Britain has a new state religion. In theory, Christianity, in the form of the Church of England, is the established faith of old Blighty. In practice, a new creed has taken its place, and it is eager to punish nonbelievers.
Consider the case of David Mackereth, an English doctor whose Christian faith has been officially declared impermissible. Mackereth was fired for refusing to “‘refer to a man six foot tall with a beard’ as ‘she.’” A judge upheld his firing, declaring that “belief in Genesis 1:27, lack of belief in transgenderism, and conscientious objection to transgenderism in our judgment are incompatible with human dignity and conflict with the fundamental rights of others, specifically here, transgender individuals.” This ruling is part of a new religious establishment, complete with penal laws.
The judge’s language is awkward but nonetheless revealing insofar as it acknowledges it is an affirmation of faith to declare that a tall, bearded man is, in some mystical sense, a woman. The claim that a male can be (or become) a woman is religious, not scientific.
Thus, the judge not only condemned the biblical belief that God created us male and female, but also denounced “lack of belief in transgenderism” for any reason, religious or secular. The doctrine of transgenderism will not tolerate rival faiths, and so this newly established creed aims to punish all nonconformists, be they Christian or atheist, Jew or Hindu.
Self-Worship Isn’t Freedom
The central doctrine of transgenderism is the belief that human will determines reality as we create ourselves. A man who identifies as a woman is therefore a woman and has always been. Social, chemical, and surgical alterations are merely the outward affirmation and outworking of this inward truth, and the imperfections of physical transition do not negate the metaphysical truth of gender identity. Not all people who identify as LGBT accept this radical ideology, but the loudest voices preach it aggressively.
These mystical doctrines of transgender ideology exemplify modern self-worship, in which the human replaces the divine dictates of revealed religion as the source and creator of meaning. Catholicism preaches the real presence of Christ veiled in the bread and wine; transgenderism professes the real presence of the woman veiled in the male body.
But discontentment lurks amid the triumphant claims that identity determines reality. Self-creation is not freedom, for it only changes our master. Desire appears as the most authentic aspect of the self, and so it, rather than reason or revelation, rules human efforts to create our own truth and meaning.
Furthermore, since we are not gods, our efforts to create ourselves are hindered by the natural laws of our existence and by what older creeds called sinfulness. Self-worship does not overcome our consciousness of sin or the given nature of our embodied human existence.
Thus, self-worship turns to self-loathing misanthropy. A tall, bearded man may hate the doctor who denies that he is actually a woman, but this is not because the doctor is vicious or deceitful. Rather, he hates the doctor because the doctor tells the unwelcome truth about embodied existence. Vile bodies, indeed.
Likewise, making our desires our masters does not lead to glorious aesthetic self-creation, no matter how many commercials selling sneakers, smartphones, and tacos insist that it does. Rather, the ascendancy of desire is destructive to ourselves, other people, and the world. Older religious and philosophical traditions knew this and provided solutions, as exemplified in the Christian understanding of sin and redemption.
Transgenderism Sees Other People As the Problem
Modern self-worship struggles to address the problem, and transgender ideology is not the only point at which moderns are caught between self-worship and self-loathing. Environmental misanthropy provides another example.
The ranks of star environmentalists are flush with those who epitomize greedy indulgence. Rather than practicing self-control, it has become fashionable to question whether it is good to have children, with celebrities, politicians, and pundits opining that it is best to have few, if any. They see children as burdens on parents, societies, and ecosystems. If we are primarily consumers of products and experiences, what intrinsic good is there in making more people?
That question is unanswerable as phrased. It is only when we realize that we are begotten, not made, that the good of human beings becomes visible again. People are the point, and we flourish in community and are fulfilled by relationships — not by ever more consumption or fantasies of self-creation.
Self-worship elevates our desires and thereby sets us at war with others and the world. We see other people as the problem, rather than the purpose of life. Self-worship cannot eradicate the problem of sin, however, nor bend the world to one’s will, and so it often results in self-loathing, which in turn is redirected toward others. Private-jet environmentalists who lecture working families about having children illustrate this, as do transgender activists who want to force everyone else to affirm their mystical sense of self, rather than biological reality.
The judge in Mackereth’s case got it backwards. The teaching of Genesis 1:27 that God made humans, male and female, in the image of himself is the firm foundation for human dignity and human rights. The real threat comes not from a Christian doctor’s refusal to pretend a man is a woman, but from a mystical ideology that worships the self.