RELIGIOUS ORIGINS OF MODERN LIBERALISM
Modern Liberalism’s Hidden Religious Foundations
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Could modern “godless” liberalism really have any religious origins? The actual genesis of “new liberalism” would surprise many leftists, should they ever deign to study its true origins. Given that many leftists assume modern liberalism is synonymous with atheism, intriguing it is to note this movement owes its very essence to religious antecedents. In fact, new liberalism could not exist without concepts borrowed from the Bible and ancient pagan Gnosticism, which form its skeleton.
For this very reason, critics contend liberalism, socialism and Marxism are all fraudulent attempts to create a heaven without God, or a Christianity sans Christ. This curious disjunct may explain why the development and application of leftism is synonymous with the greatest economic blunders and human rights disasters in recorded human history.
Strange History of the Term “Liberalism”
The Columbia Encyclopedia generally describes liberalism as the, “Philosophy or movement that has as its aim the development of individual freedom.” Ralph Raico, in an essay titled “The Rise, Fall, and Renaissance of Classical Liberalism,” expands on this definition, saying “Christians, Jews, deists, agnostics, utilitarians, believers in natural rights, freethinkers, and traditionalists all found it possible to work towards one fundamental goal: expanding the area of the free functioning of society and diminishing the area of coercion and the state.”
Switching Liberalism for “Socialism”
Considering the original focus in liberalism upon expanding human freedom, it’s now surprising modern liberalism (aka, social liberalism) often exerts itself on the opposite task of putting increasing restrictions on individuals. Yet, this anomaly is explained when it’s noted sometime around the beginning of the 20th century, a concerted effort was made to repackage leftist progressivism with a different name. In doing such, socialists and Marxists decided to call their ideas “liberalism.” This was because original liberalism, which we now refer to as “classical liberalism,” represented the most potent set of political ideas in the history of the Modern West, and so could not be ignored. The renamed term then became a highly misleading Trojan horse for socialism.
Defining “New Liberalism”
Modern liberalism is now defined as a movement that allows some private property, but expects the government to confiscate a large part of personal income and wealth, to be redistributed to others, especially through a social safety net, that emphasizes covering all human needs, cradle to grave. An expectation that the government will increasingly intervene in the marketplace and even create a command economy is expressed. Further, equalizing outcomes of all players, instead of merely making sure opportunity exist for all the ambitious, is set as the goal for a “just” society. Secular Humanism becomes the the gold standard, as religion is expected to retreat to the sidelines and then disappear into private life. Neo-Positivism, or philosophy based on the theory that any idea must be measured by the same standards as science, becomes the entrenched font of societal wisdom.
From Reformation to Classic Liberalism
What is now called classical liberalism is a long moving descendant from the Reformation’s freeing of individuals from control of the Church to exercise “liberty” in the sphere of their own lives. This freedom was inherent in biblical teachings, but had never been fully developed under the dominating shadow of the Medieval Church, which spun out various official positions on a variety of topics. Convergence of the Renaissance, Reformation and then Enlightenment all provided elements needed to create classical liberalism. Again, the Columbia Encyclopedia states, “Classical liberalism stressed not only human rationality but the importance of individual property rights, natural rights, the need for constitutional limitations on government, and, especially, freedom of the individual from any kind of external restraint.” Classical liberalism was based upon natural law theory, as its founders, such as John Locke, were concerned that their ideas must be based upon more than the legislators of any one regime, but the general law of God, existing everywhere.
US Declaration a Natural Law Writ
This is why the US Declaration of Independence cites… “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” and then mentions, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” These sections of the Declaration illustrate the natural law background the Framers used to support their ideas. Then, the “Rights” mentioned therein are held to be “self-evident”, that is – beyond dispute, and not the mere result of democratic fiat, or the sheer will of a sovereign. Instead, they are wrought from immovable natural law principles embedded in the universe. This is a famous and highly successful example of the use of classical liberalism, establishing the original modern political compact, the influence of which will probably never be equaled.
RELIGIOUS ORIGINS OF MODERN LIBERALISM
After the switch of names, essentially trading the oft-scored moniker “socialism” for the well-respected term liberalism, the movement picked up steam under various advocates such as the stealth-radical President Woodrow Wilson. Yet the ideals of modern socialism, which went back to the French Revolutionary Parisian socialists, were originally formed and defended by progressive Christians sympathetic to the Bible, such as Robert Owen, even if biblical Christianity later became the bete noire of the radicals.
Religious Imprint on Liberalism
Several significant religious movements contributed to the development of social liberalism. First, the outline of new liberalism, be it in the form of socialism or Marxism, follows roughly the same Christian biblical story of mankind outlined as redemptive history. This model is based upon Protestant millenarian, ie thousand-year theology, presuming an earthly reign of Christ, developed systematically in the Medieval period. But the overall scheme comes from rogue Catholic priest Joachim of Floris’ tripartite vision of history. And finally, it was pagan Gnosticism that gave the evangelical key to the enterprise, via knowledge, not bare faith.
It is an inescapable fact that modern liberal world-view is constructed upon a far older framework taken from the Christian creation and redemption story. This is well articulated by German philosopher Karl Lowith, as well as Eric Voegelin, Igal Halfin, and a host of other scholars. The kernel of this world-view is a linear model of history teaching that humans live in a fallen world, in need of redemption. This contradicts pagan, and especially Greek views of history which were mere cycles without end. In the Bible, Jesus provides the salvation to mankind, taking believers to heaven when dead; whereas in Marxism and socialism, oppressed workers are “saved” by communist dialectical enlightenment, and so then enter paradise on earth.
Secularizing the Bible
Writer Leonard Wessell states Marxism borrows directly from the Bible, explaining, “The Christian view of history as the struggle between Good and Evil is secularized in so far as the economic opposition between oppressors and oppressed, between exploiters and exploited, brings about the historical movement. Exploitation is the original sin.” This is related in Igal Halfin’s “From Darkness to Light; Class Consciousness and Salvation in Revolutionary Russia.”
Thousand Year Cycles
More specifically, Earnest Tuveson details how Marx’s Communist Manifesto “is a scenario for the drama of millenarian redemption”...that “trumpets for the the old certainty that ‘the history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles,’ but the historical process is to produce the Armageddon.” Millenarianism is the fixation on God’s use of thousand-year cycles in His redemptive history, which have been a major theme in many Christian sects, and especially within its cults. Even Hitler mentions this in his “Thousand Year Reich.”
Salvation Common to Bible and Marx
Overall, the idea that mankind was lost, and in need of salvation is identical in both socialism and Christianity. Further, an elite sect of either Bible teaching evangelists, or materialistic philosophers was needed to spread the word. And a heaven could also be reached by both, whereas the universe was setup fatalistically, with the end coming in a pre-described, apocalyptic manner, no matter what any individual person might decide to do. But in Marxism, human history was fashioned upon Joachim of Floris’ tripartite vision; and the salvation was of a Gnostic enlightenment variety, composed of pseudo-enlightenment. But all liberal ideologies seem to be designed from the salvation model of Joachim, according to Voegelin.
Heretic Priesthood of Joachim of Floris
Norman Cohn describes in his tome “The Pursuit of Millennium,” the Italian Joachim of Floris, a 12th century Calabrian abbot and hermit who spent years brooding upon the Bible’s hidden meaning. He received a vision between 1190-95 AD which revealed to him the pattern of Christian revelation. He broke history into three parts, based upon the Trinity. The Age of the Father, or Law was the first; the second was the Age of the Son, or Gospel; and the third was the Age of the Spirit, which was to be a time of utter enlightenment.
Tripartite History of Man
Joachim’s first period was an age of fear of judgment; whereas the second was an age of filial submission. The third age was that of joy, love and freedom, in which mankind would enjoy a permanent Sabbath-day rest, where all humans would live in a massive monastery, constantly praising God. Cohen describes how the pleasingly simple and clear three-stage view of history filtered down through the ages, finally coming to rest in… “the Marxian dialectic of the three stages of primitive communism, class society and a final communism which is to be the realm of freedom and in which the state will have withered away.”
Building Secular Paradise
Halfin explains how several of Joachim’s claims bore special fruit for Marxism. The first was that the priest claimed salvation was not an individual achievement, but collective in nature, an idea claimed by Marx. Second, he put salvation into human history, and therefore took away God’s mysterious foreknowledge, replacing it with man’s knowable system. Likewise, paradise became an earthly reality, and not a heavenly destination. Given heaven would be on earth, mankind could therefore work to help construct it, instead of simply waiting to see what God had waiting in heaven. So Marxism picked up this mission to build God’s perfect human kingdom and merely secularized it. Socialists then began to plot for how heaven on earth could be constructed in human society.
Church, Inquisition and Terror
And in the same way that the Church’s Inquisition was justified to save men’s souls; likewise, the machinery of terror run by the secular church of Marxism was an eminently logical manner to reformat broken minds so they could be saved in the communist society.
Gnosticism and Marxism
Hans Jonas, in his “The Gnostic Religion,” describes the ancient Gnostics as being a group of Middle-Eastern religious practitioners who focused upon “Gnosis,” which is simply Greek for “knowledge.” Further, of the Gnostic beliefs, Jonas writes, “The emphasis on knowledge as the means for the attainment of salvation or even as the form of salvation itself, and the claim to the possession of this knowledge in one’s own articulate doctrine…” was the highlight of this movement. So the Gnostics proffered a salvation based upon education, and not faith.
Marx the Gnostic
Highly influential political scientist Eric Voegelin wrote in his Science, Politics and Gnosticism, “Marx is a speculative Gnostic. He construes the order of being as a process of nature complete in itself.” By this, Voegelin means to point out Marx, and all true leftists, construe man existing within the paradigm of a natural world in which there is a universe, not animated by God. In other words, mankind is alone and all the questions about origins and religion will not help him get society organized. Marx taught that such topics must be set aside for all times, as this is the only life that exists, and there is precious enough opportunity to simply fulfill the work of building a socialist society, as it is.
Marx the Intellectual Swindler
Marx’s maneuver effectively stifles all metaphysical speculations, and makes sure that only his answers to life’s questions can be allowed. Voegelin points out how this proscription against religious discussion simply reveals that Marx was an “intellectual swindler.” And it brings up the issue of the spirit of libido dominandi, or the will to power, which St. Augustine mentions in his City of God as the debased human will, operating outside of God’s direction.
WILL TO POWER AND DEATH OF GOD
Nietzsche’s Will to Power
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, before entering a state of permanent insanity, developed an attenuated atheistic system positing that as mankind realized God was dead, he then assumed authority to define his own morals. He writes of this “Will to Power,” the libido dominandi, in “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” as an element of the unbounded human personality, as typified by his Dionysian superman, ie ubermensch. Voegelin indicates Nietzsche’s theories reveal a Gnostic pattern, in which an intellectual swindle metastasizes into rank rebellion against God.
Cruelty of Dominion
Nietzsche writes of this will to power which has at its heart a wicked need to dominate others, which he calls “a kind of cruelty of the intellectual conscience.” This impulse is not checked by any external standard, but is only regulated by the appetite for such in the heart of the individual. Yet in Marx’s, and indeed all far leftist systems, the need to dominate will never be regulated because there is no Decalogue, or set of Commandments which can supersede the will of any individual actor. Certainly, the mad cruelty of Lenin, Stalin and Mao bear terrifying testimony of this very fact. And, beyond this, such impulses defy and invert logic and common sense since the bloody purges that all three Marxist dictators waged badly damaged their own countries and achieved no longterm positive goals.
The end result of all communism was a deicide, or murder of God, in which a society is controlled in such a way that any element of religion or God is snuffed out in an effort to establish total power over any individual. The State itself becomes deified. Such a death, according to Voegelin, is not only coincidental, but should properly be viewed as the logical goal of these ultra-humanistic states.
DEATH OF GOD
Nietzsche travels the same road as the Marxists in his description of a world where God has been banished. His Zarathustra states, “Alas, my brothers, that God whom I created was human work and human madness, like all gods.” This notion that God is not only a fraud, but all religion is simply a mad waste of time, perfectly sums up Marx’s view on the topic.
And yet, given that leftists, socialists, Marxists and other social liberals employ a biblical salvific template, without which their system would make little sense, something else must be happening. Voegelin points out that in having stolen God’s system, the progressives are now intent on covering their tracks. And this is not just to obscure their theft, but on a larger stage, to reject God’s unfair system of morality and order, and switch it with mankind’s ingenious replacement, the perfect world of New Liberalism.
The ultimate goal of killing God is, that he who can pull off this greatest deed in history, can then take His place and become God himself. Is it not clear that Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Lenin, and every other crackpot communist dictator acted as a god, doing whatever he pleased, up to granting life, or death to mere humans?!! Their exemplar, Karl Marx claims, in his “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right,” “Man makes religion, religion does not make man.” Also, he states “Man has found only the reflection of himself in the fantastic reality of heaven, where he sought a superman.” He adds, “The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.”
A Mad Quest
Marx doesn’t simply insist there is no God, but that man’s fight against the world is one also against the church, and therefore this persecution has a “spiritual aroma.” In the struggle to kill the evidence and history of God, modern man is simply engaged in the same fool’s errand that probably drove Nietzsche off his rocker, as well – the task of reevaluating all morals in the wake of the death of God.
Obviously, it would be highly uncomfortable for the average modern social liberal to understand that leftism is—at best—a hack of biblical and pagan religious ideas. But, it would certainly go a long way in explaining why modern liberalism inherently fails, despite ten-thousand attempts. And the religiously inspired intransigence, ie “faith” of its adherents, would help explain a few things. Specifically it would help answer why these zealots won’t ever admit their ideas are wrong, that their projects are illogical and ill-founded, or that their desire to create a paradise on earth is bound to badly crash and burn. Is it not transparently because this neo-liberalism is a badly deformed Christian cult of some unusual strain, which the proponents then zealously defend like a mother bear protecting a wounded cub?!!
Yet, once these fables are put aside, a new Western politics can be crafted from proven common sense methods and tried strategies that will supplant the always-destined-to-fail faux religion of socialist Marxism, aka new liberalism. Then we can really build an equitable society, and give all persons the opportunity to thrive, instead of merely piously driving our economy and political system off a cliff in the name of justice, equality and enlightenment!