News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Double Truth Theory

Monday, May 09, 2005

Double Truth Theory

I posted the following at in response to the following words:

Secularism stands for freedom of religion not freedom from religion. The communists made atheism their state religion and were thus in stark opposition to secularist principles of freedom to believe in any or no religion and separation of church and state.

This was my response:

You know as well as I do that this is simply lip service paid by those in power to the sentiments and superstitions of the masses. The founders of this nation no more believed in religion than Marx or Mao. What does differentiate them, however, is that the founders realized that the power of religion can be used to maintain control--why eradicate a powerful means of ideological control when it can be used to serve your political purposes?

There's a kind of double-truth going on here. That is, the founders thought that insitutional religion was a mythological form of rational truths which only the unlearned required. More enlightened minds knew the "real" truth, i.e., that religious "truths" are simply and nothing but fairy tales.

The founders were also Machiavellian enough to realize that religion is a convenient form of popular ethics. They did not wish to attack religion because at it taught civic virtues which were amenable to maintaining order and civility. This is the "noble lie" of the American Enlightenment.

What the founders did not want to recognize is that any ethics must be based on a transcendent source. Human sinfulness to evil is simply too great for any rational system to comprehend. Kant realized this when he postulated a radical evil at the source of the human will. What occurred in the US was that the continual opening up of the western frontier allowed this evil to manifest itself outside the purview of polite company. What happened on the frontier could be excused because it was "behavior" committed in extremis. (Think American "heart of darkness" here)

How else explain the abominations of slavery and the genocide of native Americans? Where was the use of reason and secular values then? As long as these acts were committed against those reasoned to be subhuman, there was no need to explain the evil. They could simply be argued away with rational categories and "science."

In fact, the scandal of the modern secular mind is that unless a reality makes the media it simply does not exist. The media create the illusion that all is well with the world as those in power wish it to be and purvey images of others as simply being beneath contempt, thereby enabling any kind of barbarism towards them. It was your hero Jefferson who thought that the source of freedom is a free press. My question is: when has the press ever been free? Since those in economic and political control maintain the press, there simply is no way that it will ever serve the interests of any but those in power.

One has only to look at the life lived on the frontier to realize that the dream of rationalism and a rational world were simply maintained to keep those in power and to give them time to consolidate their hold on the social, cultural, and economic infrastructure.

Still, these observations do not adequately capture anything of the "problem" posed by modern secularism. As I have stated in other places, secularism as a target for religionists is a red herring. Secularism serves a purpose higher than it can imagine, leading as it ultimately will to a world where all values will be empty and all religions sucked dry of pretense. There simply is no way to stop this nor should it be. For it is in this abyss that the true believers will come to birth.

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