Friday, August 24, 2018

The Left’s War on Religion…

…and, therefore, liberty.
Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse, by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (EvKL)

The history of the wild, wild left…

Leftism in the Western World has roots reaching way back into the dim past. Leftist ideas and notions made themselves felt again and again in late medieval and modern history, but for its first concrete and, in a way, fateful outbreak and concretization we have to look to the French Revolution.

That’s the Cliff’s Notes version….

My intent is to focus on the time beginning with the European Middle Ages.  My reasons for not reaching back any further in time should be clear to regular readers; also, I think it will be clear from some of what is offered by EvKL.  For example, regarding the political liberties of the Greece of Plato and Aristotle:

…while social liberties were perhaps marked, political liberties were few, though here we have to bear in mind that the concept of the person as we know it did not exist in antiquity. It makes its appearance in the Western World-and solely in the Western World-only with the advent of Christianity.

Is there really much point to go further back in time?  To a time when a person was not considered a person?  Well, maybe I will go back just a little, regarding the egalitarian idea of democracy:

Not only the democratic government, but the "dear people" were opposed to Socrates and he can, without exaggeration, be called a victim of democracy, of the vox populi.

Salvador de Madariaga has said that Western civilization rests on two deaths – the death of Socrates and the death of Christ. And indeed the Crucifixion was also a democratic event.

Two wolves and a sheep (well, a Lamb in one case) voting on what to have for dinner.

During the Middle Ages "democracy" had a bad connotation among intellectuals who alone knew its meaning.

Democracy existed in some smaller societies, in the Alps and the Pyrenees, Iceland and Norway.  The larger and more developed societies had mixed governments with a monarch at the top – a monarch by birth or elected by a small elite.

The mixed governments are balanced ones. The king was not at all powerful. Rex sub Lege [the king under the law] was the standard formula. He had no right to levy taxes and the penury of monarchs is a permanent feature of medieval and post-medieval society. The king's power was curtailed by powerful vassals, the Church, the diet in which the Estates were represented, and the free municipalities who had great privileges. Absolutism and totalitarianism were unknown in the Middle Ages.

No democracy, no absolutism, no totalitarianism; decentralized and competing governance institutions.  No State – not even a hint of what we live under today.  At a time when the individual was found, and only in a Christian culture and tradition.

Of course, there were religious sects that were quite leftist in their orientation.  EvKL offers the Waldensians as one example.  “What distinguished them from the Reformers was the cult of poverty…”

EvKL then spends some time on John Wycliffe:

Wyclif began by first denouncing papal supremacy, thus earning the sympathies of his king. He then proceeded to question transubstantiation and the prerogatives of the clergy for which he received the support of the nobility. Finally he advanced democratic theories and denounced wealth altogether, and so gave impetus to the agrarian revolt.

That was in the fourteenth century.  Then came Luther:

An analogous development took place when Luther (who knew the writings of Wyclif) declared the Pope to be antichrist and received the protection of the princes against the Emperor; and then, when he denounced the clergy and the monastic institutions, he won the applause of the nobility.

Luther went no further.  When he saw the extremist fruits of his labor, he denounced the movement.

You can see in both Wycliffe and Luther the attraction to the kings and nobility of Europe – a way to break free from Rome.  Both Wycliffe and Luther looked back to Marsilius of Padua, who…

…in support of Emperor Ludwig I and trying to undermine the political claims of the papacy, also attacked its hierarchical status and finally developed a democratic theory of government.  He declared that original political power resides in the people collectively or at least in its better (valentior) part.

EvKL offers an overview of how these events led to movements of identitarian politics, envy regarding class, and “for the first time in Christian European history, a king was formally put to death,” in the seventeenth century.

Why such a focus on theology?

Proudhon said that it is surprising how at the bottom of politics one always finds theology.

All politics, including every “ism”…including libertarianism.

The reader might feel inclined to believe that our emphasis on theological ("religious") ideas, movements, and arguments so far are merely due to the profoundly religious character of the Middle Ages.

Not so, says EvKL. Even the tragedy of Socrates offered “political, philosophical, and religious sentiments and concepts.”  For the first 1,700 years of Christianity, this interconnection continued in the West, with this shifting as demonstrated by the aforementioned French Revolution.

…in the last 200 years it has become evident that the isms cannot coexist peacefully with theistic religions, but have to fight them with all the means at their disposal. And vice versa.

It seems man can only serve one god.

It is precisely this fact that the modern totalitarian ideologies – from simple leftism to national socialism, international socialism, and communism – have not only a pseudomonastic but also a "heretical" aspect that make them so unacceptable and so incompatible with the great religions of the West: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

EvKL goes on to make a rather interesting point regarding the various “isms”

They derive most of their strength, as we shall see later on, from the secularized version of a few Christian tenets.

And an even more interesting point, and on which I am eminently unqualified to opine:

…the Reformation, contrary to an obsolete concept still surviving in English-speaking countries and finding its way into textbooks and films, was by no means the "beginning of liberalism" (genuine or fake), nor anything like the fulfillment of the Renaissance, but a late medieval and "monastic" reaction against humanism and the spirit of the Renaissance.

Up until I read this statement, let’s just say that I held to that “obsolete concept still surviving in English-speaking countries.”  Now I don’t know what to believe.

To Luther the Renaissance (no less than Humanism) was a foul compromise between Christianity and paganism.

St. Clement Maria Hofbauer declared about the Reformation: "The revolt from the Church began because the German people could not and cannot but be devout."

So what was the deal with the German Martin Luther (continuing from this book)?

Thus the real year of the Reformation is not 1517, but 1511, when Martin Luther, the Augustinian friar on his mission in Rome, for the first time in his life was face to face with the Renaissance.

The moral situation in Germany, according to EvKL, was no better.  Apparently instead of finding hope in Rome, he left with despair…and a hammer…and a nail.

Returning to the current book:

Because the Reformation was a reaction against Humanism and the Renaissance, we should not be surprised that the Middle Ages in a certain sense continued in the Reformed world.

Corresponding to my view that while 1517 is an easy milestone to identify, the struggle of Christendom and the ultimate loss of decentralized and competing power structures occurred due to events dating from both before and after this time – culture and tradition and governance did not change overnight in all places, in the same way, at the same time.

Various sects, approaching various degrees of what we would describe as communistic, came forward at this time, led by men such as Thomas Münster, the former monk Pfeifer, Jan van Leyden.  The Anabaptists: giving up all property, open sex, expectation of an imminent Judgement Day.  Yet this leftism was not permanent:

The collapse of Anabaptism in northeastern Germany under the joint blows of the Catholics and the Lutherans terminated in the great leftist wave on the Continent for well over 200 years.


With the downfall of the first Stuart monarchy and the execution of Charles I (a truly world-shaking event), a new outbreak of populism emerged from the lower social layers and even endangered Cromwell's regime.

England in the seventeenth century provided a breeding ground for leftist thought; certain of these thoughts made their way to the colonies and thereafter to the United States. 

Up till the War of Independence, however, they were hardly articulate. Still, it would be a great mistake to think that there was any specifically leftist or "progressivist" element in New England Puritanism.


Paul Kecskemeti said rightly: “…the basic idea upon which the Puritan political system was founded was that Church members alone could have political rights. This ensured that the Puritan commonwealth could be nothing but an oligarchy. As wealth was one of the criteria (though by no means the only one) on the basis of which it was determined whether one belonged to the 'elect,' the commonwealth was necessarily controlled by the wealthy.”

Which, of course, says something about the objectives of the founding fathers of the revolution, I am afraid.


  1. Are you actually afraid that it upsets your own notions of the founding fathers, or afraid others really won’t believe it?

    1. Eric, it doesn't upset my notions. I had in mind the work of Merrill Jensen when I wrote the line. My several posts on his book, "The New Nation: A History of the United States During the Confederation 1781 – 1789," can be found in the Bibliography" tab at the top of the page.

      To summarize: many of the founding fathers didn't mind that the people were skimmed - it was just that they wanted to be the ones doing the skimming.

    2. Thank you. Will review those posts.

    3. Reviewed your excellent series of posts. Fascinating. I read Becky Akers on the Radical Patriots.

      It looks like Wilson is mentioned in one of your posts as a nationalist, and Becky shows him to also be an anti-Radical Patriot. Jives with what you said in one of the posts of factions within factions.

    4. Thanks, Eric. The book by Jensen is one of my favorites because of how detailed, rational, and eye-opening it is. Even the "best" revolution in modern history was not devoid of inherent (and soon realized) peril.

  2. "Now I don’t know what to believe." - BM

    I think you still basically have it right, except maybe that the leaders of the Reformation had different intentions than the mass movement they ignited (I'm pretty sure you've acknowledged this before though). Divorcing people from the moral authority of Rome, even if it was by preaching a more strict moral code, unlocked a sort of moral anarchy within those who followed not Luther's diagnosis of a return to an earlier Church untainted by the re-emergence of the ideas of pagan antiquity but by his example of questioning the moral paradigm of the Church.

    "The majority of human beings do not respond to generosity with gratitude and frequently the loosening of reins becomes a signal for general unrest and mutiny. The Reformation gave to extremist illiterate groups a feeling that there were no fixed laws, no eternal rules, no set standards, no permanent authority-all this in spite of the fact that the Reformation was by no means a liberal revolution but a rigoristic movement, a spiritual revolt against the rationalism of Rome, in other words, the very reverse of the Enlightenment (which, in turn, was the grandchild of the Renaissance)." - EvKL, Leftism

    Later in the book, he speaks of how it was the nobles of France who inaugurated the French Revolution, by requiring that the King convene the Estates General. They didn't intend for France to be overrun by bloodthirsty mobs, but they unleashed this torrent of mass terror anyway by their act of attempting to rein in the absolutist tendencies of the crown.

    "The historian A. Mathiez has coined the phrase revolte nobiliaire and this development merely shows how dangerous it can be to tamper radically with a political structure in a period of transition when prosperity is increasing considerably, when an era of reforms has been inaugurated already." - EvLK, Leftism

    Interesting how social unrest increases during periods of rising prosperity. I think it's due to the eternal human vice of envy. During periods of rising prosperity, some become more prosperous than others.

    Unintended consequences are not a mere trifling issue when we're talking about toppling or reforming a paradigm of governance, whether religious or political. EvKL offers much for the libertarian to think about in the way of strategy.

    Especially this:

    "The French Revolution truly lived up to de Sade's visions, and there can be little doubt that, in a certain way, the "Divine Marquis" is the patron saint of all leftist movements. In making this statement, however, one must bear in mind that only leftists produce movements, whereas, at best, the right can "organize" in a relatively hierarchic fashion. It has been well said by Spengler that the concept of the "party" in itself is leftish. Yet if movements and parties have no affinities for a genuinely rightist outlook, we must come to the conclusion that the principles of the right within the parliamentary-democratic framework can only prevail after a catastrophic default or collapse of leftism. The right cannot normally win by its own virtue, its truth, its values because it will never fascinate the masses. It will attract extraordinary and superior people but hardly ever the average man." - Leftism

    I hope he is not correct about this; I hope the right can learn to organize as a movement (without turning leftist), especially in the age of digital communication, but it certainly seems like he's touched upon a hard truth.

    1. “…unlocked a sort of moral anarchy within those who followed not Luther's diagnosis of a return to an earlier Church untainted by the re-emergence of the ideas of pagan antiquity but by his example of questioning the moral paradigm of the Church.”

      I think this ties together what seemed torn apart to me.

      “"The majority of human beings do not respond to generosity with gratitude and frequently the loosening of reins becomes a signal for general unrest and mutiny.”

      Examples include Louis XVI prior to the French Revolution and Nikolas prior to the Russian. Both, I believe, were taken actions to loosen the reigns.

      “…but it certainly seems like he's touched upon a hard truth.”

      I took the coward’s way out and didn’t address this statement. I am afraid there may be truth here, but it is a bit too complicated (or scary) for me to try to unpack.

  3. This is an interesting yet disputable passage:

    "It is precisely this fact that the modern totalitarian ideologies – from simple leftism to national socialism, international socialism, and communism – have not only a pseudomonastic but also a "heretical" aspect that make them so unacceptable and so incompatible with the great religions of the West: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism."

    Two problematic claims here:

    1) Islam is not a great religion and most certainly not a "great religion of the West."

    2) Judaism proved itself to be fairly compatible with Communism (Judeo-Bolshevism).


  4. Could you elaborate on your last sentence and how it relates to the quote above about the Puritan's political order? The more I learn about the Puritans the less I like, then their descendents went secular and really messed stuff up starting late 19th century.

    1. RMB, see my reply above to Eric Morris. If this is not responsive to your question, let me know and I will try again.

    2. That makes sense. I read a book about the Whiskey Rebellion and listened to the Dangerous History podcast's series on the American Revolution. They both support your idea. Bunch of opportunists, they were.

  5. I think you mean the left and alleged right's war on Christian Liberty by means of Religious Liberty.

    Like a moth to a flame, Christians are intent on employing the genesis of their problems as the solution. In this instance, the First Commandment violating First Amendment.

    Religious Freedom and Christian Liberty are not the same thing. They are, in fact, hostile to each other. The former is born of the First Amendment. The latter is born of the First Commandment. In 1789, the First Commandment and Christian Liberty were formally sacrificed on the altar of the First Amendment and Religious Freedom. Christian liberty is being attacked as a consequence of the First Amendment's provision for an alleged religious freedom for all.

    It’s one thing to allow for individual freedom of conscience and private choice of gods, something impossible to legislate for or against. It’s another matter altogether for government to enable any and all religions to proliferate through the land and evangelize our posterity to false gods. This is what the First Amendment legitimizes. It is an unequivocal violation of the First Commandment and the polar opposite of the following First Commandment statute:

    "[Y]e shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves. For thou shall worship no other god: for Yahweh, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou … go a whoring after their gods…." (Exodus 34:13-15)

    It's the First Amendment that the sodomites, lesbians, and atheists hang their hats on and that they've been able to utilize for their cause. It's likewise the First Amendment that so many Christians hang their hat on as if there's something intrinsically Christian about it when, in fact, it is entirely antithetical to the Bible. It's thus suicide for Christians to appeal to the First Amendment in any fashion whatsoever.

    For more, see online Chapter 11 "Amendment 1: Government-Sanctioned Polytheism" of "Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective." Click on my name, then our website. Go to our Online Books page, click on the top entry, and scroll down to Chapter 11.

  6. I find "the left" as a broad characterisation to be a misnomer for the title of this post. Socialism and liberalism are both "on the left", but I find the title only applies to liberalism. (Even though the two are at times difficult to separate).

    Anyway I found the following observation by C.D. interesting:
    - Paganism is nature above man. (Though nature is attributed human characteristics which allows some forms of equality at times)
    - Christianity is god above man, man above nature. And as such reflects man's growing control over nature.
    - Liberalism removes god and nature form the equation, leaving only man to do as he pleases.

    In other words, liberalism makes gods from man, and hence the inherent conflict between religion and liberalism.

  7. Finally I get to read something by the ubiquitous Ted Wieland that totally makes sense!