William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

On Virtue & Holiness Signalling

When dogma was oriented towards reality, cathedrals looked like this.

When dogma was oriented towards reality, cathedrals looked like this.

Since man’s deepest needs are spiritual, and man lives in society and is fallen, there is bound to be among men virtue or holiness signaling. We all have the desire, and often are required, to let others know where we stand with respect to cultural mores.

There will be signalling in the absence or presence of a recognized religion. In the West, which used to be Christian, there is now among the elites largely the religion of Man, i.e. Man worship. Christianity lingers at the edges. Christianity was, or rather is, an organized religion with a priesthood, more or less diffused among sects. The religion of Man, i.e. secularism, is at pains to say it isn’t a religion, which is absurd, but which has the practical result that there is no official priesthood.

One still exists, of course, (which some call ironically The Cathedral), but the trouble is that, while there are many self-appointed priests, nobody is quite sure who is a bishop. Secularism also doesn’t have written dogma, where by dogma I mean fundamental, unchangeable tenets that are strictly controlled by a Magisterium, such as exists in the Church.

The nearest thing to secularists dogma is “Man is the measure of all things” (an ancient belief always thought of as recent revelation), but which has no meaning until it is applied to questions. Which questions are thought most important are in some part decided by history, hence the obsession with racism, sexism, and X-aphobia (where X is a variable). Now the lack of official dogma in concert with the absence of officially recognized central authority explains, in part, the continual leftward drift of secularism and history helps explain the destination.

Because there is no clear path of advancement, innovation and exposure are seen as a good methods to gain status. The loudmouth who thrusts noisily into new frontiers of Political Correctness (a.k.a. Cultural Marxism), the simulacrum of dogma, is accorded the most credit. Not always, but mostly. Hence the left grows ever strident. What was routine and accepted by all five years ago is now irremediably racist, sexist, X-aphobic. For example, a racist was once someone who killed or harmed another because of the other’s race. A racist is now one who refuses to concur that whites are congenitally evil. This is why who was once a priest, if he has not kept fresh and on his game, is now demoted to the congregation, or even seen as apostate.

As said, signalling still happens where there is recognized religion. But since most won’t or can’t join the official priesthood, there is a kind of ceiling for the congregation, meaning rightward drift is constrained among civilians. Priests still vie for promotion, but much of their signalling is to other priests and bishops.

Abuse can still and does occur under official religions, but the presence of dogma, or rather the recognition that it exists and can be known, tempers the abuse and constrains the drift. This implies that greater adherence to dogma, i.e. the more it is seen as unchanging and complete, the less drift there can be. Now, marry that to the extent dogma matches Reality, and you have a system with less strife and more predictability.

Not all official religions have as strong a grasp of dogma as say Catholics and Orthodox Christians. Splinter groups in Christianity (and other religions) form because of disputes in dogma, which is dangerous because it challenges the idea that dogma is dogmatic. And indeed those that have split have generally abandoned dogma and shifted towards secularism.

Across Islam, which is splintered, dogma might be summarized as “Allah does whatever He wants.” This, like Protagoras, must be applied, and is being applied as is obvious, but the drift is rightwards because of the increasing recognition in the necessity of dogma. Islam also knows it suffers from a lack of a centralized priesthood, which is why it seeking to strengthen it.

19 Comments

  1. Excellent and succinct description secularism’s pursuit of the aura of holiness. We can look forward to some canonizations, I suspect. It evidently hasn’t occurred to these folks that they are actually quite mad.

  2. Michael,

    I agree. What’s interesting though is that canonizations are hard to come by. See Richard Dawkin’s recent troubles for some of his comments. If king New Athiest can’t even keep his priesthood, who can?

    “The loudmouth who thrusts noisily into new frontiers of Political Correctness (a.k.a. Cultural Marxism), the simulacrum of dogma, is accorded the most credit.”

    In OSS, the ‘Contributor Covenant’ drama in Ruby and other places is a good example.

    There is an article about “Where Microagressions come from”:

    http://righteousmind.com/where-microaggressions-really-come-from/

    that has some nuggets that I think add to this post.

  3. “And indeed those that have split have generally abandoned dogma and shifted towards secularism.”

    This may be true of the mainline protestants… but the Evangelicals and Mormons seem to be doing quite well. The Mormons have quite a complicated priesthood that seems to involve nearly all male members of the congregation above age 12 in some way. Evangelicals seem to get by with similar dogma to Islam and strong charismatic leadership?

  4. ASSERTED: “Splinter groups in Christianity (and other religions) form because of disputes in dogma”

    THE HISTORY SHOWS that inconsistencies & contradictions in dogma, once brought into the mainstream, prompted political intervention to reconcile.

    Kind of like a clumsy series of writers (e.g. Councils of Nicea) working out the kinks a script … over some 300 years…

    Say what one will of the issues addressed, “stepping back” & contemplating that the issues arose at all … and to the extent needing such political intervention to reconcile, is mighty peculiar IF the espoused doctrine was the work of “an Almighty God, creator of all that is seen and unseen.”

    Seems a deity with that kind of power, especially one who’d visited in person, could’ve conveyed a coherent & self-consistent doctrine right off as opposed to refining the details over a few hundred years…

    And isn’t it odd that the resulting doctrine is pretty much indistinguishable from so much of the pagan themes that preceded it?!?! (except for the bit about only one God) Kind of like the “new” religion wasn’t new at all…just a pastiche repackaging of elements of pagan themes…

    If you think that’s a bit harsh or inaccurate, consult Justin Martyr’s First Apology, written in the early 2nd century, where in defending this new faith of Christianity he asserts that very same thing (in effect, “nothing new here folks, please move along”…)…

    In fact, the similarities of the pagan themes & the new Christian plot were (and remain) so similar that Justin Martyr (a Catholic saint by the way) asserted that demons, recognizing what was to come, created the pagan faiths to confuse the truth. That curious bit of Catholic doctrine remains to this day…though the Church is loath to discuss that….

    That’s where the doctrinal disputes hailed from — fundamentally they were making it up as they went along. Not to mention the purges of heretical references to try, impressively but unsuccessfully, to destroy the earlier versions cast aside.

    Maybe, just maybe, in a world that’s long since become literate and now has access to such breadth & depth of information, finding such truths has some strong influence on their faith or lack thereof.

  5. Christianity lingers at the edges.
    Authentic Christianity has always lingered at the edges, or more correctly, has grown intermingled with the tares. Even in the “organized” Church where evidence of worldliness in the official priesthood is well documented. Don’t mistake structure for substance.

  6. Ken: Why would an all-powerful God require that his creation follow him verbatim? He allowed free will and allowed competition from Satan—competition is good, right? So why complain all the time that God is not a tyrant that demands loyalty or that he failed to create little mind-numbed robots? I don’t understand why those ideas are better than free will.

    As for the coherent interpretation, again free will enters. Human beings are free to reject any part of God they choose in favor of whatever in His place. You seem to be demanding dogma while arguing that dogma is bad.

    Gary: Well said.

  7. Why Christians impinge on atheists is a mystery but they invariably do.
    Few atheists considered what the world will look like without Christianity but with Islam because that’s the direction of travel which atheists promote by default. There are quite a few atheists who are switched on to this likely consequence and I believe we will start to see the brakes applied.

    There’s little point in arguing some of these dogma because they are not easily frankly discussed on a blog without upsetting people.

    The Church of England and the Catholic churches have a long history. There is more in common than there is difference. Cathedrals like Gloucester in the picture would be called high churches rather than orthodox.

  8. “Since man’s deepest needs are spiritual…” – Briggs

    No they’re not.

  9. “The religion of Man, i.e. secularism, is at pains to say it isn’t a religion, which is absurd…” – Briggs

    It isn’t a religion. To call it a religion is what is absurd. Secularism is simply a rejection of the religious values that have consistently been shown to be utterly useless as guides to proper conduct, morality, ethics et cetera. There is no manifesto, no ‘Bible’ or other sacred text outlining the secular ‘creed’, for there is no creed.

  10. Peter A: I never met anyone who was FOR murder, adultery, theft, rape and things most would consider immoral. However, since these silly rules are part of the horrible Christian religion that you so despise, I must believe you are for these activities. I see no reason for your so hating rules other than you are for the activities not allowed. Again, I’d like to offer you a free one-way trip to the Utopia of North Korea, a secular paradise untouched by evil religion.

  11. Ken,
    It’s rather obvious that you haven’t actually read Justin Martyr’s First Apology but rather are only parroting what you’ve heard from others.
    Justin Martyr, in trying to point out the hypocrisy of those persecuting Christians, points out that many of the justifications for the persecution applies to protected religions. He goes on, however, to show the differences between the religions (ie he’s arguing that they’re NOT the same) and shows that Christianity is actually superior. Yes, he listed superficial similarities to point out that if these are the reasons Christians are being persecuted then the Romans were just as guilty. If you actually read the Apology you would see that he then proceeds to list the differences between Christianity and pagan religions to show that Christianity is superior and that the pagan religions are more worthy of concern.
    Example: One justification for persecution was that those presumptuous, rebellious Christians claimed to worship the Son of God and were thus evil renegades deserving persecution. Justin pointed out that the protected religions also worshiped sons of gods. He then points out a difference in which Christianity is different and superior in that in ALL these other religions these sons are immoral and rebellious, Zeus killed and overthrew his father, Cronus, who in turn had overthrown his father, Uranus. Whereas, Jesus honored His Father and was obedient unto death.
    Again if you read the Apology you would note that when he brings up demonic copycats he points out that they didn’t understand the prophecies and kept getting them WRONG. Not the same, but wrong.
    Parroting amateurs without double-checking the primary sources or at the very least an informed, contrary opinion is intellectually lazy and dishonest. And what’s worse is you write out your ignorance with unearned condescension.

  12. “And isn’t it odd that the resulting doctrine is pretty much indistinguishable from so much of the pagan themes that preceded it?!?! (except for the bit about only one God)” — Ken

    Indistinguishable? INDISTINGUISHABLE??

    Pagans kings almost universally averred that the gods generally favored and supported the strong, and very few ever said otherwise. The Christian God specifically favors the disfavored, downtrodden, and weak. Pagans had no qualms about leaving their infant children to die in the wilderness. Christianity teaches that this is absolutely abhorrent, and looks with favor on those who went out and rescued and adopted the children so left to die. How do you call these diametric opposites in teaching as indistinguishable?

    I maintain that even if Catholic Doctrine is not (as it says) divinely protected from error, it is at the very least the oldest and most internally consistent expert system on Earth today. Heresies were cast aside as erroneous, much as errors in scientific theory have been for the last 800+ years. Over 95% of people today, were they asked what phlogiston theory pertained to, would not be able to say, without looking it up on Wikipedia. In much the same way, over 95% of Christians today couldn’t tell you what the errors/heresies of Arius and Nestor were.

    As for your claims regarding Justin Martyr’s First Apology, I want direct quotes and citations.

  13. “I never met anyone who was FOR murder, adultery, theft, rape and things most would consider immoral. However, since these silly rules are part of the horrible Christian religion that you so despise, I must believe you are for these activities.” – Sheri

    Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Sheri (and this is exclusively for your benefit), all you list here – i.e. murder, adultery, theft, rape and so on – are considered to be wrong for the simple reason that they cause unnecessary harm to people, who become victims when such misdeeds are perpetrated. The Ten Commandments were not the very first formulation of a set of rules governing behaviour, and is, in any case, based upon the much older Codes of Hammurabi. Christianity is entirely derivative. You DID know that, did you not?

    What about all the things that we now consider to be immoral or wrong, but which Christianity endorses? You know, like slavery for example. At no point in the entire New Testament is this odious practice actually condemned, as it should be, as one would expect from such a text.

    Christianity has failed, and the sooner it is cast into the trash bin of history the better! Good riddance to bad rubbish I say!

  14. “Why would an all-powerful God require that his creation follow him verbatim? He allowed free will and allowed competition from Satan—competition is good, right? So why complain all the time that God is not a tyrant that demands loyalty or that he failed to create little mind-numbed robots? I don’t understand why those ideas are better than free will.” – Sheri

    How can there be free will when the exercise of that free will is constrained by threats of eternal damnation for those who happen to make the ‘wrong’ choice? Free will does not exist when one is under duress, when one is placed in a situation where the consequences for certain courses of action are so disproportionately unpleasant, when the punishment for simply being who one happens to be is so grossly unjust. True free will would entail the freedom and capacity to utterly reject your tyrannical god without there being any consequences at all, apart from final liberation from a despotic overlord. The fact that your god basically say, “Accept Christ, or else!”, tells me all I need to know about it, and what it tells me in no uncertain terms is that your god is based upon many of the more base instincts that can be found in the more primitive of humans alive today. No one with a clear and well developed conscience would ever think of condemning someone to fifty years of hard labour for a minor misdemeanour, and yet your ‘god’ is more than happy to send people to a sadistic fate for all eternity for minor ‘offenses’ committed whilst being the imperfect and limited beings that your god made them out to be in the first place!

    Christianity is utterly vile, completely evil. It is just as bad as Islam.

  15. One other thing. Why do you keep mentioning North Korea? I understand you long to be there, but this obsession of yours needs to be dealt with some other way. Perhaps you could first go there as a tourist, to check the place out. If you like it, you could claim to be a defector. I’m sure they would accept you.

  16. Seriously, Peter A, projection using North Korea? Really? Give it up. You sound foolish.
    Free will does not mean free reign and lack of consequences. It means you have choices. It does not mean all the choices are good.
    You are right on one thing—out with the bad rubbish which is why there are those bad choices you are so bothered by. Failure to follow the rules leads to anarchy and destroys society. Sooner or later, the “do what you want” mentality catches up and all hell breaks loose, literally. We return to the violence of Rome and past societies, where there’s none of that nasty Christianity and foolish morals. (Really, I don’t understand why you aren’t claiming to be infatuated with murder and mayhem, since you are in favor of tossing out morality and silly rules. Murder is a way of life in many societies and they have no problem with it. Yet you seem to find a problem. Where did that come from? Oh, I remember, you only believe in rules YOU like. Yeah, that’s it.)
    Au revoir.

  17. Would someone explain to me why people who demand we kill all religion then balk at going to live where there is not religion? I really do not understand. Christians should be killed and eliminated is what North Korea, Iran and Muslim countries, and many, many dictatorships believe in. Why, then, do those who hate and vilify Christianity not want to be sent to their Utopias????? It makes no sense. (Unless they have a totally unintegrated value system or they are not being honest in what they believe. If you don’t want religion, why would you not want to go to a place where it is forbidden? Everything is wonderful there.)

  18. People have trouble articulating “secularism’s” dogma because they restrict their observation to a limited time period and don’t track it back to its roots. It can be tracked back clearly to the Puritans (this is counterintuitive to most, but obvious when investigated in depth *over time*), and I would argue that it tracks back even to Martin Luther (this is a longer conversation, and more complicated).

    Ultimately, “secularism” is a perversion of the concept of kindness. Any insane argument offered or action taken by a secularist is best viewed through a filter of status through extreme kindness signalling. This is why the Cathedral is able to leap from gay rights (sodomy is gross, so it’s extra kind to forgive those who revel in it), to trans (the real life uncanny valley), and now on to pedos and Salafis (groups so unsympathetic, it might take a generation for their “rights” to be granted fully). The world makes more sense when viewed this way, and predictions are more accurate.

  19. The regnant Secular Liberalism is a decidedly low church variant of Christianity—all low church variants being more or less heretical. Obscuring who the bishops are is therefore considered a feature not a bug.

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