by Steve Farrell
Not far removed from Marx’s elitist man-as-God theory (meaning, more particularly, Marx or the ruling class or the state as God), of all the popular takes on religion in law in America that miss the mark, none is more pervasive, none strike closer to the root, than the worship of the Humanist God of Democracy – the Almighty Self.
The fall into the trap of extreme individualism, or self-worship, is ever one of the dangers of social democracy. And as God, religion and traditional morality are pushed to the fringes by socialist revolutionaries and ‘reformers’ of every stripe, this new God becomes democracy’s natural by-product, indeed, its most distinguishable feature.
One need not be a prophet to perceive that we live in a time when “everyone has [turned] to his own way” to the worship of his own individualistic idols. (1)
We know those idols. They are wealth as ‘the beginning and the end,’ higher education, political power, physical pleasure, endless entertainment, incessant idleness, and feral freedom – or that freedom that rejects all laws, religious principles and social customs that rebuke or check self-interest, pride and boundless pleasure.
Collectively, we know these idols as the God of Self, and the central conveyor of its catechism as public education (2), for generally what is taught there advocates just such a god. It is in America’s schools and universities that we find ‘feel good’ curriculums that focus on promotion rather than performance, condoms rather than chastity, abortion rather than accountability, student choice rather than parental consent.
There we find health professionals who contend that masturbation, premarital sex and homosexuality provide a “normal, healthy” release valve for the constant pressures of peers, parents and puberty.
There we find school psychologists and administrators whose job it is to ensure that those youth engaged in any of the above are never burdened with guilt; and likewise, there we find those who labor to de-fund any club, fire any teacher, ban any book, and scorn as ‘homophobic’ any person who contends sex is for husband and wife only, because it might occasion guilt in the transgressor (Heaven forbid!), and intolerance and violence in everyone else.
There we find textbooks that brainwash children into believing that laws which permit the less favored, the careless and the idle to rob the property of the more favored (via government transfers) are ‘just,’ because every human being has the right, so they say, to be protected from error and to be shielded from the refiners fire.
There we find children and young adults being taught about a strange kind of equality, one that takes (as but one example) the tried and true equal right for each to express their moral and political views in public, one tyrannical step beyond common sense, to the demand that every man, woman and child’s beliefs be treated as equally valid. To put it more bluntly, if such aired beliefs are deemed politically correct, to be preferred and protected, then if not, too bad!
And there we find students encouraged, like the good communists the National Education Association and the ACLU would have them be, to rat on their parents if these parents at any time seem overly restrictive or less than capable of providing for their varied and unlimited wants.
All of this and more our children are taught in nearly all of our state schools and colleges as the natural heritage of democracy, a democracy our forefathers supposedly gave them.
But a democracy – the Founders gave them not. It was a republic. For while a republic reverences self-government within the bounds of fixed and settled laws, applying those laws equally to all; a democracy encourages every man to be a law unto himself, thus pitting every man against the law, every man against his fellow man, every man against his family, and every man against God himself. Every man becoming, by and by, above the law, and a partner to anarchy and anarchy alone.
That is not to say that in the short run, the worship of this ‘God of Democracy’ doesn’t make a man admirably rugged, self-sufficient, productive and wisely suspicious of centralized control in government – if he and his fellow citizens are well educated and morally grounded from the start – for it may. But what of future generations? What happens when a people are so fiercely independent, so focused on their own rights, their own property, their own prosperity, that they forget God, forget family, forget all the old loyalties, neighborly duties and government limitations? Who then, what then, will guide them and check them in their boundless, silly and selfish pursuit of self?
In 1832, the insightful Alexis de Tocqueville prophetically warned:
[If I were] to trace the novel features under which despotism may appear in the [Unites States]. The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest – his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind; as for the rest of his fellow-citizens, he is close to them, but he sees them not – he touches them, but he feels them not; he exists but in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country.
Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications, and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent, if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks on the contrary to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of float happiness: it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances – what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?
Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range, and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things: it has predisposed men to endure them, and oftentimes to look on them as benefits.
After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp, and fashioned them at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd.
The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till [this] nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd. (3)
Did not de Tocqueville hit the nail on the head? Is this not, ironically, where a self-centered interpretation of liberty is taking our nation – on to statism and the weakening of self-will?
It is disturbing, then, to be told, not just by socialists on the left, but by many free-market economists and libertarians on the right, that self-interest is the highest, nay, the only moral principle; that Christianity – with all its talk about love of neighbor, and its annoying insistence that a few ‘thou shalt nots’ actually belong in the law – impedes our happiness, our liberty, and our prosperity! How can they in good faith teach such a thing? After all, what shall we call a system that democratically defends self-interest in one breath, and makes war on religious principle, moral persuasion and a few good fixed laws in government, in the next breath, other than the rule of the jungle by consent?
And is it not true that traitors, tyrants, murderers, rapists, thieves, liars, sycophants, protectionists, and covetous welfare recipient (idlers) all are in pursuit of self-interest as well?
So what is the solution?
Alexis de Tocqueville knew it. The freer a nation, he taught, the more individualism needs to be “combat[ed] by the principle of interest rightly understood,” or what was commonly known by our Founders as “enlightened self-interest.”
This principle “held as a truth,” the Christian dogma, “that man serves himself in serving his fellow creatures, and that his private interest is to do good.” Or as Montaigne said long ago: “Were I not to follow the straight road for its straightness, I should follow it for having found by experience that in the end it is commonly the happiest and most useful track.” (4)
In such a society, self-interest is realized through virtuous living, and self-interest is kept in check by a common standard of morality and law inspired by the One God of Heaven – a general standard, by which all laws should be judged – a standard by which every human being may know that his liberty goes this far and no further – a standard that reminds us that no man lives in a vacuum, that every choice has a consequence, and that each choice should be tempered with a responsible consideration of the needs and rights of others.
Christ taught that they who seek their lives shall lose it, while they who lose their lives in His service shall find it. (5) True liberty, therefore, can be found only among a people who, by in large, exercise their agency in such a way that ‘number one’ is someone other than themselves. Christianity’s charge that love of God is best evidenced by love of neighbor (6) is a good practical starting point.
Latter-day Center for Moral Liberalism President, Steve Farrell, is one of the original pundits at Silver Eddy Award Winner, NewsMax.com (1999-2008), associate professor of political economy at George Wythe University, the author of the highly praised inspirational novel “Dark Rose.”
See what the reviewers had to say about “Dark Rose,” and then get yourself a copy at Amazon.com.
1. The Holy Bible, Isaiah 53:6; Isaiah 56:11; Jeremiah 25:6-7; Deuteronomy 5:7-10
2. Inspired by “Humanist Manifesto” author John Dewey, who is considered “the father of progressive education,” the model set up as the beau ideal for modern educators by certification boards and the universities that must comply with those boards.
If we expect to understand just what is going wrong with American education, we must begin by understanding what the International Socialist Review said of progressivism in its Summer 1957 republish of a 1939 paper, “The Rise and Fall of Progressivism.” Progressivism, they noted, is an attempt “to apply Marxism-Leninism creatively to the problems of American politics.”
One must remember, in this regard, that the Leninistic approach to Communism is no less violent and complete in its final goal of tyranny, but that its so-called claim to fame is that it is more futuristic, more third way, more willing to use whatever ploy, whatever short-term measure possible to achieve ultimate victory over the free world than did a Stalin, for instance. It is, supposedly, less reactive and more proactive in doing whatever it takes, by whatever means necessary, in a given situation. It will even boast of being all for democracy, as Marx did, in that it employs numerous “feedback mechanisms” on the local and national level.
Though the feedback may reform (perestroika) the current approach in some way, it must ultimately strengthen it, and there’s the catch. However, at times it will go even further and permit dissent, even for extended periods if deemed necessary – or periods of openness (glasnost) – in part to bring secret dissenters comfortably out in the open, and then comes the purge.
Thus, what we foolishly perceive as movement in the direction of freedom, or equal rights, is something far, far different to an ‘in the know’ progressive. He has something else in mind.
3. Alexis de Tocqueville, “Democracy in America,” Vol. 2, pp. 332-333 4. Alexis de Tocqueville, “Democracy in America,” Vol. 2, p. 129
5. The Holy Bible, Mark 8:35; Matthew 16:25; Luke 9:24; Luke 17:33; Matthew 10:39
6. The Holy Bible, Mark 22:38-40, Mark 12:30-31