Spandrell has a couple of posts positing that a new religion is needed as a means to head off the pending Islamisation of the west. Now, whilst I share his concerns about the shocking and stupid importation of populations more fecund then the host population, I disagree with absolutely everything else he wrote.
The first point of disagreement is with his conception of epistemic advantage. I don’t buy it. Ideas don’t win because they convince with their brilliant truth. There is a seriously suspect anthropology at work under that assumption, which fails to take into account actual events. I will go further and make the claim that there is a modernist liberal anthropology at work there which is based on liberal concepts of human interaction.
In reality, what succeeds is not premised on epistemic value, that is transparently false. What succeeds is what is of value to power systems within which they exist. In the first of the recent posts, Spandrell uses the example of the rise of Christianity. Now I have little knowledge of early Christianity, but given I hold to the premise that power determines culture, my first act was to have a look around the literature to see if The Iron Law of Rebellious Tools/ Moldbug’s para-alliance was applicable. It looks like it is applicable, and I would be interested to hear from anyone with a better grasp of the situation. There is an interesting looking book with the title “Constantine and the Bishops” by H.A.Drake which seems to indicate that Christianity was functionally controlled by bishops outside of the traditional Roman power structure who obtained Imperial grace as useful allies. There are even claims that power in the form of the emperor acted on which strains of Christianity were successful:
“His concern for order and stability within the empire also led him to intervene in internal Christian quarrels, the two most important of which were those involving the Arian heresy in the East and the Donatist schism in North Africa. Tracing how Constantine dealt with the two cases, Drake demonstrates that in both “he showed a consistent tendency to come down on the side of Christians who would be inclusive ” (p. 250). In dealing with Donatist rigorists, unyielding Arians, and purist Nicene fathers, Drake concludes, “Constantine favored not only peace and harmony but also inclusiveness and flexibility” (p. 271). The argument is that Constantine’s agenda was for “a moderate and inclusive Christianity, who would in turn be part of a coalition of Christians and pagans united behind a policy that provided a religiously neutral public space” (Ibid.). What happened in the later years of his reign, according to Drake, is that “Constantine lost control of the agenda, and, ultimately, … the message” (p. 272).
It would look to me as if we have unsecure power acting on culture for its own logical needs. It does not take a great leap of imagination to transport this mechanism to the present day, and look at the morphing of Christianity into tolerant, inclusive and flexible Unitarianism. Do you get Jim Jones without the power within which he operates supporting him? I don’t think so. Power dictates culture, culture does not dictate power.
Will the elite convert en-masse to Islam? no. If we all developed a sophisticated religion with all the bells and whistles we thought would help, would that help? no. Power would act on it to turn it inclusive, flexible and tolerant. This can be achieved by simply making any version of the religion which was not tolerant, illegal. This would occasion “moderates” who would make the religion “moderate” so that it could be practiced. These moderates would mysteriously find themselves wildly successful and flush with grants. Obviously because they have an epistemic advantage over the non-inclusive branches…
Nothing in politics wins because it was clearly true or patently more correct. Power determines it.
(I will leave comments open for any recommendations for books)