By Keith Preston
Originally published in Tribes Magazine
Perhaps one of the most curious features of modernity is the way in which ideologies have replaced religions as a principal source of contentiousness. During the era of the nineteenth century, when the intellectual revolution of the Enlightenment was being institutionalized, a few perceptive thinkers recognized that the “death of God” did not mean the death of dogma. In 1844, Max Stirner noted that “our atheists are pious people,” an acknowledgment that humanism and liberalism had replaced Christianity as the religion of the intellectual elite. Similarly, Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Parable of the Madman” was rooted in the recognition of the consequences of the loss of faith, its metaphysical underpinnings, and its derivative traditions.
“What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?” (Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 1882)
The era of the twentieth century revealed that the Age of Faith gave way not to an Age of Reason, as Voltaire or Thomas Paine would have hoped for, but to an Age of Ideology. What were the great conflicts of the twentieth century, whether the two world wars or the Cold War, but wars of ideology that paralleled or exceeded the great wars of religion that had taken place during previous centuries?
Many different ideologies abound in the same manner that many different religious sects can be identified. Ideologies are typically grouped into the categories of Left and Right. The Left is thought to favor equality, progress, and universality, and leftists include liberals, progressives, socialists, social democrats, communists, left-libertarians, and left-anarchists. The Right is thought to favor hierarchy, tradition, and the particular, and rightists include conservatives, reactionaries, traditionalists, monarchists, right-libertarians, fascists, and national socialists. There are also a range of ideologies that defy the left/right model such as nationalism, populism, environmentalism, regionalism, feminism, and third positionism.