America after the Holy War, part 8
by Revilo P. Oliver
THE DILEMMA [of mid-20th century racial-nationalists and anti-Communists] was not merely one of adroitly enlisting the support [of rational, scientifically minded men] that should have been sought before 1939 while conciliating a comparatively large body of potential [Christian] allies by more or less hypocritically catering to their ignorance and superstitions. The function of Christianity in our society cannot be considered apart from the very delicate and intricate problem of the relation between religion and civilization — a problem that admits of several hypotheses but no indubitable solution. Much of the support of Christianity comes from educated men, including a few honest clergymen, who do not believe any of the tales in the Christians’ storybook and are unimpressed by the sophistries of clever theologians, but are convinced by one or more of three highly relevant considerations, viz:
(1) Religion doubtless had its origin in primitive man’s sense of utter helplessness before the fearful powers of a Nature he could not understand — primus in orbe deos fecit timor — but in some prehistoric time the gods, who were imagined to be the cause of storms, floods, drought, pestilence, and similar phenomena, were enlisted to support the basic morality on which all organized societies must depend.
Although we must suppose a gradual development as tribes grew larger, so that each individual was no longer under the eyes of all the others, and the invisible deities, who may have been first invoked to sanction oaths, were increasingly charged with enforcing moral obligations, there is essential truth in the well-known explanation of religion by Critias (Plato’s uncle): That since laws can always be secretly evaded by men who can conceal either their crime or their responsibility for it, gods were invented, deathless beings who, themselves unseen, observed, by psychic faculties that do not depend on sight or hearing, all the acts of man, including the most covert and stealthy, and overheard not only every utterance but even unspoken thoughts. This ingenious and, indeed, noble device for policing society, which was invoked as early as the eighth century BC in the lofty morality of Hesiod, had only the defect that men soon learned by experience that the supposedly omniscient gods failed to punish the transgressions they observed, and this was remedied by alleging that men had souls that survived death, and that while sinners might flourish in this life, the gods would inflict condign punishment on them in a hereafter.
The social efficacy of supernatural terrors is uncertain. Everyone knows that no religion, however ingenious and no matter how unanimously it was accepted without question by a given population, has ever prevented a fairly high incidence of crime, but one can always plausibly conjecture that without the fear of superhuman sanctions the incidence would have been much greater, and even so great that the state would explode in anarchy. Lord Devlin, in an address to the British Psycho-Analytical Society in 1965, after considering the statistical chances that the perpetrator of an ordinary crime would escape detection, decided that if half of a population were deterred from crime only by a calculation of the likelihood that violators of the laws would be arrested and punished, civilized society would become impossible. He concluded pessimistically that “there is not a discernible sign of anything that is capable of replacing Christianity in the mind of the populace as the provider of the necessary moral force,” leaving it to be inferred that with the waning of the religion and the gradual dissipation of the residue that it has left in society, Britain and presumably the whole of the Western world is moving toward an ineluctable doom.
The crucial question is whether in large nations (as distinct from aristocracies and comparable small groups) the requisite moral force can be provided without invoking supernatural sanctions.
The one good instance, unfortunately subject to qualifications that render it less than conclusive, is provided by Soviet Russia, where, after the orgy of bestiality that accompanied the Jewish Revolution, society was organized on the basis of the Marxist cult, which expressly denies the existence of gods. Although reliable statistics are wanting, it seems likely that the incidence of crime under Stalin was no greater than it had been under Nicholas II — and certainly the society did not end in anarchy, as many observers in the Western world confidently predicted. It is not impossible — though certainly not demonstrable — that an active faith in our race and the obviously urgent need for racial solidarity against our enemies might provide in Western nations the moral force of which Lord Devlin despaired.
There is a factor more fundamental than prevention of the crimes that are normally forbidden by domestic laws. Even the earliest tribes of our race must have been aware of the potential conflict between an intelligent individualism and the society’s absolute need to inspire in its members a willingness to subordinate personal advantage to the good of the whole, and especially to inspire its young men to risk their lives, and often die, on its behalf.
Dante, in what should be regarded as one of the great Christian gospels, saw at the gates of Hell the angels who had been loyal neither to God nor to Satan, but only to themselves. Milton, in another of the great gospels, portrays Satan as a true individualist whose pride and ambition make him destroy with civil war the celestial society to which he owes allegiance — and every reader of the epic is aware that even the poet’s intent and genius could not prevent that individualism from so appealing to the innate sentiments of our race that Satan is, in fact, the hero of Paradise Lost. The two poets have given us magnificent symbols of the social dilemma, most acute, no doubt, among Aryans, of nations that must encourage individual excellence and superiority and yet prevent man’s natural philautia from weakening, and an unbridled egotism from destroying, the society and culture that, in a real sense, created the individuals.
The foregoing considerations led the great minds of our race, almost without exception, to regard religion as an indispensable instrument of government. Plato devoted himself to devising, most explicitly in his Nomoi, a political system that preserved the power of religion, which his uncle’s candid anthropology had so deeply compromised. Aristotle thought gods requisite to induce in the majority an adherence to the standards of civilized life. Every reader of Cicero’s De natura deorum has seen how its author was torn between the rationalism of the Academics and Stoicism, which preserved, at least partially, the divine sanctions that encouraged men to serve their society rather than themselves. Machiavelli insisted that the first duty of a ruler or other government was to maintain the established religion. And the principle was bluntly expressed in Cardinal Dubois’ famous dictum that God is a bogeyman that must be brandished to scare the masses into a semblance of civilized behavior.
The Cardinal’s maxim was taken to heart by many thinkers who were too discreet to repeat it, and undoubtedly played a large part in the revival of Christianity in the nineteenth century as civilized men recoiled from the horrors and savagery of the French Revolution.
The problem has become particularly acute in our own time, when disbelief in myths and the concomitant removal of praeternatural sanctions can plausibly be regarded as the prime cause of the implacably egotistic and utterly ruthless mentality that is evinced by Aryans who hold high positions in Western governments and “education” — a mentality brilliantly depicted in C.S. Lewis’s novel, That Hideous Strength. Although Lewis wrote to frighten us into believing the unbelievable, he has the merit of having quite accurately described the thinking of many minds that are sufficiently shrewd, for example, to pierce the ungrammatical verbiage and platitudinous jargon with which John Dewey enveloped his Pragmatism, and to draw from the absconse substance of his doctrine the logical and congenial conclusion that true sanity is found only in the mentality that society regards as criminal. (It is understood, of course, that only very stupid wights take the risk of violence, embezzlement, and other activities that might result in inconvenience; intelligent men rise above the laws by professing noble purposes and gaining control of the government that administers and corrupts the laws, which, even then, it is best to flout by hiring ordinary thugs to do the dirty work.) Dewey, needless to say, was only one of the exponents of Pragmatic mentality, which appears under other names, but always draped in idealistic fustian, lest the naked Death’s Head affright the vulgar.
A society such as ours, quite understandably, shudders when it sees the autocratic rulers of the Soviet quite coolly murder millions of human beings to facilitate an agrarian reform or carry out a project in “social engineering,” and our contemporaries can avoid panic only by resolutely telling themselves that their own rulers are more scrupulous — by steadfastly refusing to believe, for example, that as early as 1909 the trustees of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, while spraying the populace with idealistic hokum about the beauties of “world peace,” were imprudently recording in their own minutes their deliberations about the most efficient way to precipitate a major war that would involve the United States and kill enough American boobs, and produce sufficiently great economic stresses and social dislocations, to facilitate the destruction of American society and the assembly of the debris into a form more conducive to their own and their principals’ profit and satisfaction.
Americans refuse to see the conclusive evidence concerning the ways in which, and the purposes for which, their wars since 1909 were contrived, and they avert their eyes from the indications that bureaus of their “own” government deliberately work to increase deaths from various diseases to obtain total control over the medical profession. This blocking of their minds is prudent, for they would run mad in screaming insanity if they realized that even their presumably Aryan governors and the chiefs of their ever-multiplying bureaucracies regard them as swine, whom it is only reasonable to butcher, whenever expedient, to obtain more power, to have fun, or to win bakhshish from the enemies of their nation and race. But while the people are determined to regard their plight as unthinkable, a vague suspicion of the logical behavior of keen intellects that are unfettered by any loyalty or compunction suffices to make them passionately desiderate a lost religion as a guarantee of their terrestrial salvation.
(2) There is undeniably a strain of religiosity in our nature that is not necessarily atavistic. It is possible, indeed, that taking our race as a whole, the capacity for objective thought, like the ability, not necessarily the same, to make a high score on intelligence tests, appears only in a small fraction of our people. If the problem is biological, there is no more to be said. If it is not, the problem remains psychologically far too complex for discussion here, where we can note only a few relevant considerations.
We are equipped with strong imaginations and an emotional need to use them to transcend the limitations of reality. Prudent men satisfy this need with poetry, fiction, music, and fantasy, while vigilantly guarding their powers of reason against insidious subversion by delectable sentiments. Children, however, only slowly and sometimes painfully learn to distinguish between imagination and observation. The wildest fairy tales, including the commonly practiced hoax about Santa Claus, seem real to them, and are supplemented by illusions produced by their own imaginations.
As is well known, children, especially if they, for any one of various reasons, feel lonely, give themselves imaginary companions in whose reality they firmly believe, often to a fairly advanced age.
So vivid does the consoling illusion appear to them that the efforts of adults to dissipate it, including ridicuIe and punishment, merely teach the child not to express a belief that it inwardly retains, while it continues to commune in secret with its unseen companion, who is usually a child of its own age and sex, but sometimes an adult patron or even a supernatural being. Now of all the imaginary beings that a child’s fancy may body forth to him, the image of a god, by definition invisible, powerful, and having a personal interest in him, may be the most vivid and enduring, especially if the child grows up among adults who, far from dissuading him, assure him of its reality; and the faith thus imprinted on the mind may persist into adult life and so constantly renew itself imaginatively as to make the consciousness automatically exclude evidence that impugns the comforting, long-cherished, and now habitual illusion.
Emotional fixations on divine friends or patrons are, of course, bolstered by other factors. All human beings naturally share the fear of death that is common to all mammals, and the higher races have imaginations that can portray paradises in which their own ghosts could enjoy forever the satisfactions they were denied on Earth. To dispense with an assurance of a blissful immortality or, at least, with a precariously cherished hope of it, requires a very high degree of spiritual fortitude. There is a very real basis for the exclamation of the amazed Moslem pilot in one of Conrad’s novels, “Oh, the strength of unbelievers!” A prospect or chance of surviving death and enjoying a felicity beyond the attainment of mortals is not lightly rejected by any man.
Imagined intimacy with supernatural beings, furthermore, provides compensation for the frustrations and disappointments that are inevitable in life, and are felt with particular distress by women, who, for physiological as well as social reasons, desire a tender affection they may fail to find in marriage and which their romantic fantasies in adolescence may have led them to expect beyond human possibility. The strength and prevalence of religiosity among women is notorious, and is reflected in the common French axiom that men talk with men, while women talk with Jesus or the Virgin. Some historians attribute the ascendency of Christianity over the Mithraic and other Oriental cults in the decaying Roman Empire to the fact that virtually all of the Christian sects catered especially to women, while other religions either excluded females, as did the cult of Mithras, or relegated them to a very minor position; and some of our contemporaries believe that without women and their influence over males, the Christian churches would completely collapse. However that may be, the force of this factor should not be dismissed with a smile.
A few years ago, I was a guest in a relatively opulent household, in which dinner was always served by a manservant with the help of a maid. One evening, when ten or so of the family’s friends, all presumably of the same social status, had come in, a rational discussion of immediately practical economic and political problems, which must have been of urgent concern to most of the individuals present, was interrupted by one of the women, who declaimed a few words about a deity who “makes folly of the wisdom of this world” ending with the assertion, “And a little child shall lead them.” This nonsense did not suggest the logical step of sending one of the servants next door to borrow a leader from the nursery there, but other women joined in with affirmations that “we must have Faith” and the like, while the other guests, including at least two intelligent women, politely refrained from comment. The evening ended in a babble of mysticism, and while it is true that on the following morning everyone seemed to have become sane again, the mere possibility of such emotional orgies in the very circles in which one would least expect them is a fact of the gravest import.
It is entirely possible that religion is an emotional necessity for a large part of our race, and one could even argue that in our time it has become more necessary than ever before. The loss of the old illusion that we are living in a cozy little world that has been thoughtfully provided with a sun and moon just above the clouds, and our discovery of the appalling size and implacable mechanisms of the Universe in which we are merely the ephemeral consequences of a chemical reaction produced by a fantastically improbable coincidence, has made the human condition one that few men have the courage to contemplate for even a moment. It is probably true that, as James Branch Cabell once remarked, “Five minutes of clear vision of man’s plight in the Universe would suffice to set the most philosophical gibbering.”
(3) There is the further consideration, related to, but not identical with, the foregoing, that a rational society may have to be based on irrationality. James Bumham, who has by far the keenest mind ever associated with National Review and certainly one of the best in our time, in The Machiavellians (New York, 1943) has very cogently argued that the very nature of human society requires a mythology, a set of illusions, that the masses accept and believe, since they are, for many reasons, incapable of objective observation and logical reasoning. All societies are necessarily ruled by an elite of some kind (even, as with us, by a stupid and purblind elite, faute de mieux), and the only problem is that of developing and maintaining a competent elite that will govern intelligently, primarily in its own interest, of course, but secondarily for the benefit of the masses, the indispensable basis of its own power. This the elite must do by intelligently calculated deception, so we reach the paradox that “The political life of the masses and the cohesion of society demand the acceptance of myths. A scientific [= rational] attitude toward society does not permit belief in the truth of the myths. But the leaders must profess, indeed foster, belief in the myths, or the fabric of society will crack and they be overthrown. In short, the leaders, if they themselves are scientific, must lie.”
Now, if myths are the sine qua non of civilization, are there any myths more consoling and beneficial than those of a religion that fosters belief in gods? Or, for that matter, are there myths more suited to a rational government?
If a religion of the supematural is desirable, it would be idle to consider as relevant to our present situation religions other than the traditional Western Christianity. Anyone can invent a socially efficient religion, but it can be propagated only by a prophet, a person who has the extraordinary force of character that we call charisma, in addition to a most unusual combination of real or cunningly feigned fanaticism, shrewdness, and showmanship; if the sect is to be more than an ephemeral sensation, the prophet must have competent assistants and successors; and the sect must acquire a long tradition before it can become a generally accepted religion.
The non-Christian sects that have a considerable following today in the United States are promotions by clever evangelists whose only interest is in milking the suckers; and all are likely to disappear after a brief vogue among the lightheaded, and are, while they exist, socially disintegrating forces. It is vain to speculate about possible religions that might be acceptable to our race in a distant future, if our race survives.
It is futile to deplore the triumph of Christianity in the mongrelized Roman Empire and its consequent adoption by our barbarous ancestors, and to dream of reversing the process is sheer romanticism. Gods that have been overthrown are dead; some poet, indeed, should elaborate the Tuat of the earliest Egyptian cosmology into a Heaven for all dead gods, in which they can enjoy the immortality that men could not give them. Today, worship of Zeus or Odin or the Sun can never be more than a histrionic gesture.
It is otiose to regret that the Christian sect that made a deal with the despotic government of the once-Roman Empire and was thus able to exterminate all the others was a sect that brought with it the most pernicious of all Jewish hoaxes, the Self-chosen People’s insolent claim to be God’s Race. Erasmus, the most erudite and perspicacious Christian of his time, regretted that the Church had burdened itself with the embarrassing baggage of the Old Testament, but he realized that it was too late to correct the blunder. It is now much later.
It is impossible in the twentieth century to restore a variety of Christianity that was suppressed in the fifth. The late Dr. David Hamblen, seeking to develop a form of Christianity that would be more resistant to the slightly disguised Communism that is peddled as the “Social Gospel” by cynical clergymen, tried to revive Marcionism, one of the earliest and largest Christian sects and one that the Catholics found very difficult to extirpate, but his very able efforts were fruitless, and he had to reach the conclusion that Christianity as such could not be salvaged and was therefore a fatal weakness in our society.
A much less reasonable reformation is being attempted by the sects that are called “British Israel” and claim that the Anglo-Saxons or Aryans generally are the real Israelites of the Old Testament, whom the Jews helped the Assyrians conquer, and that these Israelites, after being defeated, migrated to England or to northern Europe under the protection of Yahweh. While historical absurdity seems not to deter the credulous from believing anything that stimulates their glands, it seems most unlikely that these sects can capture a majority of contemporary Christians. The foregoing considerations indicate that the only feasible choice today is between the traditional Christianity of the West and no religion at all. For persons interested in persuading our race not to commit suicide, the question is whether the religion is, on the whole, a help or a hindrance in that endeavor.
In 1955, the answer to that question seemed obvious to anyone who proposed to make what contribution he could to the American cause. It was only prudent to evince a courteous regard for the feelings of persons who were emotionally addicted to the religion, and a decent respect for the opinions of those who regarded it, perhaps correctly, as socially indispensable — and this could be done without hypocrisy by simply refraining from raising a divisive issue. There was no need to simulate or dissemble — only to forbear obtruding a complex of historical facts of which many individuals had never heard, had no wish to hear, and could not hear without feeling distress and perhaps a natural reaction of defensive anger. One had only to emulate the tact of the Christians themselves, who, given the multiplicity of sects that violently disagreed about almost every article of dogma and the prevalence of incredulity, had learned to exclude their own religious opinion and doctrinal pronouncements from polite society and from politics. One thereby avoided offense to some of the most estimable and sincerely patriotic men and women in the nation.
In 1955, furthermore, Christianity seemed still to have a very considerable strength as a bulwark against subversion. It was true that the Protestant churches, with the exception of certain “Fundamentalist” and “British Israelite” sects, had fallen almost entirely under the control of clerical shysters and mountebanks who were peddling a “Social Gospel” as a profitable substitute for a religion in which they did not believe. Within many of those sects, however, the masqueraders were encountering vocal protest and an opposition that might become formidable. And there were two large sects that, so far as one could tell, had been almost entirely immune to the infection and seemed to have a social and doctrinal stability that was likely to endure through the foreseeable future.
The Latter-Day Saints, equipped with supplemental gospels, the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham, and an astute hierarchy, were the most solidly cohesive religious organization in the nation, and, despite one understandable concession to persecution and military force in 1890, had remained true to their beliefs. Their church seemed invulnerable to subversion.
Above all, there was the vast edifice of the Roman Catholic Church, seemingly monolithic and immovable, having survived many wars, revolutions, and political mutations, having suppressed many heresies and outlived its numerous schismatics. It had endured for almost sixteen hundred years with an unbroken tradition and monarchic solidarity, and it retained an effective ascendency over the greater part of the Western world. It had recently shown itself impervious to subversion, for early in 1944, as I remember, the Communists had sent into South America large sums of money in gold (doubtless supplied through channels by the world’s beasts of burden, the American taxpayers) to hire agitation for disrupting the Church by making the College of Cardinals similar to our House of Representatives, each country to have a number of Cardinals proportional to its Catholic population — and, so far as one knew, the gold had no more effect than a stone thrown into the ocean. The Catholic Church seemed the most stable, as well as the oldest, of all existing institutions. In 1955, no one foresaw that within a few years this venerable religion would begin, under Jewish pressure, to destroy itself by publicly proclaiming that its supposedly omniscient god, speaking through his infallible deputy on Earth, had for sixteen centuries either lied to his worshippers or ignorantly misrepresented his own affairs.
It seemed, therefore, that the traditional Christianity of the West, which took form during the Middle Ages and had been an integral part of our culture until the twentieth century, retained a considerable social force that could be mobilized against the religion’s bastard offspring, the various cults that may collectively be called “Liberalism.”
(to be continued)
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Source: America’s Decline