On Laïcité And The Cryptoreligion Of the Modern West

Over at the Maverick Philosopher Bill Vallicella has published a post commenting on the failure of “Laïcité” — the doctrine of separation of church and state, intended to pre-empt religious political factionalism — in Europe. Bill advances the argument that, because modern Leftists are such unreflective secularists, they’ve lost their understanding of the “deep-rootedness” of religion in human nature.

We read:

Laicity is French secularity, the absence of religious influence and involvement in government affairs. It has had the salutary effect of preventing civil strife over religion. But to appreciate why laicity is important and salutary one must understand that the roots of religion lie deep in human nature. But to appreciate why laicity is important and salutary one must understand that the roots of religion lie deep in human nature.

Bill is absolutely right about this. He continues:

Leftists cannot take religion seriously and they don’t think anyone else really takes it seriously either, not even Muslims.

…The issue at present is not whether religion is true but whether it answers to deep human needs that cannot be met in any other way. My point is not that leftists think that religion is false or delusional, although they do think it to be such; my point that they don’t appreciate the depth of the religious need even if it is a need that, in the nature of things, cannot be met.

Not understanding religion, leftists fail to understand how important laicity is to prevent civil strife over religion. And so they don’t properly uphold it. They cave in to the Muslims who reject it.

Right again, I think. But here I must ask a key question: if religion is, as Bill says, an essential, deeply rooted aspect of human nature that answers “deep human needs that cannot otherwise be met”, how, then, can an entire generation of civilized and educated people simply discard it?

My answer is that they can’t, and more importantly, they haven’t — however much they may think they have. What has happened instead is that in the space of less than a century, Western Christianity has mutated into a new and pernicious form — one that has, under the pressures of naturalistic and scientistic skepticism, “Progressive” ideology, and the catastrophic moral horrors of the twentieth century, hidden God and Christ from view, flattened and immanentized the hierarchy of Earth and Heaven, and replaced individual salvation with a vague and universalist collective soteriology.

The adherents of this cloaked and mutated form of Christianity imagine themselves to have broken free of religion altogether, but they have in fact done nothing of the sort. If they fail to take Islam seriously enough to suppress its influence under the principle of laicity, it is because Islam now seems so far removed from their own belief system that it is no longer taken seriously as a religious rival.

Christianity, however, is reviled, and rightly feared, by the liberal elites of the secular West. This is because they sense its ancestral cultural pull. It threatens to undo their own doxastic evolution in a way that Islam does not.

As I mentioned, the great metamorphosis of Christianity entered the pupal stage beginning about a century ago in America. I looked at this in some detail in this post, from last July. If this topic interests you, I think you’ll find it worth your time.


  1. Jimmy says

    Something interesting and amusing about Islamic terrorists I picked up somewhere.

    Apparently isis terrorists go to great pains and care to ensure that westerners are bet clear that they are committing these acts PURELY (note important ambiguity of that term) out of religious fervor.

    The reason this is important to them is so we infidels don’t mistake their killing as motivated by low and base reasons (ie. Economic security).

    In effect, when our elites blame impoverishment and material dissatisfaction for terrorism, they heunously insult terrorist and the sizable terrorist sympathizing mini.

    All while congratulating themselves on how deftly they’ve handled the matter in avoiding “bigotry”.

    Hilarious if not so tragic.

    Posted January 17, 2018 at 4:24 pm | Permalink
  2. Thersites says

    ‘We talk much about “respecting” this or that person’s religion; but the way to respect a religion is to treat it as a religion: to ask what are its tenets and what are the consequences. But modern tolerance is deafer than intolerance. The old religious authorities, at least, defined a heresy before they condemned it, and read a book before they burned it. But we are always saying to a Mormon or a Moslem — “Never mind about your religion, come to my arms.” To which he naturally replies — “But I do mind about my religion, and I advise you to mind your eye.”’

    -G.K. Chesterton, 1911

    Posted January 18, 2018 at 9:25 am | Permalink
  3. …because modern Leftists are such unreflective secularists, they’ve lost their understanding of the “deep-rootedness” of religion in human nature.

    The deep-rootedness of religion in THEIR OWN ideology.

    Posted January 22, 2018 at 11:17 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Right, Nick, that’s my point here: they’re as religious as anyone.

    The distinction between this view and Bill’s is an important one.

    Posted January 22, 2018 at 11:37 pm | Permalink
  5. John Q Public says

    Great stuff. #NRx readers please note that this is NOT the Puritan hypothesis. We are not talking about Cotton Mather or Jonathan Edwards. We are talking about Walter Rauschenbusch and Harry Emerson Fosdick.

    Posted January 24, 2018 at 2:31 pm | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says


    Thanks for joining in.

    While this post does not say anything in particular about the Puritan hypothesis, it isn’t in contradiction to it, either.

    Readers: for further elaboration of this, please refer to JQP’s more detailed comments, and my replies, at my recent post on this topic, here.

    Posted January 24, 2018 at 4:56 pm | Permalink
  7. Ivan says

    Religion is fundamentally about fecundity by way of influencing female morality. Males don’t really need it to incentivize family formation. It is social technology that is ever present because those who lack it are outcompeted by those who have it.

    Notice both Moslems and Mormons have a predilection for polygamy, and puritanical Christian sects that shame sex have short life-spans.

    Posted January 25, 2018 at 7:52 am | Permalink

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