The Cultural Left: Making the World Safe for Fundamentalism
[Editor's note: This article was originally published June 6, 2003. It was inadvertently deleted while attempting to rectify a server error. It was republished July 1, 2003.]
The Cultural Left is not a movement, an ideology, or a philosophy. It is a set of attitudes and beliefs based on the prejudices of the modern intellectual elite, shored up by shallow and simplistic interpretations of modern philosophy (often Karl Marx) and pop psychology. These beliefs are a hodgepodge of moral relativism, Marxism and political correctness--topped off by an almost pathological hostility to traditional Western civilization and the values it is based upon.
The Cultural Left's belief system is a threat to secularism on many levels, but three reasons stand out above all others:
1.) extreme relativism,
2.) hostility to traditional Western culture, and,
3.) the view that academia, scholarship, education, science, culture and the arts are nothing but weapons for use in political and ideological warfare.
These three beliefs undermine secularism and increase the power and influence of religion and superstition in our society.
Extreme relativism is the belief that all values, beliefs, cultures, ideas and ideologies are of equal value. Worse it is the idea that it is wrong to judge or evaluate any belief or idea by moral or empirical criteria. In this world view it is wrong to judge a belief system such as Communism or racism as evil because of its destructive effects. Extreme relativists also believe that it is wrong to evaluate ideas or belief systems based upon empirical criteria such as science.
This means that the cultural leftist can't denounce racism or Islamic extremism as evil because that would be making a moral judgement--even though both systems are clearly evil and destructive. It is also means that the cultural leftist can't pronounce Fundamentalist Christianity, Marxism, Communism and other dogmas false or wrong because that would be applying empirical standards to a belief system.
The prime beneficiaries of extreme relativism are religious fundamentalists and other fanatics. Since the cultural leftist can't judge beliefs on a moral level and can't evaluate them on a rational basis, the cultural leftist has no defense against the fundamentalist. Since the fundamentalist has no qualms about making such judgements and conclusions, he or she is free to judge, evaluate and criticize the Cultural Leftist.
Worse, by refusing to make moral judgements the Cultural Leftist turns the whole sphere of morality and ethics over to people of faith. Since the religious are willing to make moral judgements, they become the arbiters of morality and ethics for all society because the secular intellectuals have abandoned that role. This is why people of faith--whether they are Marxists, Catholic bishops, Buddhist Lamas, or Indian medicine men--are so influential in our society today. They have no real competition given that the scholars, intellectuals, journalists, writers, scientists and academics have abandoned the important area of morality.
The second way the Cultural Left undermines secularism is by its ongoing war on Western Culture and Civilization. When the Cultural Left announces its intentions to abandon the dead white men of Europe and their beliefs, secularists often cheer. This means the Cultural Left is abandoning the Medieval Church, the Witch Hunt, racism, nationalism and related evils of our past. Unfortunately it also means the Cultural Left is abandoning traditional Western Secularism.
When the Cultural Left throws out Western Civilization it throws out the Greek philosophers, the Enlightenment, the American Revolution, Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Paine, Adam Smith, Darwin, Einstein, Dickens, Nietzsche, Freud, and Bertrand Russell--in other words, the ideas that form the basis of our secular society. By doing so, it deprives secularists of the intellectual and cultural ammunition they need to fight the fundamentalists. It takes away the very ideas that can defend us from the fundamentalists and counter their arguments.
While the Cultural Leftists are busy flushing our heritage down the toilet in the name of political correctness, the fundamentalists are busy studying the great thinkers of the past. Naturally, the fundamentalists sound intelligent and educated and win most of the debates. Worse, to the average person the fundamentalist sounds like a decent and honorable person upholding tradition while the intellectual sounds like a vicious and ignorant fool out to destroy all that is good and holy.
Thirdly, the Cultural Left likes to think of all culture, science, scholarship, arts, entertainment and journalism as a sort of warfare. They view any attempt to say that a point of view is valid as an effort to force one's values on others. This means that they can't admit that their opponents' views are valid or correct, or that an argument might simply be logical. This turns the atmosphere on college campuses from that of debate to one of vicious warfare between people of different values and beliefs. Since those who disagree with you are the enemy, they must be destroyed; you can't have civil discourse with them.
Worse, all intellectual disciplines (including science, history and literature) are perverted into mere tools of intellectual warfare. The worst example of this is the abomination known as creationism: pseudoscience designed to promote religion. History, for example, becomes little more than a fable designed to justify someone's prejudices.
Not surprisingly, the fundamentalists are far better equipped to wage such warfare than the Cultural Left. Fundamentalists are usually better-read and better-educated, and have certainty of belief and centuries worth of intellectual arguments on their side.
The end result of the Cultural Left's belief system is an abomination. American Academia has been turned into a bad joke, the intellectual life on our universities has been devastated, our popular culture has been wrecked, and our literature and art have become irrelevant. Worse, secularism and secular culture have been given a bad name while the power and influence of religion has increased. Since religious institutions have been able to escape the Cultural Left's onslaught, they can set the agenda in our culture, politics, literature, art and news media.
The Cultural Left has augmented the power and influence of faith in our society. Religious institutions and religious leaders are now setting our national agenda and arbitrating morality for the rest of us. Secularists can't stand up to this onslaught because they are intellectually unprepared to do so--thanks to the Cultural Left.
The time has come for secularists to stand up and take back our culture from the Cultural Left. If we don't, we may find ourselves living in a dark age of superstition, bigotry and faith thanks to those who call themselves "intellectuals" in our day and age.
Interested in publishing in the Agora? see the Submission Guidelines.
Disclaimer: The Agora is something like a "Letters to the Editor" section in a newspaper. Agora articles represent the viewpoint of their authors and should not be taken as necessarily representative of the viewpoint of the Internet Infidels and/or the Secular Web. Articles are published primarily on the basis that they will be interesting to our nontheist readers. Full disclaimer here.
Copyright 2003, Internet Infidels, Inc. Copyright info here.