The free, prosperous, and civilised liberal democratic world that we have lived in all our lives, and which we take so for granted, is in the process of changing, and to judge by certain of those changes, it is changing very much for the worse. As a culture, we are reverting, it seems, to perceiving the world in terms of faith-based mysticism, rather than rationally.

Among its other achievements, liberal democracy is the only political ideology that has created a political system in which the mass of people is free from political domination by a minority. It has been able to achieve this because it is an entirely secular ideology, having absolutely nothing to do with religion or spirituality. There is nothing wrong with religion or spirituality, but as we shall see, they have always been the means by which the masses have been politically dominated, by one minority or the other.

In stark contrast to Liberalism’s concern for the freedom of the individual, all other political ideologies throughout Western history, together with the religions, have had as their objective the political control of the mass of people either by an individual (a king, pharaoh, dictator, or pope) or by a group of individuals (aristocrats, theologists, property owners or oligarchs). In order to achieve and maintain their minority control, the authoritarian rulers have invariably based their claims to inherent moral authority over the masses on their supposed knowledge of, and relationship to a supernatural power, morally far superior to humanity.

Being presented by the Western religions in the form of a deity, this supernatural power is made explicit. In the case of the modern and supposedly secular evangelical political ideologies such as socialism, communism, and fascism, however, it implicitly takes the spiritual form, not of a deity, but of a supposedly objective and transcendent moral truth that pervades the universe. It is prophesied to the masses, that provided the appropriate dogma is observed, this universal truth will duly be reified on earth in the form of an idealised racially or socially just society. 

Significantly, both the religions and the evangelical political ideologies make a point of discounting the real, existing present for a supposedly perfect future. They both also assert that the only way to be virtuous is to accept and conform to their moral dogma. Anyone not doing so, is automatically judged to be morally evil.

Liberal democracy, on the other hand, being completely secular, perceives morality as being vital to human survival, but also simply as an evolutionary product of the human mind, free of supernatural influence. The fundamental, distinguishing feature between a liberal, secular society and an authoritarian and spiritually driven one, therefore, is in a liberal and secular society everyone is free to believe whatever they choose morally, whereas in an authoritarian society they are obliged to conform to the moral belief system formulated by those claiming to possess moral authority over society. 

Morality is the behavioural system defining right and wrong social behaviour, that each society evolves over time, in order to reconcile the self-interested behaviour of the individual with the collective interests of the community. By definition, virtually all the members of any society will therefore tend to accept the same moral injunctions and beliefs as valid and legitimate, and while there will be various individuals in each society preaching their own gospel, the common moral code will not have originated with them, but, by definition again, with the community as a whole. 

An authoritarian society will commence with the hijacking of a community moral code, the incorporation of selected injunctions into it, and then if it is a religion, the presentation of it explicitly as of supernatural origin. In our relatively secular era, implicitly representing a universal objective and transcendent truth, that morality demands must be observed and implemented if the community is to regain its lost virtue. 

Liberal democracy is in a fundamental respect an anomaly: it is a political system that gives political power to the masses, rather than to the elite that would otherwise automatically dominate the mass of people.  In societies that are not genuinely liberal, which is to say all other societies, power is controlled and exercised by an elite. This will informally and loosely consist of the pre-eminent individuals in each field of human activity. The herd instinct seemingly predisposes humans to accept and tolerate domination by its elite, no great force or subtlety is required to secure control, even though it inevitably involves a degree of mass suppression and exploitation. The one absolute requirement, however, is that the narrative that is used to justify the control be morally based. More than by means of force and fear, it is through a society’s moral impulse that is most effectively controlled.

Liberalism is often accused of advocating selfish individualism at the expense of the collective. This is ironic, given that it was liberalism that provided the mass of people – the only authentic ‘collective’ – with a political system that for the first time gave it political power, and freed it from the political dominance that the elite had historically established over it, through one or the other forms of spiritually justified minority rule. 

The collective is essentially inarticulate. Only rarely does it get to express an opinion. Those who criticise liberalism on the grounds that its individualism conflicts with collectivism, are invariably intellectuals defending the interests, not of the collective, but of the ideology holding or seeking to hold the collective in thrall.

The West has not been conquered by an alien philosophy, except perhaps in the sense that secularity has all along been alien to normal human nature. Rather, Westerners appear to be choosing voluntarily to revert to the instinctive, emotional, and spiritual perception of reality that prior to the coming of secular liberal democracy in the West had historically characterised all humans – and which also enables their domination by an elite. 

We Westerners are possibly and simply reverting now to our normal human nature, and our current abandonment of secularity in favour of spirituality, together with our recovered servile preference for conformity and collectivism over individual freedom, is loudly telling us this.


David Matthews is a Daily Friend reader.