Left-Wing Thought as Secular Religion
Left-wing ideologies, as we’ve seen, are based on the demand that people’s primary behaviour be altruistic rather than self-interested, even though this is a biological impossibility and against human nature. They demand this so that a mystical state of what they call ‘social justice’ may be attained in society.
The left-wing ideologies appear benign and harmless enough, given that their declared objectives are to do good and to elevate the disadvantaged in society. The reality, however, is that the method by which they propose to achieve these worthy objectives is anything but harmless. It involves the eventual replacement of the liberal, individualistic, rule of law-based society, economically organised around an open market, which has brought the West from feudalism to prosperity, by a centrally-planned, bureaucratic, and socialist state.
We’ve explained why many people go along with this compassionate illusion and support it politically and theoretically, even though no normal person will ever fulfil its demand, and very few comprehend the full implications behind the apparently idealistic ideology that they’ve chosen to support. We now explain why all the left-wing ideologies have deliberately chosen to predicate their ideologies on concepts that are impossible for humans to realise. This seems an irrational thing to do: surely it would be better to design an ideology based upon what people can achieve, rather than on what they can’t do?
While it might be simpler to do this, it would also be to miss the whole point of the psychological function that ideologies are specifically designed to serve. Ideologies serve the same functions in the modern, secular world that religions did in the superstitious past; they offer spiritual illusions to people who feel the need to believe that human existence has greater spiritual meaning and significance than their personal experience of it suggests is the case. While an ideology’s greatest appeal is to those strongly in need of spiritual assurance, the compassion apparently driving the left-wing ideologies extends their emotional appeal to many normal people.
The hope of spiritual fulfilment is best offered, given its abstract nature, not by practical measures, such as medical treatment, which are readily provided and so equally readily shown not to bring about spiritual fulfilment, but by fantasy. It is fantasy’s very disconnect from harsh reality that makes it so suitable for providing putative solutions to abstract spiritual needs.
Ideologies, just like religions, consist of a set of morally-based and coherent ideas and beliefs which, firstly, claim to be dedicated to attaining the highest moral good and, secondly, claim to represent not just moral opinion, but the universal, objective truth. Both religions and political ideologies start by identifying the cause of what they respectively claim is currently wrong with the world. For the theistic religions, this is humankind’s sinful nature, and for left-wing ideology it is greedy capitalism and the profit motive. They then offer their respective courses of action that will in the future redeem the world from this error and bring it to a state of moral perfection. For religions, this is to comply with God’s wishes and so attain everlasting life; for left-wing ideologies, it is for everyone to be primarily altruistic and so attain social justice here on earth. It is noteworthy that all radical ideologies and all theistic religions follow the identical method of attracting adherents; they disparage the present (in which the potential believer is unhappy or dissatisfied) and offer instead a perfect future in its place (in which the believer will be sublimely happy), provided only that their doctrines are accepted and adhered to.
(It is an interesting curiosity that humankind’s religious and political needs, seemingly so different, should both follow the same emotional form and seek the same type of spiritual gratifications. In effect, ideology is religion, and religion is ideology.)
The left-wing ideologies all purposefully predicate their belief systems on an illusion that is impossible for humans to attain, precisely because they are ideologies. That is how ideologies, in full awareness of human psychology and the widespread need of humankind for spiritual reassurance from a source professing moral authority, structure their belief systems, in order to attract adherents.
The left-wing ideologies are compassionate ideologies and are presumed to be driven by the compassion and empathy of the ideologues and politicians who drive them.
It would certainly raise serious questions if the people driving the ideologies were not in fact what they passionately claim everybody should be; namely, more altruistic than self-interested in their behaviour. Given that no normal person can consistently be more altruistic than self-interested, however, the politicians driving the left-wing ideologies must presumably belong to that tiny and saintly minority of people who, like Mother Theresa, dedicate most of their time and energy to serving the interests of others. As, presumably, were Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot, and all the other idealists who have lead the various left-wing political factions over the past 200 years.
Given the exploitation and abuse that the mass of people has suffered over the course of thousands of years at the hands of many of the leaders of religions and other ideologies, most of whom piously professed to be dedicated to serving humankind’s physical and spiritual welfare, a measure of scepticism regarding the actual purpose of all revealed religion and all other ideologies is warranted. Is it really there to serve the people, or is it rather there as the most effective means of controlling them?
The left-wing ideologies might be what the politicians driving them claim that they are and what their supporters believe them to be. On the balance of probability, however, the evidence suggests that they are no more than morally-centred belief systems, such as have been used over the ages by charismatic and psychologically astute individuals to control for their own interests what people believe, so providing the means by which they may be manipulated.
Author: David Matthews is a retired Cape Town businessman and author of Our Captured Minds: how religions and ideologies exploit morality to order and control society.