Friday, January 8, 2021

The Gnostic heresy’s political successors

The Western world is the creation of the Church, and the crisis of the West is always at bottom the crisis of the Church.  This is especially so where the Church has receded into the background of the Western mind – where men’s plans are hatched in the name of progress, science, social justice, equity, or some other purportedly secular value, and make little or no reference to religion.  For liberalism, socialism, communism, scientism, progressivism, identity politics, globalism, and all the rest – this Hydra’s head of modernist projects, however ostensibly secular, is united by two features that are irreducibly theological.

First, they are all essentially apostate projects, enterprises that have arisen in the midst of Christian civilization with the aim of supplanting it.  And they could have arisen only within the Christian context, because, second, these projects are all heretical in the broad sense of that term.  That is to say, they are all founded on some idea inherited from Christianity (the dignity of the individual, human equality, a law-governed universe, a final consummation, etc.) but removed from the theological framework that originally gave it meaning, and radically distorted in the process.

As an essentially apostate and heretical phenomenon, modernity is also an Oedipal phenomenon.  Its series of grand, mad schemes amount to the West fitfully seeking – now this way, now that – finally to free itself from the authority of its heavenly Father and to defile the doctrine of its ecclesiastical Mother.  And in the process, the would-be parricides always make themselves over into parodies – remolding the world in their image, suppressing dissent, and otherwise acting precisely like the oppressive God and Church that haunt their imaginations.

Eric Voegelin (1901-1985) was among the most important thinkers to analyze modernity under the category of heresy, and the specific heresy he regarded as the key to the analysis was Gnosticism.  The Gnostic heresy is one that has recurred many times in the long history of the Church, under various guises – Marcionism, Manicheanism, Paulicianism, Albigensianism, Catharism, and so on.  Like Hilaire Belloc, Voegelin regarded Puritanism as a more recent riff on the same basic mindset.  And he argued that modern ideologies like communism, National Socialism, progressivism, and scientism are all essentially secularized versions of Gnosticism.  Voegelin’s best-known statement of this thesis appears in The New Science of Politics, though he revisited and expanded upon it in later work. 

Now, what Voegelin saw in these ideologies is manifestly present in Critical Race Theory and the rest of the “woke” insanity now spreading like a cancer through the body politic.  But it is also to be found in certain tendencies coming from the opposite political direction, such as the lunatic QAnon theory.  Voegelin’s analysis is thus as relevant to understanding the present moment as it was to understanding the mid-twentieth-century totalitarianisms that originally inspired it.  It reveals to us the true nature of the insurgency that is working to take over the Left, and will do so if more sober liberals do not act decisively to check its influence.  But it also serves as a grave warning to the Right firmly to resist any temptation to respond to left-wing Gnosticism with a right-wing counter-Gnosticism.

Notes of the Gnostic mindset

The Gnostic mentality – considered at a high level of abstraction that leaves out the many differences between the various specific Gnosticizing movements that have arisen over the centuries – can be characterized in terms of tendencies like the following:

First, it sees evil as all-pervasive and nearly omnipotent, absolutely permeating the established order of things.  You might wonder how this differs from the Christian doctrine of original sin.  It differs radically.  Christianity teaches the basic goodness of the created order.  It teaches that human beings have a natural capacity for knowledge and practice of the good – the idea of natural law.  It teaches that basic social institutions like the family and the state are grounded in the natural law, and are therefore good.  To be sure, it also teaches that original sin has massively damaged our moral capacities and social life.  But it has not obliterated the good that is in them.  And its damage has been mitigated by special divine revelation since the beginning of the human race, as recorded in scripture.  The Gnostic mindset takes a much darker view.  The original Gnostic movements regarded the material world as essentially evil.  They saw marriage and family as evil.  They regarded the God of the Old Testament as the malign creator and ruler of the present sinister order of things.  The Gnostic mentality is thus one of radical alienation from the created order.  It sees that order as something to be destroyed or escaped from rather than redeemed.

Second, the Gnostic mentality holds that only an elect who have received a special gnosis or “knowledge” from a Gnostic sage can see through the illusory appearances of things to the reality of the incorrigible evil of this world.  You might wonder how this differs from Christian appeal to special divine revelation.  Once again, the difference is radical.  Christian teaching is essentially exoteric.  Christianity holds, first, that at least the basic truths of natural law and natural theology are available in principle to everyone and at any time, just by using their natural rational powers.  Second, it holds also that even special divine revelation is publicly available to all, and backed by evidence that anyone can examine, viz. the evidence that a prophet claiming a revelation has performed genuine miracles.  Gnostic teaching, by contrast, is esoteric.  It holds that the truth cannot be known from the appearances of things or from any official sources, but has been passed along “under the radar” and is accessible only to the initiated.  The Gnostic epistemology is what today would be called a “hermeneutics of suspicion.”

Third, the Gnostic mindset sees reality in starkly Manichean terms, as a twilight struggle between the sinister forces that rule this evil world and those who have been “purified” of it and armed with gnosis.  Once again, you might think this differs little from Christian teaching, but once again you’d be wrong.  Christian doctrine holds that natural reason and natural law provide common ground by which the Christian and the unbeliever can debate their differences and cooperate in pursuing common ends.  And it holds that the righteous and the wicked – the wheat and the tares – will in any event always be intermingled in this life, to be separated only at the Last Judgment.  The Gnostic mindset is not interested in such common ground or tolerant of such differences.

Fourth, the Gnostic lives in what Voegelin calls a “dream world.”  This is inevitable given the subjectivism and irrationality entailed by the Gnostic’s esotericism, and the paranoia entailed by his Manicheanism.  The Gnostic sees the manifestation of evil forces everywhere.  He inverts common sense and everyday morality, seeing these as reflective of the evil order of things and the sinister forces behind it.  Nothing that happens is taken to falsify his beliefs, because any bad effects are interpreted as merely further manifestations of the evil forces, rather than reflecting any defect in the Gnostic’s belief system.  Voegelin writes:

The gap between intended and real effect will be imputed not to the Gnostic immorality of ignoring the structure of reality but to the immorality of some other person or society that does not behave as it should behave according to the dream conception of cause and effect. (The New Science of Politics, pp. 169-70)

Fifth, Gnostic moral practice veers between the extremes of puritanism and libertinism.  Initially this might seem puzzling, but it makes perfect sense given the Gnostic’s other commitments.  On the one hand, given the Gnostic hatred of the created order and of conventional moral and social life, what the normal person takes to be permissible or even necessary to ordinary life is prissily condemned.  Hence, Gnostic heretical movements over the centuries famously emphasized vegetarianism, pacifism, the purported evil of capital punishment, and similarly utopian attitudes, pitting the “mercy” of a Gnosticized interpretation of Jesus against what they regarded as the sinister Old Testament God of justice.  On the other hand, since the material world is taken by the Gnostic to have no value, nothing that happens within it ultimately matters, and the most licentious behavior can be excused.  Hence, sexual immorality was often tolerated in practice – as long as it was not associated with marriage and procreation, which would tie us to the ordinary material and social order.

Sixth, the Gnostic posits a final victory of the “pure” over the evil forces that govern everyday reality.  For Gnostic heretical movements of the past, this entailed an ultimate release from the material world.  But the modern political successors of Gnosticism tend to be materialist, seeing no hope for a life beyond this one.  Here is where Voegelin sees the greatest difference between ancient and modern forms of Gnosticism.  As Voegelin famously put it, modern forms of Gnosticism “immanentize the eschaton” – that is to say, they relocate the final victory of the righteous in this world rather than the next, and look forward to a heaven on earth.

Modern Gnosticisms

The many variations on the Gnostic heresy that arose in the ancient and medieval worlds did so in a context where the reality of the supernatural was taken for granted.  The influence of classical philosophical traditions like Neo-Platonism and the dominance of the Church made this reflexive supernaturalism possible.  But the Enlightenment radically changed the basic cultural situation, breaking the power of the Church over Western civilization and putting Western philosophy and intellectual life in general on a trajectory toward naturalism. 

Voegelin’s deep insight is that this by no means destroyed the Gnostic mindset, but merely transformed it.  Gnosticism didn’t disappear with the decline of supernaturalism; instead, it adapted to the new cultural situation by naturalizing itself.  “Immanentizing the eschaton” is the most obvious adaptation, but all the other elements of the Gnostic mindset were also transformed in various ways in the different modern forms of Gnosticism.

Hence, consider Marxism from the point of view of Voegelin’s analysis.  Here the all-pervasive and near omnipotent evil that the Gnostic sees in the world becomes capitalism and the bourgeois power that it sustains.  This power is taken to permeate every aspect of life, on the Marxist analysis, insofar as the legal, moral, religious and general cultural “superstructure” of society are all held to reflect the capitalist economic “base.”  Everyday moral assumptions are mere ideologies that mask the interests of bourgeois power, religion is a mere opiate to reconcile the oppressed to that power, and so on.  Marxist theory is the gnosis that reveals this dark and hidden truth about the world, and Marx, Engels, Lenin and Co. play the role that Gnostic sages like Valentinus, Marcion, and Mani did in the Gnosticisms of the past.  The Manichean roles of the forces of darkness and of light are played by the bourgeois oppressor on the one hand, and the proletariat and its intellectual vanguard on the other. 

The Marxist position is made as subjectivist and unfalsifiable as that of earlier Gnostics to the extent that criticism of the Marxist analysis is dismissed as an ideological mask for bourgeois power, and the critics are tarred as “objective allies” of that power (even when they happen to be left-wing themselves).  The paradoxical puritan/libertine dynamic is evident in the moralistic rejection of bourgeois moral norms.  The final victory over evil – the “immanentized eschaton” – is the realization of communism, in which exploitation will disappear, alienation will be overcome, the state will wither away, and liberated man will (as Marx famously put it) “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, [and] criticize after dinner.”

Or consider the analysis of Nazism as a kind of Gnosticism.  Here it is the Jews who are cast in the role of omnipotent villain, portrayed in Nazi propaganda as the puppet masters behind capitalist exploitation and communist oppression alike, and as alien and subhuman parasites who subvert the health and moral order of the German nation.  The gnosis that claims to reveal this is the teaching of the Führer.  The Führer and the Aryan people he leads on the one hand, and the Jews and their allies on the other, play the familiar Manichean roles.  The cultural relativism of Nazi ideology gives it an essentially subjectivist and irrationalist character.  The libertine/puritan dynamic finds expression in the Nazi’s contempt for ordinary notions of justice and rights on the one hand, and an austere ethos of self-sacrifice for the German Volk on the other.  (See Claudia Koonz’s book The Nazi Conscience for an illuminating account of Nazi pseudo-moralism.)  The Nazis’ own depraved “immanentized eschaton” involved the “Final Solution” and the “Thousand Year Reich.”

Woke Gnosticism

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is in exactly the same mold.  The difference is that, unlike Marxism and Nazism, it has not (yet?) been implemented as a political program.  But the ravings of an Ibram Kendi or Robin DiAngelo manifest the same paranoia, irrationalism, and Manichean fanaticism as any other form of Gnosticism.  And CRT’s violent implications have already been seen on the streets of Washington, Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, New York, Kenosha, and other American cities during the summer of 2020 – an echo of Gnostic mobs of the past (SA Brownshirts, Young Maoists, and the like) and a foretaste of things to come.

For CRT, the all-pervasive and near omnipotent source of evil in the world is the “racist power” of “white supremacy,” “white privilege,” and indeed “whiteness” itself.  This racism is “systemic” in a Foucauldian sense – it percolates down, in capillary fashion, into every nook and cranny of society and the unconscious assumptions of every citizen.  It is especially manifest in all “inequities,” which result from the “implicit biases” lurking even in people who think of themselves as free of racism.  And it is to be found even in the most seemingly innocuous of offenses, which are in reality “micro-aggressions.”  Even self-consciously “anti-racist” CRT adepts themselves are not free of racism, but must constantly engage in a Maoist-style self-critical struggle to root out and confess ever deeper and unexamined racist assumptions.

In CRT, this imagined totalitarian “white supremacy” plays the role that the God of the Old Testament does in the original forms of Gnosticism, that the bourgeois does in Marxist theory, and that the Jews play in Nazi mythology.  It is the devil figure on which every misfortune can be blamed and to which every hatred and resentment can be directed, the bogeyman lurking under every bed and in every shadowy corner, waiting to terrorize.  Indeed, as critics of CRT point out, if you take a work of Critical Race Theory and replace terms like “whiteness” and “white supremacy” with “Jewishness” and “Jewry,” the result reads chillingly like a work of Nazi propaganda.

Other forms of woke Gnosticism have their own bogeymen – “patriarchy,” “heteronormativity,” etc. – which, like “whiteness,” are abstractions spoken of as if they were concrete demonic powers.  And just when you thought you’d heard of every kind of “oppression” imaginable, the Critical Theorists come along with the notion of “intersectionality,” by which ever more exotic forms can be fantasized into being.  For example, if you are a transgender lesbian woman of color, you suffer a special kind of oppression – one defined by the “intersection” of oppressions suffered by each of the groups to which you belong – that is different from the kind suffered by (say) a gay immigrant with disabilities.  (Wokesters don’t play the victim card; they play a whole 52 card deck.)

The gnosis that purportedly reveals all of this suffocating oppression is to be found in the writings of gurus like Kendi and DiAngelo, whose main difference from the likes of Marcion and Mani is the size of their royalty checks.  Their books are almost entirely free of any actual argumentation.  There is, instead, page after tedious page of sheer tendentious and question-begging assertion, with all disagreement preemptively dismissed a priori as “racist,” the expression of “white fragility,” and so on.  CRT claims are textbook examples of Popperian unfalsifiability: Everything is interpreted as evidence for them, and nothing is permitted to count as evidence against them. 

Of course, there really is racism in the world, just as capitalists really do sometimes exploit their workers.  And such racism ought indeed to be condemned.  Naturally, CRT authors do cite some actual examples of racism.  But that racists exist comes nowhere close to establishing the entire paranoid CRT worldview, any more than the existence of exploitative capitalists suffices to establish the truth of Marxism.

It is no accident that CRT adepts think of themselves as “woke.”  For it is not rational argumentation that compels them but a kind of conversion experience, and Kendi, DiAngelo, et al. are essentially Gnostic preachers rather than philosophers or social scientists.  Their reliance on inflammatory rhetoric, preemptive dismissal of all criticism as racist, and insistence on putting the most sinister imaginable interpretation on every aspect of social life, create a “dream world” of exactly the kind Voegelin describes.  As Greg Lukianoff has noted, “wokeness” inculcates distorting and paranoid habits of thought of precisely the sort that Cognitive Behavioral therapists warn their patients to avoid.

The Gnostic libertine/puritan dynamic manifests in the shrill condemnation of traditional institutions and morals as oppressively “racist,” “sexist,” “homophobic,” etc. – which gives license both to violate existing norms in the name of “social justice,” and self-righteously to condemn and “cancel” anyone who objects.  The Manichean element is manifest in Kendi’s notorious insistence that there is no “non-racist” neutral middle ground.  You must either be “anti-racist” in Kendi’s understanding of that term, or you are a racist.  In general, the “woke” or “social justice warrior” mentality is absolutely intolerant of nuance or dissent.  You are either on their bandwagon, or you are part of the “racist,” “sexist,” “homophobic,” etc. enemy.  The immanentized eschaton of the wokester is a radically egalitarian world that has been purified of every last trace of “inequity,” “racism,” “sexism,” “homophobia,” etc., whether in deed or in thought.  Though, since there are always new and ever more exotic strata of “oppression” to be identified and confessed to, that eschaton is very far off indeed.

A war of Gnosticisms

With wokeness suddenly flooding universities, high schools, the medical profession, the military, business, and seemingly everywhere else, we are seeing something comparable to the Arian crisis of the 4th century or the Albigensian crisis of the 13th century – the alarmingly rapid spread of a toxic religious cult that threatens the general sociopolitical order no less than it does the Church.  As in these earlier crises, there are many Christians, already heterodox anyway, who are happy to cave in to the madness.  And there are also some otherwise orthodox Christians who, out of cowardice and/or muddle-headedness, try to accommodate themselves to it.  In the secular context, we see a similar dynamic among conservatives.

But the vast majority of orthodox Christians and of conservatives see the insanity for what it is, and are alarmed by it.  Applying Voegelin’s analysis, which I think reveals the true nature of the phenomenon, shows that they ought to be very alarmed by it.  But Voegelin’s analysis also shows how not to respond to the crisis – namely, with any sort of counter-Gnosticism.  Yet the bizarre QAnon phenomenon on the Right appears to be exactly that.  It has all the key marks of the Gnostic mindset – the positing of unseen malign forces, the hermeneutics of suspicion and “dream world” theorizing, Manicheanism and shrill intolerance of all dissenters, even something like an immanentized eschaton (“The Storm”). 

In the long run, Critical Race Theory and other forms of “wokeness,” though not much more intellectually substantive than the QAnon lunacy, are manifestly far more dangerous, given their pseudo-academic nature and appeal to the temper of mainstream opinion.  Again, “woke” ideas now pervade media, universities, high schools, churches, corporate board rooms and HR departments, and on and on – the commanding heights of the mainstream social and economic order.  QAnon, by contrast, while having some mass appeal, extends no higher up among those with power and influence than a handful of crank lawyers and congressmen.  And unlike CRT and the other elements of wokeness, it has no intellectual lineage or cultural framework that could give it the heft to extend much farther than that.  Here’s the acid test:  Few Republican politicians want to associate themselves with QAnon.  But few Democratic politicians dare to disassociate themselves from CRT and other forms of wokeness.  That shows you which of these warring Gnosticisms has the upper hand.

All the same, in its short life, the QAnon madness has already caused enormous harm, both by rotting out minds and by playing a role in both the Republican loss of the Georgia Senate elections and in the breach of the U.S. Capitol.  And as the history of Weimar Germany teaches us, a war of Gnosticisms does not end well.

Gnostic woke madness will not be remedied by aping it.  On the contrary, more than ever, what the times call for is conservative sobriety.  And orthodoxy.  Heresies not only aim to subvert the Church, but they fill the vacuum that opens up when the Church loses its self-confidence, its fidelity to its traditional teaching, and its sense of mission – and as a consequence, loses its attractiveness.  The crisis of the West is the crisis of the Church.  The West will not be restored to health until the Church is restored to health.  And that is a project that requires us to see beyond election cycles, and indeed beyond politics.

131 comments:

  1. Could someone *please* recommend a book or two on Catholic epistemology? I’ve got a family member who’s into this gnostic idiocy and I’m trying to understand how to approach his condition by better understanding how a Catholic *ought* to approach how to “know” what’s true or not true (principles and such). Anyone give to give a man a hand?

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    1. Methodical Realism by Etienne Gilson

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    2. Cognition: An Epistemological Inquiry by Joseph Owens and The Concept in Thomism by John Frederick Peifer have been helpful to me, though I have not read enough to know if they are the best works out there.

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    3. https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.188009
      Here's an old scholastic manual on the subject. Feser hasn't recommended this one in particular afaik but he has recommended other manuals by the author. I found it very insightful.

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    4. For a foundation in epistemology I recommend the wisdom books in the Bible followed by a smattering of Apologetics. Unless you learn how to think, you are bound to be swayed by whatever opinions are held in the books you read. Also the secundae secundae of the Summa has a lot to learn about intellectual virtues, as well. All these things you can find online for free. Hope this helps!

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    5. Also just paying attention to the homily at mass and analyzing it logically can be very helpful, if you're just getting started.

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    6. The subject is vast, but Ed Feser's The Last Superstition is a good place to start along with his book on Scholastic Metaphysics. For a very readable book that will get you asking the right questions and getting many of the right answers read the book of the eminent political philosopher and theologian from Georgetown University (yes he taught for many tears and was revered there even with its liberal environment) The Order of Things.

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    7. The Order of Things by Father James V. Schall

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  2. Presuppositional apologetics also looks like a form of gnosticism.

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    1. Drew,

      If I can ask, why do you say that? And what experience do you have with presup. apologetics?

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    2. For my experience with presuppositionalism, I have an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary and presented a paper on presuppositionalism for the Evangelical Philosophical Society. I will not have any patience for the "you're just misunderstanding presup" tagline. I'm not.

      The part that applies to the presup mentality is "only an elect who have received a special gnosis or “knowledge” from a Gnostic sage can see through the illusory appearances of things to the reality of the incorrigible evil of this world"

      The presup tradition rejects natural law an natural theology because they believe the noetic effects of sin blind the unregenerate. This makes the knowledge of God esoteric rather than exoteric. Only the regenerate have the mental faculties needed to accept the truth of the Christian faith.

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    3. I often wonder if the classical arguments for god not being abe to prove an infinite being apart from oneself, is the synthesis between between presup and classical apologetics. It disproves atheism at least. And the rational possibility of solipsism may be the most surprising evidence of our fallen nature.

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    4. I think that the purpose of apologetics in general is not to convince others of the truth of the Christian faith, but to show that Christianity is not on the same level as other religions regarding reason and evidence.

      St. Paul's claim that 500 people saw the risen Christ is not in any way comparable to L. Ron Hubbard's claim that Xenu nuked the planet's volcanoes 70 million years ago. These claims are not equal. We are not in the same boat.

      That inequality of evidence helps to justify that our faith is not merely personal and private. It affects how we interact with others, and what behaviors we deem acceptable or not.

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    5. You certainly are not in the same boat. Hubbard's claim is falsifiable - and easly so - by looking into the recent volcanic history of the planet and the trace isotopic composition of its atmosphere. St Paul's claim is clearly not however, though equally we have absolutely no reason to believe such a tall claim either.

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    6. Objection: St. Paul is not making his claim now. At the time he made it, it most definitely was falsifiable; he was personally acquainted with a number of the witnesses he refers to. And he is certainly not the only one to testify to that particular ‘tall claim’. In terms of the number and accurate transmission of primary sources, the career of Jesus is one of the best-attested events in ancient history.

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    7. The conversation may begin with what pure reason can tell you about the world, and what it cannot. Namely, that there is an infinite being, but not an infinite number of things.

      Acts 2:14-36 is another excellent step. The "therefore know for certain" is based on 3 kinds of evidence: OT prophecy, eyewitness evidence (ie. historical evidence), and a self-evident work of the Spirit.

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    8. For what it's worth, I used to a be strict presup guy and was very reformed--and it nearly ruined me intellectually. I absolutely agree with the critique of presup that it is ultimately just fideism.

      It teaches you a hermeneutics of suspicion of your own mind and intuitions about the world, since sin has corrupted these. This ultimately makes presup self-refuting, since ultimately no appeal to reason can be made to show that the Christian worldview is more internally coherent than any other. You are simply left with a brute appeal to "faith", but it becomes a will to belief.

      I ended up making some seriously dumb decisions in life based on the presup reasoning that "the Bible says X and any other conclusion is simply a manifestation of my sin trying to rationalize away God's commands."

      There is probably an abuse/proper use rebuttal in here I'm sure, but for me ultimately, Catholic epistemology and writers like Feser have been the medicine I needed.

      Furthermore, when CRT started become mainstream, I was able to recognize the structure of it from afar based on my own experience, especially the "How can I know if my own judgement of myself is Totally Depraved?" where "Total Depravity" in CRT is "white privilege" and arguing that you aren't racist as a way of perpetuating your privilege is the same as arguing that you aren't Total Depraved as a way of arguing against your need for Christ.

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    9. Hi JMM, what caused you to doubt presuppositional theology?

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    10. @JMM: when Cornelius van Til's wife served us seminarians tea, I was glad that the Bible gave me epistemic warrant to claim to know that what I perceived as tea in the cup was tea in the cup. /s lol

      I hear you on how presuppositionalist apologetics teaches a hermeneutics of suspicion. I think it also replaces a magisterium that rests on a robust ecclesiology with a magisterium that does not.

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    11. @ficino4ml: that's awesome.

      @Teppy: TLDR, here is a journal entry I wrote trying to explain my doubts: https://joedrinkscoffeeandthinksaboutjesus.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/todays-coffee-a-less-than-philosophical-critique-of-presuppositional-apologetics-from-the-way-back-machine/

      Ultimately presup seems to completely eliminate any possibility of "correspondence" truth, because literally everything you perceive and reason about is filtered through your worldview. You are actively dissuaded from presenting facts to support your faith since they don't matter if you don't have the right worldview.

      But at the same time, the fundamental claim that presup makes is that the Christian worldview best explains the world we see around us. So how can we compare the Christian worldview with the world we experience if we are incapable of knowing the world in a theory-independent way?

      This seems to me to be the big internal contradiction for presup: Christianity is true because it best explains the facts, and also there are no facts, only worldviews.

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    12. @Teppy: another example of the facts/no facts contradiction would be reading the Bible itself, which proved to be a big reason I abandoned presup.

      The Bible doesn't tell us what its words mean. It just uses them. There would be no to know what its words (or any words) mean if there was no generally available/theory independent way to learn the definitions.

      So if the Bible says that Jesus was crucified on a cross, I have to be able to know what a cross is to understand that statement. But not only does the Bible not define it, even if it did define it I would be left with another set of words that needed defining.

      I eventually came to the conclusion that there must be some way for me to know, not infallibly but at least generally, what the world is like and how language relates to it. If I couldn't, I would never be able to understand the Bible and thus could not evaluate whether the presuppositions it offered me were superior to those of some other worldview.

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    13. 'St. Paul's claim that 500 people saw the risen Christ...'

      I've wondered for a while now: how is this different from the hundreds of people who claim they saw a movie that actually doesn't even exist?

      'Over the years, hundreds of people online have shared memories of a cheesy Nineties movie called “Shazaam”. There is no evidence that such a film was ever made. What does this tell us about the quirks of collective memory?'

      https://www.newstatesman.com/science-tech/internet/2016/12/movie-doesn-t-exist-and-redditors-who-think-it-does

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    14. It looks like that the process of "recalling" the movie is a very different process than remembering the resurrection. While we don't know how the first guy got that memory, we know at least there was a "first" guy who asked a question online trying to recall something.

      The question is asked in such a way that it is innocuous, and the scenario is quite plausible but also rather mundane, so when people try to answer the question, what they do is actively search their own memories going back several years with the presumption that the guy is remembering something real. This act of trying to filling in the dots looks particularly susceptible to construction rather than mere recall of memories. (Almost?) every time I realized I had "constructed" a memory, it was over things like this (for example, mixing two memories together, getting a name wrong, etc.), and it was because I was actively trying to recall something. The resurrection is neither on its own initially plausible, as it goes against typical experience, nor is it mundane. It's also not typically something that someone would naively "try to recall".

      Second, the common experience doesn't seem to be shared event locked in history. I.e., you have multiple people claiming to see the movie now, but people initially had very different experiences where they were trying to fill in the dots. They are also not memories of specific events: these people saw the movie at some point in their lives, but they don't seem to refer to the watching as a specific event. The appearance to the 500 sounds more like the appearance to the 500 at the same time. These people don't recall seeing Jesus like they recall seeing some movie, but something more akin to recalling seeing a sibling's wedding.

      This is likely why most of the atheistic theories I hear trying to explain away the resurrection typically resort to things like hallucinations driven by trauma of Jesus's death, because they are trying to account to a shared experience of a specific but unusual and shocking event. I don't think these theories hold much water either, but the comparison to shazaam doesn't even account for these conditions.

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  3. Dear Ed
    In the Huffington Post article you referenced about QAnon and the GA Senate race, you forgot to mention that it says that Trump embraced QAnon. But I can understand that you want to forget about the most unfit and disgraceful president we ever had.

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    1. The article is a source, but not an infallible and inerrant one. The Puffington Host, unsurprisingly, has errors, among them the false claim that Trump embraced the Qanon conspiracy.

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  4. Gnosticism assumes that "God is big meanie" and Satan is the "Liberator, Lightbringer, Enlightener"

    Really sounds like the lies of Satan in the Garden of Eden.

    And is spurious fan fiction that manages to get ahold of too many foolish and darkened minds.

    The notion of Divine Tyranny is a consequence of the nature of Holiness which sin recoils from.

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    1. No, Gnosticism says that Satan (the Demiurge) created the world. Hence why it's evil.

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    2. Actually it asserted that the snake in Eden was Jesus.

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  5. I'm a lifelong (45 yrs now) vegetarian. I didn't know I was also a Gnostic.

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    1. I hope you just said that in jest, since that's not at all what Feser wrote or implied. From the fact that gnosticism has often prescribed vegetarianism to its adherents (what Feser wrote), it does not follow that all vegetarians are gnostics.

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    2. Could be. Why are you a vegetarian?

      Non-gnostic answer: Because you don't like the taste of meat

      A little gnostic: 'health' reasons

      Kind of gnostic: because you hate the suffering of living things

      Gnostic: because meat is a moral hazard / belongs to an economy of oppression / unclean system

      Very gnostic: being vegetarian honors the light within me - https://wakeup-world.com/2019/06/28/the-spirituality-of-being-vegan-a-personal-sharing/

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    3. No. I am a vegetarian and a bodybuilder because my friend, Bill Pearl, a former Mr Universe, is also vegetarian. It's a health choice.

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    4. In other words, for purely mimetic reasons, with the fig leaf of a reason being "health".

      Although only a passive form of idolatry, it probably is passively Gnostic thereby.

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  6. I would also point out that this woke ideology rejects Platonism or truth with a big T. We humans produce a knowledge system, implement it in society, internalize it, and maintain and sustain it (Foucault talks about this). The wokesters want to get rid of the current knowledge system and implement their own. Notice that they don't raise the question of whether the knowledge system is false or true. Rather, they want to "reeducate" people.

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  7. I dont know..."common sense" or "normal people" in the west use birth control and condone gay sex as obvious moral practices...is it gnostic to doubt this or argue against it, are you just retreating to a "dream world" which no amount of reasoning can shake you out of? The distinctions between gnosticism and catholicism were helpful in your first two criteria, noticeably absent in what followed. Many of the "gnostic" derivatives you list similarly derive from rational and deductive inquiry which do not have esotericism or a notion of ontological evil at their root eg ancient greek vegetarianism, theologies of sex which merely dispute that all marital sex must be strictly orderes to procreation else it be intrinsically evil, and so on. I think you began with good intuitions but overreached, again in some misplaced pro-republican, anti-democrat polemic.

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    1. I think there are some problems with your analysis.

      First, don't use a short ruler. Gnosticism is a theological problem, it transcends political polemics. Polemics don't generate Gnosticism, it's usually the other way around.

      Second, things like vegetarianism can be merely rational and deductive; but as Gnosticism increases in society, it will transform them into woke, communist or other irrational kinds.

      Third, as the professor pointed out, problems in the Church affect all of the western society built on it. When Pope Francis (of questionable Faith) is casting doubt on the very doctrines which he is supposed to be teaching and defending, it's no wonder the "normal people" will be condoning whatever they want.
      This is easy to demonstrate. Ask a person, "What did the Church always teach about this or that subject or behavior?" They will likely say,"Up UNTIL LATELY, they USED TO teach such and such. Nowadays, well....."

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    2. I think there is a dynamic which also operates between heresy and errors in philosophy. They are synergetic with one another for a greater evil in the person and culture. They work in an opposite dynamic to faith and reason which increase the good in the person and society.

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  8. Ed do you think Tom Holland's book *dominion* has much overlap regarding your point about heresy of the christian worldview

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  9. It seems contradictory to invoke Voegelin as a critic of Gnosticism in its modern forms, as he was heavily influenced by it himself. Here's a brief summary of his many heterodox ideas:
    https://sites01.lsu.edu/faculty/voegelin/wp-content/uploads/sites/80/2015/09/Wagner.pdf

    To be noted is his intense dislike of dogma (and denial of many) and Revelation, rejecting the distinction between theology and philosophy.

    Calling Revelation "special revelation" implies that there exists a Revelation which is not "special". Yet as Aquinas lays out at the start of the Summa, Revelation is a direct communication from God to man that exceeds the capabilities of human nature. It is, by definition, always special, and therefore that qualification is superfluous.

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    Replies
    1. Romans 1:19-20 shows "general" or "natural" revelation, while the Word of God is "special" or "supernatural" revelation.

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  10. Why does Neo-Platonism have anything to do with the Gnostic heresy at all? Is it because it tends to elevate the material world too close to the divine substance as you've argued before?
    If so than there's an interesting comparison to be made. Some Orthodox would argue that it was Thomism that brought God too close to the world because of absolute divine simplicity, paving the way for the derailing of the Western crisis towards atheism and beyond.

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  11. This essay is Ed Feser at his best, much better than the violence begets violence post.

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  12. Don't Catholics also 'immanentize the eschaton'? According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the place of the Last Judgement is this earth, after which Christ will reign over mankind.

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    1. Not until the end of history, however long that will be. It will not be a Utopian dream because everyone will have died first for it to happen.
      The Last Judgement will effectively be the inauguration of the General Afterlife.

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    2. The critical point being, that after that Final Judgment, that IS the eschaton: life on a different model altogether, resurrected bodies, purified souls, and the Beatific Vision. It will be heaven-like because it will be, literally, heavenly. Yes, a utopia - for some - but NOT because we finally figured out a really good model of government and economy. This is the opposite of "immanentizing the eschaton".

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    3. The key point of the "immanent" eschaton isn't *where* it happens, it's *when* it happens. The Christian eschaton will occur at the end of world, when the new world comes into being. An immanentised eschation comes about in the present order of things and does not imagine that history will end first.

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  13. One can also see Dr. Feser's analysis in the pop philosophy of Johnathan Haidt and his six moral foundations
    Care/Harm
    Fairness/Cheating
    Loyalty/Betrayal
    Authority/Subversion
    Sanctity/Degradation
    Liberty/Oppression

    Libertarians are overly sensitive to Liberty and accept Degradation, Betrayal and Subversion as the price to pay for Liberty.
    Liberals are most sensitive to Care and Fairness; therefore willing to use betrayal, subversion, degradation and oppression to achieve their goals.
    While conservatives are equally sensitive to all six.

    Also, describing Marxism as a heresy helps explains it's alliance with another heresy Mohammedanism.
    Both think that they will dominate in the end, but they will join forces to vanquish their common enemy, Christianity.

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  14. Four years of peace, real peace in the actual Middle East, yet, and three years of a great economy until China collapsed that via Covid, and push-back on the endless gnosticism Prof. Feser is writing about? And all that against a never-ending harassment by political enemies. Despite all that, you write "the most unfit and disgraceful president we ever had"?

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    1. Though not a fan of Trump, he has the endearing quality of driving the leftist sufficiently mad to fully reveal their irrational selves thus further qualifying the cultural divide in no uncertain terms. I suspect that Dr Feser hope that reasoning prevails over leftist irrationality that Trump simply made less likely to improbable. Take my comment with a grain of salt from fly over country.

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  15. QAnon is not the only, or even the main, form of Gnostic thought on the right. Just like CRT which sees racism and racist oppression everywhere, the right sees Socialism everywhere. Just like you must be either racist or anti-racist, you must either stand completely with the right or be a "Socialist", and everyone is engaged in a titanic struggle of "freedom" against "Socialism".

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    1. GoneFishing,

      Actually, I agree with you up to a point. First, you are correct that the "socialist" label has, historically, been flung too freely by some right-wingers at just any old government measure they don't like. Liberalism of the FDR/JFK/LBJ sort, whatever one thinks of it (and I'm not a fan), is not socialism.

      However, for the most part I don't think this reflects any kind of "Gnosticism," but just hotheadedness, shallow thinking, laziness, etc. Also, unfortunately, genuine socialism has in more recent years become a bigger thing in the mainstream Left.

      Second, you are nevertheless correct that a Gnosticizing tendency is sometimes connected to the over-use of the "socialist" label. For example, some Rothbardian anarcho-libertarians seem to me to fall into that mindset. Not all, but some, and certainly Rothbard himself. For example, there is a Manichean tendency shrilly to condemn all deviation from Rothbardian orthodoxy as “socialism”; to think of “The StateTM” and “statism” as a kind of near-omnipotent bogeyman to which nearly all social evils are attributable; to dismiss too glibly all criticism as the apologetics of The State’s “court intellectuals”; and so on. (Do a search in the blog search bar and you'll find several old posts of mine critical of Rothbard.)

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    2. Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism seems deeply Gnostic. In that school of thought, the state permeates our established order, but it is actually inherently evil because its sole mechanism is to violate our rights. Gnosis is of economic theory and of our true and absolute "natural rights".

      Years ago, Gene Callahan (who has commented on this blog) made many blog entries applying Voegelin's Gnostic schema and critique of ideology to Libertarianism.

      Delete
    3. Libertarianism is not Gnostic at all. A libertarian may or may not be a Gnostic, but libertarianism itself is simply the belief that it is generally immoral for people to initiate force against others. The state is evil because it is institutionalized violence against the innocent. This is not a Gnostic claim, anymore than any other moral absolute claim is.

      Funny how when it comes to the state "traditionalists" all of a sudden become moral relativists.

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    4. So you think it'd be wrong to "initiate force" against someone who insists on showing your 7-yr old porn? What about someone who puts poison in the waters of his own property, upstream from where you live? Who'll protect the old, pregnant, and sick from predators?

      Delete
  16. To clarify my comment a little further:
    Revelation, properly speaking, is supernatural. Most men do not not succeed in attaining even the necessary truths of natural law etc, through the use of reason, so to call this process Revelation properly speaking, is not only counter-intuitive, but false.

    The Church in scripture, liturgy and general teaching, universally uses the term Revelation without qualification to mean God speaking directly and supernaturally to man. If one wants to call what men are able to know through the use of reason "natural revelation", it has to be understood that this is not revelation in the strict sense. A systematic refusal not to qualify the term Revelation every time it is used is bizarre and not Church practice.


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    1. Like many things I think the matter is less simple than at first thought. Sure if you see the word "revelation" with no descriptor then think "supernatural revelation". Otherwise, I think it is important to think of knowledge of God known through reason as "revelation" of some sort. I really don't think this is a big issue. I'm pretty sure these distinctions have a decent pedigree in Catholic theology.

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  17. QAnon is a meme, nothing more.

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  18. Dear Dr Feser: please, please, please, I beg you. Backup this blog ASAP. They're coming for it next, I'm sure.

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    1. I think that you are utterly deluded as to the significance of this blog Greh!

      Delete
    2. @Unknown

      I think you are utterly deluded as to the level of insanity the stain of original sin will let mankind fall into. You really think they'll just stop after they've neutralized a couple of high-profile people and platforms? Sadly, you may only understand what's at stake when they come for you as well.

      Delete
    3. Greg S,

      It's an insult to Dr. Feser to group him with the overt racists and people who have called for violence and death.

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    4. "It's an insult to Dr. Feser to group him with the overt racists and people who have called for violence and death."

      I agree. Even more so because Prof. Feser is not a leftist, but a conservative catholic.

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    5. One Brow,

      He didn't.

      You don't have to be overtly racist or calling for violence and death to be banned.

      Trump got banned from twitter for saying "I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th"

      Twitter deemed this was Trump saying that the inauguration will be safe for violence to be committed. Yes, even the most mundane and innocent statement will be deemed a call for "violence and death". If that's the game the wanna play, then this blog could easily be deemed the same.

      BTW, the same day Trump was banned from Twitter, #HangMikePence was trending, just if you still think all the banning has anything to do with calls for violence and death.

      PS, This tweet still exists:
      https://twitter.com/khamenei_ir/status/1003332853525110784?s=20

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    6. grodrigues,

      I agree it is good to have conservative Catholics who are not overt racists and among the people who call for violence and death, and to laud them them when so many of their like-minded allies are among them.

      Also, since you are dedicated to forms and shibboleths, P ^ (Q v ~Q) => P v Q should satisfy your concerns over disjunction introduction.

      Delete
    7. Billy,
      You don't have to be overtly racist or calling for violence and death to be banned.

      You have to more than just someone holding and defending conservative positions.

      Trump got banned from twitter for saying "I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th"

      https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/suspension.html

      I wish I could that that I was surprised you greatly over-simplified Twitter's reasoning. Do you think the FBI warnings about possible near-future attacks on all 50 state capitals may have plated a factor into this step? Trump has been ginning up his base for two months, trying to get them to nullify an election.

      PS, This tweet still exists:
      https://twitter.com/khamenei_ir/status/1003332853525110784?s=20


      No doubt I can find all manner of tweets about the Middle East, from a variety of sources, that say one people or another need to be removed or eradicated.

      Delete
    8. @One Brow:

      "Also, since you are dedicated to forms and shibboleths, P ^ (Q v ~Q) => P v Q should satisfy your concerns over disjunction introduction."

      I took you as making an irony so I responded in the same tone. Apparently I was wrong, so mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

      Are you trying to convince me that you have an understanding of logic? You don't, demonstrably so. At any rate, why are you even trying?

      Delete
    9. grodrigues,

      I indeed took your first comment for being a light-heart jab. No worries.

      I certainly don't claim any large degree of logical expertise. However, my addition of the "meaningless" truth value in order to avoid the principle of explosion didn't require any large degree of logical expertise. I'm not sure why you think it would. It was a small idea, fairly obviously to anyone with a more-than-minimal understanding of how logic works.

      Also, I have reason to think you can be convinced of anything at all.

      Delete
    10. @One Brow:

      "Also, I have reason to think you can be convinced of anything at all."

      I am going to assume that there isn't a negative missing in the above sentence.

      You are wrong on more than one count and wrong in rather egregious ways, betraying a fundamental lack of knowledge. I have already said everything I wanted to say on the matter, and anything I could add, presuming I had the will to say it which I do not, you wouldn't understand. And even if you did I doubt very much you would accept it.

      My bafflement is why do you keep bringing up the issue. What are you trying to achieve? Obviously, you think I am wrong in my judgment reiterated in the previous paragraph. So far so good. But you call your little idea "fairly obviously to anyone with a more-than-minimal understanding of how logic works", so it is not just the case that you think I am wrong, but that I am wrong in a rather spectacular way. I have the proverbial ginormous beam in front of my eye. It is hard to explain away such blunder without invoking fraud or malice on my part. So why bother? No one else is paying attention. The matter itself is risible. So why keep digging up the rotting corpse?

      The questions are rhetorical (although if I know you, you will speak up), I am just expressing my bafflement. And now I am back to the lurking gallery.

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    11. grodrigues,

      You are wrong on more than one count and wrong in rather egregious ways, betraying a fundamental lack of knowledge. I have already said everything I wanted to say on the matter, and anything I could add, presuming I had the will to say it which I do not, you wouldn't understand. And even if you did I doubt very much you would accept it.

      That you think the notions of right/wrong even apply, as opposed to valid/invalid or useful/useless, shows you don't understand the issue very well. So far, you've only made arguments that could have been taken out of an undergraduate class on symbolic logic, which seems to be the depth of your knowledge of the topic of logic. So, I have no reason to think you would say anything on the topic I didn't learn decades ago.

      I recall the ease with which you dispatched the fuzzy-headed notions of wrf3 a few comments ago (it was a pleasure to read, and while I knew his meanderings were off somehow, certainly I didn't understand the topic well enough to say what you said). In this discussion, you're playing the role of wrf3.

      My bafflement is why do you keep bringing up the issue. What are you trying to achieve?

      I'm just pointing out your objections have simple responses.

      So why keep digging up the rotting corpse?

      Well, there are a number of motivations on my part, but you indicated you have no real interest, so I won't list any more of them.

      The questions are rhetorical (although if I know you, you will speak up), I am just expressing my bafflement. And now I am back to the lurking gallery.

      Well, if you want to create drama, how can I refuse you? :)

      However, having answer your last written objection, I'm content to let this topic lay, as well.

      Delete
  19. Ed, Thankyou for this insightful analysis of modernity which covers both the theological and philosophiical elements of it. Of course the real world is always both philosophical and theological because both faith and reason need each other from man's standpoint to know as much truth as we have access to in this world. Modernity has developed false views in both realms in rejection of the true view, the authentic Catholic Church view. The most complete view of Revelation and reason has most definately been achieved in the authentic Catholic tradition. We are in a dark ages to the truth at this stage and it is becoming darker under the influence of misguided politics, eduction and the loudest heretical voices in the Church. Of course, Mary told us in many ways this was coming but it is hard to believe how fast this dark age is manifesting itself. The term social justice is being abused with abortion, religious bigotry and other sins being defined as its content. Thanks for your clarity. You are my main go to thinker to see the way through with clarity. I am with you 100% and have a master's in both philosophy and theology along with many year's of exposure to authentic priests, theologians and philosophers which have been and some will continue to be the true heroes of this age. A voice crying in the wilderness keeping the truth alive and leading us forward. That's who you are others like you are.
    God bless,
    John

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  20. "Voegelin regarded Puritanism as a more recent riff on the same basic mindset."

    There is a tendency towards this in certain parts of Reformed Christianity, particularly those that go in for presuppositional apologetics. On this side of the Reformed divide, unsaved humans are really unable to know much of anything at all, and the only way you can really know anything is if God chooses to grant you the knowledge and you therefore can "just know" that something like Christianity is true.

    But, of course, this is certainly not the only strain in Reformed theology and there are other Reformed Christians who emphasize the more sacramental side of the tradition and are very positive towards things like natural theology and natural law. Reformed Scholasticism has always existed, and has seen something of a revival, thanks to a lot of Protestants reading things like this blog.

    I know our host here is busy, but I wouldn't mind hearing his thoughts on the Van Tillites and presuppositionalism.

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    1. Ed doesn't think too highly of it. See his essay in Faith and Philosophers ("The Faith of a Philosopher").

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  21. I don't think that Fascism, as defined by Giovanni Gentile, or its variants (practiced by Franco, Pinochet, or theory by Julius Evola) are Gnostic in nature.

    Gentile writes that fascism is inherently anti-utopianist. He denies that such an ideal society can ever be achieved given human nature.

    Evola argued that Fascism doesn't have staying power. It accepts too many of the modernist presuppositions to stand on its own. Fascism can be a tool to overcome the Marxists and Secular Humanists, but the only long-term solution is a return to premodernism with its emphasis on authority and social hierarchy.

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  22. There's more than an analogy between Gnosticism and modern ideologies, including conservatism. They share its disdain for dogma and Revelation. It suffices to read Roger Scruton's work, The Soul of the World. The emphasis here, as with the Gnostics, is upon knowledge and consciousness, of a divine which is not distinguished clearly from mankind and creation. Original sin, miracles - including those which proved the divinity of Christ - are denied or parodied.

    Another practice which unites esoteric systems and the religiosity of conservative ideologues like Joseph de Maistre and Roger Scruton, is their insistence upon using Christian terms emptied of proper doctrinal meaning. Disdain too for the veracity of sacred books.

    Those obsessed by conspiracy theories today don't seem to believe in the universality of evil. In fact, it is doubtful whether they have any concept of original sin. They believe the world today is particularly evil because it's dominated by a very small minority. The solution for them is always summed up as absolute democracy because they believe the majority of people will normally do the right thing.

    Archbishop Vigano is a prime example of this with his false notion that the eschatalogical term "the Sons of Light" applies to the vast majority of mankind today. The idea is that, if only they are given "freedom", "evil" will be overturned. However, not only does this ignore the fact that most are not even nominal Catholics, but all give testimony to the reality of original sin, whose effects are not only individual but social. One can't presume a priori, let alone from historical experience, that people will do the right thing. Hence the intense hatred of today's conspiracy fanatics for that other small minority - of saints, Catholic rulers, thinkers, missionaries, religious orders of all kinds, Popes, etc. who all worked towards influencing the "majority", through example and by teaching them the truth. Many conspiracy nuts logically conclude that the Catholic Church is another "conspiracy". It's another expression of the great divide in the world seen already between the Church and the Gnostics, between religion, which is the practice of what God wants, and the notion that salvation is knowledge of the universe. It's the difference between those who know "he that hears you hears me" and those who still believe the lie that led to original sin in the first place.

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    1. De Maistre doesn't just use Catholic terms, he defends their Catholic meaning as well. Or do you have an example of where he empties them from their proper meaning? I have read some of his works, and other than a slight hint of fideism, I couldn't find anything "esoteric" or "gnostic" or usage of emptied Catholic terms.
      - John

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  23. Mr. Feser, thank you again for this post. It has cleared up some doubts I had about gnosticism, and a few things I hadn't understood before.

    I am a bit confused on how you treat the whole "QAnon" business however.First, it is not clear to me how it is a kind of gnosticism. As I understand from your post, gnosticism sees certain evils not as an accident of this or that person, time or group, but rather as a necessary part of its essence, right? So, for instance, the supernatural gnostics believed that the material world was corrupt and bad because it was material. And the communists believe that the entire society is ordered according to an evil capitalist ideal and that everything that is allowed to exist in it somehow contributes to it.

    On the other hand, the problem proposed by QAnon is not a feature of reality, or even of society itself. It asserts that we are ruled (as I understand) by murderous, satanist, cannibalistic, paedophiles. This, however, doesn't seem to be a feature of how society or reality or whatever is ordered, but rather as an accident of history. These people would, in this view, have power merely because of how they and their ancestors acted throughout history.

    Another aspect I would like, if possible, some commentary, is why you consider the theory proposed "lunatic". Not that I am a QAnon believe myself (in fact, I am not all that familiar with it). However, when you call it lunacy, I believe you mean that it can be rejected a priori, without examining the evidence (if there is), because the proposed conspiracy somehow is logically inconsistent, is that correct? If so, could you point out what is that?

    Finally, you mention it played a role in the breach of the US senate, but it seems to me that much more important in that was that the people responsible for ensuring a fair election; the people who counted votes, the courts who should have examined the evidence collected, the vice president who shouldn't have something that smells worse than sewage be declared a clean and fair election, etc; simply refused to do their jobs. These people are clearly conspiring against the american people. By conspiring, I don't mean they (necessarily) gathered together and created a plan to harm the country. I mean that their actions build off each other to create the end result. If they do so because of personal weaknesses and vices, because of some weird philosophy that is popular among them, or because they are pawns of a satanist cabal, it doesn't change why the capitol was invaded.

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  24. “ The crisis of the West is the crisis of the Church. The West will not be restored to health until the Church is restored to health.”

    Does the church really have that much influence on these trends? The philosophies on the woke left seem to be coming straight from universities. It’s been happening for decades but seems to have now reached critical mass.

    The extremes on the right don’t seem to be driven from a religious perspective, at least in the UK. From what I can tell of the religious influence in the US on this, I get the impression it’s more from the protestant side, although seems to have mingled with the ‘radtrad’/anti Vatican II groups more recently. Maybe this is just a mistaken impression however.

    But surely if the extremes of the right a reaction to the extremes on the left that so permeates universities now, how will any ‘fixing’ of the church have any influence on that? Surely the most the church can hope for is to not get attached and involved in these elements of politics other than rejecting them, and set an example of how absolute truth in god is the only resolution of the absurdities?

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    1. You might want to re-read the post. The explanation given for why this is first and foremost a problem of the Church is not because the Church exhibits this much direct influence.
      You'll see something, in my opinion, far different.

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    2. The Church is not exporting bad philosophy etc so much as she is importing it from the world. Its more that as a result of this acquiescence to the world the Church is not near the force for good as she once was.

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  25. Dr. Feser,
    I could write an entire blog post in response to your words on CRT, but I will try to keep this short.

    For CRT, the all-pervasive and near omnipotent source of evil in the world is the “racist power” of “white supremacy,” “white privilege,” and indeed “whiteness” itself. This racism is “systemic” in a Foucauldian sense – it percolates down, in capillary fashion, into every nook and cranny of society and the unconscious assumptions of every citizen. It is especially manifest in all “inequities,” which result from the “implicit biases” lurking even in people who think of themselves as free of racism. And it is to be found even in the most seemingly innocuous of offenses, which are in reality “micro-aggressions.” Even self-consciously “anti-racist” CRT adepts themselves are not free of racism, but must constantly engage in a Maoist-style self-critical struggle to root out and confess ever deeper and unexamined racist assumptions.

    Most proponents of CRT are Christians, who believe the main source of evil in the world is sin. It is unkind to indicate otherwise.

    However, as a deeper level, I wonder if you accept or reject the notion of System 1 and System 2 thinking (if you prefer, fast and slow). Systemic racism would be associated with our fast thinking process. It is literally not a choice, and therefore, not something to feel guilt over. Rather, it's more like a bad habit; it's something to improve upon.

    Finally, I'm not sure why you object to the notion of innocuous offenses as micro-aggressions. If you are being offensive, even in a small way, would you not want this pointed out to you, so you can be better? Are you saying the party you have offended has no right to feel your offense as a small act of aggression, or that your feelings are true and theirs are false?

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    1. Well, doesn't that depend on who gets offended at what? Should I be punished because a pro abortion woman gets offended when I express a pro life opinion?

      Should I be punished if I cite FBI crime statistics to argue that racism is not the only or even most important reason African Americans are a disproportionate share of the receiving end of police violence if that offends a "progressive" or an African American person?

      Should you be punished if you offend me by calling conservatives "deplorables"?

      Should a critical race theorist be punished if, as a white person, I take offense at being accused of racism merely because of my skin Valor? Who gets to decide these questions and how?

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    2. I don't think the resistance to micro-agressions comes from an unwillingness to be courteous or care for another's feelings.

      Often the issue is the other way around: the people that are offended are typically guilty of not being responsive to feedback. They want to assert that what the other person did was *objectively* offensive, even if it wasn't meant that way. Because they refuse to correct their perception to be more in line with what the other person meant, they end up enforcing their own misinterpretation on the "offending" party.

      And as @Fred hints at, proponents of micro-aggressions seem to give little to no weight to the fact that much or all of CRT is deeply offensive to many people. The micro-aggressed victim will misinterpret much of what is said but expect everyone *else*, to apologize, but when they hurt others they rationalize it away. Rarely do CRT adherents care that their ideology is deeply alienating and hurtful to many people and in many cases is the main reason people embrace right-wing reactionary ideas.

      People can try to be courteous or respectful as much as possible, but the system breaks down if people don't also try to give charitable interpretations and try to avoid taking things personally.

      Delete
    3. Fred,
      Well, doesn't that depend on who gets offended at what? Should I be punished because a pro abortion woman gets offended when I express a pro life opinion?

      1) When did I say anything about punishment? Why did that come to you mind?

      2) The other person taking offense likely depends a great deal on when/where/how/etc. you express your opinion.

      Should I be punished if I cite FBI crime statistics to argue that racism is not the only or even most important reason African Americans are a disproportionate share of the receiving end of police violence if that offends a "progressive" or an African American person?

      You really seem fixated on punishment. Don't you ever take correction just to better yourself?

      I would say a better reason to avoid that argument is that it is innumerical nonsense. I would suggest the perusing book The New Jim Crow.

      Should you be punished if you offend me by calling conservatives "deplorables"?

      If you tell me I'm being rude, I certainly don't take that as punishment. How were you planning to punish me?

      Of course, I don't know of anyone who called all conservative "deplorable" I do recall someone saying half of the Trump supporters were deplorable (and apologizing for saying it was half the next day), who then listed the specific categories of "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic". Are claiming to be in one of those four categories, and hence one of the "deplorables" so referred to?

      Should a critical race theorist be punished if, as a white person, I take offense at being accused of racism merely because of my skin Valor?

      What sort of punishment do you propose?

      Any CRT theorist worth their salt would not be singling out individual people for claims of implicit racism (whether based on skin color or not), because it's a problem with every person.

      Who gets to decide these questions and how?

      You raised the question of "punishment". I certainly haven't proposed and don't propose any punishments, unless you think criticism is a punishment.

      Delete
    4. JMM,
      Often the issue is the other way around: the people that are offended are typically guilty of not being responsive to feedback. They want to assert that what the other person did was *objectively* offensive, even if it wasn't meant that way. Because they refuse to correct their perception to be more in line with what the other person meant, they end up enforcing their own misinterpretation on the "offending" party.

      So, what you're saying is that, since you don't intend to offend, you think it's up to other people to put up with you being offensive. Is that how you approach all politeness issues, or just a few.

      For example, someone at lunch keeps chewing with their mouth open. Many people find this revolting. Is it acceptable for the open-mouthed-chewer (OMCer) to point out that they don't want to offend you by OMC, and that it's up to you to not be offended by OMC, and not up to them to stop OMC? If you were to claim OMC is objectively offensive, and explain why based on cultural norms, are they correct in saying you are misinterpreting their intent, or is it true that, regardless of intent, OMC is a disgusting habit?

      And as @Fred hints at, proponents of micro-aggressions seem to give little to no weight to the fact that much or all of CRT is deeply offensive to many people.

      Can you explain why CRT is offensive to you without misstating what it claims?

      The micro-aggressed victim will misinterpret much of what is said but expect everyone *else*, to apologize, but when they hurt others they rationalize it away.

      1) It's true enough that humans are hypocrites.

      2) However, if the offense is the mere holding/stating of the findings of CRT, then why is it offensive at all?

      Rarely do CRT adherents care that their ideology is deeply alienating and hurtful to many people and in many cases is the main reason people embrace right-wing reactionary ideas.

      You can't get people to change the culture without making them uncomfortable.

      People can try to be courteous or respectful as much as possible, but the system breaks down if people don't also try to give charitable interpretations and try to avoid taking things personally.

      When I have said something racist/sexist/etc., and someone has pointed it out to me, I usually find them to be gracious and forgiving after I say I will do better. Perhaps you are skipping the "do better" part, and just telling them to put up with you? That's the impression I get from your post.

      Delete
    5. One Brow, I mention punishment because the cancelers and Twitter mobs are obsessed with punishing those who disagree with them. They don't simply say to "microaggressers" "tsk tsk, that's rude" and leave it at that. They want them fired from their jobs, cast out of professional organizations, socially ostracized, their businesses ruined. All that because some hypersensitive snowflake subjectively takes offense at something innocuous or a legitimate political disagreement. That is where the real danger of CRT lies.

      Delete
    6. One Brow,

      The question is: Did you actually say something racist/sexist?

      Most of the time claims of micro-aggression are just the person perceiving something that isn't there, then there are people who are simply using it as a means to manipulate people. Its almost never something genuine.

      Also, regarding "putting up" with such things, sometimes, in an attempt to improve a small aspect of yourself, you make a bigger aspect of yourself worse. Not to mention, you trying to improve this small part could actually be worse for a greater part of someone else.

      It can actually be detrimental to the person point it out to you for you to apologize to them. If a mob is in your face, threatening you unless you apologize for something you said that was mildly and unintentionally racist, then it would be far worse for both you to cower to them and apologize and promise to do better.

      You can try to do better, but not because someone is demanding it of you. And sometimes doing better means refusing to co-operate with people demanding it from you.

      Delete
    7. One brow, you believe in and accept their construction of your intent. Since you are a true believer, you are submissive to this kind of correction and indeed, you seem to really think that others should be also. Now, perhaps you really do say awkward things that display your discriminatory mindset all the time and need such admonitions from accountability partners in order to live up to your promise to 'do better'. That's fine, but that's you. Most of the rest of us feel fine with what we say and don't need to be 'saved' from our 'racism' like you do. You should just treat others like we mean well rather than that we are secretly or overtly like yourself.

      Delete
    8. Fred,
      One Brow, I mention punishment because the cancelers and Twitter mobs are obsessed with punishing those who disagree with them. They don't simply say to "microaggressers" "tsk tsk, that's rude" and leave it at that.

      You seem to be confusing disagreements and micro-aggressions here. If you don't even understand the basic terminology, it's hard to have a productive conversation.

      They want them fired from their jobs, cast out of professional organizations, socially ostracized, their businesses ruined. All that because some hypersensitive snowflake subjectively takes offense at something innocuous or a legitimate political disagreement.

      Who has actually lost their job/professional membership/circle of friends/business over a 'brief and commonplace daily verbal/behavioral indignity'?

      That is where the real danger of CRT lies.

      In the fantasy world of your head?

      Delete
    9. Billy,

      The question is: Did you actually say something racist/sexist?

      I was born in the US in 1962, and raised here. I've been taught sexism and racism in dosens of ways over my 58 years. Of course I have.

      Most of the time claims of micro-aggression are just the person perceiving something that isn't there, then there are people who are simply using it as a means to manipulate people. Its almost never something genuine.

      You mean, genuine to you, just as the OMCer doesn't see a genuine problem with his OMC.

      Also, regarding "putting up" with such things, sometimes, in an attempt to improve a small aspect of yourself, you make a bigger aspect of yourself worse. Not to mention, you trying to improve this small part could actually be worse for a greater part of someone else.

      Well, in the case of unintentionally saying/doing things that come across as racist, perhaps you could offer a specific example of a specific thing, that, were you to stop behaving in that manner, would be to the greater detriment of you or another person?

      It can actually be detrimental to the person point it out to you for you to apologize to them.

      Do you have an example for this?

      If a mob is in your face, threatening you unless you apologize for something you said that was mildly and unintentionally racist, then it would be far worse for both you to cower to them and apologize and promise to do better.

      I don't see many "mobs" gather around someone who made a micro-aggression, and even fewer that don't accept apologies. Could you point to an example?

      You can try to do better, but not because someone is demanding it of you. And sometimes doing better means refusing to co-operate with people demanding it from you.

      I'm having difficulty interpreting this as something other than an attempt to retain what you perceive as your position of power. Could you provide something illustration that does not involve you propping yourself up?

      Delete
    10. Teppy,
      One brow, you believe in and accept their construction of your intent.

      As has been made clear, micro-aggressions don't necessarily involve intent.

      Since you are a true believer, ...

      I'm not a believer at all. I accept the evidence.

      ... you are submissive to this kind of correction and indeed, you seem to really think that others should be also.

      Why do you think "submissive" is the word to use here? Are you saying this really *is* about power, which would confirm central notion of CRT? For me, I don't see it as being submissive. I see it as being polite.

      Now, perhaps you really do say awkward things that display your discriminatory mindset all the time and need such admonitions from accountability partners in order to live up to your promise to 'do better'.

      I did a lot of that growth in my 20s, and have continued to improve through the years, but I certainly don't think of myself as being perfect. By contrast, you're saying awkward things and displaying your discriminatory intent in the very comment to which I am responding, and are declaring that you have no desire to improve. Specks and planks.

      Most of the rest of us feel fine with what we say and don't need to be 'saved' from our 'racism' like you do.

      Again, you are confirming what CRT says, not arguing against it.

      You should just treat others like we mean well rather than that we are secretly or overtly like yourself.

      You mean, you're not a human being, like I am?

      Delete
    11. @One Brow:
      _Can you explain why CRT is offensive to you without misstating what it claims?_

      _You can't get people to change the culture without making them uncomfortable._

      Notice that these statements reflect precisely the point I was making originally.
      First, if I am offended by CRT, then my offense is only valid if I properly understand it. But if a CRT believer is micro-aggressed by what I say, they are not held accountable for whether they misstated what I said, but instead all that matters is that they were offended. This is a double-standard.

      Second, notice that when the CRT believer is uncomfortable, it is called "hate speech" and "micro-aggression". When someone who resists CRT is uncomfortable, it is entirely acceptable because it achieves the goals of CRT.

      What I am pointing out is that CRT believers use the concept of courtesy in an entirely convenient way. CRT believers only care about themselves not offended. They could care less about everyone else.

      Delete
    12. @One Brow:

      If something I've said is racist and it offends someone, I am happy to apologize and be better. But the very heart of the issue in many cases is whether, in fact, the statement was actually racist.

      Your open-mouth chewing example is a perfect example of when someone is indeed being objectively rude. What you need to find is an example of when there is a true dilemma: For example, a Muslim may be offended by me saying that Jesus is "Lord and Savior," while I may be offended if he refers to Mohamed as "God's prophet." I cannot apologize for offending his religious sensibilities without being dishonest, nor can he apologize to me without being dishonest. We simply must deal respectfully with each other and find a way to live in peace.

      If a feminist is offended that my religion prescribes husbands as head of the home, I cannot "do better" by her standards without violating my own. To apologize to her would be to agree that she is right and that I am wrong. It would be, in a sense, to reject my own beliefs and adopt hers.

      Ultimately, training yourself to lie in order to satisfy someone's prejudices does not make you a "better person".

      Delete
    13. Who has actually lost their job/professional membership/circle of friends/business over a 'brief and commonplace daily verbal/behavioral indignity?

      See https://www.spiked-online.com/2020/07/14/25-times-cancel-culture-was-real/

      Google Harold Uhlig, James Damore, David Shor, Marlon Anderson, Greg Patton, Claudia Eller, Bruce Gilley, and that's just off the top of my head. All of them were fired, placed on administrative leave, or ejected from professional organizations for innocuous comments and/or legitimate political opinions. It absolutely happens outside the fantasies of my head.

      Delete
    14. JMM,
      Notice that these statements reflect precisely the point I was making originally.
      First, if I am offended by CRT, then my offense is only valid if I properly understand it. But if a CRT believer is micro-aggressed by what I say, they are not held accountable for whether they misstated what I said, but instead all that matters is that they were offended. This is a double-standard.


      I believe I would say you can't properly criticize any theory, whether it is CRT, Thomism, or any of academic pursuit, without properly understanding it. This would be true even if I were somehow offended by Thomism, would that make all of my critiques of it valid?

      If you don't understand the difference between someone supporting CRT and, for example, calling a black man "Sambo", I'm not sure what can help you in this matter.

      Second, notice that when the CRT believer is uncomfortable, it is called "hate speech" and "micro-aggression". When someone who resists CRT is uncomfortable, it is entirely acceptable because it achieves the goals of CRT.

      That's because micro-aggressions, by definition are hate speech, or at least, speech traditionally used to degrade, and because human nature makes habits difficult to change.

      What I am pointing out is that CRT believers use the concept of courtesy in an entirely convenient way. CRT believers only care about themselves not offended. They could care less about everyone else.

      Young-earth creationists and "new atheists" also seem to get hurt feelings often, but again, if you don't understand the difference between (on the one side) defending evolution/defending history/CRT, and on the other hand tossing out insulting terms for no reason but habit, I again don't know how to educate you.

      If something I've said is racist and it offends someone, I am happy to apologize and be better.

      That's refreshing to hear.

      But the very heart of the issue in many cases is whether, in fact, the statement was actually racist.

      I agree this can be difficult for some statements, but (with respect to words) micro-aggressions are by definition uttered regularly and without intent (that is, very much like a habit). They are usually pretty easy to identify.

      Your open-mouth chewing example is a perfect example of when someone is indeed being objectively rude. What you need to find is an example of when there is a true dilemma: For example, a Muslim may be offended by me saying that Jesus is "Lord and Savior," while I may be offended if he refers to Mohamed as "God's prophet." I cannot apologize for offending his religious sensibilities without being dishonest, nor can he apologize to me without being dishonest. We simply must deal respectfully with each other and find a way to live in peace.

      I agree *completely* with the sentiment you express here.

      My only disagreement is in calling these actions "micro-aggressions". Depending on the context, they may or may not be aggressions. Is Person A deliberately praying in the sight of Person B to annoy them? If so, there is no "micro" about that aggression. On the other hand, if A and B are engaged in a straight-forward discussion of their beliefs, there is likely no aggression.

      If a feminist is offended that my religion prescribes husbands as head of the home, I cannot "do better" by her standards without violating my own. To apologize to her would be to agree that she is right and that I am wrong. It would be, in a sense, to reject my own beliefs and adopt hers.

      Living according to your beliefs is not (usually) a micro-aggression.

      Ultimately, training yourself to lie in order to satisfy someone's prejudices does not make you a "better person".

      I agree.

      Delete
    15. The idea that human beings are going to interact with each other an not occasionally get offended. Silly.

      Delete
    16. Fred,

      I'm going to assume you didn't actually read up on any of your examples, rather than deliberately lie about them committing "'brief and commonplace daily verbal/behavioral indignity".

      I looked at the first 5 examples from Spiked, it's true for none of them *according to Spiked*. Uhlig penned deliberate dialogue, and still has his job. Damore penned a lengthy letter denigrating female programmers. Shor sent out a defended a thought-out position. Anderson engaged in a deliberate act, and has his job. Of the 10, Patton is a genuine case of micro-aggression, but still has his job.

      So, that's 0 for 10. None of them lost their job over a micro-aggression. I'm still going for "only happens in your (and several other people's) head.

      Delete
    17. T N,
      The idea that human beings are going to interact with each other an not occasionally get offended. Silly.

      Exactly!

      Delete
    18. "Why do you think "submissive" is the word to use here? Are you saying this really *is* about power, which would confirm central notion of CRT?"

      Yes, of course I agree that CRT is about power.

      As for you, your main interest is manners:

      "For me, I don't see it as being submissive. I see it as being polite."

      Which, again, is fine for you - but how you feel about my salad fork technique or 'my "racism"' comes to the same thing. :)

      "By contrast, you're saying awkward things and displaying your discriminatory intent in the very comment to which I am responding"

      ...

      Onebrow: I say racist things and opinionated people put me in the doghouse
      T: you probably do say things that get you scolded but in principle nobody cares anything for the lot of you and why should we?
      Onebrow: I know you are but what am I

      Needless to say, there's no point in continuing with you.

      Delete
    19. Teppy,
      Yes, of course I agree that CRT is about power.

      Why is it about power for *you*?

      Which, again, is fine for you - but how you feel about my salad fork technique or 'my "racism"' comes to the same thing. :)

      I suppose if you don't care when you metaphorical salad fork technique drips salad dressing onto your neighbor's hand, and you think asking to not have dressing dripped onto their hand is some sort of power play that you need to exert your power in order to resist, there's not much I can do to convince you otherwise.

      Onebrow: I know you are but what am I

      You can't even make a parody correctly. It's rather sad.

      It would be. "I know we are, because we are human".

      Needless to say, there's no point in continuing with you.

      I agree. You have have expressed that you have no desire for self-improvement of this type, and I have no way to convince you self-improvement is of value.

      Delete
    20. One Brow,

      If you consider that becoming a self-righteous, virtue signalling, frankfurt school ideologue is "improvement", you must have been a very very unpleasant person before your "awokening"...

      Becoming such a person is definitely not one of my goal in life. So if that's the product you and your cult is selling, no thanks indeed...

      Delete
    21. Jonatan Blais,
      If you consider that becoming a self-righteous, virtue signalling, frankfurt school ideologue is "improvement", you must have been a very very unpleasant person before your "awokening"...

      I don't consider myself righteous, so it's hard to be self-righteous. I do try to be virtuous, but don't see the point of advertising it. I know practically nothing about the Frankfurt School, but a brief look-see said it relied on idealist notions, and I am not an idealist.

      However, it is true enough that, like many teens, I was unpleasant when I first became ware of how racial bias could deny people what they had rightfully earned. In my case, I got an award that should have gone to a black student.

      Becoming such a person is definitely not one of my goal in life. So if that's the product you and your cult is selling, no thanks indeed..

      If you could point out a sentence in this sub-thread (that is, my comment at January 12, 2021 at 6:28 AM and the following responses), and point out where I said I am better than Dr. Feser, Fred, JMM. Billy, Teppy, or T N, you'd be doing me a favor, because I'm just another human. If you can't find such sentences, perhaps you should ask yourself why, when I was talking about the results of our common humanity, you hear self-righteousness and virtue-signaling? Is that the sort of person you want to be? Is that the product of you and your cult?

      Delete
    22. " Is Person A deliberately praying in the sight of Person B to annoy them? If so, there is no "micro" about that aggression."

      Ok, but didn't you say earlier that micro-aggressions need not to involve intent?

      "As has been made clear, micro-aggressions don't necessarily involve intent."

      They don't even have to involve aggression either. As a graduate student I have been in several diversity trainings. A common example I've heard of as a micro-aggression is that if I say that people of a certain group look the same to me or if I confuse subcultures in those groups in ignorance, that is a micro-aggression against these groups.

      Again, if you are a minority within a minority (for example, I am a Hispanic in the US, but not Mexican or Puerto Rican), it's potentially annoying for people to assume something about a different ethnic group than yours applying to you. But it's actually quite understandable, when you consider that most people in the history of ever develop the ability to tell differences mostly between people that are around them and they do so less the further away a group is from their lives. Asians aren't all the same, but they do look similar to me, largely because I don't encounter them as much as I do other groups of people. Similarly, when I worked in regions outside the US where most people were black and had mainly seen other black people, they often confused me for the only other white girl there. The assumption that such phenomena are there to belittle people assumes a sort of malice where there really isn't.

      This isn't to say that all such instances of annoying encounters are simply innocuous. It definitely sucks to be told that you got where you were because of "affirmative action" (much like it sucks to be told that you got where your were because of "privilege"), but in such an instance, a lot of those things aren't even "micro" anymore. So I don't see how the micro-aggression framework works here either. It's simply a case of aggression and manifestation of resentment or envy.

      What I have found about micro-aggressions is that while the phenomenon of being singled out periodically for something that distinguishes you from other people is both real, how it's discussed doesn't really bring any new insights. That, and the framework that CRT seems to provide as largely being due to assertions of power and explicit/implicit attempts to marginalize rather than other things like imprudent curiosity and ignorance (sometimes even understandable ignorance) seems wrongheaded.

      Delete
    23. Lagrange-squared,

      While I have a confusion and a couple of disagreements with minor parts of your comment, I want to thank you for offering a nuanced and interesting take on it.

      "Is Person A deliberately praying in the sight of Person B to annoy them? If so, there is no "micro" about that aggression."

      Ok, but didn't you say earlier that micro-aggressions need not to involve intent?


      Yes, but I'm not sure what that has to do with aggressions that are not micro-aggressions.

      The assumption that such phenomena are there to belittle people assumes a sort of malice where there really isn't.

      I think you can also belittle people without intending to belittle them. To refer to, for example, Cubans or Argentinians as "Mexicans" seems belittling to all three groups. My point has been that, if there is indeed no malice, the malice-free offender shouldn't mind being corrected, and would make an effort to improve out of sheer politeness. Do you disagree?

      That, and the framework that CRT seems to provide as largely being due to assertions of power and explicit/implicit attempts to marginalize rather than other things like imprudent curiosity and ignorance (sometimes even understandable ignorance) seems wrongheaded.

      From what I can see, the focus of CRT is about how race is used for the purposes of oppression, but that does not mean CRT theorists believe every act is an act of oppression. Those are just the acts that they tend to focus on.

      Delete
  26. Do you browse 4chan from time to time, Dr Fesser?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If he did, would he not know it is the Q movement, not Qanon? Anons are those who read the drops - and dig. I am struck by the many who consider Q a LARP, yet have only skimmed the surface. It would be like glancing over the rules of golf and deciding it is not the game for you. You might insist you understand the game, but you do not. What is the point of the intense research, knowledge and intricacy of this supposed 3+ year LARP? Cui bono? Many who have considered it conspiracy have reluctantly delved in, only to find there comes that point where there are no more coincidences. Before anyone cavalierly dismisses Q, they must examine it fully and deeply.

      Delete
    2. Donna Ruth,
      Before anyone cavalierly dismisses Q, they must examine it fully and deeply.

      That sounds a lot like the JFK conspiracy theorists (CTs), the Twin Towers CTs, the Rothschild CTs, the anti-vax CTs, etc. None of it makes any sense.

      Delete
  27. https://archive.org/details/cu31924029402439

    Donoso Cortes on how every political problem ultimately resolves into a theological problem.

    ReplyDelete
  28. So much confused and disconbobulated nonsense. Religion to Philosophy is as Alchemy is to Chemistry and Astrology is to Astronomy. We as a species need to move on from religion and religious thought as having further or unmet merit or applicable value in sorting out the many challenges we face going forward. Religion was humanity's first historical attempt to explain the relationship between us, the world and the universe. There is now an explanatory model that is orders of magnitude far greater in scope and sophistication in understanding that relationship. Science and philosophy are the bedrock of this understanding, not whether this religion or that religion is the true foundation in explanation. It took 1700 years to arrive at that realisation. It is only the persistent obstinacy of the old explanatory model based around religion that holds us back. However there is much to be thankful for as we grow to maturity as a species in which the change from the old to the new slowly gathers momentum. Please, keep having your discussions. It is interesting reading. But Catholicism is not as central or an existential issue as you would believe for the continued wellbeing of humankind. Apologetics has attempted to inculcate that phantasm but more and more people are sufficiently woke to see it for the illusion it really is.
    I am somewhat in admiration of the number of words and thoughts Dr Feser is able put together that appear to be meaningful but in the end the commenters here demonstrate we are no closer in getting to the truth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, yes. The wars of the twentieth century that killed more than those of the rest of history put together were the work of ideologies that believed in science rather than religion. Yes, we're really progressing. We're on the right track. Don't look back.

      Delete
    2. @ Miguel Cervantes 5.45am
      A truly risible QAnonesque assertion. Germany and Italy, overwhelmingly Christian nations, "Got mit eins", with God on Germany's side, slaughtering French and British people (and everyone else who got in their way) citizens of both countries overwhelmingly CHRISTIAN, inanely supplicating to that very same god on both sides of the fence, pleading, entreating for his support to defeat their enemy. Praying to that exact same god, and committing those atrocities, be it extermination of the Jews, the holocaust, or the horrific blanket bombing of men, women and children of Dresden, all in HIS name, is so Monty Pythonesque in scope and tragedy, it defies logic how one is still a christian. Hitler and Mussolini didn't rise to power despite christianity. Hitler, a baptised Catholic to this day, rose to power on the very back of Christians (95% of Germany's population was Christian in 1933.)

      Try as you might to rewrite history, Mr Cervantes, you cannot change the facts and the evidence of the complicit nature and involvement of the Church in this terrible period.

      What these sad events has clearly brought into so glaring a contrast is the absolute uselessness of religious belief in times of existential crisis, and how utterly impotent it is, globally, in bettering the human condition. Religion, or more precisely, theology, is a failed paradigm with little if any value for humankind going forward. Slowly but surely people are waking up from their religious induced coma and seeking different and more constructive ways of plugging into the better angels of their nature.

      Philosophy and science, proof and evidence, facts and verification are the drivers of our most precious explanatory paradigm, not the mythologies of the past.

      Delete
    3. It makes no difference how many Christians there were in Germany, the Soviet Union or the United States; the twentieth century wars were not fought for religion but for godless ideologies.

      As for precious explanatory paradigms, Elon Musk must surely speak for the swarms of zombies distracted by the toy that is technology. He claims that we are all probably a computer generation. There is no limit to the stupidities invoked by the godless today.

      Delete
    4. "It makes no difference how many Christians there were in Germany, the Soviet Union or the United States; the twentieth century wars were not fought for religion but for godless ideologies."

      What an insane and self-contradicting claim to make. Are you telling everyone who reads this blog that all those Christian-believing soldiers went to war to defend and fight for godless ideologies? Are you trying to convince us that German Christians (some 95% of the total population of Germany in 1933) were actually fighting to install godless ideologies?

      Tell me. How does that work?
      What it tells me is how fickle and stupid God-belief is. It also tells me how absolutely useless and impotent Christian god-belief really is in times of truly existential peril?
      If even a sizable portion of Germany's Christian population had truly tapped into the deep well of their Christian conscience and faith and bravely rose up and exercised their professed standard of morality and ethics and belief, there would not have been a Hitler, or Third Reich, or holocaust.

      Are you now trying to tell us that the 50+ million Christians (95% of the German population in 1933), now that the existential crisis is over, these German Christian soldiers, who fought for installing godless ideologies return to now being good god-fearing Christians once again?

      What it tells me is that for the vast majority, Christian belief is only viable in the good times. In the bad times Christian ethics, morality, simply disappears, goes AWOL, nowhere to be seen except in the handful that truly believe and practice what they believe. Nothing, nothing could be more graphically representative of the utter weakness and insubstantial nature of the Christian standard than the wholesale swoon conservative Christians fell into over Trump. It is simply astounding how Trump so easily duped christians despite the mountains of historical evidence on record of the character, temperament, behaviour and psycopathological nature of this man. This mountain of evidence singularly pointing to the unfitness of this man to hold any such office. Video libraries across the country are filled with evidence of what many key people believed of this man, Rubio, Graham, Cruze the innumerable other witnesses, all professed Christians, before and after the 2016 presidential election. Pull them out. Watch and absorb all that was said before and after that election. Observe the inexcusable changes of behaviour and attitude of so many of those so-called Christians.
      What it tells me is the completely unreliable and untrustworthy nature of Christian belief in sorting out the right from the wrong.

      Mr Cervantes, so warped and convoluted an explanation is yours as to defy the imagination of any rational let alone sane person.

      And your final remarks about Musk illustrate not only a conspiratorial world that is truly Trumpian in scope and magnitude, schitzoid in temperament, but a revealing glimpse into the current state of your mind.

      Delete
    5. Amigo mio Robespierre! Such emotion. Is somebody trying to drown you in holy water?

      Well, the Soviets fought for Marxism, the Germans for National Socialism, the English and Americans for the sovereign market and the political party (conservatism isn't any more Christian than liberalism). The twentieth century witnessed all this killing for purely secular ideologies, all claiming the sanction of science.

      As for Musk, it gets worse. Not only does he believe we are probably a computer generation. Apparently he believes that his Mars colonisation, if successful, will break us out of the program and therefore provide some link to the "true reality" out there. Perhaps we get to meet the Martian schoolgirl whose science project we all are. If you are still alive under that holy water, perhaps you stood start praying for faith. Such prayers succeed you know.

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    6. I apologise unreservedly for the 'schizoid temperament' comment.

      "Well, the Soviets fought for Marxism, the Germans for National Socialism, the English and Americans for the sovereign market and the political party (conservatism isn't any more Christian than liberalism). The twentieth century witnessed all this killing for purely secular ideologies, ....."

      Now, THAT, is a more defendable statement to make, rather than the nonsense about 'godless ideologies".

      I do not agree with you that the wars were fought for 'purely secular ideologies'. That is also complete nonsense. If indeed this were true why did British, German, Italian, American and French soldiers slaughter each other (to a man, almost every one of them a good christian, on both sides) to defend their particular secular ideology? As good, supposedly god-fearing Christians, with their moral and ethical behaviour supposedly grounded in deep christian belief and teachings, how did they miss the wrongness of what they were doing?

      The question I ask, and I would be delighted if christians on this site could give me an answer; Did good German god-fearing christians believe that the 'secular ideology' of Nazism was closely aligned to their Christian beliefs and morality than other forms of governance and worth defending, and did Christians in Britain, France and America believe that the 'secular ideology' of the sovereign market and the political party was THE true reflection of the Christian ideal worth defending? Remember, apparently you infer that 'secular ideologies' are synonymous with 'godless ideologies'. You can't have it both ways, Miguel.

      What it tells me is that Christian belief is useless in discerning the good from the bad on so many levels that it is truly gossamer in substance and content, and yet remains very dangerous, as is Islam, both active proselytizing faiths that are largely injurious to human cooperation and shared responsibility because of their fatal attraction to tribalism.

      "The twentieth century witnessed all this killing for purely secular ideologies, all claiming the sanction of science."

      This is another of those silly nonsense claims offered by the anti-science crowd. I can understand the anxiety and trauma expressed by believers of the somewhat devastating impact science is having on the very foundations of religious belief. The discovery of the truth does have a shattering effect when one eventually realizes the core of their belief structures are not founded in fact but in mythos. To believe, really believe that walking on water, talking burning bushes, virgin births of god creatures, 500 dead getting out of their graves, actually happened does require an appeal to special pleading with no substance in reality.

      With respect to Musk, Oh ye of little faith. 😊

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    7. Your comment didn't seem to be an example of schizoid temperament. It was more typical of some atheists who panic at the sight of Catholics. Hard to see why these days.

      As God has created the universe, including rational creatures complicated enough to deny his existence, talking burning bushes ought not present too many difficulties.

      Catholics were unable to determine German politics before or after 1933, and the average German was led along by the politics of the day. The same went for citizens of the USSR, England and the US. The whole point of secularism is that the average citizen's religious views are just his private opinion. As politics was determined throughout the twentieth century by sciences like economics, sociology and politics, all interpreted according to the ideology of preference, there was no chance of religion determining anything. Most Christians had already accepted the primacy of ideology in civil society. In Catholic countries where Church teaching was still respected by the population, the Church was actively persecuted by secularised minority elites.

      If you blame the Church and Catholics for being in a weak position in the twentieth century, that could be a matter for discussion. The fact that Western Catholics in the twentieth century had a lessened understanding of how their faith should influence society is only a manifestation of their gradual dechristianisation and so, of no use to your argument.

      Despite what you say about religious war being dangerous, it was the wars and persecutions of the last century that caused more deaths than all of history put together. The twentieth century "experience" was championed by godless leaders and ideologies, while religion has never shown this capacity for limitless murder.

      Christians are most unlikely to embark on any crusades just yet. Muslims aren't capable of slaughtering the world either. All they can do is wreck Western liberal society and give its Catholics a wake up call. To achieve this, not even a fraction of the casualties caused by eminently non-religious wars of the Americans, Soviets and Germans would be necessary. Of course, there's nothing stopping people recovering their faith beforehand.

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  29. The quoted portion below is overstated. Or should be. One is a reality and the other is a caricature. There is no left - right paradigm. There is a ruling class and the rest. Our whole political system is shot; Georgia wasn’t changing that. The bottom must come out. I don’t welcome it but there’s nothing we can do about it that won’t get twisted around anyway..... QAnon is an impotent meme used to glorify the elite. This deal was sealed before our lifetimes. I guess the word of caution could be helpful for a few that can get seduced. But the election should have been our conclusion not a starting point into such matters.

    “Yet the bizarre QAnon phenomenon on the Right appears to be exactly that. It has all the key marks of the Gnostic mindset – the positing of unseen malign forces, the hermeneutics of suspicion and “dream world” theorizing, Manicheanism and shrill intolerance of all dissenters, even something like an immanentized eschaton (“The Storm”).

    In the long run, Critical Race Theory and other forms of “wokeness,” though not much more intellectually substantive than the QAnon lunacy, are manifestly far more dangerous, given their pseudo-academic nature and appeal to the temper of mainstream opinion. Again, “woke” ideas now pervade media, universities, high schools, churches, corporate board rooms and HR departments, and on and on – the commanding heights of the mainstream social and economic order. QAnon, by contrast, while having some mass appeal, extends no higher up among those with power and influence than a handful of crank lawyers and congressmen. And unlike CRT and the other elements of wokeness, it has no intellectual lineage or cultural framework that could give it the heft to extend much farther than that. Here’s the acid test: Few Republican politicians want to associate themselves with QAnon. But few Democratic politicians dare to disassociate themselves from CRT and other forms of wokeness. That shows you which of these warring Gnosticisms has the upper hand.

    All the same, in its short life, the QAnon madness has already caused enormous harm, both by rotting out minds and by playing a role in both the Republican loss of the Georgia Senate elections and in the breach of the U.S. Capitol. And as the history of Weimar Germany teaches us, a war of Gnosticisms does not end well.

    Gnostic woke madness will not be remedied by aping it. On the contrary, more than ever, what the times call for is conservative sobriety. And orthodoxy. Heresies not only aim to subvert the Church, but they fill the vacuum that opens up when the Church loses its self-confidence, its fidelity to its traditional teaching, and its sense of mission – and as a consequence, loses its attractiveness. The crisis of the West is the crisis of the Church. The West will not be restored to health until the Church is restored to health. And that is a project that requires us to see beyond election cycles, and indeed beyond politics.”

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    1. To FBF @ 2.31pm
      This is an excellent post. Much of what you describe is as you tell it. However your conclusion and remedy: "...more than ever, what the times calls for is conservative sobriety. And orthodoxy." is fundamentally a wrong-headed call. Going back to earlier times and old practices, thoughts and ideas is not an answer and will not meet humanity's challenges going forward. We the people and the Church have already been there and done that. The Church once had it all, political power, unimaginable prestige, unquestioned influence, and once captured that unique position in which its power and influence could not but be found in every corner of everyday life in western civilization. And yet and still it was ineluctibly unable to avert the Great Schism nor the Reformation and the further inexorable continuation of diminishing returns that it is experiencing to this day.


      Question: which form of orthodoxy do you mean? Your orthodoxy or my orthodoxy?

      It is within the conservative tent that the QAnon movement and 'gnostic madness' found truly fecund soil. If the goodness quotient of the Church was as strong as you appear to imagine it should have been able to fend off this 'madness'.
      No, the crisis of the West is not the crisis of the Church. The crisis of the Church is solely a crisis of its own making. Yes, the West faces challenges. But the role of the Church will be marginal at best. We need to look forward to meeting those challenges, not over our shoulder.

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    2. I also believe the churches steeped in orthodoxy are not affected by these things so much. The churches that are are shaky to begin with. Political and ideological divides down liberal-conservative lines within a church or denomination are probably a sure sign that the theological foundations (or exercise thereof) are already off.

      If your denomination is getting hijacked. The opening and vulnerability reveals the fault line. For the RCC it’s the papacy, and shaky theology. If the Word can’t stand in emphasis and practice, tradition becomes empty and fades.....

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    3. Another excellent post. But all that you say hinges around the concept of 'orthodoxy'. It is the notion of orthodoxy that is fundamentally problematic.
      'Orthodoxy' is at its heart tribalism writ large, an oath of membership that is singularly exclusionary.
      By its very nature it brooks no variation, alternative, subtlety, nuance, nor tolerate questioning. Orthodoxy is little more than a 'go/no go' gauge which does not reflect nor is representative of how communities actually operate nor deal with the more global existential issues, problems and challenges going forward. Orthodoxy in essence only affirms one's status of being in or out of the group. People and societies don't operate that way; or more importantly, they shouldn't. There in lies the achilles heel of orthodoxy. It engenders a 'them and us' attitude which history has proven to be not an answer or an appropriate response in dealing with humanity's more pressing issues. Flexibility and new ideas are anathema to orthodoxy.
      We must always keep our focus on dilligently working towards a set of ideals that universally contribute to bettering the human condition.

      "If the Word can’t stand in emphasis and practice, tradition becomes empty and fades....."

      As history so clearly shows old gods don't die, they fade away.

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    4. " It engenders a 'them and us' attitude which history has proven to be not an answer or an appropriate response in dealing with humanity's more pressing issues."

      I can't think of a single issue where being clear on what you believe and who believes it with you hasn't served the victor. Perhaps this is not what you mean by 'orthodoxy'? You seem to want to hang a lot of baggage onto it, like this:

      "It is the notion of orthodoxy that is fundamentally problematic.
      'Orthodoxy' is at its heart tribalism writ large, an oath of membership that is singularly exclusionary."

      Big, windy pronouncements, but they seem gratuitous to me at least.

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    5. "I can't think of a single issue where being clear on what you believe and who believes it with you hasn't served the victor."

      To the victor go the spoils? It is the victor that writes the pages of history? Is that what you teally think my post is all about? No. Not even close to what I believe. I have no interest in lowering let alone debasing the discusion to the level of victor/vanquished, a very low set bar indeed. And if you can't think of a single issue about which I believe, the problem is entirely with you, not me. I believe in the indominatable and enduring nature of the human spirit. I far, far less believe, if at all, about any God that might be behind it all as there are soooo many of them one could never, never in their right and logical mind ever select one, be it Vishnu, Jesus, Ganesha, Allah, the Great Rainbow Serpent of the Australian Aborigines, without recourse to special pleading. No matter who we are, wherever we live we all want the same, to live long, safe and healthy lives. We all want protection from the elements. We all universally want our families to live good and fulfilling lives be they Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Atheists, Agnostics. We share but one world. There is no Planet B.

      The RCC has had so many opportunities, as has Protestantism, as has every other single religion throughout human civilisation, to state its case and prove its claim. Sadly they have failed dismally to provide the universal safety net which should have provided the necessary freedoms and security to explore and develop more enduring, peaceful and better ways of living together.

      No, religion and religious thought cannot provide the answers to humanity's greatest existential challenges. Nor can hunkering down in orthodoxy provide the ground for finding those answers. A return to orthodoxy is an admission of not only failure but an abject admission of intellectally and philosophically having nowhere else to look for those solutions.

      "Big, windy pronouncements, but they seem gratuitous to me at least."

      An ad hominem. But that is expected when there is no defense to make.

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    6. Hi Papalinton,
      I prefer to look at an authentic guide to the truth being: faith as protected by the apostolic authority of the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit, Tradition in Catholic terms; and reason expressed best in the Platonic-Aristotelian-Augustine and Thomistic line of philosopical moderate realism. Both faith and reason have their limitations in the knowedge they give us access to, but together they form and synthesis of what God revealed and the natural tools he gave us to understand it in the full powers of reason. We are both spiritual and bodily rational beings with a teleology that ends in communion with God and other persons to achieve our greatest happiness. Modernity is working the theological and philosophical direction in rejection of the view I expressed about the nature of reality. Consider if God exists and the nature of good and evil in a world created by God. Look into the preambles of faith which give us philosophical insights into the mystery of God's simplicity, omnipresence, omnipotence and many other aspects of God's uncreated being. Dr. Feser is a super expert on these arguments in my opinion. Try listening to some of his lectures on Youtube. Truly, in my opinion some amazing analysis and evidence for the truth of what I am sying here.

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  30. Thanks for another great post, Dr. Feser.

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  31. Thanks for the insightful article, Prof Feser.

    You would do well to look up the writing of Dr Tom Bertonneau from SUNY Oswego, who has written similar essays on the Gnosticism of modernity, drawing upon, inter alia, Voegelin, Berdyaev, de Maistre, le Bon, Guenon and Girard.

    His work can mainly be found at "The Orthosphere" blog.

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  32. ...Also, Europe and the Faith by Hillaire Belloc (whom you mention) is an excellent understanding of the current crisis in the West as one of heresy from the orthodox, Catholic faith, without which the West would not be, and will not have its enduring existence.

    I'm interested to hear your thoughts on the spiritual forces that are constantly driving the political, economic and intellectual forces to and from heresy, and whether you think René Girard's theory of the violent sacred at the origin of humanity might have some explanatory value?

    Keep up the great work, you're evangelizing many secular philosopher pupil and friends of mine in Australia and with me here in France.

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  33. Joshua Mitchell has been doing a lot of writing lately on the religious themes (human themes, really) in wokeism/leftism, or whatever you want to call it. He has many interesting articles on First Things and various interviews. I'm currently reading his book "American Awakening: Identity Politics and Other Afflictions of Our Time". It deals with themes of scapegoating, redemption (or lack thereof in the case of woke religion), sin, atonement, etc.

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  34. Mark Bauerlien recently interviewed Bradley Watson on his new book “Progressivism: The Strange History of a Radical Idea”, in which Watson argues that the Progressivism of the last century translated the fervor and moralizing of the Puritans into the ideology of rule by “expert” and rejection of the republican idea of self-government by the “unqualified” and the “stupid people”. To paraphrase Watson’s point: what started with the Puritan work ethic, ended by making Christianity purely imminent where “salvation” is that which is achieved via political action by the enlightened few (think Dr. Faucet!).

    https://www.firstthings.com/media/anticonstitutional-progressives

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  35. This, was a great post As I glance at some of the comments above, wherein followers of the blog recount their own attempts to understand the psychological dynamic by which the leftist "justifies" its totalizing project and its preference for declaration without argument; I am reminded of the many posts Ed has placed up touching on the underlying nominalist and fideist contours of the post modernist mental landscape.

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  36. I'm not sure about the esoteric thing here. It seems like a stretch to say that secular ideologies are only meant for an initiated few. For example, if we look at Hitler's Mein Kampf, "During Hitler's years in power, the book was in high demand in libraries and often reviewed and quoted in other publications. It was given free to every newlywed couple and every soldier fighting at the front. By 1939 it had sold 5.2 million copies in eleven languages. By the end of the war, about 10 million copies of the book had been sold or distributed in Germany."

    Or the Communist Manifesto, "Karl Marx’s publications sold extremely well. The Manifesto of the Communist Party, with around 500 million copies sold, is one of the four best-selling books of all time. Both the Manifesto and Das Kapital are UNESCO World Heritage documents."

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