To this day we have not achieved a really native civilisation. Our art, morals, and religion, though deeply dyed in native feeling, are still only definable and, indeed, conceivable by reference to classic and alien standards. Among the northern races culture is even more artificial and superinduced than among the southern; whence the strange phenomenon of snobbery in society, affectation in art, and a violent contrast between the educated and the uneducated, the rich and the poor, classes that live on different intellectual planes and often have different religions. Some educated persons, accordingly, are merely students and imbibers; they sit at the feet of a past which, not being really theirs, can produce no fruit in them but sentimentality. Others are merely protestants; they are active in the moral sphere only by virtue of an inward rebellion against something greater and overshadowing, yet repulsive and alien. They are conscious truants from a foreign school of life.
[Protestantism's] true essence is not constituted by the Christian dogmas that at a given moment it chances to retain, but by the spirit in which it constantly challenges the others, by the expression it gives to personal integrity, to faith in conscience, to human instinct courageously meeting the world. It rebels, for instance, against the Catholic system of measurable sins and merits, with rewards and punishments legally adjusted and controlled by priestly as well as by divine prerogative. Such a supernatural mechanism seems to an independent and uncowed nature a profanation and an imposture. Away, it says, with all intermediaries between the soul and God, with all meddlesome priestcraft and all mechanical salvation. Salvation shall be by faith alone, that is, by an attitude and sentiment private to the spirit, by an inner co-operation of man with the world. The Church shall be invisible, constituted by all those who possess this necessary faith and by no others. It really follows from this, although the conclusion may not be immediately drawn, that religion is not an adjustment to other facts or powers, or to other possibilities, than those met with in daily life and in surrounding nature, but is rather a spiritual adjustment to natural life, an insight into its principles, by which a man learns to identify himself with the cosmic power and to share its multifarious business no less than its ulterior security and calm.
Socrates and Plato] were political philosophers by tradition, being Greeks, but private moralists by vocation, and it is only to private morality that their system really applies. In the 'Republic' the problem is how to save the soul, and the political discussion is introduced only as a great parable, because the public in those pre-Christian days had a keener sense for political than for spiritual perfection. What enabled Socrates and Plato to apply their personal morality in the gross, and to imagine that they had a political system as well as a spiritual one, was a triple oversight on their part. In the first place they thought that scientific knowledge of nature was impossible, or at least irrelevant to the government of life and to the right choice of ideals. In the next place, unlike the Indians, they overlooked the whole non-human creation. Finally they assumed that human nature was single, definite, and invariable. If appearance, tradition, and religious faith enlightened us sufficiently about the universe, if no beings counted except the human, and all human beings were essentially identical with ourselves, then, indeed, the morality of the single soul would cover all public morality: all men, to be good, would need to follow the same precepts, and if all men were good, society would be perfect.
This is the chief error of fact in my critics. They are positivists; apparently know nothing of poetry, history, or religion except their physical obstructive presence as words, events, and ceremonies. But I never, not in my earliest boyhood, was superstitious. I never expected fictions to interfere with or prolong physical processes. In this sense I never believe in another world that coexisted with this one. What I suffered from was distaste for this world, and liking in pure speculation, in a sort [of] challenge, to say "Life is a Dream". It was not the Bible stories or the Church dogmas that troubled me. I was perfectly at home with them; but being dreams, and exercising no compulsion over me or my actions, they were all more or less welcome, according to the imagination and emotion that belonged to them, as to Greek or Shakespearean tragedies[.] The idea of your friend (and of all positivists) that it is the outside, the cultus, that attaches people to the Church is based simply on ignorance. Most Catholic crowds have little aesthetic perception; but they have dramatic sympathy; they feel the catharsis of the passions evoked, and the ceremonies merely stage the play that fills the imagination. But when people have no imagination (or take such as they have for true knowledge of fact) they cannot conceive anything of human importance, history, poetry, religion, or art, as anything but true or false reporting of physical events in our world. If our world was a dream (and so it actually is in its sensuous or imaginative dimensions) it will vanish for each of us when we die. Nothing will probably succeed it for us: but other dreams are probably present to spirit at other times, seeming other worlds. Our good dreams (poetry) are, however, a part of our world, its best part, because they are focussed on what is, for us, most congenial. There is therefore no conflict in a disillusioned mind, between science and poetry, or religion well understood.
Indeed, custom in most communities is far more sacred and unbreakable than law, and some spontaneous authority, chieftain, prophet, or boss is more respected than the government. Political institutions do not serve to establish the ascendency of rules in society; they serve merely to register this ascendency or to apply it in detail, or determine it precisely in debatable instances. It is for this reason, doubtless, that politics seem to deal so preponderantly with questions of men and methods; large questions of policy and of human ideals are settled behind the politician's back by the growth of social institutions. The monarchy, the town meeting, the Church, the army, the family, property, justice, all arise and are virtually in operation before a law or an explicit agreement consecrates or defines them; and the history of politics is accordingly reduced almost entirely to the compromises and transitions between ruling interests when they conflict openly and threaten a civil war.
The power of political correctness is wielded not only against the faculty, however, but also against other groups within the student body, ones who don’t belong to the ideologically privileged demographics or espouse the approved points of view: conservative students; religious students, particularly Christians; students who identify as Zionists, a category that includes a lot of Jewish students; “athletes,” meaning white male athletes; white students from red states; heterosexual cisgendered white men from anywhere at all, who represent, depending on the school, between a fifth and a third of all students. (I say this, by the way, as an atheist, a democratic socialist, a native northeasterner, a person who believes that colleges should not have sports teams in the first place—and in case it isn’t obvious by now, a card-carrying member of the liberal elite.) I haven’t heard too many people talk about creating safe spaces for Christians, or preventing micro-aggressions against conservatives, or banning hate speech against athletes, or disinviting socialists.
There are pessimists who hold that such a state of affairs is necessarilyinherent in human nature; it is those who propound such views that arethe enemies of true religion, for they imply thereby that religious teachingsare utopian ideals and unsuited to afford guidance in human affairs. Thestudy of the social patterns in certain so-called primitive cultures, however,seems to have made it sufficiently evident that such a defeatist view iswholly unwarranted. Whoever is concerned with this problem, a crucial onein the study of religion as such, is advised to read the description ofthe Pueblo Indians in Ruth Benedict's book, .Under the hardest living conditions, this tribe has apparently accomplishedthe difficult task of delivering its people from the scourge of competitivespirit and of fostering in it a temperate, cooperative conduct of life,free of external pressure and without any curtailment of happiness.
But it isn’t simply the admissions process. The culture of political correctness, the religion of the fancy private colleges, provides the affluent white and Asian students who make up the preponderant majority of their student bodies, and the affluent white and Asian professionals who make up the preponderant majority of their tenured faculty and managerial staffs, with the ideological resources to alibi or erase their privilege. It enables them to tell themselves that they are children of the light—part of the solution to our social ills, not an integral component of the problem. It may speak about dismantling the elite, but its real purpose is to flatter it.
If it is one of the goals of religion to liberate mankind as far aspossible from the bondage of egocentric cravings, desires, and fears, scientificreasoning can aid religion in yet another sense. Although it is true thatit is the goal of science to discover rules which permit the associationand foretelling of facts, this is not its only aim. It also seeks to reducethe connections discovered to the smallest possible number of mutuallyindependent conceptual elements. It is in this striving after the rationalunification of the manifold that it encounters its greatest successes,even though it is precisely this attempt which causes it to run the greatestrisk of falling a prey to illusions. But whoever has undergone the intenseexperience of successful advances made in this domain is moved by profoundreverence for the rationality made manifest in existence. By way of theunderstanding he achieves a far-reaching emancipation from the shacklesof personal hopes and desires, and thereby attains that humble attitudeof mind toward the grandeur of reason incarnate in existence, and which,in its profoundest depths, is inaccessible to man. This attitude, however,appears to me to be religious, in the highest sense of the word. And soit seems to me that science not only purifies the religious impulse ofthe dross of its anthropomorphism but also contributes to a religious spiritualizationof our understanding of life.
And here we come to the connection between the religion of success and the religion of political correctness. Political correctness is a fig leaf for the competitive individualism of meritocratic neoliberalism, with its worship of success above all. It provides a moral cover beneath which undergraduates can prosecute their careerist projects undisturbed. Student existence may be understood as largely separated into two non-communicating realms: campus social life (including the classroom understood as a collective space), where the enforcement of political correctness is designed to create an emotionally unthreatening environment; and the individual pursuit of personal advancement, the real business going forward. The moral commitments of the first (which are often transient in any case) are safely isolated from the second.