Isn’t something odd about this picture?

During the Middle Ages Europe was loosely organized politically—there was no conception of state sovereignty—and it recognized a universal Church that in principle was superior to political authorities and in practice could sometimes influence and so limit them. In early modern times Europe moved from that state of affairs to one in which the state was supreme. Each state had its own church, a Protestant church with the prince as governor or a branch of the Catholic church the prince could dominate under the terms of a concordat.

A lot of blood was shed during the transition in wars among states and through state enforcement of the prince’s choices in religion. Academics and experts dependent on the state blame the bloodshed on religion. They call the Thirty Years War, which pitted Catholic France and various Protestant powers against Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, and which ended with a decisive proclamation of the principle of state sovereignty, a war of religion. The consensus of certified authority today is that the history of such conflicts proves that religion must be driven completely out of public life, and the state or more likely some transnational governmental arrangement made absolute as the ultimate social authority. Liberalism must be the supreme political principle. Otherwise there will be unending violence.

For some reason it’s not thought relevant that by their nature all states and transnational authorities coerce and kill. Since they need a reason for doing so, they are based of necessity on particular beliefs about man and the world that are thought sufficient to justify coercion and bloodshed. Not everyone shares such beliefs any more than everyone shares religious beliefs. State sovereignty means that each state has to choose and define such beliefs for itself rather than accepting the traditional beliefs of its people and civilization. World government would require the decision to be made for the world as a whole.

From the French Revolution onward the beliefs chosen by the state, in their secular form, have been enforced by persecutions and tyrannies far bloodier and more thoroughgoing than any blamed on religion. In Europe today, where laws on the whole are extraordinarily mild, men are prosecuted in the name of tolerance for what amounts to blasphemy or heresy—for denying the moral principles of the current public order or the historicity and significance of its founding events. Here in America the Supreme Court’s about to rule on whether it’s legal to pay public honor to the Ten Commandments. The view against is considered enlightened.

The question nonetheless remains: why is Martin Luther King so much better than the Ten Commandments? A political society needs to honor something as a point of public reference. What’s so bad about the things the people are actually attached to and the country and the civilization of which it is part have actually been built upon? Why do freedom, justice, equality and public peace require such things to be taken from us and something else forced on us instead?

8 thoughts on “Isn’t something odd about this picture?”

  1. “The consensus of certified a
    “The consensus of certified authority today is that the history of religious conflict proves that liberalism must be the supreme political principle. Religion must be driven completely out of public life, and the state or more likely some transnational governmental arrangement made absolute as the ultimate social authority. Otherwise there will be unending violence.”

    I’ve seen another argument to drive religion out of public life. It’s the argument that public or political arguments or debates cannot include religious commitments because those commitments are not accessible to all. Another way of saying this: public debate is based on rational argument, and arguments based on faith are not rational; only rational arguments can be understood and evaluated by all. Therefore, arguments grounded in faith are undemocratic and exclude large parts of the populace from the debate.

    Technically, there are other arguments, but I’m not sure anyone takes them seriously. The first is that people of faith are neurologically or emotionally disordered and aren’t qualified to participate in public debate (the Maher/Freud/Marx argument). The second is that those Christians just want to impose their values on the rest of us, and are in actuality closet fascists (or KKK, or Nazis, or homophobes, etc.).

    • These arguments are all close
      These arguments are all closely related.

      The reason religious disputes endure is supposedy that there are no rational grounds for preferring one side to another. Those who act politically on religious grounds are therefore basing their actions on claims that aren’t susceptible to rational public discussion and assessment. So in effect they’re just shoving their prejudices down other people’s throughts, a procedure unlikely to lead to peace and concord and in fact certain (as history shows) to lead to suppressed or open war. You’d have to be ignorant, stupid, crazy or malicious to act like that. So if you’re religious you should be shut up and kept out of public life.

      Religious views are thought to differ in these respects from secular ideological views, in particular from advanced liberalism, a view it seems that all rational persons agree is correct and therefore can fittingly serve as the basis for social order.

      Rem tene, verba sequentur.

      • Religious indifferentism
        I have a class in Geology right now at my local commuter university. The instructor devoted two weeks to making sure all the young heads full of mush in that class knew that that science was fact and religion was opinion. I blasted him for it, politely, and told him he didn’t know anything about religion. His defense is that he had attended some Protestant religious conference and it suddenly dawned on him that no two groups agree.

        Could this not be the reason why Our Lord insisted on founding one Church and insisted on unity? Protestantism leads to indifferentism plain and simple, if 33000 denominations can all call themselves “Christian” and teach radically different things then the only conclusions the casual observer can draw is they are all wrong , all religion is subjective and it doesn’t matter what you believe (which is the explicit creed of some of those 33000 denominations anyways).

        Add to this that the average college educated individual (like my Geology prof) knows absolutely nothing about the process of philosophical inquiry. Since much of Protestant religion has been completely sheared from it’s philosophical roots in St. Paul, St. Augustine and St. Aquinas (among many others)they don’t have the faintest clue how philosophy and revelation work together to form religion.
        Kevin V.
        (God asks for our obedience, not our opinion)

      • That’s the best succinct summ
        That’s the best succinct summary of the liberal case I’ve seen, all the pieces tied into one neat, little ball; save that one.

        One extension of the liberal argument (a bit off point) is that concerning children and their education. Is it child abuse or child neglect to raise a child in a religious environment? Should the state, either in self-defense or in its capacity as citizen-maker, remove children from religious environments to assure that the children are properly educated to be fully participatory (i.e, committed to liberalism) citizens, given that citizens with faith commitments cannot properly participate in a liberal democracy?

        • I think that’s a point of som
          I think that’s a point of some controversy among liberals. I remember when I was in law school one of my professors (Bruce Ackerman, a thoroughly orthodox liberal theoretician) waffling back and forth on the point between various drafts and the final version of some book he was writing. In the end he came out against compulsory liberal education for the children of the unenlightened. I seem to recall that Amy Gutman has come out in favor. Since she strikes me as someone who got where she is by always giving the right answer on exams etc. and always saying what she should that might be significant.

          Rem tene, verba sequentur.

  2. Managerial Class
    I think we need to look honestly at the fix we are in. Folks that want their life centered on tradition, Christianity, and middle-class morality are pitiful and powerless minority in the nation, and the West.

    Its hard to know what to do when you consider all the institutions are dedicated to the replacement of everything our civilization once held sacred.

    Frankly, I think some sort of revolt is needed. Since that is unlikely, I suggest we become like Jews in Spain.

    As the story goes they outwardly converted but inwardly maintained their traditions over centuries. Since we are powerless to change the regime or by revolution cut its head-off, what else can be done?

    • You can’t outwardly conform a
      You can’t outwardly conform and inwardly resist, because outward conformity means TV, 16+ years of public (or effectively public) schooling, participation in celebrating diversity in the workplace, etc., etc., etc. The modern world doesn’t leave you alone.

      Rem tene, verba sequentur.

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