Leftism as Substitute Religion

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The howls of incoherent fury with which much of the left has greeted the advent of the Trump administration seems quite strange until we recall that leftism is essentially not a political movement for many of its adherents but rather a substitute for religion.  John Daniel Davidson at The Federalist understands this:


The consternation and outrage we’ve seen in response to President Trump’s executive order on immigration has little to do with the policy as such. Restricting immigration from certain countries is nothing new; President Obama did it, as did presidents Bush, Clinton, H.W. Bush, and Reagan.

Rather, it has everything to do with the elevation of progressive politics to the status of a religion—a dogmatic and intolerant religion, whose practitioners are now experiencing a crisis of faith.

Forget the executive order itself. Progressives have reacted with moral indignation and hysteria to everything Trump has done since taking office. His inauguration was enough to bring out hundreds of thousands of protesters across the country. In the 12 days since then, we have witnessed yet more demonstrations, boycotts, calls for “resistance,” comparisons to the Holocaust, media witch-hunts, the politicization of everything from Hollywood awards shows to professional sports, and real tears from New York Sen.Chuck Schumer.

One is hard-pressed to think of something Trump could do that would not elicit howls of outrage from the Left. On Tuesday, Senate Democrats boycotted confirmation hearings for Steven Mnuchin’s nomination to serve as treasury secretary and Rep. Tom Price’s nomination to be secretary of Health and Human Services, while continuing to try to block the confirmation of Betsy DeVos for education secretary and Sen. Jeff Session for attorney general. Even before Trump announced his Supreme Court pick on Tuesday night, Democrats had already announced they would filibuster the nomination, no matter who it was.

The obstinacy of Senate Democrats reflects the mood of their progressive base, whose panicked anger is the natural reaction of those for whom politics has become an article of faith. Progressives, as the terms implies, believe society must always be progressing toward something better. Always forward, never backwards. After eight years of Obama, they believed progressive politics in America would forever be on an upward trajectory.

The Left Has Been Moralizing Politics For A Long Time

Trump shook that faith. But his election also unmasked the degree to which progressivism as a political project is based not on science or rationality, or even sound policy, but on faith in the power of government to ameliorate and eventually perfect society. All the protests and denunciations of Trump serve not just as an outlet for progressives’ despair, but the chance to signal their moral virtue through collective outrage and moral preening—something that wasn’t really possible under Obama, at least not to this degree.

Not that they didn’t try. Recall that during the Obamacare debate in 2009 Ezra Klein suggested that Sen. Joe Lieberman was “willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score,” simply because he threatened to filibuster what would become the Affordable Care Act. This is the language of political fundamentalism—policy invested with the certainty of religious conviction.

Religious fundamentalism of course rests on immutable truths that cannot be negotiated. For Klein, that meant health care reform. The same rhetoric—“willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people”—would crop up again and again during Obama’s tenure, every time a Republican governor refused to expand Medicaid or a state attorney general challenged an EPA regulation meant to curb climate change. Policy debates took on a theological significance.

Mixing politics with religion is usually bad for religion and worse for politics.  Making one’s politics one’s religion, well the Communists of the last century amply demonstrated where that folly can lead.  Opponents to adherents of such a world view are not merely political adherents to be defeated at the polls, but heretics to be humiliated, driven from public life and ultimately physically destroyed if they persist in their evil beliefs.  Do all leftists believe this?  Thank the real God no, but enough do to give our present politics its tinge of bitter hatred that augurs poorly for civic peace.

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  1. In my years at the Indan Point 3 Nuclear Power Plant, we saw this phenomenon manifest itself in the anti-nuclear protests outside the main gate. It’s eco-wackism, enviro-nazism, pagan worship of goddess Gaia, fundamentalist secularism, godless humanism, etc. One time I had an opportunity to talk to one of these people, a really smart and successful corporate laywer in Manhattan who lived on Long island and supported Mario Cuomo’s shutdown of the Shoreham nucllear power plant (his son Andy is now shutting down my Alma Mater of 18 years, Indian Point – I hate the Democratic Party!). I was able (in my example above) to bring him through all the safey features of the nuclear power plant, how reactor protection and engineering safeguards work, the physics of how the core shuts itself down on a power excursion, the methods employed in storing used nuclear fuel and plans for reprocessing, how we obviate plutonium proliferation – and on and on and on. He was very intelligent and understood every single little point – even the idea of radiation hormesis: that a little bit over a long time is good for you and a whole lot at one time bad. But the conclusion – nuclear is safer than natural gas and even wind – he rejected. It did not matter what the facts said. His religion – eco-wacko progressivism – said otherwise. To him Cuomo was right to shut Shoreham down even though electric rates on Long Island where he lived skyrocketed and natural gas spinning reserve makeup for low capacity factor wind pollutes the air. In his view we were hurting goddess Gaia by splitting atoms.
    Folks, these people are nuts. They are freaking idiots. You cannot argue with them. You cannot reason with them. The time for debate and dialogue is long over. And when that happens, then society is in big, big trouble. God have mercy on us all.

  2. I wonder if this “progressivism-as-religion” model is an explanation for the left’s
    cozying-up to islam we’re starting to see. Each is helping the other wage its jihad.

    We’re seeing CAIR/Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood/Nation of Islam/BDS crop up more
    and more in partnership with Democrats. Hillary’s Huma Abedin has a Muslim Brotherhood
    background. Rep. Ellison has ties with CAIR, Nation of Islam, the Muslim Brotherhood,
    and a history of anti-semitic statements –yet he’s a contender for Chair of the DNC.
    Bernie Saunders and Sen. Schumer, both Jewish men, have endorsed him for the position
    despite his well-documented anti-semitic and anti-Israel history. Linda Sarsour, a pro-
    islam activist with ties to Hamas is an outspoken advocate of the implementation of
    sharia in the US and yet she was recruited to chair the recent DC “Women’s March”.

    Politics is making some strange bedfellows indeed. The adherents of the progressive’s
    cult are apologists for islamic terror at home and abroad, give an assist in undermining
    Israel and normalize anti-semitism, insist that islam is a “religion of peace” despite all
    evidence to the contrary, and demand ever-increasing importation of muslims from
    various terrorism-riddled states. The adherents of islam, in return, are throwing their
    considerable financial and organizational backing to the progressive’s cult. They’re
    no strangers to staging violent protests, and I’m guessing they’re useful when the
    left wants a riot to break out. (We’ve seen no shortage of those recently). I’m also
    guessing that the considerable sums CAIR, the Muslim Brotherhood and their ilk
    receive from their Middle East sponsors is most welcome in DNC circles…

    The two cults will be bedfellows for as long as each can help the other to gather
    power. Yet their ends are very, very different. The islamist’s beliefs about the
    role of women, the treatment of homosexuals, etc. — indeed, the very existence of
    human rights or the desirability of democracy in general — mean that the inevitable
    divorce between those two cults will be messy, messy indeed.

  3. The world is round, spins on its axis and goes around and what goes around comes around. The Progressives will find themselves in the same place that they started. Now, that will cause an uproar as we are seeing.

  4. Re: LQC

    LQC has got it right. Liberals are crazy, irrational, whatever. Why is that? They believe that Man can take care of himself without obedience to God. God punishes them by making them partially irrational so that their emotions and incorrect assumptions control them, e.g., tower of Babel, Nancy Pelosi, most Democrats, some of my kids.

  5. LQC has got it right. Liberals are crazy, irrational, whatever. Why is that? They believe that Man can take care of himself without obedience to God. God punishes them by making them partially irrational so that their emotions and incorrect assumptions control them, e.g., tower of Babel, Nancy Pelosi, most Democrats, some of my kids.

  6. “[T]he chance to signal their moral virtue through collective outrage and moral preening”

    As Hegel said of the French Revolution and its Politics of Virtue:-

    “Virtue is here a simple abstract principle and distinguishes the citizens into two classes only—those who are favourably disposed and those who are not. But disposition can only be recognized and judged of by disposition. Suspicion therefore is in the ascendant; but virtue, as soon as it becomes liable to suspicion, is already condemned . . . . Robespierre set up the principle of virtue as supreme, and it may be said that with this man virtue was an earnest matter. Virtue and Terror are the order of the day; for Subjective Virtue, whose sway is based on disposition only, brings with it the most fearful tyranny. It exercises its power without legal formalities, and the punishment it inflicts is equally simple—Death”

    What do they want, who want neither Virtue not Terror?” asked Saint-Just, “They want corruption” and Saint-Just was the man who believed he knew how to deal with them.

  7. I think there is something diabolic about the Left with its fixation on abortion and hatred for Judeo-Christian values and Western Civilization. They are attracted to Islam in some perverse enemy of my enemy sentiment. It is an epidemic of soul-sickness. It is charitable to assume that few of them realize what they are about but the vacuum of their ignorance is filled with indoctrination. First we lost the schools.

  8. Your article brings to mind a very specific prophesy in the Bible that refers to the topic you raise. St. Paul, just after calming his readers about any need to worry that the “day of the Lord is at hand” (2 Thess 2:2) goes on to speak of a mass “apostasy” (i.e., loss of faith, apostasia in the original Greek) and the revelation of the “lawless one” who “opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god and object of worship … claiming that he is a god [the rise of contemporary atheism and nihilism].” “And now you know what is restraining [the papacy?], that he may be revealed … whom the Lord will kill with the breath of his mouth [i.e. the Holy Spirit] by the manifestation of his coming” (2 Thess 2: 3-8). St. Paul even gives the reason that this would take place: “they have not accepted the love of truth so that they may be saved” (2 Thess 2: 10). This diabolical dimension explains the fury and Pharisaical self-righteousness of the left. They are under the spell of the Father of Lies who hides behind expressions like “mercy killing” to obfuscate the truth.

  9. It is truly said that when one ceases to believe in God, one will believe in anything. You need only look at today’s left wing crazies to see the truth in this demonstrated.

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