The Culture War, Part I: The Rise of Newchurch

Over the past several decades, we have witnessed the essential collapse of Christianity in Western civilization; not a collapse in an official sense, but in the sense that Christianity no longer has social force or tenancy in people's minds; as an idea it has become unfashionable and discredited, and as a religion it is, in the West, in terminal decline.

Those who, like me, believe in a secular, rationalist society founded upon Enlightenment values, have naturally welcomed this development, especially the retreat of the social orthodoxies, moral censoriousness, and denial of scientific realities such as evolution it instituted. For the secular rationalist the direction of Western civilization therefore looked briefly optimistic.

However, it is now clear, to me at least, that this optimism is entirely unfounded. Where Christianity has left a moral and religious vacuum in the wake of its collapse, we are now seeing the construction of a new social and moral orthodoxy to fill this void — in short, a new religion.

It's not hard to see why: religious orthodoxy brings with it the highly intoxicating and addictive frameworks of unambiguously delineated good and evil, right and wrong, us versus them, and the equally addictive sense of moral righteousness that follows from it. In short, many people have a psychological dependence on religion; they need such a thing.

What we are seeing now — in today's “culture war” — are quite literally the moral throes of people who are without the comfort blanket of religion, but have an inexorable psychological need for such a thing. In yesteryear they might have become Christian fundamentalists, or Puritans, but in the religious vacuum of the modern world do not find anything so obvious to attach to. They are like men who cannot swim thrashing around in water, trying to find anything to cling to; desperately trying to find — or construct — a new religion to fulfill their psychological need for moral orthodoxy; a vehicle for their own righteousness.

This new religion is still under construction and in flux. Unlike the institutional religions of previous eras, it does not recognise itself as a religion, and as such does not even have an official name; I have come to call it Newchurch, both because it has been created to succeed Christianity and in reference to its adoption of Orwellian Newspeak as a means of thought control.

It's not hard to understand why Newchurch doesn't choose to acknowledge itself as a religion; in this secular era, the very notion of “religion” on some level implies irrationality, something unscientific. Moreover, by naming something as a religion, you put a handle on it; if you can name a cultural phenomenon, it is easier to track, describe, criticise — and reject. Moreover packaging something as a religion treats it as an optional proposition; its moral orthodoxy can be drained of any power over the individual simply by the statement “I do not follow Christianity”, “I do not follow Islam”, “I do not follow Sikhism”. The proponents of Newchurch have no intention of their religion being optional; they are righteous.

Still, it is patently apparent that Newchurch is a religion, as it walks and quacks like one. What is even more telling however is the nature of its psychological hold over people; it is clear that Newchurch delivers the same psychic goods, such as moral unambiguity and righteousness, to its adherents as any other religion does. Newchurch is a religion because it is a religion in the psychoanalytic sense.

Newchurch has many other names — since the religion has chosen not to select a name for itself, it has now obtained innumerate names which those analyzing and detracting from it use to put a handle on the phenomenon: woke culture, wokeism, “cultural marxism”, Intersectionality, “SJWs”; “the culture war”. There are doubtless more, and these terms inevitably don't have exactly equivalent meanings. The Chinese term baizuo (“white left”), a derisive term referring to Western leftism, can be viewed as related.

In his book, “The Coming of Neo-Feudalism”, Joel Kotkin notes the three “estates” of the medieval period: the First Estate, the Clergy; the Second Estate, the Aristocracy, and the Third Estate, the Commoners — and then describes the “Clerisy” as the new First Estate of the modern era, already commonly known in other circles as “the cathedral”. The Clerisy is formed of an intellectual elite spanning universities, the government, media and the professions; put simply in my own terms, the Clerisy is the Newchurch clergy, a priest class which serves as the engine driving and developing the religion. This priest class is mass-produced via the university subjects of “gender studies” and “critical theory”, which essentially serve as courses in Newchurch theology.

The long march through the institutions. Newchurch, despite being a minority worldview barely ten minutes old, has already proven remarkably successful in gaining control over society's institutions of power and influence. It achieves this via the same methods of social incentivization by which all orthodoxies are perpetuated, namely via the threat of ostracization or even — in the form of sackings — excommunication for those who blaspheme. In this way it naturally achieves dominance by virtue of being the least tolerant religion, in a kind of social variant of the California effect. This is an improvement over the Middle Ages only in that the burning of witches is not currently literal, but it comes close; Newchurch adherents find themselves morally righteous in seeking people censored, “deplatformed”, sacked, slandered, physically assaulted, and ruined, and frequently succeed.

By controlling the institutions, the Clerisy is then able to perpetuate the religion upon a baffled and skeptical general population without need of their consent; the population in turn sees that they may be socially (or even literally) lynched if they blaspheme, leading to a silent majority afraid to speak out who are culturally dominated by a highly visible minority. Since the Clerisy controls the media, they are also able to perpetuate to the masses the idea that the Newchurch worldview is the normal one, thereby encouraging the general public to second-guess themselves and their own worldview (so-called “gaslighting”), reducing the chance that they will object to, or take action against, the cultural hegemony of the Clerisy.

In this way, following Newchurch is about as optional in 2020 as following Christianity is in Victorian England; its elite cultural dominance makes adherence to it an implicit expectation of aristocratic society. Like Christianity before it, Newchurch has its own missionaries, who petition organizations for acts of submission to Newchurch regardless of whether the organization has ever expressed support for Newchurch or its precepts.

A random example of this is the “Community Covenant”, a purported “Code of Conduct” regulating behaviour in free open source software (FOSS) communities. Since Newchurch does not acknowledge itself as a religion, nothing in the document itself directly admits its ideological affiliation, though those familiar with Newchurch will note the use of Newspeak words like “diverse”, “inclusive” and “privilege”, which are forensically indicative of Newchurch thinking. The document does not mention that the author of the “Community Covenant” is also the author of “The Post-Meritocracy Manifesto”, which is explicitly directed at the FOSS community and one of its founding premises.

More interesting than the document itself however are the actions of its missionaries, who submit petitions to random FOSS projects proposing that the project adopt the Community Covenant as their Code of Conduct. This is effectively a kind of domestic moral colonialism; it constitutes an attempt to bring FOSS projects under Newchurch control. To adopt it is much the same as putting a Christian cross on your front door; it is a symbol of ideological possession. Since the document itself conceals its ideological origin it is essentially a trojan horse: while the words in the Covenant might appear reasonable to a layman, the words do not have their ordinary meanings, but their Newspeak meanings, and are thus subject to differing and expansive interpretations. In 1984, the Ministry of Peace is responsible for war; in Newchurch, diversity means a monoculture of opinion, or even a group formed entirely of black people, and inclusion means the exclusion of blasphemers.

Most interestingly of all however, projects which adopt the Covenant have at times seen individuals unrelated to the project — Newchurch crusaders, if you will — try to socially prosecute people for violations of the Covenant, sometimes even for thoughtcrime by project contributors uttered in forums wholly unrelated to the project in question. The Covenant itself thus, in constituting a symbol of ideological possession, appears to give Newchurch crusaders a sense of moral licence to enforce the Covenant so as to advance Newchurch hegemony, quite irrespective of a project's wishes; and at that, by their own interpretation of the Covenant; and against heretics and infidels of Newchurch. The document itself is simply a trojan horse in the quest for power.

Of course, symbols of possession are also useful because it marks an organisation as being the territory of Newchurch, and thus advertises to Newchurch crusaders that the organisation may be a sympathetic allied force. Thus if a given person becomes an identified enemy of Newchurch, one can quickly ascertain which organisations related to them are most likely to dissociate from them if pressured. This need not necessarily even involve the person nominally in charge of the organisation, if there are Newchurch adherents within the organisation who can apply internal pressure or simply abuse their power.

An organisation need not buy into Newchurch precepts to submit to Newchurch missionaries if it is scared of the consequences of refusing them. A mob of moral crusaders is a powerful social force against neutral parties, such as corporations, which have no values but want to alienate as few people as possible, as it means they are unlikely to push back, especially when failure to submit to Newchurch possession may result in bad publicity and loss of business. Just as the modern corporation is oddly eager to advocate its own morality in bland corporate-social responsibility statements, they proactively seek Newchurch approval. For examples of this, see the neverending carousel of organisations rushing to be seen to express support for Black Lives Matter in the wake of the death of George Floyd (surreally in at least one case, despite one of their own stores having already been destroyed by the ongoing riots); the rise of “Diversity and Inclusion Officers” — effectively modern apparatchiks — and hiring quotas for minorities, necessarily racist and sexist policies paradoxically motivated by a desire not to appear racist or sexist.

These policies are favourable to — and thus desired by — Newchurch because, via the strategy of Bioleninism, it sees these demographics as natural Newchurch territory. What Leninism is to Marxism, Bioleninism is to Cultural Marxism; they are people who are more likely to submit to Newchurch, knowing that Newchurch by design will generate preferential treatment for their identity group. In this way, Newchurch buys the support of these groups, and in doing so comes to take their support for granted, or even to see their support as something to which they are entitled (consider Joe Biden's statement that “if you don't vote Democrat you're not black”). (Moreover, it must be noted that a necessary and darker implication of this is that it is not in the interests of Newchurch to do anything which would genuinely equalise these groups, and thus relieve them of dependence on itself.)

Biden's comment provides a specific (and unusually overt) example of the more general phenomenon of what I call “demographic appropriation”, in which an interest group (for example, the “LGBT community”) falsely claims to represent the entirety of a given community (LGBT people) in order to obtain lobbying power, while actually advocating a politics supported by only a subset of those people. In this way, Newchurch politics is advanced in the name of a gay person, for example, whether they like it or not, as though there are no gay conservatives. Even more surreally the “transgender community” can denounce and excommunicate a transgender person while simultaneously claiming to represent all transgender people.

Pillars and Privilege. Newchurch itself can be considered to be formed of a number of “pillars”, which although apparently separate causes are all clearly stitched into one religious fabric, and where the many pillars tend to be accepted or rejected as one. These pillars include primarily the various modes of identity politics as embodied by Intersectionality (or rather, Bioleninism) in its campaign for “social justice”, such as modern feminism, the “LGBT community”, “the black community”, and so on, all of which constitute the appropriated demographics of Newchurch. The green movement constitutes an additional pillar which does not fit into the identity politics framework, but is no less core to Newchurch. Ultimately, these pillars are all different heads of the same hydra.

A central theme in Newchurch is “privilege”. The very use of the word is now strong Bayesian evidence for Newchurch thinking. This is essentially a reinvention of the idea of original sin in Christianity. Christ can absolve you of your sins; therefore the most obvious gotcha someone might use to argue they have no need of Christianity is to argue that they are without sin; hence the invention of “original sin”, which was presumably motivated to eliminate this defence. In a precisely analogous way, someone who is white possesses the original sin, or “privilege”, of being white, something beyond their control; someone who is male possesses the original sin of being male, and so on. In this way, Newchurch implicitly condemns people by the intrinsic facts of their very existence, and seeks to induce an unwarranted sense of guilt in people by doing so, so as to drive them to submit to Newchurch in repentance. (It is interesting to note that transgenderism allows men to shed “privilege” and become “victims”, thereby obtaining social status within the Newchurch hierarchy. The existence of people who criticise female-to-male transgender people for going the “wrong way” — their words — suggests that Newchurch is aware of and supports this.)

This thus results in the creation of an inverted Bioleninist hierarchy in which people seek to shed “privilege” and are actively incentivised to obtain status as “victims” — the frequently mocked “oppression olympics”. It is significant to note however that under no circumstances does Newchurch take account of its own massive power and influence when taking stock of who has power and who does not, who is oppressed and who is “privileged”. This leads to the absurd situation where a man has “privilege”, yet is openly demonised for it and can be ruined instantaneously by an unsubstantiated allegation of sexual assault, which Newchurch will advance in a Star Chamber of public opinion in which it is a sacrament that accusers are always truthful; yet women, who thereby by Newchurch obtain the ability to socially ruin arbitrary males, remain “victims”. The victims are the privileged, and the privileged are the victims. This is fundamentally contradictory doublethink, yet it is core to Newchurch. If you want a picture, Newchurch is a boot stamping on a human face; and there is a speech bubble from the owner of the boot, saying “Stop oppressing us”.

In that Newchurch openly espouses hate for people on the basis of their intrinsic characteristics, such as race or sex, Newchurch is an openly bigoted ideology — yet its cultural primacy renders it invulnerable to criticism on these grounds, because the kinds of people which could traditionally be found most vociferously opposing acts of racism all now comprise part of it. Everyone has seen how viciously someone can be socially destroyed by an accusation of racism levied by Newchurch, even if such an accusation is wholly baseless; yet in 2019, the Labour party openly and publicly announced a policy of charging white people higher fees to attend a party conference. There is no doubt they were perfectly aware that these actions were with the grain of Newchurch rather than against it, and that there was no risk of being sanctioned for it; though eventually these plans were scrapped after the UK's Equalities and Human Rights Commission declared them illegal, none were excommunicated and destroyed for it in the manner that “racists” — more accurately, the enemies of Newchurch — so often are. Put simply, this prejudice and discrimination is allowed to persist largely unchallenged in plain sight because it is being operated by the very factions which society has traditionally been able to rely on to oppose such things... it is akin to finding corruption in an anti-corruption department. Newchurch will never hold itself accountable and, again, will never take account of its own power when concluding who has power in society.

In order to cover up these contradictions Newchurch has sought to expand its use of Newspeak by radically redefining “racism” not as a belief in racial superiority, nor as prejudice or prejudicial discrimination on the basis of race, but as “privilege plus power”; thus racism by people with less “privilege” against those with more “privilege” is by definition impossible. Any evidence to the contrary, for example a racially motivated attack by an ethnic minority on an ethnic majority, would simply be ignored by Newchurch, as these would constitute facts incompatible with its worldview. In this way the gun of accusing someone of “racism” is thus transformed into a church-issue smartweapon, one which can only fire against the enemies of Newchurch.

Zeitgeist. While all orthodoxy is inherently oppressive, Christian doctrine is not without some positive elements; for example, it tells people that only God is fit to judge people, that anyone can repent for their sins, and that forgiveness is a virtue. By comparison, Newchurch has none of these precepts; seemingly by design it empowers people to act righteously and pass judgement on others. Nor does it contain any concept of forgiveness or repentance; once a racist, always a racist. There is no effort to reform or appeal to the objects of their hate; the religious mob cannot be appeased. In destroying Christianity, we may have unwittingly caused its replacement by something substantially worse.

At time of writing, during the extended protests and violent riots in the wake of the death of George Floyd, Newchurch is beginning to demonstrate even more cult-like behaviour: people kneeling in the streets in submission. Even some of those on the left, particularly those who lived through and opposed the moralising censoriousness and Christian fundamentalism of the American 90s, see in the cult-like actions of Newchurch the new genesis of the very thing they sought to oppose: a censorious and mandatory cult-like orthodoxy.

Yet it is still possible that any attempt to render religion obsolete and replace it with secular rationalism is futile for as long as the human condition remains as it is; just as anarchy cannot persist as a martial power vacuum will always be filled, perhaps there is simply too large a percentage of humanity who will always seek to fill the religious vacuum created by the death of one religion with another.

The rise of Newchurch continues.