There is no substitute for the Protestant religious and moral core of America
As you did with your “positive, neutral, and negative” worldview frameworks, you have called out the elephant in the room in a manner that is digestible to the elites of our society. Great work!
We are starting to see how the bureaucratic types undermine civilization too. They've been doing so much "whatever they can get away with" that institutional trust is dropping like a rock. That's not a personal problem with the masses, but a natural outcome of institutional dereliction.
Particularly in America, where individuality and equality are treasured, it is impossible for a group of atheistic elites to hand down a moral framework to the unenlightened masses that they themselves do not believe. Perhaps it could work elsewhere, but to the extent our country will allow for an elite at all, they have to be bound to the rest of us by a common set of principles. An American Elite, like the WASPs of old, needs to be something the common man can aspire to. It has to at least seem possible that that could be him one day.
Outstanding essay - had never seen the Freud excerpt before but it put into words something I have thought about for a long time.
RE: "There’s no way to replace the void left with the evicting of Protestant Christianity from America with some kind of generic moral formation substitute. Either Christianity is true, or morality is just what you can get away with."
Correct. It appears to be an attempt to fill the void with Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). Sadly, that belief is people only need to be good and fair. Biblical scriptures are ignored. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moralistic_therapeutic_deism
I believe I read somewhere in one of Richard Posner's books his statement to the effect that no moral system can provide within itself any reason why a person should abide by the moral tenets of the system, or words to that effect. The compulsion must come from outside the moral system. Of course, as a Christian I already knew this. I was then a little puzzled and amused as he attempted to describe coherent moral/legal principles without God or external force. Brooks is like that in his writings--it's just mumbo jumbo designed to fool the masses, I suppose so he and those like him can live comfortably and not under the threat from the masses that Freud saw.
It's even worse. Brooks, Posner and those other upper class (whether by birth, achievement, luck, marriage, or whatever) fail in their duty to those of us lower-positioned in society by not furnishing an example of how we should live--and that means with full recognition of faith and Christian practices. Without these Brooks is just tiresome.
Back in the olden days, at the ol' partyin' ground, a fellow on my floor of the dormitory was an early heavy marijuana user/advocate, hippy type, anti-establishment dope-using kind of guy. He built up a following among others, and by our final year they were zonked most of the time and useless. Many years later I saw an article about him in the paper. Turns out his family was very wealthy from way back, and he had a desk and position in the family firm. I don't think those he influenced into zonkdom who were not so well-positioned ahead of time fared quite so well.
Those at the top have avoided their duty. A little dope now and then may not hurt their life prospects, but it can lead to the destruction of those of the people beneath them.
Yup…you hit the nail on the proverbial head. Morals - or more accurately ethics - to be lasting must be based on truth. If it’s just a theoretical “good” for society, then when trials or temptations come people will abandon those ethics. Jesus’ disciples suffered and died because they knew He had risen from the dead and conquered death. Without the fear of death they became bold because of this truth. Today as a society we live without this truth and live in fear of man and nature (e.g., COVID). My guess is that Brooks doesn’t want to talk about this is that he doesn’t believe in the uncomfortable truths revealed in Scripture such as the perversion of homosexuality, trangenderism, and legalized infanticide.