by Navid Zaidi
Nowadays, humanity finds itself dramatically at odds with ancient religious doctrines which are steadily losing credibility.
Among the youth in particular, matters are falling apart- manners and knowledge, the sense of history, interest in politics, acquaintance with art, religion and literature- mankind finds itself alone for the first time, deprived of the support of both the cosmos and God.
Over the past two centuries, the Moderns have invented, what we might call, in the words of Prof Luc Ferry of the University of Paris, the ‘religions of earthly salvation’ notably scientism, patriotism, nationalism, atheistic socialism, capitalism and communism.
Unable to continue believing in God, the Moderns have produced substitute-religions and godless spiritualities. While professing a radical atheism, these ideologies try to give meaning to human existence and even justify why one should die for them.
All of these grand human utopias call to sacrifice life for a nobler cause; whether that means the Revolution, the Homeland or the Truths of Science. Nietzsche called them the three ‘idols’.
We have seen in history that the Communist ideal was so powerful, so ‘sacred’ and justified laying down one’s life without fear or remorse.
Even today, there are national anthems that exhort the citizens to sacrifice their destiny as individuals to the ‘higher cause’; to die for the homeland is to enter into eternity. We can find in this spectrum forms of patriotism and nationalism- the notion that it is worthwhile to give one’s life for one’s nation.
Similarly, scientism gives its followers reasons for living and dying. Scientists, explorers and builders are convinced that by discovering new planets or a new scientific law, or by inventing new machines, they are inscribing their names in the eternity of human progress that justifies their entire existence.
I have to say that, frankly, these new religions such as nationalism, patriotism, communism, capitalism or scientism (or any -ism ) are desperately empty abstractions. Nationalism, communism and capitalism caused the deaths of multitudes but even if we devote ourselves to a ‘higher cause’ it remains true that in the end it is the individual who suffers and dies.
As Nietzsche asked: ‘Is not the passion for ‘grand designs’ that are supposedly superior to the mere individual, merely the final ruse of those religions that we hoped we had left behind’.
The Moderns are seeking fresh sources of energy in the creation of new loyalties, such as nationalism, capitalism and patriotism. No wonder Nietzsche described them as ‘sickness and un-reason’ and ‘the strongest force against culture’.