The Theology of Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum threw the Left a meaty pitch right down the middle with his comments about “theology” to an audience in Columbus.  Here’s what he said:

It’s not about you.  It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your job. It’s about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.  But no less a theology.

The quote seems to lend credence to the “Santorum is a scary theocrat” meme, and the Left lost no time in flooding the media and the blogosphere with articles to that effect.  The Right quickly fired back with the usual claims that the remarks were taken out of context.  This time the Right has it right.  For example, from Foxnews,

Rick Santorum said Sunday he wasn’t questioning  whether President Obama is a Christian when he referred to his “phony theology”  over the weekend, but was in fact challenging policies that he says place the  stewardship of the Earth above the welfare of people living on it.

“I wasn’t suggesting the president’s not a  Christian. I accept the fact that the president is a Christian,” Santorum  said.

“I was talking about the radical environmentalist,”  he said. “I was talking about energy, this idea that man is here to serve the  Earth as opposed to husband its resources and be good stewards of the Earth. And  I think that is a phony ideal.

I note in passing a surprising thing about almost all the articles about this story, whether they come from the Left or the Right. The part of Santorum’s speech that actually does put things in context is absent. Here it is:

I think that a lot of radical environmentalists have it backwards. This idea that man is here to serve the earth, as opposed to husband its resources and be good stewards of the earth. Man is here to use the resources and use them wisely. But man is not here to serve the earth.

I can understand its absence on the Left, but on the Right? Could it be that contrived controversies are good for the bottom line? Well, be that as it may, I’m not adding my two cents worth to this kerfluffle because I’m particularly fond of Santorum. However, he did touch on a matter that deserves serious consideration; the existence of secular religions.

In fact, there are secular religions, and they have dogmas, just like the more traditional kind. It’s inaccurate to call those dogmas “theologies,” because they don’t have a Theos, but otherwise they’re entirely similar. In both cases they describe elaborate systems of belief in things that either have not or cannot be demonstrated and proved. The reason for this is obvious in the case of traditional religions. They are based on claims of the existence of spiritual realms inaccessible to the human senses. Secular dogmas, on the other hand, commonly deal with events that can’t be fact-checked because they are to occur in the future.

Socialism in it’s heyday was probably the best example of a secular religion to date.  While it lasted, millions were completely convinced that the complex social developments it predicted were the inevitable fate of mankind, absent any experimental demonstration or proof whatsoever.  Not only did they believe it, they considered themselves superior in intellect and wisdom to other mere mortals by virtue of that knowledge.  They were elitists in the truest sense of the word.  Thousands and thousands of dreary tomes were written elaborating on the ramifications and details of the dogma, all based on the fundamental assumption that it was true.  They were similar in every respect to the other thousands and thousands of dreary tomes of theology written to elaborate on conventional religious dogmas, except for the one very important distinction referred to above.  Instead of describing an entirely different world, they described the future of this world.

That was their Achilles heal.  The future eventually becomes the present.  The imaginary worker’s paradise was eventually exchanged for the very real Gulag, mass executions, and exploitation by a New Class beyond anything ever imagined by the bourgeoisie.  Few of the genuine zealots of the religion ever saw the light.  They simply refused to believe what was happening before their very eyes, on the testimony of thousands of witnesses and victims.  Eventually, they died, though, and their religion died with them.  Socialism survives as an idea, but no longer as the mass delusion of cocksure intellectuals.  For that we can all be grateful.

In a word, then, the kind of secular “theologies” Santorum was referring to really do exist.  The question remains whether the specific one he referred to, radical environmentalism, rises to the level of such a religion.  I think not.  True, some of the telltale symptoms of a secular religion are certainly there.  For example, like the socialists before them, environmental ideologues are characterized by a faith, free of any doubt, that a theoretically predicted future, e.g., global warming, will certainly happen, or at least will certainly happen unless they are allowed to “rescue” us.  The physics justifies the surmise that severe global warming is possible.  It does not, however, justify fanatical certainty.  Probabilistic computer models that must deal with billions of ill-defined degrees of freedom cannot provide certainty about anything.

An additional indicator is the fact that radical environmentalists do not admit the possibility of honest differences of opinion.  They have a term for those who disagree with them; “denialists.”  Like the heretics of religions gone before, denialists are an outgroup.  It cannot be admitted that members of an outgroup have honest and reasonable differences of opinion.  Rather, they must be the dupes of dark political forces, or the evil corporations they serve, just as, in an earlier day, anyone who happened not to want to live under a socialist government was automatically perceived as a minion of the evil bourgeoisie.

However, to date, at least, environmentalism possesses nothing like the all encompassing world view, or “Theory of Everything,” if you will, that, in my opinion at least, would raise it to the level of a secular religion.  For example, Christianity has its millennium, and the socialists had their worker’s paradise.  The environmental movement has nothing of the sort.  So far, at least, it also falls short of the pitch of zealotry that results in the spawning of warring internal sects, such as the Arians and the Athanasians within Christianity, or the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks within socialism.

In short, then, Santorum was right about the existence of secular religions.  He was merely sloppy in according that honor to a sect that really doesn’t deserve it.

 

Leave a Reply