Ultimate Concerns

And why the Progressive-Left is doomed to fail.

Liberal Tolerance by Branco

Some people say that all religions depend on faith, while all secularisms rely on reason.  But G.K. Chesterton said that was silly, because “reason is itself a matter of faith.  It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.”

And I would posit that my faith is eminently reasonable.  I’m a very logical, brain-oriented kind of person.  The idea of making a blind leap of faith was repugnant to me.  I did not commit to Jesus until I had enough logically persuasive evidence to make it reasonable to do so.

But even belief in a deity does not distinguish religion from secularism.  For example, religious Buddhism does not posit the existence of a supreme being, while some forms of secular Environmentalism posit that the whole biosphere is a living entity called Gaia.

J. Budziszewski says the real issue is one’s ultimate concern.

  • An acknowledged religion, like Christianity, posits an ultimate concern and admits it.
  • An unacknowledged religion, like Leninism, also posits an ultimate concern, but denies it’s religious to do so.

Budziszewski discusses a third possibility, an incomplete religion — i.e., an acknowledged or unacknowledged religion which has not yet finished ranking its concerns.  However, there is a caveat in that “incomplete religion can live only in the dreamworld of thought.”

In the light of day it must become complete or die. For in every life or way of life—whether lived simply, lived with the guidance of an ethical theory, or even lived in defiance of an ethical theory—given enough time, some concern eventually emerges as paramount.

Eventually there is something to which every knee bows. This is the person’s god.  

As a matter of theory, one may deny that any concern deserves ultimacy. But as a matter of practice, no one escapes ceding ultimacy to something, whether it deserves ultimacy or not. Choices between incompatible urgencies are unavoidable.

I would like to posit that the Progressive Left as a whole constitutes an incomplete religion, but that within the Left are groups of individuals who have ceded ultimacy to one or another of the Left’s sacred cows.  For example, Black Lives Matter puts blacks first, Third Wave Feminism puts women first, LGBT activists put sexual deviants first, and so on.

Budziszewski explains that “what you can tolerate pivots on your ultimate concern.”

Because different ultimate concerns ordain different zones of tolerance, social consensus is possible only at the points where these zones overlap.

Should contending concerns become sufficiently unlike, their zones of tolerance no longer intersect at all. Consensus vanishes.

At the moment, the various “denominations” on the Progressive Left truly agree only on this doctrine:  Democrats are good and Republicans are evil.  

Beyond this, their zones of tolerance diverge, as we’ve seen recently with Transgender activists who no longer feel they can be part of the LGB community and Pro-Life Democrats who have been given notice that the party no longer has room for them.

This divergence and its concomitant intolerance is why I believe that the Progressive Left cannot succeed in the long run.


Based in part on “The Illusion of Moral Neutrality” by J. Budziszewski


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