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The following is a piece I recently wrote to an old friend turned right-wing and religious:

Jim, my friend, there are some things which you do not seem to understand. The fact is that any large social group, whether a tribe or a nation, becomes controlled by strict adherence to a dogmatic “total system” (one which purports to explain and include everything) ideology – whether political/and/or religious – it inevitably evolves in the same way. That is, it becomes a tyrannical society controlled by an elite of the “purest” true believers who impose their “absolute truth” on all others, and punish all who do not strictly adhere to that “truth.” And, in so doing, it sows the seeds of destruction of that entire social group.

That lesson is repeated throughout history. Chinese society became dominated by Confucianism and became so rigidly dominated and controlled by a purist elite that the society became unable to adapt to changing circumstances and largely collapsed. In the Middle ages, the Christian church so dominated Europe that civilization stagnated, became more controlling and abusive, and declined. Islamic cultures became so rigidly controlled by religious dogma 6hat they have declined intellectually and economically and become abusive of their people. Communism inevitably become dominated by a purist ideological elite which tyrannically imposed its control on people, “for their own good.” And, with the collapse of the USSR, we have seen how communism has been largely discredited. I also fear that fundamentalistic religious ideology mixed with politics in Israel may threaten that state’s long term existence.

There are many values in a democratic society on which reasonable and rational people can and should agree –majority rule paired with upholding of the rights of the minority, treatment of all people, ethnic groups, and religious groups with full dignity and respect (so long as they extend the same treatment to others), among many other values. For a democratic society to function, its members must adhere to the core values, and try to find common ground on issues and values which are still in debate in a manner which seeks to further the welfare of all of the people and of the country as a whole. I have absolutely NO respect for any attempts to accomplish anything else in a political system. The simple fact is that many “tea party”, right-wing extremists, and religious zealots persistently violate the core values of democracy.

I am deeply troubled by dogmatic adherents to political, economic, and religious ideologists’ attempts to impose their “truth” on all others. I am especially troubled by the mixing of politics and absolutist religious zealotry. Given half a chance, many of those zealots will try to impose their points of view on all others, and will treat those “infidels” cruelly, labeling any disagreement as a mark of sin or even of Satan himself. And, if those “true believers”, if they mix religion, politics, and economics, as many “tea party” extremists do today, any political or economic disagreements will be also so grossly distorted and mislabeled. I do firmly believe that if we allow these ideological purists to gain control of our political system, they will – like the Russian communists – inevitably come to see themselves as guardians of the faith and rescuers of the nation and of the people who must control the people for their own good. They will become a tyrannical ruling class who will never willingly relinquish absolute control. And they will perpetrate unbelievable cruelties on any who dare to disagree. I will always fight against dogmatic ideologues of any stripe – political, religious, or economic – who attempt to impose their dogma on me or on our society.

The fact is that ideological (political, economical, or religious) purists act in a manner antithetical to a democratic society.

wordywalt 9 July 19

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Cool, although there's quite a bit of good feedback in the comments to make it more reader-friendly.

Amused by your apt username, btw.


Nice and interesting. I wish my Christian / Republican nephew could read this information. But I think that after reading this he will continue with his craziness thoughts.


All I know is that socialist ideas are one thing and a socialist government is yet another. Social security is OK and so is socialized medical care. Hard core conservatives fight it and the base reason is money. They claim it takes too much money while their basic plan is to continue making money in the current system. We have always had these ideas and put some of them to work for our betterment. Programs becoming the law of the land is OK. When these same programs govern the people it all goes rotten. This seems to be something that conservatives never catch on to. They cannot distinguish the difference.


Too long to read.
You need to distill it down to its essence.


Have you heard back from him yet?

Long ago. He hasn't changed, but I did not expect him to. I just wanted him to know what I think.


Excellent … however, why single out Russian communists? The advantage of totalitarian regimes is that they are honest about their intentions. They spell out clearly what the consequences of resistance are. So called democracies are far less sanguine in that regard. Take the current struggle in France where the government uses brut force against its citizens who are just engaging in legitimate resistance.
To may knowledge there is no nation that was born out of a peaceful ideal.

I did not single them out, but cited them as an example. Communism is a total system ideology which purports to include and explain everything. It also calls for a "dictatorship of the proletariat" by an ideological purist elite of true believers. That makes it a movement which totalitarian and which never relinquishes power voluntarily. That makes it one of the most destructive ideologies in human history.

@wordywalt Imperialism, mainly catholic imperialism, was pretty effective in decimating almost the entire population of what we now refer to as Latin America.
You jump from Russian communism to the "most destructive ideology in human history" …Are you sure that you are not singling out communism?
Do you know of many regimes that relinquished power voluntarily?

@PontifexMarximus I would recommend that you read Milovan Djilas's THE NEW CLASS.


I don't think you will convince your friend of anything unless you edit your very long and wordy rant to a very short and to the point statement that can be easily read by your pal in a couple of minutes.


well written but i think we're already there:
"They will become a tyrannical ruling class who will never willingly relinquish absolute control. And they will perpetrate unbelievable cruelties on any who dare to disagree."


very good analysis


You join a "group", your importance is diminished?

Please tell me what point you are trying to make. I will readily address it.

@wordywalt I was just thinking of rewriting it. "Groups" have control over the decision making process. We loose ours.

@PondartIncbendog I believe that we are all responsible for the decisions we make as individuals and for their consequences. However, we, as humans, are social creatures, and to create the things and standards we want, we must act in groups. What I object to is both the individual and the group giving away its freedom of choice and action by adhering to a dogmatic and false total system ideology.


You are definitely quite the wordsmith, and quite spot on.


You analyzed it so well...if we can’t get more balance in power with the Republicans, they could soon force their will on all of America!

Yes. And we are seeing that already.

Part of the problem is that most of them play to win, by almost any means, forget conscience or ethics, etc.... We liberals I think tend to be more conscientious to the point of always wanting to play fair, which seems to mean we sometimes lose. It's frustrating.

@bingst that is how i see it, too!


If your friend is in the grips of a dogmatic Total System, he won't be able to absorb a sentence that's more than 7 words long.

He has a PhD. He was much more objective in earlier years, but in his old age, and in a totally reactionary and racist community, he has regressed.

@wordywalt ,
in his old age he no longer bothers to hide what he always was.

@wordywalt you don't have to be brilliant to have a PhD, you have to have an aptitude in one subject AND you need someone in a position to sponsor you. (I lack the second). Your friend appears to have aptitude in something other than thinking.


If someone wrote me a letter and started it with “there are some things which you do not seem to understand”, then I would probably stop reading it.

Mu friend and I are direct and honest with each other. We don't have thin skin.

We must try to be open minded.


why are you so focused on now? this is a mere 70+ years. we're all going to the same destination and as awareness our final form is eternal. ride the wave and chill man. if people wanna get all bound up in some bullshit religion then more power to them. I get why abrahamics limit themselves to "one life", but why atheists persist in that belief afterwards astounds me.

Because they try to rule us. Our laws, our communities, our lives.

@PondartIncbendog I guess I have grown rather unattached to this life really. I don't think this is our ultimate form and I believe as consciousness we'll be eternal. so let them bicker over this pile of rubble they keep f*cking up anyway.


A well-written post. - May I boil the end game to a real and almost unbelievable absurdity that even your friend can recognize.
I have a friend who grew up in East Germany. As you know everything was heavily state-controlled. Only when the wall came down did she get to read "Winnie the Pooh" in its complete form. Before that Tigger had been removed, as the character was thought to be too subversive.
They did this because they were convinced that it was for everyone's good and that they were in the right.

I was in Berlin before and after the Wall went up. The East German government was a puppet regime installed by the Russians and kept in place by between 200,000 and 300,000 Russian troops stationed in East Germany. In 1962. You would not believe how repressive the atmosphere was. The streets were crawling with Vopo (border politic), Vopos (state police), and Russian solders armed with submachine guns. Where were few people on the streets. No one Smiled. There was no conversation in public. It was the result of extreme total ideology.

@wordywalt I can well believe you. One big thing that they could not stop was music. My friend learnt English off Beatles records, (Hence she now lives in Liverpool). Although she did tell me that living under that regime she had the benefit of a kind of spiritual wellbeing. However harsh, oppressive it was and despite the deprivation. There was the feeling that it was for the benefit of all. Total tosh of course but that's what it's like when you in the middle of it.

@wordywalt Have you watched : The Lives of Others []?

@PontifexMarximus No I haven't but my friend has a few horror stories. Including being forcibly adopted

Well … perhaps Tigger is too subversive … recently the duo was banned in China.

@PontifexMarximus No.

@avron They all say that they need power to achieve their ends but in the end it comes down to "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely". Rather like the "theory" of gravity. Sure it may not be true but we have not found a case where it does not hold true yet.
This works on a sliding scale. If you want to get the best deal from your govt in a democracy. Live in a swing state, better still if its a swing town. The worst deals are when the voters all religiously vote down the line. Irrespective of political parties, a complacent representative is a lazy one.
An interesting exception where the jury is still out being China. All our western democratic sensibilities rail against the very idea of a one-party system. Which despite its human rights abuses, it has managed to bring its population into the 21st century with a thriving economy.

@avron Way back in the 1960s, while in graduate school, I studied, among many other things, the theory and practice of communism because I was curious about what made it appealing to so many around the world. That included the structure and function of the soviet government. Marxism, in and of itself, is a total system ideology. It did call for a "dictatorship of the proletariat" in which a ruling class of ideological purists would dominate all facets of life in the communist system, so as to kill or drive out any differing or competing thoughts or ideas.

That is exactly what the Russians attempted to do, as did Mao in China, and Tito in Yugoslavia. All tyotal system ideologies, whether political or religious, attempt to create a world of "true believers" who willingly and completely give up their freedom of thought and action to be a part of a purportedly inevitable outcome.

@wordywalt The problem is that all systems are flawed. Communism was a reaction against capitalism and (in the places where it held sway longest) feudalism.
The great war put an end to feudalist ideology. "Lions led by donkeys" broke the back of serving our betters.
Capitalism is incredibly efficient at providing goods, services, and some innovation but is cyclical and has no morals. A drug dealer would not sell his grandmother, market forces would look to the price offered 1st.
It also motivated too much in the short term gain. I doubt if Henry Ford's reasons for paying $7 a day would hold much sway with the bean counters of today's boardrooms.
Communism turned out to be a lie. It purported to empower the proletariat but was instigated and controlled by the elite. With top-down thinking. ( "Revolution is the opiate of the intellectuals" ) * Not that elite is bad but one had to buy into the politics as well. ( I have never known anyone who asks about their doctors' politics ). Where has come into its own, is in the watered-down version of socialism.
Every country now runs more efficiently with a greater or lesser degree of socialism. Rather like seasoning in a dish. The debate is not whether it's good or bad but how much do we want?

The problem with countering all-inclusive ideologies in an argument is that they are incredibly attractive, especially to the young. It is much harder to put the case for a mixed economy, checks and balances system.

  • A quote I attribute to Haden-Guest. Died 1936 in Spain. Great uncle of Spinal Tap fame.

Well written

t1nick Level 8 July 19, 2019

Yup trumpers and evangelical Christians

bobwjr Level 10 July 19, 2019

You just explained trump's base! Good job! 😉

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