Monday, November 28, 2005

Religion, equality, and liberalism

I have had occasion more than once to recommend highly Jerry Pournelle's excellent web site, Over the weekend there was an email exchange featuring one of Jerry's readers.
Faith of our Fathers revisited

Dr. Pournelle, When I spoke of the "faith of our fathers," I wasn't harkening back to the culture of the Thirty Years War. I was referring to the very strong but moderated Christianity that existed in this country in various forms until the post WW2 era. My older relatives saw what I am describing as a sort of "main street and public square" faith. I am willing to speculate that that sort of faith would provide our society with the courage and identification it needs to face the current realities.

In my earlier post I did not mean to convey that I desired a crusade: just a motivated people engaged in a competent active defense. I think it would help if our citizenry saw their nation as worth defending on every level. Faith and culture can play a role in that. I think a large number of our citizenry still wish to see our nation defended on every level including culturally; arguably a larger percentage of the more secular French and other Euros seem not to care about defending theirs.

I would like to see active border security and military force deployed according to hard military realities and goals. I think nation building in regions with no or at least very limited interest in democratization is a waste of our troops' lives. I also think such stratagems are born of overly secular minds that have not a clue about the real motivations inherent in faith and culture.

Regards, Paul D. Perry Milford, Texas

I understood what you meant, and I agree. But when I was young there were no public ceremonies without an invocation and a benediction, usually both with one by a Roman Catholic and the other by a Protestant Minister. For sufficiently important events there would usually be a rabbi as well. We paid public attention and deference to "Divine Providence" and saw the Hand of God in our works.

The courts in the name of liberalism have thrown all that out. Soon after of course goes most of civility: again I refer people to the Drama of Atheist Humanism, and where it has always led. Yes, there are highly ethical atheists. Some of them tend to militancy, at least among their friends. Marvin Minsky is a great example. But The Drama of Atheist Humanism still plays out in a different way because for every Minsky there will be two Trotsky's and a Stalin.

Today's liberal establishment makes war on religion, which is odd, because the roots of liberalism are in religion. The assumption of human equality makes sense only in religious terms -- surely few of you feel equal to the drooling idiot who camps on your doorstep and shakes the paper cup at you asking for change? Some see the Image of Christ, but that is not a rationalist or materialist position. Some see "But for the Grace of God there go I," but again that is not a rationalist position. And some think thoughts of personal superiority rather than thankfulness for grace. But what rationalist reductionist can see an equal, who ought to have all the rights of citizenship including the vote (which he would sell for a shot of hootch or a line of cocaine)?

But without that assumption of equality, liberalism is in big trouble. As we see: although today's liberals profess a kind of equality in their words, their actions show they believe themselves Enlightened, with a mission to minister to the Benighted. But "minister to" more an more translates to "lord it over."

The Ancien Regime would have none of this equality. Lords were born superior; if well brought up, they had a sense of honor and duty as befitted those chosen. Some became evil. Some purported to reject most of their heritage, but there remained something about them -- see the life of Byron, who except for the doctors who bled him to death might well have become King of Greece. Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsy was certainly idle rich, but he had his place in that ordered world that is gone and may not return until generations of tyrants and demagogues teach us that there were worse things. Under the old regimes those of great merit could still rise; those with no merit but great ambition born low could still feel that there were reasons other than their own inadequacy that held them back.

For that is one of the real frights of the egalitarian state with ruthless competition and genuinely equal opportunity: it is pitiless toward who had their chance and failed because there is no excuse for failure.

And there remains the ceaseless striving, with no peaceful end: is it any wonder that bureaucrats form feudal organizations and effectively end the striving and competition? Is it any wonder that the rise of the modern egalitarian state has produced the rise of bureaucracy and rule by bureaucracy?

Enough. More another time. Jerry Pournelle.

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