Ed Driscoll

The New Intolerance

In Britain’s otherwise leftwing New Statesman, Cristina Odone, its former deputy editor asks, “will we regret pushing Christians out of public life?” Define “We,” please. The left certainly won’t:

Only 50 years ago, liberals supported “alternative culture”; they manned the barricades in protest against the establishment position on war, race and feminism. Today, liberals abhor any alternative to their credo. No one should offer an opinion that runs against the grain on issues that liberals consider “set in stone”, such as sexuality or the sanctity of life.

Intolerance is no longer the prerogative of overt racists and other bigots – it is state-sanctioned. It is no longer the case that the authorities are impartial on matters of belief, and will intervene to protect the interests and heritage of the weak. When it comes to crushing the rights of those who dissent from the new orthodoxy, politicians and bureaucrats alike are in the forefront of the attacks, not the defence.

I believe that religious liberty is mean­ingless if religious subcultures do not have the right to practise and preach according to their beliefs. These views – for example, on abortion, adoption, divorce, marriage, promiscuity and euthanasia – may be unfashionable. They certainly will strike many liberal-minded outsiders as harsh, impractical, outmoded, and irrelevant.

But that is not the point. Adherents of these beliefs should not face life-ruining disadvantages. They should not have to close their businesses, as happened to the Christian couple who said only married heterosexual couples could stay at their bed and breakfast. They should not lose their jobs, which was the case of the registrar who refused to marry gays. When Britain was fighting for its life in the Second World War, it never forced pacifists to bear arms. So why force the closure of a Catholic adoption agency that for almost 150 years has placed some of society’s most vulnerable children with loving parents?

Once a dominant force in western culture, religion has been demoted to, at best, an irrelevance; at worst, an offence against the prevailing establishment. For millennia, religion has coloured every aspect of the European landscape. Churches were every­where – one for every 200 inhabitants in the High Middle Ages – and oversaw every stage of life: “hatch, match and despatch”. Philanthropists, religious orders and communities built and ran schools, orphanages and hospitals. Belief was so crucial to ordinary people that the most destitute did not question paying tithes to their church. The Founding Fathers crossed an ocean to be free to practise their faith.

The left only supported the concept of “alternative cultures” when it was the alternative culture. Now that dominates the culture, its practitioners have no need for “diversity,” except as it applies to skin color (and even then, limitations certainly apply).

But as far as religion being demoted to irreverence, that depends upon how you define the concept. As Dennis Prager noted in 2012, “For at least the last hundred years, the world’s most dynamic religion has been neither Christianity nor Islam:”

It is leftism.

Most people do not recognize what is probably the single most important fact of modern life. One reason is that leftism is overwhelmingly secular (more than merely secular: it is inherently opposed to all traditional religions), and therefore people do not regard it as a religion. Another is that leftism so convincingly portrays itself as solely the product of reason, intellect, and science that it has not been seen as the dogma-based ideology that it is. Therefore, the vast majority of the people who affirm leftist beliefs think of their views as the only way to properly think about life.

That, in turn, explains why anyone who opposes leftism is labeled anti-intellectual, anti-progress, anti-science, anti-minority and anti-reason (among many other pejorative epithets): leftists truly believe that there is no other way to think.

How successful has leftism been?

It dominates the thinking of Europe, much of Latin America, Canada, and Asia, as well as the thinking of the political and intellectual elites of most of the world. Outside of the Muslim world, it is virtually the only way in which news is reported and virtually the only way in which young people are educated from elementary school through university.

Only the United States, of all Western countries, has resisted leftism. But that resistance is fading as increasing numbers of Americans abandon traditional Judeo-Christian religions, lead secular lives, are educated by teachers whose views are almost uniformly left-wing and are exposed on a daily basis virtually exclusively to leftist views in their news and entertainment media.

QED.