The Replacement Religions Of The West

Western civilization formed in the wake of Rome, based mainly upon Christian ideals. And because of those ideals, Europe became vastly different from Rome. Most overtly, Western civilization ejected slavery from Europe. To put it simply, European Christians replaced slavery (the economic driver of Rome and of more or less every civilization up to that time), with a version of free-market capitalism.

These facts aren’t honestly arguable, presuming that one looks at the facts rather than beloved dogmas. The population of the Western Roman Empire was roughly 25% slave in 476 AD, the traditional date of its end. By 1000 AD that percentage was down to roughly zero.

The reason slavery was ejected from Europe was clearly not Roman or Greek ideas: those were proud slave societies. Slavery was ejected because Christianity insisted that all men were brothers. The usual muddiness and complications of human behavior aside, it was this ethic that made it happen.

Western civilization, then, was a Christian capitalist civilization, and remained so for a long time. This is not to say, of course, that European Christianity was ever pure. The teachings of Jesus were deeply compromised by the end of the first century, let alone the fifth or eighth or twelfth.  Nonetheless, this religion carried important ideas, and those were enough to deliver progress.

The Big Change

The big change to Western civilization began in the late Middle Ages. There is far too much to explain here, but a primary factor was the Church (the centralized one in Rome) losing legitimacy and the rising states (previously wildly decentralized) fighting to capture it.

Into this mess came religious and scientific revolutions, both of which were used by centralizing powers to champion themselves. The religious revolutionaries fought to change Christianity and the newly arising states fought to disempower the Church. (Though some joined with it.)

The scientific revolutionaries first treated religion as a personal matter. Then, after about 1750, the destruction of religion came to the fore, and of Christianity in particular. Personal choice was no longer enough and attacking belief was required for membership in the club.

This is a tremendous simplification, of course, but as a general description it stands. And since that time Christianity has been steadily pushed out of Western civilization.

The Problem

Such a movement, and especially one embodying the urge to tear down, involves many problems, but the crucial one is this: It pulled down Christian ethics and replaced them with almost nothing.

I can well understand complaints about the Church and what was portrayed as Christianity, but tearing down is juvenile and barbaric. A sensible person does not seek to tear the heart out of a civilization and to replace it with nothing.

Nonetheless, this is what the late Enlightenment did and what its intellectual heirs have continued. As a result, the philosophies that replaced Christianity in the West’s centers of learning have been Marxist-Leninism, cultural Marxism, postmodernism and deconstructionism. To call these ideologies misanthropic would be a tremendous understatement.

Enter The Replacement Religions

Carl Jung made a very important point when he wrote this in The Undiscovered Self:

You can take away a man’s gods, but only to give him others in return.

Whatever reasons stand behind this, it is a broadly true statement. Moreover, the post-Enlightenment philosophies that have reigned in Western institutions have negated the individual: atomized them, minimized them, and made their individual lives meaningless.

As a result, Westerners have gone after one replacement religion after another. These weren’t called religions, of course (that would be the brand of death in the current environment), but they were clearly religions in substance.

The first was the French Revolution, but we won’t take time for that. The next big one was communism/socialism, which ended (we may hope) with the greatest death toll in human history.

In recent times we’ve had several flavors of “save the planet,” with a quasi-scientific clergy (hint: consensus is not science) and lots of harsh dogma, leading as it does to heretic hunting. Disagreement is now being punished and echoes of the Middle Ages are coming forward.

For all its errors, Christianity generally maintained that all humans were children of God, a belief that elevated and dignified the individual. None of the replacement religions have done that. Rather, they glorified and dignified the collective or the institution, relegating individuals to outer realms of stupidity and depravity.

And Now?

Now we can choose.

We can join with the new dogma and continue in its long parade of tearing down and collectivizing. Or, we can return to the dignity of the individual.

If we wish, we can work to upgrade Christianity or its close cousin, Judaism. Or, we can choose any number of decentralizing ventures, which, by their very nature, disempower the collective and dignify the individual.

In other words, we can think for ourselves and choose from an unrestricted pallet. Then, once our understanding improves, we can choose again. And as it improves yet more, we can choose again.

But perhaps most importantly, we can recognize our mutual dignity and value: The beauty and potential of the individual, separate from and above any institution and any collective.


If you want a deeper understanding of these issues, see:

FMP issue #70

FMP issue #90

Parallel Society issue #5

Production Versus Plunder

Discourses On Judaism, Jesus And Christianity

Paul Rosenberg

Justice Without State

justiceYou always know you’re venturing into interesting territory when you arouse defenses like “Because!,” “You’re an idiot,” or “Everyone knows…”

Such are the defenses that pop up when touching the concept of justice separate from the state. It was, in my experience, something of a verboten subject, considered ridiculous and rude at the same time. It was – again in my personal experience – something that everyone just “knew” was impossible and which they also knew was dangerous.

And yet, they had no real reasons upholding their opinions. Certainly they struggled to assemble reasons once I said, “I don’t think so” (humans are really good at that), but it was very clear that the decision was made first and the facts assembled second.

I was thrust into this subject quite a few years ago, as cypherpunk projects ran into the reality that humans are unfinished creatures and sometimes end up in disputes with each other. Once cyberspace appeared, quite a few of us realized that it was a kind of terra nova, the first new continent opening since 1492. (1606 for Australia.) We wanted to do something good with it, something better than the territorial overlords were doing to humanity.

To give you some feel for the moment, here is a passage from J.P. Barlow’s A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, published in 1996:

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

So, with a separation imperative in mind, we were confronted with the fact that some kind of law or justice service was necessary. And so, I began digging into the subject.

What I Found

I learned that justice without state was common throughout history. And more than that, it seemed to have worked quite well over long periods of time. That seems utterly impossible to any mind that has gone through the modern school “curriculum,” but the facts remain, no matter how many knees may jerk at the thought.

Here, briefly, are some of the instances I found:

The Greek reset and the early Hebrews

At about 1200 B.C., nearly every civilization in the Eastern Mediterranean was plucked out by the roots. (Egypt just barely survived.) Then, for some 400 years, government was all but absent, and the cultures reset. This is commonly called the dark ages of the Greeks.

During this period, Greek law was nonexistent, and justice was handled almost on a family level. We haven’t a great deal of written matter from the Greeks, but we do from the early Hebrew civilization, which thrived during this window of time.

The early Hebrews – for some number of centuries – were a tribal anarchy, with no state at all. Aside from religious rules, their “laws” amounted to don’t lie, steal, or kill; don’t oppress the weak; don’t speak derogatorily of others; don’t take revenge; and don’t hold a grudge. And they were far more interested in justice than in law. For example, we find these passages in their earliest writings:

Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.

Justice, justice shalt thou pursue.

Early medievals

After the fall of Rome, Europe had its reset period. And during this time, the many towns of Europe all developed and enforced their own justice. As historian R.H.C. Davis writes:

Even the law might change from village to village; a thirteenth-century judge pointed out that in the various counties, cities, boroughs, and townships of England he had always to ask what was the local customary law and how it was employed before he could successfully try a case.

Historian Chris Wickham explains what these people did, then provides a nice example from a French town:

When disputes were dealt with, it was the villagers who reached judgment; they also acted as oath-swearers for the disputing parties, as sureties to ensure that losers accepted defeat.

In one notable case of 858 in the plebs of Treal, [a man named] Anau had tried to kill Anauhoiarn, a priest of the monastery of Redon, and had to give a vineyard to Redon in compensations, as an alternative to losing his right hand; here, six sureties were named, and could kill him if he tried such a thing again… most judgment-finders and sureties were peasants; the villages around Redon policed themselves.

So, even the hard case of attempted murder was dealt with quite well by the locals of a “Dark Ages” town in rural France. There is absolutely no reason to believe that we couldn’t do as well.

The Vehm

By about 900 A.D., the people of Westphalia (now Germany) were operating their own justice system, even though there were (at least intermittently) princes in the area who wouldn’t like it. Running what they called “Vehm” courts, they issued warnings to troublemakers, issued warrants, and occasionally had to execute someone.

The Vehm did have secret trials but only as necessary. Their meeting places were always known to the locals, and they never used torture, even though the princes did.

The Vehm was taken over by the state in 1180 A.D.

Lex Mercatoria

The great medieval trade fairs had their own system of justice called the Lex Mercatoria or Law Merchant. Separate from state justice, it operated quite well over a long period of time. Eventually, however, the states took it over and more or less rolled it into their systems of law.

Jewish self-rule
As historian Paul Johnson writes in A History of the Jews:

The Jews always ran their own schools, courts, hospitals and social services. They appointed and paid for their own officials, rabbis, judges… Wherever they were, the Jews formed tiny states within states.

Under less-than-hospitable conditions, Jewish self-rule, including the provision of justice, thrived from the fall of Rome until just the past few centuries.


Right now, arbitration – more properly known as alternative dispute resolution or ADR – is thriving as an alternative to state justice, which has become so expensive and cumbersome as to be impractical. This is true for high-end commerce, for labor disagreements, and down to the level of disputes among construction contractors.

ADR works very well and is far less expensive than government justice. It is restricted only by governments, who enforce specific limits.


Right now there are quite a few Internet arbitration providers. They stand in a fairly murky area, but the states haven’t clamped down on them yet. I haven’t had any experience with them, but so far as I know, they provide good service.

And Compared to What?

Whenever something new comes along – like providing justice outside of state power – people instinctively look for flaws in it. Then, finding even one, they leap to the conclusion that “it won’t work.”

The truth, of course, is that the current systems of law are full of flaws from end to end. They are corruptly applied; laws are bought and sold; they are insanely expensive; and they are unforgivably slow. And perhaps worse, they change with every new session of the legislature.

So, if we are to take perfection as a standard, state-provided justice fails, and very, very badly.

Why All the Hate?

Having given you a quick overview of non-state justice, the question remains as to why modern people are so biased against the very concept. To answer that question, at least partly, I leave you with a short passage from Carl Jung’s The Undiscovered Self:

[I]n order to turn the individual into a function of the state, his dependence on anything beside the state must be taken from him.

Paul Rosenberg

We Need to Get Past Our Gurus


Two friends of mine have recently written articles on the subject of famous leaders, or gurus. I would like to add my hearty agreement to their messages. In particular, I want to stress that clinging to gurus makes things worse, not better. Following a guru is a downward path, not an upward path.

Specialists: Healthy and Otherwise

There is a serious difference between appreciating someone’s work and hanging on their every word and joining yourself to their cause. The first is healthy; the second is not.

There are some of us who specialize in patching ideas together in new and useful ways. And let me tell you, it’s not easy work… and I think it’s important that the people who do such work should be paid for it.

That’s why, for example, I charge for my monthly newsletter – it’s a lot of work, and I have bills to pay like everyone else. (It’s also why I’ve paid other newsletter writers for their work, over many years.)

But even in my favorite case, where you all buy my monthly newsletter, I should not be your guru – I’m just a guy doing an unusual job. If I do my job well, I provide you with useful ideas, which will improve your mind and your life. That’s worthy of respect, but it is not something that anyone should blindly follow.

The things that I say (or that anyone says) should never be considered right just because we say them, but rather because they make sense, are supported by evidence, and so on.

My job is to provide you with good ideas. Your job is to recognize them and internalize them – to build them into yourself. Both sides of that equation are necessary.

The Subversion of the Gurus

The more guru-ish someone is, the more likely they are to go off the edge. For example, consider what the two articles I mentioned above have to say:

David Galland writes this:

You see, the truth about Gurus is that they’re mere mortals. Which is to say they have good points to their personalities, and they have flaws. Unfortunately, the grander their Guru status, the most enhanced are their flaws.

Julia Tourianski, whose experience was in some ways worse, writes this:

The preachers, the activists, the writers, the videographers, the organizers, the youtubers; I’ve met you all, and many of you have shaken my assumption in the good of the human being. You do not believe in freedom, you believe in exploiting fringe thought for clicks and semi-internet-fame.

And, as such things tend to do, guru worship frequently ends with perverted gurus.

David reports:

One of the stellar Gurus of the day was in the habit of sitting in his hotel room with a bottle of whiskey, drinking himself senseless and then calling for maid service. When the maid opened the door, she would find him parked naked in a chair facing the door, bottle in one hand and his manhood in the other. Since he was a noted VIP, the hotel would have the courtesy of calling me rather than the police, and I had the pleasure of admonishing him to cease.

And Julia notes:

Do not promote a female counterpart’s work in order to later guilt her into dating and/or sleeping with you.

Don’t use your fame to go on sexual rampages after your divorce while calling the women you sleep with “sluts” to your male colleagues.

Why the Gurus Keep Coming

We can expose one guru after another, but so long as people keep looking for them, a new guru will always follow the fallen guru.

The truth is this: It’s the fawning group members who make the guru. Without a willing crowd, the guru – no matter how much he or she craves fame – would be left standing alone.

Far too many people look for the easy way through life. And taking what the guru says as gospel saves them from the work of thinking and the responsibility of forming conclusions.

Added to this is the usual group problem: Being a member of a group gives you instant acceptance and instant self-esteem. It’s the same trick that keeps people emotionally chained to governments. By joining yourself to the larger and nobler entity, you save yourself the hard work of improving yourself.

It’s easy to forget about your problems when wrapped in a group.

Serious thinking is hard work, and improving yourself is hard work. It’s easier to pick up the gospel from the guru and join his parade. But that’s also fake, and it sidetracks you from bettering yourself for real.

The Point…

The point here is that the guru model is degenerate. It bears bad fruit. We may have different jobs that we do, but that doesn’t place anyone on a pedestal.

Listen to the specialist, and if you think they’re doing their job well, respect them for it. But your role is not to idolize them, and definitely not to petition for membership in their crowd.

Your role is to internalize the good ideas they bring to you… and then to use them in the world.

Unless your interaction with a teacher ends with you improving and acting on your own, there is little point to the exercise.

Paul Rosenberg