some sort of justification for there to be a settled consensus. Perhaps Brave New World is our best guess of how this might work: not a belief, but a distracting soma, a half version of PH dispensed based on obedience.

So, short of converting every human to virtuosity, religion won’t stop a small number of our 8bn pushing to develop PH and eating the apple. Religion certainly then won’t stop some of the new humans using their new advantages for their own gain. Religion might serve as a soma for the old humans, but religion won’t save us from this nightmare anymore than the hunter gatherers saved themselves by clinging to their old ways, no matter how much nicer those old ways were.

Lastly, there will be a time when PH is established. For those with PH and for those without PH, the future they will occupy will be as normal to them as farming is to us, and today will be as rose tinted to them as hunter gathering is to us. The future is a distant planet and we cannot hope to survive there.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

When farming first took place in the fertile plains around the eastern Mediterranean, the average life expectancy dropped sharply due to the less nutritious diet. Eventually it recovered through the greater intake of fish protein, and then meat again. As you correctly state, the advantage lay in surplus foodstocks which spawned the growth of communal living and the division of labour.

The paradigm we’re now approaching is probably much less predictable/stable and far more rapid, whereby individuals and communities will barely have chance to “take stock” before the next shift occurs, and all of this through the simple mechanism which you rightly identify as conferring an advantage on those adapting and adopting the potential – as in conferring potency, with aging itself subject to revision.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Do we really know the life expectancy of a hunter-gatherer?
Was for example that Ötzi chap fairly typical?

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago

We do know the life expectancy of hunter gatherers and it was longer than the first agriculturalists – perhaps one reason being that larger conglomerates of people living off crops and domesticated animals could be all wiped out easier by an infectious disease, whereas, say a hunter gatherer finds and eats a pangolin and develops COVID (sorry), and well, his little tribe may die out, but it wouldn’t infect other hunter gatherer tribes because they hadn’t come in contact.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

Yes. Hence why its so important to realise hunter gatherers didn’t decide to become farmers. Why would they? The farmers arrived from elsewhere and simply displaced the hunter gatherers, which we see in DNA studies of human remains from the period. The new farmers firstly didn’t have the knowledge to return to hunter gathering even if they wanted to, and farming destroyed the ecosystems needed for hunter gathering. Demographics is the key to understanding power then and now.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Thank you.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

Yes. Hence why its so important to realise hunter gatherers didn’t decide to become farmers. Why would they? The farmers arrived from elsewhere and simply displaced the hunter gatherers, which we see in DNA studies of human remains from the period. The new farmers firstly didn’t have the knowledge to return to hunter gathering even if they wanted to, and farming destroyed the ecosystems needed for hunter gathering. Demographics is the key to understanding power then and now.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Thank you.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

Whilst we can’t get a representative statistical sample of both peoples, particularly hunter gatherers, from the remains we have we can see the first farmers had exceptionally poor health. And though the remains of hunter gatherers are far fewer, those we have are taller with fewer signs of chronic illness, and we also can make comparisons with 19th century hunter gatherers whose lives (then) were hardly changed and who generally were healthier than their contemporary urban cousins.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Thank you.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Thank you.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

They went down to the town hall and looked up the records, so it must be spot on. And then they laughed at the history of the bible.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago

We do know the life expectancy of hunter gatherers and it was longer than the first agriculturalists – perhaps one reason being that larger conglomerates of people living off crops and domesticated animals could be all wiped out easier by an infectious disease, whereas, say a hunter gatherer finds and eats a pangolin and develops COVID (sorry), and well, his little tribe may die out, but it wouldn’t infect other hunter gatherer tribes because they hadn’t come in contact.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

Whilst we can’t get a representative statistical sample of both peoples, particularly hunter gatherers, from the remains we have we can see the first farmers had exceptionally poor health. And though the remains of hunter gatherers are far fewer, those we have are taller with fewer signs of chronic illness, and we also can make comparisons with 19th century hunter gatherers whose lives (then) were hardly changed and who generally were healthier than their contemporary urban cousins.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

They went down to the town hall and looked up the records, so it must be spot on. And then they laughed at the history of the bible.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Do we really know the life expectancy of a hunter-gatherer?
Was for example that Ötzi chap fairly typical?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

When farming first took place in the fertile plains around the eastern Mediterranean, the average life expectancy dropped sharply due to the less nutritious diet. Eventually it recovered through the greater intake of fish protein, and then meat again. As you correctly state, the advantage lay in surplus foodstocks which spawned the growth of communal living and the division of labour.

The paradigm we’re now approaching is probably much less predictable/stable and far more rapid, whereby individuals and communities will barely have chance to “take stock” before the next shift occurs, and all of this through the simple mechanism which you rightly identify as conferring an advantage on those adapting and adopting the potential – as in conferring potency, with aging itself subject to revision.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

What post humanism (PH) is isn’t universally agreed, and how close we are to it is therefore uncertain. But what almost all of us can agree on is it will be a revolution to the way humans exist, a revolution no less significant than the introduction of farming.

So let’s look at this much earlier revolution for analogies to see whether religion will save us.

Firstly, farming isn’t better for humans than hunter gathering. Hunter gatherers were generally healthier than the new farmers, for example. Farming succeeded not because everyone thought it was a good thing nor because farming groups were anymore more violent, but because farming aggregated populations into societies and allowed them to exert more power over others. PH no doubt repels many of us, it destroys the essence of being human, it may well create new creatures awful to our own eyes. If PH succeeds, like farming, it will do so because of the power it gives those who adopt it over the rest of us, no matter how repellant.

Farming wasn’t something that was simply adopted by peoples out of choice. Early adopters expanded their numbers and they displaced and replaced hunter gatherers in a great sweep of migration, no doubt mixed with enslavement of some of the incumbents. PH will have early adopters and the new humans, being “better” in some way, will displace and replace the rest of us from positions of power, and demand a bigger say on how the rest of live, de facto enslavement.

Farming’s methods and crops used for the production of food required the storing of food in communal granaries (one of its key strengths versus hunter gathering) and this in turn created positions to directly protect and control access to food. The power to control this was jealously guarded. Access to PH itself will be jealously guarded for it only offers advantages if only some posses it and the excuse given for this control will be protecting the rest of us.

The positions controlling the granaries were powerful, and triggered fights for them. Large bureaucracies and armies were cultivated to ensure control, only made possible by farming’s ability to generate a surplus that could be stored and distributed to non-farmers. The states we live in are the successors. New humans will need to protect themselves and their control, and because the bureaucracies and armies already exist, it necessarily means new humans will have to subvert existing state machinery.

With farming bureaucracies and armies eventually in place across the known world, the migration expansion that the farming revolution triggered ended. The bureaucracies and armies turned their focus on controlling their conquests. Wars abroad, new and evermore sophisticated ideological oppression at home. Raw power alone is a blunt tool so religion was often co-opted by the new states, a blend of innocent belief, manipulative control, and an expansion of the bureaucracy to absorb potential dissidents. PH will need some sort of justification for there to be a settled consensus. Perhaps Brave New World is our best guess of how this might work: not a belief, but a distracting soma, a half version of PH dispensed based on obedience.

So, short of converting every human to virtuosity, religion won’t stop a small number of our 8bn pushing to develop PH and eating the apple. Religion certainly then won’t stop some of the new humans using their new advantages for their own gain. Religion might serve as a soma for the old humans, but religion won’t save us from this nightmare anymore than the hunter gatherers saved themselves by clinging to their old ways, no matter how much nicer those old ways were.

Lastly, there will be a time when PH is established. For those with PH and for those without PH, the future they will occupy will be as normal to them as farming is to us, and today will be as rose tinted to them as hunter gathering is to us. The future is a distant planet and we cannot hope to survive there.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
1 year ago

One more point… you can’t be a true Christian if you believe we live in a “post-Christian” age. Everything is how it should be. We are not destined to know “why” it is so.

“It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.”
Acts 1:7

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

It’s time to overcome this “daddy complex”. Trying to keep people in a state of ignorance is a tactic used by unscrupulous politicians.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Not remotely comparable! The ultimate unknowable mysteries of life are not the same as the clandestine, underhand machinations of corrupt politicians!

Simon Simple
Simon Simple
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Wonderful, the current Ideology has cast aside the Science that Christianity led to in its search for the Creator in his Creation and Christianity is supposedly the ‘Superstition’. Chesterton was right, though.
When a man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.”
(I know, evidence of his actually using that phrase doesn’t exist, but it sums up the more complex sources – one of which I prefer is the Father Brown quote

“It’s drowning all your old rationalism and scepticism, it’s coming in like a sea; and the name of it is superstition.” The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything: “And a dog is an omen and a cat is a mystery.”

to which I add,
“and Cows and Sheep are methane factories and Nitrogen sources so polluters and should be replaced by insect protein.”
Go for it EU! Perhaps there is some brain parasite that has got into the brains of these ‘woke’ people or too much smoking dope?