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Secular political fanatics

Dr. Douglas Young, political science professor emeritus at University of North Georgia-Gainesville, has some interesting views about political fanatics: secular edition.

There are loads of obsessives today: folks fixated on their phone, TV, sports, race, sex, etc. But the only ones labelled “fanatics” by secular media are religious. And, Lord knows, they are among the last people with whom I’d ever want to get stuck in an elevator. As Deepak Chopra said, “God gave man the truth. Then the Devil came in and said, “Hey, let’s organize it and call it ‘religion’.” A bumper sticker is more blunt: “Dear Lord, save me from your followers.”

Yet there are secular/worldly fanatics too. Because they lack a religious centre, many have a spiritual/emotional hole crying to be filled. So as traditional religion declines, we see a marked rise in political activism, especially save-the-world groups concerning “climate change”, “equity”, and “social justice”.

For many, their new religion is politics, their faith is their political ideology, and their church is their political party. Like religious zealots, they fervently believe they have a monopoly on truth and are hell-bent to spread their convictions, whatever the consequences.

But history shows secular political fanatics do far more harm since they lack a Ten Commandments, Golden Rule, or fear of a judgmental God to restrain them. The godless want to create a heaven too – but right here today since they think this is all there is. So, they have a peculiarly uncompromising urgency to remake society NOW.

And what a horrific toll many political true believers have wrought. With no religious humility to reign them in, they have created the first totalitarian dictatorships in which the party-state (national secular church) prescribes every aspect of citizens’ lives. Inspired by the French Revolution’s Jacobins who sought to create “a republic of virtue”, 20th century communists fought to forge a new “revolutionary man”. So Marxists in Russia, Eastern Europe, North Korea, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Cuba criminalized all religious, political, social, and even private personal conduct deemed “ideologically incorrect”. A Russian Bolshevik once asked dictator Joseph Stalin to execute a group because “They have no [communist] faith”. The stridently secular Nazi Adolf Hitler declared, “Anyone who interprets National Socialism merely as a political movement knows almost nothing about it. It is more than religion; it is the determination to create a new man.”

The death toll alone from such anti-religious regimes is light years worse than that of all religious wars and tyrannies combined – and in such a terribly brief span of time. Indeed, tolerance and forgiveness can be mortal sins to atheist political puritans.

Since the 1980s, as America has become ever more secular, there has been an explosion in the number of college campuses with draconian “hate speech” codes (and most of my university students said they could never even discuss any controversial issue in high school), state-mandated anti-smoking bans on even private property, confiscatory taxes (the Bible says tithing – just 10 percent – is enough), gun control laws, ever more censorship on social media, and state diktats against even church attendance during the Covid panic. Many secular do-gooders want to further regulate and tax fatty foods and soda, as well as dictate where we can set our thermostat.

Like religious meddlers, secular idealists piously protest that all their efforts are simply to help everyone from harming himself. But they seek to use the state to impose their world view far more than America’s religious believers. “Be safe”, “public health”, and “protecting the environment” have become their mantras.

C.S. Lewis described such neurotic reformers well: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

There’s also an intellectual smugness among a great many seculars lacking in most believers: “Science proves it, I believe it, and that settles it”. For example, many Darwinists resemble theocrats in their ferocious opposition to any alternative theories to evolution even being mentioned in government schools. They are blind to their own religious bigotry.

Lots of political activists resemble miserable rageaholics endlessly trying to control others’ speech and behaviour. The Orwellian irony is that they are typically the very “woke”, politically correct “multi-culturalists” most loudly preaching “diversity” and “tolerance” while condemning “hate”. They desperately need to build a life of their own because no politician, party, or government can ever fulfil us. As the Persian mystic Rumi observed, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself”. Only you can find the keys to unlock your own potential.

Most believers don’t get remotely as hung up on politics since their emotional and social outlets are family and church or synagogue. They’re far more concerned with personal salvation and morality while letting God take care of the rest. But so many seculars are bent on saving the world when, like everyone, they really need to solve their own problems which would truly create a more just society. And we could all practice a lot more humility and tolerance.

Note: we last heard from Douglas in 2020.

22 comments to Secular political fanatics

  • Steven R

    I’m not sure how much of the “politics have killed more than all the religious types combined” argument is correct. It might be more accurate to say bureaucracies killed more people in the 20th century. Certainly malice on the part of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao did their part, but they didn’t need armies to show up to hack and slash their way through towns to rack up the body counts when they could simply say “we’re collectivizing your farms” or “kill the birds that eat the seeds” or “here’s a new, more efficient way to farm” and famine does the rest. Regardless of whether or not the intent was to deliberately starve a population to death or it was with good intentions but horribly managed or just done out of ignorance of the systems at play, all those programs and pogroms and the like had a fair bit of bureaucracy at play.

    At the end of the day, the two ways to bring a population to heel are to send an army or send guys with rulebooks. Europeans and the Chinese are both peoples with long histories of powerful bureaucracies and the power of nameless and faceless “do-gooders” is not to be underestimated.

  • lucklucky

    There are 3 ways to explain the world in general: Religion, Politics, Science. Those who believe in only one are certified fanatics.

    Science is too complicated, arid and since Religion is mostly dead in Western Civilisation, Politics turned itself into a belief system instead of a thinking one. That makes it the Last Religion and the current official Religion of Western Civilization.

    I usually say that Politics is the only Religion with enough fanaticism to claim to be able to control Climate.

    Note that this belief in Politics is not only restricted to explicit Totalitarian ideologies. “Moderate” newspapers write mostly Politics. For them too a the facto Religion that can fix all world and people hills making Totalitarianism inevitable.

  • lucklucky

    I usually say that Politics is the only Religion with enough fanaticism to claim to be able to control Climate.

    Correction: I usually say that Western Politics is the only Religion with enough fanaticism to claim to be able to control Climate

  • Steven R.,
    The thing is, all bureaucracies are political animals even if the politics involved lies in self-preservation and expansion. So I would argue that to say politics has killed more than all the religious types combined is correct. ^_^

  • Mike Marsh

    I’m reminded of the saying “being so open minded that your brains fall out”.
    Religion is wrong. Get used to it.

  • Mark

    Religious humility?

  • In the ‘politics’ section of the bookshop, you may find works on Churchill and works on Hitler. In the ‘religion’ section of the bookshop, you may find the bible and the koran. But Churchill and Hitler had very important differences, though both can be called politicians and even warlords, and the religion of Christ, who never killed anyone, differs from that of Mohammed, who killed directly, and by ordering it, and by telling calculated lies to set two enemies at each others’ throats, in order to enhance his power, to punish dancing girls who’d dared to laugh at him, and etc..

    For example, in areas where one religion was dominant, slavery became serfdom and eventually vanished entirely; speech too became more free. Where the other ruled unhindered, that didn’t happen. (Under the 20th-century secular ideologies, free speech vanished and slavery reappeared.)

    The OP makes valid points, and I quite see that trying to replace the generic ‘religion’ with caveats or clarifications would make a long post yet longer and distract from the main point, so no need to dwell on this (also some of the points on religion apply generally to a degree) – but no harm if readers bear in mind that ‘religion’, like ‘politics’ can be an unhelpfully vague term.

  • Alex

    The state religion of the United Kingdom is the National Health Service.

  • lucklucky

    No, the state religion in UK is Politics. NHS is just one of the means and consequences.

  • The NHS is merely one of the small gods.

  • Mark

    The US constitution explicitly separates church and state.

    The creatures outside looked from church to state, and state to church, and from church to state again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

    (not that we’re really any better over here)

    Religion and politics separate? Maybe in some alternate universe, but not this one alas.

  • bobby b

    “The US constitution explicitly separates church and state.”

    The 1st Amendment did stop the state from interfering with the churches, but the churches are still free to interfere with the state.

  • Alex

    No, the state religion in UK is Politics.

    There’s a significant minority that don’t ever vote. Even in 2019 with one of the more polarised and energised elections in recent years, fewer people voted than in the previous one in 2015.

    If a political party even hinted at abolishing the NHS during a GE the turnout would be incredible, and that party would lose probably every seat.

    Across the political divide people almost universally love the NHS. Only a tiny minority are sceptical about it. So, no, I really do think it is the NHS that has become the secular religion in the country at large.

  • Snorri Godhi

    The 1st Amendment did stop the state from interfering with the churches, but the churches are still free to interfere with the state.

    Basically, this is true (and in my opinion, on the balance a good thing, since the churches constitute alternative power centers).

    However, the 1st Amendment, taken literally, stops Congress from interfering with the churches.
    The executive and judiciary are prevented from interfering with the churches only by being bound to follow the rule of law.

    But i defer to bobby in matters of American law.

  • Fred Z

    Human beings are stupid, drunken, fanatic, violent, sex crazed, hyper-kinetic, gibbering monkeys, rarely capable of reason, but always prone to rationalizing.

    Are there any serious objections to that statement of fact?

  • Paul Marks

    The most famous Anglican theologian was Richard Hooker – he had a very great influence well outside theology, for example on the philosophy and politics of Ralph Cudworth (the great enemy of Thomas Hobbes) and John Locke.

    One of the central points of Richard Hooker was that religion should be a “three legged stool” – the three legs being, scripture (the idea that one can have religion without scripture was mocked by Edmund Burke in his “Vindication of Natural Society” – which the late Murray Rothbard mistakenly thought was a literal defence of political anarchy, when it was not a vindication and was not really about politics at all – it was an attack on the idea of “natural religion”), but the other two stools being tradition and reason.

    Reason being one’s own efforts to use logical principles and reasoning – and tradition being the efforts of many generations of people to do that (as any one person may make great errors).

    One can argue about scripture – but people of good will agree about TRADITION and REASON.

    Abandoning rational principles and logical reasoning is the road to madness (to insanity)_- but so is thinking that one is infallible, that no one before one’s self had any thoughts worth considering.

    I often go on about how modern “Woke” doctrine is Frankfurt School Marxism – and, in terms of its founders (such as Herbert Marcuse) so it is. However, for the average activist it is indeed more of a religion.

    But it is a religion that rejects all tradition – it assumes that every generation before the 1960s knew nothing and was utterly evil, that traditional society is to be rejected root-and-branch.

    And it is a religion that, by rejecting all tradition, ALSO rejects reason (a central point for Richard Hooker) – that ends up just dogmatically stating certain doctrines and PUNISHING (rather than reasoning with) dissenters.

    The “Woke” do not support free discussion – on the contrary they wish to PUNISH anyone (alive or dead) who disagrees with their doctrines on any point.

    That is why it is fair to call their religion (their faith) a CULT.

    Edmund Burke understood when religion becomes a cult, and when a religion becomes a secular political movement of unreasoning fanatics – who may worship “reason” but really utterly reject reason.

    The Jacobins (and others – such as the “Society of Equals”) of the French Revolution were a case in point – and these children of Rousseau (now also children of Karl Marx) are what we face today.

  • lucklucky

    As i posted above the issue is much more vast than the woke neo-marxists. Politics is now by much of society as the tool that will bring us the salvation.

  • JohnB

    I have come to the awareness that religion can be, indeed, a destructive force.

    In the practice of religions I see people searching for the eternal, trying to reach the truth, God.

    I do believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and it seems fairly clear to me that He did not come to give us religion.
    In fact He seems to have had rather harsh words for religion and its practitioners.

    The basis of a belief in the Lord Jesus is that He is God reaching out to mankind, in mercy.
    It’s not what I do to reach Him that is significant, it is what I allow Him to do in my life.

    He did not come to force anyone to believe in Him. In fact He clearly indicates that we have freedom to choose.
    However, without Him it is fairly evident we are on that “highway to hell”.
    He did not come to force us into anything.

    I believe in a creator because it is fairly evident that, in the natural world, no structure can occur spontaneously in randomness.
    Evolution can work fine once some structure, difference, has been established.
    How did the initial difference (positive/negative etc) become established?

  • NickM

    Whilst the OP makes some very valid points I must object to the use of “secular” as a slur. I think a secular state is the only way to go. The alternative is a theocracy. The USA is secular but much more church-going than Europe. Is that not enough? For sure religion is on the decline in the USA (and almost everywhere – why d’ya think the Islamists have such a bee in their collective ghutra?) but secular is not the same as irreligious.

  • NickM

    Evolution isn’t random. The assorted mutations might be but the selection process is far from random. It’s “Hunger Games” on steroids. And even then… are the mutations entirely random? Is it possible that in much the same way the pentadactyl limb evolved evolution could evolve to favour groups of organisms that could evolve more quickly to cope with changing circs?

  • JohnB

    NickM – I didn’t say evolution is random. Quite the opposite, if anything. It is the result of events/conditions existing that lead to further events. Order.

    I did say, in the natural world, no events or conditions, nothing, can develop from pure randomness because there would be nothing there from which it could develop.

    Everything we know or think about relies on structure. The pebbles rolling down a stream, the garbage blowing randomly in the wind, are responding to forces and substance (water, air) which have form and substance, ie, order

    Pure randomness is without form.

  • Tim

    I’m not sure how much of the “politics have killed more than all the religious types combined” argument is correct.

    Have a look Steven:


    The biggest mass-murderers of the 20th century seem to be of the secular idealogical bent not religious per-see.

    Power kills: