BY DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
A confession from the Devil’s Advocate is overdue here. Satan, who loves his Himself so much that he hates humankind, is in fact the slanderous demon, the traditionally disobedient, deceptive, sophisticated “adversary.” Indeed, postmodern neoconservatives call him the (expletive-deleted) Liberal. If the neoconservative believer has not already done so, it might behoove him at this point to set aside the present discussion lest he be perverted and proceed to live a dissolute, decadent, corrupt, liberal life.
On the other hand, if the reader understands that we merely speak of irreligion and atheism, of false religion and gods posing as true religion and deities, what follows shall leave him secure in his faith: For those who have true faith do not fear for it, nor do they need any more of it. Anxious John Calvin knew that. He would have been much happier at Strasbourg, but fate made him suffer the cross at Geneva; he was moved to honestly observe that he was “in danger of being unjust to God’s mercy by laboring with so much anxiety to assert it, as if it were doubtful or obscure.”
We have previously discussed certain simple notions put forward by Carl Schmitt, one of the fathers of the modern neoconservative movement, which we have elsewhere traced from Nazi Germany to the White House, one notion being that the reason for politics is to discover whom your enemies are so that they may be eliminated forthwith, usually by provoking a crisis to be dealt with by extra-legal means. The provocation may be justified by use of pretexts and outright lies. All those who disagree are “not with us” but are “against us,” hence are “traitors” or “terrorists,” wherefore violent, antidemocratic means are necessary to make the world safe for “democracy.” Protestors must be kept several blocks away, if not indefinitely imprisoned in blockhouses at undisclosed locations without benefit of counsel or trial.
Furthermore, we have learned that the neoconservative ‘principles,’ if one may call them principles, must not be the subject of serious discussion. Obvious contradictions are referred to an unseen, unknowable Arbitrator, just as Luther, when questioned about the absurdity of his propositions, referred to “God’s mysteries.” Hence neoconservative principles, derived from the justification of brutality by religious racial prejudice, may be practically deployed today, not only for shocking and awesome, pre-emptive blitzkriegs against select foreign enemies under pretext of bringing their own brand of democracy to the world whether it wants it or not, but also to destroy liberal democracy at home, usually by much less blatant, stealthier means, although, for the most part, neoconservative tactics rely on base motives such as fear and greed.
For instance, neoconservative President Bush has provoked a perceived crisis in the Social Security program, one that he and his neoconservative allies pretend to have the solution for: the partial privatization of Social Security, a move that would require enormous current borrowing under the false and unsound pretext that borrowing more and more today will enable the government to pay its debt tomorrow.
President Bush follows the neoconservative line that liberal government is evil, that its non-military social welfare programs must be dismantled. Tax cuts for the rich, increased military expenditures are used to destroy the surplus. The deficit mounts hence a crisis requiring further cuts is provoked, but the wealthy and their comfortable emulators are not to be bled – they are to be further fed by the lion’s share of government welfare.
We recall in this context the political agenda of President Reagan, who, despite what his adulators say, was in fact selected by frustrated neoconservative leaders for his consummate acting skills. Reagan was their response to the defeat of Barry Goldwater, who had provoked the break from the liberal consensus that had made America so great. Goldwater, we recall, besides advocating that the decision to use tactical nuclear weapons be left up to field commanders, besides saying that North Vietnam should have been nuked to defoliate the country, proposed that Social Security be made “voluntary,” which would allow higher earning young people to opt out, naturally leaving the elderly poor in the lurch. President Bush now relies on the fear and greed and ingratitude of youth, who would at least in part opt out of their duty to fund the benefits “guaranteed” to the workers who made their own prosperity possible.
Neoconservatives of course hate “liberals” because they fear for their private property, particularly their gentlemen’s ranches in God’s Country. Of course everyone wants to be liberated from something or the other, and to that extent is a liberal, perhaps even a “liberal conservative.” But the L-word has become a dirty word yet again. Liberty, meaning power over one’s circumstances, is something we enjoy among a few equals, whose democratic and often dissolute company we enjoy very much, but spreading power too thinly, too democratically among the masses, who are not ready for it, places its concentration in our hands at risk and threatens the mores of society at its roots in the highest power. We have discussed the religious roots of neoconservatism elsewhere: we noticed – despite the occasional protest of some Protestants – the hierarchical structure of orthodox Judeo-Christianity. Judeo-Christianity worships absolute Power; its politics distributes Power from the top down. That is, the “kill” is distributed in a sort of pecking order, from the “head ape” on down—his highest priests would get a share of the best parts, the rising, herb-scented smoke going to the tribal deity.
Now a liberal politic such as that represented by Lyndon Johnson, although feared hence hated by neoconservatives, is not a flat or communistic distribution: every “ape” gets something if not a fair share; any surplus is handed around the communal table. This alone gives us cause to suspect the motives of neoconservatives who despise “Liberals.” Liberalism is not communism, although liberals might allow a communist party in the national polity.
Note that liberals may be theists or deists or atheists or humanists, and so on, while non-spiritual communists are avowedly atheists. Liberals as such are not the worst enemy of neoconservatives. However, as far as they are concerned, liberalism smacks of leaderless anarchism and dictatorial communism, of the possibility of some sort of impossible chaos or totalitarian flatland.
In fact, Marxists believe that the hard-won liberties of the bourgeois “classical” or economic liberals will backfire on them in such a way that an equal share of Liberty realized in material form will eventually be distributed to every good communist. And that is precisely what neoconservatives are afraid of; and we do not blame them, for only a total police state would be necessary of the execution of the distribution. By the way, neoconservatives also fear the immoral consequences which they associate with liberalism; they lose a great deal of sleep over sodomy and adultery, for example, which they invariable scapegoat the (expletive deleted) liberal for.
Carl Schmitt and other authoritarians of the old conservative order were disgusted by the liberal Weimar Republic that tried to govern in the interlude between the Great War and Hitler’s rise to power. Schmitt, a Catholic, borrowed several of his leading notions from the arch-conservative Catholic, Donoso-Cortes. Donoso-Cortes, whom we have quoted at length elsewhere, specifically attacked the ideas put forward by the leading anarchist of his day, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Proudhon was born in the same year (1809) as Donoso Cortes. Proudhon is best known for his atheistic repudiation of the Lords self-declared right to hoard land: “Property is theft.”
Mikhail Bakunin (b. 1814), another leading anarchist of the nineteenth century, knew Proudhon well. Bakunin spoke out against the irrational authoritarian principle, which had been so eloquently espoused by Donoso-Cortes that the pope incorporated it in his argument in the proclamation of papal infallibility. According to the atheists, the unprincipled principle was at bottom absurd, for the highest authority, God, did not exist. Or, if you wish, God was dead, or, at most, is an absurd figment of the human imagination, a narcissistic projection or fiction that, by virtue of the hateful and unjust provocations of its superstitious advocates, had plunged humanity into a miserable history of violent crises and mass murders.
The Church or the State might be “infallible” or pure of form, but what of the fallible persons who fill the offices? The god they rely upon to justify their actions all too often resembles the selfish satan who laid the curse of death on man and kicked him out of paradise. Bakunin compared the Church to a “Heavenly tavern in which people try to forget about their daily grind.” But when they cannot forget, they might head to the back rooms of a worldly tavern for a clandestine meeting with their revolutionary cell. Wherefore Bakunin, a great organizer of secret cells, took the conservative prejudice that what is older is better to task:
“The antiquity and universality of the belief in God have become, contrary to all science and logic, irrefutable proofs of the existence of God…. Indeed, there is nothing more universal, more ancient, than absurdity; it is the truth, on the contrary, that is relatively much younger, always being the result, the product of historical development, and never the starting point…. Hence it follows that the antiquity of an idea, far from proving anything in favor of it, should on the contrary raise our suspicions.”
The essence of religion, said Bakunin, “is the feeling of the absolute dependence of the ephemeral individual upon eternal and all-powerful Nature.” Prominent Christian theologians have said the fundamental feeling of religion is the feeling of awe. We might add that our reaction to this feeling of dependence, on the awesome power of Nature over us, is to raise ourselves up and to eventually claim that it is the world which is ephemeral, and that our immortal individual souls and their projected essence, God, are all-powerful over Nature.
Bakunin noted that wild animals live in a constant state of shyness or fear, and that the human equivalent to such fear might be called the “dread of God.”
Man, unlike animals, has the power of reflection, with which he creates an ideal world, a world of ideas. As he develops the notion of his personal power to move himself and other things, and their corresponding power to move him, he imagines that all things likewise personally motivate and are motivated. Not understanding the intermediate instruments between a certain cause and its effect, he resorts to sorcery and magic, thereby attempting to defend himself psychologically. Primitive fetish-religion and related idol-religion, perceived to be obsolete, eventually gives way to the creative abstraction of imagined gods from the things they were thought to have resided in; perhaps to the grand gods who move the planets, and, eventually, to the one-god or One, the Unity who moves the Universe. Wherefore the pure idea of unity under one highest god is gradually abstracted from the mental reflections of our experience of Nature.
“God is then the absolute abstraction,” says Bakunin, “the product of human thought itself, which, like the power of abstraction, has passed beyond all the known beings, all the existing worlds, and, having divested itself by this act from all real content, having arrived at nothing else but the absolute world, it poses before itself, without, however, recognizing itself in the sublime nudity, as the One and Only Supreme Being.”
Bakunin might had better named the sublime nudity “Nothing.” If the god of unity in which we have were Nothing, that non-denominational Nil might be more appealing to us than the character of which Bakunin complains:
“The character of the divinity begins to take on some outline: it is egotistical and vain… it cruelly persecutes and punishes…. Did there ever exist in the world a being more atrociously jealous, vain, and egotistical than the Jewish Jehovah… God, the Father of the Christians?”
Bakunin, like the neoconservatives who self-righteously hate Bakunin and others like him, apparently did not recognize the fact that the Jewish god, whether real or fictional, becomes much kinder and loving as he matures. Still, we speculate that if only faith in Nothing would have been good enough, perhaps the earth would not have been watered by so much human blood over the centuries. Were fundamental Buddhists of the atheistic Hinayana school less warlike than Jews and Christians? Were they wealthier or more impoverished? But never mind, for Nothing reminds too many busy and anxious people of what they dread the most, Death, and they are accordingly terrified and proceed to organize evil concepts and structures to deny it by exercising their power to kill. Indeed, they may think they need to be terrified.
“Even little chicks do not gather under the wings of their mothers unless they are troubled and afraid….. If we did not know we are in danger, we would behave like straying animals.” Calvin
Calvin was horrified by the ‘abyss’ of ‘nothingness, meaninglessness. For him dread was an especially good thing when recorded in scripture: “Scripture inspires terror because it is useful to be known, for our worldly security needs sharp stimulants, but which we may be driven to fear the Lord.” At the same time, scripture fences terror in and provides one with some security against it. With what shall we fill empty space? Life? And then, what should we do? Calvin states, “We take nothing from the womb but pure filth…. All human works… are nothing but filth and defilement.”
Why not then have faith in Nothing and leave it at that?
According to Bakunin, religion fills the emptiness with fallible human qualities. Man the creator reverses himself and become the created. Man bows down to his created object:
“Thus the respective roles of man and God underwent a change: the Thing created became the presumed and true creator, and man took his place among other miserable creatures.”
This created emptiness, called God, is, in effect, a “robber” of man’s goodness, leaving him with original sin. “God is a robber…. He is naked and null like nothingness itself. And as he fills and enriches himself with all the realities of the existing world… he appears to the religious fantasy as its Lord and Master…. Heaven… is nothing but a crooked mirror which sends back to the believing man his own image, in a reversed and swollen form.”
In other words, Man makes the one-god in his own egoistic image, and that god steals man’s love and justice. The more he loves that god, the less he loves that sinning worm and bag of filth called man. The more he depends on God’s justice, the less just he shall be.
“Man’s love… transmuted into divine love and religious charity, forthwith becomes the scourge of humanity. All the bloodshed in the name of religion from the beginning of history, and the millions of human victims immolated for the great glory of God, bear witness to it…. Justice itself, the future mother of equality, once carried over by religious fantasy into celestial regions and transformed into divine justice, immediately comes back to the earth in the theological form of divine grace, and always and everywhere siding with the strongest, it sows among men violence, privileges, monopolies, and all the monstrous inequalities consecrated by historic rights.”
Whereas Donoso-Cortes the Catholic would violently keep the current social and political order pending the spiritual reform of human beings from the top down, Bakunin the atheistic anarchist would violently destroy the social classes and political and religious structures, then perchance build a federation of cooperative producers from the bottom up—the coordinators at the top would have a few specifically defined functions.
“The passion for destruction is a creative passion,” quoth Bakunin. After the “hurricane” of terrorism destroys the causes of terrorism—the ruling elite—Socialism will fully express, in all its equality, human goodness. The liberals will of course perish in the end, for their revolution was merely bourgeois, a revolution of greedy merchants, or so he thinks.
Bakunin, as we see, threw out the baby with the dirty bath water. If god is a figment of the imagination, perhaps a better figment is called for. Human beings, to be human, seem to need their gods or ideals, including a universal god or ideal for their unity.
Schmitt recognized that political ideologies are virtual religions. An honest assessment of the ideals of the devoted Marxist-Leninists demonstrates that they stood on high moral ground, much higher in its humane ends than the liberal tycoons of the day. As a consequence, we are a lot better off today with our “welfare capitalism.”
However that might be, might is not right, whether applied from the left or the right. Fortunately for humankind, the god of liberalism, who is not only interested in the fair distribution of the means of survival but also in civil rights for everyone, is very much alive. But even “he” must not be trusted, for ideologies are structures of evil erected on base motives bound to make a hypocrite of everyone in the final analysis.