Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

PC: The New Religion

Jim Kalb is probably one of the greatest observers of all that is wrong about liberalism.  His latest piece on PC notes how it ultimately destroys culture and human life by taking away our ability to live in a truly human way, specifically by destroying our scale of values which involves ranking choices, “styles” of life, and all the rest. The entire article is worth reading, but I rather like this passage:

Basic issues matter. People have to believe that the world at bottom makes sense, and that it’s ordered in a way that doesn’t thwart human life. In other words, they have to have something that amounts to a religion.

That’s almost a logical requirement. To understand their own actions people have to understand how they fit together to advance something worth advancing. Otherwise action seems pointless, at least in the long run. We can’t look at our own lives that way. To get literary, we can’t–and don’t–live in the world described by Samuel Beckett. We have to believe that what we do is part of a comprehensible structure of how things are.

That makes radical secularism a problem. If you try to get rid of religion, you aren’t going to get rid of religion. Instead, you’ll get some scheme of attitude and belief that functions like a religion but pretends to be something else and will probably go off in strange directions because nobody’s allowed to think about what it really is. In short, you’ll get something rather like the Antichrist.

Officially, at least, the modern West has given up on the idea of an intrinsic moral structure of things. That’s part of what’s understood as the scientific outlook. The world is just atoms and the void, and it has no purpose other than whatever purpose we give it.

That view may be useful for some kinds of analysis, but it creates problems when applied directly to human life. One is that purposes differ, so saying the purpose of the world is the purpose we give it tells us nothing. Another is that it seems odd for a purpose we invent to be a rationally compelling reason for doing something. Rightness is the guide and justification of decision. How can it be created by decision? How can something become the right thing to do just because somebody decides to do it?


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Something did not sit right with me when General Petraeus weighed in on the controversy just down the road (in Gainesville) regarding the well publicized Koran burning.  For what it’s worth, I do not like such gestures; I find them atavistic, and I recognize that religion is indeed a sacred thing to those who believe.  For every Muslim who is out there seething and hurling bricks, many more are simply respectful of the religion of their forefathers, scared of western influence in their lands, and are getting from this event the wrong impression of Americans, who have no natural disrespect of other people’s religious practices.

There is no reason for either our government or ordinary Americans to sow conflict with Islam, and the best solution, as I’ve said before, is deliberate separation both at home and in foreign policy with a long run and realistic goal of containment.  This too would be offensive to some, but it’s better than the perpetual conflict we have now as we intermingle both at home and abroad in the name of liberal ideas of universalism.

All the same, it is a storied and treasured right of Americans to express themselves, ridiculously if they choose, and it is quite predictable, quaint even, that an old school fire and brimstone preacher would act in this way. It’s a very American eccentricity at work here.  And it has served an important purpose in showing that Islam, far from being a religion of peace, is filled with people that may, at a moment’s notice, become violent.  Further, it has shown the hypocricy and cowardice of the American politically correct establishment.

General Petraeus has suggested that this Koran burning hurts the war effort.  Isn’t that interesting?  What other things that Americans take for granted hurt the war effort?  Wouldn’t the recent push for same sex marriage or five minutes of MTV or women wearing bikinis at the beach also offend Muslim sensibilities?  Didn’t our protection of the Saudis from Saddam offend Muslim sensibilities, simply by allowing Americans to set foot in an Islamic land?  Doesn’t our presence now in Iraq and Afghanistan deeply offend Muslims, not to mention the numerous civilians killed accidentally (but inevitably) by airstrikes and drones and scared shitless 19 year old American soldiers.  Indeed, much of our country and its practices, some good and some not so good, are deeply offensive to any traditionally religious person.   Nonetheless, none of these things have typically been up for debate as part of a “hearts and minds” campaign halfway around the world.  Recall the Danish cartoons, which were eminently defensible, also caused similar mass Muslim rioting.  While uneasy with Koran burning, I see that there is something valuable in Terry Jones’ provocation simply for revealing so many people’s true colors, and this was, in fact, one of his stated reasons for this event.

As for the General, there is something altogether gratuitous about Petraeus’ words.  He undboutedly knew they’d be looked on kindly by Obama, in a way that a condemnation of equally problematic pacifist protests would not.  Where was General Petraeus when the Abu Ghraib photos were plastered all over Time Magazine and anti-war protests?  And what of the demoralizing “Bush Lied, People Died” canard?  Petraeus is hardly taking a courageous or conistent stand here; he is simply saying what he thinks the boss wants to hear.  And it is a problem when the military pursues its own (or the President’s) anti-democratic agenda in a free society; the military is supposed to be the instrument of the elected, political branches of government, and those branches (and the people to whom they are accountable) have varied opinions and views on what Islam means, how it should be addressed, and how that view should be expressed by private citizens. And, lest I remind the general, he took an oath to the Constitution, which includes the First Amendment.

A just war preserves a people and a way of life.  I have not forgotten that Petraeus, ever the politician, let the cat out of the bag sometime ago when asked by Senator John Warner (R-VA) if the war made the US safe, responding “I don’t know, actually. I have not sat down and sorted in my own mind.”  Indeed.  The current war now has a logic all its own, nearly completely separate from domestic security, which can be easily vouchsafed by capping Islamic immigration and pressuring those here to Americanize or go home.  The idea that to win a war American citizens must be cajoled by uniformed military men to show respect to an alien religion shows the ultimate impossibility of the current nation-building strategy, which aims impossibly and unprecedentedly to reconcile western institutions with an ancient, anti-western religion.   This war, animated by ideological principals of universalist liberalism and multiculturalism, threatens as it drags on to degrade the society it ostensibly is being waged to protect.

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One interesting phenomenon of our times is that the old-fashioned view that one may act on the basis of sincere belief has been hammered out of existence.  We don’t even say, “I think” or “I believe” anymore.  It’s “I feel.”

When a Muslim Pakistani tries to blow up Times Square, the establishment immediately search for an explanation in something demented about his individual psychology:  his economic circumstances, personality, and social relations.  The news media say, literally, “Motive a Mystery.”  Really?  But what of his beliefs?  His religion?  His ideas?   These real motives escape notice.  This can’t be the actual reason.  Such events can happen a million more times, but, for the liberal observer, the cause still must be found in individual psychology and possibly by something our evil society did.  It’s Rousseau on depressants.  Mayor Bloomberg and Contessa Brewer were both sad to find out the perpetrator was a Muslim.  Not because they are Muslims, but because the sincere, believing conservatives and Christians in their midst, those whose apparent motivation is sincere belief, find encouragement for their non-materialist worldview when men like Faisal Shazad rear their heads.  Genuine, religious conservatives understand and can explain their mirror-image opponents, the Muslims, with greater fidelity than the liberal who thinks all human action derives from the individual and his psychological impulses.

And why this assumption by the liberal?  I suspect it’s because their stated ideas–concern for the poor, a belief in social justice–are not what motivate those who talk this way; their beliefs are a thin veneer that do not explain their real drivers, an inner psychology made up of a will to pleasure and power coupled with half-thoughts such as guilty feelings about privilege, unease with inequality (including their own), fear of death (and therefore terror at suffering), and discomfort with the world in general.  Ideas and their explanatory power are denied entry into his mental universe by a thorough-going materialist nihilism.  “That’s just, like, your opinion man!”

For him, man is just a sophisticated ape, a mere bundle of atoms, impulses, and instincts.  Ideas don’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense in this world, because this world is defined by an all encompassing meta-idea that says every alleged idea is the mere epiphenomenon of some material cause:  thanatos, id, primitive group identity, or the residue of an abusive childhood.  Real ideas don’t exist as ideas to such people, and thus they can’t imagine they really exist for others.   So the ideas that actually explain things–that men are not really equal, that there is real evil in the world, that all people can’t live together peaceably so long as their ideas are in conflict, that the material explanation is incomplete–are immediately rejected, disappearing like idealist antimatter coliding with the materialist pseudoreality of existence.

There are many glaring gaps of illogic for the materialist; under this worldview, real human connection becomes impossible.  It becomes impossible because the highest connection, the search for truth, cannot occur under such circumstances.  Real truth is not considered to be intelligible, and this single simulacrum of a philosophical idea alone is allowed to exist.  The humane bridge between men of reason and thought and discussion can’t be allowed.  Sex and pleasure and distraction assume disproportionate significance, as these intense and also human experiences allow in a limited way the connection erased by the anti-philosophical materialism.  Villains who dare to expose these inconsistencies must be punished and psychopathologized.  And thus the Muslim is just treated like an alien force–a “human-caused catastrophe,” inexplicable through the perpetrator’s beliefs and ideas.  The more well known and hated idealism of native conservatives and Christians must be rejected with the greatest possible vigor.  Such men, unlike the foriegn Muslim, might actually persuade your fellows and retake control of the world wrought by the liberal revolution.

For the liberal anti-culture, the stated beliefs of the conservative are more familiar and more seductive.  There is almost no chance your daughter would go off to Harvard and become a Muslim fundamentalist.  On the other hand, she may become gripped by a conservative or Christian impulse, dissatisfied at some point in your life–perhaps when barren–by the false promises of feminism and materialism and nihilism.  And thus those who might lead her this way, are hated, rejected, and minimized by psychological reductionism.

For the man of ideas, the terrorist’s motives are obvious:  he thinks what he is doing is right, he believes God wants him to do it, he thinks those against whom he is striking are evil, and he is read and deduced this from the Koran which he takes to be divine revelation.  And this forthright and clear explanation, an explanation with predictive power, actually disempowers the terrorist more than the patronizing willful ignorance of liberals, whose entire worldview is threatened more by the acknowledgment of ideas (any ideas) than the conservative is by the violent expression of false ideas by the Muslim.  The false idea can be argued against or suppressed by force barring that.  For the liberal materialist, to acknowledge that anyone is sincerely motivated by ideas would expose the poverty of his own worldview.

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