Worldview Wars (and Who’s Winning)

I think that what evangelical Albert Mohler wrote recently at his blog is true:

The future shape of the world appears to be a worldview competition between Christianity, Islam, and Western Secularism.

And I think it’s quite obvious which one is lapping the other two. There is nowhere that Christianity really shows itself to be in obvious civilizational control anymore (except, perhaps, in gay-killing Uganda, Vatican City, and some parts of the American South). John Calvin’s Geneva and Martin Luther’s Germany are things of the past (thank goodness). And the places where Islam dominates are poor, scientifically and technologically backward, or propped up by oil reserves that will be gone within a century (if not a few decades).

This is not to say that Christianity and Islam will not claim adherents a century from now. Obviously, both will. But, short of destroying the world with the weapons of mass destruction that they might find at their disposal, they will not determine the direction of society.

Instead, what will face-off over the human future will be two forms of secularism:

  • Enlightenment Jeffersonian secularism (which is democratic, science and truth respecting, pluralistic, individualist, and grounded in a commitment to universal human rights and equality); and
  • nihilistic Nietzschean secularism. This is the secularism of those Machiavellian plutocrats and other elites who are committed to the expansion of their power by any means necessary—including “management of the masses” (via human exploitation and the manipulation of Herderian nationalist fervor).

And what will ultimately be at stake is how, and to whose benefit, the human genome will be exploited when we reach the technological ability to direct our own evolution. Will humans evolve into two distinct species (those enhanced and those not)? This is a game that Christianity and Islam will be impotent to affect the outcome of (and are barely equipped to even address coherently). 

So the future belongs to secularism (and, hopefully, of the Enlightenment sort).

But the irony is this: even as Enlightenment secularists, Christians, and Muslims feverishly argue with one another today, the Nietzschean plutocrats (and their elite sympathizers) are well on their way to winning tomorrow.

Nihilistic Chinese intellectuals, for example, are earnestly reading and debating, not Thomas Jefferson, the Bible, or the Quran, but Carl Schmitt.

And you don’t even know who Carl Schmitt is, do you?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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7 Responses to Worldview Wars (and Who’s Winning)

  1. andrewclunn says:

    I do. Though I wouldn’t draw the lines quite that way. Besides, a secular Nihilist has no problems with exploiting the religiously minded. what’s the saying, “Religion is largely considered by the masses to be true, by the educated to be false, and by the rulers to be useful.”

    • santitafarella says:

      Andrew,

      I think that is the problem for Jeffersonianism: how to combat the public relations cynicism inherent in your quote. Are we doomed to a world of mass communication manipulation by the powerful?

      It feels like the public realm has been poisoned. There’s little real or in-depth dialogue; little vulnerability (or even access to one another).

      —Santi

  2. alexbpop says:

    Christianity is actually growing pretty fast in many areas of the world, particularly Latin America, China, and South Korea. Many folks have simply assumed that the secularization process that swept of Western Europe is destined to repeat itself across the rest of the planet, but it would be hasty to jump to such a conclusion.

    As for the Jeffersonian versus Nietzchiean secularism dichotomoy, I don’t really think that such a categorization scheme is useful. Rather the whole secularist world has splintered into too many worldviews to count. Certainly it’s a bit late to herd the secular cats back into the Jeffersonian bag.

  3. You definition of the “nihilistic Nietzschean secularism” is really just the secular version of the same guys who have been doing the same stuff in Christianity for the last 2000 years. Basically, the amoral, in it for themselves guys have always been around and always will. They wrap whatever banner around themselves that can enhance their power and wealth. I do not know a single atheist who openly expresses the nihilistic Nietzschean mindset. I know a lot of Secular Humanists tho .. myself included. My wife is more of a neopagan (pantheism).

    • santitafarella says:

      Jared,

      I have two words for you: Karl. Rove.

      (He’s an atheist. So now you know one.)

      And I agree with you that the Machiavellian we have had with us always. But I think of the Machiavellian as generally a non-religious person who delights in Iago-like manipulation.

      As Iago says in Othello: “Virtue? A fig!”

      —Santi

  4. Rove an admitted atheist? Who knew?

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