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Modernity: A Rebellion Against God ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Jun 19, 2023

Francis Bacon imagined a glorious future for us once our ancestors made themselves the masters and possessors of Nature; however, the ever-ascending arc of science and technology turned out to be not under human control. Physicists, neuroscientists, and computer and genetic engineers are the new sorcerer’s apprentices, having summoned great forces they can now not control or banish. Science and technology became the masters and possessors of us.

The Pamphlet that Changed the World

Francis Bacon

The beginning of the modern rebellion against God can be precisely dated: In October 1620, Francis Bacon, the principal architect of the experimental method of modern science, published The Great Instauration, a pamphlet that changed the world. The word “instauration,” once a common English word, now sounds as if it belongs in a dreary Latin grammar book—instauro, instaurare, instauravi, instauratus. The Bing Dictionary gives an excellent definition of instauration: “the restoring of something that has lapsed or fallen into decay.”[i]

Bacon argued that what had fallen into decay was human knowledge. In the Garden of Eden, Adam named the animals according to their nature, and this knowledge gave Adam command over Nature. “The state of knowledge is not prosperous nor greatly advancing,” Bacon lamented and declared, “a way must be opened for human understanding entirely different from any hitherto known.”[ii] The main impediment to the advancement of knowledge was Aristotelian philosophy filled with “specious and flattering” propositions that gave rise to “contentious and barking disputation.”[iii]

Aristotle’s principal error was his complete confidence in the senses, an error that became the medieval tag, “Nihil est in intellectu quod non sit prius in sensu.” (Nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses.) But for Bacon, “it is certain that the senses deceive.”[iv] After the Fall, our intellects became clouded, and we became too attached to the senses. Furthermore, Copernicus demonstrated that our senses give “false information;”[v] the Earth rotates around its north-south axis and traverses an orbit about the Sun, while the senses report the Earth is stationary. The geocentric cosmos resulted from Aristotle and Ptolemy trusting the senses to report the way things truly are.

To partially restore mankind to the Garden of Eden, the only time in human history that man had real authority over Nature, a new science was needed “in order that the mind may exercise over the nature of things the authority which properly belongs to it.”[vi]

Bacon was the first to enunciate the fundamental principle of modern science: “The testimony and information of the sense has reference always to man, not to the universe; and it is a great error to assert that the sense is the measure of things.”[vii] But a total rejection of the senses is madness, so to arrive at trustworthy information about nature the senses must be assigned a limited role. In one sentence, Bacon presented the heart of the experimental method, something entirely new to humankind: “The office of the sense shall be only to judge of the experiment, and the experiment itself shall judge of the thing.”[viii] Said another way, the scientist touches the experiment, and the experiment touches nature. The scientist has no direct contact with nature. No scientist has ever seen, or will ever see, with his or her own eyes a neutrino, the helical structure of DNA, or the background radiation left over from the Big Bang. Scientific instruments touch nature, and the physicist, the chemist, or the biologist reads the numerical outputs, analyzes the data, applies theories, and eventually discovers the real constituents of nature—subatomic particles, molecules, and genes. The experimenter is an actor, manipulating nature, not misled by an attachment to its surface beauty.

Bacon introduced one other principle entirely new to humankind: The true test of human knowledge is whether Nature can be commanded, for “those twin objects, human knowledge and human power, do really meet in one; and it is from ignorance of causes that operation fails.”[ix] The new science would make humankind the master and possessor of Nature, much as Adam was in the Garden of Eden.

In effect, Bacon rewrote the Bible. The Hebrew Bible told how Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden; the New Testament gave hope that what had been lost through disobedience to God would be restored at some point through faith in Jesus Christ. In Bacon’s version of Genesis, the restoration of the lost Paradise was expected to come about not through faith, but from the “great mass of inventions”[x] that would flow forth from the new experimental science that would give humankind the command over Nature that Adam had in the Garden of Eden. As a result, the descendants of the first man and woman could on their own return to Paradise and “subdue and overcome the necessities and miseries of humanity”[xi] that resulted from the expulsion of Adam and Eve to East of Eden, where women painfully suffered childbirth, and the cursed ground brought forth thistles and thorns.

Without looking Him in the face, Bacon told God in sotto voce, “We do not need your help. We know now how to return ourselves to the Garden of Eden. Besides, we are tired of waiting; 1,600 years is too long.” After registering his complaint, Bacon gently nudged God aside.

Science the Only Path to Truth

The great mass of inventions that flowed from science persuaded ordinary people that science was the only path to truth, and that was bad news for theologians, philosophers, and poets, for they could not command Nature. Their prestige began a steady, irreversible decline. Today, no one looks to poetry or philosophy for poetic knowledge or philosophic insights into nature and human affairs, or to theology for killer arguments that demonstrate the existence of God. Science and technology paralyzed the vocal cords of philosophers, rendering them mute about the three big questions that every person asks in the course of their lives: Where did I come from?, What am I doing here?, and, Where am I going?

Science as the only path to truth invariably led to materialism. The toolbox of science is limited to air pressure, chemical changes, electrical impulses in nerves, brain cell activity, and other measurable properties of matter; the experimental method of science thus entails materialism.[xii] Said in terms of modern reductionism, “the universe, including all aspects of human life, is the result of the interactions of little bits of matter.”[xiii] God is a fiction, not part of the scientific outlook. In addition, the amazing new inventions focused virtually everyone’s attention on the good life in this world, away from salvation, at the expense of intellectual and spiritual values, the usual definition of materialism.

In this way, Bacon transformed Judeo-Christianity into a secular, materialistic philosophy, and no doubt he would be aghast, for he vigorously opposed atheism: “I had rather believe all the fables in the Golden Legend, and the Talmud, and the Alcoran [the Koran], than that this universal frame is without a mind.”[xiv] He maintained that atheism reduces man to a mere animal: “They that deny a God destroy man’s nobility; for certainly man is of kin to the beasts by his body; and, if he be not of kin to God by his spirit, he is a base and ignoble creature.”[xv] (Note: The Golden Legend is a 13th century collection of saints’ lives.)

Bacon imagined a glorious future for us once our ancestors made themselves the masters and possessors of Nature; however, the ever-ascending arc of science and technology turned out to be not under human control. Physicists, neuroscientists, and computer and genetic engineers are the new sorcerer’s apprentices, having summoned great forces they can now not control or banish. Science and technology became the masters and possessors of us.

No one knows how molecular nanotechnology, genetic engineering, and artificial intelligence will transform human life, not the engineers at M.I.T., the geneticists at Stanford, or the computer scientists in Silicon Valley. Perhaps the ever-ascending arc of science and technology is headed to a thermonuclear war that annihilates humankind or possibly to a severe climate change that destroys Homo sapiens and most other creatures, but certainly not to a new Garden of Eden. Hiroshima killed the comforting narrative that the progress of science and technology leads to universal happiness.

The Nation-State: The New God

Every Nation-State instills nationalism into the minds of its citizens. Consider Leonard Thompson, born in 1896 to a family of farm workers in County Suffolk, England. Leonard described his parents as “very religious and very patriotic.”[xvi] The entire family of ten loved to sing. To them, “the patriotic songs and the church hymns seemed equally holy; they took away our breath,” and blurred the difference between God and England.

The Battle of the Somme, 1916

Leonard began to work on surrounding farms when he was eight; later to escape being “worked to death,” he joined the army in 1914 and became a machine gunner in the Third Essex Regiment. Soon, he was engaged in trench warfare against the Turks. He had never seen a dead man in Suffolk, and now he was burying hundreds in the English trenches, whose bottoms were “springy like a mattress because of all the bodies underneath.” Yet, “we didn’t feel indignant against the Government. We believed all they said, all the propaganda.” Years later, Leonard thought differently: “We were all so patriotic then and had been taught to love England in a fierce way.”

With a stronger grip upon the souls of its citizens than any religion, the Nation-State made God the Ultimate Citizen. Shortly before World War I, Kaiser Wilhelm II claimed God bestowed upon him the care of the German Nation-State: “I look upon the People and the Nation handed on to me as a responsibility conferred upon me by God, and I believe, as it is written in the Bible, that it is my duty to increase this heritage for which one day I shall be called upon to an account. Whoever tries to interfere with my task I shall crush.”[xvii] For Kaiser Wilhelm II and his people, God is a German.

Horatio Bottomley, financier and Member of the English Parliament, in a speech at the London Opera House, September 14, 1914, claimed that the Prince of Peace and Progress sided with the British Empire: “It may be—I do not know and I do not profess to understand—that this is the great Audit of the Universe, that the Supreme Being has ordered the nations of the earth to decide who is to lead in the van of human progress. If

the British Empire resolves to fight the Battle cleanly, to look upon it as Something More than an ordinary war, we shall realize that it has not been in vain, and We, the British Empire, as the Chosen Leaders of the World, shall travel along the road of Human Destiny and Progress, at the end of which we shall see the patient figure of the Prince of Peace pointing to the Star of Bethlehem which leads us to God.”[xviii] For members of the British Empire, God is an English gentleman, and the global war will lead to the Prince of Peace. A different great audit of the universe is a tallying of the political murders of the twentieth century, a mind-boggling, unbelievable, but sadly undeniable accounting. Deaths: World War I (military only): 9,700,000; Russian Revolution and Civil War: 9,000,000; forced col­lectivization: 3,000,000 Ukrainian peasants; Russian gulag: 1,000,000 political prisoners; Spanish Civil War: 1,200,000; World War II (military and civilian): 51,000,000; Nazi camps: 6,000,000 Jews and 6,000,000 Slavs, Gypsies, and political prisoners; Japanese Rape of Nanking: 300,000 Chinese; Allied bombing of Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, and Dresden: 500,000 German civilians; Hiroshima and Nagasaki: 140,000 Japanese civilians; Vietnam War (military and civilian): 5,000,000; Chinese Great Leap Forward: 30,000,000. These numbers are low estimates.[xix]

Three conclusions from World War I are that political orders based on violence are unstable; violence begets violence; and contests between Nation-States to establish spheres of economic interest and political power end in catastrophic wars.

Children in the land of the free and the brave never hear in school what the Prussian historian Heinrich von Treitschke grasped, in the late 1800s, that war is an intrinsic part of the Nation State: “War is not only a practical necessity, it is also a theoretical necessity, an exigency of logic. The concept of the State implies the concept of war, for the essence of the State is Power.”[xx] The United States, for instance, over a 150-year period engaged in eleven major wars—Mexican-American War, American Civil War, Spanish-American War, Philippine-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Iraq War I, War in Afghanistan, and Iraq War II—which on average is one major military conflict every fourteen years. During that period, numerous other military operations occurred, such as the Indian Wars, the opening of Japan to Western trade, and the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

The insane goal of returning ourselves to the Garden of Eden brought about industrial killing and misery on a cosmic level, never experienced by humanity before.

Human beings are social by nature and cannot live as separate entities in isolation. In the Nation-State, individuals are bound together by nationalism. Patriotism, the love of place, countrymen, and local traditions, lasted for millennia until replaced by nationalism, which first appeared in seventeenth-century England. Nationalism is so prevalent in Modernity that we believe it is a natural outgrowth of tribal life instead of an invention of Western Europe exported to the rest of the world.[xxi] According to historian Hans Kohn, nationalism has three essential aspects: “Under Puritan influence the three main ideas of Hebrew nationalism were revived: the Chosen People, the Covenant, and the Messianic expectancy. The English nation regarded itself as the new Israel.”[xxii]

Every Nation-State claims a Messianic destiny. With a name worthy of a Marx Brothers movie, like Freedonia in Duck Soup, Greater Serbia would evoke laughter if it were not for the Serbian ethnic cleansing of the Kosovar Albanians.

Material Prosperity

In early America, before the Industrial Revolution, material desires were limited by nature and handicraft production. But two elements of capitalism—free markets and the division of labor—changed everything. Without the “great mass of inventions”[xxiii] that continually flowed from science and technology, capitalism would have ground to a halt once markets were saturated by an abundance of goods. To continue to exist, a capitalist economy must continuously produce new consumer goods, not unlike a shark that must keep swimming or die. New inventions and technologies produce new goods and thus previously unknown desires, and in this way, we are all placed on the treadmill of desiring more and more, believing prosperity equals happiness. If the iPhone (n) didn’t make us happy, no matter, the iPhone (n+1) will.

Two hundred years of capitalism in America created for the wealthy and the poor a superabundance of goods. The typical Walmart Supercenter carries 142,000 different items. A shopper at Kroger’s or Whole Foods can buy blueberries in December grown in Peru, fresh roses flown in from Columbia, and organic lamb imported from New Zealand.

Americans are incredibly wealthy by historical standards. Everyday, labor-saving machines, such as clothes washers, electric ovens, and gas-fired furnaces, are taken for granted. Most readers of this essay have access to precious medical advances, to genetically-engineered pharmaceuticals, laparoscopic surgery, and magnetic imaging devices.

Laptops, flat-screen TVs, and smartphones are everywhere, in the ghetto as well as aboard yachts, which is not to deny the scandal that three million children in America live in abject poverty, the kind found in Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world[xxiv] or to discount the marked increase in midlife mortality of white, non-Hispanic Americans, the result of “deaths of despair” caused by drug addiction, alcoholism, and suicide in a declining middle class.[xxv]

Material prosperity in America did not bring about a general happiness; from 1940–1995, as material prosperity increased, people reported a decrease in happiness, according to the Statistical Abstract of the United States.[xxvi] The illustration shows that for more than fifty-some years personal income has increased substantially, but the percentage of people who report they are very happy has not budged.[xxvii]

Psychologist Daniel Kahneman and economist Angus Deaton analyzed the responses of more than 450,000 United States residents surveyed in 2008 and 2009 about their emotional well-being. Kahneman and Deaton focused on an “individual’s everyday experience—the frequency and intensity of experiences of joy, stress, sadness, anger, and affection that make one’s life pleasant or unpleasant.” They sought an answer to the question “does money buy happiness?” Not surprisingly, “low income exacerbates the emotional pain associated with such misfortunes as divorce, ill health, and being alone.” Unexpectedly, Kahneman and Deaton discovered that emotional well-being does not increase significantly beyond an annual household income of $75,000. “More money does not necessarily buy more happiness.”[xxviii]

For nearly two centuries, Americans have been acquiring more and more, believing material prosperity equals happiness. Go into Walmart, Costco, Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom, or Neiman Marcus, an amazing abundance of goods, and so little happiness.

Freedom: Threat to the Established Order

When Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in the early days of the Republic, he observed that unlike Europe, the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom formed a “marvelous combination,”[xxix] a harmonious balance. For him, the “founders of New England were both ardent sectarians and fanatical innovators.” He admired how religion and freedom were companions in the struggle to establish democracy in the New World: “In the moral world, everything is classified, coordinated, foreseen, and decided in advance. In the world of politics, everything is in turmoil, contested, and uncertain. In the one case obedience is passive, though voluntary; in the other, there is independence, contempt of experience, and jealousy of all authority.” Tocqueville failed to see that the spirit of freedom could be unstoppable and not be contained to politics; eventually religion and traditional values would then be eroded by the “jealousy of all authority.”

I have yet to meet an American—rich or poor, White or Black, young or old—who does not smart under the thumb of another. Democratic equality instills in us a disposition to rebel against all authority: “Who in the hell are you to tell me what to do?” In my favorite bookstore, the clerks claim to know better than the owner how to run the shop. I learned early on in college teaching that if I directly told a student what to do, his eyes would cloud over with black anger. At a conference, I met a biologist, a professed good Catholic, who told me that no pope in Rome was going to tell him how to conduct his sex life.

I grew up in the Sixties, a period of great optimism that those American values based on individualism and consumerism could be easily jettisoned in favor of civil rights for all and for poorly defined spiritual values. We were perhaps twenty-five percent successful: We have much cleaner water today; more women than men are in medical schools; alternative medicine is common; and organic food is widely available. Today, young people look at corporate America and how it seized control of the government and conclude that changing American politics to serve the middle class, the poor, and the underclass is impossible. Jeff Bezos’ yacht and its support ship cost 575 million dollars. I live in New Mexico and that sum of money would buy groceries for the entire state for approximately 45 days, and, of course, that huge sack of dollars would buy much of the Congress of the United States.

Love versus Violence

Darwin’s “struggle for existence,” Spencer’s “survival of the fittest,” and Tennyson’s “Nature, red in tooth and claw,”[xxx] are metaphors that sprang from laissez‑faire capitalism and cannot be dislodged from biological thinking, because scientists as well as laypersons project their experience of living in a highly competitive society onto nature. In the workplace, “the isolated individual has to fight with other individuals of the same group, has to surpass them and, frequently, thrust them aside,” Karen Horney concludes from her years of psychiatric practice. “The advantage of the one is frequently the disadvantage of the other.”[xxxi] Psychoanalyst Rollo May agrees: “Individual competitive success is . . . the dominant goal in our culture.”[xxxii]

Richard Lewontin, a geneticist and evolutionary biologist, points out that “while the nineteenth-century theory that some rose and some fell in society depending on their personal strengths and weaknesses is often referred to as ‘social Darwinism,’ we would be much more in agreement with historical causation were we to call Darwinism ‘Biological Competitive Capitalism.’ The perceived structure of the competitive economy provided the metaphors on which evolutionary theory was built.”[xxxiii]

Nature and human society are founded on competition, on violence, not love. The only person I knew who tried to live by the precepts of the scientific understanding of love was Roger Peterson, a neuroscientist I met when I was a post-doctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory. In my office, to an audience of one, Roger repeatedly expounded that natural selection determines the behavior of present-day men and women. Both sexes strive to maximize the number of their genes in future populations. The male of the human species, on the one hand, follows the strategy of copulating with as many mates as possible, in layman’s language, “love ‘em and leave ‘em.” Every male Homo sapiens has inherited an infidelity gene. The female of the human species, on the other hand, bears children and of biological necessity invests much time and energy in offspring. Consequently, every woman desires a monogamous relationship with a man of high status who can supply food and physical security for her children. Through natural selection, women have a fidelity gene. The opposition of the male infidelity gene to the female fidelity gene gives rise to the universal battle of the sexes. Oddly, Roger had no children but did not declare himself an evolutionary failure.

One afternoon, Roger walked into my office in a rage, swearing a blue streak; his wife, Susan, had run off to Berkeley with a chemist—a mere chemist!—not a physicist, a mathematician, or some other elite member of the scientific community. “I can’t believe she did this to me,” the denier of free choice shouted. “The blankety-blank bitch. How could she choose him over me!”

A week later, when Susan returned to Los Alamos to pick up her grandmother’s heirlooms, Roger confronted her. She simply told him, “We’re all hardwired! Don’t blame me! I’m wired wrong!” Roger shouted back, “Don’t give me that smart-aleck bullshit! You betrayed me!”

The Gospel of Love is for Sunday morning in church, not for the workplace or international relations between Nation-States.

The Doomsday Clock

This year the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock forward, primarily because of the war in Ukraine. The Clock now stands at 90 seconds to midnight—the closest to global catastrophe it has ever been.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022; five days later, Putin put his nuclear forces on high alert; arguably, World War III had begun. Russians are convinced of their exceptionalism, the preordained fate of their nation to be a great power; Americans are convinced of their exceptionalism, of their destiny to lead humankind to freedom and democracy.

Putin cannot abide by what he sees as a “unipolar world” imposed after the Cold War with “one center of authority, one center of force, one center of decision-making.”[xxxiv] The “one master, one sovereign,” the United States led the world to impose economic sanctions to destroy Russia’s economy, and in Putin’s view to cancel Russian culture.[xxxv]

Putin published in July 2021, “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” a 5,000-word treatise that claimed the Belarusians, Russians, and Ukrainians are all descendants of the Rus, an ancient people who settled the lands between the Black and Baltic Seas. In Putin’s version of history, these peoples are bound together by a common territory, language, and the Orthodox Christian faith. According to Putin, “Russia was robbed” of a core territory when the Bolsheviks created the Soviet Union in 1922 and established the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Reportedly, every soldier sent to Ukraine is supposed to carry Putin’s treatise, which ends with the pronouncement, “We [the Russians and the Ukrainians] are one people.”[xxxvi]

In the Ukraine War, the United States is now pursuing power. Seventy-four days after Putin invaded Ukraine, the Biden administration changed its cautious strategy of brokering an end to the conflict that would allow for a sovereign Ukraine and an acceptable relationship between the United States and Russia. President Biden asserted that Mr. Putin “cannot remain in power;” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin declared that Russia must be “weakened;” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s vowed that the United States would support Ukraine “until victory is won,” all pronouncements that confirm the United States is at war with Russia, a frightening state of affairs further confirmed by the Biden Administration crowing about providing intelligence to kill Russian generals and to sink the Russian flagship Moskova in the Black Sea.

The Pentagon announced on March 21, 2023, that it is speeding up its delivery of Abrams tanks to Ukraine, opting to send a refurbished older model that can be ready faster, intending to get the 70-ton battle powerhouses to the war zone by the fall. At a meeting of G-7 leaders in Japan on May 19, 2023, President Biden said he agreed to support a joint international effort to train Ukrainian pilots on modern fighter aircraft, including F-16s. The training will take place outside Ukraine at a site in Europe and will require months to complete.

Being stymied in its advances to reach first Kyiv and later parts of Odesa, the Russians shifted their strategy to destroy large parts of Ukraine with bomber and missile attacks, which did not result in significant victories. The Russian army performed poorly against the motivated Ukrainians, and the Russian military equipment was significantly inferior to the American weapons poured into Ukraine.

The Ukraine War has gone very badly for Putin. Russia had two political orders collapse in the twentieth century, Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union both disappeared; probably Putin will not gracefully or reasonably accept the West’s thwarting his desire to reestablish Great Russia.

For the United States, the Ukraine War is a proxy war to degrade the Russian military and weaken Vladimir Putin’s grip on power and appears successful. Putin is now fighting for his political life and the existence of Imperial Russia’s 1,500-year-old history as he understands it. Backed into a corner by the vastly superior military might of the United States, Putin may resort to the policy “escalate to de-escalate,” which means using one or two tactical, low-yield nuclear weapons on the battlefield to force the United States to capitulate in its support of Ukraine.[xxxvii] Most of us think this is impossible because we adhere to MAD (mutual assured destruction), the strategy of the Cold War designed to prevent superpowers from going to war; if Russia attacked the United States, it would be destroyed within an hour as would the United States.

MAD did not deal with a superpower attacking a non-nuclear nation. Will the United States respond with a full-scale nuclear attack on Russia because one or two Russian nuclear weapons were detonated on Ukrainian soil and thereby destroy itself and Russia? Such a response is madness, and Putin knows it. He also knows that nuclear blackmail works, although a slight miscalculation would result in Nuclear Armageddon.

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[i] As far as I could determine, the Microsoft Bing Dictionary is out of print and is no longer available online.

[ii] Francis Bacon, The New Organon and Related Writings (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1960 [1620]), p. 7.

[iii] Ibid., p. 8.

[iv] Ibid., p. 21.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid., pp. 3, 7. Italics added.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Ibid., p. 22.

[ix] Ibid., p. 29.

[x] Ibid., p. 103.

[xi] Ibid., p. 23.

[xii] For a detailed discussion, see George Stanciu, The Great Transformation: How Contemporary Science Harmonizes with the Spiritual Life, Ch. 9, Dumb Idea # 3: Materialism.

[xiii] H. Allen Orr, “Awaiting a New Darwin,” The New York Review of Books, 60, No. 2 (February 7, 2013).

[xiv] Francis Bacon, “Of Atheism” in Essays, Civil and Moral. Available

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] Leonard Thompson’s narrative is in Ronald Blythe, Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village (New York: New York Review of Books, 2015 [1969]), pp. 33-49.

[xvii] Kaiser Wilhelm II, quoted in Voices from the Great War, ed. Peter Vansittart (New York: Franklin Watts, 1984), p. 4.

[xviii] Horatio Bottomley, ibid., pp. 40-41. Capitals in the original.

[xix] For the difficulty of estimating mass political murders, see Lewis M. Simons, “Genocide and the Science of Proof,” National Geographic Magazine (January 2006): 28-35 and Timothy Snyder, “Holocaust: The Ignored Reality,” The New York Review of Books (July 16, 2009).

[xx] Heinrich von Treitschke, quoted by Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies: Volume Two: The High Tide of Prophecy: Hegel, Marx, and The Aftermath (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1971), p. 65.

[xxi] See George Stanciu, The Virtues of Patriotism, the Vices of Nationalism.

[xxii] Hans Kohn, Nationalism: Its Meaning and History (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1965), p. 16.

[xxiii] Francis Bacon, The New Organon: Or the True Directions Concerning the Interpretation of Nature (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1960 [1620]), p. 103.

[xxiv] National Poverty Center, Extreme Poverty in the United States, 1996 to 2011.

[xxv] Anne Case and Angus Deaton, Mortality and Morbidity in the 21st Century.

[xxvi] See Robert E. Lane, The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies (New Haven, CN: Yale University Press, 2001), p. 5.

[xxvii] The graph Happiness and Income in the United States is courtesy of

[xxviii] Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton, “High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (August 4, 2010) 107 (38): 16489–16493. Available

[xxix] All quotations in this paragraph are from Alexis de Tocqueville, p. 47.

[xxx] Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam, ed. Robert Ross (New York: Norton, 1973), stanza 56, p. 36.

[xxxi] Karen Horney, The Neurotic Personality of Our Time (New York: Norton, 1937), p. 284.

[xxxii] Rollo May, The Meaning of Anxiety, rev. ed. (New York: Norton, 1977), p. 173.

[xxxiii] Richard C. Lewontin, “Why Darwin?” The New York Review of Books (May 28, 2009).

[xxxiv] Roger Cohen, “The Making of Vladimir Putin,” New York Times, March 26, 2022.

[xxxv] Anton Troianovski and Javier C. Hernández, “Putin Goes into Battle on a Second Front: Culture,” New York Times, March 25, 2022.

[xxxvi] Fiona Hill and Angela Stent, “The World Putin Wants: How Distortions About the Past Feed Delusions About the Future,” Foreign Affairs (September/October 2022).

[xxxvii] See Rose McDermott, Reid Pauly, and Paul Slovic, “Putin and the Psychology of Nuclear Brinkmanship,” Foreign Affairs, May 30, 2023.

The featured image is a portrait of Francis Bacon, Viscount St Alban (copy after an original of c.1618 by unknown artist), and is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. The picture of the The Battle of the Somme is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

All comments are moderated and must be civil, concise, and constructive to the conversation. Comments that are critical of an essay may be approved, but comments containing ad hominem criticism of the author will not be published. Also, comments containing web links or block quotations are unlikely to be approved. Keep in mind that essays represent the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Imaginative Conservative or its editor or publisher.

This essay is most interesting covering many issues and needs a second or third read. Thank you for writing this.

That essay was all over the place, but a great read!

Wonderful and complex essay. However, I noticed that you haven’t mentioned Freemasonry.This is my thesis: one cannot understand modernity without Hegel, and Hegel without Lessing. Therefore, to grasp the essence of the modern rebellion against God, one must talk about Freemasonry.I will dedicate an article to it on my personal blog shortly. Here’s an excerpt and a somewhat “strong” conclusion:Excerpt:To understand the genesis of Hegel’s thought, there is also Lessing’s ideal, the most well-known philosopher of the Enlightenment. The most renowned and widely read alongside Kant, a true reference author. When Hegel publishes the “Phenomenology of Spirit,” a friend writes him a letter saying, “With this work, you have delivered to us the new gospel that Lessing had hoped for.” Lessing had a significant impact on the theological-philosophical landscape, particularly in the problems between reason and faith, German philosophy, and Christianity, for two essential reasons.

The first reason is that between 1774 and 1778, Lessing published the “Fragments of an Anonymous” (Reimarus). No one in Germany, from Luther onwards, had ever dared to discuss the veracity of the sacred text, thus dissociating the historical Christ from the Christ of faith, as the Enlightenment critical theologian Reimarus did. (Even in the early centuries of Christianity, Jewish and pagan authors such as Porphyry and Celsus had indeed sought to destroy the historicity of the gospel narrative.) David Friedrich Strauss, who published his “Life of Jesus” in 1835, continues and radicalizes Reimarus’s work, and it had dozens of reprints, becoming the foundation of Hegelian left-wing atheism. Even the young Nietzsche reads Strauss’s “Life of Jesus” and loses his faith.

The second reason is that in 1780, Lessing published a work called “The Education of the Human Race,” his final operetta. By that time, Lessing had converted from an Enlightenment thinker to a Spinozist. Spinoza’s religion now enters Germany. Previously, it had been expelled by Leibniz with the concept of the monad, that is, the individual, specifically against Spinoza’s substance. Lessing is the first German thinker after Luther, in fact, to take up Aristotle to defend the plurality of substances. In his work, Lessing aims to approach Christian revelation not in a destructive-oppositional, Manichaean, or Enlightenment manner but in an assimilative, reformative, pedagogical, ancillary, hereditary, dialectical way (an education of reason, of gnosis, through the overcoming of religion and reality, in short). Finally, Lessing states: “The New Testament must become as antiquated as the Old has become.” He speaks of a new eternal gospel, a new aeon, Joachimism. German idealism is fulfilled. Its protagonists conceive themselves as the apostles of the age of the spirit: with them begins the third age of the world, the eschatological, messianic age.

The spirit they speak of, obviously, is no longer the Holy Spirit. It follows the prerogatives and operations of the Holy Spirit, the one who creates unity—the unity of the Church, the unity among men, the Spirit of love that unites, the Spirit of truth. The spirit becomes universal reason, unfolded reason, concrete reason, reason incarnate in peoples. The paradigm of modern secularization, an age of reason completely secularized. In the 19th century, this paradigm of the three ages has an enormous influence, but it is Lessing who launches it. For Lessing, who openly declared his membership in Freemasonry – he also published dialogues, Ernst and Falk, dedicated to Freemasonry – the third age of the world signifies fraternity, as Freemasonry imagines it. Therefore, the third age of the world means the new church, the invisible Church that Kant spoke of in “Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone.” The age of the spirit, of secular reason.

Conclusion:As we contemplate the forces that shape our world, we cannot overlook the potential impact of clandestine organizations like Freemasonry. While the intentions and actions of such groups may remain enigmatic, it is vital to remain vigilant and pursue truth relentlessly. Only through seeking a comprehensive understanding of these intricate matters can we hope to foster a world built on transparency, openness, and genuine progress. The path ahead may be challenging, but the pursuit of knowledge and enlightenment is a responsibility we must wholeheartedly embrace.

Now we have reached a point where the self-dissolution of faith and the self-destruction of the world, as warned by Benedict XV, are at a point of no return.

Words are multiplying, falling to the ground like dry leaves.

The race towards the abyss is uncontrollable, and no one can stop it except the Madonna. It’s a matter of a short time, not millenarianism.

Pope Francis has extensively warned about the irreparable catastrophe of a nuclear conflict.

We must believe, pray, and follow the Madonna. Others will do so very soon. As soon as it starts to hail with blocks of ice, they will seek refuge under her mantle.

Hi Paolo—Thank you for your insightful comment. I have not thought about Freemasonry and learned a great deal from your remarks. When your article appears on your blog, please send me a link.In friendship,George

Of courseIn ChristPaolo

Great article. Very thoughtful and thorough. I must mention that the rebellion against God, at least the earthly rebellion, started in the garden with the mutinous question and deception: “Hath God said..?.” And the rebellion continues today, but with ever more clever and sophisticated methods. I praise God that He is still on the throne and in control.

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