The Fraud of Religious Toleration


Stephen Moriarty

Mr Martland, for the moment, thinks religious toleration is a good thing. It is not. Religious tolerance is usually just agnosticism or atheism. Those who are just going through the motions of their own religion find it easy to believe that others are merely doing the same. I discuss below why such play-acting is so commonplace, and whether it is quite as benign as it seems.

People who are not just “going through the motions” are less likely to be tolerant, if only because they are less likely to believe that others will tolerate them. It is true that some religions (and other belief systems) teach that religious tolerance is a duty; however, even when martyrdom or tolerance is at the centre of a religion or belief-system, the tenets of the religion nevertheless usually give way to “reality”, a desire to survive, in the face of an aggressive religion. Non-believers in the violent ideology will be faced, at best, with a choice between conversion and strife. Perhaps the most interesting question is: why do so many choose the latter?

This frequent refusal to convert to a violent religion indicates something important about religions: they are a proxy for an underlying natural reality. This is the reality, extremely problematic, that an individual’s instincts do not generally lead him or her to choose the least-related possible mate (“inbreeding depression” is well known, but there is also “outbreeding depression”). This phenomenon should need no illustration it is so manifest (yet denial of this is the central article of faith in modern “liberal” ideology, giving this ideology a religious aspect, as I elaborate below).

Religion is often conflated with race or tribe because they tend to coincide, the former acting as an ideological expression of the latter. This is why people “go through the motions”. Religions that allow polygamy are especially threatening to other unrelated groups, as they threaten the possibility that conversion will result in converted females becoming only low-status wives at best, whilst converted males may go completely mateless, if allowed to survive at all.

Thus the Hobbesian nature of realistic cultural policy in a multi-racial society: in order to prevent a sectarian war, the state must impose a single belief-system. At the moment, officially, this belief-system is “multiculturalism”, a form of toleration. Is this an ideology that can function in its principal role of preventing civil war? Being paradoxical, it is perhaps inherently weak (posing as a “level-playing field”, it is really a state policy of atheism or agnosticism; hence the constant whiff of patronising hypocrisy and intellectual confusion to which it gives rise), and it makes a virtue of failing to do the one thing a state ideology should do – hold society together. At best perhaps it is an imperial policy of divide and rule, but this is incompatible with democracy, since its exercise requires an elite that does not share the several beliefs of the ruled.

We can note the contradiction between anti-racism and multiculturalism. The former is, unless carefully defined as opposition to theories of racial superiority – which is a sane and honourable position, an irrational belief system: Balkanisation is such a manifest phenomenon that it requires a “suspension of disbelief” to hold that “race does not matter”. It plainly does. Multiculturalism is, on the other hand, rational enough from the point of view of government with regard to both race and religion, but it is not compatible with democracy for any extended period of time.

What we have at the moment is an ideology made up of both anti-racism and multiculturalism. Interestingly, this functions itself as a religion; that is, a para-legal system of mass-control: the anti-racism (i.e. the induction of mass hysteria through the denial of the manifest) induces guilt and suggestibility, whilst multiculturalism, by encouraging Balkanisation, positively encourages reality to be at extreme odds with the tenets of anti-racism (by which, to be clear, I mean the belief that “race does not matter” – I do not hold to theories of racial superiority or inferiority).

Thus is created a sado-masochistic neurosis or psychosis, not unlike that created by the Church in the past with regard to sex: lust was condemned, but there are bare breasts all over the friezes; the deeper the sin is masochistically repressed, the more sadistically can the powerful provoke the agony.

Is there an alternative to this? What might be the values of a rationalist state? A pragmatic answer is: the values of its most powerful members; therefore, by an inevitable regression – nepotism, lust and greed. A Nietzschean might call these virtues, and naked ambition has the virtue of lack of hypocrisy; but is such a “naked” state workable? This is the same question as: why do states employ religion and/or propaganda? To which the answer is that naked power is not generally sufficient to sustain the state, and is itself an inherently disruptive ideology, if the condition of having no ideology can be called that.

Can atheism arrive at values? Only by positing a universal instinct for fairness (as Kant did, for example). One has only to quote Genghis Khan to demolish this: “Happiness is driving one’s enemies before one, burning their villages, looting their possessions and outraging their women.”

Thus religious or pseudo-religious hypocrisy is an essential feature of civilisation. The notion of morality implies hypocrisy; we should hardly need it if we were not tempted in some other direction. Thus, before the arrival of the technology of the surveillance state at least, we chose always between chaos and hypocrisy. Hypocrisy requires some “lip-service”, and thus does indeed soften reality. It also, however, creates a guilt-complex, which is a means of control for “religious” leaders; guilt and hypocrisy are two sides of the same coin of civilisation, including our own, for the moment at least.
Tim Garton-Ash has spoken recently of three possible social models with regard to religion: no god, one god, all gods (“in the market place”) and his preference for the last. Of course the last is almost the inevitable choice of liberals, but even liberals must know that there is not really a “market place” for religious ideas. People do not usually choose their religion in any free sense. The success of religions is mostly a function of demographics. As Rene Girard pointed out, primitive leaders were (also) religious leaders. Religion does not exist in another sphere to realpolitik, it is one of the principal means by which power is exercised. For instance: the unification of temporal and spiritual power enacted by Henry VIII was one of the springs of the British Empire, creating as it did a people of (relatively) undivided loyalties: the English. It is interesting to note the simultaneous collapse of the British Empire and the Anglican religion. It is perhaps not just that a collective religious belief creates solidarity in a ruling group, but that where the will to power is strong, so too will there be strong religious belief as an instrument of power.

John Locke argued that a proliferation of sects was politically preferable to enforced uniformity because to attempt the latter created more problems than it solved. However, as was frequently the case in seventeenth-century Britain, this toleration was not to be extended to Roman Catholics. It was out of the question to give succour to a foreign, totalitarian religion. Neither did Locke favour toleration for atheists. We must question, therefore, whether Locke was “tolerant” in the modern sense: he merely questioned whether it was necessary to have complete conformity when everyone was in agreement as to whom and what they were against. To paraphrase Carl Schmitt: “Men are only good from fear of other men.”

Nevertheless, Locke’s idea that multiplicity may be more stable than enforced conformity certainly has an echo in contemporary multiculturalism. However, late-seventeenth century Britain was not a democracy. Sectarian division is especially problematic when one group is large enough to dominate the others at the ballot-box, which need not be anything close to an absolute majority under the FPTP system. Where belief is strong (and it tends to be strong as a consequence of sectarian division), there is “ethnic voting” along religious lines (which are frequently not just religious). Democracy becomes impossible in these circumstances: terror of a hostile government leads the minority groups to take up arms.

It must be in the minds of most modern liberals, however, that contact with other religions breeds atheism or agnosticism en soi. This is their own form of preaching to the converted. If it were true, religion would have died out long ago. Atheism must have some other cause than contact with “the Other”, possibly scientific education, but neither is this always a sufficient prophylactic, and nor is it clear that atheism leads to a stable society. People are capable of maintaining false beliefs from self-interest, such as for the purposes of conquest and sexual gratification, therefore we cannot rely upon reason to cure religious delusion. Reason cannot cure our appetites. Religion, however, makes great play with pretending that it can, and the degree to which it succeeds in doing this among its adherents (as opposed to universally) and the degree to which this might be a good thing are questions that liberal intellectuals have been loath to consider. Following commandments and other forms of religious diktats is one way of organising society, and it may appear to some to have (not necessarily universally moral) advantages over “tolerance”. Allowing unchallenged religious proselytization or indoctrination, then, can only be done with the knowledge that religion may win and tolerance may lose, which may not be a bad thing if the religion concerned brings stability.

Western liberal intellectuals of both the Left and Right have been engaged in a gigantic programme of denial. Both strands are utopian dreams of liberation from religio-tribal reality. The Right promise liberation from familial bonds and ideological constraints. The Left promise an end to economic and physical competition through the abolition of any gradient of concern. Both utopias are made unrealisable by the fact of family, yet it is this taken-for-granted force that makes all kinds of human society function; but families – tribes – are not utopian. In particular there is sexual immorality – adultery and polygamy. Most human groups – not just overt familial ones but also, for instance, political cliques – seek to pacify themselves internally (and expand) by directing low-status male aggression outwards rather than inwards at sexual injustice. This is the source of the stink of hypocrisy that hangs over most moral projects (including Progressivism): they are both aggressive and a vehicle for injustice, especially sexual injustice.

Most religions follow this pattern in practice. They are cultural manifestations of the biological reality of the tribe. Only religions that preach non-violence and monogamy can be said to offer moral progress over tribal reality. Yet such religions are, by these virtues, defenceless in the face of tribal reality. Christianity’s survival, then, must be through a nation-state, by which it draws a boundary to both its own and its neighbours’ sinfulness. Within those boundaries there is an attempt at genuine (i.e. including sexual) justice, and no unprovoked violence will be done by the Christian nation-state outside those boundaries. But National Christianity must give fair-warning to the immoral: these borders will be defended from evil.

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11 thoughts on “The Fraud of Religious Toleration

  1. Well, libertarianism works best in a country with a common culture. Religious toleration of Islam in a Christian country is just madness, really… If you believe in anything, you can’t tolerate other religions! Francis II violates virtually every tenet of the 19th century Syllabus of Errors!

    • Yes, but the difficulty with this is that I am not a believing Christian. I am a strong atheist. Thus, in my life, Christianity is relegated to the status of a formal moral code and cultural artefact. Certainly, I can see that Christianity and other Western influences are the shared culture of my country, which of course is your point, and I don’t take issue with that at all. Quite the contrary, I actually like old Norman and English churches very much, and I like the Church of England and its hymns and traditions, and I also like the Quakers. However, there is also a darker side to religious people, which I have seen in person.

      Christianity is actually quite a nasty belief system – Christians believe that unless you accept Jesus, you will go to Hell, irrespective of your merits as an individual. That is what they literally think. It’s every bit as nasty as Islam, if not worse.

      Also, I don’t accept that Islam is an alien religion. Islam is Western. In a way, Moslems can be seen as the Middle Eastern version of Puritans, with their odd puritanical dress and so on. But Western or not, from my perspective, all the Abrahamic belief systems – Islam, Christianity, and especially, Judaism – are equally ridiculous. Why should I care which of the three holds sway? If you want to say Islam is alien, then so is the Jeeeezus cult, and if Islam is in the ascendancy and Britain becomes Islamic, that will be because Christianity is too weak and was thus not fit for purpose.

      Defending our civilisation as ‘Christian’ is, to me, in the same category as defending the British way of life with reference to cucumber sandwiches and country fêtes. I know this is unfair because Christianity has an ethnic and anti-Semitic basis and was once much stronger, however I think those who claim Christianity has been weakened and corrupted are misunderstanding the problem. Whatever the causes or reasons, this is Christianity in practice, so it is a failed belief system.

      We are only nominally a Christian country now. The very fact that I can make the statement that I am an atheist, and do so in public without any social or legal repercussions whatever, is of great significance. I am just old enough to remember a time when (outside metropolitan intellectual circles perhaps) it was considered slightly shameful and embarrassing to publicly admit atheism. I have been an atheist since about the age of 7, in other words since the first time I could think coherently about such matters. I remember distinctly being in Sunday School and thinking the whole thing was just nonsense and not understanding why the adult world took it seriously. I also remember a very sad incident with my father, when I was about 14, when he remonstrated with me quite forcibly about the matter and accused me of being ‘selfish’ because I would not believe in God – and he was not a church-goer. Belief in God was deeply ingrained in British society and was once taken very seriously indeed. That has gone completely now.

      We are not the same country anymore – and I have to say, in some ways, I think this is a good thing. Why should be base our society on superstitions and “spirituality”? What is “spirituality” anyway? It’s just superstition, is it not? Sure, we could all pretend to be open-minded and intellectual about this and talk about the philosophical side of it – the nature of reality, perception, ontology and so and so forth – but this is all a pretence. It is just superstition.

      So, on the whole Enlightenment question, and Keir’s thesis on the Glorious Revolution, I must say I am intellectually conflicted. I do see the social value in religion – a point the author above discusses when he points out how functioning societies are built on shared lies and hypocrises – but I have always taken a scientific and mechanistic view about things. I simply can’t pretend to believe in things that I know are arrant nonsense, and I think this presents a problem. I think human societies are changing in ways that Nationalists have not taken account of.

  2. [quote]”Only religions that preach non-violence and monogamy can be said to offer moral progress over tribal reality. Yet such religions are, by these virtues, defenceless in the face of tribal reality. Christianity’s survival, then, must be through a nation-state, by which it draws a boundary to both its own and its neighbours’ sinfulness.”[unquote]

    The United States was originally established as a community of toleration and freedom under the auspices of agnostic, secular government. This experiment is now collapsing (and I suspect the Founding Fathers probably knew it would one day), and the lesson, I think, is that in order to maintain a community of toleration and freedom we must be intolerant of suicidal tolerance. To that extent, I think we are in rough agreement, and I understand and share your logic, but I don’t agree with your proposed solution.

    Is it moral to overcome tribal reality? I don’t consider that monogamy or non-violence are morally desirable or represent progress in moral terms. Your belief in these things might reflect a Christian ethic, which I don’t share. To me, tribal reality (i.e. Darwinism) is moral, because that is what is real, and what is real is moral. Christianity was (among other things) an attempt to control and divert Darwinist forces (especially female nature, which left unchecked is highly destructive) to socially productive ends. As was probably inevitable, Christianity has collapsed into meta-liberalism and surrendered to feminism (i.e. socialised female nature). The choice now is to revive the Christ Cult on the basis of its supposed merits, or replace it. I favour replacing it with something new that is materialist and atheistic. I do not see any hope in your solution because Christianity’s institution of monogamy, and its precept of non-violence, are now being visibly and openly dismantled, without apology or embarrassment, by the very governments that once were trusted to protect polite bourgeois Christian society. Women are not wild and out-of-control. Governments are now openly authoritarian. I’m not blaming Christianity for these things – that would stupid, since they go against Christianity – but I must point to the concomitant breakdown of Christian influence in Western societies – in that sense, the moral, social and civic conservatives have a point, but their prescription of a Christian revival is, in my view, misguided.

    Monogamy has never existed anyway, except in sanctioned propaganda and in the minds of delusional men who think that women are faithful and monogamous, which by nature nobody is, man or woman. If we’re going to be moral about it, then let’s be moral: it is not morally desirable to encourage monogamy, because it is a bare-faced lie and everybody knows it is – though that being the case, perhaps a residual pragmatic case could be made for it, on the basis that it is indeed an ‘official lie’ (everybody knowing it is dishonest but colluding in it anyway) and can more or less function institutionally under the right conditions. As you rightly say, successful societies are built on lies and hypocrisies. But how do you put the genie back in the box?

    A general attitude of non-violence is not morally desirable, in my view, as it contravenes the iron law of tribal realities that you enunciate: i.e. the stronger (or violent) tribe will overcome the weaker. Force and coercion, I dislike, but they are moral because they are reality. I take the view that all that is real is moral. Sound morality, in other words, does not necessarily exclude notions I ‘dislike’ or that are aesthetically or emotionally discomforting.

    I think nation-states are finished. Religion is finished. Capitalism is finished. Hierarchies are finished. Women are finished. The world is changing in very fundamental and scary ways, ‘national’ prescriptions are becoming redundant and traditionalistic values are in recession. Personally, I think the answer is intentional communities in which different kinds of people can find a geopolitical space suitable for them.

    On the matter of anti-racism, I can see a difficulty with what you say. Admittedly you touched on this very lightly and it’s not centrally important to anything you have said, but you describe opposition to beliefs of racial superiority and inferiority as “sane and honourable”. I would have to disagree, on two grounds – first, that view is contrary to observed reality; and, second, it’s also inimical to your own views, as expressed in your essay above. I also suspect that you are misunderstanding these beliefs. Views about racial superiority/inferiority are situational. I might think that whites are generally superior to black Africans, and I may be right or wrong about that, but my view is of no practical consequence unless I have to live among black Africans. It is forced mass immigration that presents us with the question, without which both whites and blacks would be free to develop their own societies to reflect their respective preponderant characteristics and the only issue for debate would be the extent to which we interact or intervene in each other’s societies.

    In a way, anti-racists are enunciating a bare truth when they say that white nationalists are ‘white supremacists’. Indeed, that is what they are – but only in the sense that they want white people to be masters of their own geopolitical space, which is, surely, only a reflection of “tribal reality”, as you call it. The phrase ‘white supremacism’ (or white superiorism) is just an anti-racist propaganda formulation. Those who give it charge are themselves denying one of the most elemental aspects of tribal reality: the desire of most human beings to live among, and reproduce with, people who are genetically not too dissimilar, look like each other, and have a shared culture, language and understanding of laws and social organisation – which, among other things, encourages stability and continuity.

  3. Thank you Mr Webb and Mr Rogers for these responses. Dr Gabb, thank you for publishing this – I didn’t think it was off-topic, so much as not a tailored response to Mr Martland’s excellent article; I apologise for this, but I am too slow-witted to refashion things quickly. I suppose I am saying that Mr Martland is quite right that Toleration is not part of English liberalism, but that that is not a point against the said liberalism. I simply do not understand why it is such an outrage to ask people to show loyalty by attending the Church of England; such a small thing to ask in return for so much and instead of bringing calamity upon us all. Except that I do understand, the answer being in my essay: it is not really about religion at all. Even so I believe that once this is understood, people might see the folly of their pride: the Queen, our Sovereign, is Protector of the Faith and the embodiment of all of us. The way to show loyalty, and bring all the security that comes from loyalty, is to attend her Church.
    Mr Rogers, is there nothing except “Might is Right”? You don’t seem to refute my point that hypocrisy softens reality. Why do some of us feel “the moral law within” (Kant), whilst others do not? I suppose exploitation requires order, and thus greed breeds good, and so the evil do well despite themselves.
    Thank you all again.

    • No, I don’t think there is anything other than Might Is Right. To me, what is moral is whatever the strongest determine is right and wrong. I think a version of this is the society we live in now, it’s just that most people don’t see it because of the hypocrises and lies that (as you put it) “soften reality”.

      I’m not saying I like it or dislike it. I am commenting on how things are as a materialist: I do not believe in “softening reality” or sugar-coating things with high-flown rhetorical notions such as “human rights”, “morality” (in the sense you use it), “equality” and so on. I believe in confronting the world the way it is – in a way, I think we actually agree about this. You understand reality too, it’s just that you believe in a solution that moderates reality, and while I accept this has its merits, personally I would rather not live in a society based on lies, even if this means having to suffer discomfort. I think what we call morality and ethics are mostly just rationalisations of Might Is Right rule. If there is ‘might’ behind it, then it is ‘right’, or ‘a right’. All current political and civic ‘rights’ are in place to facilitate the development of a market economy, rather than to give people control over their own lives and property. Indeed, most of the modern bourgeois revolutions were fought and won as part of a process that confiscated property rights from ordinary people in favour of the middle classes. That was ‘right’.

      But there is also an objective morality, which even the strongest ruler cannot wash away, and which affirmatively tells us that the way society is run, based on lies, fraud and violence, may be ‘right’, but it is definitely wrong. The version of Might Is Right morality that I find appealing is one in which ‘Might’ is based on the popular will and in which there is no minority ruling class in society.

      • “But there is also an objective morality”

        Citation needed.

        As an aside, to the original author, the vast majority of all human societies have been polygamous or, more rarely, polyandrous. The historical fluke that left monogamy as the main familial setup, now fortunately falling away, is not some natural order, or God’s will reasserting itself, it is just a historical accident. Sure, there may be some reason why, given certain other things, it made for a more stable society, but since we had slavery for quite a while in stable societies it is hardly a compelling argument – not that I’m comparing monogamy and slavery, wait, maybe I am…

        • Because from where I’m sat the concept of objective morality is absurd and I’ve yet to see any evidence that suggests there is even a remote possibility it could exist.

        • Keddaw,
          Thank you for this. I believe that polyandry is very rare indeed, and I know that polygamy is the usual set-up.
          Stability is quite a compelling argument, and so is fairness: males and females are born at very nearly (slightly more males than females) a 1-1 ratio. Monogamy is the nearest we can get to giving nearly everyone the chance of a mate. This system involves some sacrifice on the part of those who might have had more mates (mostly males) and those (mostly females) who would have preferred to be the second or third wife of someone other than the man they are married to, and it doubtless involves a lot of bedroom-farce antics and rows and hypocrisy, but it has a kind of dignity and natural justice to it as well, and it creates the general presumption that life should be fair, and that people should be faithful, and that a child should know its father, and that the father should be a proper father to it.
          Polygamy doesn’t do these things. It blatantly advertises that life is not fair, that “Might is Right”. Unsurprisingly, in societies where it is not taboo, there is no presumption that life should be fair more generally, and there is a surplus of males reasonably convinced that, since there is no fairness, they need not trouble themselves with the concept.
          A “Darwinian” eugenicist would no doubt say that monogamy allows reproduction by people who “shouldn’t”, which is probably true, but is this any less true of polygamy, which gives free rein to the thugs? I believe Darwin himself rejected any teleological interpretation of his ideas.
          Was it Huysmans who wrote a book called “Against Nature”? I think we should try to mitigate nature when it is cruel, without lying about the cruelty and nature that lies within us, for that leads to its own cruelty through witch-hunting.
          I haven’t a clue how to reinstate monogamy except through Christianity, and I know that monogamy is not a picnic, but not fifty years ago it was the norm throughout what once was Christendom. I don’t think that that was an “accident” – it was because Christ insisted upon it.
          Thank you again. I’m not, by the way, suggesting punishment for adultery or absolutely no divorce.

          • Stephen, I dislike in the extreme the concept that every man ‘deserves’ a woman because it’s ‘fair’. This is a really dangerous concept. I had a whole bunch of other stuff, but really this is the crux of it: people are (now) individuals and they should be allowed to do what they want and be free to associate with whomever they please. You are trying to artificially limit that association and create a situation where people are coerced to go with people they don’t want to due to an artificially created shortage of willing partners. Why don’t you take your religion and your state out of people’s relationships and bedrooms?

            That is much harsher than I intended it to be, but there’s no point pulling punches as it allows too many tangents.

  4. From a rational sceptic’s point of view, Christianity, feminism, multiculturalism LBGT activism, etc. could all be classed as religions. Convinced as their adherents may be, they’re not based on scientific evidence. So the ideal state would be free from interference by all of these doctrines, while guaranteeing people’s right to hold and express any belief they wish. That would be true “separation of church and state”.

    But, as Tom Rogers has pointed out, the state then comes up against the paradox of tolerating the intolerant. As soon as a nation grants freedom to a religion that believes in slaughtering infidels, it has strapped a ticking time-bomb to itself.

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