280. The marrying maiden (VI)
It is commonplace today to say that Westerners retain a residual Christian sensibility although they do not know or acknowledge it. This observation cuts two ways: the first, more common, path notes that our world is better for our unacknowledged Christian metaphysics and ethics; we are less cruel due to the Christian legacy. Those people who hope for a way back to Christianity in a post-Christian world play up the benefits from this situation to suggest that there is a moral case for Christianity, even if the religion has otherwise collapsed.
The second path notes that the unacknowledged Christian legacy—its continuation in a secular form—is a negative. Both views owe a debt to Nietzsche; he was the first to notice that Christianity was dead—though in Victorian times the corpse still moved—and to acknowledge that although the religion was dead, the sensibility, ethics, and metaphysics continue; only now there is no God to underpin these beliefs.
For Nietzsche, the course was obvious; we needed a thoroughgoing extirpation: we needed to remove the unacknowledged legacy that ticked on without justification. In the 6th century, Boethius, in The Consolation of Philosophy, celebrated Christianity’s victory over classical aristocratic values: people once thought men were unequal by blood; but now Christianity had come to show all men have equal souls. This view, the metaphysical assumption of human equality, continues today in the West; except that since we have semi-ditched the Christian legacy, we simply hold, in contradiction to all other evidence, that men are materially equal, not spiritually so.
Wokeness or progressive liberalism remains very Christian, in some ways we are more Christian than ever. As a movement, wokeness reprises Christianity’s success: the Christians were unique in Rome because they refused to honour the gods; they would only honour their God. This made them, in classical terms, atheists; for they asserted gods did not exist—the term has shifted over time. The classical world recognised rites as central; your beliefs about the gods were unimportant, it only mattered that you respected the rites. The Christians disdained the rites and claimed that belief was central: Christianity was the truth. People could no longer believe what they wanted so long as they performed the rites; they had to believe in the one true Christian God—the woke have swapped out God for “science” and “reason”. Although they were a minority, the Christians prevailed because—as with the woke—the intolerant minority wins.
Christians and the woke know how to “top from the bottom”; both faiths tolerate nobody, and yet they make their opponents appear to be intolerant oppressors. They achieve this through playing the victim. The woke, for example, sit down in the middle of a road in protest; if they are not moved people will die when ambulances get stuck, and the economy will suffer. Yet nobody sees this, what people see is the “racist” police (centurions) shove weak men and women about. “Don’t you see? We are the victims of intolerance!” cry the woke. When they have the whip hand, since they believe they hold the singular truth, they have no tolerance for anyone else.
Those who oppose wokeness often claim it is “moral relativism”. This is laughable. The woke are moral absolutists, just like their Christian forebears. Go and say to a convinced anti-racist that, after all, Zulus and Chinese people and the British have different morals and ways of life and they will hit the roof. To suggest moral relativism is racism; we are one race, the human race—accordingly, there is one moral standard for all. The reason why it is popular to call wokeness “moral relativism” is that their opponents are often conservative liberals who hold on to a slightly older version of the faith; for them, the real crime is failure to assert “the one universal truth”—and so any deviation is seen as a recrudescence of the old pagan relativism, when it is actually a logical development from the “one truth”.