How the religious right won: Birth of the fundamentalists, in our modern times
I have been critical of the new atheists, and even suggested a form of leftist Xtianity on those remaining Xtians who espouse a semi-sane version of that religion.
But the fact remains that atheists, or the new atheists, are gaining an edge here, in part because Xtians have no basis for an understanding of their own religion.
Here’s the devastating question (and atheists should back off for a minute): how can a liberal Xtian maintain his stance given that sweet Jesus C. apparently condones rightwing fundamentalist ultra capitalist Xtians? etc, etc… Why wouldn’t the prophet who denounced the rich intervene to set his church straight?
It is a hard hard question with a false simple answer given by non-believers. If the ‘spirit’ of Xtianity is actually real, the answer becomes hard to come by.
Actually, the question invokes the unknowable, but what I suspect is that the ‘spirit of Christ’ is very real but has no local space-time influence in the short term. It acts on the scale of millennia, and has no further direct contact. That more intimate contact is delegating to a lower grade of influences, of unknown provenance, but with more mechanized views of things. More we can probably never know. The Catholic hierarchy was an attempt to solve the problem, from below. But it didn’t work. The Reformation enters a new world altogether, and, I suspect, is leading beyond Xtianity as we know it.
But we know that many considerable spiritual agencies, e.g. figures like Gurdjieff (a self-proclaimed devil), are able to claim the (esoteric no less) label and promote super reactionary forms of politics. Such entities totally confuse the issue. They are common in history, one good example being the neo-brahmins who destroyed Buddhism and created the world of caste. So we need hardly be surprised our spiritual histories end up in retrograde modes.
In any case, I find it absolutely unbelievable that a spiritual source at the level of what we know from the short life of Jesus is anything other than a revolutionary, near communist. Yet his church is taken over by the most reactionary anti-modern fundamentalist Xtians.
There is a second answer: the christological influence extends to an earlier era, before the rise of the modern, the modern Reformation creating a new entity that is metahistorical but with no connection to the ‘cosmic christ’ (??). That radical new beginning, if you examine the early modern, constantly remorphed, and reradicalized, finally producing in the abolitionists and/or later Quakers a super streamlined form of Xtianity that then went into static mode after the modern transition, still, to be sure, with a considerable dynamic of innovation in some areas, the latest example being such figures a Martin Luther King, a figure with strongly suspected spiritual backup.
The latter example probably gives a hint: spiritual help costs the helper Big Time, and is rare because it will debilitate that source, which is lower than the christological, which vanished long ago into some cosmic dimension.
It is interesting to study the last phase of the Reformation in the era of c. 1800 plus or minus fifty years. We see what Hegel called the conclusion of the Reformation: German Classical Philosophy, Abolitionists, and various types of Quaker endgame: a super streamlined form of worship that is almost like meditation. The rest is silence.
I think reasonable Xtians should face the theft of their religion, and not expect to get it back. They have the option of a new new Reformation, and a transit religion of Xtianity moving into an unknown future. That requires a creative insight that is likely to become scrambled by the complexity of the question, and the accumulation of unknowns (read the above again!!) that make confident action difficult. Nor is atheism going to resolve the question, although it could caution the proliferation of false views of a ‘personal god’. An atheist secularist would insist that prayer is a superstition, drop it. But the mystery of prayer is unsolved by such skeptics. Still, it has become another set of confusions in decay.
We may have stumbled on the answer: the last known phases show us 1. Kantian/Hegelian (in fact Schelling was very popular with many theologians like Tillich) exits via philsophy from theology 2. streamlined Quaker like forms of worship close to meditation or contemplation, 3. a radical form of activism that can assist the human future. I might suggest a radical Xtian motion toward postcapitalism, radical indeed. You can’t be sure, but you suspect that the most dynamic moments in Xtian evolution were revolution itself.
It would cost a spiritual influence Big Time to modify terminal retrograde forms of the church: more efficient of spiritual ‘energy’ to start something new from scratch and abandon the rest to dereliction. The spiritual domain is real, but our knowledge of it is not sufficient for coherent action.
This is very strange, but it amounts to saying that a pure negation of monotheism is probably not going to work very well. A transition to something truly knew is not atheism pitted against theism, but a new mode of thinking altogether.
The tradition of ‘faith’ religion has suffered a collapse of credibility. Actually it isn’t needed. This is an effort to communicate across a void. I wouldn’t actually do it this way for myself. So one should perhaps speak only of what one finds right for oneself. In part this discussion reflects the way that modernist rationalists with concoctions like the New Atheism have produced peculiar failures, for reasons that are not clear. And the reality is that figures like Nietzsche hve conspired against modernity by creating a form of it that is toxic and demonic all over again. So the Xtian and the ‘secular’ come up short, demanding a truly new insight.