A standard point that liberally minded people bring against any religious perspective is the assertion that they don’t believe anyone should be required or forced to convert from any religion to another. And this is unsurprising – the principle of freedom of religion goes way back in the history of liberal and libertarian thought. But the catch is, for liberals, you’re allowed to have your religion, so long as it isn’t a religion any longer – which is to say, so long as it isn’t the fundamental ground of your social being.
And this is the real religion of liberals – the state. As long as your first allegiance is as a citizen, then subsequent allegiances do not push you out of the in-group. Liberals are not actually tolerant across in/out group lines, they simply draw an in-group line which they pretend to be so obvious that it isn’t there, and then accept everyone right up to the point where a group draws in/out group boundaries that conflict with state loyalty.
Large surprise that Liberals vow for the separation of Church and State – the state is the new religion (which mostly repeats the norms of which ever religion is/was held by the majority or the elite), and the explicit connection of the state to a particular religion is sacrilege – because it puts another religion (in this case, probably Christianity), on the same level as the true religion: the state.
This might be why liberals are so frightened of Islam – for many practicing muslims it is an actual religion, which, unlike most modern forms of Christianity or Judaism, is a more foundational part of identity than allegiance to the state.
Sometimes it is argued that Christianity is one of the first cosmopolitan religion, or at least an important step against tribalism and towards a world where fear of the stranger begins to become neutralized.
The Christian teaching to “love thine enemies” is interesting, but in the end it remains imperialist and genocidal. It doesn’t mean don’t slaughter your enemies in war, and it doesn’t mean don’t kill the heathens – it just means consider your enemies as people basically like you, who are differentiated by contingent aspects rather than essential ones. IIn other words, anyone can convert to Christianity – the in/out group lines are defined, but are fundamentally permeable. If for tactical reasons, it’s not possible to convert someone, their life is of no value – and this becomes very obvious when you study even the recent history of Christianity in Canada. So, a neat teaching, but not really good enough.
The liberal can very quickly point out what is wrong in Christianity – it doesn’t actually shift the frame of moral analysis away from your own perspective – perhaps you must love your enemies, but you needn’t consider the way they order their life as a potential critique of your own framework. The problem with the liberal is that they’ve only created the pretence of considering alternative perspectives – they can love and respect others who practice different forms of life only insofar as everyone shares in fundamental obedience to the state. As soon as people disobey the state, they are criminals, and if they rise against it, they are terrorists and can be shot on site.
But, could the liberal do any better than this? What would it mean for the liberal to give up state-worship, and actually embrace their own ideals of inter subjective tolerance, and re-evaluation of moral codes on a continuos, practical, social level? Well, I think it’s obvious what it would mean – state worship would need to become explicit, and by becoming explicit it would in a sense cease to be “worship”, but instead careful consideration of the extent to which dissent is required and unquestioned authority pathological, as well as the inverse – to what extent is questioning authority pathological, and when should dissent be put down? In other words, liberalism could become honest with itself.
So long as liberalism remains ideology, so long as it maintains itself through various levels of shared deception, anarchism will remain a serious critique of all liberal state worship. The need to create a new world based on solidarity and honesty will not pass – the revolutionaries will always be right about the pathology of the state system. And today this should be more than obvious, when it is considered impossible to raise the highest tax bracket by 1%, when it is impossible to save the world from environmental catastrophe, it is clear that liberalism has become a joke – a thin sheen for corruption, stagnation, and dishonesty.
A truer, more honest liberalism would obey the teaching to “love thine enemies”, but obey it not in the Christian sense, but in the critical-moral sense of not taking your own frame for granted, but always potentially allowing it to come into question when it comes up against that which it excludes. So, stop excluding people’s views because they are “terrorists”, or “radicals”, or “fundamentalists” – maybe you have something to learn from them. Maybe they are more serious than you are, maybe their situations are more honest, less post-modern and consumerist and not engaged in the indefinitely and speedily transforming libidinal desire production machine we call “agency.