Monday, April 8, 2013

The Archdruid on Objectivism as civil antireligion

Fat Cat goes Galt

I promised to say something about John Michael Greer, the Archdruid, in July 2011.  I finally found something of his worth quoting.  Better late than never!
Third, civil religions share with theist religions a curious and insufficiently studied phenomenon that may as well be called the antireligion. An antireligion is a movement within a religious community that claims to oppose that community’s faith, in a distinctive way:  it embraces essentially all of its parent religion’s beliefs, but inverts the values, embracing as good what the parent religion defines as evil, and rejecting as evil what the parent religion defines as good.

The classic example of the type is Satanism, the antireligion of Christianity. In its traditional forms—the conservative Christians among my readers may be interested to know that Satanism also suffers from modernist heresies—Satanism accepts essentially all of the presuppositions of Christianity, but says with Milton’s Satan, “Evil, be thou my good.” Thus you’ll have to look long and hard among even the most devout Catholics to find anyone more convinced of the spiritual power of the Catholic Mass than an old-fashioned Satanist; it’s from that conviction that the Black Mass, the parody of the Catholic rite that provides traditional Satanism with its central ceremony, gains whatever power it has.

Antireligions are at least as common among civil religions as they are among theist faiths... Communism has its antireligion, which was founded by the Russian expatriate Ayn Rand and has become the central faith of much of America’s current pseudoconservative movement. There is of course nothing actually conservative about Rand’s Objectivism; it’s simply what you get when you accept the presuppositions of Marxism—atheism, materialism, class warfare, and the rest of it—but say “Evil, be thou my good” to all its value judgments. If you’ve ever wondered why so many American pseudoconservatives sound as though they’re trying to imitate the cackling capitalist villains of traditional Communist demonology, now you know.
I couldn't resist the juxtaposition of Satanism with Objectivism.  I'm not the first to make that connection, which goes all the way back to Anton LaVey himself, as noted by Joe Carter at First Things.
Perhaps most are unaware of the connection, though LaVey wasn’t shy about admitting his debt to his inspiration. “I give people Ayn Rand with trappings,” he once told the Washington Post. On another occasion he acknowledged that his brand of Satanism was “just Ayn Rand’s philosophy with ceremony and ritual added.” Indeed, the influence is so apparent that LaVey has been accused of plagiarizing part of his “Nine Satanic Statements” from the John Galt speech in Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

Devotees of Rand may object to my outlining the association between the two. They will say I am proposing “guilt by association,” a form of the ad hominem fallacy. But I am not attacking Rand for the overlap of her views with LaVey’s; I am saying that, at their core, they are the same philosophy. LaVey was able to recognize what many conservatives fail to see: Rand’s doctrines are satanic.
I also can't resist pointing out that the Pournelle Chart shows both Communism and Objectivism enthrone Reason, which makes both anti-conservative according to Pournelle's definition.  Where they differ is their attitude to the State.  Communism worships it, at least as the personification of the will of the collective, while Objectivism thinks of it as the ultimate necessary evil, allowing only the military, police, and courts as its legitimate functions.  That makes Objectivism the funhouse mirror reflection of Communism, exactly the point Greer is making.

Pournelle's Political Axes

For more of my musings about the Pournelle Chart, read Food Fight! Thoughts on liberalism and conservatism inspired by the Preface to Food, Inc. and James Howard Kunstler swims against the stream on marriage equality.  Pournelle doesn't have it completely right, but he has produced a useful tool.


  1. Greer himself noted something similar:

    I wonder how many of the devout Christians who back the Republican Party, for example, realize that the current GOP approach to social welfare issues is identical to the one presented by Anton Szandor LaVey in The Satanic Bible. (Check it out sometime; the parallels are remarkable.) It may seem odd that believers in a faith whose founder told his followers to give all they had to the poor now by and large support a party that’s telling America to give all it has to the rich, but that’s what you get when a culture’s central narratives dissolve; of course it’s also been my experience that most people who claim they believe in the Bible have never actually read more than a verse here and there.

    1. Thanks for finding that. I missed it the first time.

      My take on that paradox involves two science fiction allusions. For the past 30 years, the American Right has been trying to make both "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Handmaid's Tale" into reality. It doesn't deter them in the slightest that the two are mutually exclusive.

    2. Thanks for pointing that out. I added that to my response to The Archdruid below--Pinku posting as his daughter.

      In fact, you pointed out the Satanic nature of the GOP's beliefs in an entry from August of 2011, "The Twilight of Meaning." I don't think many Republicans have noticed, so the message definitely bore repeating.

  2. Why are Communists more rational than socialists?

    You'd think, if rationalism includes an empirical component, the fact that mixed economies work better than 100% state-controlled ones would count in the socialist's favor.

    1. Congratulations, you found a flaw in the application of Pournelle's theoretical framework to the real world.

  3. I'm leaving this comment here from my daughter's account. It's meant as a response to The Archdruid's Christmas entry.

    And so you and your readers come back full circle to your first entry in April, "The Fate of Civil Religion," in which you identified both Satanism and Objectivism as anti-religions, Satanism to Christianity and Objectivism to Communism. I'm not the least bit surprised you brought the two together, as Anton LaVay himself called what he offered Rand with trappings.

    As for the current crop of Christianists AKA Dominionists being willing, active Satanists, I think they are a bunch of easy dupes for the Devil or some other equally evil diety pretending to speak for the Holy Trinity. A friend of mine has gone so far as to propose that that while the Dominionists think they're worshiping Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, they've been hoodwinked, and Huitzilopochtli and a couple of his buddies from the Aztec pantheon are receiving the Dominionists' devotion instead.

    As for why they're such willing dupes, it's because they think they're making American Christian in preparation for the return of the vengeful Jesus of the Left Behind books and movies. Instead, they're making Christianity more American (actually more Southern) and then trying to convert America to that vision. Few ideas are more American in that view than anti-Communism, so slipping Satanism in via Ayn Rand was child's play.

    Finally, you noted that Lust was not getting its due in the current Satanic/Objectivist vision, despite its central position in the life and fiction of Ayn Rand. That's because the American Right has tried to make two works of science fiction into reality simultaneously, "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Handmaid's Tale." The only way that combination works is if one is working for a bunch of religious fanatics in service to a kleptocracy. That's definitely Satanic.