Christianity as a Synthetic Religion

In an earlier column I listed the synthetic religions proposed as speculation from science fiction writers from the Pulp Era onward.

Most the writers listed propose some sort of pagan pantheon or another, or worship of a mortal as goddess. Only one proposes using the God of the Christians as a synthetic religion, meant an an opium to lull the masses into a somnolent acquiescence of their own oppression.

Foolishness. No religion on earth is more likely to undermine and overturn society on every level, legal, social, scientific, personal, and improve it markedly, while never drawing the sword nor striking a blow.

A synthetic religion is a type of Noble Lie as proposed by Plato, a falsehood for the public good.  A synthetic religion is a state-run cult that the philosopher-king supports but does not himself believe, namely, a cult where fake gods sanctify the laws and policies as divine, hence beyond criticism or change.

For the record, the phrase “synthetic religion” comes from Olaf Stapledon’s science fictional paean to socialism DARKNESS AND LIGHT, where he proposes that evil tyrants will concoct an artificial religion as a tool of social engineering.

In Stapledon’s case, the ersatz religion concocted by the tyrants is meant to oppose and undermine a Christian-flavored agnostic progressivism issuing from Tibet, some a sort of nondenominational worship of the human spirit.

Ironically, this humanist spiritualism Stapledon proposes is precisely the kind of synthetic religion, or, rather, ideology, essential to progressivism, which cannot take root nor flourish for the very reasons Stapledon himself enunciates in DARKNESS AND LIGHT. (see here for an extensive fisking by yours truly of this admirable yet abominable book:

Other writers coming after touched on this same theme, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Heinlein, Fritz Leiber, Gene Wolfe.

The most unintentionally amusing items on the Synthetic Religions list is when a science fiction writer  Fritz Leiber, proposes using Christianity as a synthetic religion in GATHER DARKNESS, that is, as a social control mechanism cynically used by atheist tyrants to gull the unwary into obedience.

You see, using Christianity or any version of it as a social control mechanism is historical revisionism of unparalleled proportions, akin to claiming that the Aztecs initiated the transatlantic voyages and the discovery of the New World, and Columbus just filched their idea.

In real history, the Christian Church continually provoked and promoted cultural change, progress, and even instability (1) by removing the divine honors from emperors, (2) reducing kings from absolute monarchs to anointed hence sacramental servants of heaven, (3) by reforming slavery to serfdom in the Middle Ages, and abolishing the slave trade worldwide during the Victorian Age, (4) ennobling women by making marriage voluntary, and divorce illegal, (5) creating the scientific method by illegitimatizing and illegalizing magic, (6) encouraging public works of charity such as hospitals and monasteries.

Hence Christianity is, and cannot help but be, a stimulus for constant social change and improvement.

Christianity has never been and cannot be an elitist religion, due to the precepts of the Beatitudes, nor is it a quietist religion, like Buddhism, which can be suborned to serving a caste system. In Christianity, as hierarchical as it is, radical popularism emerges throughout history, e.g., as in the Franciscan movement.

There are certain fashionable but lunatic enthusiasms that always seem to appear in clusters: vegetarians, teetotalers, nudists, polygamists, homosexuals, communists, spiritualists, witches, egalitarians, and gnosticism. These lunatic enthusiasms always seem to combine with each other, and are always destructive of the social order.

Note, for example, that both Mohammedanism and Mormonism were founded by teetotaling polygamists. Note the prevalence of homosexuals and spiritualists among the early Nazi party. Myriad examples could be added from the mid-Nineteenth Century and the Late Middle Ages of utopian and antinomian movements wishing to hold property in common or share wives in common, or do away with clothing, wine, or meat.

One could perhaps make the argument that the Church, by combatting and curtailing heresies allured to these fashionable enthusiasms, is useful to rulers in quelling the anarchy these enthusiasms propose, so could be used as a tool by rulers to mesmerize and domesticate the people. (Indeed, crackpots such as Karl Marx routinely make this accusation, he himself an advocate of one of most destructive of these lunatic enthusiasms  in history.)

However, any tyrant foolish enough to invite into his nation a large colony of Christians, thinking this will quell discontent with his reign in this world by fostering belief in the next world, will soon find his throne quaking, undermined by the blood of the martyrs. The gladiatorial games and death by crucifixion  will go the way of rule by fiat or belief in magic: such things cannot coexist, except with grave discomfort or deliberate hypocrisy, in the Christian worldview.

Perhaps our tyrant will take comfort in the idea that most Christians are Christians “in name only” and are just as atheist hence immoral as the surrounding world. The problem for him is the same as for trusting Mohammedans to remain peaceful and law-abiding to secular law, not sharia: the mainstream of the traditional teaching does not allow for this. A younger generation of Christian might read the Bible, or Mohammedan the Koran, and take seriously what his parents honor but with lip-service.

The Marxist idea that Christianity is but the opiate of the masses is simply one more of countless examples of the Iron Law of Radical Projection in action. The one pharmaceutical that  banishes superstition and alleviates the fevers of popular delusions, and cures the madnesses of crowds, is Christianity.

Marx is an opium-seller, unable to sell this deadly mind-drug to Christendom, in order to addict and destroy it. So of course he accuses Christianity of being what he is, namely, an addictive ideology meant to hoodwink the people and render them helpless prey to tyrants: see the Soviet Union or Red China for details.