Speaking of religion.
David Solway's review of Salim Mansur's take-down of multiculturalism, Delectable Lie, passes along (Muslim liberal) Mansur's theory of why the West is destroying itself from within. What are the internal dynamics that fuel the Untergang of the Abendland?
Oedipus and Hamlet.
Both are royal leaders, one a king and the other a prince in succession to the throne. Both wish to purge their kingdoms of corruption, sickness, and the scourge of illegitimacy. Both are driven to find and expose a buried truth so that the realm may be healed and purified.
Critical thought...including self-critical thought...becomes a kind of cancer, cells consuming its own body.
Herein lies the problem and the paradox, for in seeking to disinter what is hidden or suppressed, both Oedipus and Hamlet in their diverse ways bring disaster upon themselves, one as a result of a relentless pursuit and the other owing to relentless reflection. One acts and the other fails to act, but the consequences are no less destructive: blindness and death.
Using Occam's razor --dreadfully Eurocentric of me-- I have been very impressed with the explanatory power of James Burnham's view that the Western liberal is "morally disarmed in the presence of anyone he deems less fortunate than himself." Once the Western liberal judges someone or some group to be a victim, --and he usually assumes that he, the liberal, is the responsible or at least complicit oppressor--he loses all defense against him. And when the victim eventually shows himself to be developing into a tyrant himself, --the usual outcome--the liberal cannot notice, caught up as he is in a masturbatory ecstasy of ethical righteousness. When the less fortunate victim disembowels him, he refuses to protest. After all, did he not deserve it? Atonement by suicide.
But why was liberalism so able to infect us? My amateur guess is that the alliance between Athens and Jerusalem --which made the West after 476-- was, as are all alliances, unstable. That mix could give it dynamism. And it could compensate each side for the excesses and blindnesses of the other. Liberals will be happy to paint the days when Jerusalem dominated as dark times of oppression and superstition. But what happens to the civilization of Socrates, Oedipus, Hamlet when the triumph of the Enlightenment plays itself out --including deconstructing itself-- without Faith to counter it? First, national and ideological totalitarianism; then chaotic post-modernism: the will to power shaped by nihilist egalitarianism and fueled by a psychotic mix of utopianism and self-hatred.
Burdened by a Christian conscience but bereft of the God and religion that somehow made that conscience bearable, the modern Westerner must be both God and sinner at once: ultimately responsible and irredeemably flawed. Still infected with the disease of Christ's impossible ethics, he rejects the vaccine of the Church. Like his unconscious model, the only way out is to let himself be crucified. But then there is no longer any God to receive his sacrificed life. He offers his life not to an appeasable God but to an unappeasable mob.
Pope Benedict, both in his (in)famous Regensburg speech and since, repeats a very deeply Western (and Catholic) theme, the representative of Jerusalem speaking for Athens: Jerusalem needed, still needs, Athens. But the reverse is also true. Faith without reason leads to superstition. Reason without faith, to relativism. Reason, limited but crucial, offers a necessary corrective to the secular dictatorships of post-modern liberalism and the religious dictatorship of Islam. To the voluntarist* totalitarians of Islam, he asserts the priority of logos over even Divine will. To the egalitarian collectivists of Europe, he asserts the power of reason to reach the real, beyond the fashionably skeptical angst of humanist statism and hedonism.
Anyone who knew me in the 80's would be astonished, as I am, to find me supporting Papa Ratzinger in this. But as I have written elsewhere,
“I'd rather go to the ramparts with the irascible folks who want to save our town from the invading barbarians than stay at home with the charming pacifist intellectuals who argue about re-designing the bedroom.”
*The Catholic settlement about faith and reason --which will always be a matter of dispute about individual cases as history moves along-- is that God is the Truth, Logos, and so faith and reason, both from God, cannot contradict each other. Faith goes beyond reason but may not go against reason. Lutheran fideism in the West (which led to Kant?) separates the two entirely. In Islam, the rationalists (mutazili) lost the battle to the (Asherites) theologians by 1000 AD.