MAY 13, 2019
The New Primitives
When a man ceases to believe in God, observed Chesterton, he becomes capable of believing in anything. It looks like we may now have reached the “anything” stage of human history.
As faith in Christianity recedes in the West, a strange thing is happening. Having shaken off belief in God, people are not becoming more rational, they’re becoming more gullible. They believe that babies in the womb aren’t really human beings, that same-sex “marriage” is the equivalent of real marriage, that there are roughly 52 varieties of gender, that boys can become girls, and vice versa. In general, they believe that wishing makes it so.
Rejection of God does not lead to a flowering of civilization, but rather to a primitivization. Many of the ideas that are now current are pre-scientific and even anti-scientific. Science is solidly on the side of those who say that babies are babies, and that boys cannot become girls, yet when science comes into conflict with today’s magical beliefs it is rejected out of hand. For many, the ultimate source of truth is not reason, or science, or God, but feelings.
It was belief in a rational God who created a rational and ordered universe that provided the main impetus for scientific study centuries ago. Christian and Jewish scholars thought it worthwhile to study the nature of things because the nature of things was considered to be rational and discoverable. Thus, the scientific revolution was a product of the Judeo-Christian world.
But suddenly all bets are off. For many, belief in the imperial self has supplanted belief in God and a rational world. The wants and desires of the individual self are paramount. If your 12-year-old daughter decides she’s a boy, you’d better go along with her desires because the reigning doctrine holds that her gender is a matter to be decided solely by her and her doctor.
Of course, the imperial self is not really imperial at all. Now that God is considered dispensable, the state has become the ultimate authority. As a result, the wishes of the individual are only considered legitimate if they coincide with the wishes of the state.
So what we really have is not simply a regression to magical thinking, but a merging of the primitive impulse with the modern totalitarian state. The mumbo jumbo ideology of transgenderism can only survive if it is backed by state power. But the new primitives don’t know enough history to realize that they live in an increasingly unfree society. Moreover, as long as they get their daily dose of sex and “soma” (marijuana, fentanyl, etc.), they don’t really care. However, there still remains a sizable number of Christians, Jews, and other believers in Natural Law who can see that the new normal is actually quite abnormal. Unless they spill the beans, the lies about the facts of life will be made mandatory. Everyone must be forced to believe. And liberal progressive primitives and their allies in the state will move to crush those who don’t comply.
- Police in the UK are investigating individuals who challenge gender ideology on social media.
- A Canadian judge allowed doctors to give hormone treatments to help a girl “transition” to become a boy against her father’s wishes. The same judge later forbade the father from referring to his daughter as a girl.
- UK authorities threatened to take an autistic boy from his parents when they objected to sex-change treatments proposed by doctors.
The state not only reserves the right to decide your child’s sex, it now, apparently, thinks it has the authority to decide his religion. A regional court in Schleswig, Germany, imposed a fine on parents who refused to let their son go on a school trip to a mosque. Meanwhile, in neighboring Denmark, state authorities have threatened to take away the eight-year-old foster daughter of foster parents who had raised her from infancy. Their crime? The mother had expressed criticism of Islamic terrorism on her blog. The authorities said this showed poor judgment, and they called into question her ability to parent.
The rapid ascendancy of Islam in recent times is itself evidence of social regression. Though Muslims believe in God, he is not the same God that Christians believe in. Rather, Allah is a willful God who is not bound by the laws of reason. Like an absolute and capricious tyrant, his laws are arbitrary and subject to change. The remarkable lack of scientific progress in the Muslim world is simply the logical consequence of belief in this erratic God.
Because it borrows from Christianity and Judaism, Islam is an advance over most primitive religions, but in comparison to Christianity it is a decidedly primitive faith. It sanctions beheadings, amputations for theft, stoning for adultery, polygamy, subjugation of women, and even sex slavery. One might think that the new primitives would be appalled by Islam—especially because they consider the subjugation of women to be a great evil. But some taboos are more important than others, and one of the supreme taboos of our times is the injunction against judging other cultures. The sins of Islam can be wiped away simply by repeating the incantatory chant “They have a different culture.” The villager may now be a part of a global village, but he still thinks like a villager. The village chiefs and elders have decided that Christianity is a thing of the past, and that Islam is a vital part of the coming multicultural future. The villager nods his assent because he has no other points of reference. He is willing to believe anything the authorities say.
A society that elevates Islam over Christianity is a society that is taking a step back in time, yet that is the direction in which large parts of the West are headed. Churches in Europe are largely empty, but mosques are full. Many cultural observers predict that Islam will be the dominant religion in Europe well before mid-century. The ultimate irony of rejecting the Christian God is that you may end up with the God of Muhammad in his place.
In any event, our society seems to be taking the fork in the road that leads to a dark and superstitious past. For several decades now, educators have claimed to be teaching youngsters to think critically. Increasingly, however, the thought processes of Western citizens resemble the thought processes of their tribal ancestors in the bush and the savannah. More and more, you are encouraged to think of yourself as a member of an identity group—your tribe. You are not expected to think for yourself; you are expected to think as your group thinks.
This tribal thinking is not confined to college students and Democratic politicians. It has also infected the professions. Most professionals, after all, are graduates of group-think universities and doctrinaire graduate schools. So it should come as no surprise that they might have difficulty thinking for themselves, even when it comes to such basics as the differences between the sexes.
There is, for example, hardly any research evidence to support the use of hormones and surgery to help confused youngsters “transition” from one sex to another. And there is certainly no biological evidence. From the biological perspective—that is, from the perspective of factual knowledge—the whole transgender project is an impossible one. Moreover, most of the research that is available shows that the “treatments” used in transitioning carry great risks to the physical and psychological health of children and teenagers.
Yet doctors and therapists continue to plow ahead with the transgender project despite its grave risks. Transgender ideology is the newest and most fashionable ideology. It is what the “best” people in the tribe attest to, so it must not be challenged. If you dare to oppose their agenda, they may well come after you or your child—not with pitchforks and torches, but with a court-issued summons.
The “brave” new doctors who recommend pumping children full of hormone blockers or mutilating their bodies are like the witch doctors of old. They mutter incantations (such as “social construct” and “gender dysphoria”), they wave their hypodermics to ward off skeptical thoughts, and, since they are considered the experts on everything from emotions to ethics, parents feel they have no choice but to let them go ahead with the ritual.
The word “primitive” is not necessarily a pejorative term. When applied to people who lived long ago or to people living today in isolated tribes in remote regions, it is simply a descriptive anthropological term for those who have never developed a civilization. But it’s another matter when civilized people fall back into primitive modes of thought and morality. In that case, the pejorative meaning is well deserved. They are, as Saint Paul said of those whose minds are darkened by sin, “without excuse.”
William Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies, gives us a picture of a rather rapid descent from civilization to savagery. Marooned on an island, all but a few of a group of English schoolboys are soon painting their bodies, wielding spears, and making offerings to an imaginary beast.
In the conclusion of the 1963 film version of the story, Ralph, the sole holdout for civilized ways, is being pursued by the pack of savage boys. Exhausted, he falls face down in the sand awaiting his fate. But when he looks up, he sees, towering over him, a British naval officer dressed in a dazzling white uniform—the personification of civilization, order, sanity, and security. And because Britain had not yet entered its post-Christian stage at that time, the officer might also be seen as a representative of God—the Christian God of justice and mercy.
Ralph begins to cry—presumably, for what has been lost and found again. So might we all cry over how much has already been lost of our Christian heritage. After we dry our tears, we must set about to regain it. The alternative is a rapid descent into darkness.
Editor’s note: Pictured above is a scene from the 1963 film version of Lord of the Flies.
William Kilpatrick taught for many years at Boston College. He is the author of several books about cultural and religious issues, including Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong; and Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Catholic World Report, National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Saint Austin Review, Investor’s Business Daily,and First Things. His work is supported in part by the Shillman Foundation. For more on his work and writings, visit his website, turningpointproject.com