Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sunday exercise: religious rhetoric

Heather MacDonald's contribution to The American Conservative's symposium has found support in some quarters, raised hackles in others. Her central position seems to be that

The presumption of religious belief — not to mention the contradictory thinking that so often accompanies it — does damage to conservatism by resting its claims on revealed truth. But on such truth there can be no agreement without faith. And a lot of us do not have such faith — nor do we need it to be conservative...I have heard it said in the last six years that what makes conservatives superior to liberals is their religious faith — as if morality is impossible without religion...

In short, she is very uncomfortable with the association between conservatism and religion. I guess she feels discriminated against. She gives a couple of 'problem-of-evil' type examples to demonstrate the inadequacy of our approach to it, and of course a few obligatory instances of Christians falling down on the job to further demonstrate the unnecessity of faith to moral conduct.

It's not a long article, and what I'd be interested in is readers' reactions to all, or any part of, the argument she makes.

Other discussions can be found here and here; in the latter, Zippy again rides in, guns drawn.


Bernhardt Varenius said...

I read this piece previously and have to say I wasn't impressed -- MacDonald's thinking on religion seems quite sophomoric. And politically, it's not really clear what she wants. Is it PC gagging of religious conservatives? Just more respect? What?

I think the fuzziness results from her repeatedly drifting into complaints about religion at large rather than simply focusing on the prominence of religious conservatives in the Republican Party. This way she's taken what might have been a reasonable, pragmatic point about reaching out to a larger audience and turned it into a hot-button pressing exercise.

William Luse said...

Hey, it's old Bernhardt.

I think you're exactly right, though even if she had made that more reasonable point, I wouldn't have had any use for it. Conservatism without God at its center would empty its substance, for me anyway. And even if she'd stayed away from the "religion at large" argument and tried only to make her case for morality without God, she'd have gotten into the same debate from a different angle, but perhaps, as you say, less "sophomoric" sounding.