Ideological Pluralism and Intolerance
Gary D. Knight, PhD
Some years ago I had a vivid dream, the sort that wakes you up, long remembering. I was in an open-air market festooned with fruit and produce, in arm’s reach of the pope as he approached a stand of cantaloupes and honey-dews. He selected a couple of choice melons which I knew to be tainted .. even poison. Gliding through the crowd I said “not these, holy father !”. Turning, he seemed to recognize the truth and, smiling, handed me the gourds and traced on my forehead the sign of the cross.
I am not greatly given to delusions, though I did pursue physics too long for one who, by the age of 50, had to admit I was outmaneuvered. That’s about when I paused to read the Shaggy Steed and shortly after, the Trouble with Physics; and it’s also about when this unheralded dream came back to mind. Were the poisonous fruits quantum physics and relativity? Not at all: on waking with a start, still ringing in my mind was the knowledge of one of those lethal melons: it was ‘pluralism’.
If physics was conceding to 97 % uncertainty about dark energy, I was surrendering a world-line, and what that did provide was off-time. So (and why not?) I began to query the semiotics of pluralism and pluralist. There was a plethora of media and sagacity taking pluralism as diversity: multiplicity, to be simple. Variegation of sexes, personalities, ethnicities and religions, self-identifications and all manner of indeterminism. At first therefore the word seemed harmless and even, like the word ‘catholic’, a positively inclusive thing to overcome exclusives like Greek or Jew, woman or man.
But in op eds on topics like intolerance or cultural imperialism or their political contraries: multiculturalism, open borders, non-discrimination, there recurred a tacit desideratum. More often than not an argumentative tone would rest on pluralism as a given or incontrovertible credit. Somewhere in the ring, pluralism began to sound like an ideology rather than plain facts of plural diversity.
In the two decade interim I saw pope Benedict XVI, initially ambiguous on ‘pluralist’ when he meant diverse and catholic, being taken as a conceding to ideological pluralism. Seeing the danger he adroitly addressed it: first in guarded comments about inequivalent and even bad variants of true religion, on the 50th anniversary of Vatican II’s convocation. In a 2016 private interview the pope emeritus was still clearer that the problem was pluralism as indifferentist ideology: [my italics for emphasis]
“Even less acceptable [than indifferentism and Christian anonymity arising from false irenicism] is the solution proposed by the pluralistic theories of religion, for which all religions, each in its own way, would be ways of salvation and, in this sense, must be considered equivalent in their effects”.
Benedict was addressing sacred theology rather than societal theory, but theology is the mother of all science.
To paraphrase St. Anthony of Padua, “humble devotion and prayer, gentleness and poverty of spirit come first, the sciences and polite arts after”. As to Anthony’s right to speak on knowledge, or science as natural philosophy, consider the panegyric verse that cardinal Guy de Montfort dedicated to the saint: “star of Spain, pearl of poverty, father of science, model of purity, light of Italy, teacher of divine truth, glory of Padua”. Humbly, Guy omitted “boast of France”.
The error of indifferentism is eschewed in the Church, as in the encyclical on ‘modernist’ errors, the syllabus and council texts where “false irenicism” received attention. Indifferentism can easily produce syncretistic coctails, of which liberation theology’s ‘weird combination of Christianity and Marxism’ is a prime example.
This aberration of demanding a naturalist ‘justice’, before there can be peace, is roundly condemned by pope Francis: “an ugly slavery we can fall prey to is that of considering that love must be deserved” he catechised. Had God used that yardstick, we’d never be saved.
Pluralist ideology vaunts a supervening idea that variance and variegation must remain ever thus, refusing to let competing ideas really compete or any to prevail. In this it has the religious fervour to insist on indifferentism. Ironically, so unlike religious or philosophical systems with tenets, mores, customs and counsels, to an inveterate pluralist there is no other doctrine than itself. In the supposed name of tolerance it is most radically intolerant.
Because enforced pluralism has to be radically intolerant (or it loses its raison d’etre), the politically correct class who embrace it must enact reverse discriminations and restraints. Pluralism forbids proselytization: to several grand religions their very essence or lifeblood. It redefines free speech, ‘the art of persuasion’, because to persuade is to convert, and to convert is to shift the balance from multiplicity of schools to either new consensus or to polarity.
The path to consensus is feared by pluralists because (a) it can end in polarization, as in present day U.S. media politics and (b) consensus may well see political ‘correctness’ as incorrect. For instance, the premise that subjects have a right to opt out of subjecthood by suicide may feasibly be seen as treasonable. To promote it may even be seen as seditious, with ‘live and let die’ pluralism brought under opprobrium. Better to not go there.
A road so taken may reveal that the goal of consensus by discovery or conversion was already in hand by quiet unchallenged force. It was not free, but as forced consensus it had as much overarching power as a violent dictatorship won bloodlessly (unless dissidents of the insignificant class – univocalists -- oppose it too strongly). Lest I speak in code, plainly I refer to the Quiet Revolution.
Once people were liberated of babies necessarily following coitus, they became unfree indeed: that’s like breaching the Aswan dam. To arrive at a new ethics that might justify their cataract of choices, including destruction of the unwanted, they had to sell out to ‘anything goes’: a few wars and a few drugs aided that process.
Where ideological pluralism, which lay at the helm of Redbook even when I was a kid, poses as defender of the democratic polity, one finds it is really the enemy of democratic freedom, of free ideas. Nothing could be more deadening of thought or genuine catholicity than this straitjacket. Its closest kin is socialism.
If “pluralist ideology” rawly skins the knuckles, “pluralism” can mollify like a casual conversation, where diversity and democratics are just nuances. So it is increasingly important to ask from context what is meant by “pluralism”; and lacuna is perilous. The various can be slipped in as credit for the inviolate. Get too used to seeing “pluralism” as multi-ethnicity, and you won’t notice when it turns into “multiculturalism”: a policy that in various incarnations has no true regard for culture, belief or persuasion.
In Canada for instance, heritage language schools and community programs are window dressing for the interests of cultural memory arising from many national pasts; they have no lasting viability for the furtherance and development of the represented cultures, be they far-off Ukrainian or nearby Inuit. This is a tragedy. Annual or biennial multicultural events in large cities just serve to showcase, ossify and fossilize the cultures whose expressions they caricature.
A reason for this inverted phenomenon is that a majority of the immigrant and founding cultures of a place like Canada have Christian or Judeo-Christian roots. Even if Eastern and Western derivatives and factions of Christianity aren’t kissing cousins, they concur on many tenets that fly against ideological pluralism, such as the tenet that biological sex or procreative polarity is given by nature, and indeed by God. Conveniently, the supposed relentless abuses of indigenous residents of Christian Brothers’ schools are overblown as reasons to discredit Judeo-Christian roots in Canada.
A pluralist bringing cultures across his borders under the pretense of freedom cannot brook their tenets having free rein: not even if they founded the as-yet not overturned principles of law and jurisprudence. A key principle is that no-one has a right to do evil: its denial is an unpardonable sin. But it has to be jettisoned in pluralism because what some call evil (say, terrorism) is to others a good (moral purification). To Malthus the evil of poverty is best addressed by starving it out. The god of Pluralism forbid that founding cultures obliterate terrorism, or Malthusian eugenics, because then it would have to surrender the shore of hegemony.
A reader on the run might think it is going too far to critique ideological pluralism, based as it is on so-called ‘higher criticism’ or Marxist theory. But stop and look. The principle that suicide should not be a constitutional right, lest the constitution be insane, must be repudiated if a supreme court wants to legitimate assisted suicide and euthanasia with such force as to overturn the right of physicians in conscience to be no party to these actions. What can it hide behind? Ideological pluralism: “to each his own”.
Pluralism must vary or look askance at requiring a more than two-thirds majority (two-thirds of the whole polity, if a plebiscite) to undo millennia-old constitutional claims that marriage is between a biological man and a biological woman. Not two out of three sane persons agree that a sound constitution can propound sexless marriage as a norm for future generations.
A pluralist indifferent to biology and to fundamental principles of continuance of a people or their constitution must set aside safeguards of sanity. He must go beyond the mere democratic ends of decriminalizing anything to be pitied: women who feel forced into abortions, the ill who feel nothing to live for, persons unable to find compatible opposite sex mates. He must instead criminalize and punish those who would continue to agitate and speak openly for their principles and against his ends.
Ideological pluralists must be atheistic to the bone, and dress up that refusal of belief as agnosticism: permanently unconvinced. Otherwise they’d not be invincibly ignorant of saint John Paul’s warning that holding sin as a right is on par with blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ scary statement that such turpitude cannot be forgiven mustn’t be allowed to penetrate their conscience.
To achieve that, one has to be trained on irreligious principles such as those governing much art criticism in the present day. At least one author describes Caravaggio’s meeting of Jesus and Thomas as homosexual – no quarter given to the possibility that Caravaggio could have any cathartic remorse about his own proclivities.
Augustine, remorseful of his opposite vice, doesn’t get a nod or mention in ideological pluralism, because he heads a lineage of “hammers of heretics” (St. Anthony winning that title in due course at a much younger age); and you see, heresy is just about the one honourable thing to the pluralist – unless it is a heresy against his system and its own hammer, political correctness.
Pluralists develop a trained eye to censor text and ‘narrative’ such as this, more swiftly and deftly than any ecclesial court of inquisition ever could. Prejudice paves the way of great efficiency at combatting dissidents through Human Rights Tribunals: even if one tribunal fails at its expensive job, another with a quick follow-up charge will succeed. Anti-semites have achieved this in Canada by declaiming those who declare them to be anti-semites.
What I am painting, I think fairly, is that ideological pluralism is as much the antiBride as Satan is the antiChrist. Perhaps I may say it is the antiBride’s sinisterial arm, where Marxist-feminism is the right; but if Feminism is the name of the other sour melon contemplated by John-Paul, I must leave that to another essay.