Homo Utopianus

Sometime between the 18th and 19th centuries a new type of human being appeared in Europe.  Not a biologically new type. No, a new psychological type.  Let’s call this type homo utopianus.

For a few centuries, Christianity had been fading away in Europe.  The Protestant Reformation combined with the Catholic Counter-Reformation – far from (immediately) undermining Christianity – had produced a great religious revival, a great intensification of Western Europe’s traditional religion.

But soon after this, religious skepticism reared its head (its rather ugly head).  After all, if Protestants quite emphatically denounced Catholicism as a false and pernicious religion, and if Catholics quite emphatically denounced Protestantism as a false and pernicious religion, isn’t it possible (asked the new skeptics) that they are both correct?  That all varieties of Christianity are false and pernicious?

Skepticism appealed to a small section of Europe’s intellectual elite (typified by Michel de Montaigne), but it was caviar to the general public.  Deism, being a kind of compromise between the extremes of Christianity on the one hand and outright skepticism on the other, had a more widespread appeal.  It retained much of the basic structure of Christian belief while dropping the harder-to-believe elements (e.g., the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection).

Further, many Christians found it easy to combine the rationalistic spirit of Deism with their traditional Christian beliefs.  During much of the 18th century, in both the Catholic and the Protestant halves of Europe, Christian belief, while not fully disappearing (except among some intellectuals – philosophes as they were called in France), got watered down.

Among the Christian ideas that became harder to believe was the idea of Heaven, the idea that after death we (or at least many of us) will live in a society in which we will all be happy and good; God will be our King; we’ll be surrounded by fellow saints; and we’ll live forever in uninterrupted blessedness.

But this dream of paradise, and the yearning for it, was so deeply rooted in the European soul that it wasn’t easy to give up entirely, even when its specifically Christian form was being renounced.  And so the old dream of Heaven was replaced with a new dream, a secular-temporal dream, the dream of heaven-on-earth.

We wouldn’t enter this new heaven after death; no, we would enter it a few centuries from now, after a long time spent in a kind of terrestrial purgatory.  Nor would we enter this new heaven as individuals.  No, we as individuals would perish forever at the moment of death; on this view, the idea that individuals survive death was Christian nonsense.  It was mankind (or to use today’s correct terminology, humankind) that will enter paradise.  We short-lived individuals will never personally enter paradise, but we will take great satisfaction in the thought that our race – our human race – will someday get there.

This was the dream that defined the new type of human being, the homo utopianus.


What’s more, this heaven-on-earth is so desirable a thing that truly good people will do anything in their power to bring it about.  They will study, work, plan, plot, conspire, lie, cheat, steal; they will suffer martyrdom; and they will, if need be, commit murder, even mass murder.  Heaven-on-earth is a jewel of infinite value.  No price is too high to pay for it.

When the French Revolution peaked and then went into decline without producing the hoped-for utopia, homo utopianus didn’t fade away.  Far from it.  This type of human being grew in numbers.  It flourished among numerous 19th-century revolutionaries, especially socialists and anarchists.  The homo utopianus in full flower was the 20th-century Bolshevik.  The type achieved a kind of perfection in Vladimir Lenin, the single most important historical figure of the 20th century.  Lenin didn’t live long enough to murder as many people as his principles would have warranted, but his two greatest disciples –Stalin and Mao Zedong – took care of that.

How strange it is that the most famous champions of that lovely dream, heaven-on-earth, should turn out to be mass murderers.  But it so happened that the dream was attractive, not just to the new type of human, homo utopianus, but to two perennial human types, the sadist and the tyrant.

If you loved cruelty and power, some instinct would draw you to utopianism.  As you tortured and murdered, you could rebut your critics by pointing to the glorious finale that lay somewhere down the road, and you could say to yourself, like Jack Horner, “What a good boy am I!”

From the point of view of a man of the tyrant/sadist type, one of the great beauties of the utopian dream is that it has a very strong appeal to another perennial human type, the soft-hearted fool.  And so homo utopianus comes in two main varieties, the tyrant and the fool.

As I see things, homo utopianus type flourishes in the United States today, in both varieties, would-be tyrants and sentimental fools.  Together they make up the great “progressive” movement, a movement that has had during the last half-century, and is still having today, tremendous success in promoting an ideological package containing the following ideas:

  • Anti-Christianity
  • Sexual freedom
  • Abortion
  • Homosexuality and “marriage equality”
  • Transgenderism
  • The sexualization of children
  • Recreational drugs
  • Euthanasia
  • Standards of intellect, morality, manners, beauty, etc. are forms of oppression
  • Anti-Americanism
  • The USA is an incorrigibly racist society
  • American whites are racist almost by nature
  • All group inequalities are the result of race discrimination
  • Police forces should be eliminated or at least defunded
  • Prisons should be emptied (except for the prison holding Donald Trump)
  • Disapproval of Israel and of American Jews who support Israel
  • Totally open borders; invite the Third World to move to the USA, thereby diminishing the percentage of whites in the population.

All these ideas are promoted by our would-be tyrants and, after a certain lapse of time, they are also embraced by sentimental fools.

God help us.


*Image: Worker and Kolkhoz Woman by Vera Mukhina, 1937 [Russian Exhibition Center, Moscow]

You may also enjoy:

+James V. Schall, S.J.’s Humanity as it Actually is

+Gerald Russello’s Understanding the Liberty of the Church

David Carlin is a retired professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island, and the author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America, Three Sexual Revolutions: Catholic, Protestant, Atheist, and most recently Atheistic Humanism, the Democratic Party, and the Catholic Church.