Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The New Gospel Of Liberty

Atheism
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The old time religion is declining in America.
When it comes to religion, the USA is now land of the freelancers.

The percentage. of people who call themselves in some way Christian has dropped more than 11% in a generation. The faithful have scattered out of their traditional bases: The Bible Belt is less Baptist. The Rust Belt is less Catholic. And everywhere, more people are exploring spiritual frontiers — or falling off the faith map completely.
The article goes on to discuss the changes and delves into the numbers.

One point in the article particularly got my attention. ("Nones" in the survey are those who claimed no religion)
South Carolina also exemplifies the Protestant faiths' shrinking share of the national religion "pie." The state has more Catholics (10%, up from 6% in 1990) and the percentage of Nones has more than tripled, from 3% to 10%. The share of Protestants is 73%, down from 88% in 1990.

Like Gautier, the Rev. Kendall Harmon, theologian for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, blames social mobility.

"Mobility means your ideas are more challenged and your family and childhood traditions have less influence, particularly if you are not strongly rooted in them. I see kids today who have no vocabulary of faith, and neither do many of their parents."
I think this bodes ill for the Republican party unless it becomes less faith based and more liberty oriented. Something I have been saying for quite some time and especially post the 2008 election. Moral socialism is not the big seller it once was.

The Christian Science Monitor is even more apocalyptic.
We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the "Protestant" 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.
This bodes ill for the Republicans, a party that is rather closely identified with evangelicals.

The Monitor delves into why this is happening.
Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.
Culture wars. I have a different name for it. Mentioned above. Moral socialism. The idea that government should tell people how to live. That idea is losing popularity. With the collapse of the drug war (even Pat Buchanan - a vigorous culture warrior - is now against it) will accelerate that trend. I do think a war on Christianity is a bad idea though. Just as the Christian's war on seculars was a bad idea. However, karma. Or in more Christian terms: you reap what you sow.

The author of the article makes another point that will directly affect politics.
Even in areas where Evangelicals imagine themselves strong (like the Bible Belt), we will find a great inability to pass on to our children a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith.
And what about the culture war?
Expect a fragmented response to the culture war. Some Evangelicals will work to create their own countercultures, rather than try to change the culture at large. Some will continue to see conservatism and Christianity through one lens and will engage the culture war much as before – a status quo the media will be all too happy to perpetuate.
I think it is pretty safe to say that the culture war is very near over in America and the culture warriors have lost. Just as the drug warriors have lost the drug war. These things happen when better ideas come along. It is not the first time. Around 2000 year ago a small Jewish sect came along and its culture supplanted the Jewish culture of the time and went on to become a world culture. So much so that Jews are now more Christian than Jewish. Not so much in terms of worship but in terms of culture. The Judaism of 2000 years ago is gone. It is probably not coming back.

And finally back to politics.
The loss of their political clout may impel many Evangelicals to reconsider the wisdom of trying to create a "godly society."
Very good. Government impositions are rarely universally popular. Especially in a country as religiously diverse as America. The emphasis has to be where it should have been all along. Living the godly life. Which fits in more with the American ideal of the individual as supreme.

This should come as no surprise to students of American history. America was founded not only on the basis of economic revolt but also on the basis of religious revolt as the DVD Gospel of Liberty clearly shows.

If the Republican Party adopts a New Gospel of Liberty I think its fortunes will revive and it will find not just a temporary burst of energy but also a long term foundation that will serve it far into the future. Let the Tea Parties commence.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

19 comments:

rumcrook said...

thats all I have ever wanted.

liberty and to be left alone to pursue life as I see fit.

so I want the government to:

secure our border so we have a modicum of saftey,

enforce laws so private property and individual rights are secure.

and stay out of my way.

Snake Oil Baron said...

On the con side, there are plenty of UFO cults, conspiracy theories and other claptrap for non-aligned folk to grasp onto. But at least it will be a more diverse collection of dogmas with many canceling each other out.

While the Republicans should worry more about seculars and moderate religious folf than specific, agressively political denominations, the perception will be even harder to change. Frankly, it seems to me that there are a lot of Democrats who support "creation science" in public schools and oppose stem cell research or want homosexuality discouraged by law but since those are not supposed to be issues with Democrats they never need to answer questions about these views.

I also feel that Republicans give a lot of verbal support to evangelicals and their causes while not really following through or else creating laws that they know will be overturned in court just for Christian creed cred. Unfortunately they also give lip service to fiscal concervatives and then do the bare minimum.

Maybe if the evangelical fraction of the party was less prominent they would be forced to be more accountable to the fiscal conservatives and libertarians.

Neil said...

Simon,

What "better idea"? I see the collapse of belief in Christianity, but I don't see that it's been replaced by anything yet. The closest thing to a replacement out there now is the cargo-cult Gaia-worship.

This is most unfortunate, for there is an excellent reason that animism died out as a major religious force in human societies. The problem is that "The Earth" can't love you back. Animism, belief in natural phenomena as sentient beings, is non-adaptive. It gets in the way of understanding and coping with the world around us.

This can be seen plainly in the anthropogenic global warming fiasco, with Al Gore playing the role of high priest. When his vengeful god disappoints, what then? Conversely, if one believes in a kind and nurturing Gaia, what happens to one's belief when lightning strikes one's house?

Perhaps Christianity is falling by the wayside because it gets in the way of understanding human behavior in a similar fashion. But that is a negative statement. I don't yet see a positive replacement.

RavingDave said...

MSimon, you seem to be reacting with glee to this development, when you should be regarding the passing of religion with sorrow. I chalk your reaction up to you're not having looked at the bigger picture. Indeed, it is the fallacy of Libertarianism rearing it's head again. The notion that individuals live in a vacuum whereby their activities have no consequence to others.

I have just recently been trying to think of a method to impart this concept in a way that is obvious and easy to understand. A difficult thing, in no small part due to the fact that people are very firmly attached to their notions, and REALLY don't want to see anything that challenges them.

What if people wanted to broadcast Nazi propaganda on the television? (A situation that seems to be coming closer every passing day.)
Suppose people were inciting race hatred, and had the power of the media to back it up?

We could all prattle on about how they ought to have the "Freedom" and the "Liberty" to do this, but it is my opinion that there are certain things that ought not be allowed, and damn the personal freedom.

Growing dangerous bacteria or viruses in your bedroom or teaching your kids to vandalize and steal are a couple of examples that come to mind.

In any case, I see the decline of religion to be inevitable, but I likewise see the decline of society inextricably intertwined with it.

Religion is a beneficial evolutionary development for the millions of years old human social body, and from time to time (during periods of prosperity) a few brief cells are born, look around, and wonder why that old relic is still hanging around. After the disaster, later born cells will realize what it was for.


David

Tom Cuddihy said...

Like Neil and Raving Dave, I don't worry about Christianity itself losing ground -- I worry about what will replace it. Humans overwhelmingly (perhaps not all but nearly all) have an innate need to worship something greater than themselves, evidenced in ALL cultures across the milennia.

Nearly all of those cultures ended up focused their worship on other human beings in positions of power--the Pharaoh, the Sun Emporer, the Ceasar Augustus, the Mandate of Heaven, etc.

It was only with the dawning of the Christian era that God first moved out of government and into a separate "church" sphere. It remains to be seen whether the displacement of Christianity will reverse this progress. Current signs are not hopeful.

I've personally seen people wearing t-shirts that glorify Obama as god-like. I'm afraid state-and leader-worship is what is most likely to replace Christianity in the future of the West.

And as evidenced by the collapse of communism atheistic state-worship is inherently unstable, so eventually it will slowly give way to the most stable form of state-worship, as practiced for the last millenia-and-a-half: shariah.

Before becoming Pope the current pontiff predicted that the RC church of the 21st century will become smaller but more faithful.

As the major churchs lose "ethnic" and "cradle" adherents, they will revert to their conversionary roots.

Susan's Husband said...

Doesn't anyone else find M. Simon's choice of poster unintentionally hilarious? There are plenty of people in labcoats telling us to apologize every day for being human. There's an entire group of them, the AGW crew, that Simon himself rails on about. Frankly, as an atheist, I get a lot less of that sort of thing from the Christians I know than the atheists.

M. Simon said...

Let me start out with: I am a believer. Personal experience. However, none of the organized religions serves my needs although I nominally belong to one.

If I was to devise an an American religion it would be very similar to the religion that swept the country in the First Great Awakening. Liberty.

Any faith that was Liberty oriented could be part of the church of Liberty.

When a socialist like Huckabee can garner so many votes in the primaries it is more that obvious we have lost our way. And that is why I am gleeful about the demise of religion. It is only that demise that can bring the Republican Party back to its senses. If it were otherwise I would be very happy. But it is what it is.

If the Christian Church once again preached the Gospel of Liberty it would be good for the church and good for the country. But that is not what happened or is happening. They preached Jesus and became Romans. Such turns may also be inevitable. It is not the first time Christianity took that turn. And every time it took that turn it corrupted the church. State religions - official or unofficial may be inevitable.

Christianity does best when it is in opposition.

M. Simon said...

Dave,

Every time you outlaw things that a significant part of the population wants you enlarge the criminal class.

The better way IMO is to convince people that there are things they should not want. When no one (or very few) want something it is no longer a problem.

The laws against alcohol did not curtail demand. The laws against drugs have not curtailed demand. The laws against abortion did not curtail demand.

The law is a very blunt instrument. And it works against us where there is significant demand. When demand is there we get corruption. Which is most often worse than the vice the law is trying to stamp out. It is well known that vice cops are the most corrupt cops on the police dept.

SH,

As to the lab coats - there is one thing that over time keeps them honest - doubt. And you know the AGW doubters are gaining traction. Religion has no such corrective. Faith and doubt are generally not married to each other. Pity.

I always liked what Aleister Crowley had to say about the matter. So much so that I can quote it by heart. "We place no reliance on virgin or pigeon, our method is science our aim is religion."

rumcrook said...

im gonna agree with you simon.

christianity does seem to do best when its the underdog.

if you figure that soley as a historical figure jesus was an opositional character, a perspective can be formulated that he never told anyone to form a religion that should eventually be the power/government that enforced law over others.

M. Simon said...

rumcrook,

I couldn't reach you by e-mail. The bounce notice I got said the addy hadn't been activated.

Tom Cuddihy said...

Every time you outlaw things that a significant part of the population wants you enlarge the criminal class.

But is the size of the criminal class the only variable in society that matters?

Theodore Dalrymple does a complete takedown of the argument here http://www.city-journal.org/html/7_2_a1.html

The Christian church is always preaching the Gospel of liberty and freedom from fear.

Perhaps some of the Mainline Protestant and certain evangelical churches no longer feel the need to preach the Gospel of liberty, pushing instead the Gospel of Fairness, but overwhelmingly Christian churches focus their efforts and energies on personal conversion and personal action, not government programs or laws.

You miss the main current of Christian thought and action by focusing on the eddies that intersect with political action, like the Pro-life movement.

That would be like viewing the entirety of Libertarian thought through the lens of the Legalize Marijuana movement...

tomcpp said...

This comment tells it better than any other :

"So it is with some sympathy that I read Republicans getting all worked up about how they are losing the PR battle among young people, or minorities, or single women, or whatever. Their cause is not fully mine, but I recognise many elements.

One main difficulty is believing that it is only a PR problem. But in all the instances above, it is not just marketing at issue. We are advertising groceries, our opponents advertising drugs. People do not just believe in progressivism because the liberals are cooler and control many persuasive outlets. People also want to believe those ideas, the easier reality where good things come just by wishing. We battle not only against the external competitors for their ears, but their inner voices as well. It is a disadvantage that will not go away."

Defending conservatism from progressivism is exactly the same as repudiating M. Simon in this argument : it is defending sugar from being replaced by cocaine.

Sugar being a stable, nice tasting but compared to the instant orgasm-inducer that is cocaine, it is nothing.

However, sugar you can eat. Cocaine eats you. Most will succumb to cocaine within months, even starting from tiny doses, very, very strong willed individuals might last a year. When they succumb cocaine takes over their lives, and throws them into the most massive miserable state you can imagine.

M. Simon is simply confessing that extremely short-sighted self-intrest, the true "libertarian (and democratic)" religion is winning him over. I use these names to identify political parties, not principles.

That's because a true proponent of libertarianism would abhor drugs : they interfere with free decision making in a chemical way, at the source. For someone who thinks individuals should decide everything for themselves, it would be as revolting as a state forced labor re-education camp, because they have similar effects on individuals.

He does not respond to arguments, it's like telling a junkie that drugs are bad for him/her. It won't work.

If you need convincing you could always compare his drug legalization to stopping murder prosecutions. Letting murderers just carry on their life would
1) reduce the prison population
2) reduce the price of a killing
3) reduce the involvement of gangs and criminal gangs

The logical conclusion of M. Simon's ideology is simply "do not punish crime - whatever it is".

But it's a drug. He -seriously- thinks the only problem with drugs is that "the establishment" has problems with it, that "religion" is against drugs. How can you argue with someone like that ?

Religion, at least Christian religion is FOR personal freedom, and that means, yes, in some limited way (not via government), that it is against cocaine and all drugs. The Christian church is not the reason the state outlawed drugs, however, as anyone can check in the history books.

M. Simon said...

Well of course tom.

A large criminal class is a good thing.

Turning Mexico into a narco state is excellent. Turning the all the Americas into narco states is just marvelous. Wonderful policy. Genius even.

All to keep people from doing things that you can't prevent them from doing.

And do you know what they are teaching criminal justice students in my podunk town? Drug use is self medication.

Do you know what they are teaching psychological nurses in my town? Drug use is self medication.

Doctors prescribe powerful stimulants for certain medical conditions. But if you don't get your powerful stimulants from the medical cartel you are a criminal.

So you think government should support cartels?

And the great historical awareness of conservatives? Not in evidence. They can't remember alcohol prohibition.

And my friend tom - the great conservative faculty of basing policy on evidence? Not in evidence. Because you have none. No one in the medical profession today believes what you do - drug use causes drug use.

And you know what else?

Even Police Officers Are Wising Up.

Your policy on drugs is not based on fact. It is based on emotion.

Love it when conservatives do exactly what they accuse Democrats of doing.

Fortunately the Democrats are wising up on the Drug deal. In exchange for that Republicans will get totally screwed economically and have their liberties constricted. A fair trade don't you think?

Because the Democrats are taking advantage of the Republican stupidity (emotion based) about drugs.

Oh yes. All this to support a policy that is one hundred years old. And in the case of marijuana 70 years.

How did the Republic survive for 125 years with heroin and cocaine over the counter medicines? Over the counter. As cheap as aspirin.

Oh. Yes. Did I mention the vaunted fiscal Conservatives throwing money down the rat hole that for a policy that so obviously doesn't work and makes illegal drugs easier to get than beer.

Yeah tom. Brilliant. Simply brilliant.

Fortunately tom, America is not buying it any more. And the Republicans will be left high and dry. Talk about self destructive tendencies. What would you expect when emotion replaces logic?

M. Simon said...

From the wiki.

The prohibition of drugs through sumptuary legislation or religious law is a common means of attempting to control drug use. Prohibition of drugs has existed at various levels of government or other authority, from the Middle Ages to the present.

and:

Religious intolerance was a motivation for drug prohibition in Christian Europe. In a move interpreted as support for the efforts of the Spanish Inquisition against the Arabs, in a 1484 fiat Pope Innocent VIII banned the use of cannabis. The persecution of heretics in the form of witch hunts also gathered momentum around this time, and frequently targeted users of medicinal and hallucinogenic herbs. The Inquisition proceeded apace in Meso-America and South America, where peyote (péyotl), ololiúqui, toloáche, teonanácatl and other sacred plants of the Mexican culture were prohibited as works of the devil.

and:

Coffee almost followed the same fate as cannabis as its use spread from Ethiopia through the Middle East to Europe. Coffee, regarded as a Muslim drink, was prohibited to Orthodox Christians in its native Ethiopia until as late as 1889; it is now considered a national drink of Ethiopia for people of all faiths. In the Ottoman Empire, Murad IV attempted to prohibit coffee drinking to Muslims as haraam, arguing that it was an intoxicant, but this ruling was soon overturned after his death.[2] The introduction of coffee in Europe from Muslim Turkey prompted calls for it to be banned as the devil's work, though Pope Clement VIII sanctioned its use in 1600, declaring that it was "so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it." Its early association in Europe with rebellious political activities led to its banning in England, among other places.[3]

Yeah. I sure am ignorant of history.

tomcpp said...

Wikipedia simply pushes the viewpoint of the loudest group, which is people like you in this instance.

They accuse everyone and everything they don't like of everything under the sun, but, as you well know you will not find a mention of the 100 million dead by socialist dictators in the "socialism" article. In the article on Stalin you will find the first use of the word "socialist" more than 3 pages down, and they only relate it to his crimes when they talk about his (attempted) extermination of religion.

So let's please not defend wikipedia just because we disagree. I seem to recall that you're not a big fan of wikipedia accuracy yourself. Get a decent source, because I refuse to let something like wikipedia lend credence to any political argument.

The fact that police officers perform badly against certain crimes is not a reason to legalize them, at all.

As I said before, police officers perform notoriously bad against serial killers. nearly 30% of serial killers get caught because they show up at a police station and confess, to get famous, to get "recognition" for their acts.

Against full-blown genocide the record is much worse. Hitler's Nazi party, literally is just about the only party or group that ever got it's members convicted of mass killing. Other massacrers of the 20th century, like the muslim caliph, kemal ataturk, aymin al-husseini, stalin, ... all got off scott-free, and some others succumbed only to power struggles within their own state.

Killing has changed the face of history many, many times, and made many countries into what they are today. The massive extinction wars waged by the muslims eradicated completely the native population of then entire northern part of Africa. Surely killing must be seen as a very successfull, and worthwile (just look at their profits !) enterprise.

Let's legalize serial killing ! And genocide.

After all, can you name any act that has delivered more profit into anyone's hand than the genocide campaigns started by the islamic religion ?

Legalize it !

Tom Cuddihy said...

sigh.. I know fisking someone on their own blog risks banning, but this one calls for it
M. Simon said...

Well of course tom.

A large criminal class is a good thing.

Snarky and dumb. I was not suggesting to ignore the effect on the "size of the criminal class" but suggesting that it is not the only variable to consider. If legalizing all drugs "cuts the size of the criminal class in half" but doubles the percentage of addicted drug users, there is no evidence that you will see a reduction in other forms of crime, and in fact you will likely see an increase as addicted morons in a drug-addled haze slip further down the socio-economic scale.

In fact the British and Dutch experiences with limited legalization suggest the opposite: legalize drugs and get a major increase in violent crime.

Turning Mexico into a narco state is excellent. Turning the all the Americas into narco states is just marvelous. Wonderful policy. Genius even.


After 40 years of drug war, the Colombian government is functioning better and more democratically than it ever did before the drug war. It went through some rough periods but the blueprint of Plan Colombia has been very successful.

Clear and hold works. It just takes a lot of effort.

Mexico has ALWAYS been a corrupt mess. True, the border towns haven't always been this violent.

But it never needed to be big in Mexico before. Back in the day all the big Coke moved by sea. We've taken a big chunk out of that route through joint, international interdiction efforts. Far more goes by land, and the US-bound trade nearly all goes through Mexico now. Also Mexico is much richer now so there's more domestic demand. So the stakes and money are higher for the drug runners now. Hence the activity.

I remind you Iraq looked the worst even as it was beginning to turn around. Sustained effort can get results however.


All to keep people from doing things that you can't prevent them from doing.

Just curious Simon, was this your attitude with your own children growing up or is this just your philosophy as applied to others?

M. Simon said...

tom,

Legalizing will double the number of drug users.

Assumes facts not in evidence. The Dutch have legalized pot and have 1/2 the rate of pot use we have. So the better question might be what if it cuts drug use in half?

But let us take a harder case: opiates.

Some police officers explain the market for opiates. Before prohibition of opiates 1.3% of the population were regular users. After prohibition 1.3% of the population were regular users. Ninety-five years after prohibition 1.3% of the population were regular users.

So where is the surge going to come from? Demand may be inelastic but the number of users is saturated.

As to my kids? Well drugs are easier to get than beer. Heroin is easier to get than beer for kids. How is prohibition helping them? And worse: jail is a bigger threat to their well being than pure drugs available from reputable sources.

And Tom - if you can find anything in the medical literature from the last three years which shows that drugs cause addiction I'd sure be interested. There is no scientific evidence that drugs cause addiction.

But OK. How about this. There are receptors in the brain for chemicals. You get your receptor fillers from the legal drug cartel and you are an upstanding citizen. You buy your receptor fillers from the illegal drug cartel and you are subject to be shot by the drug gestapo in a 3AM raid with a flash-bang grenade as a wake up call. You know that might not be good for kids.

Round Pegs In Round Holes

tom,

Your whole premise is based on superstition - drugs cause addiction. But you are not alone. There are hordes of superstitious people to keep you company.

Swell. Just swell.

By I am undaunted. I keep presenting evidence and sooner or later people consumed by the drug demon theory will die off and people educated by scientific evidence will remain.

Which reminds me. I just discovered a new bit of evidence I should blog about. I'll get busy. Thanks.

M. Simon said...

And tom,

It is true that the cartels were driven out of Columbia. But all that did was move them to other countries.

And then consider this tom:

"The Latin American drug cartels have stretched their tentacles much deeper into our lives than most people believe. It's possible they are calling the shots at all levels of government." - William Colby, former CIA Director, 1995

What if the things you believe were the result of cartel propaganda?

As the old saying goes - you can't reason a man out of something he was not reasoned into.

On top of that: most of the ills you ascribe to drugs are actually caused by prohibition. How, convenient. For the cartels.

How does it feel to be an agent of the illegal drug cartels? Very convenient for them that you do not even know you are their agent.

tomcpp said...

"Your whole premise is based on superstition - drugs cause addiction. But you are not alone. There are hordes of superstitious people to keep you company."

I know, from first-hand experience (which hurt a lot, and hurt "people I love" as you Americans so eloquently say, a lot more) that drugs are addictive.

How about we do the test ? You inject yourself once, just once, with a cocaine solution. Not even enough to knock you out. Just once. Not in the way young people really use drugs : mixed with alcohol (some idiots actually inject themselves with alcohol-drugs solutions)

And we'll see, once and for all, if you are able to control yourself.

Anyone who's ever visited a drug clinic knows the answer damn well, obviously. Anyone who's visited any third world country (and many first world "subcultures") knows the answer exceedingly well.

I am not able to control myself when brought into contact with those substances. And let's be honest about the issue for just once, shall we ? Neither are you. You merely don't know it yet.

But if it means so much to you, just test. Sorry about the racist comment, but just ask the nearest black kid for some. You will, like very nearly every human, succumb to the combination of addiction and tolerance.

(btw : if the real problem with drugs was merely addiction, there would be no problem. The real problem is tolerance. Both physical and mental. After a while, your own immune system will have learned how to prvent "highs", but you will still crave them, necessitating "higher dose" (ie. pretty soon obsene amounts of cash). Your own body will deny the drugs' effects to you. So if you want drugs, you'll need to overpower it. Even if you manage to outsmart the immune system (which is doable), you will not manage to outsmart your own mind, and the emptiness it creates. You will, like everyone else, become suicidal once mental tolerance sets in, and you realise it's not going away)