[E]ver since Rousseau, the left has considered religion as the real front of social prejudice, ever since Christianity undermined Rome’s unifying secular order.
It was in these circumstances that Jesus came to set up on earth a spiritual kingdom, which, by separating the theological from the political system, made the State no longer one and brought about the internal divisions that have never ceased to trouble Christian peoples. As the new idea of a kingdom of the other world could never have occurred to pagans, they always looked on the Christians as rebels who, while feigning to submit, were only waiting for the chance to make themselves independent and masters, and to usurp by guile the authority they pretended in their weakness to respect. This was the cause of the persecutions. What the pagans had feared took place. Then everything changed its aspect: the humble Christians changed their language, and soon this so-called kingdom of the other world turned, under a visible leader, into the most violent of earthly despotisms. However, as there have always been a prince and civil laws, this double power and conflict of jurisdiction have made all good polity impossible in Christian States. (The Social Contract, IV.8)
Rousseau’s project for the left was to unite power once again and recreate a common secular religion for modern society, to be set by the state “not exactly as religious dogmas, but as social sentiments without which a man cannot be a good citizen or a faithful subject.” Within the bounds of these sentiments all will be tolerated except for any who “behaves as if he does not believe them, let him be punished by death.”
So here we are today with the left’s goal finally nearing completion in the U.S. Antidiscrimination laws passed to right the wrong of slavery are extended to all of the social sentiments held by the left. Today traditionalists opposing gay marriage can be convicted for refusing to photograph gay weddings or bake gay wedding cakes. National healthcare insurance mandates can force religious traditionalists to pay for abortifacients and other procedures they consider morally objectionable. This is a demanding project.
(Donald Devin, Rousseau’s American Heirs Fight the Final Prejudice, emphasis added)
Naturally, his incompetence is coupled with a preposterous degree of compensatory self-confidence. As I once pointed out about Dawkins, Coyne may by now have put himself in a position that makes it psychologically impossible for him even to perceive serious criticism. The problem is that his errors are neither minor, nor occasional, nor committed in the shadows, nor expressed meekly. He commits a howler every time he opens his mouth, and he opens it very frequently, very publicly, and very loudly. His blunders are of a piece, so that to confess one would be to confess half a decade’s worth — to acknowledge what everyone outside his combox already knows, viz. that he is exactly the kind of bigot he claims to despise. That is a level of humiliation few human beings can bear. Hence the defense mechanism of training oneself to see only ignorance and irrationality even in the most learned and sober of one’s opponents; indeed, to see it even before one sees those opponents. And so we have the spectacle of Coyne’s article last week on David Bentley Hart’s The Experience of God, wherein he launches a 2800 word attack on a book he admits he has not read. The sequel of self-delusion, it seems, is self-parody.
… As is typical of the New Atheist genre, we are confronted with a blizzard of sweeping and tendentious assertions, straw men, begged questions, missed points, well-poisoning, and other evidence that the writer has read a book about logical fallacies and mistaken it for a “How-To” guide.
(Edward Feser, The Pointlessness of Jerry Coyne) This is a very stylish way, I think, of giving Coyne a dose of his own medicing before Feser settles into something not quite so delightfully snarky.
I’ve been working on wrapping my head around the Nominalism versus Realism distinction, reading Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences and updating Robin Phillips’ series. It’s heavy sledding, but it seems more important the more I read, and the important thing is likely to be rooting Nominalism out of my thinking. I’m not exactly a textbook case – I’m hearteningly far from the Nominalist conception of God’s Will in particular – but I’ve got at least a tincture, probably a smidge, and perhaps enough to be a bit toxic.
Time to detox, whence (among other reasons) light blogging.
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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)