About a month ago Scott Alexander wrote an excellent piece
reflecting on liberalism as a modern religion (with the unbeatable title “Gay Rites are Civil Rites”). Then this week came this long and superb essay by Adrian Vermeule, an anti-liberal Catholic legal scholar, with the equally arresting title, All Human Conflict Is Ultimately Theological
. Alexander and Vermeule come from opposite ends of the political spectrum, but share a core analysis, albeit one from which they draw vastly different conclusions.
Both writers agree that stable societies need religion - complete with rites, rituals and sacraments. And both agree that modern progressivism has taken on that role (see Alexander’s amusing photo captions for excellent examples). Alexander, broadly, sees this as a triumph - the survival of important shared values in a world where traditional religions “can’t adapt quickly enough”.
Vermeule takes the opposite view. He believes that progressivism’s core values are ultimately self-defeating: in his account, “disruption of the past” is the highest sacrament of liberalism - but this eventually disrupts the ways of life of ordinary people, which robs liberalism of popular support and forces a choice between electoral failure or anti-democratic methods (This is, of course, another version of the critique that identity politics will destroy the left
). You might not share his conclusions (I don’t), but Vermeule is one of liberalism’s smartest critics; I’d encourage you to read the whole thing