Some of the more pedantic and narrow-minded attacks on institutional religion focus on poking holes in the metaphysical and historical claims made rather than resisting the totalitarian premises of celestial dictatorship. What these epistemological criticisms always sidestep is the enormous ontological, existential, and ultimately practical roles religion memetically evolved to play in ordinary life. Judaism’s rituals, such as the bar mitzvah, are as much about doctrine as they are about investing in human capital through a tradition of confronting the sacred text, which trains a mind in a dialectical interpretation of the natural Law, a conversation with God. In the Age of Aquinas, the Catholic Church was not only seen as the repository of answers to those deep mysteries that gnaw at the soul, but also as the primary institution which trained the next generation, the cultural conduit which passed down the wisdom of the ancients. These religious traditions were much more pragmatic than idealistic, a way to bootstrap our species of primate out of Documentation By Folklore by accumulating their wisdon in the Canon.
After the Reformation paved the way for the Enlightenment, secular philosophy and the academy stepped in to crowd out the ontology of the religious, primarily targeting that idealistic realm of abstraction while leaving the pragmatic prescriptions to those best practices that had been cultivated over millenia. What continued to animate the institution is a yearning to align oneself with an Order outside of space and time that quelled Chaos. The difference between the physicist looking for a grand unified theory and the theologian searching for God is one of means, not ends, and those cocksure secular intellectuals who fancy themselves free from a higher authority and pity those helpless rubes who require the consolation of the divine betray themselves when they dive headfirst into metaphysical quests of their own. This dogmatism leaves them just as vulnerable to the skeptical as any evangelizing missionary. The Hegels, Marxes and Nietzsches wreak havoc on the souls of those unprepared for the assault of the (usually German) nihilist. While Russell smugly condescended upon the metaphysics of old, Godel annihilated those formal systems he brashly thought could replace them.
In replacing the priests with the professors, one can say we have utterly missed the point. A culture which replaces “God says” with “Science says” and “as we can clearly read in Leviticus” with “studies show” has completely ignored the ideas which ushered in our physical and mental uprising associated with the artistic spirit of the Renaissance, the escape from hunger and premature death enabled by the Industrial Revolution, and the liberal embrace of the individual as the sovereign of the state rather than the subject that we saw in America and France. Those who see this as simply a new source of unquestioned credentials are feckless dilettantes who can’t be bothered to think for themselves at best, and subversive agents of domination at worst. The only authority “science” has is that beautiful mistress Nature, who like any woman worth our time leads us to believe we have Her figured out just so that She can pull the rug out from under us and continue the seductive game of cat and mouse which keeps us captivated with Her mystery. Science is not a body of knowledge you cite, it is a mechanism in which you acquire it.
However, those that buy into our new bosses, same as old, have formed an Ivory Elite coalition, and what these institutions have now become is a training ground for a political school of Resentment, a clan of pseudo-intellectual, silver-spooned, status-seeking, self-aggrandizing charlatans looking for excuses to anonymously assault easy targets and appropriate a struggle they know nothing about. It is the rage of the entitled which has inflicted the human condition since Cain and Abel, a timeless meme constructed precisely to warn us of this temptation these contemptible identitarians have willfully destroyed, and the second the Torah preserved in the Canon. The goal of these tribal and postmodern troglodytes is to undermine the exchange of ideas and replace it with the elevation of immutable identity, which throws us back to an age of conflict resolution where we cannabalize those who aren’t in our group alive, and they are succeeding beyond their wildest dreams, unapologetically tearing down the norms of civil society which have brought us here in the process.
We are left with the church of academia, the route to secular salvation, and if only you follow its definite procedures, you will be saved.