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Politics, God, and immanence

A while ago, I identified the “ultimate issue” as regards politics as whether or not there is another world—whether or not, in ordinary parlance, “there is a God”. I gave an example where I argued for many hours with my oldest friend over Brexit—the argument concluded with the words from my lips, “Because there is a God.” However, I’ve also recently spoken about how left-wing politics originates, in the Anglosphere, in non-Conformism (“the Labour Party owes more to Methodism than to Marxism”).

What this relates to is whether or not there is an immanent God—that is to say, a divine presence that is graspable and concrete (as, for example, in the Christian tradition, Jesus is incarnated in the flesh). This is, in turn, connected to wisdom—I maintain that a key cleavage between left and right is that the right is for wisdom (tangible things you can touch, see, smell, and hear—an “immanent God” literally means one that is “knowable, perceivable, or graspable”). By contrast, the left is for beliefs, ideas, and notions (“I love everyone, from the Afghan shepherd to the Australian Aborigine—God’s love knows no borders”).

The general tendency in Protestantism is away from immanence. You see this in Quakerism where God is made intangible and you pray by sitting in a whitewashed room. Protestantism, you must remember, was a reaction to corruption in Catholicism where people would literally “buy salvation” from a bishop (buy a certain number of prayers said at a monastery and therefore get “guaranteed heaven”).

Protestantism reacted against the obvious corruption that had entered into these transactions—and so it tended to deny salvation by acts. Indeed, the most extreme Calvinist and Presbyterian traditions deny that acts have any impact on your salvation at all—in other words, it’s nothing to do with what you do in life, because the names of the saved were inscribed in the Golden Book from the start of time.

Calvinism eventually leads to atheism, if you think about it—if your preacher tells you that the saved are saved no matter what, no matter what you do on earth, then why bother with church or belief or anything? James Hogg grasped the inherent antinomianism in Protestantism in his The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) in which an Edinburgh Calvinist becomes convinced he is “of the elect” and so indulges in murder and rapine because “if I’m saved I’m saved, so what I do on earth is immaterial”.

This is Calvinism taken to its logical conclusion—which is antinomian atheism.

This reaction against immanence also reflects a scepticism as regards miracles (another popish ploy to get money)—and this, in turn, produced modern scepticism and scientific materialism (an Edinburgh man like Hume is inconceivable without Calvinism—without total scepticism that God has an active presence in the world).

Similarly, when sceptics mock Catholics for “actually thinking the wafer turns into Christ’s body and the wine into his blood” you see the remnants of a Protestant reaction against “popish magic”—which even took a form where churches, built in the shape of the cross, were regarded as more “Catholic magic” to be pulled down.

This drift away from immanence terminates in a belief-based religion and politics, often of a fanatical and moralised type—and also in modern scientific materialism and atheism. The Calvinist idea that “it’s all preordained from time immemorial, written in the Golden Book at the start of time” feeds into the idea that “there’s just natural law” that you see in Spinoza and Nietzsche (Nietzsche being from a long line of Protestant pastors).

When a modern liberal says “you shouldn’t punish criminals, because they can’t help it” they echo the Calvinist idea that “the saved and damned are already determined” and the idea that there’s just “the laws of nature” which can be studied and modified (perhaps electrodes can stop his criminal proclivities…). What is absent is the idea of an immanent divine intervention—aka, a miracle—because that possibility was ruled out on a metaphysical basis by Protestant theology centuries ago (Protestant theology eventually became secular humanism).

Even Christianity itself is a move away from immanence—because it attacked the initiation, gnosis, and magic that provided direct contact with the divine and replaced these things with a belief. Aristocracy and magic have always gone together—the aristocrat through alchemy turns himself into a god, whereas the plebeian Semitic Christian tries to democratise those rites so that “all can be saved” but actually merely corrupts them and creates a fanatical belief denuded of real contact with the divine.

This, in the end, becomes Protestantism—another step down—and then Protestantism turns into atheism, secular humanism, liberalism, and socialism. We reach complete dissolution—the wisdom that puts a person in direct touch with the divine is almost completely extinguished, universal atheism reigns.


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