The Dangers of Idealism
It kind of annoys me – the way people use the words ‘idealism’ and ‘idealistic’ to denote a starry-eyed faith-filled approach to life. “Believe that the best is possible,” shriek the voices, “be idealistic.”
Yech. Blech. Mech. Saith the Young Curmudgeon.
All “ism’s” are philosophies that place some unifying idea at the center of their thought. Feminism is a view of history and society with the female at the center. Communism is a political philosophy built around the central idea of people’s holding property in common rather than privately. And so on. Idealism is a philosophy about how people ought to live, govern, and conduct relationships, centered around the idea of an idea. If you have a mental image of how your life, your relationship, your world could be, then, so it goes, you attempt to conform whatever falls under your influence to that idea. This act, regardless of the virtue or soundness of the idea being implemented, is supposedly a beautiful and courageous one. I’m all for ideas in the sense of inventions or solutions to problems or creative works of art. But I’m calling the Emperor naked when it comes to the virtue of reinventing people, societies, and institutions to fit someone’s private scheme.
1) Ideals function as replacements for principles. A person with principles values his own integrity to the point that even if a seemingly good end is in view, he will not commit an act of, say, treachery. Or duplicity. Or miserliness. And so on. But a person with ideals is loyal, not to the good that already exists but to something that does not yet exist anywhere except in his own mind. When he has to choose between them, he chooses the end rather than the integrity of the means, because he is centered around the made-up vision of an altered reality, not the true vision of genuine virtue. ‘Ideal’ means, of course, “of or having to do with an idea.” In the sense it is commonly used, this ‘idea’ is a thought that originated in someone’s mind – a thought of varying complexity, profundity, and perception, but always a thought that claims to be better and seeks to impose itself on other people and existing situations. I do not believe we are here to induce reality to be something other than it is. I believe we are here to attain virtues, do our jobs, and let God work on the troubles spots that infect present reality – in his own way.
2) Ideals always try to replace reality. Our imaginations exist to make the leaps necessary to grasp reality. When idealists invent new realities they misuse this power; and the new reality is never better than the old. God creates reality; ideals are the visualization of discontent. By ‘reality’ I do not mean ‘the way things are.’ It’s quite likely that the way things are is the realization of dozens of broken and half-implemented ideals from those who came before. Reality, as I use the word, is the eternal truth that lives in the mind of God. It is the archetypes, the beauty, the pillars of nature, the structure of what informs creation, to which we ought to be loyal. It is the reality from which our imperfect experience deviates and to which we must wing our determined way daily. “Having ideals” is a feel-good way of saying that we get to determine what reality ought to be, and then try to re-invent it. Being real is being honest. It is breaking your heart on your own blindness over and over again until little by little you begin to awaken from the dark dreams of deception in which you wandered.
3) Idealism is violent. Because of what I said above, it comes about that an idealist is not only annoying, but the most dangerous person in the world. To have a fantasy about changing reality is to commit, mentally, an act of violence against God’s work. With this beginning, any other form of violence is ultimately possible, from bullying to genocide. It turns out that these supposed starry-eyed idealists are the Trotskys and Hitlers and Bin Ladens of the world, the people who have rejected the good that exists in favor of a situation they have determined will be better. The idealist will destroy institutions and pull down societies in order to install, forcibly, their vision of the new world. These are the nagging mothers, the disapproving fathers, the merciless librarians, teachers, pastors, legislators, terrorists, and tyrants. Worse, they are the people who multiply truth claims infinitely until finding the original truth is nearly impossible. Idealism is fantasy – it is violence.
In conclusion, it ought to be clear that idealism has no place in the Christian church or in any religion. Nor does it have any place in anti-religion and certainly not in politics, where the amplification of personal power also amplifies the potential danger of enforcing an unproved vision on others. The only place where a certain kind of idealism might be proper is in art. The act of creation often represents an “ideal” object. The idea in “of or having to do with an idea,” in this case refers to an archetype and a person’s grasp of that archetype through his love of real things, not a vision of a new reality that originated in someone’s mind. Here language becomes somewhat confounded, so that what I have been calling reality is now called (more properly, in fact,) by the name of its opposite. The important distinction here is that such an ideal never physically exists, and no one tries to force it to. A proper ideal, it stays in Plato’s world of the forms where it belongs, and allows itself to be venerated by the imaginatively gifted on Earth. Thus a sculptor, bless his heart, may represent the ideal woman in marble; but God, bless his name, makes only real women in flesh.
Amen. Saith the Young Curmudgeon.
Honestly, wat the hell are you ranting about in this? It’s like idealism is an actual thing to you that you could find on the street and lock-up, except, it isn’t that at all. I’m not sure you even have an idea what you are against. All I got was at the end you said some crap about females in the flesh, and art. Are you saying we should have ideals for women, and just take them in the flesh? Unless it’s art, then we should just know it’s idealistic art?
I think you are missing the point. Anyway, it’s mostly a semantic problem, as no one gives a fuck about any of the stupid things you are saying.
The world fucking sucks. You, fucking suck. What is this bullshit about “reality” and “principles” ? Like you could even define reality.
I have an ideal for you (let’s not confuse idealistic thoughts with “ideology”, which I saw you said something about elsewhere. You will miss any meaningful point in all this if you can’t realize that the words mean nothing. Ideology is not at all used with the same connotations and emotions as idealism, something being “idealistic”, etc. Don’t screw up the word game.
The idealistic thought, is that the world fucking sucks. And that people really could change, and that things could really be MUCH better than they are now given technologies, information accesability, a general increase in intelligence, blah. But it’s hard because so much evil exists in the world and it births confusion and stifles goodness.
That’s all really.
for forethought, I got here searching — “young” “idealistic” not the “way things are”–
My idea was to find some pages about, well an idea, a situation, where older people (or simply, indoctrinated people of any age) resort to saying that someone is being “idealistic” and that they don’t see “reality” and such. Often, attempting to sway them from thinking a certain way, or in response to a grand idea of theirs.
These often older, but more importantly indoctirnated people, who are all SO FUCKING BITTER, they simply can not stand to see someone wanting to do what they once wanted to do, but have lost all passion for. Whether you remember it or not, there is a time where all people realize, even if just for a fleeting moment, that the world IS ABSOLUTELY FUCKING DISGUSTING. People are so horrible. And some people, they are indescribably horrible. I can almost believe in Satan because there is no sense, nothing that should drive some of these people to make the world of humans so horrid. The devils advocate… I know I’m not using it as it’s often used but, I can see where the devil comes into it… because some of these people can’t even step back enough to see how trivial their arguments are, and how they aren’t making sense on either side of the argument, and that the argument is just a huge illusion blocking any truly positive change. It’s like the ‘devil’ really would have to be present to trick these people into such ridiculous thought.
but the world is so sick, and everyone with even a little brain can see it. And then they can’t change it. They go to college (which is bullshit, worthless, outdated, in case you wanted to know), then they get a job they might think they want, then they have to do something else to live, or are forced to move. Marriage comes in, kids, bills, blah, and what do you know? They forget it all. they suppress their feelings and their perception because now they ‘don’t have time’ or god knows what to do something that MEANS something.
On more than one occasions, these people have told me and others I see something like
– well I remember being young and idealistic, you will grow out of it eventually
-when you grow up you will see how things really are
– I’m old, I’m depressed. I bitch at my family, I take it as all I really have. I have hardly done the things I dreamed of doing and wanted to accomplish. The world stole all that from me, because it is cold and unrelenting. I couldn’t do a thing about it. YOU think YOU can do a thing about it? Ha. As if. I have no faith in you, I mean, no one had faith in me? etc.
except they don’t vocalize the last one. It’s just what they obviously feel.
Then, the phrase “productive member of society” is likely to come up with these types.
indoctrinated. So indoctrinated. Fuck all of you. Idealistic my ass. Just because some of us realize what it would take to get the world into a better spot, that people aren’t hopeless, that you can change and people can realize that the common good is the true good and that the ‘cheesy’ love everybody type thinking really has a lot of credence. Productive member of society = putting yourself into the position where you can’t change anything. On a gandhi type thought, If you are being part of it you are adding to it. Have fun losing everything that matters, I hope god can forgive you for not recognizing your purpose and I hope I am hearing him well when I am filled with the feeling that I MUST aim for NOTHING LESS than the eradication of malice, evil, ignorance and that somehow I am supposed to help turn the world upside down and get us on the right track.
LikeLiked by 1 person
agreed, and she says that feminism is centered around women…? feminism is about equality for both of the sexes.
idealism is actually about the perseverance against odds, criticism of others and refusing to accept failure.
And she also states that idealism is based around an idea that has no evidence. what evidence do you have that god exists?
OK class, anyone want to venture a guess why the word ‘feminism’ is derived from ‘femme’ – the french word for “Woman”?
God exists by definition. That is to say, we define God as the source of everything good. Since it is impossible to think humanly without being aware of goodness, and equally impossible to think humanly without being aware that everything has a source, God’s being is a given, written into the nature of things (like mathematics, only more so.)
The questions of what God is: whether God is personal or merely The Universe; whether God lies below all things and they rise up from him, or whether he stands above all things and they descend from him; whether God is one or many or something else altogether; whether God is conscious or merely in some way the progenitor of consciousness; these are not so obvious. While evidence of God’s nature does exist, it doesn’t fit the parameters of scientific evidence.
There are perfectly good and natural reasons for this. For one thing, science does not prove everything we know to be true. Science cannot prove our senses are trustworthy; that is one of the things we have to assume in order to even do science. Science cannot prove the validity of mathematics; that is proven logically. And to make logical proofs one must assume the validity of human thought, the consistent nature of underlying reality, and much else that is not physical and therefore cannot be shown by physical evidence.
Likewise, a physical God would be no God at all; therefore evidence of him would not be physical. Physical evidence would be evidence of something other than God. Furthermore, like logic or math or the trustworthiness of one’s senses, God must be assumed in the final analysis for anything else to make sense. If you haven’t discovered that yet you haven’t reached the final analysis.
What other evidence we have is spiritual in nature. It is treasured within the communities of believers. It silently dawns on the mind in sane, unwillful experience.
The feeling is a good one and does you credit. But you are already in the embitterment process, obviously. You will destroy yourself, your faith, and other people if you try to force the world to conform to a false vision, and you will save yourself and others if you devote yourself to a true vision. Even if the vision is true, you will corrupt it if you use force to implement it.
The path you want to walk is a highly demanding path. I suggest you inform yourself thoroughly about both ends and methods.
I believe I am here to be a truly good person. And yes, I get all sorts of criticism and mocking and argument from people who believe it’s impossible and we should just accept the “fact” the we are all evil and it’s inevitable.
I wish you would not use such vile language, it does you and your beliefs no service. Love does not behave unseemly.
You should also learn to recognize your fellow – visionaries. I refuse to use the word idealists because whatever it means to you, to me it means a person that wants to force others into a plan that they imagine will change everything – without evidence, experimentation, thought, imagination, and all the hard, hard, work it takes to arrive at the truth in this benighted age. My bitter experience is that of a person who has been brutally punished and damaged by idealists whose ideals were false, whose methods were pitiless, whose attitude was unbearably scornful of ordinary people, and who refused to take any honest look at the results of their beloved ideals. Often such people end by loving their visions more than the people that they started out to help.
Be careful, and take care.
Wow, great post and great response, AR. Thank you.
Thanks for stopping by!
You people… all have serious mental issues.
Oooo, my very own troll! Be sure to stop by every single day now. Eventually, of course, you’ll get tired of coming up with a new name every time, of composing your carefully spelled messages, of summoning that false sense of superiority… and of course I’ll have stopped approving your comments and answering them long before then. But in the mean time… keep at it, you Busy Little Bee!
This is a truly brilliant post. Happy to have stumbled upon it.
Reblogged this on John W Smart and commented:
This Friday, I feel we need to hear from an Orthodox Christian convert about idealism. This is what I feel and as you know my feelings are facts.
Came here via a link from John W. Smart, and am so glad I did. Very thought-provoking post. Thank you.
You’re onto something here, and offer a thought-provoking perspective. But you do yourself a disservice by muddying the waters with arbitrary & unorthodox definitions of basic terms. Also, your semantic distinction between “ideals” and “principles” is elusive.
You conflate the various connotations of “idealism”. Presenting current reality as ideal is panglossian. But that’s not the same as conceiving an attainable ideal to craft an improved future reality — a natural behavior of all thinking creatures without which no progress could ever be made.
When an unattainable ideal (success, body image, morality, happiness, etc.), is presented not only as achievable, but obligatory, only frustration, shame, self-loathing and lack of peace follow. The mantra of self-improvement con artists like Rhonda Byrne and Tony Robbins, that the only reason you’re not successful/rich/thin/happy is because you aren’t thinking positive thoughts, is caustic.
“But a person with ideals is loyal, not to the good that already exists but to something that does not yet exist anywhere except in his own mind. When he has to choose between them, he chooses the end rather than the integrity of the means”
“Zealot” is a better term here than “idealist.”
“By ‘reality’ I do not mean ‘the way things are’…. Reality, as I use the word, is the eternal truth that lives in the mind of God. It is the archetypes, the beauty, the pillars of nature, the structure of what informs creation, to which we ought to be loyal.”
1) I suggest using the word “reality” the way everyone else does, and, if your concept still defies description, coin a neologism;
2) Your guess as to “the eternal truth” inside god’s head is no more valid than any one else’s — bin Laden was certain he knew what it was. By attempting to establish your philosophical bent as THE truth, do you not commit the very sin you decry: “forcibly installing” your vision of the world on others?
LOL, no, not really. I don’t even force my own six-year-old son to sit through a church service if he finds it too boring.
I’ll grant you the article is not the best-written essay I’ve ever turned out. And even my best are not as good as many written by others. However, your reply suggests that you suffer from a worse problem, namely, a deep ignorance about the history of words and philosophy. Possibly this deep ignorance is, all the more pitiably, an ignorance inculcated by something you were given to believe was an education.
Are you really telling me that everyone is agreed on the meaning of the word ‘reality’?
Liberals such as yourself inevitably protest that I am using words in an un-orthodox manner. What they mean, of course, is “in a manner that implies the existence of something I have not experienced.” I find this amusing, since the essence of liberalism is supposedly to change everything for the better, including words. Why then are liberals so inevitably priggish about the meaning of words? Isn’t it because you need the word to mean what you think it means, in order to continue to believe what you believe? Well, so do I. That is why people who disagree philosophically begin by defining their terms. However, if you are ignorant of the science of formal logic and of rhetoric, perhaps this is not obvious to you. Perhaps you are stuck in a grammar-school assumption that everything is all settled and your views are the obvious ones.
How do you know whether I am using the word ‘reality’ in one of its original senses or in a sense which I spontaneously made up? For that matter, how do you know whether that sense of the word you consider the normal one was not spontaneously made up, once upon a time, by some philosopher whose ideas you are therefore carrying about with you, unbeknownst to yourself?
My guess is that you don’t really care. As long as everyone is agreed on the meaning of the word, the language should work just fine – that’s the assumption underlying your protest.
However, that assumption does not even represent, really, a thoughtful answer to a philosophical question. It merely represents your ignorance of the science of philology. Just so, a primitive living without technology might be ignorant of the science of history, and might therefore be indignant if you should claim to know the name of a king who lived 8000 years ago.
Just a few centuries ago, the whole world was agreed on the meaning of words. They argued about other things. If we were debating at that time, your complaint might have some validity. However, we are now living in a time when it’s commonly assumed that, as your final point assumes, there is no one way, no one truth to be grasped. In fact, the inability of human beings to know truth is the single philosophical proposition which everyone around me is defending – reflexively, desperately, fiercely. You assume it has been proved. Yet it is the one idea which, if it is true, nothing can ever be proved.
It is also the one idea which forever revokes your right to argue against anything I say to you. I can be positive and definite in my belief because I consider knowledge of truth to be possible. Can you make the same boast, or to put it another way, are you sane?
Still, I’m sympathetic. I know very well that authority sinned against humanity, and that ever since, humanity has gone armed against authority. I think the weapons are ludicrous.
If it has become common for people to use philosophical terms like ‘reality’ in a certain way, isn’t that because they were educated to do so? And if they were educated to do so, isn’t that because their teachers taught them a terminology which is in agreement with the philosophy or ideology they were promoting? And if this is so, isn’t it true that what you are calling commonly agreed-upon words are actually philosophical propositions in disguise?
By declining to use the word ‘reality’ in the common way, I am refusing to fight on my adversary’s home turf. I shall continue to enjoy my privilege to do so, your helpful instructions notwithstanding.
That there is a reality that is not simply the changeful state of affairs brought about by human choices and ideas, is self-evident. If this is not obvious to you there are two possibilities. Either you are blind or I am hallucinating. It is permissible to make an argument for one or the other. It is insane and childish to assume one or the other simply because it belongs to yourself.
Now I say this reality springs from the mind of God; you appear skeptical. Yet the definition of God, philosophically speaking, is simply “the source of whatever is good.” Therefore, to say reality comes from God requires only one simple assumption – the assumption that reality, whatever it is, is good. (Is this apparent to you? If not, you should review syllogisms.) Once this assumption is made, it is necessary to refute the idea that the evils we see around us are a part of reality.
It is at this point that it is necessary for me to restrict my definition of reality to the eternal reality, and not to admit the changeful human affairs which are mixed with evil. To put it simply, I’m not talking about that, in this essay. In this essay, I’m talking about something else.
What, then, is in God’s mind? What are the patterns according to which the source of the world brought forth the world?
My point is not that I know the answer to that question. My point is that I have no right to invent one. That being the case, my only choice is to attempt to discover what reality and goodness consist in and to align myself with them. Impossible, you cry with furious passion. Heresy! Perhaps you assume that because science and mathematics cannot propose any reasonable answers to these questions, therefore no other science can as well. And my reply is simply that when I think and act in this manner, I find the proper uses for all my faculties as a human being. When I do not, I find no reason to regard even my own existence as good. Neither do you; that is why you will presently tell me that I need to invent one.
I read your piece and engaged you in discussion because my dear friend recommended you. Blogging is an open invitation to the entire world to entertain one’s propositions and to invite response. I responded, as I was intrigued. In return, I receive reflexive, ad hominem attacks.
You assume a quite a lot — about my beliefs, about my background, about my erudition in language, philosophy, and logic — even about my inner thoughts and motives. You err greatly in all these areas.
From your bio, I see that you are young. I am much older than you. I see that you are an aspiring writer. For many years I wrote professionally. Yet you dismiss my suggestions and deign lecture me.
“Are you really telling me that everyone is agreed on the meaning of the word ‘reality’”
Yes. There are dictionaries. We cannot have a meaningful discussion atop ever-shifting sands. Late into your essay, after referencing ‘reality’ several times, you say, ‘oh, by the way, when I say “reality”, I mean something else I made up on my own.’ You have a message, you have a vision, and you want to convey it. This is not an effective way of communicating.
“Liberals such as yourself inevitably protest that I am using words in an un-orthodox manner.”
I’d venture that not just a liberal would be perturbed by your arbitrary definitions. Are it not the Jesuits who always insist that one must first define terms?
“since the essence of liberalism is supposedly to change everything for the better, including words.”
Well, there you go again, concocting your own unique definition for liberalism, just as you fabricated an entirely incorrect definition of feminism.
“However, we are now living in a time when it’s commonly assumed that, as your final point assumes, there is no one way, no one truth to be grasped.”
Whether you realize or not, you are an ardent disciple of Foucault and Derrida! You err again in your assumption of ‘my point’, which simply was that meditation on the mind of god is worthless as a way of determining reality.
“I can be positive and definite in my belief because I consider knowledge of truth to be possible. Can you make the same boast, or to put it another way, are you sane?”
The Scientific Method, on the other hand, has proven eminently capable of determining what’s real and what’s not.
“Now I say this reality springs from the mind of God; you appear skeptical.”
Indeed, as you have yet to prove: 1) the existence of a god; 2) that your personal ‘read’ of god’s mind is the correct one; 3) a way to falsify your claims.
“Yet the definition of God, philosophically speaking, is simply ‘the source of whatever is good.’”
Is this your own definition? Because I’m having trouble keeping up with your on-the-fly rewrite of the English language.
“Therefore, to say reality comes from God requires only one simple assumption – the assumption that reality, whatever it is, is good.”
1) Define “good”;
2) Your, my, anyone’s Aristotelean assumptions are worthless. Quantifiable observation is what counts;
3) You ignore the possibility that a godless reality could, by chance, turn out ‘good’;
4) However, reality is neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’, only real. Both pleasure and suffering must be embraced. Are you ignorant of the teachings of the Buddha?
“Is this apparent to you? If not, you should review syllogisms.”
And now I must conclude that you are a smug little girl, secure in her insular bubble of pretension, self-referential pseudo-logic, and hubris. To attempt to engage you further in intellectual discourse would be a waste of time. I wish you well.
Well, well, I’m sorry I hurt your feelings. At the same time I can’t help thinking that I’ve saved us both a lot of time. After talking to what feels like the same person with all same thoughts, arguments, ideas, and insights over and over again through the years, I’ve mastered the art of reducing my opponent to scolding and chauvinism in a single exchange. It used to take me at least a dozen.
It’s funny that you think you hurt Matt’s feelings. Go check out his blog to see how easy his feelings are hurt (not ever). A “single exchange” is all that is needed when talking to an irrational/irrelevant/predictable person like yourself.
O Relevance! Thou sacred state!
When shall I in thy hope abide?
When shall my life’s low car commence
on thy broad thoroughfare to ride?
My reputation squints in vain
for Thou art reputation’s sun;
by dint or daunt I cannot find
that I refer to anyone!
Alas, alack, oh horrible,
for now my very life I rue –
Why was I merely born a girl,
as recently as ’82?
Few years have passed and I hope you’ve realized that the one you called “ignorant” was a wise man that did you nothing but a lifetime’s favor of opening your eyes to a world devoid of your delusions. You preach one thing yet your words say the other thing. You’ve set your own definitions and standards of how one is measured by the things he know and believe, thus, calling people names when they fall below your standards. Idealism, indeed, is a dangerous thing.
Not remotely, no.
I still continue to use words in their full semantic ranges, even if that inconveniences the reductionist teachings of cult-leaders. I continue to define terms for the purposes of single essays, at my will. And I am even more resistant to the invitation of false authority than I was back then.
I am, in short, a Curmudgeon even further along in her training than I was when I wrote this. And I invite you to see who really called who names here.
Don’t let him take your soul.
I think your use of “ignorance” might be a bit insulting. Maybe it’s just me. Perhaps something to think about.
RE: Capital T “Truth”:
I can’t help but believe it exists. However, I have trouble with the idea that any of us are smart enough, dispassionate enough, intellectually honest enough, … to arrive at “a truth” with 100% certainty.
I would think that having any experience of being absolutely certain of something say when you’re 23 years old and then thought life experience, coming to place where you don’t believe that any more or, perhaps where you just aren’t 100% certain anymore would suggest that 100% certainty is unwarranted.
I’m not a theologian, but it seems like 100% certainty is the providence of God, not us.
And if you not 100% certain, then …
I mean this is how big my brain is, and this is how big the universe is, you do the math.
Oh yes, it is insulting. Very occasionally one meets someone whom one must insult in order to retain one’s integrity. Another good reason to insult someone is so that their gullible young cult followers can see their pompous aghast ragey reactions and be disillusioned. The key is never to insult someone without speaking the truth. If the truth insults him, he’s in a bad position.
As far as 100% certainty, I think that is not the same thing as knowledge. Many kinds of knowledge can be had without possessing 100% certainty. I think setting the goalpost at 100% certainty has been a way for idealists to provoke doubt about human knowledge, which while never perfect has always been real – and which, of course, mitigates against their utopian doctrines.
To descend from generalities, I’m talking about The Abolition of Man kind of thing.
Brilliant, Thank you. x
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’m sure how it happened, but recently I had a similar epiphany about idealism. To get a conversation going I will throw a bomb like “Idealism kill more people in the 20th century than any other cause.” (Mao, Hitler, Lenin, Pol Pot, … were all driven to turn ideas into facts (no matter the cost.))
I think maybe my epiphany is related to something I read about chasing utopia. In a utopia, everyone is happy (forever.) So there is no crime, no matter how monstrous, that can’t be justified by the infinite happiness to come.
Well said, Peter.
The Blessed Seraphim Rose made the cogent point that the Truth is not an idea, sought and embraced by the brain but a person, The Person (fully God and fully man) sought and loved with the heart.
That Peter is how we know the truth. Real truth changes nothing outside my own heart and therefore requires no force. The only death it requires is the death of my own pride, shame and fear.
Fortunately Jesus also took care of that on the Cross. As I embrace Him who hangs on the Cross, I experience the death of my sin, through that death I enter into the Ressurection and a deepening union with Him who made me and knows me as I am. I become truth through communion with the Truth.
So I say to all idealists (not Platonic ones), nominalists, idealogs and tryanants, especially the ones in my own heart, Anathema.
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Wasn’t it St.Augustine that adapted Plato’s idea of a “Just War” in order to inspire and conduct holy wars. The Crusades, world wide colonialism in the name of conversion to Christianity, the Spanish inquisition? These are all violent acts in history perpetrated by Christians in the name of God.
I suppose an ideal does not have to replace reality if it is already reality and everyone that disagrees is only mistaken. Are there no ideals in Christianity? Are they only not considered ideals because its believers already acknowledge them as irrefutable truths?
Of course there is good in religion, in its psychological benefits of grounding the individual and providing some sort of backbone to resist the sway and seduction to other dangerous and chaotic ideas. But has it not itself been dangerous, and aren’t we all and not only our opponents possessing this capability for destruction.
Isn’t a real self-criticism in order, if one is to have any real meaningful influence for the sake of truth and reality and not only our own ideals.
If the truth, and clear thinking and the best writing is possible to some on this earth than it too is possible for you. It requires looking deeper and deeper and reaching the uncomfortable realities and not only our pure definitions.
Be stubborn in the truth as far as you know it. But strive to know it more and more and do not settle for a merely satisfactory interpretation when there is evidence otherwise. Do you have the principles that you describe as good? Haven’t your insults been treacherous and some means to your end, don’t you put down the same provocations against you and even go to say it ruins their own argument?
I do not imagine who you are and all that you believe, I’ve only read some of your writing and have made my comments on that itself.
I highly recommend reading Carl Jung’s “The Undiscovered Self” . I say this because that piece highlights the realized dangers of different ideologies in the 20th century and describes a way forward on how to combat it. And it boils down to, as the title describes, discovering the self and not only the Ego, the conscious awareness and the self created but also the unconscious and the repressed shadow that permeates the minds of those that become gathered into the mass and lose their sense of self and the significance of their own personal integrity in keeping the world out of disaster.
Carl Jung basically believed that people’s ideological differences were largely due to differing psychological development, and that the anger people feel towards those with other ideologies than their own is based on an unrecognized resentment toward differing psychological types. He drew this conclusion after watching the schools of Freud and Adler tear one another to bits on the basis of disagreements that, to Jung, were merely indications of Freud’s extraversion and Adler’s introversion.
And sure, I’ve seen plenty of that kind of thing around. I especially happens when ideologies are formed that try to explain the world on the basis of a single factor. You know, like how feminism tries to explain all of history in terms of men oppressing women. However, if you think the whole of Christian thought can be explained as the preferences of a single psychological type, you are as ignorant and miseducated as your comments on the Crusades would seem to indicate.
Speaking of…if I were a Christian Queen during the centuries-long period of Islamic expansion – I mean the first of those periods, for we are living in the second – I would participate in the Crusades fervently and without a qualm. Not for ideology. Not for proselytization. Just to stop the roiling, barbaric, vicious, utterly contemptible evil of Islamic expansion. And that is precisely why they were fought in the first place. For while individual Christians may turn the other cheek, those who govern others must be ready to defend them from evildoers.
Likewise if I found out tomorrow I am descended from one of the honorable Crusaders I would hang his crest on my door.
Not all thought is ideology.
And some men, in the context of society, are good for nothing but to be put to death as a warning to others.
No thanks on the advice.
It has always amused me to note the psychological types of feminists, which are fairly consistent. The leaders are unemotional, intellectual, controlling, and unfulfilled; the followers are excitable, easily persuaded, wounded, and lack personal boundaries. The dynamic resembles that of a religious fundamentalism. In fact, lately one sees a lot of repressed religiosity and moralism coming out as ideology and politics of the grievance-studies sort.
I would even say that in the past few years we have witnessed an explosion of repressed moralism and religiosity engulfing the godless.
Alana, I find your comments about idealism accurate (though I would tend to use different terminology). Too often we can place an ideal before humans, as you so aptly point out. But I think that the Crusades are not at all free from the critique of vitriolic idealism.
Somehow we have inherited the idea (or should I say, principle?) that violence solves problems. But the Crusades were a complete failure in containing Islam. After all, today Islam is one of the fastest-growing influences in the very European nations that tried so hard to eradicate it six hundred years ago. What would have contained Islam is people who are willing to be martyrs of the sort that Jesus was.
I must confess myself an idealist of some sort. After all, I glimpse beauty and truth rarely enough that, when I do, it becomes an experience around which I must build my life. The vision that an artist sees can’t be full, and thus if the artist seeks too hard to manacle it and make it his slave, it will turn into a Communist or Fascist nightmare. However, this is because the artist tries to own the vision, rather than allowing the vision to be master, or rather, the Person of whom the vision speaks. When the baptized imagination can discern the ideal, then it must dictate a life based on the ideal.
The ideal exists, in heaven or in Plato’s realm. But what Plato didn’t realize is that heaven is the husband of the earth, and that earth will become that ideal, under the banner of love planted by the one who rose from the dead, the one who declared that God can be man. That God is a man, a local, physical man. The divine can be human; the ideal can be physical. In that sense, ideal is the basis of principle. And in that sense I am an idealist.
Gregory, thanks for commenting. If I were writing this article today, I would definitely word it differently as well. Since it’s spawned so much controversy, I feel it would be a sort of falsification of the record to change the article at this point.
I sympathize heartily with your description of that vision of beauty and truth around which you are compelled to build your life. In philosophical terms, of course, this could actually be called realism since it involves the conviction that abstract nouns such as “beauty” and “truth” represent substances no less real for lacking physical dimensions and material makeup.
Your comment: “Somehow we have inherited the idea (or should I say, principle?) that violence solves problems.” This is curiously phrased. It is really an insinuation rather than a direct statement of the point you wish to make. I think reduced to a proposition that would satisfy a logician, this sentence would read, “Violence does not solve problems.” You don’t hedge it in that direction at all. So I hope you can see how sweeping and serious a claim this is. It would be quite difficult to sustain in plain argumentation, which I think must be why you avoided stating it directly.
Violence, of course, does solve certain problems to a certain extent when used in certain ways by certain actors. I am firmly against violence as a child-rearing method, for example. But I heartily endorse it in the government against evil doers of a certain caliber. The example of Singapore demonstrates just how many problems violence of that sort can solve, and how easy it is to keep within its bounds in a constitutional setting.
I think what muddies your statement most, though, is the pronoun ‘we’. This betrays a thoroughly democratic consciousness, according to which you feel that you personally own the actions of your government, and therefore it should not be allowed to do things which you personally would not have the right to do. This confusion is really basic and very problematic to society. The government which usurps the function of the church to rehabilitate sinners, and abdicates its own function of restraining evil, is pointless and a burden on the taxpayer.
As for restraining Islam, I also find that statement of yours to be lacking logically. Which makes more sense – to conclude that the efforts of the medieval Christian kingdoms are responsible for today’s Islamism problems, or to conclude that our own lack of similar efforts are responsible? The details are for the historian, however.
I have great respect for martyrs, and I venerate several of them in my private devotions. I do not wish to become one, and I do not wish it on my fellow Christians. Killing Christians is wicked, and I do not wish that kind of damnation on today’s Muslims, either.
Most likely Islam is the religion of the beast and will be around until the end. I agree that a real and deep Christian faith and love can save many individual persons from Islam. We have such Christians, and always have had, even in medieval times. However, Islam itself is so marked by its adherents’ willingness to die (and kill) for their faith that I think Christian martyrdom is actually not that well suited to combat it. In fact, it is possible that Islam with its culture of death was precisely Satan’s answer to the Christian martyrs.
Alana, you spotted my hedged statement, and I admit it was so. The main reason I hedged it, though, was that it seemed off the topic of your article, being a reply to a very short statement in one of your comments. I do believe that the statement can be stated in a stronger form, e.g. that “Violence does not ultimately solve problems.”
I think I’m justified in saying “we,” since nearly everyone’s immediate response to a challenge is to attack. Why, after all, would the Mosaic Law be required to say “an eye for an eye” if it were not for our tendency to take both eyes for an eye? Actually, my position is not that of pacifism, though likely most people that you hear making the statement that “violence does not solve problems” are liberals who are oriented toward political activism. Violence is the appropriate tool of governments, since governments are in place for the sole purpose of keeping society from degenerating any farther than “an eye for an eye.” However, there is a fundamental difference between earthly government and the upside-down kingdom of the New Testament.
The governments of the earth have no stronger power than that of power and retribution, and power and retribution merely escalate violence. Look at the aftermath of WWI, for example, and the Allied blockade of Germany. The idea was that the Germans deserved these sanctions. Whether or not they deserved the horrible starvation that followed, it is often argued that this was one of the leading causes for the German people’s willingness to back the Nazi ideal. When a person or a nation (no matter whether they have a right or not) tries to stop violence by retaliation, it nearly always results in further violence, since the first party is given a stronger motivation to be violent. The winning of the battle then becomes dependent not on right, but on each side’s relative ability to continue to wield destructive force.
However, this was exactly the paradigm that Jesus challenged. When he said that his kingdom is not of this world, he meant that its methods do not originate with this world’s methods of violence. He did not tell Pilate what his own methods were, but he displayed them on the cross. Violence is halted in its tracks by self-sacrificial love. Resurrection comes through willing death; through blood shed for enemies.
And this is the difference between Muslim jihad and Christian martyrdom. It is that while the Muslim dies in order to kill, the Christian dies in order to bring life. And the one may appear stronger today, but the oppression and evil in the world prove it ineffective in the long run. How on earth can you combat a hatred that is unafraid of death? Only with a love that is unafraid of death.
The Church’s failure in the Crusades was in being part of the state. The Church itself bought into the lie that violence can solve the world’s problems. If it could have solved them, we would not need a church, but only government. But government has failed. It can do its thing, but we don’t need to be a part of that thing. The only example we have of success is that of Jesus. And that, we are required to be a part of.
You see now why I was hesitant to back my statement. 🙂 I trust it doesn’t carry the conversation too far away from relevance.
“But government has failed. It can do its thing, but we don’t need to be a part of that thing.”
As long as we are members of a society whose government is even nominally “by the people,” then our responsibility is no different in kind, but only degree, to that of a Christian who happens to inherit the throne of his nation. He cannot do church things in that position, though he may do them in his private life. He must do government things.
If your next door neighbor is murdered but there was nothing you could do to prevent it, you bear no responsibility. If you are his king and you couldn’t be bothered to pursue and restrain murderers, then you do bear some responsibility. If you are part of a democratic society and you declined to participate in the democracy, or you used that participation to defend murderers and ignore victims, you also bear some responsibility.
When i heard something with “god” in it i stopped reading, because the very thing you quoted to justify your reasonings is the verry thing you’re railing against indirectly…. if anything this article is contradictory…
LikeLiked by 1 person
I get it. Most of what passes for faith is really ideology. I’m disgusted by that too.
What you see in this blog is the collected artifacts of someone who decided to run away from all that, but also tried her best to keep her faith in the process. Learning the difference was long and hard. Most of the people who ran with me simply discarded their faith. It was easier and felt safer. They ended up angry and destructive, though. They developed a tendency to psychoanalyze people very maliciously, in order to discredit their opinions. I didn’t like that.
I remember once in deep bitterness at my own ignorance, I decided to discard all belief, and see if there were even a spark of real knowledge burning deep within. At the bottom of that bitter cup, I didn’t even find a speck of “I know God exists.”
Oddly, I did find a tiny spark of, “I know God loves me.”
Yes; the subject-predicate distinction disappeared. I knew God’s love was real, even though I didn’t know if God was real.
My thoughts since then have been built on that foundation. I’ve come to the conclusion that merely believing in God’s existence is barely helpful. At most, it fills an important slot in one’s philosophy.
But to stand on the side of God’s goodness – to believe in God’s love so much you’d rather be an atheist than worship an unloving God – that has a great deal of moral and spiritual power. It is healing.
If I’ve found these things out, and if I know they are not ideology but rather deep conviction – what am I supposed to do? I’ve simply got to say so. I feel it’s what I am for, like T. H. White’s Merlin says about being asked questions.