May 17, 2006 § 8 Comments
An interesting essay.
February 22, 2013 § 10 Comments
Those who sincerely desire to bring those outside the Christian religion to the correct faith should be earnestly engaged in displays of courtesy, not harshness, lest hostility drive far away those whose minds a clearly thought out reason could challenge. For whoever acts otherwise, and wants to keep them away from their customary practice of rites under this pretext, is shown to be more concerned with his own interests than with those of God. For the Jews who live in Naples complained to Us that some people have unreasonably sought to prevent them from celebrating some of their solemn feast days, so that they were not permitted to celebrate their solemn festivals, as they, up to the present, and their ancestors for a long time previously, were allowed to observe or honor. If such is the case, these men seem to be engaged in a useless pursuit. For what advantage is there when, contrary to long practice, these have been forbidden and it serves no benefit toward their faith and conversion? Or why are we setting up rules for the Jews on how they should celebrate their ceremonies if in doing so we cannot persuade them?
This, then, is the agendum: by being encouraged more by reason and gentleness, they are to wish to follow, not flee from us, so that by showing them what we affirm from their Scriptures, we may be able, with God’s help, to convert them to the bosom of Mother Church. And thus, Your Fraternity, as far as possible with God’s help, should awaken them to conversion by admonitions and not allow them to be further disturbed in their celebrations. But they should have complete freedom to observe and celebrate all their feast and holy days as up till now … they have possessed.
Pope St. Gregory I The Great, Qui Sincera, November, 602 AD (Quoted in Denzinger)
Although We have no doubt it stems from the zeal of devotion that Your Nobility arranges to lead Jews to the worship of Christendom, We have nonetheless thought it necessary to send you Our letter by way of admonishment, since you seem to do it with a zeal that is inordinate. For we do not read that our Lord Jesus Christ violently forced anyone into his service, but that by humble exhortation, leaving to each person his own freedom of choice, he recalled from error whomsoever he had predestined to eternal life, doing so not by judging them, but by shedding his own blood. …
Likewise, the blessed Gregory forbids, in one of his letters, that the said people should be drawn to the faith by violence.
Pope Alexander II, Licet Ex (to Prince Landolfo of Benevento), 1065 AD, (Quoted in Denzinger)
November 1, 2007 § Leave a comment
2109 The right to religious liberty can of itself be neither unlimited nor limited only by a “public order” conceived in a positivist or naturalist manner.
September 18, 2017 § 64 Comments
It was characteristic of Michael [Novak] to frame the highest good as liberation from constraint. As he says at one point, “God did not make creation coercive, but designed it as an arena of liberty.”
The free market gives us a glimpse of the ideal society, one that features order without authority and purposeful freedom without the need for agreement about the common good beyond a procedural rule of law.
Democratic capitalism does a better job sustaining an open, pluralistic society than political liberalism, because capitalism, unlike political deliberation, guarantees freedom more jealously (and effectively).
Yet we’ve seen setback after setback, and the corporate tsunami that recently swept through Indiana after it passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act made clear the link between global capitalism and progressive clear-cutting of traditional religious culture and morality.
Needless to say, Michael Novak did not foresee these outcomes when he wrote The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism any more than I did when I thrilled to his insights more than three decades ago.
…he described the anthropology of capitalism in a one-sided way. Its fearsome dynamism speaks to part of our soul, but it neglects and even works against the part that cherishes permanence.
This one-sidedness needs to be corrected, for our challenges are quite different from the legacy of postwar consolidation that Michael responded to with such élan. We do not live in a closed, regulated, regimented world. Political correctness is a serious problem, and it has an authoritarian tendency. But it is not born of loyalty to permanent things. As an outgrowth of liberalism itself, this rigid ideology comes under the sign of choice. It is an obligatory, enforced participation in a fluid, liquefied moral world. We are told that we are not required to think or live in any particular way—except that we can’t think or live in ways that constrain, compromise, or even throw doubt on anyone else’s free decision to think or live differently. Taken to its logical extreme—everything is permitted as long as it permits everything—this becomes a paradoxical totalitarian toleration that is all the more dangerous because it deludes those who promote it into thinking that when they drive all dissent from the public square, they are “including.”
My summary of the article:
Don’t blame us for the poison we’ve been pumping into society for decades. We had good hearts and meant well, we just accidentally neglected to keep our nice tame liberalism on a leash. No reasonable person could have foreseen a “how were we supposed to know?” stage to inevitably follow our “what could it hurt?” enthusiasms. Who would have thought that pouring acid over the moral social fabric for centuries would make it dissolve? Who could have predicted that treating human authority and hierarchy as if it were what is wrong with the world would lead to its dissolution and reconstitution as an inhuman monstrosity?
So the thing we should all do now is correct the ‘one sidedness’ of what we’ve been doing for decades. We need to work together to promote a nice tame liberalism in common sense balance with moral constraints and the common good. We need more water for the shriveled up plants in our common garden, to bring balance to the acid we plan to continue pouring on them. And that is totally, totally different from what conservatives have been doing since the founding of America. This time it will work, really. We have to adjust to the times, to find a renewed way for political freedom to flourish.
Oh, and that crank Zippy’s understanding of liberalism is a big strawman.
 Translation: our intramural team in the red shirts is so much better than the other team playing the exact same game by the exact same rules in pursuit of the exact same goals, because they wear blue shirts.
September 22, 2012 § 7 Comments
December 7, 2016 § 166 Comments
Liberalism is first and foremost a political doctrine: an (incoherent) view about legitimate exercise of authority. It is true that once empowered liberalism cannot be contained and ‘leaks’ into everything else. But characterizing liberalism as a grand overall religious or anti-religious worldview, rather than as a specifically political doctrine, is a mistake: a mistake easily rejected by liberals as a caricature which creates a motte and bailey social structure from which escape becomes impossible.
In order to resist our enemy you have to understand him; and if liberalism is not understood as primarily a political doctrine – a political doctrine which by its nature cannot be contained or kept as subordinate by any amount of virtue, moderation, or good intentions – it cannot be adequately resisted.
Almost every conservative or reactionary travels down the same old path, which invariably seduces him into right liberalism. The infinitesimal number of exceptions merely prove the rule: we are all liberals, and the all encompassing gravity well of liberalism will comprehensively dominate human existence until enough people reject it unequivocally.
Liberalism is ‘more than political’ only in a similar sense to which AIDS is more than a virus. By defining liberal commitments as more grandiose and religious than they are in fact, as something greater or more transcendent than specifically political commitments, we can avoid unequivocally rejecting freedom and equality as political principles (principles of authority in action). This gives liberalism a ‘motte’ into which to retreat whenever its own excesses would otherwise lead to self destruction.
Liberalism always starts as specifically political commitments, just as AIDS always starts out as a tiny invisible virus. We can rage against the snot running down the nose of the AIDS patient all we want; but if we hope to actually prevent AIDS we have to adequately grasp what causes it in the first place. Only then can we begin to know what to do about it.
November 1, 2016 § 210 Comments
Liberalism survives and thrives over many generations of men by asserting unprincipled exceptions to deal with its own excesses. In a world where Marxist professors are being pilloried for their cisgender whiteness and right wing wrongthought, this gives rise to movements like (what the Current Year labels) the alt right.
The alt-right is a noisy (on the Internet) anti-establishment and – typical of anti-establishment liberalism – deliberately offensive minority part of the new conservative synthesis, which we might call Trumpism. Rather than seeing the 1950’s as America’s cultural high water mark, Trumpism sees the 1990’s as America’s cultural high water mark.
Some parts of the alt-right explicitly repudiate equality, so it is fair to ask why this repudiation does not in fact constitute a principled exception to liberalism. The answer is twofold.
First, the equality at the foundations of liberalism is equality of rights among the superman. Failure to specify that what is explicitly and unequivocally repudiated is liberalism’s assertion of equal rights allows the principle itself to sneak in by the back door, as a principle which still obtains among the superman.
Second, equality is not the most fundamental commitment of liberalism. Equal rights inevitably follow from liberalism’s fundamental commitment to political liberty, and when denied by right-liberals simply reassert themselves under other guises.
The most fundamental commitment of liberalism as a political philosophy is right there in its name: liberty. As long as the alt-right is going on about free speech and freedom of religion and the like it is simply policing liberalism’s worst excesses: preserving liberalism’s unquestioned rule for future generations.
It is fair though, given the ubiquity and existential necessity (to liberalism) of unprincipled exceptions, to ask what principled opposition to liberalism would look like. Obviously we can tell all sorts of fictional stories that might or might not resemble the unfolding of history if certain things are or are not done; but that kind of storytelling is not what I mean. Those kinds of things are always in the hands of Providence, and the idea that we can choose how history unfolds in some pilot-the-machine way is wrongheaded as an idea.
What I mean is simply characterization of principled opposition to liberalism, not a surround sound IMAX movie plot of the future.
Principled opposition to liberalism would repudiate political freedom unequivocally, without making excuses and without trying to sneak it in by some back door rationalization.
It would be willing to call sodomy a punishable crime, and would not promote flaming homosexuals (however talented and amusing) as thought leaders and rhetorical champions. As with all punishable crimes, there is plenty of room for argument over the appropriate range of specific actions balancing mercy and justice: but as a matter of category, sodomy would be a punishable crime.
It would be willing to admit that offensive speech can be a punishable crime.
It would be willing to call public religious heresy a punishable crime, and would acknowledge Catholic Christianity to be the true religion.
Examples can be multiplied. But we can certainly know a principled exception when we see it. And the exceptions we see on the alt-right specifically, and in the new Trumpist conservative synthesis more generally, are not principled.
August 31, 2016 § 54 Comments
It would seem that there is a “Benedict Option“.
On the contrary: as the Internet Clown has observed, “Not even groups like the Amish escape the influence of liberalism.”
Picturing modern politics as a black hole is of course just an analogy, and a visual aid is just a visual aid. Hopefully some analogies and visual aids help us better grasp reality, or prompt discussion and thought which help some of us better grasp reality.
In this latest analogy political liberalism – liberty and equality as what justifies the exercise of political authority – is the singularity at the center of a black hole. What has not yet been explained is what constitutes, in the real situation, the force analogous to gravity.
A moment’s reflection reveals that the force analogous to gravity is commitment to or loyalty to liberalism on the part of individuals and communities.
Different individuals and communities have different traditions and preferences, and are thus attached to different baskets of unprincipled exceptions. Different individuals and communities face different real-life limitations. Different individuals and communities are committed to conserving different things; usually in such a way that liberalism itself is not challenged. Different individuals and communities have different ideas about what constitutes ‘authentic‘ freedom and equality. Finally, the strength of commitment to liberalism varies in different individuals and communities, everywhere from a kind of mild unreflective acceptance to intense religious fervor.
The strength of the gravity well, the amount of influence it has over you and yours, is based on extrinsic factors and intrinsic factors. That is, it is based on your own commitments and the commitments of every individual and community to whom you have ties. There is very little that anyone individually can do about the extrinsic forces. And there is really no point in worrying about those extrinsic forces before you have fully neutralized liberalism in the one place where you actually do have significant say.
A “Benedict Option” involves an attempt to create community somewhere as far from the influence of modernity’s lies as possible; so that there is some alternative to modernity in some spheres of life and/or so there are remnants of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful remaining when modernity finally destroys itself, whenever that may be.
But there is no Benedict Option which does not begin with clear identification of political liberalism, in conjunction with explicit and unequivocal rejection of it.
If your small community is fighting for its ‘religious liberty’, for example, you are kidding yourself. If your plan is to vote in the Frog Casino King or Grandma Abortion Witch – both deeply committed liberals themselves – to get things ‘moving in the right direction’, you might as well prepare yourself for an accelerated collapse toward the singularity. If your plan is to create a joint stock corporate-political formalism as a replacement for democracy so that the machine which rules over us will make sure that the right kind of people remain free to shop amongst the boutique polities on offer in the political marketplace, you have things you ought to spend time thinking about which are more fundamental than politics. You are in no position to deal with the extrinsic forces pulling you toward the singularity, because you have not yet dealt with the intrinsic force.
Those kinds of attempts at a “Benedict Option” are already betraying themselves from within, before they even get started. They aren’t a Benedict Option: they are a Benedict Arnold Option.
December 21, 2015 § 45 Comments
Lies typically get their purchase by imitating truth, and then ultimately asserting the opposite of what is imitated. We end up with a language filled with words that appeal to our sensibilities by pretending to mean the opposite of what they actually mean in practice.
Political liberty crushes subsidiarity beneath a monolithic bureaucratic authority which rules while pretending not to rule: which makes sure, good and hard, that nobody is allowed to tell anyone else what to do. Political freedom ensures that everyone is subjected to anonymous monolithic all-encompassing authority which hides unaccountably behind a wall of structural bureaucracy. That way nobody ever feels compelled, by social pressure or a misguided and really rather pathetic respect for authority, to doff his cap to the king. But if you don’t cast a substantively meaningless symbolic vote personally affirming the legitimacy of the political liberalism under which you are a tiny and insignificant subject, you are a traitor. Voting should probably be made mandatory; in the very least, people who refuse to vote have no right to complain. And it is a moral travesty that this political freedom is not comprehensively imposed on everyone, everywhere. Freedom should be imposed, by force of arms when necessary.
Equal rights impose a ‘live and let live’ philosophy formally and comprehensively on every person and institution in the name of tolerance, authoritatively discriminating everywhere that is necessary in order to eliminate discrimination and authority.
Fraternity means that if you will not agree that my political philosophy is right you are less than human scum.
Hatred means being the kind of jerk that every right-thinking person despises.
Diversity means making sure that everyone is the same.
Dignity means making our defects into the principle of our identity.
Conservatism means making sure that there are plenty of ways around to dissipate the natural human instinct to conserve, providing an outlet so people can whine ineffectually without actually questioning liberalism.
Anti-racism means that we should despise any race of people who have, for any reason and in any context, historically shown hatred toward other races, or, equivalently, done anything objectively superior in any way to people of other races. But only as long as that race is the bad race, that is, white people, or white hispanics, and anyway I AM NOT WHITE!!! Whites are the Low Man! Anti-racism means importing large numbers of pliable brown skinned immigrants to do work that less pliable brown skinned citizens won’t do as cheaply and efficiently. And it means ensuring that the way white people see the world rules supreme. (Wait, what?)
Welcoming the marginalized means supporting society’s most powerful people in crushing fringe religious opinions. Mercy means empowering evil and lost people to destroy and torment themselves and their innocent victims. It means making sure that the way out of sin is as obscure and hidden as possible under a fog of sentimentalism. (Unless you are the kind of sinner we don’t like: the only people worse than you are the people trying to dissipate the fog).
Laissez-faire economics means that government should be aggressively and comprehensively involved in selectively enforcing mostly involuntary contract terms on debt slaves. Economic freedom means turning people into property. A scientific approach to economics means treating economic value as if it were nothing but the product of our imaginations, and money as if its value were spun into existence by magical incantation and pagan circle dances. Contrariwise, securities granting specific rights issued by the most powerful economic institution on earth against its real economic assets have no intrinsic value.
Responsibility and fairness mean that deadbeat dads who have been thrown out of their own home and had their children taken away – so that mommy could have a more exciting sex life and their children can benefit from the darwinist struggle of having a thug who doesn’t care about them in their life – should continue to hold up their end of the marriage contract while mommy doesn’t have to uphold hers. It means protecting women who are being abused by a bilocating husband who is capable of teleportation and has been beating his poor wife from his Iranian prison cell.
Scientific impartiality means (at least methodologically) begging the question in favor of one of the most manifestly stupid and puerile metaphysical ideas ever conceived by man: metaphysical naturalism. “Science” means that, at least for the sake of argument and method, we should adopt the point of view that we ourselves are literally mindless idiots.
Transparency means hiding everything behind a wall of bureaucratic structure and superficial philosophical obfuscation so that authority can be exercised while pretending that it isn’t, and people can be, not subjects for the good of whom those in authority are responsible, but owned chattel; all while pretending that everyone is free and equal. It means more generally that you cannot see what rules over you and have no idea who or what they really are. Until they show up to kill you.
Checks and balances mean that structures and philosophies are put into place which make it impossible to stop mass murder; and bureaucratic measures are taken to ensure that nature doesn’t stop it either.
Marriage means the union of any two arbitrary things for any arbitrary reason, as long as the union can be dissolved at any time and for any reason. More generally, commitment means carefully remaining uncommitted to anything in particular. Except sodomy. Oh and contraception, if you are cisgender. For the time being, until you and your surgeon and your psychiatrist change your minds and decide to rearrange your legos.
Game means learning to be a man by spending all of your time and energy obsessing over how to curry favor with women.
A right to die means they will kill you no matter what you think or want.
Consent means that if you were right like me you would choose what I am imposing on you.
July 10, 2014 § 30 Comments
Intuitively we tend to think that inconsistency in a doctrine or ideology would make that doctrine or ideology less resilient. But in fact the opposite is frequently the case, with liberalism and sola scriptura as just two examples.
An inconsistent ideology can, by the principle of explosion, assert anything or its opposite. So subtly inconsistent ideologies tend to confirm what people expect or want to hear: they transfer (if only in an ultimately illusory way) “meaning” from the hard and fast objective domain of reality, over which we have no control, to the domain of the will.
Liberalism therefore is an (again illusory, but resilient enough to prove satisfying to most people) mechanism for making politics and morality conform to expectation: to make them what we want and expect them to be, as opposed to discovering them as objective aspects of reality that we have to live with and conform to. Sola Scriptura and scientific positivism (scientism) are two ways of doing the same thing with respect to religious truth (doctrine): of making religious doctrine conform to our metaphysical baggage.
Once folks have made a habit of thinking this way it takes on a life of its own: the result is as many Protestant denominations as there are theological opinions, a “scientific” outlook that degenerates into postmodern nonsense, and a hydra’s head of opposing forms of liberalism that each see the others as transcendent enemy, blissfully unaware that the same basic commitments animate each head of the hydra: unaware that they are all part of the same Beast. The embrace of untruth has only one ultimate end.
The reason I discuss positivism and liberalism and the like is because they are subtle errors that hold almost all modern people in thrall: much more subtle, and indeed frequently underlying, the really obvious “emperor with no clothes” errors like feminism and racial equality. As I’ve mentioned before I still pull little remnants of these subtle weeds from the garden of my own mind.
The words “nothing but” (“sola” in Latin) should automatically raise suspicion, every bit as much as the words “equality” and “freedom“. As with most of these terms in the context of weaponized nihilism, they aren’t always and necessarily used in a self contradictory way. Sometimes they just mean something banal and obvious. But until you’ve gotten some grasp of positivism it will be easy to be taken in by equivocation amongst positivist assertions, banal assertions, gnostic smugness, and unprincipled exceptions. These are some of the surgical tools that modernity uses against your mind in the modern asylum.