Skip to comments.THe Secular Right
Posted on 08/29/2006 6:51:14 AM PDT by headsonpikes
We all know the basic alternatives that form the familiar "spectrum" of American politics and culture.
If a young person is turned off by religion or attracted by the achievements of science, and he wants to embrace a secular outlook, he is told--by both sides of the debate--that his place is with the collectivists and social subjectivists of the left. On the other hand, if he admires the free market and wants America to have a bold, independent national defense, then he is told--again, by both sides--that his natural home is with the religious right.
But what if all of this is terribly wrong? What if it's possible to hold some of the key convictions associated with the right, being pro-free-market and supporting the war, and even to do so more strongly and consistently than most on the right--but still to be secular? What if it's possible to reject the socialism subjectivism of the left and believe in the importance of morality, but without believing in God? ....
(Excerpt) Read more at realclearpolitics.com ...
Very interesting...read the whole thing.
One of the most common misconceptions about the Right by people who are not on the right is that all Republicans and conservatives are super religious and use the Bible for daily reference. I'd have to say that a great percentage of Republicans, like my wife and I, are non-religious but have great respect for those who are. Neither of us are atheists, but we don't go to church or pray. Still I give to The Salvation Army, don't mind religious symbols in public places, like to sing spirituals for fun, love Christmas, and don't mind being called a Christian. That doesn't necessarily make me a good one, but I don't mind being called one.
Interesting article. I still say my prayers but the facts are, there are millions of people just in this country:
who believe that they are right:
and that everyone else is going to:
I'm pretty much the same way. I was Catholic born and bred (12 years of Catholic school!) and while I go to church regularly and my religion gives me uncomprehendable solace, I don't feel the need to aggressively "pitch" my religion to others, or mix my faith in politics. People ask what gives me peace, I tell them. But I don't foist it on them.
It's true that many good ideas have in their basis a religious tradition and teaching, but many big ones don't-- like democracy. The bible tends to dwell on the mechanics of autocratic rule. But it's like this, "When I was a child, I reasoned as a child." 200 years ago, our forefathers thought of a better way, went beyond the surface of how the bible says we should conduct ourselves, and thought beyond spiritual childhood-- a childhood where we should be told every minute what we should do, and there's no questioning.
That's how I see it, anyway.
There are those in the Middle East stuck in "spiritual childhood" who wish to blow us up or convert us, or both. They're dangerous. They're worth fighting, because they're made it obvious that they're not going to listen. It's one of the sad burden of our times. A sad, but necessary burden.
This is a false choice between "religion" and "science." If we had a perfect understanding of the meaning of God's Word and a perfect understanding of the physical universe, there would be no contradiction between the two.
Christians have led the way in many of the most important discoveries in science. Christians would do well to remember that "we see through a glass darkly" on this side and hubristic atheistic scientists would do well to remember that if the history of science teaches anything, it is that whatever the scientific theories du jour are, they will not be the last word on the subject.
But to derive a secular morality, we need more than narrow conclusions drawn from sociological studies. We need broad philosophical principles drawn from the grand lessons of history.
The notion of "secular morality" is a contradiction in terms. Morality is based on distinctions between right and wrong. It is impossible for atheistic philosophy to make anything but relative assertions when it comes to right and wrong.
In the final analysis, all of the laws and morality of our civilization are ultimately founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs. The belief that all human life is worthy is based on God's word that we are all created in the image of God and that the human race is of one blood.
There is nothing in, for example, atheistic evolutionary theory that compels the principle that the life of all human beings should be respected.
Calling on philosophers to create a new morality to replace Judeo-Christian beliefs is exactly what Nietzsche did.
Those who call for this are imagining that what will result will be a belief system that is just slightly altered and "improved" from the Judeo-Christian version. But there is no reason at all to belief this will be the result, and every attempt so far has been an utter catastrophe.
For those "skeptical conservatives," if they cannot believe, then the next best course would be not to try to replace the underpinnings of our civilization with a philosophical leap in the dark, but to accept the Judeo-Christian basis on at least utilitarian grounds, perhaps in the same spirit that Churchill once characterized democracy: "Democracy is the worst form of government; its only virtue is that it is better than all of the other systems of government."
As the historical basis? Hardly. Laws against murder, assault, and laws recognizing ownership rights, pretty much the big three in civilization, pre-date or parallel the biblical.
There is an immediate joint benefit to joint recongnition of such enforced norms that have nothing to do with theism, but of every day survival.
Not really. Pre-Christian and non-Christian societies have restrictions against murder, theft, fraud, etc.
The Legal Positivists claim there is no necessary connection between law and morality, but this is incorrect.
Every law is an expression of morality. For example, even a mundane traffic law requiring a driver to stop when a pedestrian is in a crosswalk reflects the implicit moral principle that the lives of all pedestrians in the crosswalk are equally worthy of protection; one could imagine a Nazi traffic law in which a driver did not have to stop for Jews or a Muslim traffic law in which a driver did not have to stop for unbelievers.
Ah but man since the beginning has sought for their own way, just like a two year old pushing all the boundaries to get what they want.
There is wisdom in that saying, lessons not learned from the historical record are destine to be repeated. Another wise man wrote there is nothing new under the sun, even when knowledge (science) abounds.
Only "relative" in the way that Christian morality is relative to God. There are other common measures of morality with the same level of absoluteness as any other but without the (somewhat arbitrary) religious basis. Most non-religious and atheist people I know subscribe to a game theoretic view of morality (from which Christ's Golden Rule can be derived) which has a basis in mathematics. I would have to argue that mathematics is at least as absolute a foundation for morality as Christianity by all reasonable measures. And in practice, I find most non-religious people to be just as moral and good as the religious on average, so there is no practical loss either (unless they have a crisis of mathematics).
The idea that there is no morality without God is a canard that has been refuted many times. And it is pretty obviously false in any case. I do not necessarily agree with the moral code of other people in many cases, but I recognize that they have one whether they can articulate it or not.
No human laws "pre-date" God's relationship with man.
The Bible says that God wrote His law in the hearts of men, and that man's own conscience bears witness against him. For instance, we have an example from the earliest time of murder, and the Bible makes clear that Cain knew it was morally wrong to kill Abel.
Man knows in his conscience that murder is wrong, so it is not surprising that so many civilizations have recognized murder as wrong. The Bible also says that when men ignore their consciences, it becomes desensitized ("seared with a hot iron"), and we have many historical examples of civilizations that have departed from God's principles.
This concept of "natural law" happens to be the fundamental premise upon which the founding of our own country was made.
Well, yes, but not necessarily of a morality that can be supported rationally.
There is no good reason to support immoral laws, however fevered and impassioned their rationales.
Otherwise, one would be obliged to obey socialist laws. Not to put too fine a point on it, but screw that.
"Every law is an expression of morality."
" . . . imagine a Nazi traffic law or Muslim traffic law."
Therefore, Nazi & Muslim traffic laws are expressions of morality.(?)
Your minor premise is flawed.
Pursuing your analogy (taken from the article) the English drive on the left side of the road. We drive on the right. There's nothing "moral" about that law; that is, Moses didn't bring it down from the Mount. It just makes sense, so we don't plow into one another.
check this out http://facstaff.elon.edu/sullivan/categorical-imperatives-virtues.htm
But you're right, legal positivism is flawed because it rested in large part on utilitarian notions, with someone writing that "utilitarianism is doctrine designed for swine". And as Nietszche wrote, "Man does not strive for pleasure. Only the Englishman does."
Whatever gets you through the night, I say go with it.
Who is to say what "enhances" life? What if different atheistic philosophers disagree on whether or not something "enhances" life?
What if someone believes that "killing all the Jews" or "killing all the non-believers in the Dar al-Harb" "enhances" the greater "life" of the world?
What do the atheistic philosophers say, for example, to Dr. Kevorkian? Some may say he "enhances life," others may say he "diminishes life."
Ultimately, in the final analysis, there is no recourse to anything but the subjective opinion of individual atheistic philosophers.
No they didn't. They set our government up primarily based on the biblical worldview. Our laws are based on the requirements of the New Testament "Law of Christ", which is summed up as: Do no harm to your neighbor" -(ie: "Love your neighbor as much, and no more than you love yourself." - The Golden Rule)
Those who do that will _never_ get into any trouble with law enforcement.
Those who defraud people, or in any other way do harm to them (that a rational person would NEVER do to himself) should face swift and sure justice for breaking "the law of love".
And of course, as Christ said, if you don't love your neighbor (by doing him no harm), you don't love God. Click my screen name for more.
How convenient. Without the least shred of evidence you attribute finely-evolved social instincts shared by all humans in all cultures since time immemorial to a diety for whom you have no evidence for existence.
I'll go you one better. The Flying Spaghetti Monster touched man's heart with His Noodly Appendage from the very beginning, writing His laws thereupon. And I have as much evidence for my story as you have for yours.
I'm more of a political conservative, based entirely on the historical record - I have no trust in Establishments of any kind, however "justified" they may be in their own eyes.
Exactly. This is the dilemma that man finds himself in.
Atheistic philosophy cannot in and of itself distinguish right from wrong.
And yet, man is a sinner, and by nature will not follow God's natural law.
The wisest course in setting up a system of government is that which the Founders attempted to take, recognizing at the same time the principles that (1) all men are sinners, and therefore extensive checks and balances are needed to be built into the system by which laws originate in order to mitigate this and (2) ultimately the moral validity of all laws rests on God's natural law, and when government becomes too far removed from that (not for light or transient causes), the people retain the right to reform their law-making institutions.
The premise here is that this concept works well only when the people have a respect for God's natural law; if not, one ends up not with the American Revolution, but with the French, or worse.
bump for later
Not to nitpick, but the "Golden Rule" pre-dates Judeo-Christianity. You might as well say that our laws are based on the requirements of Zoroastrianism (a predecessor to Judeo-Christian religions eradicated by Islam) or Hinduism.
Another nitpick, is that our laws are based upon English Common Law, whose existence is well-documented in pre-Christian times. Its core philosophies just happen to adequately mesh with later Christian beliefs.
The Bible says that God wrote His law in the hearts of men, and that man's own conscience bears witness against him.
It sounds like you are saying something, but in reality there isn't anything useful there. You say all law is inspired by God, yet also allow that man-made law can fall short of God's will. So what can we conclude about any given law? Nothing. It could either be consistent or inconsistent with God's will.
Your original contention that all civilized law is based upon Judeo-Christian principles is contradicted by your own claim that societies can err. Therefore not all law is based upon true Judeo-Christian principles.
Historically, the percentage of people aquainted with the Judeo-Christian bible, let alone adhering to it, has been but a subset of the entire earthly population. Your escape around this historical divergence is to claim that everyone already knows all the laws, from the ancient Egyptians to the pre-Columbus American Indians, to the far eastern India Indians.
A simpler explanation is that certain "laws" have rather obvious joint benefits and rational creatures will discover and apply the obvious. No need for a lot of religious mumbo jumbo to explain the obvious.
Nonsense. Any rational creature can discover common societal norms that when enforced bring a joint mutual benefit. You might personally find that too morally hollow for your tastes, but it leads to a set of laws similar to those discovered by the biblical writers.
And what would enhance MY life the most right now would be to choke the living daylights out of everybody that gets in my way.
In the final analysis, to the extent they are inherently good, all of the laws and morality of our civilization are ultimately founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs, in other words, God's natural law.
Really? Any rational creature?
Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, were these not any rational creatures?
Perhaps the only problem with atheistic philosophy is that TRUE atheistic philosophy has not yet been tried?
Your guy sounds like more fun!
More like "My god can beat up your god."
From the outset of the Religious Right having a place at the table of politics, and it's been less than thirty years, there's been a lot of whining from the non-religious who would really like the RR to leave the GOP--or at least stay very, very quiet and never remind the urban libertarians that JoeSixpack is in the room.
The snobs sob, but the Religious Right still expects a share in the pie and also expects to help with the baking. And we're the only real energy the GOP has.
This is just another essay that expresses a feeling--distaste. Not our kind, dearie. Too bad.
You are wrong here. Believe me when I say an Atheist can distinguish right from wrong, often much better than many professed Christians I have known.
LOL...in which language are these case books?
No sweat my friend. Firewall "6" is in place and active.
The good news is that most Judeo-Christians are rational and will not enact laws that have obvious irrational consequences. Which means that the various religions (and the non-religious) can co-exist under a core set of laws that they find mutually beneficial, even though each sect thinks they were inspired for different reasons and causes.
Hey, you posted something NEW!! Congrats. How sick I get of the same ole spam...
Nobody wants a wimpy god.
There are people who happen to live moral lives who do not believe in God. Which is not to say that there actually is such a thing as morality in the absence of God.
Neither of which addresses the point of the article however, so it's just a comment on one line of the excerpt.
Regardless, it should be remembered that it is the believers in God that get things done whether it's a William Jennings Bryant or Martin Luther King Jr. on the left, or a Ronald Reagan or Billy Graham on the right.
In the fight against communism, the atheists were generally cheering on the Reds or sneering from the sidelines.
Another comment on a line there; One can believe in God and be spiritual in the absence of "religion". God is not religious.
You `tub-thumpers' are out of the closet all right.
So, Jimmy Swaggart, Oral Roberts and that really weird looking guy (RWLG) in that `Crystal Cathedral' whose-name-escapes-me, they were all meeting to `chew the fat', but specifically, to talk about a sensitive subject: `tithing'.
The RWLG said, "I figure half goes to our operating expenses, including my salary, of course. The residue goes to God."
Oral said, "The Lord will call me home if I don't use 3/4 for His purposes--overhead, `walking around money', rentals, etc.--you've gotta `feed the bulldog' you know! And He gets the rest: orphans, the RNC ... things like that, you know."
And Jimmy chimed in: "We just put all the offerings in a big peach basket, then toss it all in the air. Whatever the Lord catches, He can keep!"
MacDonald's article showed about as much courage and insight as a drunken dorm room bull session. We should be talking about the rest of the TAC symposium of which it was a part. However, the author of this article is one of the least insipid Rand admirers I've yet read.
Right-wing atheists are still freeloading off the accumulated spiritual and moral capital of Christendom. Though they often aren't actively subverting it like the secular left, neither are they contributing to its strength. Reason itself is a divine capacity, requiring a certain amount of credulous trust even among those who reason only in service of skepticism.
Both Buddhism and Taoism are non "thiestic" religious philosophies (religions), and each contain mechanisms for distinguishing right from wrong.
Who defines what is right and what is wrong in a world with no God?