Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Atheist Conservatives

... are interesting, but exhausting.

This is, unintentionally, a follow-on to yesterday's post about Jordan Peterson and Bishop Robert Barron. The idea for this one came from Andrew Klavan's excellent essay, Can We Believe? Here's a tidbit.
Why We Should Call Ourselves Christians, a 2008 book by Italian philosopher and politician Marcello Pera, is the clearest example of the phenomenon I’m describing. Written in response to 9/11, it depicts a Europe paralyzed by self-hating lassitude, willing to pay homage to any culture but its own. “The West today is undergoing a profound moral and spiritual crisis, due to a loss of faith in its own worth, exacerbated by the apostasy of Christianity now rife within Western culture,” Pera writes. He makes clear that by Christianity, he means the entire Judeo-Christian tradition, and he goes on to say, “Without faith in the equality, dignity, liberty, and responsibility of all men—that is to say, without a religion of man as the son and image of God—liberalism cannot defend the fundamental and universal rights of human beings or hope that human beings can coexist in a liberal society. Basic human rights must be seen as a gift of God . . . and hence pre-political and non-negotiable.”

This sounds like the cri de coeur of a passionate believer, the sort of thing we used to hear from Europhile Pope Benedict XVI, who wrote the essay’s introduction. But not so. The book’s title gives the game away. Pera could have called it Why We Should Be Christians. But he is an atheist. He accepts Immanuel Kant’s famous argument that God is necessary to the existence of morality. But from this, he reasons not that we must have faith but that “we must live . . . as if God existed.”
Almost as much as I believe in my faith, I believe that ideas have to work to be worthwhile. Socialism is a bad idea because it produces catastrophes when put into practice. It's stupid, not (just*) for logical reasons, but for practical ones. Don't waste my time with ideas that have been tried and failed over and over and over again.

That's why the agnostic / atheist conservatives like Jonah Goldberg annoy me. Christianity doesn't work because it's some kind of thought process, it works because it is something deeper.

A society is going to believe in something when the majority of average people do it. That means people with an IQ of 90 and a high school diploma. Jonah and his bros can prattle on all they want about efficiencies of the market and free trade and personal responsibility, but the Normals don't do something because Warren Harding's Secretary of the Treasury wrote a fantastically well-reasoned piece on the importance of libertarian principles. Normals do things because they believe in them.

Before you go on blathering about why we need to act as if we were Christians, you need to become one. You're not going to convince anyone with your erudite knowledge of Western civilization's great thinkers. If you don't convince people, ordinary people, the majority of ordinary people, you're just blowing gas and entertaining yourself.

Forget that.

This is what matters and what works, not your intellectualizing.
* - I hate parentheses, but I find myself tempted to use them more and more these days. Horrible.


tim eisele said...

"Normals do things because they believe in them."

"If you don't convince people, ordinary people, the majority of ordinary people, you're just blowing gas and entertaining yourself."

True enough. So, given that, how are the churches performing here? Are the "normals" actually finding the message of the churches to be all that compelling? I'd like to call your attention to this:


It appears that more-educated people are slightly less religious than the people you are referring to as "normals", but not by all that much (and the ones who are religious take it more seriously than average). And across the board only slightly over half of the population actually thinks that religion is "very important". This doesn't sound to me like the churches are doing all that great of a job getting their message across.

Why do you think that might be?

IlĂ­on said...

It's rather a bit more difficult to "get your message across" when you don't yourself believe it.