Monday, August 16, 2010 40 Comments

Abecedarium Nordmannicum

  1. Money is the death of friends;
    The wolf lives in the woods.

  2. Miscast iron rusts;
    On snow the reindeer race.

  3. Thor ruins the woman.
    Fortune destroys the man.

  4. The river finds the shore
    As holster meets its sword.

  5. The horse will heal that rests.
    The snake's sword was best.

  6. Children are plague's meal;
    Death in person always pale.

  7. Hail is the coldest corn.
    In Christ the world was born.

  8. Force is greater than cost:
    The naked man discovers frost.

  9. A bridge we call wide ice;
    Here the blind are guided.

  10. Wealth is everyone's dream.
    Giving was Frothi's game.

  11. The sun declares its dome;
    Sky is God's blue home.

  12. Strong is one-armed Tyr,
    Blacksmith of the years.

  13. Birch, the greenest stick;
    Loki, lucky in his tricks.

  14. Man is water and dirt.
    The hawk's foot is great.

  15. Hills drop rivers cold;
    Rings throw gifts of gold.

  16. The greenest tree is yew.
    Hear it crackle in the flue.


Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

This is a loose rendition of the Norwegian Rune Poem, probably 13C - original here. A literal (I assume) modern translation is here.

No, I am not a speaker of Old Norwegian - this is an "imitation," in the term of Robert Lowell. If you like this sort of thing, you might also enjoy Bunting's Briggflatts or, of course, Pound's Seafarer.

August 16, 2010 at 6:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Number (3) sums up the PUA-sphere quite well.

August 16, 2010 at 6:45 PM  
Anonymous Genius said...

@Anonymous that's exactly what I was thinking.

@Moldbug are you sure you're not going as Nostradamus for Halloween this year?

August 17, 2010 at 1:26 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

I believe we've traded translation notes before--once you get your Cthulu handled, we should collaborate on something.

August 17, 2010 at 7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The horse will heal that rests.
The snake's sword was best."

The Serpent in the Sword:
Pattern-welding in Early Medieval Swords


August 17, 2010 at 11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hm. i thought it was some kind of riddle, so i actually read only the second line of each verse(?)... and for some time it actually made some sense.

August 18, 2010 at 4:33 AM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

Since the poetry posts seem to function as open threads (few of us philistines having anything interesting to say about poetry), here are a few random UR-related thoughts i've had in the past few months and have been meaning to post.

* * *

I recently read (in, of all places, the 1632 series, a project of that noted commie Eric Flint) the following quote by Thomas Paine, and couldn't help thinking of UR:

"Absolute governments, (tho' the disgrace of human nature) have this advantage with them, they are simple; if the people suffer, they know the head from which their suffering springs; know likewise the remedy; and are not bewildered by a variety of causes and cures."

* * *

From another 1632 novel, the following passage regarding the Reformation struck me as another bit of accidental Moldbuggery:

"The various religious changes generated a lot of jobs for printers. Just think of how many copies of the Mandatum de Non Calumniendo were needed when one of the electors decided that the Lutherans and Calvinists had taken their theological disputes to a far from genteel level of rhetoric. ‘Thou shalt not insult one another.’ Indeed, think of all the pamphlets that led to the issuance of the mandate. Such controversies must be very profitable for the printing trade. [emphasis mine]"

* * *

Following someone's comparison of MM's comment policy with his (MM's) ideal societal policies, it occurred to me to wonder: what would the neocameralist equivalent of a kibbutz be?

August 19, 2010 at 7:08 PM  
Anonymous Peter A. Taylor said...

Following the doctrine of treating poetry posts as open comment threads, I would like to weigh in on the side of those who reject the idea that Progressivism is an offshoot of Puritanism. I think of them as being like ants and termites. Something decimated the local ant population -- mold spores, perhaps, or Copernicanism, or Darwinism -- and a species of termites moved in to fill the niche. Ants and termites evolved in similar niches, but from a cladistic standpoint, they are only very, very distantly related to one another.

August 20, 2010 at 6:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cross posted from AM...

"Comment by Luke 19:27 on August 17, 2010 - 1:27am

Let them build their Mosques in Canada or the UK, or we'll have thousands of Christians (and Hassidic Jews) piss on their front steps every day before dawn prayers. That is a promise."


August 20, 2010 at 8:47 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

Peter, do you recognize the "Christian Socialists" as Progressives? If you do, its pretty easy to get from them to the abolitionists and transcendentalists. If you buy that, its hard to argue that transcendentalist weren't a particular offshoot of the Puritans (heavily Quakerized of course). I am willing to believe the movement was somehow 'jewified' at various points as well if I ever get futher down my reading list. However, I really don't see how the continuty is in dispute. In the early 20th century, even the progressives themselves were aware of the continuity.

August 20, 2010 at 9:56 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

Should also point out that the old money merchant elite was also an offshoot of the Puritan and Quaker founders and held very different views. Doesn't mean the groups aren't cousins. There were always factions of competing elites, even in the 17th C.

August 20, 2010 at 9:59 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

In the early 20th century, even the progressives themselves were aware of the continuity.

I might say "especially", not "even". Back then everyone was a believing Christian except for the most radical of the left. But it was the progressives, not the prole Christians, who were claiming the mantle of "super christian", and using it to look down their nose at others.

Let us not forget MM's favorite document, the American Malvern article from Time in 1942, where the liberal agenda is described as "U.S. Protestantism's super-protestant new program for a just and durable peace after World War II".

To me the sharp break in progressivism was the cultural revolution of the 60s, where progressives finally discarded God and thus the worldview of a transcendental moral order. This does not strike me as termites displacing ants, although there certainly was cultural disease -- it was the "greatest generation" being displaced by its children.

August 20, 2010 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

August 20, 2010 at 8:50 PM  
Blogger Mitchell said...


A Play In Two Acts, Wherein The Macrocosm Of Representative Politics Is Illuminated By The Thoughts Of A Decidedly Unrepresentative Microcosm.

Act One. Microcosmic Deliberations.

TODAY I reaffirmed the fundamental social contract of modern times, and also avoided a small fine, by performing my democratic civic duty and voting in the Australian federal election of 2010. Having reasoned in advance that my vote, as just one among millions, was unlikely to materially affect the outcome, and that I therefore had a duty not to spend much time trying to guess what the most desirable outcome would be, nonetheless I wished to vote with style. Even as I stood in the queue, slowly approaching the local school hall which, on this crucial day, had been transformed into a shrine of suffrage, I observed that I still had no idea who I would be voting for.

Would I affirm the principle of continuity in government, by voting for the center-left candidate? Even though the election was happening only because the ruling party's powerbrokers had recently ditched the prime minister we elected last time, in the hope that his deputy would win an instant election. I could pacify the neoreactionary part of my brain by telling myself that this change was just court politics and not my affair. Also, the election campaign thereby proved to be mercifully brief and issue-free.

Would I vote for the local conservative, the center-right candidate? I knew nothing about him except that he distantly reminded me of Bashar Assad, the dictator of Syria. The conservatives had lost government last time, after a decade in power, and it had seemed a change for the better, but I had no problem with their current configuration; and I did have some sympathy for one of their chief grievances, that the government was borrowing another $100 million every day from the international markets. Yes, everyone else in the OECD is doing it, and doing it on a larger scale per capita, but still, it seems like a bad idea.

How about the ever-advancing green party – likely to have the balance of power in the upper house, and hoping to obtain their first seats in the lower house? Their slogan was: “because who you vote for matters”. Compared to the mainstream parties, who were visibly engaged in mutual mimesis for the sake of electability, the Greens got their votes by definitely standing for something. Seeing that I was to participate in this formal celebration of the democratic principle, would not the most fitting way to do it be to vote for the party whose campaign posters most emphatically affirmed the meaningfulness of democracy?

Or I could just write in “MOLDBUG, Mencius”, like last time.

August 20, 2010 at 8:50 PM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

Act Two. As Above, So Below: Microcosm Enters Macrocosm.

As the queue advanced and the great moment approached, I struggled to preserve my rationality as more primal impulses warred within me, contending to determine the outcome: where I would place my pen, which boxes I would tick. The recently installed prime minister is a redhead and our first woman on top; her opponent spends his weekends as a surf life-saver and a marathon runner. Should I enjoy the irrational quasierotic satisfaction of voting for the woman's party, or resist this impulse by voting for the no-nonsense heteronormativity of the man's party? If only we could have them both, in a government of national unity! Should I stand up for idealism and vote for the Greens, or favor demonstrated worldly competence and vote for anyone but the Greens? This great subliminal symphony swelled to its climax and ceased, leaving only an expectant hush, as I was handed the ballot papers and headed to the voting booth.

First, for the lower house, five candidates to be ranked in order of preference. And the ballot sheet was green! That decided it; it was destiny. I had to put the Greens candidate first. I seemed to hear a chorus of crazy conservatives, condemning me for complicity in the destruction of industrial civilization; but the act was done. As a concession, I put Bashar second. I will not go into the details of how I ranked the other three, but rest assured, the ordering was determined through processes that had the same degree of rationality.

Then, the upper house. No less than fifty candidates from a dozen parties to be ranked from first to last. Fortunately, I could just pick a party and let their preferences count as mine. I scanned the list of parties, major and minor, serious and absurd. The Climate Sceptics party was appealing, except I'm not a climate change skeptic. And then – the answer appeared: the Citizens Electoral Council, Australia's Larouche franchise. Climate skeptics too, but they have so much more going for them: technophilia, economic nationalism, conspiracy theory.

Greens in the lower house, CEC in the upper house. My work was done, the balance restored. Placing the fruit of my deliberations into the ballot box, where it would mingle with those from the rest of Australia and alchemically produce a manifestation of the guiding spirit of democracy, the popular will - I could at last stride forth again under the bright, beautiful, cloudless sky, knowing that justice and reason would prevail in the world. Then I went to buy my groceries.

August 20, 2010 at 8:52 PM  
Anonymous durpdurp said...

Rejecting the idea that there isn't a clear line from the Puritans to today's Progressives is flat out wrong.

There is a TON of good secondary source history out there on the topic, and backs it up.

It actually pisses me off when people on here -- that haven't read the other sources/books that Moldbug has provided -- weigh in and reject Moldbug's claim about Progressivism being a political religion solely based on his blog posts.

Moldbug has mentioned several books. One is "The Puritan Origins of American Patriotism" by George McKenna. That text is probably the most important for showing the jump from the North-Eastern elite ideology to the 60s New Left. There is an entire chapter on it. Read it, then come back.

The other book is "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present" by Michael B. Oren. Again, go read it, and come back. It documents how the insane protestant missionaries basically created the quagmire we now have in the Middle Easy. Did you also know the Peace Corp was founded by Protestants?

Here are some other books I've found that Moldbug hasn't mentioned, but back up his idea:

Evangelical Christianity and democracy in Africa By Terence O. Ranger. Here's a choice quote:

"Woodberry found "a strong positive association between the percentage of Protestantism in a society and the level of democratization"; there was "a negative relationship between Islam and democracy" ... This seems to me to raise a dreadful spectre. Is democracy in Africa just a Christian project, designed to legitimate the power of Christians -- and especially Protestants -- who alone understand it?"

Then go read any of Woodberry's stuff (he is a scholar that researches the connection between protestantism and democracy). See here:

Another is "Freedom's Distant Shores: American Protestants and Post-Colonial Alliances in Africa" by R. Drew Smith.

Again, another: "The Democratization of American Christianity" by Nathan O. Hatch.

Another is "The Protestant Crusade 1800-1860: A Study of the Origins of American Nativism" by Ray Billington. This one is available online.

Probably the most important book is "Beyond Idols: The Shape of a Secular Society" by Richard Fenn. The final chapter on "Religionless Christianity" shows -- sociologically -- that left-leaning variants of Christianity typically end up secularizing.

Finally, everyone always mentions the World Council of CHurches Time article. Check out the Life article as well here:

It is much more indepth.

August 21, 2010 at 2:53 AM  
Anonymous ugh said...

I wrote a large reply to Peter Taylor about the ties between progressives and the puritans, but Google ate it up. Couldn't be bothered typing it up again.

But I will ask, Peter are you rejecting Moldbug's claim based on his blog posts? Or on the secondary reading that Moldbug has scattered here and there? I created a large "Political Religions" reading list here (still an ongoing process). I added several books that Moldbug has suggested, and that I've also found. The academic literature seems to support his theory. The main two being:

The Puritan Origins of American Patriotism by George McKenna (for anyone wondering, there is an entire chapter in here on the connection between Protestants and the New Left)

Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present by Michael B. Oren

August 21, 2010 at 2:59 AM  
Anonymous durpdurp said...

never mind, turns out Google didn't eat my comment. Carry on gents.

August 21, 2010 at 3:09 AM  
Anonymous Hugo said...

Could someone please explain to me the point of tracing the ancestry of progressivism to certain forms of Protestantism?

I see two problems with it.

One is that it is committing the genealogical fallacy, that if you can trace a current idea to an old bad one, the current one must be bad too.

Two, I don't even know what the conclusion is.

The argument looks like this to me:

Premise 1: Progressivism is the descendant of certain forms of Protestantism.
Premise 2: ?
Conclusion: ?

Or is it the following?

Premise 1: Progressivism is the descendant of certain forms of Protestantism.
Premise 2: These forms of Protestantism were bad.
Conclusion: Therefore Progressivism is bad.

Or is it something else?

(Yes, I am aware that sometimes arguments can't be well condensed into three lines, and instead require 10,000 word articles by Mencius. And yes, I have read his entire archive, and all the comments. But usually when I can't extract the argument, I suspect hand-waving.)

August 21, 2010 at 3:39 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

The point is a) that its true, b) modern progressives tend to think of themselves as anti-religious, c) we can better understand the nature of the thing by understanding its ancestry.

August 21, 2010 at 5:45 AM  
Blogger nazgulnarsil said...

1) progressivism is an offshoot of protestantism
2) many of the things progressives do make no sense in light of their *stated* objectives
3) these things make more sense when viewed as inheritances from the protestant line.

August 21, 2010 at 7:01 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Could someone please explain to me the point of tracing the ancestry of progressivism to certain forms of Protestantism?

Second josh and narsil on this.

An important one going forward is that understanding the symbiotic causal relationship of democracy and progressivism is predictive. Progressivism, in the Moldbuggian view, is both a cause and a result of democracy. They go together like epidemic disease and dense populations of humans with poor hygiene. With that understanding, we evaluate certain future scenarios differently. I.e., say we managed in one huge, bloody purge, to kill every existing progressive. Would this kill the ideology? Yes -- but only for a while. Because so long as democracy exists, all religions have a strong incentive to evolve along progressive lines to capture the state. Christianity is far better at this that other religions, because it was founded as a communist cult, and that stuff is still there in the Bible.

So, politically speaking the understanding we have is useful. It differentiates us from, for example, the traditional conservatives (i.e. Lawrence Auster), who think that we can revert America back to an originalist Constitution by reverting social mores back to traditional Christianity.

It tells us that the way to defeat the progressivism/democracy nexus is to defeat democracy. And that's good in two ways. First, the physical means necessary to actually kill progressivism are extreme, making Hitler look like a child. Defeating democracy is much more realistic. Second, at least in a system like Moldbug envisions, progressives are an asset, not a problem, since in the absence of the ability to channel their do-gooding religious impulses into politics, they'll channel them into charity.

August 21, 2010 at 11:25 AM  
Anonymous dearieme said...

"4.The river finds the shore
As holster meets its sword."

Holster? Shouldn't that be scabbard?

August 21, 2010 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Treating this as an open thread, I thought some of you might be interested in Ron Radosh's review of a new bio on Saul Alinsky.

August 21, 2010 at 2:09 PM  
Anonymous Darlie said...

Apropos of nothing:

I'm reading an old paperback copy of Ortega Y Gasset's Revolt of the Masses right now. It's about 20 yrs. old. A college course assigned it but we never got to it.

Anyone have any opinions on O&G?

August 21, 2010 at 5:26 PM  
Anonymous Peter A. Taylor said...

Leonard, I will go read the American Malvern article. (I'm in the middle of something else right now.)

But I don't see how you can say that Christianity was founded as a Communist cult, and then say that the Communist bit is an idiosyncrasy of some peculiar derivative of Christianity.

Durpdurp, you misread me! I absolutely agree that Progressivism is a political religion. We are just arguing about which counter-parasite is M.41 and which one is M.42 (and whether this matters). See my essay, The Market for Sanctimony, or why we need Yet Another Space Alien Cult.


August 21, 2010 at 5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Despair all ye Nations, deny not that we're sick,
For our blood is like water where once it was thick.
And our minds grown leaden, our bodies gone weak,
And venom pours from our lips whenever we speak.

Despair all ye Nations, for the time draws apace,
When the rot of the cynic shall steal our good grace.
And our sweetest of dreams shall fade to lost hope,
Our pride and our arrogance; Our noose and our rope.

Despair all ye Nations, see the years drawing on,
Our great cultures are fading and soon they'll be gone.
So conceited our Scholars, they jeer through their teeth,
With their theories so shallow - Quite soulless beneath.

Despair all ye Nations, for the ending is near,
When the Lord of Lost Heart shall govern us with fear,
Our weakness unfetters as we face this unknown,
And our faith trails to nothing; we stand here alone.

Despair all ye Nations, the Corruptor has come,
And the sad days of this world are nearing their sum.
For the shining ideals through endeavours we sought,
Grow sour as he passes and are coming to nought.

Despair all ye Nations, there's no hope for us now,
For we made this monster, placed a crown his brow.
He fed on our apathy; our pain made him swell,
We gave him Dominion, he gives us his Hell.

August 23, 2010 at 2:42 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

@Peter Taylor - admittedly it's anecdotal, but you can find a perfect example of the metamorphosis of a "puritan" low protestant into a modern secular progressive in the life of Paul Beecher Blanshard. Take a look at the Wikipedia article on this character and see if you don't agree with me. I've recently re-read his "American Freedom and Catholic Power" (1949) and am struck by how easily adapted his attacks on Catholicism have proven to be by secular progressives against theistic religious belief in general over the last sixty years. I suspect a lot of secular progressives have followed a path similar to Blanshard's.

A great deal of political turmoil in the past two centuries has arisen from the religious deracination attendant upon the Protestant crisis of faith. Some of the most prominent secular progressives have been sons of the manse, or separated from it by only one generation (e.g., Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.).

New England was the major locus of this crisis of faith in 19th-century America. Such secular but quasi-religious crusades as abolitionism and liquor prohibition originated there, because the germ of such thinking was always present in the utopian Calvinism that first led to New England's settlement - the same that led to the Cromwellian dictatorship in Old England:

"... that stubborn crew
Of errant saints, whom all men grant
To be the true Church Militant;
Such as do build their faith upon
The holy text of pike and gun;
Decide all controversies by
Infallible artillery;
And probe their doctrine orthodox
By apostolick blows and knocks;
Call fire and sword and desolation,
A godly thorough reformation,
Which always must be carried on,
And still be doing, never done;
As if religion were intended
For nothing else but to be mended.
A sect, whose chief devotion lies,
In odd perverse antipathies;
In falling out with that or this,
And finding somewhat still amiss;
More peevish, cross, and splenetick,
Than dog distract, or monkey sick."

As Santayana shrewdly observed, the Bostonian liberalism of his day was nothing but Calvinism stripped of its Christianity, such that only its smug fanaticism remained.

August 23, 2010 at 9:48 AM  
Anonymous Peter A. Taylor said...

The link to the
American Malvern article is broken.

August 24, 2010 at 4:35 AM  
Anonymous Peter A. Taylor said...

Typo. This works: American Malvern

August 24, 2010 at 4:45 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

You may also find interesting to see what Time has on the Malvern conference itself. Malvern was a meeting in Britain of Anglicans, in 1940-41. The Malvern Conference is unfortunately absent at Wiki, but apparently was quite well known during WWII, which you can see by googling in Time.

Time has not put up their article on Malvern itself. But you can pretty well figure it out from some of the articles linked above, of from Time's obituary for William Temple:

The Archbishop's outstanding achievement was his leadership of the famed Malvern Conference (TIME, Jan. 20, 1941), which marked him as the world's leading exponent of Christian social reconstruction. Reading Malvern's recommendations, Britons realized that the Church of England was trumpeting nothing less than a social revolution, could no longer be dubbed the Tory Party at Prayers.†

Last year, in Christianity and Social Order, Dr. Temple set forth six propositions for a Christian society:

¶ Every child should find itself a member of a family housed with decency and dignity.

¶ Every child should have an opportunity for education up to maturity.

¶ Every citizen should have sufficient income to make a home and bring up his children properly.

¶ Every worker should have a voice in the conduct of the business or industry in which he works.

¶ Every citizen should have sufficient leisure—two days' rest in seven and an annual holiday with pay.

¶ Every citizen should be guaranteed freedom of worship, speech, assembly and association.

This seems familiar.

August 24, 2010 at 7:56 AM  
Anonymous Peter A. Taylor said...

Leonard, I have read the American Malvern article. What I get out of it is that American mainline Protestants by 1941 had quit believing in the afterlife and were looking for a replacement belief system. Does this mean that the parasite evolved, or that the native parasite died, and was replaced by a counter-parasite that has immigrated from France? I recommend this article by Keith Windschuttle on a Gertrude Himmelfarb book.

But I think, along with Hugo, that the cladistics analogy is useless (except as a way of jerking Progressives' chains), and also that the parasite analogy is misleading. I see religion not as a parasite but as a weapon that is used in the blood sport of social competition. Dawkins is not a passive victim but an active tool user.

August 24, 2010 at 7:08 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Peter: I see no proof in that article that "Super Protestants" had quit believing in an afterlife. Nor do I see evidence they are looking for new beliefs. To the contrary, it seems they have an abundance of things to keep them busy for many lifetimes.

I read your linked piece, which basically makes the point that French leftism was different than Anglo leftism, in some ways matching the New Left. But that hardly indicates replacement. Even ignoring the possibility of parallel evolution, and crediting France with evolving its leftism independently (though that is not so), remember that we are not analogizing to genes here, or at least not genes in multicelled creatures. We're looking at memes, which are perfectly capable of mixing and matching promiscuously. We know almost all Americans were physically present through the period where it happened. So your "replacement" theory is thus not really even possible. It has to have been adaptation -- the only question is how much of the new super meme (or weapon, if you will) came from France?

As for whether progressivism is a parasite or weapon: I should say both. I would still say Dawkins is pwned, because he does not know he is infected. But of course he still benefits from being able to look down his nose at the proles, and he gains sales and social status by championing the faith. So it is symbiotic.

August 24, 2010 at 9:27 PM  
Anonymous Rollory said...

sounds like UR ideas

August 25, 2010 at 6:52 PM  
Anonymous Peter A. Taylor said...

Leonard: Maybe I am jumping to conclusions. But as the religious conservative, James Heidinger, put it,

"When theology is no longer central in the life of the church, something inevitably steps in to fill the gap, and among mainline Protestant liberals, that something is political ideology."

I certainly don't see anyone in the Malvern article demonstrating that his religion stresses otherworldliness. They smell to me just like the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

I have a NASA engineer friend who is nominally Christian, but if you really want to see his eyes light up, get him talking about a manned Mars mission. What religion is he, really?

And how exactly are the Progressives different from the "communist cult" known as the early Christian church? They seem to have abandoned the "render unto Ceasar" bit (separation of church and state). But that happened in Roman times (and is arguably more characteristically Catholic than Protestant). They also abandoned the premodern Christian cosmology. Is that abandonment part of the English Dissenter tradition, or more of a Church of England or Franco-German phenomenon?

Is there something about the mixture of religion and politics that is peculiar to the Dissenter tradition, or even to Christianity in general?

August 26, 2010 at 6:10 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Abandonment of the "premodern Christian cosmology" is assuredly not Anglican or Lutheran. I suppose some of the earliest nominally Christian schismatics to do so were the Socinians, and there is a Socinian association with the English Dissenters beginning in the seventeenth century. See D.P. Walker's "The Decline of Hell" for more detailed history on this point.

The Calvinistic church polity, which is Congregational, peculiarly abets heterodoxy, because there is no way of enforcing orthodoxy above the level of the individual congregation. My late father used to tease a friend of his, who was a Congregational minister, that Congregationalists could vote on the nature of God every Sunday if they wished.

Congregationalism worked in Geneva, because it was a small city-state, and Calvin's ability to enforce his understanding of orthodoxy was adequately demonstrated by his burning of Servetus. However, in a larger country like England, all sorts of schismatic belief flourished after Cromwell's revolution, and there soon emerged a division between a party that favored Scottish-style Presbyterianism, and another that demanded complete independence. Neither, of course, was as effective at maintaining confessional uniformity as the hated episcopacy had been.

An interesting point of history, not well known to most Americans today, is that the First Amendment's provision that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" was never originally understood as a restriction upon the rights of states to do so. Indeed, it was inserted in the amendment with the express purpose of protecting the states' rights each to have its own religious establishment - cujus regio, ejus religio. Connecticut had a state-supported church till 1818; Massachusetts, till 1833. What ended these was a major schism between old-fashioned Puritan Calvinists who retained the Trinitarian doctrine, and Unitarians. One faction came to control most of the churches, the other the General Court (state legislature) - which eventually terminated support for the churches. One casualty of the schism was the Rev'd. Abijah Holmes, the grandfather of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was a Trinitarian who had been forced out of his benefice when the majority of his congregation sided with the Unitarians. Catherine Drinker Bowen's biography of Justice Holmes, "A Yankee from Olympus," provides a detailed account.

And it was of course in New England that the blight of progressivism first fixed itself upon the United States like oïdium or phylloxera on a grapevine.

August 26, 2010 at 7:02 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Peter, you are right that there is little hint of supernaturalism in the 1942 Federal Council of Churches meeting... and that is just the point. Here we have a meeting described by the people of the time as "organized U.S. Protestantism". Its results (advocacy of progressive politics) are "super-protestant". The context here was, is progressivism home-grown American? Or some nefarious import, via Frenchies or German Jews, or what have you?

I cannot tell what your friend's religion is at this remove, but obviously it is not traditional Christianity. Perhaps he is more of an Einsteinian. I certainly would not say, though, that what inspires a man is his religion. Religion certainly can inspire, and does for many, but by no means all. Especially not Northern European men, who tend to be a practical, skeptical, reserved, and somewhat dour bunch.

Michael is a resident expert on history of religion, and I defer to him. He points out the vast diversity of Dissenters. Diversity alone would give them an evolutionary advantage in terms of church-state politics; while some dissenters are quiescent, others are not -- and it is those that evolve reasons to enter politics and capture the state. I.e. see la wik on Methodism or the Social Gospel.

August 26, 2010 at 9:08 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Peter, the theological "term of art" for your NASA engineer friend is "Laodicean" - in its figurative meaning, a person who professes Christianity but is immune to religious zeal. Without knowing him I'd say the odds are good that he's Episcopalian.

August 27, 2010 at 11:32 AM  
Anonymous Peter A. Taylor said...

Michael S., thank you for the vocabulary term and for the reference to D.P. Walker's _The Decline of Hell_. It sounds like something I'd be interested in.

Are you familiar with Laurence Iannaccone's work in economics of religion? He writes a lot about a religious Herfindahl index, the sum of squares of the market shares of different firms (or church organizations). If the Congregationalists lowered the Herfindahl index, that sounds to me like a Good Thing.

But when you've got something like Moldbug's "Cathedral," I don't know how you would calculate a Herfindahl index.

August 27, 2010 at 10:48 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

I want to point out that this thread is a walking demonstration of the power of formalism.

As soon as it was said out loud that the thread was open, everyone just did what they were going to do anyway - but now did so openly and directly, thus with integrity, having no need to pretend their statements were somehow on topic, nor any shame in simply ignoring this point of etiquette.

Additionally, though this didn't come up, by saying it directly, the statement can be challenged directly, and thus even incorrect formalisms are better than informalism.

September 6, 2010 at 12:25 AM  

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