In his latest essay, our Israeli correspondent MC wades into the deepest swamps of the Culture Wars.
Religion vs Religion
Perhaps my love of America and all things American has its roots in the regular supply of US comics sent to my brother and me by various relatives in the ’50s and ’60s, and amongst which was the occasional edition of MAD magazine.
Much of MAD was over my young head, but Spy vs Spy was always amusing and sticks in my mind, especially their pointed snouts clamped together when investigating a box (trap) from opposite sides.
However, Religion vs (political) Religion is not so amusing, nor is it confined to ink and paper, for the successful side of Western culture is defined by its (Christian) religion, and its demise is defined by the political religions which seek to destroy Christianity and all that goes with it.
The Christian revolution (I am not a Christian but I believe in the Bible) occurred when the Bible was translated into local languages and printed for all to read, and the Church was dragged out of its roots of feudalism (slavery) into what became democracy and even republicanism.
An important part of this process was the separation of Church and State; the Church having been responsible for many abuses that had held the communities of Europe in thrall for over a thousand years.
The feudal system over which the Church held suzerainty was a typical product of tyranny: a small elite, the aristocracy, owning most of the people as serfs, to do with as they please, and a tiny middle class of tradesmen to manufacture those things consumed by their betters. This was just a slight variation on the ‘warlord’ culture that has run most of the world from time immemorial and to this day in some places.
In the UK the feudal system was broken first by the Black Death, which killed off some 30% of the workforce. The subsequent competition for labour destroyed the idea of ‘ownership’ of people. Secondly, and as a consequence of this pandemic, a growing equality of opportunity was provided by increasing access to quality education. Ex-slaves and serfs used their newfound freedom to better themselves.
Under the feudal system, the church provided education and the higher-IQ peasant children were syphoned off into the cloisters. To a great extent this provided the stability required as potential peasant leaders were ‘kidnapped’ into religion (Janissaries, anybody?). Heresy invited a death penalty and life was cheap. In feudal times the Church was very much a political religion, and the Pope reigned over all the monarchs of Europe.
All this emerging freedom from under the tyranny of political religion, however, took hundreds of years to get to the idea of individual liberty. The cultural and economic impacts were minimised by being spread over such a genteel timescale. My paternal grandfather was a boy coalminer at age 12, but his sons went to grammar schools, receiving a quality education, and his youngest son even got a bachelor’s degree in engineering.
But do not think that the ‘elites’ did not fight back. Their main ploy was to create another politicized version of the feudal system that the church had failed to sustain. This took the form of ‘socialism’ where the elite claimed to be working in the best interests of the ‘working class’ by controlling all aspects of their lives. This was yet another political religion, of which we have now seen quite a few forms. Each causes its own mayhem, because there is no separation between political religion and state, and thus there is nothing to stop the killing when it inevitably starts.