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Originally published at Sultan Knish.

For most of human history, men and women have derived their moral dimension of life from the family and religion. Both of those are now dead or dying in the West under the influence of its new moral and ethical system. That system is one that we know in its various forms as the left.


The left can be summed up as moral materialism. It is a secular religion that claims to add a moral dimension to materialism. Its obsessions are largely economic, from its early class warfare focus to its modern environmentalism. Even its racial politics code class warfare by skin color.

Kill off religion and what do you have left? The answer can be seen in China. You’re left with materialism and family interests.. Cast off the shackles of the family for individualistic consumerism and you’re left with nothing except materialism as can be seen in any major Western city.

Modern urban man is much too “smart” for religion. At least his own. He wants to add an ethical dimension to life without having to believe in anything except the sense of fairness that he already has, but which he does not realize is not nearly as valid objectively as it is subjectively in his inner emotional reality.

And that is what the left is. It strips away everything except that egotistical sense that things should be run more fairly with predictably unfair results.

Liberalism, and the milder flavors of the left, provide a permission slip for materialism by elevating it through political activism. This is the philosophical purpose of environmentalism’s green label. It tells you that you are a good person for buying something and soothes the moral anxieties of an urban class with no coherent moral system except the need to impose an ethical order on the consumerism that defined their childhood, their adolescence and their adult life.

Those most in need of the moral system of materialism are the descendants of the displaced, whether by immigration to the United States or migration within the United States from rural to urban areas, who have become detached from a large extended family structure that once sustained them.

Their grandparents had already loosened their grip on religion and as the family disintegrated, materialism took its place. Their grandparents worked hard to provide for their children, but the children no longer saw maintaining the family as a moral activity. Sometimes they didn’t even bother with a family. They became lonely individuals looking for a collective. A virtual political family.

Liberalism fills the missing space once inhabited by religion and the family. It provides a moral and ethical system as religion did and the accompanying sense of purpose and its state institutions replace and supplant the family. It does both of these things destructively and badly as its institutions forever try to patch social problems created by the disintegration of the family and its ideas provide too few people with a sense of purpose of a meaningful life.

And yet it isn’t entirely to blame for this state of affairs. The left has actively tried to destroy the family and religion, but the American liberal was until recently less guilty on both charges. His main crime was collaborating with the left while refusing to acknowledge its destructive aims. The process by which the displacement of liberal ideas and their replacement by the ideas of the far left is nearly complete. The American liberal is now an aging relic. In his place is the resentful radical.

The process that led to this state of affairs isn’t the left’s fault either. Even if it’s not for lack of trying. In some ways the left isn’t the problem, it’s a symptom of the problem. Its ability to fundamentally transform people is limited. The transformation that has occurred is because of the choices that people have been led into making trading religion and family for a dead end materialism. Those choices evolved organically from the natural direction of society and technology.


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Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli born blogger and columnist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. His work covers American, European and Israeli politics as well as the War on Terror. His writing can be found at These opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.


  1. This article is not about religion, but politics. Yes, there is a baby in all this bath water, so let's not throw it out. Yes, there is a secular religion of the left, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with materialism. Materialism can be found from enclaves of the far left all the way to the shack in the mountains of the far right. It is no less existent in socialism than in capitalism. The truth is that adherents to a dominant secular philosophy have replaced G-d and family with their pet notions derived from who-knows-where, certainly their own personal agenda and that of those with whom they choose to canoodle. These agendas have replaced the divine in their lives and have becomes idols for destruction.

  2. Certainly, Mr. Greenfield does not me to feel guilty for eating organic spinach, so why go there? Beyond this the article reminds me of a painter who worked near my crew when I was a general contractor. The painter went through twice as much paint in the same time as our painter, but most of it splattered about the area, and our painter completed his task in better time. Our painter took the time to mask off the areas not to be painted, and had very little clean-up.

  3. A very interesting article you've written here Daniel. It was difficult for me to understand it well because I am a simple man, and your extravagant use of words kind of gave me what I call, 'information constipation'. I do thank you for your revealing perspective. Shalom.

  4. Interesting article. The breakdown of the traditional family as the 'norm' has led to many social ills. Ironically, the left has adopted religions like global warming and same sex marriage. It brooks no dissent or debate to its truths. Foul mouthed abuse is hurled at heretics who are not on message. Or their views are deleted, a regular practice of the UK Guardian comment section – secular left-wing liberalism at its most pungent.

  5. Leftist policies abandon an over-arching moral code for a personal moral code. Which is anything that you want it to be. Few can be moral in the eyes of God on their own. Most personal moral codes are based upon the selfishness of the individual to the exclusion of all others. This is the failure of Communism, Socialism, Progressivism, and all other leftist policies. They declare moralism to be subjective to the needs of the moment. They speak of freeing the individual, while ultimately enslaving him and society in totalitarianism.

    Look at the Ten Commandments. They pretty much are rules against selfishness. The Scriptures seek to free the individual from the slavery of the self. The yoke to bear, which is light indeed, is one of personal responsibility. To be irresponsible is to be a slave to your own selfishness and insatiable desires. This is the harder path to take, and it is a byway, a dead end, full of stumbling blocks.

    Liberalism speaks of freedom, while enslaving the individual to Sheol. The Scriptures speak of faith and obedience, the light yoke, which ultimately free the individual to walk in tandem with God.

  6. You can't violate separation of church and state if you are not technically a church, so an ethical system not linked to religion has more room to move. But while leftists want to control our purchases for whatever reasons, I don't believe the right really cares if Joe Schmo has to pay $1 for a loaf of bread or $11. If either side really cared, they'd do more to prevent inflation to preserve the working family's freedoms which are restricted by their shrinking purchasing power.

    But let's go easy on the good, green tech and techniques. So maybe some things shouldn't be mandated, but it doesn't mean those things aren't good ideas, like being able to eat food without getting cancer or not burning a ton of coal to light your house for the night.

  7. I'm NOT saying in any way that every country which has deep relgious roots or a high rate of religious people is doing worse than an atheist country.

    But: I'm just saying: It all depends on the -examples-!

    This article considers China one of the best examples for an atheist country, but that's hugely manipulating. Their government never forced a religion on them in the early centuries and even today it doesn't encourage religion that is true.

    Still every third inhabitant of China does -believe- in a God.

    If you want examples for more atheist countries:

    You might want to look at Sweden. Only 18% of the Swedish people admit to believing in a God, according to the last survey I found. (So, almost 50% less than it was in China)

    The Swedish people I've met are proud of their country because in Sweden people are equal. Sweden tries to be neutral in wars (their deepest fault is to allow the Germans to pass throught their country in WW2, I give you than one) A country, which embraced female equality so much that it has one of the most balanced governments in the world. (I got some more personal impressions from friends who visited Göteborg last year – they told me they were amazed by how many families or only fathers they saw in the streets with their children every day, compared to Germany. So you can't tell me that they deny the value of family. On the contrary: Gay marriage for example is also perfectly legal in Sweden, while these people are often denied to build a family in more religious countries.)
    They do everything they can for their enviroment – because they want their world to be a better place for the next generations, even if they have economical disadvantages from it: They import garbage from Norway to recycle it.

    If you want an example for a horrible regime which really was one of the most atheist countries in the world: GDR – or East-Germany during the Cold War.

    And now some examples for religious countries: Saudi-Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia or the Vatican.

    See the point? The power of examples.

    There are also great countries which have a high rate of religous people:

    I've visited Poland, and I have hardly ever met nicer people in the world. They were open, they were polite, friendly, helpful and also very understanding. When I was lost – they went out of their way to help me. In Krakow – especially the old parts you will find no street which doesn't have a church. (It isn't seldom that there are more than one) And they too embrace family and morality.

    So: It all depends on your examples.

    On a personal level: I am an atheist. I donate money for the poor. I am against discrimination of every sort, I respect people's belief (Because I don't consider them any less of a human being, like many religious people do towards atheists). I'm not sure I can really be considered selfish.

    I know religious people who treat women like they are less intelligent or less capable of grasping what you're saying.

    But I've also met atheists who didn't believe in a God because they didn't care for any spiritual questions. (which I do – I read the bible, the Quran and I'm also interested in buddhism or Roman, Greek or Nordic mythology.)

    And I've met religious people, who hang out with atheists and people of other religions and just accepted the others.

    Why can't we accept that there are horrible, immoral beings who are religious and horrible, immoral beings who are atheist? And the same goes for goverments.

    (And yes, I know that most will think that atheists are more immoral than religious people. And every atheist who will read this will say that there have always been more religous people who acted immoral than there were atheists. But it's just childish)

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