It is telling. When religion was used by the monarchy to support a totalitarian state, the intelligentsia gave full-hearted support to religion.
When a version of religion that supports liberty came into vogue, the intelligentsia turned violently against religion. In early 1800s, the intelligentsia created a radical anti-religion that attacks religion with the aim of restoring a totalitarian state.
This turn of events is telling, but not all that surprising.
The intelligentsia is simply a group of people who want to rule through their words. When a religion supports a top-down hierarchy, the intelligentsia supports religion. When people use religion to assert freedom, the intelligentsia attacks religion.
To the politically ambitious religiosity is simply a matter of expediency. Power mongers support religion when it consolidates power. They attack it when it brings freedom.
At any given time, there are groups who seek power through religion or through anti religion.
Unfortunately, discussions about religion are often dominated by people seek power through religion (or by attacking religion) and not by people seeking truth. People who use religion in their grub for power do great harm to society. And there is nothing more dangerous than a radicalized group bound by a belief system. (Radicalized religion and Radicalized anti-religion have the same effect).
I contend the problem is not that people have beliefs. The problem is with powerful organized groups seeking power.
The Judeo-Christian tradition is a tradition in which people seek freedom but continually fall back into the hands of rogues seeking to enslave the people. One of the most important segments in the Jewish tradition is the escape of slaves from Egypt.
Christianity rose in a society controlled by the top-heavy Roman Empire. Jesus
taught his followers to concentrate on the sacred and to render unto
Caesar what is Caesar's. This tradition creates a distinction between
the secular and sacred.
Christ did not seek political power. Nor did he seek acclaim in the top-heavy church of his day. He followed the path of being with the people and being crucified with common thieves to bring the hope of salvation to all men.
The classical liberal interpretation of the Judeo-Christian tradition is that God created man. Man created the state. God is something that transcends the state. This is in contrast to religious traditions that attempt to make the state divine.
The classical liberal interpretation of monotheism falls along the line that there is a one God and one truth. Imperfect man has at most only a faint glimpse of the truth.
Prior to the US Revolution, the monarchy had nurtured a carefully framed version of Christianity which supported the top-heavy social structure known as feudalism. The kings and lords were on the top. The serfs on the bottom. Intellectuals pushed an ideal called the Divine Right of Kings. This ideal claimed that monarchy arose from a covenant established by God in Ancient Israel. Intellectuals praised the Leviathan and spat on the people.
Although all were forced into a common religion, many princes at the top were Machiavellian. Machiavelli taught that the prince should appear religious without actually being religious.
The US Founders were seeking liberty. They successfully challenged the Divine Right of Kings, the corrupt feudal social order and Machiavellian duplicity of the prince.
The US Founders had a classical education and learned classical logic. When they looked at the Christian tradition, they rediscovered the liberating aspects of Christianity and ran with those aspects of the religion.
The Founders created a society
with freedom of religion and a limited secular government.
that puts constraints on governance while leaving religion unrestrained
is in keeping with the Christian tradition which sought a separation of
the secular and sacred. Creating a system with limited government and unlimited religion is not anti-religious.
It bears repeating: The Founders sought to create a limited government while trying to free the mind.
Placing limits on government while removing constraints on religious thought is a pro-religious action.
The classical liberal view of Christianity created a major conflict
for intellectuals who prefer the social hierarchy of the monarchy.
The actions of the founders led to a fierce reaction.
It bears note that the first reactionary conservatives in the United States were the royalists who preferred to top-heavy social structure of the monarchy to the wild and open society created by the US Founders.
I hate using the word "conservative" because it immediately begs the question which version of conservatism. The first conservatives in America were the royalists who fought against the US Founders.
In the left/right split that dominates American politics came from the French Revolution.
The conservative on the right sought to preserve the social structure of the ancient regime while the radical left sought a radical change in the social order.
In my opinion both the left and right of the French Revolution were rogues.
Back to the intellectual history.
It just so happens that the Kings of England were German. The Hanoverian Kings of England funded the German University System. The German University System became the incubator for a new radical philosophy.
The goal of the reactionary movement funded by the Kings of England in the German University System was to reframe the top-heavy social structure of the monarchy as modern and progressive.
It is not just happenstance that German philosophers put Europe on the road to serfdom. They were paid by the kings to reframe the monarchy as progressive.
Hegel (1770-1831) provides the best example of this modern reactionary thinking.
In response to classical liberal use of logic to justify liberty, Hegel created a paradox riddled modern logic in which freedom was slavery and slavery freedom.
To revive the ideals of the Divine Right of Kings, Hegel created a new philosophy of history. The philosophy of history presented a fantastical conflict driven version of history in which the German State (and its German monarchs) were destined to rise as central players on the world stage.
Hegel's Philosophy of History was essentially creating a new race-based religion with the Aryan race as the master race.
Hegel was hugely popular in the United States. During the early 1800s, people were hungry for the exciting new modern philosophies from Europe.
The defenders of slavery in the South relished Hegel's arguments that freedom was slavery and slavery freedom. Others Hegelians pushed fantastical racial histories. In the United States, Hegelians made absurd claims like the idea that Blacks were descendants of Cain (justifying slavery). Others made claims that the Native Americans were the lost tribes of Israel (justifying the theft of their lands).
The first generation of Hegelians were trying to create a new world founded on a racially based version of history. The tradition created a radicalized racism.
The first generation of Hegelians sought to create radicalized versions of history and new radicalized religions. A left-leaning group came to be in the following generation. The Hegelian Left is often called Young Hegelians.
A young Hegelians named Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach (1804-1872) realized that one could use radicalized anti-religion in the same fashion as radicalized religion. Radicalized anti-religion is as much a faith as religion. Pursuing anti-religion, one creates a compelling world view.
Marx took this direction.
So, the Hegelian tradition includes both the creation of new religions and the creation anti-religions in the effort to re-establish the top-heavy social structure of the monarchy.
The US revolution occurred at the end of the Classical Era. The US founders were Christians with a classical education. They applied classical thought to the question of liberty and came up with a unique system that was different from philosophical thought in Europe.
In philosophy, the term "modern" refers to philosophies that
developed in the wake of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and Hegel (1770-1831). We are three
centuries into the modern era.
Modern philosophies swept through the United States in the early 1800s. Modern philosophy created insipid versions of racism and nationalism.
Modern philosophy emphasizes conflict over creation. With modern philosophy, differences are magnified until they become irreconcilable. The founders hoped that reason could eventually overcome slavery. Modern philosophy, however, magnified the conflict creating Civil War.
IMHO, the problems we face today are the result of the ugly reactionary modern philosophies that emerged in Europe after the US revolution.
The problems actually started on the right. The first conservatives were royalists who sought to conserve the social structure of the monarchy; However, the problem became more entrenched and is more problematic on the left. Radicalized anti-religion is more destructive than radical religion.
The dialectical center is as corrupt as the radical left and reactionary right.
The problem the modern world faces is not just religion v. anti-religion. The problem the world faces comes form the new dialectical tradition that has come into vogue as reactionaries sought to reframe the monarchy as progressive.
The new philosophy seeks to change society through action and reaction. The problem comes at us from all sides. It comes in the form of radicalized religion and radicalized anti-religion.
The philosophy perpetuates itself through projection. The groups involved in the dialectical process tend to project the worst parts of their philosophy onto their enemies.
Karl Popper (the intellectual founder of Soros's Open Society movement) wrote a massive two tome work in which he projected all the faults of the modern era on his political enemies (the right). He failed to see that his own group suffers each and every one of the problems he addresses.
Glenn Beck saw the radicalization of the left. His reaction was to jump into the most radical religion he could find. Glenn Beck repeats the pattern of George Soros.
Now, unfortunately, we cannot overcome this system of radicalization simply by jumping into partisan groups or radicalized religion. In order to restore the American experiment in self-rule, people need to dig deeper and rediscover the classical liberal tradition that led the Founders in the revolution and their attempt to preserve their experiment in self rule with a Constitution.