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.