The answer is “yes”, but it’s not easy. Former Muslim radical Shiraz Maher describes the travails of trying to stay Muslim and become British at the same time. The recording at the link describes just how hard it is to buck the tide. You know, the tide that doesn’t exist. But before intellectuals in the West congratulate themselves on their modernity, it may be useful to read Howard Fast‘s account of his attempts wrench himself from the bosom of the Communist Party — all that he knew; all that he loved; all he belonged to. He wrote:
The “secret” Khrushchev speech, admitting and detailing to the Soviets’ Twentieth Party Congress the terrors of Stalin’s rule, was published in The New York Times on June 5, 1956. The next day the staff of the Daily Worker met. We had all read the speech. The somber terror of it was in our eyes and on our faces, and now the discussion was whether or not to print it in the Worker. In the course of that discussion, something happened that will remain with me until I die. … They all looked at me, but no one broke the silence. We had come to the end of a road. and we knew by what grace we were alive. We knew it – and oh, what a terrible knowledge that was. Each one according to his talent and ability had given his life to the cause of mankind, the brotherhood of man – and we knew that for this the reward was death.
Fast knew that he could no longer believe in Communism. To continue a moment longer was to live a lie, to take the side of murder and of death; even perhaps to be murdered in a purge one’s self. But there was another kind of death that he feared; slower, painful and more protracted. And while he would face it himself the fear of that greater death made many of his comrades remain Communists.
Discipline in the Communist Party is voluntary, but in the silent background is the sword of excommunication. Without the power and religiosity of expulsion, the Communist Party could not exist as it is. Before the moment of the Khrushchev secret speech, expulsion from the Communist Party was akin to eternal damnation, the body alive but the soul already dead for eternity; and so powerful had this conviction of the membership become, and so widely and sincerely had they promulgated it, that millions of non-Communists considered anyone who bore the label of expulsion from the Party as a lost and damned soul, a corrupt and dangerous human being who no longer owned the right of admission to the society of men of good will.
To a sincere and devoted Communist, expulsion was almost as bad as death – and sometimes worse. It is almost impossible to convey to many people what the total implication of expulsion meant. For almost a generation, several million Americans of good will accepted the fact that a man was expelled from the Communist Party either for being a police spy or for utter venality and degeneration of character. Such an expelled person became outcast, not only among Party members but among a circle of progressives a dozen times larger than the Party itself. This was a concept deliberately nurtured and put forward by every Communist Party on earth; for it was basic to Party discipline.
Without this ritual of expulsion and its accompanying mythology, the Communist Party would be something else indeed. The expelled Communist thus became the leper-heretic of today, living on under an interdiction unique since medieval times.
The vast majority of true believers are not, as some would suppose, the soccer moms attending their Sunday church and leading their ordinary lives the rest of the week. The real compulsive joiners are those must attend the church of the co-op, pray at the shrine of the Global Warming, join political Action Wires and feel the “need to connect” without which their lives have no meaning. In the service of the new secular faiths all the old forms have been given new names. The medieval procession, sans the candles but with the molotov cocktail, has become the modern protest rally. Indulgences are back as carbon credits. Instead of a bishop on a distant cathedral altar, there is an orator before Greek columns at Invesco Field.
It’s hard to accept that we are not always the people we’ve been waiting for. For many people, freedom and doubt are unbearable burdens. Who would leave the throng and wander the night and in the stillness listen for the whisper of God?