Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. A Jewish Atheist for a More Christian America

 

shutterstock_222016312A few years ago I got sucked into a LinkedIn college alumni chat group where political discussions were going on. For the most part, the participants were smart, articulate adults, not college students, all of whom, moreover, had endured the famously rigorous classical core curriculum of our alma mater. Nonetheless, in due course, every Media Matters talking point and lunatic piece of campus-Marxist SJW nonsense was trotted out one by one and presented as revealed truth requiring no further proof. These debates — which were heated but civil by Internet standards — went on for close to two years before they finally succumbed to a combination of acrimony and the meddling and censorship of the university’s busybody apparatchiks who ran the thing. Apparently, people don’t like to have their core beliefs about the world subjected to critical scrutiny and found wanting. No minds were changed. It was, on the whole, a depressing experience.

Anyone who has ever engaged in political debate must at some point have come to the conclusion that such arguments are pointless. In the long history of political debate, from the Athenian assembly to the lamentable farce that is the so-called World’s Greatest Deliberative Body, no fully-formed adult human has ever walked away from the experience a convert to the opposing position. When conversions do happen, as with Irving Kristol or David Mamet, they are the result not of rational inquiry, but of protracted mugging by reality. You can’t reason a man out of something he wasn’t reasoned into, and politics, like religion, falls into the category of things whose core precepts are not susceptible to rational interrogation.

Which brings me to my subject – the relationship between politics and religion in America. My claim is that the demise of traditional American political values – democracy, individual liberty and limited government – has a lot to do with the decline of traditional Christianity in the United States. I make this claim as a strong partisan of traditional American political values, but as a disinterested nonpartisan when it comes to traditional Christianity. The title of this post is a bit of an overstatement – I am not really a committed atheist. I am, however, as close to an atheist as it is possible to be while still remaining agnostic. I don’t have a God in this fight, in other words.

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There is no question that traditional Christianity and traditional religious beliefs in general have been in sharp decline in the United States for the last 50 years. The drop-off has been especially precipitous recently. According to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who described themselves as Christian dropped from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent between 2007 and 2014.

This decline has coincided with a sharp, leftward shift of the country’s political center of gravity. According to Pew, atheists are far more likely than almost any other religious category to identify with the Democratic Party. Only 15 percent of atheists lean Republican, and the figure for agnostics is 21 percent. The only denominations more loyal to Democrats than atheists are Unitarians and the historically black churches.

This relationship between non-belief and left-wing politics is more than mere correlation: there is a causal logic at work. Just as modern humans are hard-wired for language, so with it is with religion. Most people possess a religious instinct that compels them to distinguish between the sacred and the profane. These categories are an important part of our mental machinery. When this religion instinct is not channeled through traditional religious belief, it finds expression in other ways. As Alexis de Tocqueville observed:

In ages of fervor it sometimes happens that men abandon their religion, but they only escape from its yoke in order to submit to that of another. Faith changes its allegiance but does not die.

Nature abhors a vacuum. The decline of traditional Judeo-Christian belief has opened up a psychological void into which all manner of pernicious ideas have flowed dressed up in quasi-religious garb. When the religious impulse slips the restraints of traditional forms of worship and breaks out into open terrain, it is highly likely to attach itself to the State as the object of its veneration.

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Among the errors of the French Enlightenment was the conviction that, as Diderot put it, men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. For the 17th century Rationalists, religion was nothing more than a dark night of ignorance, fear and prejudice, to be purged by exposure to the cold light of reason. To them, the decay of religion was a necessary consequence of the extension of liberty and the diffusion of knowledge.

The United States was fortunate in the fact that its founding generation – all children of the Enlightenment – was not hostile to religion. With the exception of Thomas Paine, they were all men who had a deep respect for traditional religion, even if they did not fully partake in it, and understood that limited government is not possible in a society of atheists.

The place to start to understand the relationship between religion and politics in America is with Tocqueville. In Jacksonian America, atheism was practically unknown. Tocqueville was puzzled and delighted by the ubiquity and strength of religion in America. He writes:

On my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things. In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America, I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country.

Tocqueville discovered that what gave religion its powerful influence in American culture was its recognition of two distinct realms in the life of a democracy: the spiritual and the secular. This strict separation of religion from the state was the key to understanding the success of American democracy. Tocqueville says:

Religion, which never intervenes directly in the government of American society, should therefore be considered as the first of their political institutions, for although it did not give them the taste for liberty, it singularly facilitates their use thereof.

American religion facilitates American liberty because its strictures are themselves a form of self-government. And it was the specifically Christian character of Jacksonian America that made democracy possible. According to Tocqueville, Christianity — in all its American variants — was uniquely conducive to democratic government:

For the Americans the ideas of Christianity and liberty are so completely mingled that it is almost impossible to get them to conceive of the one without the other[.]

As a matter of doctrine, Christianity draws an explicit distinction between God and Caesar. Unlike Islam, which is a comprehensive system of doctrine encompassing political maxims, civil and criminal laws and theories of science, the Bible imposes no demands on faith beyond the establishment of a proper relationship between God and men and men with each other. In the American democratic order, it was essential that believers not confuse the worship due the Creator with homage to secondary objects.

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How touchingly naïve we conservatives are! We persist in the belief that politics is a process of horse-trading and compromise based on common interest. But since at least the 2000 election, it has been clear that politics in the United States is basically a one-sided religious crusade. I say one-sided because, for most conservatives, politics is not a substitute for religion, as most conservatives still have religion. On the other side, it’s a different story. Progressive politics is functionally indistinguishable from religion – a polytheistic hodgepodge of cults and deities. The deification of President Lightworker is only the most obvious example of this. But it is also impossible to understand enthusiasm for a criminal sociopath like Hillary Clinton, except as a form of religious fanaticism.

The oldest temple in the Progressive pantheon belongs to the Equality Cult, which is the source of the left’s irrational hatred of the market. The appeal of this cult has very deep roots in human psychology, which evolved when our ancestors lived in small, kinship-based bands of nomadic foragers where egalitarianism was an aggressively enforced social norm. This equality instinct coexists with other competing and conflicting instincts, as well as with reason. But, because it is so easily exploited by demagogues, this instinct serves as an endless source of mischief and tears. We know of only two kinds of strongly egalitarian societies: hunter-gatherers, such as the few remaining Amazonian and Papua New Guinea tribes; and totalitarian hellholes like Cuba and North Korea. But the call for an egalitarian social order remains a permanent fixture of the Progressive creed.

Another important pillar of the Progressive theology is the Diversity Mystery Rite, which is really just an ideology about the wickedness of white people. In my Federal Workers’ Collective, the coming of October heralds the year’s biggest festival: Diversity Day. You might think that the most important celebration in the federal calendar comes in late December, when the humble servants of the People pause to celebrate Holiday, but this is not the case. While Holiday is an important celebration, it is not as sacred: Diversity is the towering federal Deity. Diversity Day is a time of year when all who toil in the vineyards of public service lay down their pitchforks and pruning shears and contemplate the benevolent splendor of Diversity. There is a Feast, of course, and skits, poems, and personal testimonies. I wish I were making this up.

There is much more, of course. Leftism possesses all of the attributes of religion. There is terror before the sacred and submission to the majesty, benevolence, wisdom, awe-inspiring mystery and superior power of the State. There are not one but two versions of original sin – racism and crimes against Gaia – as well as an eschatology connected to one of them (climate apocalypse). There are witch trials and rituals of confession and expiation for the sin of White Privilege. There are saints and martyrs, priests and heretics and – briefly – a messiah. And there is a canon of sacred texts, the most important being the New York Times editorial page. Its dogma brooks no dissent.

Books can and should be written about this. Unfortunately, most anthropologists are also cult members.

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Having experienced the after-effects of the French Revolution at close range, Tocqueville understood atheism and its revolutionary manifestations. He says of the leftists of his day:

Despotism may be able to do without faith, but freedom cannot. Religion is much more needed in the republic they advocate than in the monarchy they attack, and in democratic republics most of all. […] How could society escape destruction if, when political ties are relaxed, moral ties are not tightened?

Good question. Tragically for all of us, my mild, low-conviction atheism is not scalable to society as a whole without dire consequences.

There are 115 comments.

  1. Manfred Arcane Inactive

    Man, working my way through this but jeezy-peezy this is good stuff. What makes you able to articulate this so well, let alone decipher the mysteries of the universe in the process? In other words, what is your day job, may I ask?

    • #1
    • May 5, 2016, at 5:20 AM PST
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  2. Doug Watt Member

    Pope Benedict XVI: Address at the White House delivered 16 April 2008, South Lawn

    Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience — almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad. The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good, and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate.

    In a word, freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good. Few have understood this as clearly as the late Pope John Paul II. In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in Eastern Europe, he reminded us that history shows time and again that “in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation,” and a democracy without values can lose its very soul. Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent “indispensable supports” of political prosperity.

    • #2
    • May 5, 2016, at 6:00 AM PST
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  3. Merina Smith Inactive

    A million, million thanks for this, Oblamov. You say it so very well. Actually, there are books written about this by my husband, a legal academic. Right now he is writing a book about the rise of modern Paganism, which, in his interpretation, is the leftist religion you describe. You might check out his books and his articles on SSRN. His name is Steven D. Smith (I know–could it be more common?) and his books are:

    The Rise and Decline of Religious Freedom

    Foreordained Failure

    The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse

    Law’s Quandary

    The Constitution and the Pride of Reason

    And there might be one I’m forgetting. I think you two think alike, though he is a religious person. Is there any chance you’d have time to read and comment on the draft of his new book?

    Again, thanks so much. People need to understand this if we are to save our nation. I might add that the left does not understand that they are practicing a religion. They think the they deal in “reason” and “fact” and therefore they rule and anybody who opposes them is a superstitious schmuck.

    These Pagans are utterly clueless about the impossibility of what is essentially their creed–“equality”, nor do they understand that “equality” is pretty much an empty concept that has to import content from somewhere else. It just means treating like thing alike. The tough question is, what is the significance of the differences? For example,why can blind people vote but not drive? If they can make it about equality, they avoid the necessary arguments and just bulldoze their way through the institutions screaming their meaningless creed. Under them, what can be a useful concept in treating people equally under the law becomes a profoundly destructive force.

    We discuss things like this at length in our household….

    • #3
    • May 5, 2016, at 6:01 AM PST
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  4. Oblomov Member
    Oblomov Post author

    Manfred Arcane:Man, working my way through this but jeezy-peezy this is good stuff. What makes you able to articulate this so well, let alone decipher the mysteries of the universe in the process? In other words, what is your day job, may I ask?

    Thanks Manfred! What’s my day job? I’m a 19th century Russian aristocrat.

    Just kidding. Actually I’m one of your Feddle Gummint overlords, which is much the same thing. I am the problem.

    • #4
    • May 5, 2016, at 7:02 AM PST
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  5. Oblomov Member
    Oblomov Post author

    Doug Watt:Pope Benedict XVI: Address at the White House delivered 16 April 2008, South Lawn

    Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience — almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad. The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good, and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate.

    In a word, freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good. Few have understood this as clearly as the late Pope John Paul II. In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in Eastern Europe, he reminded us that history shows time and again that “in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation,” and a democracy without values can lose its very soul. Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent “indispensable supports” of political prosperity.

    Yup.

    • #5
    • May 5, 2016, at 7:03 AM PST
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  6. Emerson Member

    Very well said.

    Editors, please promote this so I can share on Facebook.

    -E

    • #6
    • May 5, 2016, at 7:04 AM PST
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  7. Western Chauvinist Member

    Excellent.

    And now I’m going to put my foot in it. I’m sure the reaction of any trained apologist to what I’m about to do would be:

    facepalm

    I have trouble understanding how you can know this — know who the good guys are, know that faith is good for individuals and society and especially freedom, and not sit your butt in a pew every Sunday morning.

    I mean, I get that you may not be ready to believe in a personal Creator God who cares for you and wants you to share in His Divine Life for all eternity. That’s a big step.

    But, it seems, well, irrational in way, to reject all this goodness you recognize. What is the cost you’re unwilling to pay? Are you a behaviorist? Do you believe the “being” is in the “doing”? Then why don’t you “practice” Christianity?

    Help me understand. I realize these questions may not be directly applicable to you, O, but they are generalizable to conservative (classically liberal) atheists/agnostics.

    The left wing atheists/agnostics already have their religion.

    • #7
    • May 5, 2016, at 7:05 AM PST
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  8. Oblomov Member
    Oblomov Post author

    Thank you Merina. I will definitely check out your husband’s books. DM me about the draft — I would love to see it.

    • #8
    • May 5, 2016, at 7:06 AM PST
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  9. Oblomov Member
    Oblomov Post author

    Western Chauvinist: But, it seems, well, irrational in way, to reject all this goodness you recognize. What is the cost you’re unwilling to pay? Are you a behaviorist? Do you believe the “being” is in the “doing”? Then why don’t you “practice” Christianity?

    Sorry, I don’t have a religious bone in my body. Not proud of it, but it’s just the way I’m built. I’m an outlier in that sense. Also, I don’t think you can reason someone into faith. Pascal wrote a whole book of rational arguments for religion, but his own path to faith was utterly irrational. I’m not ruling out the same thing happening to me some day, it just hasn’t happened yet.

    • #9
    • May 5, 2016, at 7:14 AM PST
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  10. Western Chauvinist Member

    Oblomov: Sorry, I don’t have a religious bone in my body.

    So??

    Seriously, so what? I’m not asking why you don’t believe. I’m asking why you don’t behave — at minimum, as an act of solidarity with people who make your politics possible.

    Hate to tell, O, but you’re a free-rider.

    /yes, I’m Catholic — so, guilt! It’s good for you. If you do the right thing because of it, it makes the world a better place.

    • #10
    • May 5, 2016, at 7:27 AM PST
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  11. Front Seat Cat Member

    This also speaks to the condition that Europe finds itself in –

    • #11
    • May 5, 2016, at 7:27 AM PST
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  12. civil westman Inactive

    “Who Are We?” by Samuel Huntington is pertinent to your observations. He describes the Protestant work ethic along with Jeffersonian self-sufficiency as the essentials elements of what America was (and certainly no longer is). It is well worth reading (have alcohol or an anti-depressant close at hand).

    • #12
    • May 5, 2016, at 7:28 AM PST
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  13. James Gawron Thatcher

    Oblo,

    Read Hayek’s “The Fatal Conceit” especially the last few chapters (it’s a very short book so not so much homework). Hayek strongly supports your contention about the importance of religion to a free society-market.

    Now Oblo, to your personal situation. You are an intellectual hard case. It takes one to know one. Kant’s meta-ethics is probably the only route for you. Kantian philosophy isn’t religion. The single transcendental gd that has created both nature and your personality is just a postulate of the meta-ethics. However, for hard cases like you and I, the Gd postulate will break down the last intellectual barrier that keeps you from becoming religious.

    Besides Shabbos at your nearest Chabbad, you will enjoy very much. How can you lose? Even Pascal would roll the dice.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #13
    • May 5, 2016, at 7:34 AM PST
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  14. Bruce Caward Thatcher

    Oblomov: Sorry, I don’t have a religious bone in my body. Not proud of it, but it’s just the way I’m built. I’m an outlier in that sense. Also, I don’t think you can reason someone into faith. Pascal wrote a whole book of rational arguments for religion, but his own path to faith was utterly irrational. I’m not ruling out the same thing happening to me some day, it just hasn’t happened yet.

    This, exactly for me too.

    I respect – maybe envy? – Christians (and I grew up in a “born again”-type household, and my family and many friends are all believers – good people). But I look inside, and I am honest with myself – I simply do not believe. I’m still Saul; maybe one of these days I’ll be heading for Damascus and . . . .

    But this article is powerful, and I hung on its every word. While I don’t believe in the supernatural part of Christianity, I am completely convinced of the psychological and social part, their necessity to the successful functioning of a free society like ours – exactly what is spelled out so eloquently above.

    I would share the article with some liberal friends, but I’m 100% sure that no one in the current religion of State would do anything but sneer at my naivete and backwardness. (I think it says so somewhere up there, too; you can’t reason a person out of a view that they weren’t reasoned into.)

    • #14
    • May 5, 2016, at 7:40 AM PST
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  15. Son of Spengler Contributor

    Oblomov:American religion facilitates American liberty because its strictures are themselves a form of self-government.

    As a matter of doctrine, Christianity draws an explicit distinction between God and Caesar. Unlike Islam — which is a comprehensive system of doctrine encompassing political maxims — civil and criminal laws and theories of science, the Bible imposes no demands on faith beyond the establishment of a proper relationship between God and men and men with each other. In the American democratic order, it was essential that believers not confuse the worship due the Creator with homage to secondary objects.

    From the other side, Christianity demands individuals take responsibility for helping to relieve the suffering of their neighbors. It fosters voluntary associations to help with everything from poverty to addiction to unwed motherhood and more. Without the externally-imposed moral obligations of Christianity, the non-believer sees no way to address social problems — other than the externally-imposed legal obligations of government.

    • #15
    • May 5, 2016, at 7:40 AM PST
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  16. Aaron Miller Member

    Oblomov: Also, I don’t think you can reason someone into faith.

    No, you can’t. Though we sometimes forget it, we Christians say that faith is a gift of God, not a purely objective calculation.

    But, as Pope Benedict XVI often argued and demonstrated, faith and reason necessarily proceed together. Truth is necessary for pursuit of love and love is necessary for pursuit of truth.

    I was raised Christian, but fell from faith in high school and gradually returned in college. Reason can take one to the edge of faith. As we say, faith is a leap, like the non-automatic choice to trust someone who has proven trustworthy (or vice versa). God is a Person, not an idea, so faith requires a personal connection.

    I recommend that a conservative atheist peruse the section of the Church’s catechism (summary of necessary beliefs) relating to government, as I did only last night. Under Part 3, Article 2 (“Participation in Social Life”), one will find declarations for subsidiarity (limited, local government) and a “common good” which is ordered toward the individual citizen and cannot trample the “inalienable rights” of the individual in pursuit of communal goals. Some statements are difficult to reconcile, but such is life.

    And thanks.

    • #16
    • May 5, 2016, at 7:50 AM PST
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  17. TG Thatcher
    TG

    Son of Spengler:

    Oblomov:American religion facilitates American liberty because its strictures are themselves a form of self-government.

    As a matter of doctrine, Christianity draws an explicit distinction between God and Caesar. Unlike Islam — which is a comprehensive system of doctrine encompassing political maxims — civil and criminal laws and theories of science, the Bible imposes no demands on faith beyond the establishment of a proper relationship between God and men and men with each other. In the American democratic order, it was essential that believers not confuse the worship due the Creator with homage to secondary objects.

    From the other side, Christianity demands individuals take responsibility for helping to relieve the suffering of their neighbors. It fosters voluntary associations to help with everything from poverty to addiction to unwed motherhood and more. Without the externally-imposed moral obligations of Christianity, the non-believer sees no way to address social problems — other than the externally-imposed legal obligations of government.

    That brings to mind some interpretations of themes that I’ve been taught, in Jewish history as described in the Bible. Specifically, that the clamoring for a King (leading to the anointing of King Saul, and then the rest follows) was a collective error/sin of the Hebrews, in that their tradition was to rely on The Lord – but in demanding a mortal King, they were in many ways abdicating their own individual responsibilities to and relationships with The Lord. Which is a sort of statism, too, isn’t it?

    • #17
    • May 5, 2016, at 7:53 AM PST
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  18. Emerson Member

    Oblomov: Sorry, I don’t have a religious bone in my body. Not proud of it, but it’s just the way I’m built.

    Perhaps it was my sheltered upbringing, but I had never heard this rationale for being agnostic/atheist until coming to Ricochet. It’s meaning still escapes me. Can you (or perhaps Brian or another like-minded member) expand on what you mean by this?

    Thanks.

    -E

    • #18
    • May 5, 2016, at 7:57 AM PST
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  19. Oblomov Member
    Oblomov Post author

    James Gawron: Read Hayek’s “The Fatal Conceit” especially the last few chapters (it’s a very short book so not so much homework).

    The Fatal Conceit is my bible! The Constitution of Liberty is not bad either.

    • #19
    • May 5, 2016, at 7:58 AM PST
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  20. Oblomov Member
    Oblomov Post author

    Son of Spengler: From the other side, Christianity demands individuals take responsibility for helping to relieve the suffering of their neighbors. It fosters voluntary associations to help with everything from poverty to addiction to unwed motherhood and more. Without the externally-imposed moral obligations of Christianity, the non-believer sees no way to address social problems — other than the externally-imposed legal obligations of government.

    Precisely so.

    • #20
    • May 5, 2016, at 8:02 AM PST
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  21. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    Super post.

    Liberalism chooses to excuse man’s choices. Paganism by definition is liberalism: anything you want is fine. Any feelings are justified. Any desires are justified. The deity/Gaia can all be bribed.

    The Torah says that man is responsible for his choices, consequences and all. By insisting that there is a moral touchstone and anchor, we can keep the society from slipping.

    • #21
    • May 5, 2016, at 8:03 AM PST
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  22. Doctor Bass Monkey Inactive

    Excellent post. A lot of this was touched on by Francis Schaeffer thirty years ago in his later works on the Christian’s relationship to American culture and politics.

    • #22
    • May 5, 2016, at 8:20 AM PST
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  23. donald todd Inactive

    Oblomov:

    Sorry, I don’t have a religious bone in my body. Not proud of it, but it’s just the way I’m built. I’m an outlier in that sense. Also, I don’t think you can reason someone into faith.

    Edith Stein, who became a Catholic nun, read her way into Catholicism.

    Alphonse Ratisbonne, an atheist who is hostile to Catholic “superstition,” is presented with a challenge by Baron De Bussieres.

    “Since you abhor superstition and espouse such liberal views,” he asks Alphonse, “would you consider submitting to a simple test?”

    “To wear something I’m going to give you. It’s a medal of the Holy Virgin.” It appears quite ridiculous to you, no doubt. But as for me, I attach great importance to it.” He shows Alphonse the Miraculous Medal attached to a cord.

    Alphonse can scarcely believe the baron’s impertinence. Yet he consents, saying “If it does me no good, at least it will do me no harm.” Merely to wear the Medal isn’t enough, the Baron says. Alphonse must also agree to pray a simple prayer, the Memorare of St. Bernard.

    Later, when Alphonse is trying to depart Rome, De Bussieres is stunned. He finds Alphonse in a church, crying. He begs Alphonse to explain himself, but Alphonse cannot. He is sobbing too hard, murmuring between sobs, “How happy I am! How good God is! How unbelievers are to be pitied!”

    Oblomov, are you open to find out?

    • #23
    • May 5, 2016, at 8:25 AM PST
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  24. Aaron Miller Member

    “Either God gives us rights or people give us rights — and there is all the difference in the world.”

    • #24
    • May 5, 2016, at 8:25 AM PST
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  25. Son of Spengler Contributor

    James Gawron: Now Oblo, to your personal situation. You are an intellectual hard case. It takes one to know one. Kant’s meta-ethics is probably the only route for you.

    I’m reluctant to take this thread in an unwanted direction, but: Oblomov, I think you would find Eliezer Berkovitz’s God, Man, and History an enriching read.

    • #25
    • May 5, 2016, at 8:31 AM PST
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  26. thelonious Member

    CandE:

    Oblomov: Sorry, I don’t have a religious bone in my body. Not proud of it, but it’s just the way I’m built.

    Perhaps it was my sheltered upbringing, but I had never heard this rationale for being agnostic/atheist until coming to Ricochet. It’s meaning still escapes me. Can you (or perhaps Brian or another like-minded member) expand on what you mean by this?

    Thanks.

    -E

    Great question. I teeter between agnostic and having faith in a just and loving God. The rational agnostic in me finds it all too plausible that a belief in God is man made. Typical agnostic cliches about no evidence in Gods existence yada yada yada. Faith doesn’t appeal to the rational and pragmatic side of my brain. My dim flicker of faith I have is based more on wishful thinking than anything else. I’ve experienced loss recently and find it comforting to believe this person is in a better place. I’d like to think that at least. It’s difficult to wrap my mind around. If this sounds confused it’s because in all honesty I am confused.

    • #26
    • May 5, 2016, at 8:33 AM PST
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  27. Jim Beck Member

    Morning Oblomov,

    As a lapsed atheist, viewing life through an absurdist philosophy became to hard a mistress. It is a merciless world where your suffering and hopes have no purpose and Camus comforts with an arm around the shoulder telling you that its always your choice, you can decide that today is the day to kill yourself.

    Your presentation is super. George Will has a speech at the Danforth Center https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbA5ab18SCo where he concludes that religion supports and promotes liberty but not the other way around. I agree with his historical review. His speech is also very entertaining, especially when he is recalling how becoming a Cubs fan, by force of fate forced, him to be a conservative. What I would like your opinion on is: is the destruction of common culture inherent Reformation Christian faith especially the American experience of Christian faith which formed the culture and government of our country? I think this self-destructive aspect of Western philosophy is mirrored in the history of faith in America. The Puritans wanted to establish a church state system like the Anglican Church, only truer and purer of course, but this structure of civil and religious authority was not resisted and brought to a halt by non believers but by people as devote or even more devote than the Puritans. These believers wanted nothing to intervene between them and God and their personal interpretation of the Bible. It would be me, God, and The Bible. There will be no Bishops here, and no state religion. They claimed their right to reject any religious establishment authority and to rely on their right to private Biblical interpretation. So whether you support slavery, the British, the war, or whether you are a Quaker, or Moravian, or a Baptist, you say to yourself nobody is telling me what’s what (with the exception that we all hate the Pope). That the Revival was so influential here and not in Europe, suggests that in American religion has always been an exceptionally personal. To me our religious culture which is defined by truth as discovered by personal understanding and experience sets the foundational principle for the radical individualism Bloom rejected 25 years ago. I am suggesting that this atomized type of religious belief is what we see now in the culture at large, we no longer view the world through the grid of the Bible, but of rights, but our claim to be the arbiter of true understanding is the same. Is there anything there, or have I gone over the edge?

    • #27
    • May 5, 2016, at 8:52 AM PST
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  28. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Aaron Miller (quoting Prager):

    “Either God gives us rights or people give us rights — and there is all the difference in the world.”

    That hardly covers all the possibilities. Right may simply be inherent to us as matter of nature. Sure, that may not be convincing to theists, but theism isn’t convincing to everyone.

    What matters more in this context — and what I wish Prager would focus on instead — is that rights and dignity be recognized as inherent and inalienable.

    • #28
    • May 5, 2016, at 9:02 AM PST
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  29. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    iWe:Liberalism chooses to excuse man’s choices. Paganism by definition is liberalism: anything you want is fine. Any feelings are justified. Any desires are justified. The deity/Gaia can all be bribed.

    That’s likely true of some pagan systems, but stereotypes about either pagans or gentiles are generally weak, as they’re defined in the negative, rather than the positive.

    • #29
    • May 5, 2016, at 9:08 AM PST
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  30. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Western Chauvinist:Hate to tell, O, but you’re a free-rider.

    All of us are civilizational free-riders in some sense. I think one can, in conscience, choose not to participate in parts of it, so long as one respects it doesn’t impede others.

    Our civilization is Judeo-Christian Greco-Roman Enlightenment. There’s a lot to work with within that!

    • #30
    • May 5, 2016, at 9:14 AM PST
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