Western Socialism Is Secularized Christianity

I am a conservative who, from time to time, gets testy about leftists and enjoys giving them a gentle prod. Today, I am feeling especially annoyed. While watching the news on television, I learned the Ontario government plans to “invest” in solar panels for northern Metis communities so they can generate incredibly costly electricity for themselves and then sell any surplus to the provincial grid at staggering prices. Presumably, the Metis contribution to the “beneficial” project will consist in sweeping snow and ice from the panels during the six hours of feeble winter daylight.

Many conservatives see the UN building in New York as the “Vatican” of the socialist movement. (Image: Wikipedia)

Other thinkers have pointed out that the religious left founded liberalism and socialism in the West. I explain this as follows: Having shrewdly realized that government coffers are far more capacious than the pockets of those who attend church jumble sales, the more ambitious members of the religious left decided (quite sensibly) to abandon the Church and take over the government. I mean, the idea is a no brainer, right? Just think of all the “good” you can do with so much extra cash. Why do “good works” for a few folks in the local neighbourhood when you can institute massive universal nationwide social programs and “save” the entire country! Never mind that this inevitably leads to universal nationwide bankruptcy – we can work that out later (like that inspiring role model, Greece).

Here is an amusing (to conservatives, at any rate!) rough parallel I have worked out to go with the idea that socialism and its favoured apparatus is a secularized form of Christianity:

Socialism = Christianity since both are founded entirely upon blind faith in dubious dogma.

Government = God, the centre of power and source of all good things.

Studies and surveys = scripture, that which must be taken at face value and strictly obeyed.

Social problems = sins. We are all multifarious sinners so we all need many kinds of government funded “salvation.”

Social conscience = expanded Christian conscience. With the faithful, guilt is always the name of the game.

Social programs = good works. Note: Only leftists get to say what is “good” since everyone else is unacceptably “phobic” and in need of government funded psychiatric care, more politely described as “sensitivity training.”

Psychologists and psychiatrists = Jesuits. I know from hard personal experience that shrinks are as relentlessly captious as the sternest of Jesuits.

Government handouts = blessings/provenance, or – if big enough – outright miracles!

Grief and crisis counsellors = priests dispensing honour and high status to “helpless” victims and those who have had their day completely ruined by “trauma.”

Social workers = missionaries who venture into dangerously uncivilized regions to minister to the poor, the afflicted, and the downtrodden.

Universal “free” healthcare = miracle cures at miracle prices.

Government offices = churches, those solemn places of quiet worship and – when the blessings seem inadequate – the occasional swearing of oaths.

Author: Thomas Cotterill

I am a manic-depressive made philosophical by my long struggle with the disruptive mood disorder, during which I spent sixteen years living as a forest hermit. I write philosophical essays, fantasy, and science fiction. My attempt to integrate creativity, psychology, philosophy, and spirituality imbues everything I write. You will find hundreds of related essays and articles on my blog. I live quietly in British Columbia's scenic Fraser Valley, a beautiful place in which to wax philosophical.

8 thoughts on “Western Socialism Is Secularized Christianity”

  1. Umm … not sure about this, Thomas! 🙂 I’d agree that the modern left owes much to the religiously-inspired social movements of the 19th and 20th centuries, but it’s worth remembering that it also has a debt to determined secularists such as Annie Besant. Indeed, one of the criticisms I have heard levelled against Christianity by the modern left is that it focuses too much on spiritual salvation, to the detriment of efforts to improve life on this earth.

    I’d be inclined to doubt that members of the religious left decided to “abandon the Church and take over the government” – this assumes that religious convictions can be put aside like outmoded fashions, whereas in fact they tend to be far more fundamental to believers. Besides, how could a handful of ex-Churchgoers possibly hope to take over entire governments? Is it possible to equate the Christian concept of salvation with a socialist one? They may not necessarily be mutually exclusive, but they do have very different terms of reference.

    Interestingly, it’s very common for the modern left (in Britain, at least) to connect Christianity to a certain old-school form of Conservatism. Many (most?) leftists nowadays tend also to be secularists. Of course, they will have been influenced to a degree by the cultural remnants of Christianity, but consciously they are likely to reject it. Such, at least, has been my experience…

  2. Thanks for taking the time to comment at such length, Mari. First, let me say that this post is more an irritable impulsive rant than a carefully thought out essay on the subject! However, the ideas casually presented here are common among conservatives (although not universal, naturally) and I do share them myself. I am well known in the neighbourhood for my loud angry outbursts whenever “Pope” Ban Ki-moon or other prominent leftist leaders appear on my TV set! 🙂

    You are quite correct to point out the early and continuing secular influence on socialism. Given his pivotal role in establishing socialist ideology, Karl Marx’s dialectical materialism has inevitably played an enormous role in socialist thinking from its very beginnings. However, as the originators of the Russian revolution found, those who start things do not always remain in control. The Bolsheviks soon overthrew the provisional government established after the removal of the Czar.

    Ideological socialism was originally about class struggle, who controls the means of production, and who gets the profits. It was not about what we call benefits, entitlements, or social programs. These came later as socialists found Capitalism a tough nut to crack and compromised by modifying their own ideas. In other words, additional influences crept in and many of these came from what the Americans call the religious left. Western socialist states do not feature worker control of production and profits; they are about promoting labour unions; providing state-funded benefits, entitlements, and charity; and doing things once done by churches, such as building hospitals, schools, and universities.

    The link between socialism and religion was noted when the post-WWII decline in church attendance closely paralleled the rise of socialism. This was especially obvious in post-war Europe and I myself have lived through Canada’s belated version of the phenomenon. The process is now well underway in America. This conclusion is not merely a fanciful conservative idea. Church leaders discussing the fall in church attendance often mention the church’s most dynamic members leaving because they feel the institution has become “irrelevant” or does not provide adequate opportunities to “make a difference,” as we say these days. The average churchgoers left because the government simply offered a better deal without all the moralizing. We are talking about millions of people here.

    Social activists who leave a church join leftist charities, work for advocacy and lobby groups, or seek employment in government bureaucracies overseeing the implementation of social policy. Again, this is what church leaders say. You must realize that many churchgoers have always been more interested in the practical “good works” aspect of religion than the more rarified notion of salvation, which for many was either irrelevant or merely a nice potential bonus. Today’s vocal anti-religious attitude on the part of the left reflects a growing commitment to the movement’s ideological roots. Few younger socialists have come from the now-almost-empty churches and picked up their ideas in undiluted form, straight from the Marxist’s mouth, so to speak.

    The wholesale abandonment of the church in favour of influencing or joining the state apparatus is what I mean when I say the religious left “took over” the government. This was a decades-long social process. No conspiracy was required. Yet the West’s sharp post-WWII swerve to the left is a historical fact. The criticism that the church now places too much emphasis on spiritual salvation arises naturally from its marginalization as a social force by the rise of big government. What church could compete with the financial and legislative resources of the modern socialist state? This is precisely why social activists continue to leave! To borrow from one of my recent posts, there is no longer enough heroism, glory, and renown to be had from being a member of a church. In other words, churches focus on spiritual salvation because so many of their social activists have left for greener pastures.

    You mention conservative Christianity, Mari. There has long been a liberal / conservative split among the various churches. Beliefs that are more liberal would include Catholicism where one has only to confess, do penance, and all is forgiven. Methodism is another with its belief in salvation for all and its policy of helping the poor and serving the common person in this life by building schools, hospitals, universities, orphanages, and soup kitchens. (My own family were once devout Methodists.) Ex-members of churches such as these populated and influenced the growing liberal and socialist movements in America, Europe, and the former British colonies. Other churches, such as the fire and brimstone evangelicals, with their emphasis on sin, salvation, and eternal damnation are very conservative indeed. I will have to speculate on this last point, but the belief in the conservatism of religion in Britain may come from the monarch’s position as head of the Church of England.

  3. Hi, Mari, as Insightful as Ever. Thomas, I freely confess I was behind the idea; I used thought forms to go back in time and acted as you outline. Didn’t expect anyone to get wise to it…

  4. David Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd foresees where North America was headed to, a good half of a century in advance.

  5. Yoshi, I think Riesman and his co-authors, Glazer and Denney, were especially perceptive when they wrote about the growing lack of self-knowledge. So many people today have no clear idea of who they truly are; and worse, no clue as to where their genuine interests lie. With such an abundance of “other-directed” people (as Riesman et al. put it) the entire Western world has become caught up in a self-defeating game of politically-correct self-righteousness coupled with a burning desire to be seen as “good” or “caring” no matter what the cost to themselves or the society around them.

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