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Politics as Religion and Moral Code

 

 

Kirsten Powers, who is rapidly becoming my favorite liberal, is a liberal who actually prizes tolerance and intellectual diversity, and she is noticing that she is becoming a rather rare bird among her ideological colleagues:

 

This week, a trail-blazing woman was felled in the new tradition of commencement shaming. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde withdrew from delivering the commencement speech at Smith College following protests from students and faculty who hate the IMF. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, this trend is growing. In the 21 years leading up to 2009, there were 21 incidents of an invited guest not speaking because of protests. Yet, in the past five-and-a-half years, there have been 39 cancellations.

Don’t bother trying to make sense of what beliefs are permitted and which ones will get you strung up in the town square. Our ideological overlords have created a minefield of inconsistency. While criticizing Islam is intolerant, insulting Christianity is sport. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is persona non grata at Brandeis University for attacking the prophet Mohammed. But Richard Dawkins describes the Old Testament God as “a misogynistic … sadomasochistic … malevolent bully” and the mob yawns. Bill Maher calls the same God a “psychotic mass murderer” and there are no boycott demands of the high-profile liberals who traffic his HBO show.

Go here to read the rest.  Liberal intolerance is a very old story, but why do most of them embrace such intolerance?

Many modern liberals use their politics as a substitute religion and a substitute moral code.  Rejecting God and embracing materialism, and usually being bone ignorant of History, they often have no other means to give meaning to their transitory, as they believe, lives.  Hearing alternative political views is, for many of them, literally hearing heresy and immorality being preached.  Having the “correct” political beliefs mean that you are a good person, even if you treat other people wretchedly.  Challenge their politics and you strip from them their guide through this Vale of Tears.  Politics are to be debated, but a religion is to be believed in, and a moral code is to be obeyed.

When many liberals and almost all conservatives speak of politics, they are speaking of very different things.  Our common language papers over a growing chasm in regard to the role of politics, and tolerance, in daily life.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

12 Comments

  1. The “Politics of Virtue” goes back to the French Revolution.
    Then, the question was, “What guarantee does the man of virtue, the republican citizen, have that he is really acting for the public good. What are the guarantees against self-delusion and hypocrisy?”
    The only test possible was a person’s own sincerity. Citizens must be judged, not according to the outcome of their actions but by their subjective convictions alone. The result of this purely subjective conception of virtue was ta relentless search to unmask those hypocrites who pursued their own private ends under the mask of public spirit.
    As Hegel put it, in one of his better moments, “Virtue is here a simple abstract principle and distinguishes the citizens into two classes only—those who are favourably disposed and those who are not. But disposition can only be recognized and judged of by disposition. Suspicion therefore is in the ascendant; but virtue, as soon as it becomes liable to suspicion, is already condemned . . . “
    According to Hannah Arendt, this desire to root out hypocrisy stems from the Revolution’s own “favoured simile” of itself as tearing the mask, the persona, off a corrupt French society to expose behind it the uncorrupted natural man.

  2. Democrats have grasped the Truth and are acting in service to it. Their plan for the polity is beyond debate; it is received Science. And so they ritualistically dismiss normal debate as being mere politics. While Democrats are busily engaged in saving the polity… Republicans are being “political,” playing games in a low and unserious way. Sand in the gears of Progress.

  3. “Democrats have grasped the Truth and are acting in service to it. Their plan for the polity is beyond debate; it is received Science. And so they ritualistically dismiss normal debate as being mere politics. While Democrats are busily engaged in saving the polity… Republicans are being “political,” playing games in a low and unserious way. Sand in the gears of Progress.”
    .
    Nicely Screwtaped.

  4. Don’t bother trying to make sense of what beliefs are permitted and which ones will get you strung up in the town square. Our ideological overlords have created a minefield of inconsistency.

    Yeah, right. They are more predictable than the rising of the sun. Conservative, Christian, believe in traditional morals, or someone who calls out Islam – you get protested. Liberal, atheist, (or pseudo-religious) who bashes Christianity and traditional morality – you’re all in. Not that hard.

  5. Democrats do not even know that they are being intolerant, closed minded and divisive. They actually think that they are being tolerant, open minded and inclusive. Not only do they not know the truth, they do not wish to know the truth. What can one expect of the party that supported slavery, advocated Jim Crowe laws and opposed equal rights for minorities.

  6. “Many modern liberals use their politics as a substitute religion and a substitute moral code.  Rejecting God and embracing materialism, and usually being bone ignorant of History, they often have no other means to give meaning to their transitory, as they believe, lives.  Hearing alternative political views is, for many of them, literally hearing heresy and immorality being preached.  Having the “correct” political beliefs mean that you are a good person, even if you treat other people wretchedly.  Challenge their politics and you strip from them their guide through this Vale of Tears.  Politics are to be debated, but a religion is to be believed in, and a moral code is to be obeyed.”

    Many–as in 99.999999%

  7. Very interesting Michael P-S “Citizens must be judged, not according to the outcome of their actions but by their subjective convictions alone”
    /
    Over and over in the book of Judges, we read that the trouble Israel suffered came at the time when everyone “did what was right in his own eyes”
    Luke 11: 35 “Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness.”

  8. Remember Nietzsche thought of most of us as herd animals when it comes to our moral sense …if we are, perhaps there is a certain safety in that. My own thought is that liberal thinkers are more likely herd animals than conservatives thinkers.
    Liberal thinking is common although liberal thinkers like to think they are different than the rest.
    Remember, a few years ago those of us who were young liberals thought of rebelling, and coloring outside the lines. 😉 I think we found out that such art did not convey much.
    /
    There is a certain mediocrity in liberal thinking… because it gets defined down and down again to be accepted by everyone. No great advances, but a decline into indistinction.
    The definition of liberalism as belief in progress literally means nothing since it doesn’t tell us what the object of the progress is- we are to assume that it is something good, and that we can work together to bring it about, without knowing the particulars.

  9. Anzlyne
    “Citizens must be judged, not according to the outcome of their actions but by their subjective convictions alone”
    One recalls the homely remark of Wittgenstein, “What is the natural expression of an intention?—Look at a cat when it stalks a bird; or a beast when it wants to escape.”

  10. Does no one read Carl Schmitt anymore?

    Schmitt argues that every realm of human endeavour is structured by an irreducible duality. Morality is concerned with good and evil, aesthetics with the beautiful and the ugly, and economics with the profitable and the unprofitable. In politics, the core distinction is between friend and enemy. That is what makes politics different from everything else.

    The political comes into being when groups are placed in a relation of enmity, where each comes to perceive the other as an irreconcilable adversary to be fought and, if possible, defeated. “Every religious, moral, economic, ethical, or other antithesis transforms itself into a political one if it is sufficiently strong to group human beings effectively, according to friends and enemy.”

    Of course, he denies the possibility of neutral rules that can mediate between conflicting positions; for Schmitt there is no such neutrality, since any rule – even an ostensibly fair one – merely represents the victory of one political faction over another and the stabilised result of past conflicts.

  11. Orwell said, “Politics are essentially deceit and coercion.”

    To wit. Café Hayek recent quote of the day: “from page 82 of Alain de Botton’s delightful 1993 volume, On Love (original emphasis):

    “’Amorous politics begins its infamous history in the course of the French Revolution, when it was first proposed (with all the choice of a rape) that the state would not just govern but love its citizens, who would presumably respond likewise or face the guillotine.’”

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