Sensate Man: Science, Sex, & Societal Collapse
Updated: May 11
A civilization engulfed by materialism will consequently be enraptured by humanism and hedonism and will eventually end in catastrophism. Derived from a Greek word meaning pleasure, the ancient philosophy of Hedonism is the theory that the satisfaction of desire is the highest good and aim of human life. This philosophy has permeated Western civilization to such a pervasive degree that even the Church has succumbed to its influence, devising man-centered theologies such as the prosperity gospel and word of faith teachings. In 1942 sociologist and social cycle theorist Pitirim Sorokin, in his book The Crisis of Our Age, labelled such a decadent society "sensate man" due to the preoccupation with what can be experienced through the physical senses and a fixation on sensuality. In 1964 Paris Reidhead, in what could be the most influential and most listened to sermon of the 20th century, preached Ten Shekels and a Shirt as an indictment of the Western church for embracing such humanistic philosophies. But what has occurred in our society in the years since these prophetic voices fell silent make their insight all the more prescient and their warnings all the more dire.
Western Civilization descends from classical Greek and Roman influences, priding itself in its foundation in logic and reason and mesmerized by the power and answers found in science. It is such a sacrosanct institution in our society that scientism has become the new religion and white lab coats have become the new ephod. While science has certainly been a significant reason for our civilization's success, it will also end up being a significant contributor to our demise. Technological achievements are a double-edged sword after all—the same advancements which make modern life possible also make possible death and catastrophe on an unprecedented scale. As the great historian Arnold Toynbee once said, “Our western science is a child of moral virtues; and it must now become the father of further moral virtues if its extraordinary material triumphs in our time are not to bring human history to an abrupt, unpleasant and discreditable end.” But even more fundamental to the Western problem than the moral use of ever-increasing technological power is the intellectual shallowness and spiritual numbness which accompany this myopic and imbalanced pursuit.
While we celebrate our Greco-Roman heritage in science and reason, our modern society has practically ignored the two other categories of query which made the classical period or even the more recent Enlightenment period so intellectually deep and spiritually rich—philosophy and theology. We've become so enamored with the power of science, we've fooled ourselves into believing it holds all the answers to both the universe and our existence. This inane notion has led Western man down a path to a worldview based on materialism. Materialism espouses two main tenets believing that nothing exists but matter, its movements, and its modification, and that everything is a result of material interactions. This belief consequently leads to the notion that science—being the study of the material universe—is the ultimate arbiter of truth. This is a rather conspicuous argument as rather than admitting the limits of what science can examine and explain, it audaciously claims whatever science cannot examine or explain simply doesn't exist. However, despite the rather farcical nature of this argument, many have come to not only accept it, but believe it to be a rather self-evident and undeniable truth.
Of course the reality is, there are a great number of things which we know to exist and be true which science cannot examine, explain, or prove. Analytic philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig, who the popular intellectual Sam Harris once described as, “The one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists” has pointed out a few such truths. He has argued basic metaphysical truths like consciousness, the existence of minds outside of the observer's own, or the idea that the external world outside of the mind is real, cannot be proven by science. Yet, nearly every scientist and rational human being hold these truths to be self-evident. Moral and ethical evaluations are also inaccessible to science as well as aesthetic judgments as the beautiful, like the good, cannot be scientifically proven. Even logical and mathematical truths cannot be proven by science. Science actually presupposes the truth of logic and math in order to function at all. What is most ironic and a bit damning is that science itself cannot be proved by science as much of it rests on unproven and unprovable assumptions with series of theories built like a towering house of cards. The precarious but meticulously crafted structure is very complex and impressive looking with each successive layer seemingly lending credence to the previous, but all of it comes crashing down if the foundational assumption turns out to be false—a phenomena which science has experienced many times in its long, hubris-filled history.
Be that as it may, science has achieved such a god-like status in our society that it is revered as nearly infallible. It is such a sacred cow in the West, that the mere mention of its name is believed to have the power to shut down debate and stifle dissent. "America's Doctor," Dr. Anthony Fauci, recently employed this tactic by claiming any question of his motives, actions, or conclusions were an attack on "science." The reality however, is that science is a for-profit enterprise focused on attracting funds more than facts, with most scientists living by the mantra, "publish or perish." This reality has led to incentivizing quantity over quality, producing estimates of around a third of scientific papers being fraudulent or fake, and upwards of 70% of peer-reviewed scientific papers being false. But even if scientists were altruistic paragons of intellectual inquiry with no ulterior motives or agendas, science still would have some inherent and fundamental problems. The core issue being that every human observer must interpret any observed data, which means science is highly subject to bias, opinion, and perspective. As Plato observed, "Science is nothing but perception."
Nevertheless, the glorification of science has led to a civilization of unparalleled technological achievement, but at the expense of the deeper and more meaningful pursuits which shape human culture and experience. This intellectual and emotional shallowness has not been lost on the populace. In fact, scientific materialism is so foreign and unnatural, most live in cognitive dissonance as they pay lip-service to the cultural values by rejecting traditional religion while simultaneously espousing non-materialist beliefs. So while recent surveys may show a growing number of Americans identifying as "non-religious" for example, they aren't becoming atheists or materialists, they're simply turning to non-traditional forms of spirituality, a category surveyors call "Spiritual But Not Religious." But a recent study found that even atheists intuitively believe in a creator, so it's clear humanity is hardwired to accept non-materialistic realities, a peculiar fact explored in depth in the book Why God Won't Go Away.
Of course, this foundational cultural value of materialism has seeped into the Church as well. Many Christians reject entire portions of scripture due to this deeply held cultural conviction that supernatural events simply can't happen. As such, many Christians are functioning deists, believing God is out there, but He doesn't interact with His creation. This also plays into the debate between cessationism and continuationism, with the former unsurprisingly being the dominant theological position in the West. Christianity in our culture has become more of an intellectual endeavor and a matter of the head rather than of the heart. Our culture largely seeks to understand God rather than experience Him and is more interested in having a conversation about God than having a conversation with Him. While knowledge is a noble and valid pursuit, it is ultimately shallow in comparison to the depths of fulfillment and satisfaction made possible through relationship. The deep, aching cry of the human heart is not to know, but to be known. Dr. Richard C. Halverson, the chaplain to the US Senate eloquently summed up the transmogrification of the faith in 1984 on the Senate floor saying,
“In the beginning the church was a relational fellowship of men and women centering on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece, where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome, where it became an institution. Next it moved to Europe where it became a culture, and, finally, it moved to America where it became an enterprise.”
Christianity has become a business based on an institution, which is then based on a philosophy. Only remnants of its relational fellowship with both God and fellow man remain in the mix. The reason it has become a business is because the Church has been influenced by materialism and humanism which has skewed her theology to believe that God's blessing equates to material gain. Ministry has therefore taken a form of entrepreneurialism with ministries competing with one another to build brand recognition and achieve "success." If Paris Reidhead was shocked in 1964 with the selling out of the Gospel, he'd be absolutely appalled today.
If the material world is all that exists, then man, not God, becomes the gravitational center of the universe. As such, the ideology of humanism espouses that as there are no moral absolutes, man is the vessel of relative truth, and as there are no higher truths or ideals, the end of all being is the happiness of man. This worldview takes Plato's critique of science and turns it into a universal mantra, claiming that truth is nothing but perception. In this worldview, truth is not divine or transcendent, but rather can only be defined by one's experiences. With no ultimate truth, morality, meaning, or purpose, the only authority recognized is self and man drifts listlessly with no guiding force other than physical and emotional gratification. If personal happiness is ultimately the only truth which can be known, then anything which restricts or limits one from that pursuit is ultimately the only real sin. When self-actualization and expression is the highest ideal, complete emancipation from all boundaries, rules, and norms is the guiding ethic and anyone or anything standing in the way of complete autonomy is viewed as the only absolute moral wrong.
Unfortunately, this postmodern view of truth has permeated the church in the decades since Reidhead's sermon. Consider for a moment that according to Barna Research, 37% of practicing Christians in America under the age of 45 think what is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes. Another 29% think if your beliefs offend someone or hurt their feelings, it is morally wrong. In total, 54% of practicing Christians overall hold some form of postmodern views of relative truth. Contrast those numbers to the 0.8% of young practicing Christians and 17% of practicing Christians overall who believe basic biblical concepts like salvation cannot be earned, Jesus lived a sinless life, and that God is the omniscient, omnipotent creator, and you begin to realize the power humanistic materialism has over the church.
That's not to say that hedonistic humanism rejects all forms of external rules or societal systems. Ironically, to achieve its goal of honoring each individual as an infallible autonomous moral agent, a large and powerful central government is required. Without God, government is usually seen as the natural higher-power substitute in materialist societies. In our current Western society, there is a strong progressive push toward socialism, where the government controls nearly every aspect of one's life. If this seems rather counter-intuitive and even counter-productive to complete autonomy and emancipation, understand that if all truth claims are equal, then all truth claims must have equal power and representation in any society and legitimized force is necessary to achieve that equity—hence government. This is where the concept of critical theory and cultural Marxism comes into play (covered in the article Critical Mass) as to achieve true pluralism and ideological equity, any dominant views or beliefs in a society must be systematically denounced and suppressed while any marginal or minority view or belief must be championed and elevated to ensure parity. Because, of course perfect mathematical equity of all beliefs within any population is statistically impossible to occur naturally or organically.
This cultural authoritarianism claims to seek ideological equity in order to recognize at a societal level, the innate and inherent truth defined by every individual. But in practice, critical theory merely legitimizes pushing boundaries, erasing taboos, and destroying traditional definitions and concepts of ethics and morality in a society. But even if traditional morals and values were truly just subjective and passé sets of social norms with no real or observable benefit to society, obviously the social revolution championed by cultural Marxism and critical theory has real-world consequences. Revolutions are by their nature destructive and usually bloody, but the ends justify the means in the minds of those who pursue them. Marxism whole-heartedly embraces violence and chaos to bring about social change, in fact, it views it as a necessity in order to achieve its goals of an equitable Utopian society.
But of course the reality is that the embattled traditional morals and values which undergird Western civilization are not just arbitrary or subjective standards with no discernable or demonstrable benefit—they are based on biblical truths and have proven to be enormously beneficial to every society which has adopted them. This reality is practically universally acknowledged by any scholar or historian who has done their due diligence, including Indian philosopher Vishal Mangalwadi in his book, The Book that Made Your World, political science academic Robert Woodberry whose studies culminated in the peer-reviewed and published paper The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy, and even atheist historian Tom Holland who acknowledged the superior civilization-building power of the Judeo-Christian worldview in his book, Dominion.
So, when we are discussing the real-world implications of pluralism, what we must recognize is that biblical morals and values are precisely the standards which society is not just gradually deviating from, but actively denouncing, deconstructing, and destroying. Some might view this as coincidental rather than intentional, arguing that the Judeo-Christian worldview is simply the dominant truth claim in Western society and therefore the main target of suppression by the social justice activists and Marxism advocates pushing their diversity, inclusion, and equity mantra. As Christians however, we should absolutely view this as intentional as well as conspiratorial—not necessarily by a cabal of nefarious men, but by a far more cunning and insidious entity. Our struggle is not with flesh and blood, but with principalities, rulers, and powers in the heavenly realm (Eph 6:12) who masquerade as angels of light (2Co 11:14). As such, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and noble aspirations which tickle the ears and stroke the egos of those not grounded in and anchored by the truth.
But most are oblivious to that reality and blindly push a political and cultural agenda which they believe is merely aimed at established subjective social norms. Every generation is reactionary and rebellious and the rebellion of one generation must be outdone and one-upped by the next in order to still be viewed as "new," "progressive," and "radical." As John Wesley once said, "What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace." But an even wiser man, King Solomon, once said, "What was is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which can be said, 'See, this is new?' It has been already in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things yet to come among those who come after..." (Ecc 1:9-11). Indeed, there is a generational amnesia which has plagued mankind throughout history with younger generations repeating the mistakes of previous generations either out of ignorance, or arrogance.
The hypnotic hold critical theory has on our current culture is a case in point. It is not a "new" or "progressive" idea, but a resurrected and revived ghost from the graveyard of ages past. When Karl Marx's ideas utterly failed, some of his disillusioned acolytes posited that the theory was sound, the tactics were simply ineffective. So, rather than pushing for a violent revolution by pitting the poor against the rich, they redirected their efforts to pitting minority ethnic and identity groups against the majority, thus forming cultural Marxism which then in turn birthed modern critical theory. But Marx's ideas weren't new or original either—the concepts of socialism, communism, planned economies, and collective ownership are as old as mankind. A century before Marx wrote Das Kapital, Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau— whose works influenced the bloody French Revolution—was writing and advocating for very similar ideas. Nearly two millennia before Rousseau, Gaius and Tiberius Gracchus were advocating for similar policies in ancient Rome which later would come to employ the now infamous practice of bread and circuses to both placate and gain the support of the masses.
But before the plights of both the Proletariat of Marx's age and the Plebeians of the Roman age, came the plight of the ancient Egyptians during the Middle Kingdom age. There we see a society which was wealthy, prosperous, and free, succumb to state ownership and control of all land, goods, and human lives. Here we see an entire nation became slaves due to a gifted and shrewd bureaucrat named Joseph, who utilized a seven-year famine to accumulate all the private wealth, land, and free peoples of Egypt under the Pharoah's control (Gen 47:13-23). This in turn led to the enslavement of the Hebrew people who settled in the Egyptian Nile delta, requiring God to send a deliverer in the form of Moses and setting a major theological theme throughout the rest of the Old and New Testaments of Messianic redemption from bondage.
Despite this biblical warning and the subsequent historical record of the danger and the utterly consistent failure of these socialist economic frameworks, younger generations of the modern age are currently adopting these ideologies with great zeal, hope, and faith. Recent polling by YouGov has shown widespread support for socialism, and even rising support for communism among young people. A full 70% of Millennials say they are likely to vote socialist and another 36% view communism favorably. A shocking 43% of American Millennials believe the Communist Manifesto better guarantees freedom and equality than the Declaration of Independence and 22% said they believe society would be better if all private property was abolished (a more thorough investigation of the incompatibility of socialism and Christianity can be read in the article Che vs. J).
With government replacing God as the ultimate authority and each individual replacing Him as the definer of truth and morality, our modern pluralist society continues to push for more authoritarian control while simultaneously demanding more personal liberty with less personal responsibility. In essence, society—so enamored with pleasure, entertainment, and the pursuit of happiness—becomes like a spoiled and petulant child expecting a nanny state government to take care of all their needs while they indulge in all of their desires. This too is nothing new, but rather a well-known pattern of history and the stages of civilization.
Historians have all noted the pattern of the rise and fall of civilizations throughout the ages, with several models devised depicting the sequential phases from birth to death. Sir John Glubb's model outlined in his famous short treatise The Fate of Empires, is one of the most often cited and describes the rise and fall of civilizations in seven overlapping stages beginning with the age of Outburst, then Conquest, Commerce, Affluence, Intellect, Decadence, and finally, Collapse. Glubb curiously noted that civilizations in history have lasted an average of ten generations from Outburst to Collapse, or roughly 250 years (this is a mathematical average, not a mean or "typical" civilizational lifespan, but interesting nonetheless). In his overview of human history, Glubb also noted the main reoccurring patterns and signs of a Decadent society in decline and heading for Collapse. Key indicators are porous borders and the influx of foreigners (see the article Biblical Borders), the breakdown of unifying customs and the return to tribalism (see the article Critical Mass), the rise of the welfare state, the loss of sense of duty and a shift toward materialism and hedonism, the decay of traditional morals and values, and finally, the loss of sexual restraint.
Sexuality's Slippery Slope
Clearly in such a complex organism such as society, there are many contributing factors to its ultimate demise—complexity itself being one of them, as noted by anthropologist and historian Joseph Tainter in his seminal work, The Collapse of Complex Societies. As all the aforementioned indicators intertwine and interact, none of them alone is a strong sign of Decadence as elements of each can wax and wane in a society at any given time in its lifecycle. Together however, they are telling. But there is one key indicator that seems to act as the canary in the coal mine and the harbinger of societal Collapse: sexuality.
While Sir John Glubb and others such as Arnold Toynbee and Will and Ariel Durant give big-picture sweeping overviews of human history and civilization, a few others have focused their studies on the issue of sexuality and its impact on societies throughout the ages. J.D. Unwin was an anthropologist from Oxford and Cambridge who had set out to prove Sigmund Freud's theory that civilizations are essentially neurotic and destroy themselves by restricting sex too much. But after Unwin studied 80 cultures and six civilizations over 5,000 years of human history—published in his book, Sex and Culture—he came to the exact opposite conclusion. Instead of finding evidence that cultures which practiced sexual restraint and regulation were repressed and unhealthy, he found they were precisely the ones which thrived and flourished.
In his study, Unwin broke down his observations into seven degrees of sexual regulation—three degrees of prenuptial and four degrees of postnuptial. Prior to marriage men and women could be sexually free with very little regulation, taboos, or social shame, a society could practice moderate regulation which compelled occasional sexual continence, or a society could practice strict prenuptial chastity. After marriage, societies then could practice modified polygamy allowing multiple spouses and allowing further sexual activity through divorce and remarriage, modified monogamy which allowed only a single spouse at a time but allowed further legitimized sexual activity through divorce and remarriage, absolute polygamy allowing multiple spouses but lifelong sexual fidelity by not allowing divorce, and finally, absolute monogamy which allowed only one lifelong spouse with strict sexual fidelity.
What Unwin found was that in any culture, increased sexual regulation (both pre and postnuptial) always benefited the society with absolute monogamy being the cornerstone of a healthy and productive society. He also found that whenever a culture decreased sexual regulation, it was always detrimental to the society. Interestingly, he observed that strict prenuptial chastity was the number one influential factor of determining the strength and health of a society. He found that any culture which abandoned that sexual regulation suffered the subsequent loss of absolute monogamy, deism, and even rational thinking, therefore entering societal decline in three generations.
In his own words from another published paper of his, Monogamy as a Condition of Social Energy, Unwin said,
"Thousands of years and thousands of miles separate the events; and there is no apparent connection between them. In human records, there is no case of an absolutely monogamous society failing to display great [cultural] energy. I do not know of a case on which great energy has been displayed by a society that has not been absolutely monogamous… The whole of human history does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilized unless it has been absolutely monogamous, nor is there any example of a group retaining its culture after it has adopted less rigorous customs.”
In 1946, over a decade after Sex and Culture was published, Aldous Huxley (of Brave New World fame) wrote a succinct summary of the work in another publication saying,
“Unwin's conclusions, which are based upon an enormous wealth of carefully sifted evidence, may be summed up as follows. All human societies are in one or another of six cultural conditions: zoistic, manistic, deistic, rationalistic, expansive, productive. Of these societies the zoistic displays the least amount of mental and social energy, the productive the most. Investigation shows that the societies exhibiting the least amount of energy are those where prenuptial continence is not imposed and where the opportunities for sexual indulgence after marriage are greatest. The cultural condition of a society rises in exact proportion as it imposes prenuptial and postnuptial restraints upon sexual opportunity.”
Unwin was so shaken and convinced by his research that he went on to write a follow-up book, Hopousia or, The Sexual and Economic Foundations of a New Society, (which was published posthumously due to Unwin's untimely death at age 40) with an introduction by Huxley himself. In this second volume, Unwin argued that due to the enormous ramifications sexual ethic and regulation has upon society, in order to produce the greatest society possible, strict prenuptial chastity and absolute monogamy should all but be legally mandated. However, acknowledging that such a government mandate could be seen as rather dystopian and draconian (he was impacted by Brave New World), he suggested society be broken into two classes: the productive upper class which would contribute to society and ensure its longevity and success, and a degenerate lower class which would be allowed to fall short of the greater society's sexual standards and discipline.
Unwin proposed citizens be given the choice of which class they wished to aspire to rather than assigning one to them or defaulting to one due to birth as a way to solve the ethical dilemma while maintaining a healthy and productive society. He did however also ponder maintaining quotas for the productive class in order to ensure a prospering society in case too many individuals in any given generation chose self gratification over the common good. Hopousia was a theoretical exercise to design a great and long-lasting society, but if Unwin didn't, Huxley certainly admitted it was rather untenable and unachievable due to the nature of man.
Another groundbreaking study of human sexuality and its impact on society and civilization was done by academic and cultural critic Camille Paglia in her book, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. Here, Paglia examines every major civilization from ancient Egypt and Babylon to Roman Byzantium all the way up to the British empire noticing a consistent and peculiar pattern within the late stages of civilization. She notes that while there are many signs a society has entered Decadence, there is one in particular which seems very consistent throughout history as the final sign right before societal Collapse: the acceptance and proliferation of homosexuality and transgender identities.
Now, keep in mind that like Unwin, Paglia is no prude. Unwin was a rationalist, not religious, and Paglia is an atheist and a lesbian. Nevertheless, both of them unintentionally concluded that the Judeo-Christian sexual ethic should be championed by society for purely pragmatic reasons. In Sexual Personae, Paglia can be found making rather surprising statements like, "Happy are those periods [in society] when marriage and religion are strong," and "The banning of pornography, rightly sought by Judeo-Christianity, would be a victory over the west's stubborn paganism."
But controversial and seemingly interest-conflicting statements are part of Paglia's brand and charm. As a self-avowed feminist, she also made eyebrow-raising statements in Sexual Personae like praising the "spectacular glory of male civilization," arguing modern feminism is a degenerate heir of Jean-Jaques Rousseau's philosophy in that it "sees every hierarchy as repressive, a social fiction," and "every negative about woman" as "a male lie designed to keep her in her place." She goes on to argue that, "Feminism has exceeded its proper mission of seeking political equality for women and has ended by rejecting contingency, that is, human limitation by nature or fate." She then adds, in her signature provocative and irreverent manner, "If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts."
So it should be no surprise that despite being a part of the LGBTQ+ "community," Paglia is an outspoken and vehement critic of the current sexual zeitgeist and sees the recent transgender, language policing, and personal pronoun trends as absolutely detestable and destructive, pushing Western civilization to the brink of Collapse. While she describes herself as a Decadent and would like her lifestyle to be legally permissible, she believes that society should view such sexuality as undesirable and uncouth rather than normalizing it and now, even championing it. Like Unwin, Paglia desires a society where high degrees of sexual regulation are the societal norm, with legal condoning—but social condemnation—of the small minority who stray from such sexual restraints. She wants Judeo-Christian moral law, just not its moral lawgiver.
Current Cultural Context & the Coming Collapse
As we look around us in the West and can clearly observe the telltale signs of Decadence, it may be worthwhile to note how we got here. Though it is spread over multiple countries and continents, since the Collapse of the British empire in the early 20th century—itself a victim of its own Decadence—America increasingly became Western civilization's torch-bearer, champion, and defender. While Britain's power and influence imploded from being a global empire which the "sun never set on" to a small island landmass the size of an average US state, America was deep into her Commerce stage of civilization. Emerging victorious from back-to-back World Wars then set her up to experience her Affluence stage in full bloom and launched her into a new societal High in the mid 1940's.
But societal Highs inevitably lead to societal Awakenings, and America experienced hers in the 60's and 70's with the hippie movement and the Jesus people revival. It is in this pivotal season that our culture shifted from strong family values and strict prenuptial chastity during the sexual revolution. It should also be noted that the hippie movement was born out of a season of revolt against the Vietnam war. As Glubb observed the patterns of history, he stated in The Fate of Empires that Affluence “silences the voice of duty” as society turns away from service and to selfishness. As such, the society succumbs to a defensive mindset, with tangible evidence in history such as Hadrian’s Wall during the Roman empire. By this point in civilization, Conquest and military intervention is largely viewed as immoral by a stagnant and spoiled society, particularly the younger generations. By the age of Decadence, even military readiness and national defense are sneered upon as society simply becomes accustomed to dominance and success and forgets that it was long fought for and hard won.
But before Decadence comes the age of Intellect, which marks the gradual erosion of society as she is now past her prime—or "high noon," as Glubb describes the age of Affluence. So we journey from the societal Awakening in the Strauss-Howe generational cycle, to the Unraveling in the 80's, 90's, and early 2000's. It is in this age of Intellect where academics began gaining traction with critical theory, now actively encouraging the collapse of Western civilization and sowing the seeds of its destruction. But it wasn't until the end of the 2000's that we really began to see the fruit of those seeds. That season marked the turn from the societal Unraveling, to the societal Crisis. Enter, the age of Decadence. If you wonder at the rapid pace we are seemingly going through the stages of civilization at this point, with Conquest and Commerce lasting centuries but Affluence, Intellect, and Decadence only lasting mere decades, this is not new or unique to the American timeline. As Pitrim Sorokin observed from history, "The more decadent it [civilization] becomes, the more imitative [of history] it grows and the swifter becomes the tempo of the successive phases of the process."
Now remember what Unwin observed throughout human civilizations—that societies which abandoned strict prenuptial chastity then subsequently experienced the decline of their society through the loss of absolute monogamy, deism, and then even rational thought in three generations. He observed that it takes three generations for the new cultural norms to be fully accepted and inculcated in society. America's sexual revolution occurred in the 60's and 70's during the coming of age of the Baby Boomer generation, with Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z following. So, with three full cohorts now raised under the new cultural set of sexual regulations, Gen Z is the generation which could now witness the decline of our society—and likely Western civilization as a whole. Note that Gen Z was born between the years 1997-2012, so they're all hitting adulthood now with that process completing around 2030.
We needn't use our imagination however—the empirical evidence is everywhere. Of course the sexual revolution brought about the loss of absolute monogamy right out of the gate as in 1970, no-fault divorce laws began sweeping the nation, skyrocketing the marriage-to-divorce rate to roughly 50% from the mid 70's all the way to the present day (compared to around 3% in 1870, 7% at the turn of the century, and about 20% before and after WWII). Likewise our societal belief in deism began declining almost immediately, from 98% in the late 1960's to only 81% in 2020 and only 68% of young adults (ages 18-29).
But then the '08 financial crisis accelerated things and launched us into our societal Crisis. In 2004 the first state legalized gay marriage and by 2015 our culture had fully embraced the idea only to then quickly move on to promoting radical transgender ideology. At this point, our culture's loss of rational thought is already evident as we reject basic biological realities and can no longer even define simple terms like "man" and "woman." Indeed, our current generation is not known for their rational prowess or ability to engage in serious discussion or debate, but rather by their irrational insistence on living by their feelings, requiring language policing, safe spaces, and trigger warnings to protect their delicate sensibilities and fragile worldviews. Unwin was certainly correct, and if Paglia is, then Collapse is right around the corner. How about Glubb?
Well, Glubb noted the age of Decadence was marked by porous borders and the influx of foreigners producing an immigration rate too high for effective assimilation. This creates a situation where foreign worldviews and cultural practices begin conflicting with and then displacing the host culture's. This in turn breaks down the host culture's unifying customs and therefore the society is fractured into identity groups and returns to tribalism. Once again, we sowed the seed of our destruction during the hippie movement as in the early 70's our immigration policy took a radical turn.
Prior to 1970, America practiced sustainable immigration from primarily near-culture nations (Europe) which allowed easier assimilation. But in the early 70's numbers began to explode and shift dramatically to favor nations which were culturally very different from our own. In 1920, there were about 13.8 million foreign-born immigrant in the US, mainly from near-culture nations. By 1930, that number had increased to just 14.2 million. By 1940, that number had actually dropped to 12.7 million, dropped further to 11.2 million by 1950, and even further to 9.7 million in 1960 and finally to 9.6 million in 1970. Then, everything changed and we began opening up the southern border to Latin America and by 1980, the US increased its foreign-born immigrant population to 14.2 million—roughly a 50% increase in a single decade. By 1990, that number was up to 23.5 million. By the year 2000, it was 35 million. By 2010 it was 44.4 million and by 2020 was around 51 million. The newest study from Yale University estimates there are then around 22 million illegal immigrants. This means foreign immigrants now make up nearly a quarter (~22%) of the entire U.S. population.
Then in the 2010's, our society—particularly our younger university educated generation—decided to embrace cultural Marxism which actively pits identity groups against each other, embraces multi-culturalism, and demonizes and denounces America's traditional culture and values. So now the breakdown of unifying customs and the return to tribalism isn't just an unintended consequence of unchecked immigration, but rather a highly vaunted goal. This isn't a case of "shooting ourselves in the foot" via an accidental discharge—it's pointing the barrel at our head, cocking the gun, and deliberately pulling the trigger. Keep in mind that immigration in and of itself isn't the issue here and neither is ethnicity. America has always been a nation of immigrants and "nationalism" (formerly simply known as patriotism) is not based on the color of one's skin. The issue is culture, which is a set of customs, beliefs, and language which unify a country's citizenry. Without that cultural unity, infighting and disintegration occurs, usually ending in violence. In The Fate of Empires, Glubb even notes that due to this disintegration of society, “when decline sets in, it is extraordinary how the memory of ancient wars, perhaps centuries before, is suddenly revived, and local or provincial movements appear demanding secession or independence.”
Next, Glubb describes the rise of the welfare state as a sign of Decadence, so it is not surprising that our young people are embracing socialism and roughly half of our citizenry pay no income taxes but demand government handouts and entitlements. On this topic, Glubb muses that it “causes the declining empire to spend lavishly on its own benevolence, until such time as the economy collapses.” Are we spending lavishly on benevolence? Well, we've spent over 20 trillion dollars on the "war on poverty," and are currently around $32 trillion in debt—which equates to roughly a quarter of a million dollars per tax payer (including the half that currently pay none).
But the reality is much worse as America's unfunded liabilities—bills that we have committed to pay but which aren't yet due and will soon become debt—currently stand around $188 trillion. That amounts to a debt of around $560,000 for every man, woman, and child currently living in the US. And please understand that simply taxing the rich can't possibly cover this astronomical debt, let alone future spending. Even if we went full-on Marxist and shot every billionaire in the nation and stole every penny of their wealth, that would amount to a measly $4.2 trillion. Even if the angry American mob commandeered and liquidated the combined market value of all the global Fortune 500 companies, that would total only $22.6 trillion. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. But we won't, just as no other empire in history did before their collapse. As French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville once said, "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." What he didn't envision was Congress' unequalled ability to bribe the public with Monopoly money the public didn't even have.
As for Glubb's other warning signs of Decadence? The loss of the sense of duty and responsibility and a shift toward materialism, selfishness, and hedonism? Check. The decay of traditional morals and values and the decline of religion? Check. And finally, the loss of sexual restraint? Checkmate. The words of the great writer and Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn seem particularly poignant and appropriate here when he said, "Thus it is that we always pay dearly for chasing after what is cheap." Sex is so pivotal in society's trajectory because it makes or breaks the civilizational building block: the family unit. As Jesus Gonzalez Losada said in summarizing Pitrim Sorokin's 1956 book, The American Sex Revolution,
"...Societies tend to blossom, be creative, and grow when the sexual mores favor exclusivity, monogamy, fidelity, responsibility, and family stability. Conversely, when mores encourage permissiveness, sexual exploration, serial monogamy, easy divorce, and brief and changeable family relationships (particularly with children), then societies become unstable and alienating, and they decline."
Or, as academic and historian Ivy Scarbrough noted in his absolutely epic tome, Into the Night: The Crisis of Western Civilization,
"Everything that is truly important in life can be summed up in the word ‘relationships'—first and foremost, man’s relationship with God, secondly, his relationships with his fellow man. Prominent among the central themes in studies of civilizational decline and decay… is the breakdown of personal relationships. In terms of an institutional failure that contributes most directly to the collapse of a civilization, this is critical."
Hope or Hopelessness
Finally, we must address the optimistic hope or arrogant disbelief that lingers in the back of everyone's mind at this point thinking that surely there is a chance America could be saved, somehow avoid Collapse, or believe maybe Collapse won't be as bad as it sounds. The truth is that every empire and civilization which has ever existed has always crumbled and they always did so in utter denial. As Camille Paglia noted, "The Earth is littered with the ruins of empires that believed they were eternal." Specifically, there has been no empire in all of recorded history which reached the age of Decadence and didn't subsequently collapse. None. And as preeminent Harvard historian Niall Fergusson explained at a panel discussion at the Milken Institute back in 2013, Collapse isn't gradual or gentle, but sudden and severe.
Glubb, like all other well-versed historians, noted that avoiding Collapse is completely unprecedented in the entire meta-history of empires. He even invokes providence or fate saying that “in our present state of mental chaos… we divide ourselves into nations, parties or communities and fight, hate and vilify one another over developments which may perhaps be divinely ordained and which seem to us, if we take a broader view, completely uncontrollable and inevitable.”
The great German polymath Oswald Spengler—famous for his two-volume overview of history, The Decline of the West, published in 1918 and 1922—likewise sounds quite hopeless, saying, "We have not chosen this time. We cannot help it if we are born as men of the early winter of full Civilization, instead of on the golden summit of a ripe Culture... Everything depends on our seeing our own position, our destiny, clearly, on our realizing that though we may lie to ourselves about it, we cannot evade it."
While these historical perspectives may sound very fatalistic and devoid of human free will and agency, the issue is less about predestination and more about unintended consequences of prior poor decisions. As the great historian Arnold Toynbee commented, "We human beings do have some genuine freedom of choice and therefore some effective control over our own destinies. I am not a determinist. But I also believe that the decisive choice is seldom the latest choice in the series. More often than not, it will turn out to be some choice made relatively far back in the past." The problem is once Decadence hits, it's seemingly impossible to reverse course because what society is reaping in that season is the fruit of the seed which was sown through choices and decisions in a season decades before.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. -Gal 6:7-9
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people. -Pro 14:34
Winston Churchill may have summed up the conundrum best when he said, "Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong—these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history."
So what then, are we to simply throw our hands up in surrender and trudge forward mustering nothing more than a healthy resignation of the inevitable? Are we to embrace Seneca of Rome's sobering chant-like warning, "Volentum fata ducunt, nolentum trahunt" (Fate leads the willing, the unwilling it drags)? In the natural, it would seem so. But God... If Nineveh could turn from its sin and avoid destruction, is it possible that a radical revival and reformation could also push back America's judgement?
If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. -Jer 18:7-8
Yes, it is possible, but our nation is deep in Decadence and shows no sign of even relenting, let alone repenting. Furthermore, the Church has little chance in this late hour of preaching a call to righteousness to the greater society around her—all revivals in history have occurred during the Awakening phase of society and we're deep into our Crisis phase at the opposite end of that cycle. But if there is any chance, the Church must instead look inward and model repentance and righteousness as she herself has become infected by the Decadent culture she has been commanded to be in, but not of. Statistically there is little difference between the American church and the American public on issues of sex and sexuality, either in views or practice.
According to Pew Research, a full two-thirds (68%) of Christians today say that at least in some circumstances, premarital sex is morally acceptable, compared to 86% of non-Christians. One can probably guess they view it as acceptable or justifiable when they do it, because in terms of practice, around 90% of Christian singles are engaging in the behavior. Divorce rates aren't overall lower among self-professing Christians either (38-60% depending on their religious commitment and practice), and likewise adultery rates are virtually identical in and outside of the church with 1 in 3 men and 1 in 6 women having affairs. Furthermore, there’s little difference between the ever increasing rates of Christian and non-Christian support for gay marriage in our society either with church goers ranging from 40-70% in support compared to non-church goers at 82%. While the current rates of support for the transgender movement are below majority levels, that was also true of gay marriage just a decade ago, so just wait. Religious conservatives apparently aren't less likely to adopt cultural views over scriptural, they're just slower.
The stench of humanism can be found in the rotting pulpits and pews of churches across America as ordained ministers and entire mainline denominations tolerate pornography and adultery and embrace and practice homosexuality and transgender ideology. As Paris Reidhead would say, we are monsters of iniquity. We gave up on God, pursued pleasure, and are now reaping our reward. We must call a fast and weep bitterly over our sin, for if we don't now, we most certainly will weep and wail later, along with gnashing our teeth. Without rending our hearts and crying out for mercy—distraught and repentant in sackcloth and ashes, understanding that we deserve the judgement that is coming—the end is nigh. Not for the world, just our place in it.
There is the moral of all human tales;
‘Tis but the same rehearsal of the past.
First Freedom and then Glory—when that fails,
Wealth, Vice, & Corruption come at last.
And history, with all her volumes vast,
Hath but one page.
-Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, 1812