All these ideologies are secular, undermining some aspect of Judaeo-Christian belief or ethics. But here's the strange thing: they all display characteristics not just of Christian religious belief — a body of doctrine, a belief that their story is the sole pathway to virtue, an instinct to evangelise — they also share a feature common to the religious fanaticism of previous centuries (and past and present Islam): millenarianism.
Millenarianism is a religious belief in the perfection of mankind and life on earth, often associated with an apocalypse. It is a doctrine of collective and total salvation, and it leads inescapably to a totalitarian mindset. Because it is an unchallengeable doctrine of perfecting the world, any dissenter must be evil and so must be destroyed.
It is generally assumed that the Enlightenment put an end to that kind of religious fanaticism which gave rise to the terrible religious persecutions in the medieval world. In fact, the Enlightenment merely served to secularise millenarian fantasies. This was embodied in the core idea, no less, of the Enlightenment itself: that reason would bring about perfection on Earth, and that "progress" was the process by which utopia would be attained.
In the 18th century the Enlightenment thinker Condorcet wrote: "No bounds have been fixed to the improvement of the human race. The perfectibility of man is absolutely infinite..." In the 19th century Herbert Spencer, the apostle of Social Darwinism, similarly believed that life would get better all the time. He wrote: "Progress is not an accident but a necessity. Surely must evil and immorality disappear; surely must man become perfect." It was reason that would redeem religious superstition and bring about the kingdom of man on Earth.
Just as Lenin believed, whatever fosters the revolution is therefore good; whatever hinders it is bad. In the millenarian and totalitarian mind, there is never any middle ground; and truth and reason are turned upside down to fit.
Unlike Soviet Communism, the mass movements of today are not so much political as cultural: anti-imperialism and anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism, environmentalism, scientism, egalitarianism, anti-racism, libertinism and multiculturalism. These are all not merely quasi-religious movements — evangelical, dogmatic, fanatical and with enforcement mechanisms ranging from demonisation to expulsion in order to stamp out any heresies. They are also millenarian and even apocalyptic in their visions of the perfect society and what needs to be swept aside in order to attain it.
They name the crimes committed by humanity — oppression of third world peoples, despoliation of the natural world, bigotry, war — and offer redemption and salvation by returning to the true faith. Dissenters are heretics forming diabolical conspiracies against the one revealed truth. Since it is believed that the decision to invade Iraq, Israel's military operations, opposition to man-made global warming and the persistence of religious faith cannot possibly have any reasonable basis because they all deny the absolute and unchallengeable truths of anti-imperialism, environmentalism and scientific materialism, the only explanation for them must lie in conspiracies by the neocons, the Jews, Big Oil and the creationists, whose various hidden hands are detected in every development.
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