A recent post at A Political Refugee From the Global Village tackles the question of finding a substitute for belief in God. This is a question that people like Jordan Peterson seem to be grappling with, although in Peterson’s case without any success.
The first question to ask is whether any society has managed to survive without religion. The answer is, it depends on what you mean by religion. Did the classical Greeks and Romans actually believe in their gods? Or in any god at all? They seemed to be pretty sceptical but the fragmentary nature of the sources makes it difficult to know just how much the average person in the classical world believed in religion.
One of the strongest arguments in favour of religion is that it provides the only viable foundation for morality. I think it should be noted that if the classical world was characterised by scepticism it was also characterised by depressingly low levels of morality.
What about Asian civilisations such as Imperial China? Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Shintoism don’t seem to be religions in quite the same way that Christianity or Islam are religions. Nonetheless they seem to have worked fairly well as the basis for building civilisations and they seem to have done rather better on the morality front than the Greeks and Romans.
It might therefore be possible to base a genuine civilisation on a religion that is more like a civic or communal faith than the relationship with a personal God that is the way most of us think about Christianity. It has to be stressed however that the great danger is that such a religion will be wishy-washy and vague and woolly-minded and hopelessly feminised, just like modern Christianity. That just isn’t going to work. What is needed is a civic religion that is strong and virile and hard-headed.
There has to be a focus of devotion and if it’s not a personal God then there seem to be only two alternatives - the focus has to be worship of the state or worship of a king. Kings are hopelessly out of fashion and the ridiculous and pathetic constitutional monarchies of Europe have discredited the idea of monarchy altogether. The focus of devotion is therefore going to be the state.
That sounds like plain old totalitarianism but it isn’t, or at least not necessarily. The totalitarian societies have that so far come into being have been little more than slave states, with ordinary people being nothing more than anonymous cogs in a machine. A state religion could, perhaps, offer a great deal more. It could offer a genuine sense of purpose with the people being part of the state rather than servants of the state. It would be a very difficult trick to pull off but it might be possible.
Such a system could be described as a kind of religious fascism. It could incorporate some elements of Christianity and of paganism.
The question is, is there a viable alternative? Liberals like Jordan Peterson would like to think we could have a kind of touchy-feely secular religiosity that is compatible with liberal democracy. This is mere delusion. Liberal democracy is a dead end. It offers nothing but futility, emptiness and death. It is a death cult. What is needed is something that would allow us to sweep liberal democracy into the dustbin of history. Whatever the future turns out to be like Jordan Peterson is not going to like it. He’s going to be doing a lot of crying.