Aaron Renn, who normally (and convincingly) write about urbanism as The Urbanophile has turned philosophical in Why Protestantism Is an Inherently Fragile Faith.
Since he’s not typically a religious ax-grinder, and since this blog is based on his reading of Charles Taylor’s magisterial A Secular Age, it may be of particular interest to Protestants (and to Catholic and Orthodox apologists).
Renn, echoing Taylor, refers to “the buffered self,” which seems to me to be substantially a description of how philosophical nominalism plays out in daily life.
We did not just tear down religious beliefs and the worldview that sustained them, we also replaced them with new things we built.
One of them was the idea of what Taylor terms the “buffered self.” The creation of the buffered self is linked to what Weber called “disenchantment”, or the gradual elimination of the idea of “magic” from the world. In an enchanted world, meanings could exist in external things, and those meanings could impose themselves on us. The boundary between our being and the world was porous, leaving us vulnerable. So a love potion, for example, had the power to make us fall in love.
In our disenchanted world, meanings exist totally in the mind. There is a barrier between ourselves and the world. Potions no longer have the power to make us fall in love. Being in love is state that exists in the mind. Per Taylor, “As a bounded self I can see the boundary as a buffer, such that things beyond don’t need to ‘get to me’, to use the contemporary expression.
I think Renn errs in lumping all Protestants together. Granted, all Protestants have by definition discarded some of Roman Catholicism. But believing Lutherans, particularly those who are “catholic”-minded, retain some of the “magic” of baptism and eucharist. So, to a lesser degree, do Calvinists as to the eucharist (at least insofar as they’re Calvinist rather than Zwinglian). I’m not able to see, thus, why Renn thinks Calvinism particularly fragile.
Be that as it may, “purely mental religion” is an indictment that sticks to large swaths of Protestantism, and Renn makes a good case for its fragility.
A little light went on today.
Background. Again Monday, a Republican Governor caved in and vetoed an almost banally mild Bill under pressure by LGBT forces and their big business enablers. This is becoming a pattern, with my fair state having provided the prototype cave-in last year. The media are among the worst of the enablers, with their scare quotes and overwhelmingly imbalanced advocacy-as-news. No wonder sane people tune out, turn onto talk radio and dubious web news sources, vote for Trump, and eventually put their sanity in doubt — but I repeat myself.
It has also become an open secret that white-shoe lawfirms will defend pornographers, rapists, murderers, terrorists, investment bankers, Ponzi scheme operators (but I repeat myself) and just about anyone else — but won’t touch a case that would get them crosswise with the LGBT juggernaut. This is a disgrace to my profession, which not long ago prided itself on values like “every defendant should have a defense,” and a very ominous sign. It reminds me of the cynical distinction of a few decades ago between “unpopular causes” and “unpopular unpopular causes” (the former being popular causes supported by people who wanted to preen and pretend they were being counter-cultural and cutting-edge).
The more you’ve invested to build something, the more craven you’ll be defending it (I’ll call that “Tipsy’s Law”) even if in the process you gut its essence — the essence of being a lawyer-advocate:
I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless, the oppressed or those who cannot afford adequate legal assistance; so help me God.
So the little light that went on was this: if regular law firms are too gutless any more to take on “unpopular unpopular causes,” it becomes all the more important for weirdos like me who actually support some of those unpopular unpopular causes to support the nonprofit public interest lawfirms that exist precisely in order to take them — and who are not beholden to the interests of major corporate thugs — like Walt Disney (Yes. Hadn’t you noticed?), NCAA, NFL, Cummins Engine and Apple — that would bully them out of it.
I intend to do so. Despite my own affiliation with Alliance Defending Freedom (which sometimes can be awfully shrill, but which ThinkProgress legitimately calls “The 800 Pound Gorilla of the Christian Right“), I have a specially soft spot in my heart for Becket Fund. I plan to increase my contributions to both.
And yes, now that you mention it, that means I don’t have any ambitious that put me in fear of the Brendan Eich treatment.
Watch out, Apple! Microsoft is making some awfully good stuff these days, and your behavior marks you as the new “Evil Empire!”
Speaking of the Becket Fund, they issued this press release late Tuesday, which suggests that SCOTUS, by its Order, is calling bullshit on the Solicitor General’s effort to define the government’s interest as “bringing the Little Sisters of the Poor to their knees.” Okay, I exaggerate a little on the SG’s argument, but it’s not a completely inapt analogy:
[T]he government is essentially trying to define the use of a particular means as the compelling interest in itself. That approach to strict scrutiny is entirely circular; it essentially eliminates the least restrictive means analysis by baking the means into the alleged compelling interest.
How, then, can one not see the Order as a repudiation of the SG’s attempt to collapse the means into the governmental interest?
The New York Times sees it as a way to avoid a tie. Well, maybe, but I think it suggests in which direction the tie would break.
UPDATE: I’ve now seen a key snippet from the Order SCOTUS issued, and it undermines my analysis somewhat:
Tuesday’s order asked the parties to “address whether and how contraceptive coverage may be obtained by petitioners’ employees through petitioners’ insurance companies, but in a way that does not require any involvement of petitioners beyond their own decision to provide health insurance without contraceptive coverage to their employees.”
This actually suggests that some justices are crediting the argument that contraceptive coverage needs to be “seamless” while respecting the conscience of the Little Sisters who want to provide health insurance to their employees (which they don’t have to do legally, but feel obliged to do morally or religiously) but want nothing to do with triggering contraceptive coverage therein.
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“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)