Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Protecting Liberal Totems with Government Force

After gay marriage, you might be asking, then what?

How about the criminalization of people that don't want to do business with gays?  That's what Mark Steyn discussed in a recent column.

In Canada, where they have had gay marriage for a decade, you can get into trouble over gay marriage.  In other words, the race police, the folk that right now can get you into trouble for saying the wrong thing about minorities, will be expanding their remit to speech about gays.
The Diversity Celebrators have their exquisitely sensitive antennae attuned for anything less than enthusiastic approval. Very quickly, traditional religious teaching on homosexuality will be penned up within church sanctuaries, and “faith-based” ancillary institutions will be crowbarred into submission.
In Canada, right now, Catholic schools are required to have gay-straight alliances on campus.  And in the US you can get the local Human Rights Commission sicced on you if you don't want to photograph a gay wedding or if you write an article about race in Philadelphia.

What's happened to tolerance, you ask?  You thought liberals lived and died on their tolerance.

Let us leave on one side the hypocrites who talk a good line about tolerance just as a misdirection play.  Let us imagine instead a real thoughtful liberal.  Why would such a person want to criminalize people that disagree with her values?

I stumbled across the answer in a book by Anthony Giddens, Capitalism and modern social theory: an analysis of the writings of Marx, Durkheim and Max Weber.  Giddens?  He was Tony Blair's pet political philosopher for New Labour's "Third Way" back in the 1990s.

Giddens extracts an important notion from Emile Durkheim's study of Australian totemic religion.  It is the human need to foster a notion of the "sacred" and separate the sacred from the profane.

We humans need to hold close our ideal of what could be, what should be, and keep it separate from the everyday and the banal.  Thus the idea of the sacred temple, the sacred texts, and the sacred rituals in which we get together to renew our faith in a better world, and find strength to go on.  It must be kept separate and special.

The fact is that while science is a wonderful thing, chunking away and churning out knowledge, we cannot wait for it to decide everything, for our lives are here and now.  We must make a decision about how to live our lives right now, because it is bootless to say: well, we certainly should change, but all the ducks aren't in a row yet, so we better wait until the science is complete.

(That is why the global warming scientists have been fudging the science about climate.  They cannot wait, either.)

In our modern era, liberals experience themselves are carriers of a special "rational morality" relating to equality and liberation.  They feel that they possess a special moral authority to expound and implement their social beliefs.
Now the maintenance of moral authority demands that moral ideas are "as if surrounded by a mysterious barrier which keeps violators at arm's length, just as the religious domain is protected from the reach of the profane."(p114)
You can't have deeply-held beliefs without being outraged when someone treats them as routine and banal.

But if you "expunge all traces of religion from morality" then you get to the point where "all moral rules are rejected, because such rules can only survive this they are accorded respect and are regarded, within the conditions of their application, as being inviolable."  So liberals must defend their ideas as sacred, and that means, necessarily, punishing the violators of their sacred shrines.

If liberal ideas mean anything to liberals, they are good ideas leading to the good society.  Thus liberal race programs unwind the centuries of racial injustice; liberal gay programs unwind the centuries of gay-bashing.  And people that sneer at those ideas and those programs are racists, bigots and homophobes profaning the sacred spaces.

Now one of the central ideas of American exceptionalism is that there should be no establishment of religion.  Government should not get in the middle of arguments about the sacred, and it shouldn't become the enforcer for any particular sect or movement.  First Amendment and all that.

Of course, the First Amendment only works in the breach, because there is always a dominant religion that gets to use government as its cat's paw.  Thus Catholics had a rough time in the mid 19th century as the common school system was set up to favor Protestant bible-reading in school.  At the turn of the 20th century the Jews didn't like the frank bias towards Christianity in the US public square.

But now liberals are in the saddle, and they are using government to promote their sacred ideals and to protect them from sacrilege.  But why not, since liberal ideas are only based on "rational ethics" rather than superstitious ideas from the Dark Ages.

The thing is that with the decline of god-based religion, at least among the educated elite, a substitute has arisen, the modern phenomenon of "secular religion:" Communism, socialism, environmentalism, feminism, racial identity, gay rights, etc.  All these movements are secular churches with articles of faith and with sacred rites where members celebrate togetherness and the power of getting together.  And our modern society is drenched in these secular religious movements.

The problem is that, while denying that their faith amounts to a religion, the educated elite has more or less built an establishment of their secular religion, institutionalizing it in thousands of government programs, so that anyone that dissents from educated-class orthodoxy is branded not just as a bigot and a heretic but also as a criminal or even a rebel.

The whole notion of the First Amendment arose out of the bitter experience of the Reformation and the British Civil War where disagreements about religion--about the sacred--led to bloody war and bloody repression.  Let's get government out of the day-to-day arguments about the sacred, our founding fathers said.  Let's decide questions about faith and morality in a fair fight, without one side having the benefit of the government's guns.

But liberals are blissfully ignorant of all this, because they do not experience their liberal faith as a religion.  They believe--they know--that they have evolved beyond the iron cage of "organized religion."

In this, as in many things, liberals are woefully mistaken.  Get a clue, liberals.  Of course, your environmental and your "justice" organizations are churches.

And liberals have even developed their own form of ritual, the "peaceful protest."  Look at these photos of a peaceful protest in San Francisco against the Keystone XL pipeline and tell me that the demonstrators are not engaged in a religious ceremony.

It's easy to imagine that the big challenge of the immediate future is getting through the inevitable meltdown of the government finances.

But that will just be the start of our troubles.  I suspect that right up there will be the fight to extend the provisions against an establishment of religion to the modern secular religions that were not anticipated by the framers of the Constitution.

And it won't be pretty.

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