I’m never going to stop being fascinated with why people believe nonsense when they have every reason in the world to stop. Ben and Jordan make it sound like anyone who hasn’t dropped everything and professed the JudeoChristian tradition is an idiot who isn’t even a little thoughtful about anything. What does it even mean to profess the “JudeoChristian tradition”?
Benjamin Shapiro is an ultra-orthodox Jew. Jesus is not the Christ to Ben. Jesus was a fraud… or maybe his disciples were the minds behind the scam of the missing corpse. Maybe none of the gospels is true an iota. They get Pilate completely wrong and some aspects of Jewish culture wrong. Almost every quoted verse from the Torah by the gospel writers is obviously being ignorantly abused by gentile writers writing to other gentile converts reading the Septuagint who didn’t know much about Jewish culture outside of Christian polemics. It’s a slap in the face besides blasphemy to think the Jews not only killed their own God in the flesh but that they as a collective asked for his blood to be on their heads and the heads of their children. If you want to know why anti-semitism is so hard to get rid of, it’s because the New Testament preserves it. But people have been more tolerant to Jews for about 80 years, so now Jews like Ben exist swearing up and down that the West is the greatest ducking place there ever was. Never mind the previous, I don’t know, 1,870 years of continual ass-kicking by ”Western Culture.” Historically speaking, everywhere the axioms of the Bible went, one of them was Jew hatred.
Jordan B Peterson is not even a believer in any traditional sense or even a theist. He believes in the idea of God, not God himself. He has carefully explained in many of his videos that he chooses to behave as though the gospel was true, not that he actually believes those stories. The reason he does this is that he’s reasoned himself into a corner that reason can’t reproduce the same axioms that make the West what it is with the same effect. Except it absolutely can. A lot of the time when JBP talks about Western values he’s taking about Enlightenment values. He forgets that perfect anti-Christians thought that stuff up and had to fight against entrenched religious hostility the entire way to finally establish democracy in the West. People used to believe that the ancient monarchies of Europe were divinely ordained… until they lost the argument and moved the goal posts. Funny how that happens. We edit our narrative according to what we need; we don’t get it from the scriptures: we see in scripture post-hoc and so form a claimed divine revelatory basis for teaching the next generation that God wills democracy, not monarchy. But it’s all nonsense.
Ben and JBP were going back and forth about how inspired by the JudeoChristian tradition the Founder were, so I went and looked up a letter written by Thomas Jefferson written to Benjamin Rush dated 23 September 1800: “I promised you a letter on Christianity, which I have not forgotten. on the contrary it is because I have reflected on it, that I find much more time necessary for it than I can at present dispose of. I have a view of the subject which ought to displease neither the rational Christian or Deist; & would reconcile many to a character they have too hastily rejected. I do not know however4 that it would reconcile the genus irritabile vatum, who are all in arms against me. their hostility is on too interesting ground to be softened. the delusions into which the XYZ plot shewed it possible to push the people, the successful experiment made under the prevalence of that delusion, on the clause of the constitution which while it secured the freedom of the press, covered also the freedom of religion, had given to the clergy a very favorite hope of obtaining5 an establishment of a particular form of Christianity thro’ the US. and as every sect believes it’s own form the true one, every one perhaps6 hoped for it’s7 own: but especially the Episcopalians & Congregationalists. the returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, & they believe that any position of power confided to me will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. and they believe truly.8 for I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. but this is all they have to fear from me…”
I listened to Ben go on an on about how he thinks the resurgence of young interest in Marxism is really a cry to go back to church, specifically it’s the Marxist notion of a New Man, the idea that Marxism brings a sort of false spirituality that right-leaning religionists recognize as a kind of heresy that is easy to smack down. I’m starting to think Marxism serves the same strawman purpose to culturally conservative types that anti-Mormonism serves to Mormons: an easy bogeyman to justify nonthinking dogmas, the way they think of it anyway. Speaking as a millennial, I’m so thoroughly miffed by my native culture’s stupidity and bigotry that I often assume the opposite of whatever they say has some merits they won’t recognize. That’s what atheism was for me: my whole life they were seen as the very bottom of society, the undesirables, but in the end that’s where my psychological salvation from my scrupulosity was hiding from me. The LDS church narrowed to argument to parameters it thought it could control and kept the rest of it away from my view and made me too afraid to go look into it for myself. A lot of things work like that, come to find out, which is maybe why so many are willing to give previously forbidden cultural taboos a looksie. Maybe the youth just want something other than the religious hypocrisy they’ve known and the callous sort of extreme capitalism it comes allied with.
The Founders were not pious Christian men, deferent to it, or even respectful to it. In the letter quoted above, Jefferson low-key prophesies the None trend. The “returning of good sense” to the American people “threatens the hopes” that the sects have of establishing themselves over this people. This is not a man who believes “JudeoChristian values” are necessary for his political mind-child to work. In fact, he voiced regret in this letter that the clause mentioning an establishment of religion was ever added to the constitution, probably because of how it has ever been abused to produce legal religious privilege rather than what it was intended to do which was forbid the government from allowing any religion to take it over. In the treaty of Tripoli, ratified 1797 with what is modern day Libia, which was written by one of Jefferson’s political disciples, it is set down as a matter of law that “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” That was the hope, anyway.
Like all things, religion often kicks against the pricks, then having lost the argument, takes credit and starts seeing the the new social innovation in their Bibles. America was founded to get away from the priest-ridden tyrannies of European monarchy and somehow ended up preserving a queer religiosity into the 21st century that imagined democracy, liberalism, and even the enlightenment itself to be products of God-breathed religion somehow. Queer in the old sense. America in 2021 certainly turns heads among every nation, kindred, tongue, and people but not in any good way, and you can distinctly thank the fsct-resistant strains of anti-intellectualism among us because of what the priests and pastors have done to this people for that for that. The Founders wanted this to be a great nation, educated and free. Jefferson would have leaped for joy to know that one day (we need not tell him some details for fear of exciting his prejudices) the rising generations would show a clear trend of unchurching themselves finally. Who knows what he was capable of accepting if it came with the satisfaction of watching organized religion beg like a dog for people to come back to church.
JBP has a lot of amazing arguments for why religion is still relevant. He makes me dust off my Bible with interest again, but not to literally believe it, just to ponder some of it and an ancient piece of literature off-quoted by great men and women throughout our intellectual history. It’s not wrong to hold religious beliefs, and I respect it when people at least know what they look like to other people, know there’s arguments against their positions, but believe it or act like they believe it anyway because it produces a social effect they desire in their lives. I can dig that. Those kinds of people are open to questioning axioms when arguments come to them that those axioms are hurting other people and they often make you think twice about rejecting ALL of it. Maybe some of it ain’t so bad to have around. But JBP as well as Shapiro fail to understand the appeal of either atheism or socialism to a Millennial None.
Part of it is the hypocrisy of our religious parents who wag fingers in our faces about morality and then tend for vote for total amoral boobs. Part of it is the economic despair of a generation that came of age in the Great Recession caused by the financial elite only to notice that no one ever went to jail for it but instead for bailed out while Main Street got nothing. I was on the tea party side back then, but that was the ignorance of nativity. Looking back I can say that being that kind of a religious person is like looking through a glass darkly at shapes that only resemble what is actually going on in the world. The American people we’re screwed twice: once by a financial meltdown they didn’t cause and twice by bailouts their corporate masters didn’t deserve. Forgive us if some of us have started talking about the “ruling class” of this country, but what else would you call that? Just ten or eleven years later we watched the same crap unfold again as a pandemic wiped us out. There were good things in the Covid bailouts, but still most of the aid went to the rich who needed it least. The airline industry for example got billions of dollars not to lay off workers, but they bought back their stocks, overpaid their CEOs, and laid off tens of thousands of workers anyway. The rich keep getting richer despite crisis after crisis while the normies never get enough to land on their feet as least equal to what they had before, but why not give them a leg up while we’re at it? The way things work is a big joke. No one was gonna go back to work for a fast food joint for close to minimum wage after all this. This unofficial general strike is forcing some places to offer higher wages that actually make you think about it… which they could have done at any time but didn’t.
There used to be a strain of Christian leftism: Christian humanism, socialism, or whatever you wanna call it. There used to be people who read Acts 4:32-35 and thought that maybe we should try that. Maybe that’s where Marx got his original ideas. He wasn’t the first one to ever criticize capitalism, but he was the first to call it “capitalism”. Before Marx Christian socialists were just called Christians who actually practiced what they preached, and they weren’t calling out “capitalism” —- they were calling a wayward Christian people to repentance for being too worldly. After Protestantism became widespread there were many attempts to practice the communism seen in the book of acts, and failing that, to at least echo the welfare state talked about in the Books of Moses. Joseph Smith’s Mormons even tried versions of communism on American soil because of that verse and because they wanted to feel like they were just like the first generation do disciples. I don’t see the difference.
In the fifties we let the “deep state,” or the CIA, FBI, and the politicians who enabled them and the commercial interests who encouraged and funded it, to clean house of all the West’s home grown socialists. We called it McCarthyism and the Red Scare. Most of the people we rounded up or blacklisted were just Americans who believed that humans deserved a basic material baseline, and they got that from the Bible, not from Stalin or even Marx. Remember the same “deep state” tried the same crap in 2017 against a man they perceived at least at first to be a front for populist/socialist resentment against the system, only it didn’t make any sense because the people they were red baiting were the people who hold on to Cold War dogma the hardest and simp for capitalism every day. There has not been a socialist of any stripe so close to power since before the fifties as Bernie Sanders was to clinching the primary in 2016. He would have won against such an amoral and stupid man. That was a moment in American history, even though he lost, and it fuels a lot of this new political fervor you see among the youth. There’s a video only a little birdie that landed on his podium during a speech and made him crack the biggest Bernie smile. It was glorious from almost every angle. The podium said “a future to believe in” which people my age all desperately want right now. Jesus could actually come back in the clouds of heaven clothed in his glory and I would not feel what I feel when I see this photo: https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_56f6effae4b014d3fe234c87
People are searching for religion in politics because actual religion is morally and intellectually bankrupt. JBP is a decent man, but it doesn’t change the fact that the majority of people I know are ignorant and bigoted basic fundamentalists with smiling eyes. They like him, but his words are lost on them. In the interest of protecting their testimonies they’ve kept themselves so ignorant that his most profound takes on the ancient origins of human religiosity are lost on them. Even Shapiro’s dumb ass doesn’t get what Peterson is selling. Peterson is an atheist who decides to act like a Christian so he can be part of that intellectual tradition. He’s like that Mormon who should be exMormon because he figured it out a long time ago but staid “for the good parts” but unlike Mormons Peterson has had the freedom to be honest about his angle on religion, so no one thinks of him as a liar. He’s basically the best and wisest apologist there ever was because he doesn’t literally believe any of it and doesn’t pretend to but instead defends the axioms that come from believing in it. He’s a smart dude. But he’s just a native-born Christian who figured out it was bullshit and went on an academic odyssey to figure out why he should keep living that way anyway. I know from personal experience that being an apologist that people trust is a rich feeling, but I also know form personal experience that Peterson can lead people to water but he can’t drink it because he knows too much. His is a different kind of testimony entirely, and he speaks often with fundamentalists who count him as one of them but watch what he says to them. He asks them, “well, what even is belief?” and couches everything he says in careful wording to convey that he does not accept a literal reading of the scriptures, although he will out of courteousness dog on reason’s ability to reason so people who are scared to look into the origins of their doctrine feel good for rejecting reason. If you wonder why you’ve heard his name and why people talk about him like they would touch the hem of his garments just to be healed: it’s because he’s the apologist they’ve been looking for but never found until five years ago. Maybe that’s because he talks about evolution and science all the time. Shit had to get crazy before people actually noticed him.
There’s a movie called The Mission they made me watch in high school. A Portuguese slave trader gets captured by the Spanish and sold into slavery himself. He eventually winds up on a Jesuit mission in South America which frees him, actually the Indian converts he used to persecute free him, and he has a Saul-to-Paul moment and becomes one of these best Jesuits. The movie climaxes when the Pope redraws the colonial borders between Portugal and Spain and the mission finds itself at the mercy of Portuguese capitalists who want to enslave the Guarani people. The Guarani convert to Christianity and the Jesuits desperately try to sell their humanity to the authorities. But it is in vain. It culminates in a massacre of the Guarani who take it like the Ammonites only Catholic style, marching behind a loud crucifix while taking musket fire. The Jesuits die in their defense. Modern right-leaning Christians complain about how public schools have become “irredeemably woke,” but this movie was handpicked by my teacher to challenge a prejudice most of the class held, which was that Christianity was always shit. It was not always shit. Sometimes it had the courage of its own axioms and it stood up to the worst exploits of enterprise and slave-trading. Today, they might be put down as “socialists.” The abolitionists arguing that black people had souls too? Socialists. The progressive Christians in the British Empire who ended slavery decades before we did? Socialists. The people who established the public school system for the salvation of souls by making education a right? Socialists. The people who thought democracy was worth trying instead of monarchy? Socialists. Caring for the poor by pooling resources and administering it through an institution of any kind is socialism. Jesus H Christ himself was a socialist, and he wasn’t white either. They argue that he wasn’t a socialist by making a modern separation of religion and state argument. That doesn’t make sense! Acts 4:32-35 was the primitive church practicing exactly what he had preached during his mortal life as recorded by the gospels. What, pray tell, is the whole scriptural justification for the modern state of American JudeoChristian religion? What my family blows out their asses about Marxism sounds like a bunch of deep state bullshit to me, which they say they hate, but when they say it they’re just talking about Conservatalk mythology which bears little resemblance to anything real except sometimes they use the names of real people like George Soros or Hillary Clinton. I dislike these people, but for evidence-based reasons. I refuse to participate in the delusions being made out of them. The deep state of that mythology is the pizzagate Qanon version led by George Soros, a kabal meant on destroying the West, which is just some new version of old anti-semitic crap watered down for an audience whose precious feelings forbid them from thinking they’re racist even when they’re doing racist shit, and also mixed with Cold War anti-socialist pro-American-Empire garbage.
Figuring out that Mormonism is not true has been the greatest gift I ever could have had — the opportunity to realize that a bunch of my presumptions about reality were wildly ignorant — because I’ve been able to book worm my way to deep understandings of current events that left me disturbed for most of the last fifteen years. Ben Shapiro says he would ask Sam Harris, “what are you trying to give me?” and then he and millions of other right-leaning religious people fall for Trump’s odious charisma and the cheapest lies imaginable, come to understand him as a Sampson-like figure sent from God while he’s threatening nuclear war in Twitter, then use him as a cultural event loaded with religious meaning to distinguish “liberals” and the “woke” from their own tribe, and they go down this rabbit hole until they’ve all become so anti-vax among other delusions that even Mormons are questioning their own prophet rather than just follow a prophet and get a quick jab to stop a virus that has already killed close to a million if their own nationals. Like my own father, they might instead believe that the vaccine has killed close to a million people. These are a people lost in the memes of their closed-minded ignorant social media feeds full of other people who have never learned how to think critically about anything. Ben Shapiro only argues that reason can’t reason because his parents taught him that the worst thing that could ever happen is that he could change his mind, and he argues himself into believing that abandoning some version of belief in JudeoChristian values is the worst thing that could ever happen — but he justifies voting for people who think nothing of the ultimate cost of using nuclear weapons in a war secenario — and he asks people who base their worldview on reason what they’re trying to give him when they criticize his faith…
Reason is its own reason for reason, Ben. It makes mistakes, but it avoids the really big ones at least, and it learns from error. But for reason, the Jews might have been hunted to extinction by the Nazis or maybe long before that. Everyone reasons, but most of us misuse reason for irrational purposes like arguing that Nazism is what happens when people reject religion when actually Martin Luther is on record saying it is a sin that we are not currently exterminating the Jews. He just got that from a understanding of the New Testament and it was unremarkable because everyone hated the Jews for the same reasons. An outbreak of a secular republic (like America was supposed to be) has an air of hope for liberal freedom to it that an outbreak of “JudeoChristian values” just never will. By the way, stop using plague language if you won’t respond rationally to an actual plague.