The interpretation of progressivism as a religion has been increasingly gaining traction on the right. However, most of the analysis of progressivism as a religion is very superficial. The common interpretation amounts to the idea that progressives are just like the Puritans, as both irrationally hold to extreme dogmas that they seek to impose on everyone. Progressive radicalism is often unfavourably contrasted to the live-and-let-live attitude of the baby boomers during the latter half of the 20th century. For many people, opposition to progressivism is framed as “I don’t necessarily even think what they’re saying is wrong, but the way they’re saying it and trying to force it on everyone else is the problem”. Essentially, the criticism is that progressives are just like the Puritans because both groups are “mean”.
This type of analysis is generally followed by an exhortation for a return to sanity and for people to come together and have collaborative dialogue like in the old days. Indeed we are told that openness, tolerance and a generally laissez-faire attitude is what Western Civilization is all about. What I would like to put to you today is that progressivism is the natural consequence of the type of “Western Civilization” that is upheld by the baby boomers. What characterized the 1980’s and 1990’s were the values of the marketplace, wherein everything can be bought and sold for a price. But this naturally creates massive social tension, and as with a bowstring being drawn, this built-up tension must eventually be released. What radical liberals and progressives represent is a movement to restore the temple, and push back the marketplace which for so long has overtaken the entirety of our social world.
True zealotry is not something that is easy to understand for modern people because we have forgotten the importance of the sacred in human life. Sacrality was for most of human history an intuitive value, in some parts of the world it still is. This is why Westerners did not understand Islamic militants when Western nations led by the United States first set out to bring liberal-democracy to the Middle East. How does a moderate liberal begin to communicate with a 17 year old willing to give his life for Jihad? To better elucidate the importance of sacrality we can draw an analogy to the tension between the temple and the marketplace described in John 2:13-17:
And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.
It is notable that this story describes the only time in the New Testament when Jesus engages in physical violence. This conveys the importance of maintaining a space reserved for the sacred in society. This is what I refer to as the temple; the temple is a place of absolutes, of things which are not to be trifled with or negotiated over. The space of the temple must remain pure in order to preserve its sacredness. The temple for every society represents its dogmas, its moral code, and the core of its identity. All the foundational beliefs and higher-order values belong to the temple.
The marketplace, meanwhile, is the opposite of the temple; it represents flux. Everything in the marketplace is in constant motion and change. In the marketplace, everything is blended together and strict boundaries are not enforced. Here, different animals, as well as all different kinds of people, congregate. People pursue the pleasure of the senses: they buy clothes and jewelry to display and exotic foods to eat. Activity in the marketplace is driven by self-interest: subjective human desire is king.
The values of the temple must shape the marketplace and not the other way around.
A healthy society that takes account of the fullness of human nature has a balance between the temple and marketplace. There needs to be a space for the temple where the higher nature of man is given expression, but also a space for the marketplace so that some of our basic material and social needs can be met.
Furthermore, the temple must have overall preponderance over society. The values of the temple must shape the marketplace and not the other way around. When Jesus expels the merchants from the temple, the text makes a specific reference to the money changers. This is because money-changers profit from usury, which is considered immoral in Christian teaching. When the money-changers occupied the temple they brought usury into the sacred space, thus allowing the values of the market to take preponderance over the temple. At all times one of the two must be ascendant, either the temple will shape the marketplace, or the marketplace will shape the temple.
However, it must be said that ours is not a healthy society. Yes, our state is a vehicle for a religion of a sort, but because that religion teaches falsehoods and immorality it produces a society that is frenetic and iniquitous. And indeed, who could deny the fact that the federal Canadian state, along with every other corporate body in this country, serves the cult of progressivism? As Ryan Bianco has demonstrated, Canadian constitutional history since the adoption of the charter in 1982 has been a litany of rulings by the Supreme Court which range from the misguided to the malicious.
In spite of the many valid criticisms of democracy that one can make, the fact is that we do not live in a democracy in the sense that the citizenry either as individuals or as a body can determine the future of their own country. To give just one example, the province of Ontario enforces the rulings of the Ontario Human Rights tribunal. This tribunal enforces the Ontario human rights code, which among other things, enshrines a special legal status for many “protected groups”. The state can grant this status to any group it wishes, which means that the list of protected groups can be steadily expanded to take into account the latest developments of progressive ideology. This also means that what constitutes an inalienable “human right” is limited only by the progressive imagination.
It is crucial to note that the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal is not a legitimate judicial body, and its jurisdiction is not established by the constitution. The Tribunal is not set up in accord with the separation of the judicial and executive powers established in the constitution. The tribunal is overseen by the Office of the Attorney General of Ontario. The Attorney General of Ontario is a cabinet post to which the Premier appoints one of his MPPs who is then answerable to him. Ontario’s current Attorney General is Progressive-Conservative MPP Doug Downey. He is the member of the Ontario Provincial Parliament for Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte and was appointed to his post by Premier Doug Ford.
In his capacity as a politician, Doug Downey has taken left-wing stances on social issues such as celebrating government support for Pride Parades and LGBT activism. Yet in his capacity as Attorney-General he is in charge of overseeing the Human Rights Tribunal, which as a judicial body, should, in theory, be neutral.
Now it is not just the future that is being taken out of the hands of regular people, but even the past is to be subjected to the same tyranny. We see mobs of people defacing and destroying statues of Canada’s historic leaders. These vandals act in opposition to the will of the overwhelming majority of citizens, and yet they receive the tacit support of the state which stands by and does nothing while they destroy the country’s heritage and the media frames the whole thing as an ongoing “public debate”.
Over time, we see the mechanism of the ratchet effect take hold and establish as dogma what was previously a debated social issue. Of course, once an elite institution like the Ontario Human Rights tribunal determines something to be sacrosanct, such as it did with transexual identity a few years back, this issue is effectively taken out of the marketplace of democratic contention and enshrined as an object of veneration in the temple.
Turning to the United States, one can now observe a very interesting phenomenon as sacral language is reintroduced into their politics by the American media. After Trump supporters went into the capitol building on January 6th, 2021, one of the main charges leveled against the Trump supporters was that they had committed sacrilege by trespassing on the grounds of the “Sacred Temple of Our Democracy”. Religious language was prominent and widespread in the elite reaction to the event: everyone from the news media to former major political figures, to current leading political figures framed the issue in this way. Of course, the implication is that the people who trample on the sacred are blasphemers. In the US as much as in Iran, and most countries for most of human history, the punishment for blasphemy is severe. Several of the January 6th protestors have faced abuse and torture in prison.
In the face of these developments, it is of central importance to emphasize that the modern state has become a vehicle for the enforcement of progressive ideology on the population. Some analysts tend to view politics as a more or less cynical game played by elites in their attempts to secure more power and wealth. Many liberals prefer this explanation for why the government and global corporations spend so much money and effort on promoting liberal social causes. Indeed, this view lets liberalism off the hook for being the ideology of the elites, as the content of the worldview itself is of secondary importance to the material processes at work in western countries.
Yet it is essential for everyone to understand that the elites really are true believers in radical liberalism, and that this fact is more important in explaining our politics than any theory about a Machievallian instrumentalisation of liberalism by elites to further capitalist hegemony and whatnot. Without recognizing the role of progressivism as our state religion, a state religion which commands true adherence from our elites, there would be no way of accounting for the endless resources and energy dedicated by our elites to promoting deeply unpopular social causes.
In every case, popular acceptance of a radical-left social cause occurred as a result of propaganda by elite institutions such as the media, the courts and the educational system. The decision by elites to incite endless social convulsions and declare war on half the country instead of maintaining the consensus politics of previous eras does not make sense if their desire were merely to protect their power and wealth.
In a more abstract sense, the fact that our current political struggles are of a fundamentally religious nature, and the inability of many to recognize this fact, points to the falsehood of materialism. The materialistic outlook subordinates the spiritual and ideal to the material, thus preventing us from understanding the basic nature of what is happening right in front of us.
The re-introduction of sacral language into politics by liberals returns us to the Puritan connection we began discussing in the introduction to this article. I want to make clear that I do not intend to make a facile polemical argument by saying the progressives are Puritans. For whatever doctrinal disagreements I have with the Puritans on matters of faith, they were honest, believing Christians. Puritan communities took their faith seriously and produced very moral people as a result. One interesting connection between modern American politics and Puritanism however, can be found in the anti-monarchical attitudes of the Puritans.
Puritan theology and culture carried a strong anti-monarchical streak because the Puritans wanted to build a government that was a more pure theocracy, and they believed a monarchical regime, with its often libertine kings and nobles stood in the way of that. During the American Revolution, the heavily Puritan communities of New England were strong bastions of support for the rebellion against the English crown.
Indeed, most of the regular people who fought in the Revolutionary War knew nothing of John Locke and his liberal doctrines, which the revolutionary elite like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington loved so much. The worldview of the average man in the thirteen colonies was informed by the Bible and his folk traditions.
To give just one example of how the morals of these people shaped the American Republic, we can look at the first amendment of the US constitution. Most people assume it establishes the separation of church and state, but this is incorrect. Specifically, the first amendment says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...” When the American founders said specifically that Congress could not establish a religion, they meant that questions of religion would be up to the states. Indeed, at the time the US constitution came into effect in 1789, all of the thirteen colonies still had religious requirements written into their laws, and several had established state churches.
These requirements were generally to the effect that some positions in the government were reserved either for believers in God generally, or Protestants specifically. The first state to get rid of its religious requirements was Pennsylvania in 1790, the year after the constitution came into effect. However, we know that this was not because the establishment of a state church was deemed unconstitutional by the federal government, as most of the original thirteen colonies retained their state churches for several decades after the establishment of the constitution, well after the original founding fathers were dead.
Indeed the last of the original thirteen colonies to disband its religious laws was New Hampshire in 1877 when they removed the requirement that state senators and representatives had to be Protestants. This was nearly a full 100 years after the constitution had been established and was actually twelve years after the end of the Civil War. The decline of the American Christianity of its founding stock coincided quite well with the metamorphosis of the American Republic into the American Empire. Much like their ancestors however, the liberal elite of the American empire is motivated by their holy vision of a shining city on a hill, a purer liberal world order.
What the evidence of history plainly tells us, after thousands of years of recorded human existence is that Man is by nature religious. And if he does not worship God he will fashion for himself idols to worship.
Canada by contrast, was until very recently ruled by men with a far more grounded and realistic estimation of human nature. The Canadian political settlement up until the establishment of the charter made explicit the fact that Canada was first and foremost a Christian nation, and therefore its people and government would hold sacred Christian principles. However, the globalist American vision eventually grew to be too tantalizing for the Canadian elite, and so they tried to close the temple doors and build high, thick walls around the sacred space. Many regular people, including many conservatives, hoped that this new open society, defined by prosperity and mass consumption, could finally leave behind primitive things like religion. Yet by abandoning Christianity, all they did was leave open for the taking the space within people reserved for the sacred. This space has been taken, but this second coming like the one W.B Yeats describes will be a terrible inversion of the old faith. Where the function of politics was to allow ourselves to be used as instruments by the Most High in the creation of His great work of art, we are now tools of corrupt men who drive us towards the void.
What the evidence of history plainly tells us, after thousands of years of recorded human existence is that Man is by nature religious. And if he does not worship God he will fashion for himself idols to worship. In the latter half of the 20th century, Westerners tried to willfully blind themselves to this basic fact of human nature by drowning it in material pleasures. But the North American man is much like Icarus, who, thinking himself master of the heavens, flew too close to the sun, and realized too late that his fantasy was held together by nothing more solid than a few bits of wax.