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Scruton’s Godless conservatism

In the past day I’ve run twice into Roger Scruton’s 1996 Wall Street Jounal piece on “Godless Conservatism”, from which it appears that many people who are uncomfortable with liberalism find it speaks to them.


Conservatism as orthodoxy

What kind of conservatism is possible today? Conservatism has always emphasized tradition. Since the goods tradition promotes can be difficult to articulate—if things were otherwise the goods wouldn’t have to be embodied in tradition but could be taken straight—and since the opponents of tradition refuse to admit the reality and value of traditional goods, the impression has grown up that conservatism is defense of existing habit simply as such. That impression is a distortion. The conservative preference for stability has always been subordinate to more ultimate concerns that could not be clearly stated because they were transcendent. “Conservative Stalinist” is thus an oxymoron.


Centralization and tradition in the Church

A disturbing thing about the bishops’ response to the scandals resulting from entrenched homosexuality in the priesthood is that it illustrates the extent to which institutional orthodoxy in the Roman Catholic Church has become dependent on one man, the Pope. The other bishops, it appears, aren’t much interested—certainly not enough to break “collegiality,” which appears to be mostly another form of clericalism. The situation is antitraditional, since tradition is much more a matter of the way of life of a community than the explicit teachings of the community’s highest authorities.


Tolerance and Southern Baptists

One example among many of how tolerance works: Baptist Pastor Attacks Islam, Inciting Cries of Intolerance. A past president of the Southern Baptist Convention called Muhammad a “demon-possessed pedophile” (he apparently consummated his 12th and final marriage when the lady was 9 years old), and declared that Muslims worshiped a different God than Christians. He also “attacked American pluralism” by saying that pluralism wrongly equates all religions.


The Upanishads

On reading the Upanishads: they have a certain prestige in the modern world because on their face they are philosophical speculations and not divine revelation. There is no irrationality in them, just profound thought about the most basic issues. The prestige and apparent rationality come at a price, however. As the most sacred scriptures of Hinduism the Upanishads must be viewed as adequate to the world. If philosophical speculations are adequate, then the world is comprehensible by man using his own powers. The world must therefore be such as to allow full human comprehension.


“America” as a religion

Is turning America into a religion the original sin of modern American conservatism? As a pre-1968 schoolboy I was taught faith in America. It wasn’t altogether clear what that meant, but it’s what I was taught and it’s what the revolution of the ’60s attacked. Popular American conservatism and neoconservatism are still mostly a defense of that old-time religion, more or less updated to accommodate whatever happens to be going on.


Religion and violence

Religion leads to violence. Dogma divides, experience unites. We hear such things all the time, but are they true?


Christianity and politics

Thoughts on politics and Christian orthodoxy:

Political modernism is the attempt to establish a wholly rational and this-worldly social order. The world is to be re-created and redeemed through man’s will. Political modernism thus substitutes faith in man for faith in God. As such, it is a denial of the nature of God, man, and the world. Its natural consequences are anarchy, tyranny, or both.



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