Discourse on the Epicurean Religion of Our Age and the Christian Response!

by | Sep 23, 2022

Christians in the west, like it or not, live in a post-Christian age. We are like the ‘son’ in the famous poem by Rudyard Kipling, about to “…bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, and stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools…”

Build we must! With a new vision of Christendom as our goal, learn from the best of the past, discard its failings, sift its muddy parts for the gold. However, to do that we must understand what has replaced that former beauty of a once strong Christian world. Ages and epochs, civilisations rarely disappear overnight except by revolution. Even with revolution, one civilisation thins out as another thickens in law, culture, custom, institution, tradition, language, and narrative. We have seen in our own lifetimes the end of a process started in the 1700s in which a new religion has established itself in the west. As the holy, catholic church, we must commit ourselves to reevangelise this western godless world. To that end, we must understand what we are facing and see how we are influenced by it.

This article will outline the nature of the religion we face by touching upon some of it forms, ethics, history, origins, and beliefs; highlighting how it expresses itself. At the onset, let me be clear about my thesis: the west is still extremely religious. It is not that it has abandoned religion, but rather converted to a new religion. This new religion could be called the ‘Religion of Humanity’ and will be called as such for the remainder of this article. It could also be called the ‘religion of the self.’ However, this term focuses on how this religion operates at the individual or small group level, where as the prior term focuses on its social and national/international expressions.

This Religion of Humanity is an epicurean religion, and by this I mean it follows in the footsteps of Epicurus, a greek philosopher from 341 – 270 BC. It encompasses a devotion to comfort, pleasure, and a high style of living in which the gods, if they exist at all, have nothing to do with the universe, which is a closed system. It is governed by a desire to free oneself from pain and enjoy pleasure, wherein relationships are governed by their utility. It was the art of living in this world. Does this sound familiar? It should, because we are now subject to this new religion of our age; the one we must now evangelise.

The Religion of Humanity is the dominant religion of our time in the Western Hemisphere (I hope you have registered that point now). It has many forms both in the way of institutions and movements. It is aggressively and often violently proselytising in nature, putting to ridicule all competing worldviews. However, no one institution or spiritual group can claim, in and of themselves, to encompass the Religion of Humanity in its wholeness, but are merely its various expressions. So, what is the Religion of Humanity? Why has it developed as the major tradition of our age? Does it work?

The Religion of Humanity is the ‘religion of the self.’ It is the point in which humanity is elevated to the position of deity and worships itself, in that life is orientated around ‘the self’ and its needs. Humanity has become the god of democratic industrial and post-industrial societies of the Western Hemisphere. We worship an object by basing our lives around it, and in the western world we live our lives around the notion of humanity collectively, and around the individual distinctively. This takes on many forms as to how we conceive of ourselves, such as gender identity, or how we perceive the good life in moral conduct, such as respecting the freedoms of the individual. Even our prejudices against those who attempt to stand by teachings deemed ‘intolerant’ by the humanist definition of ‘tolerance’, such as Christians who reject human rights as unchristian, are all governed by the narrative of modernity, i.e., the Religion of Humanity.

This religion can take on spiritual forms embodying itself in rights and rituals as can be seen in the myriad of New Age Movements, which all begin and end with the importance of ‘the self’ and its expression. Also, institutions and political agendas such as those pursued by the United Nations and the European Union, e.g., the prosecution of those charged with ‘crimes against humanity’ at The Hague, all elevate the status and position of humanity to the sacred of the average western ‘human being.’ Paul Heelas, in Detraditionization, touches on one of these points as he quotes Durkheim:

“This human person, the definition of which is like the touchstone which distinguishes good from evil.” (Heelas, Lash, and Morris, 1996, p. 205)

The Religion of Humanity is a worldview at the centre of which is placed the human being, the individual, the sacred person, and which is further extrapolated to embrace a notion of humanity on a social/international level. It is the human made sacred above the traditional object of divine worship, namely the Christian GOD.

It is also a rejection of metaphysics as traditionally understood, though it does express itself at times with metaphysical beliefs, such as the idea of humanity’ itself. These beliefs, on the whole, tend to be more for pragmatic self-improvement such as found in the practice of Yoga, Transcendental Meditations, and the many religions of the goddess, strictly open to females. These spiritual beliefs help to focus ‘better’ states of mind and physical health, and are manifestations of the Religion of Humanity as they embrace all that it stands for in the way of the centrality of the self, tolerance, and individual liberty.

Julian Huxley argues in Religion without Revelation that the basis of the Religion of Humanity is that you can have religion without a theistic GOD of a personal nature. She accepts the need to believe in something, but wishes to believe only in things, to which there is ‘evidence’, after dismissing all metaphysical grounds for religion, due to a supposed ‘lack of evidence.’

She states: ‘If, however, as I believe, all theologies and all religious experiences are, as a matter of fact, entirely products of the human spirit.” (my own emphasis) (Huxley, Julian, 1956, p. 100)

She then suggests to the reader that humanity, not GOD, is sacred and that the object of our life should be the service of humanity. She states:

“In all these and many other ways we may touch the absolute, sacramental transcend ourselves.’ Julian Huxley, religion with out revelation.” (Huxley, Julian, 1956, p. 109)

Durkheim defined the sacred as being that which cannot be violated by utilitarian considerations, which in the religion of humanity, is the ‘human personality’. The Religion of Humanity, then, is the inversion of the subject to the object of worship; the denial of what has traditionally represented religion in the Western Hemisphere. The authority of this religion is held in the self, which is worked through the use of reason or feeling.

The Religion of Humanity serves to underpin the direction and practices of western democratic nation states. It is a religion that, while having its assumptions, is not primarily concerned with ‘doctrine’ but ‘practice.’ This can be seen in the many ‘liberal’ strains of religions influenced by the Religion of Humanity, notably in Christianity, in liberal churches in which a ‘civic Christianity’ dominates which emphasises the second greatest commandment as a ‘golden rule’ even above the first that is directed to GOD. The war fought by western powers in the holy places of Kossova is an example of the west justifying its actions on the notions of the Religion of Humanity. Millions saw both President Clinton and Tony Blair pontificating notions of ‘human rights’ to justify actions against Serbia. The notion of humanity also serves to counteract the logical direction of positivism which slides into absolute relativism and finally nihilism, if left unchecked. It does this by creating a disinterested subject, or higher value of the collective of human beings over the individual. This has been embodied in many attempts to fashion out a moral principle such as Kant’s Categorical Imperative, or Rule Utilitarianism. These counter the natural flow towards ‘egoistic individualism’ but cannot stop it, as the recent emergence of trans ideology show.

Paul Heelas states:

“The religion of humanity speaks with a force which cannot – or should notbe questioned.’[1] (Emphasis mine) (Heelas, Lash, and Morris, 1996, p. 204)

Indeed, those that dare to challenge it notably in action are incarcerated, scandalised, and dismissed by humanitys’ self-appointed defenders and western society at large. The Religion of Humanity, then, with its collective notion of humanity, is a sociological force imposing its norms and values upon what it sees as anachronistic elements in the world. Thus, the Religion of Humanity is a religion of praxis; to wit the term ‘the humanitarian ethic’ is the clearest phrase of embodiment to the ideal. It works at the social and individual level; it is the sum, the whole, the foundation stone upon which is built law, institution, culture, and morality. It is the religion that:

“Compromises a mode of evaluation to do with those duties, obligations, freedoms, rights and sentiments. That responds to the belief that we are ‘all human.” (Heelas, Lash, and Morris, 1996, p. 205)

The development of the Religion of Humanity first came from the idea, consciously sought or otherwise, of placing man at the centre of his own universe. This move to the self can and is detected at various points in history, and while no one period can claim to be the beginning, one period does seem to be the fruition of the move to the self. That period is better known, if emotively phrased, as the ‘Enlightenment;’ originally a term of ridicule when Western Europe cast its faith upon human reason and the potential for self-improvement. Due to the shock waves of the Christian civil war of the Reformation. This movement to the self-had some Christian antecedents in the Rennaissance. The ‘Enlightenment’ sought as one of its objects to bring peace by discovering an undeniable route to truth. This it was hoped all parties could accept, Protestant and Catholic. The philosophers beginning with Rene Descartes’ ‘Cartesian Doubt,’ carried on through the empiricism of John Locke, and the radical scepticism of David Hume. A dialectic emerged that generated a matrix of thought outside of the politics of The Church and which took further ‘progressive’ steps away from the truth of Christian orthodoxy. This is the argument of Paul Hazard in “Crisis of the European Conscience.”

“Intellectual shattering of Christian foundations at the end of the seventeenth century.” (Chadwick, Owen, The Secularization of the European Mind in the Nineteenth Century, 1976, p. 102)

However, this movement of philosophers from Rene Descartes to Emanuel Kant is not enough to explain the deep roots of the religion of humanity in society today.

The reason for the establishment of the ‘principalities and powers’ of the enlightenment in society in both form and principle, which came to be embodied in notions like ‘tolerance’, ‘equality’ and ‘freedom’; giving rise to particular rights and duties; the fundamental axioms of the Religion of Humanity, was that these principles became institutionalised within the ‘democratic nation state’. Later still these concepts became embodied within international bodies such as the United Nations, and the European Union, with its philosophy of human rights. As Scott Davidson, concludes:

‘Few areas of national or international life now remain untouched by the influence of human rights’ Paul Heelas, On Things Not Being Worse, and the Ethic of Humanity, 207

In no small measure, the political reflections of the ‘non-conformist Christians in their search for religious liberty underscored and gave the necessary moral force to, the ideas taken up wholesale by Liberal Modernity and embodied in the Religion Humanity!

“Although not the total explanation, religious influences contributed to the idea that democracy was concerned with freedom of self-expression (and worship), it was suspicious of power exercised ‘in the name of GOD’ (or of any transcendent force or idea)”[3] Maddox, Graham, Religion and the Rise of Democracy, 2015, p. 50)

This necessitated a secular state, in the modern sense of the word, which first occurred in the American Revolution and the establishment of the republic in 1776. This was quickly followed by a more militant version of the same ideas in the establishment of the French Republic after its revolution in 1789; which esteemed reason; and is well known for its anti-clerical, anti-religious actions – which lead to a popular but failed Christian revolt called the Vendee. The armies of the new France carried the doctrines of the new religion in their early forms across Europe, knocking over and violently overturning the ancient regimes that stood against it. This trend continues today as America and Britain spoke of nation building in the middle and Far East as in Iraq; and Afghanistan; projects it has now abandoned – but whose ideas have perforated those societies. Progressively these modern states grabbed power from the church by taking over education, welfare, tax, and the field of law, confiscating the property of the church, and restricting it via secular laws. The loci of identity, moving from one’s religion to one nation state; with the brightest and the best giving themselves to the cause of nationalism over the church. The people as they passed through these secular institutions of education, government, judiciary; and as we will see, churches; were taught the dogmas of that ideology, and with each passing generation that influence increased. A new civilisation thickened and increasingly a Christian paradigm moved further and further back into memory; myth and history; and with the tenets of the new religion become strictures around the life of the individual and society – governing all they can say and do: Hector Horton points out:

“Today, more than ever before, the individual in an apparent free society is subject to insidious pressures of which he is hardly aware.” Hector Hawton, the Humanist Revolution, 198

They began to be secularised themselves, with decreasing references to GOD in their family and public lives, however, this position as so far described would be missing an ethical code by which people could know right from wrong; and so we must double back slightly; for once one has dismissed divinely inspired codes of morality one is left then with the question of what to build morality upon? This is what the Religion of Humanity is notably known for, as it provides that ethical code based upon its notion of humanity, crafted during the Enlightenment. This divides right from wrong, and fashions for us our values and prejudices. Thus, one of the reasons that it developed was to fulfil the need of society’s elite who were increasingly alien to the virtue ethics of Christianity, rooted as it is in its views of soteriology; they felt, at their loss of faith in traditional religion, a void opening up underneath them; that Nietzsche described as the ‘death of God’. The humanitarian ethic then; was adopted out of necessity; to guide and govern the cultural, political, spiritual, economic, and social circumstances of people’s lives; the time was ripe for its adoption in institutional form, within the tentacles of the state; once this was achieved the fate of Christendom was sealed!

Of course this alone still is not wholly satisfactory an answer as to why the religion of humanity developed within society at large, for there are many examples of an ideology seizing the institutions of the state but failing to seize the hearts of the people. Such as Weimar Republic, which is an example of the failure of the Religion of Humanity, and its political form, liberal democracy, to establish itself in the culture of the people, it was replaced by a ‘cult’ of the religion of humanity called Nazism. There must be a ground swell, a grass roots movement of ‘the laity’ to ‘evangelise’ and propagate this new faith in human potential, ‘rediscovered’ as they imagined by Europe during the renaissance. This religion had its ‘missionaries’ indeed, one notable ‘missionary’ of the religion of Humanity in England, who is to be admired for his bravery and zeal in his faith, is Auguste Comte AD1798 – AD1857. He argued that society could be organised upon the principles of altruism, where the service of humanity was the highest ideal, and where, Comte argued, that humanity itself, should be the god of the ‘Religion of Humanity’. He devised a cult, borrowing many of its forms from Catholicism, and created a positivist calendar, replacing saint days with the days of great scholars of one field or another. He emphasised the use of scientific knowledge as the only reliable form of knowledge, which should be applied to society. He argued that positivism is the only true route to knowledge positivism is when:

“Mind has given over the vain search after absolute notions, the origin and destination of the universe, the causes of phenomena, and applies itself to the study of their laws – that is their invariable relations of succession and resemblance.” T.R Wright, The Religion of Humanity: The Impact of Comtean Positivism on Victorian Britain, 1986, p. 20)

These very ideas and practices, even epicurean gatherings, are actually occurring today, in actual atheist churches.

It is interesting to note that while positivism has collapsed in the modern academic world, it still holds incredible sway among many in the populations of the west at large who speak as if science has all the answers to every question.

His followers, like Richard Congreve, helped to establish ‘The Church of Humanity.’ While never gaining a real mass following, it highlights the shift in Europe since the enlightenment to such principles of the Religion of Humanity such as rationalism and the out-of-hand rejection of Christian belief, values, and ethics. These and other humanistic movements all helped to spread the Religion of Humanity into the general culture. It was not until these notions of the Religion of Humanity were preached from the Christian pulpit that its establishment as the religion of the west was secured amongst the masses. One example is the Church of England where, as the elite that became bishops had to pass through the institutions of the new democracies, they took these values into their sermons and rooted them in those that would heed them. The Roman Catholic Church attempted to resist the inexorable flow of the Religion of Humanity, in Vatican I. However, by Vatican II some one hundred years later after condemning the religion in various encyclicals, it too had embraced many of the principles of the Religion of Humanity.

The reason for the success of the Religion of Humanity within Christian Institutions is twofold: firstly Christianity has emphasised many of the same values, held by humanists, in response to the metaphysical truths of the faith, indeed, these Christians values helped to fashion the emphasis and direction of the Religion of Humanity. Thus, Christians have had a hard time being clear in their own mind where their faith stops, and the new religion begins. The Religion of Humanity can and does therefore present itself in Christian garb, very easily, whilst actually working from a very different ideological framework and towards a very different Telos. The second point facilitates this, which is that the Religion of Humanity is concerned primarily with practice; and can and does use most doctrine [metaphysical claims], to its owned ends. Thus, making it able to enter most Christian traditions unnoticed and unchallenged. In modern time most people are indoctrinated into these values long before they are able to think of questioning them; through the forces of the modern mass media – which are owned and controlled by those with a vested interest in keeping the status quo largely unchallenged. The new religion has dominated our lives increasingly from the 1700s and it is only the 1960s that we consciously realised Christianity was a total side show.

Stanley Hauerwas, a great critic of liberal democracy, in his books, attempts to demonstrate the fundamental folly of the meta-narrative of the Religion of Humanity. The emphasis on this world and the fanatical devotion to the ideal of individual autonomy, without real place or regard towards the traditional notion of a theistic GOD, and the day of judgement, he argues; leaves western society without proper means to deal with the inevitability of death. Also, and more crucially, to the question at hand, leaves western society without a ‘community of character’, it is a society whose moral basis is frankly established upon human opinion and the will to violence. That is the basic foundation of the Religion of Humanity, the the collective opinion of the elites, the makers and shakers of the western enlightenment tradition.

However, how does one validate one’s opinion over another, in the great clash of opinions, why is one more valid than another. This lurching towards absolute relativism and moral nihilism is only stopped through the threat of force, which underpins liberal western society. The critique therefore is that the religion of Humanity in institutional form is innately violent, which is its only real recourse to prevent moral nihilism and self-destruction. This is of course a demonstration of its failure in that it can only hope to guide the people via the constant threat, coercion, bribery and distraction; in the use of the police military, and ‘bread and circuses’, of force, should they move beyond the acceptable bounds of the Religion of Humanity; and of ‘bread and circuses’ to ensure they never seek to think things can be different or return to the muscular Christianity of old.

However, it can be argued that this is, if anything; is a sign of the practicality and success of the Religion of Humanity. Since all religious systems need measures to deal with deviant segments of its body. The greater success is that this religion of humanity; does this while allowing the maximum freedom to the minorities within its fold, and to those who wish to live their life with disregard to the need’s humanity, in selfishness. The fact that there are not huge numbers of police in use shows that the religion of humanity has brought peace and concord to those areas where it is established. However, what such defenders overlook is that with the exception of Britain, the religion of humanity was established via wars as bloody as any crusade, or by the threat of war – just beyond living memory, though the recent invasions of Afghanistan by the former USSR and latterly by the west are examples of this process!

The beginning saw the propagators of the Religion of Humanity impose their beliefs and values on the world through violence, sanctions, and exclusive policies. The guillotine of the French Revolution; Prusiasification; the unification of Italy, the American war of independence are all such examples, as are, the Napoleonic wars; and World War one and two, and the wars in Serbia, Afghanistan, and Iraq; all are examples of where liberal style democracies have been imposed. All in the name of ‘tolerance’ ‘freedom’ and ‘human rights’ as defined by that religion. A point touched upon by Durkheim:

‘We ought to respect human personality wherever we find it, which is to say, as in those like us’ (emphasis mine) (Heelas, Lash, and Morris, 1996, p.206)

Paul Heelas goes on to observe that ‘the value ascribed to what is taken to be the truth is clearly much more important than the value of allowing people the freedom to adopt wrong truths’. Such a contradiction within the ethic, demonstrates surely that its axioms such as ‘tolerance’ are meaningless mere rhetorical devices wheeled out to justify what the ‘priests’ of the religion say and what the elites see as in their own best interest; lending itself, as a pragmatic tool to be used by governments as and when they see fit; against whom they see fit.

The reason for this is the lack of any real substance to this notion of ‘humanity’, arguments rage as to whether it lay in the consciousness, the physical form, the genetic makeup, the capacity to reason, and the ability to feel pain. All have been posited, and the west has no clear definition; the Christian answer of genetics being rejected by a culture that legalises abortion. When one tries to build a religion on the notion of humanity; one suggests their is a way to be human; one also begs the question as to what is a human being? It seems self-evident [if you are born in the west], until one realizes that while there are indeed, Christians, Moslems, Hindus, Humanists, Buddhist, and so on; there is no real sense of a common way of being human and thus common ‘humanity’. Those that do claim to have such a sense are only betraying their absorption of Liberal Modern dogma and rhetoric. If one counters that a human is a human is a human (trying to say that which walk talks and breathes like a human is a human) I reply not all humans walk, not all humans talk and not all humans breathe for themselves! Not all humans have limbs, not all humans have faces, tongues, not all humans can reason, and not all ‘reason’ is western! Genetics is the only foundation to speak upon a common humanity; and if the west accepts this; it must accept it has carried out the worst crime against ‘Humanity’ through the industrial death machine – we call abortion!

There is no common criterion that one can use to pin down ‘humanity’ other than genetics. Should liberal modern society finally resort to this criterion, and then it can no longer deny ‘human rights’ to the unborn child. The west will have to admit to the genocide that it has been committing and the double standards that it has been living by, and acting upon, in regard to other non-liberal societies. Such a humiliation at the hands of the Christians is too much for the Liberal Modern elite to bare, and so this criterion is unlikely to be used for a very long time.

How then can Christians begin to respond to this; we must double down on what makes us Christian; what makes us different from the Religion of Humanity; and we must name the religion; we must drive out its adherents from our institutions; and we must develop and build up a sustained critique of the Religion of Humanity. We must recommit ourselves to our beliefs; and the link between virtue ethics and soteriology [doctrine of salvation]; we must through politics pursue a different vision of the west; a new Christendom! We must allow Christian beliefs, values, ethics, and a strong Christian identity built on a knowledge and celebration of who we are as Christians perforate our lives, influencing the rhythm of lives, its customs, cultures and traditions. We must once again rise from the ashes of fallen Christian world, with our head held high, eyes fixed on Jesus; charging forward once more to the battle cries of the Church; like the Christians of old, we must storm the city; capture its heights; and use the full resources of mind and body to the glory of GOD and the expansion of his kingdom. This effort can and should be concentrated and focused on the establishment of ‘benedict style’ communities where the Church wilfully consolidates; securing its self-geographical space from which to build and push outwards. It’s not by bending to the world we will affect change, but by being different; in a way authentically Christian; profoundly Christian; saturated in the Christian way of life; and strengthened, by a firm and resolute belief; that we will embrace martyrdom and defend our way of life – in whatever way the fight is brought to us. Then we will see the tide turn, then we will see the cross rise again and be celebrated; then we will see our brethren freed! Oh, Christian – find your courage; do what is necessary; make the necessary changes. Deus vult!