As a result of all this sin, guilt and punishment the Western progressive soul yearns for expiation and redemption. By electing Barack Obama as president of the United States, Americans wanted to redeem their country's original sins of slavery and racism. Through the demonisation of Israel, Christian Europe wants to redeem its original sin of anti-Semitism. By campaigning against carbon emissions, environmentalists want to redeem the original sin of human existence.
As for the scientific materialists, the sin to be redeemed is not by man against God but by God against man. Their governing story is that uncorrupted man fell from the Garden of Reason when he partook of the forbidden fruit of religion — which now has to be purged from the world to create the kingdom of man on earth.
And for all these millenarians and apocalypticists and utopians, religious and secular, the target is the West. As Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit write in their book Occidentalism, the West is seen as a threat "not because it offers an alternative system of values but because its promises of material comfort, individual freedom and dignity of unexceptional lives deflate all utopian pretensions. The anti-heroic, anti-utopian nature of Western liberalism is the greatest enemy of religious radicals, priest-kings and collective seekers after purity and heroic salvation."
That's why the West is squarely in the sights of all who want to create utopia and are determined to remove all the obstacles it places in its way. For environmentalists, that obstacle is industrialisation. For scientific materialists, it's religion. For transnational progressives, it's the nation. For anti-imperialists, it's American exceptionalism. For the Western intelligentsia, it's Israel. And for the Islamic world, it's the entire un-Islamic world.
I hope I've shown how these false faiths of ideology have not only sought to replace biblical religion but have used the characteristics of religious extremism to do so. The curiosity is that in their warped way they are all types of belief, types of faith. Moreover, in a society that prides itself on rationality there is a huge growth in paganism, the occult, parapsychology and the like. Of course it brings to mind the famous quote attributed (not necessarily correctly) to G.K. Chesterton: "When a man stops believing in God, he doesn't believe in nothing, he'll believe in anything."
Whoever actually said that, it's clearly true. So the great question is this: why do people continue to believe, even when they scorn organised religion as irrational or irrelevant?
Religious people would say that this shows the existence of God. Richard Dawkins would say it's a "meme", a kind of thought-gene which transmits itself from one generation to another. But memes don't exist — another example of the retreat into fantasy which atheists call being rational.
The obvious answer is that people have a profound need for something to exist outside themselves, something that gives a purpose to life. And when they deny the belief that there is something beyond this world, you could say that they seek that purpose within this world in secular ideologies.
Except that doesn't quite answer the question. Because one might assume that the reason they turn away from organised religion is because they reject any non-materialist beliefs as irrational mumbo-jumbo. Yet as I have tried to show, so much of what they do believe is irrational mumbo-jumbo. So there has to be some other explanation.
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