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Thoughts on “pluralism”

The accepted wisdom about Islam is that it has to accept pluralism to become a good citizen of the modern world. “Pluralism,” as a practical matter, is the view that the only public truth about religion is that no religion is better than any other and all religion ought to be kept private. Christianity, it is said, has already accepted pluralism, or at least its legitimate forms have. If the West wants to tell Islam to reform, the least the West can do (it is said) is crack down on its own anti-pluralists. So opponents of “gay marriage” or abortion can’t be distinguished from the Taleban, and it’s hypocritical to oppose the one without taking a stand against the other.

The essence of “pluralism,” then, is that liberalism comes first, and within the limits of liberalism you can be anything you want. As long as you agree it’s obligatory to honor equally all preferences that accept liberal equality you are perfectly free to have and pursue your own preferences. You can, for example, admire and love the scriptures, teachings, rituals and personages of Christianity or Islam as long as that admiration and love is wholly subordinate to liberalism. Your religious preference must be understood as a purely personal matter, and the true value of your preferred religion must be understood as its adumbration and poetic presentation of liberal teachings. Further, you must be willing to keep quiet about your religious beliefs, at least if there’s some risk they might be understood to be meant as authoritative. It’s against pluralism, for example, to say “Merry Christmas” in a Western society in which Christianity has historically (until a few years ago) had a privileged position.

The basic argument in favor of “pluralism” is that in a world in which beliefs do in fact differ it is the only way to achieve peace. The advantage of that argument, from the standpoint of those making it, is that it does away with the need to argue the truth, goodness or rationality of liberalism itself. It makes the unquestioned supremacy of liberalism a brute practical necessity that all other views must bow to as a precondition for avoiding the war of all against all and so being able to achieve any good whatever. For liberals, it’s a shortcut to total victory.

It’s not clear that the argument makes sense, though. It’s no doubt true that things will be peaceful if everybody strictly subordinates all interests to liberalism, but it’s equally true that things will be peaceful if everyone strictly subordinates all interests to Catholicism. One could, for example, have a Catholic pluralism in which you’re allowed to be liberal or Islamic, and admire John Stuart Mill and the concept of freedom or Mohammed and the Koran, as long as you strictly subordinate those things to the discipline and doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, view them as valuable strictly to the extent they can be understood as parables of Catholic truth, and keep quiet about them if there’s a risk they might be taken literally, so that in Egypt you’d have to keep quiet about Islam and in America about liberalism.

That kind of pluralism would have the same logical structure, and the same effect with regard to peace, as the kind deep thinkers want to enforce on Christianity and Islam. Would liberals be willing to render it the same submission they demand from Christians or Muslims with respect to their own version of pluralism? The fact of the matter is that if there are differences in belief there will be conflicts. It’s often possible to avert or moderate the practical consequences of conflicts, but the claim that there’s some principled way to dissolve conflicts altogether while leaving the conflicting beliefs as they are is obviously phoney. It’s an attempt to make a particular belief dominant by stealth, and no-one is required to accept it. Life, and the issues life presents, are real. It follows that when the good, beautiful and true come into question there’s no substitute for dealing with the issues actually presented.



I’ll check out those references. In the meantime, here’s my reply to Undadorned:

I would like to invite Undadorned to visit the planet earth and in particular, the United States of America so he could get in touch with reality. The fantasy world he is living in has distorted his ability to apply logic. How else can one view his assertion that pluralism is totalitarian? Pluralism permits a wide diversity of views and answers to ultimate questions; totalitarianism is its logical opposite since it allows only one view or answer and suppresses all others.

A visit to America would also cure his delusion that freedom of religious expression is in danger. While there may be problems with this freedom in certain other liberal societies like France, which had a long tradition of an established church, in the USA this freedom is doing very well. Need proof? Fine. Answer this question: Must a parent comply with state laws that require a child to be schooled until age 16 or until completion of high school? Not if that parent is Amish, whose faith holds that education isn’t necessary beyond the 8th grade. So say that cabal of leftist thugs that make up the Supreme Court. Must one serve the USA in the military if called up by the draft in time of war? Not if one claims conscientious objector status and is a member of a church like the Society of Friends which practices pacifism as a religious doctrine. Could parents be prosecuted for child abuse if they don’t provide up-to-date medical care for their sick child? Not necessarily if the parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses or Christian Scientists. These are but a few examples of behavior permitted to religious believers that is not permitted to atheists or believers in other doctrines. Must be that damn totalitarian pluralism at work!

These advantages are far more indicative of the true status of religious expression in the USA than the conduct of an extremist kindergarten teacher, just like the behavior of the ovwewhelming majority of Catholic priests is far more indicative of what priests do than the behavior of a few aberrant priests who have abused their position of trust. Would you not consider it outrageous if I claimed that Catholicism practices child abuse because of the behavior of a few bad priests? I think that Undadorned is not upset at the loss of religious freedom because it’s not being lost; he’s upset, IMHO, because his religious beliefs are not given preference over others’ or those who don’t have any.

When I read Undadorned comments on Roe v. Wade, I thought of the TV show “The X-Files” because his opinion is positively unearthly. The Roe decision was written by Harry Blackmun, a Republican, nominated to the Court by that well-known ultra-liberal Neo-Marxist thug Richard Nixon. Only an alien would think otherwise.

What planet is Unadorned from? (s there something “odd” about the back of Unadorned’s neck?) There was no conspiracy, the Court did what it’s supposed to do, resolve Constitutional issues presented to it in a case. Now if you disagree with Roe, you can elect enough politicians who will place anti-abortionists on the Court and Roe could be reversed. No conspiracy required. And as for the painstakingly planned coup to enforce gay rights,wow! Where are Mulder and Scully now that we need them?

Here’s a clue for Unadorned: The truth is out there and that truth is that there is no THEM there. No alien shape-shifters plotting to take over the world, no international Jewish conspiracy to rule the earth, no secret plot to establish gay sex and do away with Catholicism and heterosexuality. It’s just people reacting to change. You may not like it; I don’t like everything going on in the world, but it’s not because of some conspiracy. Life is a little more complex than that.

As to diversity training, it’s mandatory, in my experience, only in a work situation where an employee’s conduct is patently offensive and disruptive to the workplace. If Unadorned were in an office and a co-worker placed obscene cartoons of the Pope, Jesus or priests in Unadorned’s work station, told dirty priest-nun jokes loudly in Unadorned’s presence, and tried to get other co-workers to refuse to cooperate with a “Catholic bigot” such a co-worker could be required to attend diversity training. Unadorned would probably prefer a more manly expression of disapproval such as a punch in the nose but as the offender could bring in a knife or worse the next day to continue the battle and as an office couldn’t function with brawling employees, diversity training exists as a more civilized alternative.

Hate crimes punish acts, not thoughts or speech only and they are victim-neutral. Someone who bashes a Catholic over the head because he worships the “whore of Babylon” will be prosecuted for a hate crime just as would a gay-basher. This is not hypothetical. There was a recent rash of disfigurements of Catholic statues in New York City. The police regarded this activity as a bias crime and assigned more personnel to solve the crimes than for a simple vandalism charge. I am opposed to hate speech codes, particularly at universities since that is where free speech should be paramount. Hate speech codes conflict with pluralism and should be abolished. I’m with Unadorned on this one.

I agree that the Founding Fathers would not take the substantive positions on extension of pluralism that is now advocated. Most of the Founders would have regarded homosexuality as a sin or disease and would have opposed its legitimation. Many of these Founders also owned slaves and did oppose their freedom and granting of full citizenship status. They certainly would have opposed granting blacks voting rights. So what? Times change. The genius of the Founders was in setting up a political system based on pluralism, among other things, and flexible enough to handle change since the Founders had enough humility to know that they themselves would not have the answers for everything.

It became time to review what race relations were like in America, to deal with issues unadressed by the Civil War and see if it really was all right to deny citizens basic rights just because of their race. Many now believe its time to review homosexuality. Should it be legitimized? Maybe so, maybe not. The system must work this issue out.

Finally, what is this obssession about Marxism? Is it Unadorned’s practice to label everything he doesn’t like “Marxist” even if what he doesn’t like has nothing to do with Marxism? I suppose it saves mental energy to label things; you don’t have to think about them that way. But it’s hardly a truthful way to deal with issues. You don’t see me calling everyone who disagrees with me a “fascist”, do you?

Well, that’s all for now. Peace and love.

Hal writes,

“I’ll check out those references. …”

I kinda wish Hal had read them—they have a way of taking the wind out of liberal sails…
“Pluralism permits a wide diversity of views and answers to ultimate questions; totalitarianism is its logical opposite since it allows only one view or answer and suppresses all others.”

Hal may not have understood Mr. Kalb’s discussions of pluralism. Hal confuses the sort of pluralism under discussion with the democracy framed in our founding documents. Freedom of speech, religion, and the press and other elements of traditional Anglo-Saxon democracy not only don’t emanate from extreme pluralism but are not respected under it and are antithetical to it. Furthermore, our democracy can’t exist in a vacuum: in order for the founding democratic framework spelled out in our documents to be able to function, certain surrounding or “precursor” ethno-cultural understandings, traditions, and arrangements must also be alive and well. Such understandings never got spelled out because no one doubted their presence any more than they doubted there’d be air to breathe: they weren’t under attack. Well-intentioned but shallow-thinking sympathisers with today’s extreme pluralism don’t understand what pluralism’s hard-left backers grasp all too well, that in throttling these foundational understandings necessary to our society—for example, by means of the forceful marginalizing and draconian suppression of all official influence of and public expression of the majority’s religion; by means of attacks on marriage and the family; and so on—extreme pluralism threatens to bring society crashing down about our ears completely apart from its distortions of and outright disregarding of our society’s actual bedrock written documents.

“[T]he conduct of [the] extremist kindergarten teacher” mentioned in the Coulter book review I referenced was not an aberration. Far from freelancing or improvising, that teacher and her principal were obeying the spirit and letter of directives in force all over the country, ultimately of federal provenance. A week never goes by but we hear of some new horror story along these lines and we’re growing more and more alarmed by the situation.

“Would you not consider it outrageous if I claimed that Catholicism practices child abuse because of the behavior of a few bad priests?”

I wouldn’t consider it outageous if the Catholics made homosexual child molestation by priests their official policy. The federal government’s official policy is the suppression of all discernable public expression of, and official influence by, the majority’s traditional religion-entwined customs and mores.

“I think that Unadorned is not upset at the loss of religious freedom, because it’s not being lost; he’s upset, IMHO, because his religious beliefs are not given preference over others’ or those who don’t have any.”

Hal is right in an oblique way: in the name of “equality of all religions” the government is suppressing public community-wide expressions of the majority’s religion. Religion however is by nature a community-wide thing such that forcing it to remain strictly within the confines of the home, forbidding it to ever show itself in the street or the public square, is intolerable tyranny and OF COURSE never was intended by the Founders. When Hal couches this in terms of “not giving preference to one religion over others” he’s referring to the existence of minorities. Minorities must adapt themselves to the majority and not vice-versa. Minorities may chafe under that fact of life, and majorities are morally obliged to make it as unburdensome for minorities as possible. But they are not obliged to commit ethno-cultural suicide in furtherance of that end.

“When I read Unadorned comments on Roe v. Wade, I thought of the TV show “The X-Files” because his opinion is positively unearthly. The Roe decision was written by Harry Blackmun, a Republican, [etc.]. … There was no conspiracy [etc.] …”

I stand by what I wrote.

“And as for the painstakingly planned coup to enforce gay rights, wow!”

I live in Vermont, Hal, where it is well-known how much planning, starting years in advance, went into that judicial coup d’etat. By the way, “gay rights”? Homosexuals have the same rights as everone. What they want is additional ones that no one else has—among other things they can’t have.

“You may not like it; I don’t like everything going on in the world, but it’s not because of some conspiracy.”

What happened in Hawaii (later reversed there, thank God!), in Vermont, and now in Massachusetts was in each case the result of a homosexualist conspiracy—that’s CONSPIRACY, Hal—aimed at specially-targeted states and carefully planned, beginning years in advance, with leftist allies. What happened in Vermont with the Civil Unions bill was NOT spontaneous. Neither was Roe vs. Wade: such principal participants as Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Norma McCorvey I think her name was (the woman referred to as “Roe”), and many others who were right in the thick of the plan, have detailed exactly how that victory was dishonestly, connivingly pulled off with the help of radical left-wing allies.

“As to diversity training, it’s mandatory, in my experience, only in a work situation where an employee’s conduct is patently offensive and disruptive to the workplace. [etc.]…”

Read the second article I linked, Hal, and we’ll talk. You wanna see neo-Marxist brainwashing?

“Hate crimes punish acts, not thoughts […]”

If the penalty is heavier depending on certain of the perpetrator’s thoughts, the statutes punish those thoughts, thoughts which in the case of hate-crimes statutes the government has no business punishing—thoughts which are none of the government’s business. Only the actual crime is the government’s business. Hate crimes are thought control. So much for the First Amendment.

“I am opposed to hate speech codes … . Hate speech codes conflict with pluralism …”

Where Hal said “pluralism” I would have said “the Bill of Rights.”

“The genius of the Founders was in setting up a political system based on pluralism [etc.].”

The Bill of Rights the Founders gave us was one thing. The extreme pluralism we see being enforced now is totalitarianism.

“Finally, what is this obssession about Marxism?”

Marxism didn’t die in 1989. Communism was only Phase I. Phase I fell through. We’re fifteen years into Phase II, Hal, a phase more pernicious than communism ever was.

Unadorned, I haven’t had time yet to read those references, so I will withhold further comments until then. But I’d like to know why you say that Communism isn’t dead but is in some Phase II plan. Frankly, that sounds very X-Files to me. Got proof?

“Got proof?”

Yeah, Hal, I do—it’s called two eyes, to be frank about it. (I mean, what’s NOT proof nowadays?)

The hopelessly near-sighted can try starting with this and this (among about a billion trillion others).

I did check out these references and my question still stands: Got proof?

I found it ironic that one of these references was from Reason, a libertarian magazine. There is no one more opposed to the Catholic traditionalism you espouse than libertarians who believe precisely that society should be organized around the principle of satisfying individual desires.

Substantively, the article does do a good job of debunking the witchdoctory practiced by some of these “diversity” trainers. But the article provides no proof that diversity training is some sort of Communist-Marxist plot. The article doesn’t even accuse the trainers of being Marxists! And it would if it were true since it’s written by a libertarian who presumably hates Marxism as much as you do.

The gist of the article is that the PC diverity training promotes group identification instead of individual, that the trainers teach unscientific nonsense that whites are “ice people” and that culture is totally based on ethnicity and even genetics.What these people teach sounds like some of the stuff on Jim Kalbe’s website. Indeed it seems the only difference between you traditionalists and the PC types is that you value different ethnic groups and cultures. You both practice the same methodology and Reason magazine would slam you just like it slammed the PC‘ers. Did you read this article?

As to the Front Page article,it’s junk. It reminds me of the crap I used to read years ago from right-wing fanatics that claimed the civil rights movement against the Jin Crow legally segregated South was part of a Communist plot because Communists believed in legal racial equality. Since, I presume, Communists accept the Copernican theory of the solar system, then the teaching of this theory in science classes must also be a Communist plot?

Communism as a world-changing force is dead so move on already. I know it must be painful to have to give up that wondeful Commie bogeyman to explain everything bad in the world, but wake up and smell the coffee! The CPUSA is a bunch of tired, powerless old men. They have no real influence. You certainly can’t expect any rational person to believe that George Bush was influenced even indirectly by Commies when he pushed through immigration reform. If you want a real culprit, look to the “cheap labor” employers’ lobby. Also, Commies believe in the necessity of labor being organized but massive immigration breaks up unionization. Workers have suffered a drop in their living standards but it has little to do with immigration except at the lowest skill levels. Look to corporate globalization if you need a villain, not a bunch of toothless old Marxists. Besides, Hispanic immigrants are by and large Catholic and traditionalist. Many are ardently pro-life and anti-gay. You should welcome their immigration since if they do become citizens they could vote conservative.

Sorry, Unadorned, you’ll have to do better. Need Mulder’s & Scully’s phone numbers?