"There are only two ways of telling the complete truth—anonymously and posthumously."Thomas Sowell

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Libertarian Relativism

Poor libertarians.

They just don’t know what to do with all us religious folks. We tend to be toward the same side of the political spectrum as they are, so they put up with us, but they look at us like the crazy old uncle come to dinner. You have to put up with him, but you don’t have to like it! So whenever a libertarian writes about religion I find it somewhat amusing.

Cathy Young, who writes for the libertarian bible, Reason Magazine, has an article in The Boston Globe called “The Religious Divide.” She argues that behind our country’s political divide is a religious divide, which few would deny. The two sides in this conflict are “between those who see religious faith as society’s foundation and those who see it as society’s bane.”

I think that is a good and concise way to phrase it. The problem I have with Ms. Young is that she sees both of these groups as two sides of the same coin (my guess is that libertarians see themselves as above it all, although their antipathy to religion is obvious). As she says:
Both sides in the debate traffic in simplistic stereotypes. Anti- religionists . . . assert that religion is dangerous because it has historically promoted violence and oppression . . . Equally misguided, however, is the claim made by many champions of religion that secularists lack the will to combat evil because they are moral relativists who don't believe in good and evil anyway. . . . A religion, like any other set of beliefs, can be used for good or bad. . . . Any passionately held belief, whether or not it includes God, can make some people intolerant, closed-minded, unwilling to look at facts that contradict their dogma, and hateful toward those who disagree.

Fair enough. But then she displays her bias with this sentence: “It doesn't help that religion has become intertwined with politics.” Ah, I see. The secularist, atheist can “intertwine” his faith with politics because his faith isn’t a “religion”.

Here she says it another way, and gives us a warning of the danger to come: “The new vogue for wearing one's faith on one's political sleeve is a prescription for religious strife.” So if I am a Christian, let’s say, then I have to keep my faith locked up tightly in a closet, let it out maybe on Sunday and in private conversations. If I happen to see that my faith applies to all of life and reality, even politics and how our nation is governed, then religious strife is sure to follow.

It is amazing how creative libertarians can be in trying to shut up people of religious faith, and we all know they are talking about Christians, be they the Catholic or Protestant kind. I guess atheists who attempt to impose their worldviews on us never contribute to this strife.

Her last few paragraphs again relativize the two, but make no mistake, everything would be fine and there would be no strife if religious people would just shut up!


Tom Van Dyke said...

It is amazing how creative libertarians can be in trying to shut up people of religious faith, and we all know they are talking about Christians, be they the Catholic or Protestant kind.

Muy accurate, MDV.

As I note here back in my solo days, the anti-theists would never sniff like they do at the papists and evangelicals at the Dalai Lama, who carries quite a bit of chic.

What is overlooked by those who seek to squelch any principled objections by waving away the Christian perspective as mere bible-thumping, is that like Tibetan Buddhism (with which it is often in agreement on the issues of the day), its positions are derived from moral reasoning, not appeals to the authority of scripture. Natural law, if you will.

Pascal Fervor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pascal Fervor said...

I have warned for quite some time that increased anti-theism was inevitable. That anti-Christianity would follow a pattern not too dissimilar from anti-Jewish behavior.

However, I've quite a different understanding from most as to why. You may wish to consider this too. My most recent conclusion is At the Core of the Judeo-Christian Ethos: What Animates Its Critics.

In that piece I fear I engaged in too much apologetics (in the eye of believers) for the sake of appealing to non-believers. It was for the sake of believers that I did so. I did it despite my experience that few in either camp ever appreciate it. It remains a paradox I haven't yet learned to resolve.

So let me be brief here. In a world where many influential people believe in overpopulation but do not believe in the God of the Bible, there must inevitably be a terrible conflict.

The conflict will be over the value of human life. On one side you have the fearful pessimism that feels it cannot depend upon the promise from a God Who is immune to scientific evidence of His existence.

On the other side you have the optimism that accompanies any and all appreciation for the very concept of God. "Father, where is the lamb?"
"God will provide His own Lamb."
The revolutionary covenant which accompanied that understanding is under renewed attack by reactionaries and counterrevolutionaries.

Fail to address this, and it seems you are inviting Armageddon.

Maybe you can explain away such a horrible invitation, because I dare not try. I cannot reconcile how those who invite such a level of human destruction would ever be allowed inside His Kingdom.
[originally posted at 4:02 PM 11/25/06]

Tom Van Dyke said...

Very nice essay, Mr. Fervor. (Now I know what your screenname means. I thought it meant you were a fan of a certain 17th-century scientist- philosopher who also spells his name without the "aitch.")

I identify with your conundrum that writing for the anti-theists seems to leave the believers cold, and vice-versa. But I think you did a nice job. Sow the seed everywhere, on soft and hard ground alike; whether or not it sprouts is beyond our control.

Pascal Fervor said...

Thank you Mr. Van Dyke. As scripture is full of double entendre, so is my screenname. Both your first and last inclinations were right.

I see there is much yet to learn from Blaise. He succeeded at discrediting the influentials of his time who had bent moral scholarship to serve their will and that of their benefactors.

I see a great similarity to those he challenged with those today who seek to undermine the great and unprecedented advances of the West by foisting a paradigm shift in what constitutes innocence. They are determined to finally shift the social contract's emphasis from that of Locke to that of Rousseau.

I am but a pale shadow of his great mind and energy. Still I hope to encourage others by pointing to his example. His success show us how even one man could force reforms, even if those reforms come many years after his passing.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I'd be interested in your thoughts on the attempt to redefine innocence, which I've been thunking on myself. Please do forward them when they're in concrete form.

Pascal Fervor said...

I'll pose the redefinition in simple terms. This has the virtue of something upon which to base further discussion. It also bears the practical blessing of requiring no one to await my satisfaction with own thesis. Awaiting such has proven in the past to be frustrating if not futile.

Simple proposition:
In a world believed to have limited resources and space, those who have sufficient power over their own people, and after they have sufficiently severed any and all traditional moral ties, will chose to deem who is worthy to live and who must die. In such a world, not being of any visible value will make one a useless eater, and thereby a criminal. Also, any who do not accept this necessary paradigm alteration: a criminal.

There are quite a few examples of the first upon which we can draw. There are many people in positions of respect (like Peter Singer) who argue that the following kinds of shifts in attitude are indeed already ethical. (In fact I'll shortly respond at my own site to one who already argues that way.)

Those who see providing life saving measures to anyone over somne age -- say eighty -- as being not worth the costs. By their reasoning, since the octengenarian's life expectancy is so much shorter than someone younger, and the advanced age increases the chances of complications due to the treatment itself, the dwindling resources forces us to deny the octegenarian any further service except a comfortably hastened death. Same goes for children with severe birth defects or afflicted -- sadly of course, always emphasize the sadly -- with some low mental standard.

Then there's second form of shift in attitude. Its fully developed power has not yet come to the fore in the United States. But the signs of its advance are unmistakeable -- I wrote on it at lengrh most recently here.

So what do I see is the fate for those in the population who harken back to notions deemed foolish and obsolete and "dangerous"? For those who hold onto such Godly expectations as love, honor, gratitude, optimism, sorrow, pity, or just plainly feel compelled to protect some weak or vulnerable individual? To them our Bettermen have but one question: "What's your mental deficiency?"