Saturday, May 12, 2007

Christianity: slave morality with a symbolic master

I got several interesting comments to my post Christian ethicsto be or not to be?, which touches upon things that I want to discuss. Go read them, if you haven't done so yet, there's a very interesting discussion going on there. And there are so many things I will have to comment upon, among others the question regarding my description of how to reform Islam (which includes destroying Mecca, among other things).

I start with part of my dialog with Mr. Spog, concerning Christianity and slave morality. In the comment section I had written to him:

I'm not saying that an ethical system needs a religious component to work, in general. What I'm saying is valid specifically for Christianity, with its Christian ethics, which is a slave morality originally invented by the Jews in the Babylonian exile. Slave morality can only work well if it is centered around a master as the hub of the ethical system--in this case the Christian God. Remove the (symbolic) master and the whole system disintegrates, and the slave morality acts as pure self-destruction.
To which he concluded:
The idea of a slave morality requiring a master could be extended to the political level: a Christian empire, under a non-Christian master class, may be workable, while in the long run a Christian democracy will not be (as we are now seeing).
Great, Mr. Spog. Now we are definitely speaking the same language. We see here how applying the pattern of a novel terminology upon known things, makes us see them in new interesting ways, providing us with new insights. Previously I applied the pattern of empire upon the United States. This has many advantages by providing us with a common terminology for comparisons with the British and the Roman empire, among other things. This time the pattern being applied is the one of slave and master morality--with my addition to Nietzsche's terminology, making the distinction between slave morality centered around a master, and slave morality deprived of its master.

Your answer, Mr. Spog, is parallel to Machiavelli's idea that the ruler of a country should not follow Christian ethics himself, but just as well should appear as a good Christian in front of the people. And your idea is rather close to the thoughts I had when I was still a Christian civilizationist. But I do not think it could work any longer. Times have changed very much since the days of Machiavelli. There's a very good reason why Nietzsche said "God is dead" by the end of the 19th century. And this has very dire implications upon the possibilities of building a strong civilization, of any kind, based on Christianity. And furthermore, I'm no longer convinced that we should aim at an empire as a first step (but of course in the longer run.)

However, in July 2006, when I was still a Christian civilizationist, I wrote the following to Lawrence Auster in a letter (it was never published). I use the mentioned terminology to sorting out the weaknesses and strengths among liberalism/socialism, Fascism and Christianity:
There's no way to keep Judeo-Christian slave morality without putting back a proper master into the equation, i.e. God and Christ.

Slave morality is the invention of the Jews under the Babylonian exile, and it’s a very clever invention. A complete defeat was turned into nationalistic strength by this invention. But this original slave morality was a powerful machine with a gigantic master at the center. The slave morality of liberalism/socialism-- where there are only slaves, obsessed (bordering paranoia) by equality and freedom (in spite of living in the most equal and free historic context ever), and no master and no direction--is a recipe for suicide. Fascism trumps liberalism/socialism by having a master, the cult of the leader. But is still too weak since it’s a human leader, and no human leader can match the requirements of this equation. The people will fall prey to the arbitrary decisions of this leader. Christianity, with it’s symbolic leader, God, is superior in this comparison, since this symbolic leader represents the accumulation of cultural traditions and wisdom, and therefore grants stability and success.
So only last year, I would probably have agreed with you. But I no longer do. "God is dead"... What does that mean, really? What has happened to our civilization? It means that the genie of Christian ethics has been let out of the bottle of Christianity, all while our ruling elites are doing their best to smash this bottle against a rock. In our society, the "holy people" are no longer pious Christians and priests, but leftists and the cultural elite. The recipe of you and Machiavelli, while working in previous times, doesn't look viable anymore. Christian ethics is living a life of its own now. Any attempt to build a Christian empire, with or without a non-Christian ruling class, would be torn down from under, by the fierce revolutionary egalitarianism of Christian ethics.

My assessment is that Christianity cannot be mended. The only way out is to leave Christian ethics. But the idea of a God, or a few, is not so bad, as I indicated in my letter to Auster. But we need to go through a major transformation of mythology. More about that in another post.

1 comment:

Mr. Spog said...

To qualify my remark (really more of an idea than a conclusion) about Christian society requiring, in the long run, a non-Christian master class:

Christian democracy has historically been quite successful compared with ancient Greek democracy. The longest-lived examples of democracies have, I think, been some of the Swiss cantons; the United States has also achieved a respectable age. While I think Christianity can in a sense be blamed for what seems to be the present disintegration of democracy, Plato, e.g., would apparently have seen it as part of a natural political cycle. One's assessment of the political flaws of Christianity has to be put into the context of what the alternatives offer. It should be interesting to see what you have in mind as such an alternative.