Atheism, while not necessarily a purely modern phenomenon, remains a staple of the Modern aesthetic. All forms of religious belief are more or less treated with equal amounts of disdain under the neoliberal regime, though the exoticism of alien customs and rites tends to attract a fair share of delusional new-agers and members of the elite who are simply too intelligent to believe in anything. Religious worship native to the historical roots of the West, particularly Catholicism, draws particular ire from the atheist crowd, though any form of Christianity is fair game for ridicule.
Anyone who has ever been active online recognizes the degree to which atheism inundates internet discourse. Given the internet is both a product and symptom of Modernity, this is hardly a surprise, though the reaction to the smugly stupid New Atheists from the late 00s has led many an internet denizen into the open dialogues of Christian apologetics, often radically so. As the post-Gamergate trend in politicized internet discourse has pushed many young men toward reactionary movements, these newfound believers are often right there alongside them.
Yet still persists this general tendency toward atheism across most of the politicized internet. It’s far more obvious on the left, of course, but the push to identify libertarianism with the right, as well as the political awakening of an entire class of young, male, mostly white products of late-boomer middle class capitalism, has meant that atheism swells the ranks of the younger right-wing population. The destruction of religious belief among the Baby Boomers (caused in part by their nearly wholesale embrace of the sexual revolution) sealed the coffin of public worship; children grew up raised with the mistaken impression that religions are things to be shopped around for and that the faith is something to be kept private. It’s no surprise that Gen-Xers and Millennials have next to no religious background or vocabulary necessary to combat the Modernist heresies.
So when the elite in our government, media, and education have spent the last thirty years constructing an anti-nativist, pro-homosexual narrative, and when a generation of young men grow up being told, effectively, that black is white and up is down and right is wrong, you can expect whole swaths of that demographic to reject the conditioning wholesale. For most, that means setting off down the path which eventually leads to what the people in power like to label “right-wing radicalization.” In reality, it just means embracing common sense, or at least trying to.
But here’s the problem: the rejection of God belongs in the realm of psychological beliefs rather than ontological ones. God’s existence can be proven through the use of reason, and indeed, these proofs had been known, in some form, since the time of Aristotle. The wholesale rejection of Greek and Scholastic thought that began during the ironically-named Age of Reason culminated in the complete rejection of comprehensibility and the deification of personal ego above the scrutiny of rational thought. It’s no surprise, then, that the entire field of psychology only came into existence after the writings of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer provided a conscious explanation for the delusions of self-interest and the embrace of egoism.
What I’m saying is that the atheist’s statement, “I don’t believe in God,” is possible only under the Modern’s conception of what belief means. Instead of seeking the truth and asking, “does God exist,” the atheist—and even the agnostic—will instead stand firmly in his own position and demand that God’s existence be proven to him. The rationality so favored by modern atheists is wielded as a defensive tool to protect the worldview as he currently experiences it—one which was no doubt shaped by means completely unrelated and prior to the experience of reason. It is pride which demands that reason be so misused. The proofs for God’s existence mean nothing to the atheist who has convinced himself that he holds a monopoly over truth values, which he’s disguised with the words skepticism and rationality. But to position the ego in front of reason is just another posture of self-aggrandizement.
This error is translated into the political realm in the form of pursuits of raw power. Where Machiavelli advised the use of power and fear as tactics, straying only in some of his implications, we see the more modern manifestation of power in Nietzsche. Power transcends mere tactical and strategic importance and becomes a higher end: the very goal of politics in the first place. All modern systems of governance operate according to that principle, and all modern theories of politics take it for granted. Any theory of politics that places virtue and penance, rather than the ambiguously-termed political slogan the Common Good, as the chief organizing principle of a governing body, immediately sets itself against the entire corpus of Modernist thought.
This is what the real struggle is in the contemporary political sphere. The Modernist system, with its socialisms and capitalisms, its democracies and dictatorships, its fascisms and communisms—all of it begins with the erroneous pursuit of power for the sake of it—wanton egoism—and all of it ends with some form of totalitarianism. The system is a catastrophic failure, and the elites’ last best hope for it to work, the neoliberal global order, is being attacked from all sides while it crumbles under its own weight.
This isn’t such an inane matter of collectivism versus individualism. That entire argument is framed secularly in the first place, and it’s indicative of the kind of bad faith I’m talking about. Government and politics are not ends in themselves, they are means. Only when the attention properly given to God is misdirected toward earthly pursuits do politics become an end.
Politics Described in Secularism
As typical of the secular atheist mentality, religion can only be conceived of as a utilitarian vehicle for supplying a prepackaged moral and metaphysical framework. What this means is that atheists, be they on the left or the right, must hold fast to a relative and situational moral system. Even those who pursue virtue ethics, when they have nothing to ground those virtues in, are left defending an empty system. Atheism denies not only the organized structures of religious doctrines and belief, but the entire metaphysical realities that they assert either through dogma or reason. Denial of anything super-natural reduces the atheist’s scope of vision down to the materialistic and his practical reasoning capacity down to mere egoism.
So with this in mind, it should be clear why their approach to ‘saving’ the West is so flawed. Christianity wasn’t simply a collection of ideas adopted out of convenience. It was not an arbitrary act by which the West converted to and embraced the Church, nor was it purely out of some political convenience—as the early centuries of Christian persecution (first by Jews, the by Romans) should make obvious. While the usefulness of Catholic doctrine cannot be denied, its utility springs not from some arbitrary source of evolutionary coincidence, but from the historical truths that it posits explicitly and without contradiction.
The problem, essentially, is the reduction of the religious to a mere ideological commodity. It’s the stamp of neoliberalism to embrace, in theory, religious pluralism, despite the very concept of religious pluralism entailing the explicit denial of all truths espoused by any religious frameworks. When it is only possible for the truth to be found within a religious framework—and in fact, within a very specific religious framework, not simply any of them—the secular order’s actual intentions are clear: deny the truth and deny reason’s capacity to lead men toward it. For anyone beginning and arguing from a secular position, this is the fatal weakness in the espousal of reason and logic. It rests on nothing.
When the atheist attempts to marry Christianity to the West in proscriptive terms—as in, “Christianity was good for the West and therefore we should remain Christians, even though I believe atheism to be true,”—he is obviously not arguing the same thing the Christian does when the same issue is raised. The Christian understands the procession of history as the direct and deliberate unfolding of a divine plan, which began with the creation of the world and presumably ends with the Second Coming of Christ. Christianity’s impact upon the West, then, is not treated as some neo-Darwinian ideological meme inflicted upon some peasantry, but as the manifest evidence that peoples tied to the faith prosper in spirit, mind, and as a result, achievement.
For the orthodox believer, this is intuitive. Religion as such is not simply a collection of arbitrary rituals or the coincidental attendance of regular ceremonies. The atheist is notoriously myopic in his understanding of worship, prayer, and religious observation. Religions are not all created equal, and the modern sensibility to pigeonhole religious ceremony into the realm of a hobby or a mere interest—to make it a private concern rather than a public one—is the outgrowth of such characteristically idiotic secularism.
The atheist that holds fast to these notions, even as he explains away their positive impact with utilitarian terms, will never really grasp the fundamental character of right wing traditionalism. Traditionalism, at least superficially, maintains the idea that the traditions and heritage of a people are important, as is its history, and that the direction of the present culture should be decided not simply upon that common good which politicians frequently speak of, but the good common to the entire heritage of that people. “Tradition,” as that famous quote of G.K. Chesterton goes, “means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors.”
But what is that good? The West, which has had intimate access to both the philosophical traditions of the Greeks as well as the revelatory truths of Christian doctrine, needs not to pause for much length on this question. It already knew the good. It knew the good so well that it became engrained into the traditions of every people who could be identified as Western. What traditionalism is asking, then, is not the simple observance of outdated rituals and customs, as the atheist might believe. It’s asking for the dedication to the same kind of belief in the transcendent good that guided the beliefs of those ancestors who came before us.
Where the Christian can embrace a heritage that is both religious and biological in the West, the atheist, lacking the religious dimension, embraces the only thing left: the biological. So the people of the nations, rather than the sum total of their impact, ideas, and race, become the focus of the atheist’s interest in traditionalism. A culture’s accomplishments become reducible down to a genetic lineage, echoing the eugenicists and materialists at the turn of the last century. And while the importance of physiognomy, ethnicity, race, gender, and biology are not things to be ignored, the reduction of all aspects of a culture’s character down to the genetics of a DNA strand remains a lesson in the absurd.
There is no question that a nation’s people comprise its ethnos, and that such an ethnos shares genetic traits in addition to cultural habits and customs. That ethnos can expand, piecemeal, through various forms of minor immigration, but it can never be allowed to lose its identity. France, in other words, cannot afford not to be French—no single part of it can afford that, from the local municipalities on the borders to the very downtown ghettos of Paris. The genetic components of France, made knowable by lineage and family history, are just as important as the ideological components of French thought, custom, and religiosity. Remove any one of these and you’ve lost sight of what national identity means.
And yet, the Modern impulse is to chock national identity up to being a collection of commodified labels, trends, and products. French identity turns from a history rich as the Church’s eldest daughter, the resting ground of Charles Martell, the pride of Charlemagne, and the jewel of aristocratic Europe for centuries, into consisting of little more than funny hats, fine wine, good food, and lurid women. Rather than understanding the character of a nation, Modernity instead is content to deal with caricatures of them.
While this sort of thinking is pervasive on the left, and particularly among those libertarians and free-market anarcho-capitalists who insist they’re somehow right-wing, the right has generally avoided the pitfalls of embracing the veneer. However, the atheist’s passing interest in Christianity purely on the grounds of it being a bulwark against both Islam and the Modernist heresy, falls exactly in line with this mode of thinking. Effects, not causes, are elucidated; results, not substance, remains all that is observed. Simply following through the motions of a custom, ignorant of its importance, reveals nothing of the truth that the custom encapsulates. It’s just another indulgence in the futile attempt to make reality serve the ego.
Here’s the problem: the atheist remains embroiled in the Modernist pursuit of power. Even if not for his own gain, he can find an affinity and relation to the biological truth that he originated as part of a greater order: the order of his family and his lineage. Where that lineage goes, and for what reason, he hasn’t an adequate answer, because without the ordering principle to guide him, he has to fall back on misapplied Darwinism as an explanation for circumstances and the will to power in order to explain moral agency. It cannot be denied that these things can easily be right wing, but can they be traditionalist? No. To embrace the veneer of a thing but lack all comprehension of—and all interest in—its subject is the very essence of Modernity. Adherents of traditions, even if they lack full comprehension of their customs, embrace them in a method altogether alien to the Modern denizen.
Atheism is so inundated with this Modernist conception, because of its positioning of ego before reason, that it will never be an appropriate tagalong to help understand what tradition is. The moment that an atheist begins to reach outside of himself for meaning and finds the hints of the transcendent spread like breadcrumbs across creation and its story, the moment he begins to conceive of tradition as something whose substance extends beyond mere utility and commodity, in that moment he will have made the first leap toward the faith.