Why Christianity?

Today’s right wing is rehashing an age-old debate, and one that I myself have grappled with for nearly a decade in some form or another: what faith should the West follow? Paganism, Christianity, or Atheism?

The debate begins, to my mind, first with a root separation, of those of faith from those without.  Let me begin by going over my own reasons for choosing religion over atheism.

Between the end of high school (2008) all the way through to about two years ago, I had been a very strong and vocal atheist. I was raised Christian, but saw through the illusion that was literal Christian dogma. I remember quite clearly a video I saw, which logically demonstrated that prayer which was answered by God in the form of “yes,” “no,” or “wait” was equivalent to a Geicko commercial promising to save “up to 15% or more:” it covered every base, and was indistinguishable from nonexistence.

From there I read Dan Barker’s Godless. Soon after that, I read Richard Dawkins, and eventually, the man that was to become my greatest intellectual hero: Christopher Hitchens. The arguments were flawless. God is not dead. He simply is not.

The beginnings of my unconversion (or reconversion, if you prefer) began by sheer chance. I remember stalking the aisles of a Barnes and Nobles, armed with a gift card to dispose of, and the title The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell stuck out to me. Without knowing anything else about the author or the theory contained within it, the title alone seemed to say to me “this is a book with a very big idea.” It was not the first nor the last time I judged a book by its cover, but it may have been the most fortuitous.

I found it to be one of the most difficult books I’ve ever had to read, more difficult even than the Thomas Kuhn I read back in high school. I understood enough, however, to see a deeper layer behind the literature being analyzed. I could not yet discern what it meant, but I could see that it was there.

At the time, I received most of my news, information, and entertainment from YouTube, and so one day, I decided to search for “Joseph Campbell,” and came across The Power of Myth, an interview by Bill Moyers with the famous literary theorist. This interview has since been taken off of YouTube, but for me, it was a light bulb moment.

All my life, I had been raised to think of religion as an assertion of scientific truth. If “God” exists, than he is essentially a man in the sky, who must be falsifiable or else presumed false. With this scientific world-view, the idea of a mythological religious attitude was perfectly understandable, but completely uninteresting. It was like Santa Clause, or The Boy Who Cried Wolf. It was not unique, and felt a little puerile. It was lame.

What Campbell began to illuminate for me was a phenomenological understanding of the world, wherein relationships between things, and between types of things, are the substance of our experience and the orienting forces in our life, rather than discreet “facts.”

From a scientific standpoint, a mythological story is inherently uninteresting because it is scientifically false. But mythological stories are not false. They stay with us for thousands of years, and we keep retelling them to each other because they say something essentially true about ourselves and our relationship to other people and to the world. In fact, they are in some sense more true than empirical facts. This, of course, depends on how one measures truth, but if the standard of truth is “what works based on collective experience,” rather than “what is most corroborated by scientific scrutiny,” than the experience conveyed in folklore transcends our contemporary knowledge of physics and mathematics by orders of magnitude, measured both in combined human experience and in relevance to living well. It isn’t much use to most people, knowing how to make an airplane wing in the correct shape. How to make a marriage work, and how to orient oneself in relationship to boredom and to suffering, are relevant to everyone, no matter your job.

I felt like an elite intellectual, like I had discovered the very top of the pyramid called “religion.” But this soon gave way to the feeling that G.K. Chesterton described in his book Orthodoxy, of one who has set sail from England to discover far-off South Sea islands, but somehow miscalculates and discovers England. As I reread old scripture–scripture that I had so casually dismissed once upon a time–a new layer of understanding shone through like a ham-fisted moral in a children’s fairy tale… and yet I had never seen it before.

The deeper understanding hadn’t just been there the whole time: it had been the underlying purpose the whole time.

But this was not my point of re-connection with Christianity specifically. Mythopoetic narratives, establishing, retaining, and building who we are, layered beneath a narrative that survives through literalism, are the foundations of most religions. I found myself facing a new challenge, not between faith and atheism, but between two faiths: Nordic paganism, on the one hand, and Christianity on the other.

Plumbing the depths of moral philosophy had brought me to face the hard-edged suspicion of Nietzsche. In the exploration of master-moralities and slave-moralities, and their resulting effects on the character of the human condition, what once seemed like the harshest criticisms of religion now seemed like weak and insufficient compliments: the problem is not that Christianity is violent and intolerant, but is in fact not violent and intolerant enough.

The national character of pagan faiths make them particularly amenable as psychological homes for particular groups of people, rather than as universal, one-size-fits-all spiritual systems designed for the particular nature of nobody in particular.

The more I thought on the topic, however, the more transparent it became that universal truths do exist, and that universal truths are not exclusive to more particular and contextual truths, of the sort that distinguish tribal faiths from the great monotheisms. The problem was not with Christianity, but with human nature… a problem which Christianity tackled head-on better than any other faith.

By illustration, anyone involved in Nordic paganism knows about and resents the politically progressive, hug-the-world incursions into their religious traditions. Indeed, it seems that most Asatru organizations that aren’t the equivalent of Unitarians are converging in a separate, but equally blasphemous direction: towards a business model, where the religious aesthetic is used as a marketing tool to ply “brutal” and “deadly” merchandise, from knives to t-shirts to necklaces. All in the name of Odin, ostensibly…

I don’t say this to condemn paganism generally. Christianity is not only as bad, in this regard, but arguably worse. What this use of paganism shows, however, is that the weakness in Christianity is not a genuine expression of the faith, but an expression of the weakness of mankind. Christianity is only more commercialized and politicized because it’s larger, at the moment.

I’m reminded of the story of a young woman, a main character in the story Reading Lolita in Tehran. She was a devout Muslim woman, who wore the hijab openly to school, prior to the 1979 revolution. The other women, who were Westernized and broadly secular, made fun of her for her peculiar religious habits. But for her, that made the garment meaningful. It made her special.

We often use the word “special” ironically and as a pejorative today. But this is only because of the way that people who were profoundly unspecial abused the word, and declared that everyone was special, in their own way. This amusing paradox did devastating damage to the previously unchallenged understanding that some things really are special. Indeed, the word “sacred” essentially just means “special,” or “set apart.” We should no more reject the meaning of “special” or “sacred” than we should the difference between our significant other and a stranger, or between our children and another child.

Anyway, the revolution of 1979 saw the return of theocracy to Iran, and now all the women had to wear head coverings. Suddenly, the sacrifice of the one devout woman had been rendered boring and “normal.” When everyone is forced, or perhaps even mildly coerced, into adapting a faith and its trappings, the faith becomes a victim of the character of its new converts. This is something evangelical Christians should bear in mind when proselytizing the faith.

So the choice between paganism and Christianity could not be one between the cultures each had adapted, but between the principles underlying them. The problem here, however, is that the religious traditions have been built slowly, by many errors and corrections, and by trial and error, over thousands of years, by people far more intelligent than myself. There is no way a mortal, even in a whole lifetime, can begin to comprehend the intersecting values, ideas, experiences, and principles that created the value-hierarchy, the beliefs, and the practices that form the core of a religious tradition. It takes what Kierkegaard called “a leap of faith.”

My decision did not feel particularly sudden, but if there was a decisive moment, it must have been listening to Greg Johnson’s interview with Paul Waggener:

GJ: […]And obviously you have diverged from Christianity as a path to Nordic neo-paganism.

PW: I wouldn’t call it Nordic neo-paganism, though that was certainly one step on the road. That’s not how I would express my spirituality now. I think that would be far too limiting a category to put it in. But yes, I certainly diverged from Christianity, and that was certainly one step along the way.

GJ: OK. So, how do you describe your outlook now and can you describe the Wolves? Tell us a little bit about them.

PW: As far as spiritual outlook, I would say that my spiritual outlook is tribal, in that my expression of spirituality now is organic, and it’s grown as the tribal organization of the Wolves, which I am a member of, has grown. And I think that it’s become a tribally-serving expression now rather than taking something from without and modeling a tribe after that. So, after the tribe took wings and has become more of a self-developed entity, the spirituality developed along with it. It serves the tribe rather than the other way around.

It occurred to me, while listening to their conversation, that religion is not something you choose. Certainly Paul and the Wolves are doing something like creating a faith of their own, but I already have a tribe. I have a wife. I have a brother, a sister, and a brother in law. I have parents, in-laws, and two extraordinarily close friends I’ve known for more than a decade. All of these people are either Christian or come from a Christian background; if they are not Christian, they reject the faith for reasons similar to those I once rejected it on. None of them are remotely familiar with, or interested in, Nordic paganism.

If I were to choose paganism over Christianity, I might experience some novelty, and the joy of exploring for myself a religion I was previously unfamiliar with. But because I was not born into it, I will never truly master the religion as one who was born into it could. And because my family and tribe were not born into it, my choice would be an abandonment of them and the culture they knew.

I have actually half-compromised, based on another passage from that interview, and opted to learn about and practice traditions of Orthodox Christianity, rather than the Catholicism of my mother’s side, the Episcopalianism of my father’s side, or the Methodism of my own upbringing.

Certainly I was raised with a very conservative Christian upbringing, but when I was young my father was actually an Anglican priest and he moved to Orthodoxy later on as a reaction to some of the . . . I think he would probably consider it to be creeping liberalism finding its way into the Anglican Church. He believes that Orthodoxy is a sort of last bastion of true Christianity left in the world.

I confess that I am not a particularly orthodox practioner of any spiritual tradition, and there are blendings of traditions, as much from arrogance in my own understanding as by accident. The necklace I have, for example, is actually an unconnected pair of strings with 100 knots tied in them. In this way, it resembles an Orthodox prayer rope. I also use it as the Orthodox do: to recite the Jesus prayer a minimum of 100 times a day. The knots themselves, however, more closely resemble a Catholic rosary, and moreover, they are separated into numerically inaccurate “decades” (of 25) by beads, as a traditional rosary is. The knots make it easy to casually loop the string into a kind of necklace, which closely resembles a rosary.

To make matters even worse, I will often bring it with me to the gym, and hold the cross in my mouth before attempting particularly heavy lifts. In this way, I hope to associate power and effort with the necklace, and imbue it with associative power that can be drawn from when I need it. While not incompatible with Christianity, this practice seems pagan in spirit.

Yet perhaps this pagan association reflects something that the Christian church has lost, and has a right — perhaps a duty — to reclaim for itself. Every religious tradition, in every generation, must be saved from the corruption of time and humanity. If I am successful in finding new life in Christianity, and showing that to others of my generation, it will make the work of my children no easier for the same task that they will have to perform. Yet it must be done regardless. Or, put another way, I get the privilege of pursuing this noble and rewarding task, despite the previous efforts of minds more brilliant than my own to do the same. Their work was not fruitless, but there is no final solution to the problem of human nature. And thank God for that.

Golden Let-Downs

There’s something ironically reminiscent of the Obama years, in the expressions of outrage and betrayal by formerly loyal supporters.

We should not be too hard on them — or on yourself, if you happen to be in their number. The ability to criticize our representatives is a precious one. The disappointment and sadness expressed by his supporters prove how cheap and false the Left’s allegations were about the mindless loyalty of the right to their golden-haired God Emperor.

With the simultaneous attack on Julian Assange and the apparent softening on immigration on the heels of his bombing of Syria, how can anyone right of center (let alone a member of the Alternative Right) be optimistic about the remainder of the Trump presidency?

When I voted for Donald J. Trump in November, I was unconvinced by the actual policies he was promising… or at least not persuaded by them. It’s not that I thought he was a liar (by the standards of his office of aspiration), though any honest person listening to the man is forced to admit that he is less than honest. He’s from New York, for one thing. Even the “truthful hyperbole” strategy he employs — while essentially honest in nature — is dishonest in its mechanics. But there are more important things than a president’s truthiness.

A nation is not so much “led” by its leader as it is reflected by him. There are over 330 million of us and only one president: which one really holds more sway? Certainly the president is a powerful cultural figure, but no one could possibly be more powerful than the collective actions of an entire country. How else could we get a reality TV star as our leader?

Let’s be serious: Donald Trump was never going to make America great again. You can point 330 million people to water, but you cannot even move them, let alone make them drink.

I don’t say this to condemn Trump, of course. I voted for him, and stand by my vote, because I only voted for him for one reason: protecting freedom of speech.

The press, and even supporters, tend to softball the issue by couching all assaults against free speech as mere “political correctness.” Since the First Amendment only protects free speech from abridgment by Congress, it is easy to conflate the right with the law that ostensibly protects it. In doing so, we completely miss the constrictions on expression at the hands of corporations, schools, Hollywood, and the culture at large. They are every bit as dangerous to the civic health of a Republic as constrictions that come from the government itself.

To provide just one example, any criticism of Islam can be caricatured as “Islamophobia,” which takes any intellectual justifications out of a criticism and pathologizes a sincere, and perhaps even true, concern. This is not done at the Federal level, nor even the state level, but by television news programs, by parent-teacher associations, by church congregations, and by dinner party guests.

This means that government isn’t the problem. Government reflects the problem. The problem is with us. Perhaps, like Solzhenitsyn, we do not love freedom enough. Perhaps we love reality TV too much. But I repeat myself.

In my book, In Defense of Hatred, I wrote that the inability to defend what you love can lead us to an inability, or an unwillingness, to love in the first place:

If we cannot hate, then we will retroactively convince ourselves that we didn’t really love it. And the danger of unrequited loss by establishing a meaningful preference, might not be worth it. It might be better to never love.  To wish that what you loved had never existed, so you could be spared your pain.

If we cannot say what we think without fear of reprisal, then what’s the point in getting involved and learning enough to have an opinion at all? And if no one has, or is willing to articulate, a civic opinion, how can a Republic survive? It does not matter whether these restrictions come from the government or from other people. If we cannot use words to resolve our differences, than we will eventually have to use violence.

In 2015, Trump stepped onto the stage and said all the wrong things. It was exactly what we needed. Suddenly, everyone who was afraid to say what they really thought about immigration, about Islam, even about race and gender, saw a Golden example of a man breaking all the rules and winning.

No amount of backsliding on promises can undo this psychic victory. Now everyone knows that everyone else knows the problems with immigration, and we can talk about it. When everyone laughs out loud at the emperor’s nakedness, it is impossible to pretend that the robes are beautiful again. Trump happens to play both the part of the boy and the God Emperor simultaneously, a feat few others could so masterfully perform.

Let’s not pretend that the task of making America great was a burden for the president’s shoulders alone. Frankly, I’m glad he finally let the true believers down. There is something weak in the hope that a single leader will make all your problems go away. It’s a weakness of spirit that Jack Donovan touched on in his piece on Trump:

Men in America can’t keep waiting for someone to come and stand up to feminists and race-baiters and social justice warriors for them, and then stand behind them, saying, “yeah, what he said.” They can’t keep waiting for some elected leader to put big businesses and banks and all of the scheming, swindling, greedy sellouts that run this country in their place. These people hate you, and they don’t care what you think or what you want. No matter what happens to you, they believe you have it coming, and if you don’t do anything about it and take control of your own life and destiny — you will deserve it.

Whatever happens to white American men — and all of the men who are unable or unwilling to benefit from rent-seeking identity politics — will be up to us.

Enjoy the liberal and progressive butthurt, but don’t get too angry with Trump for letting you down. He had one job, and he did it. Make use of the cultural space restored by the God-Emperor, and exercise those rights which he has shielded from the culture at large.

That’s the heart of civic life in a Republic: the speech of the citizen, not of the dear leader.

The Autodidact’s Apology

In the course of my research into the origins of the problems of higher education, and of education itself, I have discovered people far older, wiser, more experienced, and more intelligent than I, already making the arguments I had intended to make in a book, with a wider audience than I will ever have, and more eloquently than I will probably be able to manage any time soon.

The three that come to mind include Stefan Molyneux, Duke Pesta, and John Taylor Gatto. In reverse order, Gatto is an award-winning New York teacher of 30 years who retired because he couldn’t stand working for a system that hurt children (a revelation that grew on him over his years under the employ of the state). Duke Pesta is a professor of English with a Ph.D from Purdue, and an avid critic of Common Core, and the intentions and methods behind it. Stefan Molyneux holds a Master in the history of Philosophy from the University of Toronto, and hosts Freedomain Radio, his philosophy podcast and call-in show.

Most of the current conversation about whether or not someone should attend University — or even public schools — centers around economics. Is it worth it? It’s a complicated question with no clear answer, and certainly no definitive one that will apply to everyone. My own estimation is that the value of education is declining, making college a poor investment for my generation and the foreseeable future, generally speaking. As the number of people with degrees has increased, the quality of those  with degrees has necessarily decreased.

What I like about the arguments made by Molyneux, Pesta, and Gatto, however, is that they generally avoid the money question, and focus more on the experience and its effect on the character of the student. The effects are not beneficial, not by my estimation, and not by the lights of these more educated instructors.

With sophisticated intellectuals like these, any attempt at adding to the literature on my part would be more distracting and diluting than it would be beneficial. Anyone looking for my book, I will refer to Gatto’s excellent work, The Underground History of American Education.

I do have one argument, however, that was either assumed or simply missed by the aforementioned Trinity. It does not need a full book, so I’ll lay it out here, as I think it is a point worth being made more explicitly.

§

Aristotle’s famous assertion that “we are what we repeatedly do” is more than a truism and corner-post of folk-wisdom. It is a neurological fact. Behaviors we repeat reinforce neural pathways that establish “default” actions and reactions, which require effort, energy, and motivation to overcome. It is why people train their “muscle memory” in martial arts, and is also why visualization works as an athletic and performance aid, prior to events.

If you train repeatedly to block and strike back when someone punches at you, then when someone suddenly tries to punch you on the street, you will do what you were trained to do, without thinking. Automatically. If you visualize the perfect golf-swing on the 8th hole, picturing the light breeze from the north and the weight of the driver descending, and then swinging through, you will have good form when you actually head to the course. You will swing correctly: automatically. We are what we repeatedly do.

If you go to school, for four years, and do what you have been advised by your friends and family — “keep your head down” when political subjects come up, so that you can just get your degree and get out — what effect will that have on you?

Does anyone not think that Millennials, as a generation, are more entitled than their parents and grandparents? Can anyone not see the depression and anxiety in my generation? All the pills and medications everyone has been put on to cope with the stress of their lives? Is there any doubt that the practicalities of income and social approval have driven both courage and independent thinking from our generation, more than any other in recent memory?

I don’t say this to condemn all Millennials, certainly. We are the next heroic generation, and I believe we will fulfill our role, if only because it doesn’t take all or even most of us to do so. I also don’t believe that school is solely responsible for the particular pathologies of our age. Social media, unprecedented mobility, and living in a multicultural society have all had their impacts as well. But the instilling of conformity in students through a mixture of separation from the family and a fear of social ostracism, rejection, and punishment from your new family (the school), have imparted all sorts of negative character qualities into large swathes of students. The scale of this reprogramming is something that previous decades of social engineers could only dream of.

What sorts of character qualities? The sorts that come from keeping quiet out of fear, of speaking out of fear, even condemning others to make oneself socially safer. Cowardice, dishonesty, fear, a lack of curiosity, a lack of ambition or creativity, all stem from the feeling of social insecurity that keeps everyone in line.

To believe that you are above this, that you would be somehow immune, is tantamount to believing that you are not really human. That the laws of neuroscience and habits essentially do not apply to you. Certainly, many people go through school with their integrity intact, but not because they were uniquely strong. If anything, it will have been because they maintained strong family ties through the duration of their education, which rendered them less susceptible to the social pressures designed to change them. This is why attending to “change the system from within” is delusional. A chicken cannot change a meat-grinder from within.

Virtues are not mere abstractions. They are the qualities by which we are successful in our lives, throughout their duration, and the call to abandon virtues for momentary gain is a siren’s song. Friends and romantic partners of quality look to our courage, our strength, our will. Our children will grow to love us based on our virtue, not on our personal success. So will our grandchildren.

As my good friend Augustus Invictus once said, “I wonder which is more terrifying: to lose a child to a cause – or to lose the respect of that child when she discovers that her parents were cowards who made a virtue of submission?”

At the behest of Dr. Jordan Peterson, I have been reading through Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelego, wherein he documents and contemplates his 10 years of imprisonment in the labor camps of the Soviet Union. The aggregation of suffering, endured by tens of millions for days without end, is absolutely stupefying in grandiosity. The stories of the tortures, the creative genius of some of the cruelty inflicted on fellow humans, is difficult to convey in mere sentences. For myself, the one that stood out the most was the interrogation threat of throwing a victim’s daughter in a room full of syphilitic old men, if the interviewee did not confess to crimes and turn in others. I think I would have taken the brand on the inside of the rectum over even the threat of that kind of fate towards a daughter of mine, let alone the threat carried out.

Where did such cruelty come from? Why did it happen? These were questions that Solzhenitsyn spent a lot of time thinking about, and his speculative answer was that perhaps they didn’t love freedom enough. Perhaps they had brought it on themselves through indifference to submission and slavery, and also that they had failed to see the monster in themselves, capable of the very cruelty being inflicted upon them.

The point is twofold: first, virtues and their effects are real. They have real-world consequences, as real as pain, and as real as death. Second, believing you are somehow immune, that you are above the corruption inherent to human nature, may very well be the biggest source of our susceptibility to corruption, and the torments that await the rejection of virtue.

It is for this reason that schools should be avoided: not merely to avoid gulags, but to preserve the integrity of your character, which is the most precious thing you have.

The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny. It is the light that guides your way.

— Heraclitus

 

The Weakness of Purity

Ethnonationalism is on the return. Classical liberals are rediscovering who they really are. Progressives are progressing… towards what? Conservatives know; as a rule, progressives do not. But they are progressing nonetheless, and that’s progress.

In short, the complaints about apathy are fading, and the concern shifts ever more forcefully to the state of “polarization” that haunts America.

Personally, I believe polarization is an improvement upon apathy. Yet there is a downside in the factionalism which has arisen in the sudden awakening of the American civic consciousness, one that is not just a symptom of the factionalism, but one which infects every faction: purity-spiraling.

Purity-spiraling, for those unaware of the term, is generally understood to be a kind of competitive virtue-signaling, in which one attacks a fellow member of the ostensible group, rather than an outsider or an enemy. This is the pejorative connotation of the phrase, and accurately describes the generally less successful, but more literate members of a group, trying to demonstrate either superior knowledge or loyalty, in lieu of accomplishments and creative action.

There is a broader, less pejorative way of understanding purity-spiraling, however. Perhaps we can just call it “purity” — at least purity taken to excess — in which people will reject members from the group for any deviance from the implicit or explicit standards of the group. In other words, you must check off all 10 of the minimal requirement boxes; 9 won’t cut it, and 8 certainly won’t do, no matter how much extra value you may otherwise bring to the group.

When I was growing up, I used to listen to a CD with my father called Sons of Somerled, by Steve MacDonald, which musically told the story of his Scottish ancestry. The namesake character, Somerled (pictured), was a Scottish warlord of the 12th century who conquered the Western Isles from the Vikings, who had terrorized the territory for 350 years prior.

The catch is, Somerled himself was only half Scottish.

Gaelic Viking in his veins, testify his battle fame,

12th century warlords aside, battles are regularly won by those who are, to some degree, of the enemy:

  • Arminius, arguably the most successful combatant of the ancient Romans, grew up as a Roman slave and eventually equestrian, despite being a Cherusci German tribesman by birth.
  • Vlad III of Wallachia, a Romanian Prince, likewise grew up as a slave of the foes he would one day defeat. In his case, the Turks.
  • And although he was not raised as a German, who can think of Patton’s victory in Germany without recalling his famous line “Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!”

These are all more literal combat cases, but abstract battles are often won through some likeness with the enemy as well. For literary reference, Harry Potter would not have been able to defeat Voldemort without sharing some quality with the dark lord. Lt. Col Grossman’s sheepdogs are able to protect the sheep from the wolves, to no small degree, because they are relatives of the wolves. “He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence.”

Consider some of these relatively more recent examples:

  • Friederich Nietzsche, one of the greatest philosophical critics of Christianity, grew up the son of a Lutheran minister.
  • Ayn Rand, a powerful critic of communism, and defender of capitalism in the West, was a Russian Jew who lived under Soviet communism.
  • Thomas Sowell, a more contemporary defender of conservative economics, retained his Marxist socialism even while studying under Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago.
  • Dr. Warren Farrell, one of the first “Men’s Rights Activists,” and public critics of feminism, was a prominent feminist theorist, writer, and public figure before his research convinced him to reverse course
  • Two of the most influential defenders of more traditional gender roles, and critics of “LGBTQ” culture, are gay (Milo Yiannopoulos, Jack Donovan)

The list goes on and on. To some degree, particularly in the more abstract cultural struggles, the advantage may be tactical. It is not as easy to criticize a gay man for being “homophobic,” or a Russian woman who grew up in Russia of “not understanding Communism.” But that doesn’t explain everything. The arguments themselves are stronger than those less personally experienced in the matter. It was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, not the variety of criticisms by more Western writers, that condemned Communism. Ten years in a labor camp gives you plenty of time to talk with others, and to reflect on the events leading up to one’s incarceration.

Perhaps only George Orwell was able to foresee the loneliness and horror of Communism before the revelations of Solzhenitsyn became public in the West. How did he know? He knew because he fought alongside the communists in the Spanish Civil War, and got a taste for the sort of future that it would bring. Soviets who got hold of illicit copies of 1984 didn’t believe that it could have been written by someone outside the USSR. How could a Westerner understand the nature of this without having lived it? He knew because he had lived it. He had even once supported it.

It is very often forgotten that Orwell was a socialist, even after his participation in the Spanish Civil War. It is very popular these days to conflate socialism and communism under the banner of Marxism, as though these were the same things, and that anyone who is a socialist is essentially a communist lite. How inconvenient that some of the greatest defenders of freedom, and classical liberal values, are actually socialists themselves!

I am not saying this to defend socialism. On the contrary, I believe it to be economically stupid, and impossible even in principle. No amount of futurist technology, bringing on the vaunted “post-scarcity society” can actually get around the way that human minds work. Our competitive spirit is relative, not absolute, meaning we can eliminate poverty, make everyone live in the style of modern-day billionaires, and you wouldn’t have begun to address the problems of inequality, happiness, and social justice. Everything we know about economics suggests that the means required to attain these sorts of ends would undermine the very mechanisms of economic sustainability anyways. Why throw everything away to run another mile on a psychological treadmill?

What I am saying is that rejecting everyone who is a socialist means rejecting the very powerful arguments of George Orwell. If you reject everyone who was a little too close to Nazism, you reject David Bowie and Henry Ford. If you reject everyone who was once a communist, or a feminist, or religious, you lose Thomas Sowell, Warren Farrell, and Friederich Nietzsche.

There are many members of the Alt-Right who don’t want to associate with homosexuals, people of mixed race, or Jews. This would mean rejecting, among others, Jack Donovan, Vox Day, Martin Van Creveld.

Is that really what they want? Jack Donovan, more than any other author, introduced me to the Alt Right. Were it not for him, I very likely would not be a member. Vox Day, despite being of mixed race himself, introduced me to the legitimate arguments for white nationalism, and defended it by analogy to American Indian reservations, which are essentially ethnic sub-nations (Vox is approximately 1/4 Native American).

The Israeli military historian and theorist Martin Van Creveld is not just a priceless mind for humanity in general, but the author of such powerful books as Equality: The Impossible Quest, and an essay in There Will Be War: Volume X which demonstrates, in a fashion more scholarly than anything I’ve seen at the Occidental Observer, Radix, TakiMag, or Counter Currents, (no low bar), that immigration is war.

Obviously, this is not to say that the identity-borders are open, and everyone, of any faith, race, culture, background, language, or creed, gets a place in any group. Extreme vetting is required, at the minimum. However, when we consider the benefits lost by rejecting otherwise excellent potential members of a group because they fail to check one or two boxes, we should question our hunger for purity, whether we want it to cover our own lack of accomplishments or because we sincerely believe it. And when notice the pattern of “amphibians” — walkers of two worlds — doing the best job of defeating an adversary because they understand them in ways that we cannot, we should absolutely reject the obsession with purity.

Refusing to do so is to simply adopt the battle-squawk of conservatives we have been mocking for the last few years: “noble defeat!”

The Weev Strategy

To most people, Andrew Auernheimer, better known as “Weev” is nothing more than a raving racist, a troll, and a lunatic. As a contributor to Neo-Nazi websites like the “Daily Stormer,” and having recently advocated killing all non-whites, this is a natural, and superficially believable position to hold.

The truth is, in my opinion, far more sinister.

Weev is not crazy. He is a relatively successful coder and hacker, and is not just sane, but rather intelligent. What you are witnessing, when you see him say something like “filthy fucking jew communist, gas him with the others,” is not just a raw expression of how he feels, but a refined rhetorical strategy.

Marketers use a technique called “A/B Testing” to determine the optimally effective message for influencing viewers. They will draw up two different forms of a message, and present it to two different audiences. The one that persuades the larger audience, either to click an ad, or to vote for a candidate, is accepted as the superior formulation, and can be refined itself in turn.

Weev’s extreme language is not the outburst of a delusional white guy. It was decided upon, consciously, as a result of Weev’s own rhetorical A/B testing. You can listen to his interviews from several years ago, and he sounds fringe, but not particularly extreme. In his interview with Christopher Cantwell, however, he sounds positively deranged. Not, of course, because he is, but because he’s found that the more extreme you are, the more persuasive you are.

In other words, Weev isn’t the crazy one. We are.

Broadly speaking anyways.

It is hard to actually tell what Weev’s personal politics are. He may genuinely believe everything he says, or he may be a relatively moderate racial nationalist, similar to Greg Johnson or Richard Spencer. We just can’t know. Sincerity isn’t the language Weev is speaking.

As a metapolitical question, this insincerity – or, to be more fair, the ineffectiveness of sincerity – should be far more concerning than Weev’s overtly stated views. To put the politics themselves in perspective, Weev and the extreme right are the least of America’s troubles. Radical feminists and racial activists like #BlackLivesMatter have been using similar, absurd statements to extraordinary persuasive effect. The strategy or extreme language is the problem, and pointing it out won’t solve it because it is effective.

There are two reasons why this is a poor strategy in the long run, however. I will grant all of the short-term benefits of shifting the Overton Window through the linguistic equivalent of hard-power, but I still hope that most people, on both sides of the aisle, will reject the strategy, not because it is immoral (which it is), but because it is ineffective on a long timeline.

First, the quality and duration of the persuasion will be low. To persuade more intelligent people, for longer periods of time, persuasion by reason will be necessary, and unnecessarily exaggerating your actual position will justifiably make both your reasoning and your motives appear suspicious to perceptive people. Emotion may get larger numbers of people, but on the whole, they will be dumber, and easier to convince away again.

Secondly and more importantly, keeping track of one’s lies, exaggerations, and rhetorical false-positions quickly becomes an impossible task. To put a finer point on it, it is extremely difficult to keep you actual beliefs and your rhetorical tricks and lies separate, in your own head. Very often, people will rise to positions of prominence, only to fall because “they believed their own bullshit.” Worse still, the habituation of lies, to whatever degree, can be hard to keep compartmentalized in only one area of your life. The pattern of justification and ex post facto rationalization is a slippery slope.

Weev says that “you can’t argue with statistics,” but that depends greatly on the time horizon that the statistic is analyzing things on. You could, for example, look at the statistics wealth and socialism. In the moment, a complete wealth redistribution would actually solve economic disparities across societies. By definition, the data will support this conclusion. The data, however, doesn’t look at the corrosion of economic incentives such a policy would have, nor would it account for the necessary character qualities by which value is generated in the first place. Such a “data-based” solution would be inherently short-term, and by sacrificing one’s values for momentary statistics, it would ultimately defeat the ostensible intended purpose of for which the redistribution was executed in the very first place.

Principles, being products of very, very long periods of time, and the intuitive observations of ancient people, are extremely difficult to “prove” by metrics. Our lived experiences, however, bear out their truth. History also demonstrates the persistent hierarchy of virtues and principles. Statistics can sometimes be used to demonstrate these principles, but when they are selectively foisted for short-term gain against the wisdom of well-known moral principles, we are right to be suspicious, perhaps not of the individual, but at the very least of the efficacy of their proposed strategy.

I actually share a fair bit of political views in common with Weev. His appreciation of opera, and of the finer arts, is something that few other people can honestly brag about, and his knowledge of them demonstrates a sincerity at least of that. In short, I do not actually think he is a bad person. Given his background, I will even go so far as to say he’s done quite well for himself. His proposed strategy for political persuasion, however, must not be accepted. It is doomed to fail in the long run, likely to corrode his character in the process, and opens the worst kind of Pandora’s Box even in the short run. Will Weev seriously be able to control people if they take him at his word (which some invariably will), rather than the more reasonable and achievable goals he once espoused?

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of people out there who unironically believe that gassing the Jews, and otherwise killing off all the non-whites in the United States and Europe, is a good idea. Forget the morality of that, for a moment. Even if this didn’t bother you in the slightest on humane grounds, is that sound strategically?  Do you think that “minorities” and other enemies in positions of power aren’t going to use these quotes as moral leverage against you, and as legitimate justification to defend themselves? The best way to defeat an enemy, according to Sun Tzu, is to make them into a friend. All nations, races, and cultures are eventually diluted and destroyed by globalism, (yes, even the Jews). Declaring potential allies against a common enemy, and for a common cause, to be natural enemies makes zero sense from a purely strategic sense. The moral argument against this, I think, speaks for itself.

Obviously, this is not to say that everyone can be a friend. But it is an argument against unnecessarily multiplying one’s enemies for rhetorical effect.

The far better approach we might call the “Hitchens strategy.” You can mingle your arguments with humor and wit, and formulate them in creative, perhaps unorthodox forms, but never, ever lie. You will not convert as many people, and probably won’t get as many “unique engagements” with your audience. But those you convince will be of greater value than a thousand times the number of lesser converts brought in through appealing to their respect and then withdrawing it, to emotionally force an agreement, as the R.A.C.E. method does. These strong converts may, in turn, create converts of their own. And unlike those brought in by Weev and those who follow his strategy, converts brought in through good faith will not one day wake up and realize they had been convinced into a position by lies and emotional manipulation. Many of woke up from our own “default-liberal” slumbers through such unpleasant revelations. If you can remember what that recognition felt like, bear the suffering in mind before extending it back from the opposite side of the aisle.

After all, you presumably came to hold your own political position by reasoning. Don’t lose faith so quickly in others’ ability to do the same. Even if it takes a little while.

The Death of the Father

In my ongoing interrogation of the Nietzschean criticism of Christianity, I can’t help but go into Nietzsche’s own personal life. His criticism is framed in a very personal manner, both his criticisms generally of those captured by a slave morality, and those of the priestly class in particular. “Why so personal?” is an important question. It is also a personal question, and the answer may more holistically frame the entirety of Nietzsche’s criticism of Christianity, and may provide an introduction to my eventual, complete answer to The Antichrist, which I have summarized and written about elsewhere.

I accosted a Catholic priest in a McDonalds a few months ago, offering to pay for his meal if he would answer a question I had. He refused the money, but happily asked what was troubling me.

I told him that I had been having difficulty with hatred and theology (which was true; the morality is much simpler than the theology), and asked what the Catholic doctrine was on the subject. I gave him the normal verses that for me, threw some ambiguity on the subject: Psalm 139 and Ecclesiastes 3.

What followed was a wonderful 10 minute conversation. Needless to say, the priest had a different interpretation on the morality of the emotion than I did, but for the sake of listening, I kept my mouth shut and merely asked follow up questions to tried to dig deeper theologically, rather than argue with the old man.

One of the points he made, in defense of his claim that hatred is never justified towards another person, is that when we hate someone, what we are really hating is the weakness that the other is exposing in ourselves. It was, curiously, a sort of Nietzschean position of sorts.

He elaborated further, arguing that in this way, many people – lacking the abstract comprehension necessary to ascertain the nature of God – project their own father’s nature and personality onto God the Father. Much atheism, in his view, comes about from disillusionment with the power and wisdom of their own father, which gets displaced , or blurred in the conceptual translation, onto God.

It is a well-known fact that Nietzsche’s father, Carl Ludwig Nietzsche, was a Lutheran minister, whom the young Friederich loved very much. Carl died when Friederich was only four or five years old, and most accounts claim that the young philosopher spent years mourning his father’s death.

Might it be possible that the philosopher famous not for the line “there is no God,” but that “God is dead,” is anthropomorphizing and projecting? Intrinsic in the ability to claim “God is dead” is the notion of the kind of God that is capable of dying, one that is both metaphorical, (a preview of Campbellian or Jungian notions of the divine), and yet mortal, human. In Nietzsche’s case, all too human. A meta-categorical identification of God, as we can see from Campbell, Jung, and even a little bit from Aquinas, transcends the possibility of cessation, because it transcends categorization by time. To fall away from this kind of God would mean a rejection of the usefulness, or meaningfulness, of the idea. By definition, it could not mean that God had “died.”

For Nietzsche, God was cultural in nature. Like Tinkerbell in Peter Pan, God died only when people stopped believing in him, and living by him. If new philosophical understandings dug the foundations out from underneath the intellectual edifice of Christianity, than it was only a matter of time before the cultural acceptance of God would collapse. Like Tinkerbell, God would spark, sputter, and fade away.

Yet the intellectually-grounded God – the God of Jesus, of Augustine, and Aquinas – is not the sort of God that is dependent upon massive cultural acceptance. Jesus began with 12 disciples only, and told his followers to expect persecution and rejection by the world, which was fundamentally of the devil. The sort of God that Christians have always believed in was not dependent upon the cultural hegemony it happened to maintain throughout the Middle Ages.

It seems far more likely that Nietzsche’s claim, that “God is dead,” and the sorrowful manner in which he tells that story in The Gay Science, comes from his own personal life. That Nietzsche’s father is dead, and that God had killed him.

The merciless anger directed upon the weakness of the priestly class, and upon Christianity, reads more aptly as a generalized condemnation of the weakness that killed his father. It would have been a far more attractive idea to the young Friederich that the religion his father had devoted his life to had somehow infected him with weakness, and that that weakness might somehow be cured by escape from Christianity. Tragically, for Nietzsche, this seems not to be the case. Carl died at age 36 from a brain ailment of some sort; Nietzsche, despite all of his praise for the virtue of strength, also died of a brain ailment, at age 55.

As Augustine argued in City of God, devotion to God may not save you from marauding Goths, or the ravages of unfortunate genetics, but hunting for the old Gods won’t save you either. Fending off foreigners, and fending off ailments, are the prerogatives of military and medical science, respectively. They are not questions of the relative strengths and weaknesses of one’s faith.

Historically speaking, the only civilization that can remotely compare to European Christian civilization is that of the Chinese. The Greeks don’t compare, powerful as they were for their time, and even the Pagan Romans don’t compare to their Christian Byzantine brothers, in cultural strength and sustainability. The Romans may have had their moment in the sun, but their thirst for conquest made them flare like a firework before crumbling away, under the strain of an over-extended, multi-ethnic empire. Under Christianity, men have become stronger, smarter, safer, and more successful than under virtually any other rule of governance. One can speak of the “pagan spirit” still lying beneath a Christian veneer in the days of Beowulf, and even (though perhaps less believably) in the early crusaders. But one can hardly make this claim of the Prussian military orders and the Polish winged-hussar, or of the hard-working industrialists, the scientists, and the explorers, that dominated the medieval ages, the enlightenment, and the Renaissance.

Whether this came about because of Christianity is irrelevant. It happened under Christianity, and was performed predominantly by Christians. The hypothesis that Christianity erodes the will and culls the Thumos from man is historically unlikely.

That the hypothesis stems from a refusal to accept the death of the father seems comparatively more so.

“Who is My Neighbor?”

Vox Day and Red Eagle observed, in the theological chapter of their excellent book Cuckservativehow many churches seem to have veered from Christianity proper. Classical theology is being replaced with a kind of philosophy of social justice, cloaked in Christian language. Vox and Red called this “Churchianity,” or “Good Samaritanism,” as the doctrine of Christianity to these Christians appears to have become the simplified ideal of the Good Samaritan for them.

The truth is that even Vox Day and Red Eagle’s healthy injection of sanity actually doesn’t quite cover the depth of the misunderstanding of the parable. Culturally, the meaning of the story of the Good Samaritan is that we are obligated to help those in need, and that everyone is our neighbor. I will walk through the entire passage, which is Luke 10:25-37, in stages, in order to demonstrate that both of these assumptions are false:

25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

Already, it is clear that the questioner is not being sincere, but is attempting to test Jesus. They attempted this same kind of Socratic, questioning sophistry later, on the question of taxation, to which Jesus famously pointed out that the coins had Caesar’s likeness and therefore belonged to Caesar, before saying that they should “Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

Such an answer brilliantly dodged the trap that they had attempted to put him in, between Roman authority on one hand, and legitimacy in the eyes of the Jews on the others: if he told the Jews that they should not pay taxes, he would have become a criminal, yet if he had told them directly that they should, he would have been going against the Jewish Zealot position that the poll tax constituted a kind of slavery under Roman rule.

All three accounts describe the pharisees as attempting to trick him in some way: how they might “entangle him in talk,” in Matthew; how they could “catch him in his words” in Mark; in Luke, they are described not as scholars, but as spies “which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.”

These are the same sorts of people confronting Jesus with the question about legal definitions. Remember, loving your neighbor is not just a spiritual injunction, but a cultural law. Against such questions, we should already be preparing ourselves for a layered and nuanced answer.

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

From what perspective is this story being led? The Samaritan has not yet been introduced, and yet Jesus is already presenting the lawyer with a character in whose place he is to imagine himself by analogy.

It should be amusing that Jesus casts the two callous travelers as a priest and a Levite (one of the tribes from which priests are trained).

33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

Truly going the extra mile with assistance. Was Jesus advocating that everyone behave as the Samaritan did though? To answer this question, we can look to Jesus’ own example. When confronted with a woman in need, Jesus initially told his followers that “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” When the woman herself asked him for help, Jesus curtly said “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.”

Ultimately, of course, Jesus had mercy, and helped her. But does this say that the Canaanite woman is his neighbor? Or does it merely describe something about our nature as humans? Our legal scholar provides Jesus with the answer

36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

The critical question is about the last sentence. Is it to be read as a literal injunction? Or is it a tongue in cheek response to uncharitable, mendacious tricksters? If we are to take this sharp response literally, it would mean that the scholar’s answer to his own question — that only the Samaritan is the beaten man’s neighbor — was wrong. But Jesus’s response was an affirmative, however tacit.

It is easy to assume that since the Samaritan was the only one doing something in the tale, the phrase “go thou and do likewise” would of course refer to the Samaritan’s actions. But the question was not about how one ought to act. Remember, we are still to imagine ourselves as the beaten man. “Go thou and do likewise” makes far more sense when understood to mean, essentially, go and live by the laws agreed upon, with the understanding that perhaps two out of three people are not your neighbor, even if they are of your tribe or ethnicity.

In light of Matthew 15, and of Jesus’s teachings and the Bible as a whole, a literal and binding interpretation of “go, and do thou likewise,” in which everyone is your neighbor, appears to be logically impossible, theologically contradictory, legally unhelpful, politically stupid, and contextually nonsensical.

It would make Jesus a strange kind of man, out of tune with the emotive nature of natural conversations, and at odds with his deep emotional nature as displayed by his righteous wrath in the temple, and his deep despair at Gethsemane.

The parable of the Good Samaritan does not say that everyone is your neighbor, and that we must emulate the Good Samaritan (though it certainly doesn’t argue that we shouldn’t). It says that some people are naturally kind, and that those who treat you extraordinarily well are your neighbors. It says that those who leave you broken on the side of the road are not your neighbors.

And it says that if you’re trying to trick people up in legal and theological word traps, you’re probably a lying hypocrite that needs to get your priorities straightened out, and maybe to give those who are saving the world a little bit more charity.