Conclusion: Religion, Solidarity and Power

Conclusion: Religion, Solidarity and Power

by

Howard Adelman

I have tried to make the following points.

  1. There is no singular secular religion to which one can refer that can offer transcendent principles governing discourse in the public sphere; we are all fundamentally partialists.
  2. The secular religion of human rights and humanitarianism, even if now dominant, is only one among other competitors
  3. Current Western society may be dominated by the secular religion of human rights and humanitarianism, but its insistence that its secondary rules of discourse in the public sphere (civility, etc.) are universal, is also the source of its naïveté when combating the other major religious secular player.
  4. That other secular religious player in contemporary political culture, uncivil religious secularism, believes in a discourse of deceit and manipulation in the public sphere in contrast to the rules of civility, etc. proposed by the secular religion of human rights and humanitarianism.
  5. That competitor to the secular religion of human rights and humanitarianism, the anti-civility secular religion, is most wedded to the separation of religion and state, primarily so it can uphold high and lofty moral principles in the private sphere while demonstrating the most manipulative tools of discourse permissible and tolerated in its own society.
  6. The anti-civil secular religion evinces the greatest solidarity with the traditional religions with which it is allied and has a much stronger position on loyalty and solidarity.
  7. The secular religion of rights and humanitarianism engages in partnerships of convenience with its liberal traditional religious partners.
  8. The secular religion of rights and humanitarianism weakens itself most by insisting its norms are universal and transcendent, for it disguises the need to engage with and understand the rules of Machiavellian discourse required to beat its opponent in the public sphere.
  9. Another source of its weakness: it regards intellectual influence as the highest realm, rather than coercive power, and, hence, is often defeated because of its weak understanding of coercive power in both the domestic and international realms.
  10. Similarly, though I have not explored that dimension in this paper, the secular religion of human rights and humanitarianism also has the poorest understanding of the role of charisma substituting for authentic authority, and the role of formal authority given its significant reliance on the rule of law and the role of the courts that are founded on the primacy of influence.
  11. The secular religion of human rights and humanitarianism is often not generally as well attuned to the role of material influence given its almost singular emphasis on intellectual influence.
  12. Most fundamentally, secularism, in its various forms, is itself simply a religion with competing and warring sects, each governed by beliefs and practices, rituals and rites, which are themselves immune to falsification.

If it were not the fact that the secular religious principles of HRH were held so broadly and deeply by the majority of Western societies, it is a wonder that this secular religion achieves power and political authority at all. Yet, in most Western societies, the religious secularism of human rights and humanitarianism dominates, in both conservative and liberal guises.  It is the governing belief set of the polity.

Further, though both the majority (human rights and humanitarianism) and the minority (Machiavellian and manipulative politics) are the major secular religions in competition, both stress the sociology of groups, in spite of the emphasis of each on individualism, either the individualism of rights or of needs respectively as manifested in the free market. For, as Marx wrote, the free market delivers anarchy; religion is always about order. But each version of religious secularism, in stressing two different forms of individualism, undermines a system of fraternal ethics. But they do so in different spheres. The secular religion of rights undermines fraternity in what is called the private sphere and produces anomie.  The religious secularism that undercuts rights (MMP) reinforces fraternal ethics in the private sphere while denying ethical considerations as fundamentally appropriate to the public sphere.

Human rights religious secularism insists on positing internalized rules of the game that are made explicit in court rulings and, in terms of which, goals can be pursued and appropriate means chosen to chase those goals. In contrast to this emphasis on a normative structure for society, the competing alternative argues that its opponents, in the name of rights, undermine freedom and responsibility and, in the end, never really understand the need for order, an order which promotes sanctions and rewards, instils habits and celebrates preferences rather than rights. Thus, in the latter, instead of a theoretical egalitarian society, stratification is accepted as a dominant feature of the social order. In particular, even in our post-modern world, nationalism is celebrated in terms of a particular system of social stratification that allows each nation to be both unique while each, in its own way, offers political salience by connecting opportunities and contingency to measures of success. Some necessary conditions of success include the solidarity of the family and the community by means of which individual and group interests can be aligned.

So why does the religious secularism of rights and humanitarianism remain dominant even though it is weak in understanding the importance of coercive power, even though it is weak in terms of the value of solidarity? If it is so fundamentally weak in understanding the role of coercive power and the necessity and not just the reality of social stratification, why is it the dominant contemporary religious secularist belief system? Further, it remains dominant even though it is itself divided by sectarianism.

I do not have an answer.


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