A supernatural concept, conceived 2500 years ago during the Bronze Age, but still influencing Western thought today, has long been impeding the West’s gradual cultural move from religion to secularity. And it is now leading the West back to a mystical, and potentially authoritarian culture and perception of reality.
Just as it earlier formed the foundation of the Western religions, this concept now performs the same function for the evangelical political ideologies in today’s supposedly secular era; namely, socialism, communism, fascism, and currently, wokeism, or critical (race) theory. Each of these quasi-religious ideologies, like the religions, plays upon humanity’s perpetual search for meaning, declaring life as it is presently lived to be deficient, and offering believers an ideal social, or racial, Final End, through the application of their dogmas. In effect, they are endeavouring to return Western civilisation to the authoritarian and occult type of social order from which secular liberal democracy freed it in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The supernatural concept is that of objective morality: the belief that there is only one moral code in the universe that governs everybody’s life. As we shall see shortly, it is the implication behind this superstition that is still being employed today, in a supposedly secular society, to morally justify both authoritarianism and fanatical moral conviction in the civilised West.
Before describing just how and why this concept impacts negatively on secular civilisation, we need first to clarify the meaning of several words that are not easily defined in English. These are, supernatural: beyond the laws of science and human understanding. Secularity: having nothing to do with religion or the supernatural. Interpreting life and phenomena rationally and utilising the empirical verification and falsification characteristic of the scientific method. Spirituality: having everything to do with religion or the supernatural. Perceiving life emotionally rather than rationally, and as having an immaterial and enlightened dimension, not visible to the human senses.
The supernatural concept of objective morality is a corollary of monotheism: the belief that there is only one God. The Western religions tell us that as there is only one God in existence, who defines what is morally right and morally wrong, there can be only one moral code in the universe. And because He has no need to change his mind, that moral code is also fixed and unchanging.
In contrast, secularity perceives morality to be solely the product of the collective and fallible human mind, and observes that empirically there are thousands of varying moral codes on earth. These tend to be similar in many regards, because basic human nature is a constant, and also similar in respect of matters important to human survival. They sometimes differ in other respects, however, where societies’ historical circumstances have differed. Morality is also understood not to be fixed, as the changes over time to the Western moral beliefs regarding capital punishment, homosexuality, and slavery inform us.
Prior to the gradual development of science in Europe, starting in approximately the 15th century, the West’s inhabitants, like those of the rest of the world, perceived human existence largely in spiritual terms. This included even most of the elite, the pre-eminent and dominant individuals in each field of human activity (who themselves generally arise individually from the mass of the population). This spirituality was expressed culturally in the form of religion, and politically in the form of religiously-justified authoritarianism.
A principal characteristic of any society organised on spiritual principles is its authoritarian political nature. The dominant element in society needs to establish the moral authority that will enable it to control the mass of people peacefully, without having to utilise costly and counter-productive force. In a less sophisticated past, it did this by formulating supernaturally and morally-based religious principles, which it then wove into the local moral code, at the same time claiming to be the appointed representative on earth of a supernatural deity. The authority aimed at was always moral authority, morality being the biological means by which human behaviour is controlled. Once a spiritual ideology, religious or political, enjoys mass acceptance, all its adherents are expected to accept the ruling ideology’s dogma and to believe what they are told to believe. This is no less true today of political ideologies than it was in the past of religions.
The supernatural concept of monotheism conferred an enormous advantage on those religions that preached it (Initially, Zoroastrianism and Judaism: later Christianity, and then Islam). It gave them the moral authority to assert that as there was only one God, it was He who defined what was morally right and morally wrong in the universe. Furthermore, as his only appointed representatives on earth, all the Church’s moral pronouncements were therefore not just arguable and fallible human moral opinions ( as had been the case previously under polytheism) but God-derived, objective moral facts, and so the absolute truth. Morality being the primary agency of social control in human society, this supernaturally-sourced moral authority accordingly gave each of the monotheistic religions a unique and powerful influence over the beliefs, and accordingly, the behaviour of all believers.
With the gradual development of science in Europe, however, the Church’s supernatural explanations of phenomena slowly started to lose credibility, and secularity came gradually to replace religion. By 1859, when Darwin provided Western society for the first time with a rational and highly plausible secular explanation for human existence, the Western leadership had come to regard the West culturally as secular rather than as religious. Belief in the blatantly supernatural became increasingly difficult to sustain and was increasingly abandoned. Belief in the less-obviously supernatural continued, however.
After 2000 years of monotheistic Christianity, Westerners continued to assume and believe that morality was objective, unitary, and fixed, regardless of its origin. The fact that these characteristics were directly attributable to the Church’s supernatural claim that morality was prescribed by God, was generally overlooked or ignored. Many of those who had discarded belief in a deity, therefore continued to perceive morality supernaturally, as their ancestors had done, often implicitly rather than explicitly. The 2500-year-old supernatural concept thus passed unnoticed and unremarked into the West’s scientifically-orientated secular culture. Darwin himself in all likelihood continued to believe that morality was objective. Given the vital role that morality plays in humanity’s social order, taken together with the political power that moral authority can confer on individuals and ideologies, this is a fact of enormous social significance.
While belief in the blatantly supernatural has largely died out, the supernatural justification for the moral and political authoritarianism that the concept of objective morality had been specifically designed to justify, has unfortunately survived. The majority of Westerners continued, and still continues, to believe that morality is objective, and therefore to believe that moral opinions are capable of being actual facts rather than mere subjective, fallible, and disputable moral opinions. They thus remain susceptible not only to moral fanaticism, but also to the modern, but no less supernatural claims to moral authority of those spiritually-based and authoritarian political ideologies that seek for their own ends to gain moral, and hence political dominance, over the majority of people.
In a rational and secular society, however, such as the West today considers itself to be, granting intellectual and emotional legitimacy to any supernatural concept in the political debate is not only culturally retrogressive, but likely to be highly counter-productive socially. Given the credulity and naiveite of most humans, and their susceptibility, including that of the majority of the elite, to the simplistic assertions of would-be authoritarian ideologies, the narrow margin of rationality that liberal democratic secularity brought to government in modern Western society, is under acute threat. If the populace chooses to abandon the rare and historical anomaly of liberal democracy from which it has so greatly benefitted, it will be because spirituality (and sheer foolishness) is far more fundamental to human nature than secularity or rationality, and we are all now in the process of mindlessly reverting to it.