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02/27/2017

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Thanks for clarifying the Pope's "atheist" comment. It made the front page of our national paper this weekend, but without any indication that it was something other than his own view.

Mac says, "better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Christian." Look, it's right up there.

I have no idea whether SHEL's relative "loss of girliness" has anything to do with their giving themselves too early and too often to the unworthy. I'm thinking it has more to do with a thirst for fame. I don't know, though.

I do feel paternalistic towards them, esp. after having met and talked to them (they are very charming).

Once, on their facebook page, they posted "We are is X city. Anyone know where you can get good whiskey here?" Then their dad posted, something like, "I think you girls should just spend the evening at home." I my mind I said, "Good for you, dad."

That should read "We are in X city."

I don't have any idea either, obviously, or any real reason to think so. It was just a train of thought suggested by your remark. And of course some disillusionment is just a sadly normal part of growing up. I got their album, btw (mp3). Haven't listened to it yet.

Yes, it's true, I did type that sentence (about atheism). Well, copy-and-pasted it, anyway. It's actually an interesting question to me: whether it's worse to disbelieve with integrity or to believe without it.

I don't think the options are absolute. We are all duplicitous to a certain extent. I think that is one of the points of the pope's comments.

Yes, that's what I took it to mean. Not that we're all engaged in some flagrant hypocrisy like the examples he mentions, but that we may do similar things in smaller and less conspicuous ways.

I hide it well.

I was about to say "Yeah, me too." And then I wondered...maybe I don't....

Whether what we now call liberalism in this country could ever become truly totalitarian--I mean thoroughly and violently repressive, in the way of fascism and communism--I'm not sure. If we include the entire left, there certainly are elements that would seem to be quite willing to use violence, and there certainly are elements which clearly want to enforce very rigid ideological conformity.

You recall Manuel Azana's excuse for wrecking Spain's network of secondary schools? ("It is a matter of public health").

I think your religion metaphor for contemporary political discourse is less illuminating one which draws on the high school social scene - a locus of pointless rivalries.

One thing I discover about the left: with the exception of a few wonks, they're completely uninterested in policy except as a hook for a point-scoring discussion. They're given to subordinating everything to political tribalism, but have only the most idle interest in what public institutions actually do.

It would be good for all of us, each one of us, today, to consider if there is something of a double life within us, of appearing just, of seeming to be good believers, good Catholics, but underneath doing something else; if there is something of a double life…

I'll wager you it's just another expression of the Pope's distaste for orthodox Catholics. Dale Price offered a while back the observation that the Pope brought to mind the demoralizing paternal type who likes other people's children much better than he likes his own.

A thought something like that crossed my mind, but I decided to leave it out, in the spirit of trying to put the best face on the Pope's words.

"One thing I discover about the left: with the exception of a few wonks, they're completely uninterested in policy except as a hook for a point-scoring discussion."

Well...from my point of view it seems more than a few wonks. But I'd agree that they are a minority. I'd also say it seems not so much the point-scoring as the emotional buzz: I support such-and-such a policy because doing so makes me feel so good--wise, benevolent, compassionate, empathetic, etc. That obviously can be and often is supplemented by the pleasure of disliking those who have other views.

"Virtue-signaling" is a nice term that started turning up over the past year or so. It's a very pleasurable activity, apparently.

Not convinced that all of us, each one of us can persuasively be construed to mean "those others over there".

Good point.

Williamson is quite incorrect. The "separate sphere of private life," divorced from what is public and political, is an invention of liberalism, and an essential function of the liberal order. The commendable desire to avoid sabotaging personal relationships on account of partisanship should not be expressed in such sloppy language, especially when one is intelligent enough to pay heed to better voices than those of NRO pundits.

I think you're reading more than is intended into his phrase, although I'm not entirely sure what the "more" is. You seem to be taking it in some very rigorous way.

The "separate sphere of private life," divorced from what is public and political, is an invention of liberalism, and an essential function of the liberal order.

Rubbish. This can only be true if you define any relationship between households and institutions in medieval or early modern society as 'public' or 'political'.

Maybe Nathan is thinking of the relegation of religion and principle in general to the sphere of the private, with the public sphere supposedly neutral but in fact having its own principles.

I think you're reading more than is intended into his phrase, although I'm not entirely sure what the "more" is.

Perhaps the opposite is true: I was trying to say that there is not much substance to Williamson's complaint, and that it amounts to empty, ahistorical reaction. It is probably true that many progressive liberals see the rise of Trump as a step too far towards whatever they hate most, and think of this as an excuse to abandon charity and good manners toward conservatives. That's too bad, but it's a phenomena you can understand without invoking the specter of a monolithic "Left" that only exists for people who write and read silly books like Liberal Fascism.

Maybe Nathan is thinking of the relegation of religion and principle in general to the sphere of the private, with the public sphere supposedly neutral but in fact having its own principles.

Yes, certainly; but most conservatives acknowledge this without acknowledging that it has been accompanied by a privatization and de-politicization of labor and economy.

A lot of conservatives ( not necessarily me) would not only acknowledge it but celebrate it.

One can simultaneously recognize that the Left is not monolithic and maintain that the broad term is meaningful.

That's too bad, but it's a phenomena you can understand without invoking the specter of a monolithic "Left" that only exists for people who write and read silly books like Liberal Fascism.

The left exists as such because people's views in this country on various issue sets are highly correlated. Denying that is silly and doing so with self-aggrandizing rhetorical games is deceitful.

Maybe Nathan is thinking of the relegation of religion and principle in general to the sphere of the private, with the public sphere supposedly neutral but in fact having its own principles.

The notion that 'religion is part of the private sphere' is a political assertion, not a social reality. Late modern countries allow more religious pluralism and cannot be described as confessional states. That's quite distinct from an assertion that religion is wholly 'private'.

Yes, certainly; but most conservatives acknowledge this without acknowledging that it has been accompanied by a privatization and de-politicization of labor and economy.


To refer to 'labor' and 'the economy' in the medieval or early modern era as 'political' is to make an unilluminating nonsense statement.

I just re-read Williamson's piece for the first time since I wrote this post last Sunday, and am a little puzzled by Nathan's objection to it. It seems a pretty accurate description of a phenomenon I observe frequently. Certainly one could go into a lot more depth about how our culture has arrived at this point, but that would be a different sort of piece.

"Late modern countries allow more religious pluralism and cannot be described as confessional states. That's quite distinct from an assertion that religion is wholly 'private'."

Well, yes, but there's a very strong tendency for pluralism to turn into "religion is a private affair." Which is not surprising--it's an attempt to maintain public harmony among competing "truth claims." It remains to be seen whether it's possible to maintain real pluralism beyond the old American Protestant-Catholic-Jew trio. By "real pluralism" I mean a situation where religion is not pushed entirely into the private realm and considered something unclean when it ventures out. Already we have a lot of influential people who think it should be that way (i.e. really and truly private).

Maclin, the conflict has been entirely driven by the legal profession, ths school apparat, the academy, and professional straw plaintiffs like Madelyn Murray O'Hair. There are likely about 300,000 school administrators in this country, shy of 900,000 college teachers and administrators, and just north of 600,000 lawyers. That's 1.3% of the workforce.

True, those are the soldiers. But the cause they're fighting for is bigger and more powerful than they are in themselves.

"But the cause they're fighting for is bigger and more powerful than they are in themselves."

And generally speaking they've got the media on their side, which makes for a hell of a big megaphone.

And in general a whole lot of cultural weight. Also, the fact that the legal profession tends to side with it gives it coercive power way beyond its numbers.

But the cause they're fighting for is bigger and more powerful than they are in themselves.

Nope. The cause they're fighting for is themselves. (See Alvin Gouldner).

Now, back to Nathan. "Religious pluralism" is a social fact, not an artifact of an abstraction called 'liberalism' nor of 'liberals' promoting whatever. It persists because societies have ways (albeit unreliable ways) for mediating and adjudicating conflict, not because some band of scribblers imposed a secular orthodoxy. We had religious pluralism in this country for 300 years before a claque of freemasons and officious nuisances on the federal Supreme Court concocted a secular orthodoxy out of whole cloth and gave a franchise to shysters of the public interest bar to troll for malcontents and marks so that local communities might be folded, spindled, and mutilated in comical ways by our atrocious judiciary.

I seem to remember that in the past we have disagreed about the relevance of abstract ideas to specific conditions of contemporary life. There seems to be such a disagreement here. You really don't think ideology plays a major role in the kind of activism you're talking about?

You really don't think ideology plays a major role in the kind of activism you're talking about?

'Ideology' refers to systems of thought, which may be haphazardly constructed or quite conscientiously constructed. Every person has an ideology. Ideologies are more congruent with some interests than others.

Again, Nathan is attempting (as did a figure like Leon Wieseltier a generation ago) to steal several bases.

~~"Religious pluralism" is a social fact, not an artifact of an abstraction called 'liberalism' nor of 'liberals' promoting whatever.~~

I think what Nathan's referring to is religious pluralism as currently understood, i.e., as a product of the Enlightenment/liberal understanding of religious liberty.

~~'Ideology' refers to systems of thought, which may be haphazardly constructed or quite conscientiously constructed. Every person has an ideology.~~

That depends on how loosely or strictly one defines 'ideology.'

I think what Nathan's referring to is religious pluralism as currently understood, i.e., as a product of the Enlightenment/liberal understanding of religious liberty.

I think you're confounding a social phenomenon with fanciful notions of what its causes are.

I'm puzzled by Art's resistance to acknowledging connections that seem pretty obvious.

A strong streak of contrariness?

Art seems strangely impatient with the notion that ideas have consequences.

Seems odd coming from a Catholic though -- aren't heresies "ideas" that the Church has officially opposed?

Of course bad ideas generally have a connection with "social phenomena." But who's saying that they don't?

"impatient with the notion that ideas have consequences." Yeah, and I think we've been down this road before.

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