“We are not religious,” screech the vulturine volt of jeering, sneering, secular, postmodern, cultural Marxists. The high priests of secularism are pious and pompous, even Pecksniffian, in their iconoclastic vandalism of religion and ritual. Yet, one week before Good Friday, they orgiastically partake in one of the oldest religious rituals—a rite going back three thousand years.
In this ancient rite, the people choose a goat. The high priest lays his hands on the goat’s head and confesses over it the sins of the people. He symbolically transfers the sins of the nation on to the goat and banishes it to the wilderness (where nothing human lives). William Tyndale, in his 1530 English translation of the Bible, coined the word “scapegoat” (literally the goat that escapes) for the animal.
In popular parlance, a scapegoat is one who is blamed or punished for the sins of others. Sir James Frazer, social anthropologist, in The Golden Bough (3rd edition)—his 12-volume study on comparative religions, titled Volume 9 The Scapegoat. He packed it with “countless instances of irrational mass violence against individuals, from all periods of history, and every imaginable country.”
There is another goat in this Yom Kippur ritual. This goat is slaughtered. Its blood is used to cleanse the “mercy seat” in the inner Tabernacle. This goat pays for the sins of the people with its life. Thus, the people ritually deal with their sins in two ways.
The new religion of progressivism both plagiarises and perverts the scapegoat ritual. It does this in three stages: first, it creates its own theology of sin. As sin is indispensable to understanding Judaism and Christianity, so the non-negotiable core of progressive religion is sin. As sin in Judaism and Christianity is rebellion against God and his commandments, so sin, in progressivism, is rebellion against prevailing orthodox Leftist doctrine. You commit sin by thought, word or deed—a thought crime or a speech crime is as heinous as the deed of murder. Worse, in Leftist religion, a thought or word crime is blasphemy.
In biblical hamartiology, anyone who hates his neighbour commits sin. In Leftist hamartiology, only some groups of people can be sinners; others are the sinned against. Only white, able-bodied, middle or upper class cisgender heterosexual males are capable of sinning. The sinned against are sacrificial victims on the totem pole of intersectional victimhood—women, gays, blacks, transgendered, Muslims, immigrants, etc. They are ontologically incapable of sinning. (The Left also has its own detailed hagiography and hierarchy of victim groups).
Second, progressive religion composes its own canonical list of sins. A decade ago, I saw how the Left had turned smoking into a sinful activity. It’s not that the Left regarded consuming tobacco as particularly injurious to health (if such were the case, the Left would rail against gay sex, transgender genital mutilation and puberty blockers and promiscuity leading to sexually transmitted diseases). Smoking was declared immoral and placed on the Index of Iniquities. Since the war against smoking began, anyone holding a fag, cigar or pipe has to shout “Unclean! Unclean!” like the lepers in Ben-Hur. They are cast into outer darkness where they shiver and await conversion therapy in the form of Nicorette.
Classical and biblical scholars delight in comparing virtue and vice lists in the Graeco-Roman world (Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, or the early Hellenists) and in the New Testament. Canonical sin lists abound in St Paul’s epistles. “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these,” writes Paul to the Galatians.
Progressive religion’s virtues lie in its sacred septet: equality of outcomes, inclusion, diversity, open borders, wealth re-distribution, pansexuality and one-world globalism. Its sin list is captured in Dennis Prager’s SIXHIRB acronym—sexism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, homophobia, intolerance, racism and bigotry.
Third, the scribes and Pharisees of progressive religion—Guardian columnists like Owen Jones and New Statesman hacks like George Eaton crooning Kumbaya in barbershop harmony with “evangelistic” organisations like Hope not Hate (or the US Southern Law Poverty Center) and Conservative-in-name-only (CINO) politicians, solemnly enact a liturgical ritual to cleanse the nation of sin.
They select an innocent scapegoat. They choose the choicest sins from their sin-list and lay it on the goat’s head. They whip the fakestream media-Twitter-Facebook mob into dervish-like hysteria with hi-decibel shouts of “Crucify him!” The scapegoat is expelled or slain and those who lead the goat to the wilderness cleanse themselves from this ritual decontamination by signalling their victory and virtue.
By slaying or excluding the goat the progressive priests have relieved the system of the need to examine real problems and their own part in these problems. They have also ritually provided simple solutions to complex problems.
One week before Good Friday, the prelates of progressive religion have chosen England’s greatest living philosopher Sir Roger Scruton as a scapegoat to make atonement for the nation’s sins of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and racism. All Scruton had described Islamophobia as a propaganda word “invented by the Muslim Brotherhood in order to stop discussion of a major issue,” he noted there was a George Soros empire in Hungary and he damned the Chinese government for turning its people into robots. Progressive puritans pronounced Scruton’s statements blasphemous for using the “language of white supremacists.”
The scapegoat is indeed innocent. Douglas Murray in The Spectator and Brendan O’Neill in Spiked Online have exonerated Scruton by debunking the fraudulent charges against him, fabricated by George Eaton’s deliberately distorted New Statesman interview. But this did not prevent Communities Secretary (what an awful title for a non-job!) James Brokenshire from shamelessly stripping Scruton of his position as chairman of the government Housing Commission.
Christians and Jews will be pleased to note that progressive religionists do observe their bastardized version of Good Friday and its scapegoating Day of Atonement ritual from the Old Testament.
In the Good Friday story, Jesus is the scapegoat who bears the sins of the people. The high priest Caiaphas emphasises “it is better that one man should die for the people.” Jesus is led outside the city to the equivalent of the garbage dump like the scapegoat. Jesus is also the sacrificial goat who is slain for the people’s sins.
Jesus is innocent. But his accusers bring three charges against him. Jesus is an ‘evildoer’ (John 18:30); Jesus has made himself ‘Son of God’ (John 19:7); Jesus claims to be ‘king’—a charge of high treason against the Roman Emperor (John 19:12). Three times Pilate the governor declares Jesus innocent: “I find no guilt in him” (John 18:38; 19:4, 6). But a scapegoat has to be found and the crowd chooses Jesus over the terrorist Barabbas.
In the Old Testament, the Leviticus scapegoat was no “victim of mob feeling” but carefully selected by casting lots. There is here no “spontaneous, uncontrolled, irrational act of mass aggression” but instead a deliberate act “limited in scope for the achievement of a definite end,” writes Frazer. Scruton’s scapegoating by the progressives fanatics is closer to the frenzied scene in the passion narratives of the New Testament.
“We are all religious now!” This should be the slogan that unifies us in today’s postmodern West. Progressivism is a religion. Its God is the totalitarian State. Its mission is Rudi Dutschke’s “der lange Marsch durch die Institutionen” (the long march through the institutions). Its apocalyptic narratives include the impending doom to be wrought by Brexit or global warming or populism or nationalism. Its heaven is the utopia of equal outcomes. Its sacrament is abortion, in the words of high priestess of abortion Ginette Paris. Its most sacred ritual is scapegoating.
Sadly, two aspects of biblical religion are missing from its oeuvre: the family as portrayed in the Adam and Eve archetype and the resurrection as seen as the ultimate victory and the glorious goal of humanity and creation.