Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Religious Left

If there could be anything worse than the religious right it might be the religious left on full display at the Democratic National Convention:

At the first official event Sunday of the Democratic National Convention, a choir belted out a gospel song and was followed by a rabbi reciting a Torah reading about forgiveness and the future.

Helen Prejean, the Catholic nun who wrote "Dead Man Walking," assailed the death penalty and the use of torture.

Young Muslim women in headscarves sat near older African-American women in their finest Sunday hats.

Four years ago, such a scene would have been unthinkable at a Democratic National Convention. In 2004, there was one interfaith lunch at the Democratic gala in Boston.


One might argue cynically that the Democrats are simply pandering to the religious community in the wake of their defeat in 2004 or to quote the article: "'values voters' helped re-elect President Bush, giving Democrats of faith the opening they needed to make party leaders listen to them." But, I believe there is a deeper cause. The Left no longer has any semblance of a political or moral philosophy. They are intellectually bankrupt and are desperately grasping for a moral foundation for their platform. A political message fused with a sense of moral idealism is powerful and what accounts for Obama's rock star appeal. Furthermore, the Democrats are justified in adopting religion as their base, because religion belongs on the left. Recall that Obama is heavily influenced by Pastor Wright and as I stated in my post At Least Pastor Wright is Consistent:

Pastor Wright appears to espouse liberation theology which is essentially Christian socialism. It is the idea that the church's mission is to bring "social justice" to the "poor and oppressed" through political activism. Logically, Christianity is entirely consistent with the principles of socialism. Both uphold the moral theory of altruism, i.e, both hold that the purpose of life is to serve the poor and "oppressed." Capitalism rests on the egoist theory that the purpose of life is self-fulfillment or happiness not service to the meek.
I submit that liberation theology is entirely consistent with Christianity. What is the essence of Christian morality? Christians are taught that sacrifice is a virtue, that men are their brother's keeper, that they should turn the other cheek, that man is a feeble sinner who must abandon reason and accept faith while repenting to a higher power. Is this the kind of philosophy that would trust man to be self-governing? Is this the kind of philosophy that would regard rational self-interest, profit seeking, and personal happiness as a virtue? Is this the kind of philosophy that would uphold the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Is this the kind of philosophy that would uphold a self-interested foreign policy? Absolutely not.

The Christian philosophy logically understood translates into the opposite of freedom and the entire history of the Church from the early Holy Roman Empire through the Dark Ages to the Inquisition to Puritan witch-burning is evidence of this fact. It wasn't until the Enlightenment when America's Founding Fathers expressly separated Church and State in the Bill of Rights that men were politically freed from the shackles of organized religion (see for example the book The American Gospel: God, The Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation). After all, according to the Church (and/or the Pope) shouldn't man be required to sacrifice by paying taxes for welfare, social security, medicare, farm subsidies, foreign aid to third world countries, etc. or in the buzzwords of liberation theology shouldn't the government's aim be "social justice"? If man is naturally a sinner, should he be trusted to think for himself and be trusted to enter into contracts free of state interference or be allowed to control his own property and despoil God's earth? Should the object of our foreign policy be to protect American interests or should it be to redistribute "God's gifts" to the rest of the world and to proselytize our message of "hope?" Quoting wikipedia:

Liberation theology is a school of theology within Christianity, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church. Two of the starting points of Liberation theology are, first, the question of the origin of sin; and secondly, the idea that Christians should make good use of the talents given by God, and that includes intelligence in a general sense, and science in particular. Therefore, these theologians use sociology and economics sciences to understand poverty, since they considered poverty was the source of sin. The methodologies derived from historical materialism, which influenced the development of Liberation theology. They then read the Bible from the new perspective and developed the ethical consequences that led many of them to an active participation in the political life, and to focus on Jesus Christ as not only the Redeemer but also the Liberator of the oppressed. It emphasizes the Christian mission to bring justice to the poor and oppressed, particularly through political activism.

The adoption of religion by the left is a good development. Today both parties are parties of Big Government. The Democrats tend to want slightly higher taxes and more regulation than the Republicans and the Republicans have tended to want more government intervention in our personal lives. Popularly, it has been said that Democrats want to intervene in the boardroom and Republicans want to intervene in the bedroom. Well, this is not quite true. Both parties want to be in your boardroom, bedroom, and even follow you around in your car after telling you what kind of car you should drive. The only difference is that the Republicans might leave the boardroom five minutes earlier than the Democrats and the Democrats might leave the bedroom five minutes earlier (or not).

If the Democrats adopt religion they will officially and properly be recognized as The Party of Big Government and there will be an opening to reshape the Republican Party into the party of classic liberalism based upon "the importance of human rationality, individual property rights, natural rights, the protection of civil liberties, constitutional limitations of government, free markets, and individual freedom from restraint as exemplified in the writings of Adam Smith, David Hume, David Ricardo, Voltaire, Montesquieu and others." The Democrats should be the party of Big Government in all of its manifestations and perhaps those on the Religious Right who seek to use the power of the State to impose religion will realize that they have a new home elsewhere.

2 comments:

madmax said...

Is it right to include Hume as a Classical Liberal? He and Kant are the two greatest skeptics in intellectual history.

Doug Reich said...

That's a really good question.

First, I quoted that sentence from a description of classic liberalism on wikipedia so it wasn't mine.

However, I didn't oppose including Hume because he did discover "important economic truths" that were influential to the classical school of economics as described by Dr.Reisman in the introduction to his book Capitalism - primarily in regard to understanding inflation.

Second, although Hume may be known as a skeptic you must put his thought into historical context. In other words, he was a member of the Scottish Enlightenment and his approach to philosophy was naturalistic and so even though we may disagree with some of his conclusions, taking a naturalistic approach to say ethics, politics, or economics was "cutting edge" at the time and is important in and of itself. So, in this sense, he is important in the same way the Greek philosophers are important in that the mere idea of engaging in a secular philosophical approach(as opposed to a religious approach) was important. At the time, one could be hanged for heresy against the Church and Hume was acutally an atheist so in that sense he was heroic.

Having said all that, Hume was particularly influential not only in economics but I believe to some extent in political philosophy and he is believed to have been influential on James Madison.

I'm not an expert on Hume, but I think that is where the author's head was probably at when he included him in that list. By the way, there certainly were a lot of great names missing from that list...