Journalism: A lost art?

I was looking up some of Will Gervais’ recent work on atheism (has in the past published on why even atheists dislike athiests, heh).

One of the articles that popped up was a salon article about his recent work about the apparent prevalence of atheism in the United States. In the final paragraph the author remarked that, about Trump:

As with his other attempts to turn back the clock in America, President Trump’s remark in his inaugural address about joining all Americans together with “the same almighty Creator,” threatens the intricate and varying histories, beliefs and ways of being that are present in this country.

But Trump is a guy who, if ever, only took an interest in God very recently and has made no moves toward a theocracy in any policy.

The article had an awesome title portending the rise of hidden atheists within evangelicalism, “Trump Evangelicals face a growing number of ‘hidden atheists.'” I had hoped for an article about atheists going to church or something (of course this was Solong magazine).

I am aware of several atheists who are willing to participate in Christian culture if it means not submitting to a Muslim culture. I heard one atheist put it this way, “What if the choice isn’t between atheism and Christianity, but between Jesus and Muhammad?” But the headline had nothing to do with the article. The current religious demographic is the same as it was during the election, which means that with the current atheist population, Trump won. So if “Trump evangelicals” are facing “hidden atheists” I don’t know in what sense, if any, that is significant. I’ve known several atheists at most stages in my conscious memory. When I was a kid, I temporarily thought God made no sense because a giant man-in-space couldn’t see both sides of the earth simultaneously. Atheism, particularly of the uncritical sort, is as common as hammers.

Anyway, I applaud the author for trying to apply the findings of #SCIENCE to a topic not addressed in the original piece, but the remark I quoted above is essentially a non-sequitur in relationship to the Trump quote, the numbers cited, and the headline. Why? One, a president (Trump or otherwise) using the vague language of American civil religion is hardly an attempt to threaten the beliefs of atheist Americans. Even the phrase “almighty creator” can be vague enough to be endorsed by Christians, Muslims, or atheists who think the universe generates life through random processes (incidentally, it’s atheists I know who dwell within the darkest corners of the neo-reactionary movement, not the Christians…so I’m interested to know what atheist support for Trump actually looks like despite the left leaning tendencies of atheists).

Two, Obama had several similar references to God in his two inaugural addresses. Here’s one:

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.  This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.  This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall; and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served in a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

Oh no, the president threatened the stories of atheists by claiming that their confidence in American ideals is theologically rooted!

Anyway, I’ll get around to making a post about atheists being disliked, but for now, at least I found one more barely readable article written to the glee of the internet about how one last thing might spell the end of Donald Trump’s campaign.

The Imaginary Amendment

Last election season as morally and emotionally exhausting for many.

I thought it was pretty funny.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the whole thing was that in the space of about one year, the notion of purely open borders or even more to the point, the notion that the whole planet had a right to live within the boundaries of the United States of America became a frequent implication of talking points on the right and left.

I was even more intrigued by Bernie Sanders’ claim that such an idea was ludicrous. Steve Sailer recounts it here:

Bernie Sanders: Open borders? No, that’s a Koch brothers proposal.

Ezra Klein: Really?

Bernie Sanders: Of course. That’s a right-wing proposal, which says essentially there is no United States….

Ezra Klein: But it would make…

Bernie Sanders: Excuse me…

Ezra Klein: It would make a lot of global poor richer, wouldn’t it?

Bernie Sanders: It would make everybody in America poorer—you’re doing away with the concept of a nation-state, and I don’t think there’s any country in the world that believes in that.

The article cited above is pretty good. In it, the idea “that American citizens should get no say in who gets to move to America because huddled masses of non-Americans possess civil rights to immigrate” is called the “zeroth amendment.” It’s a clever name.

I mean, it may turn out that groups who wish to freely associate are wrong to exclude anybody ever, but few college safe space groups wish to be as open to outsiders as members of such groups wish for American borders to be.

Conservatism Conserves What?

This is an edit of a post from October 21st, 2016
When I was in junior high I learned about conservatives and liberals.
I was really confused about the fact that liberals wanted more rules for business owners and that conservatives wanted to spend more money on war.
A couple of years later, I converted to Christianity and found several conservative political positions to line up with my emerging moral consciousness. But, I also found several of them to abhorrent.
  1. Pro-life made sense. Abortion is the most insane inversion of the order nature I could and can imagine.
  2. I thought prison sentences for most crimes made no sense.
  3. Keeping the government mostly out of the market made sense (though I was skeptical of conservative opposition to minimum wage increases and I thought tariffs made sense)
  4. I also thought that going to war all of the time seemed to be a “liberal” use of money.

My Skepticism Rose

During Bush the Younger’s presidency, I remembered thinking that the privacy intrusions of the intelligence agencies, the quickness with which we went to war with Iraq over 9/11? WMDs? oil? (how and why was that wise?) and the reticence to do anything about abortion showed that conservatives meant [based on observing their actions] neither to conserve human life in general, American lives, nor the constitution.
Now that I’ve realized how little conservatives care to conserve. I tend to think that Republicans don’t actually want to win the pro-life argument at the legal level because then they couldn’t use the platform to get elected.

The Five Stages of Conservative

Ed Feser expertly mocked the conservative way of being in the world here:
  1. Stage 1: “Mark my words: if the extreme left had its way, they’d foist X upon us! These nutjobs must be opposed at all costs.”
  2. Stage 2: “Omigosh, now even thoughtful, mainstream liberals favor X! Fortunately, it’s political suicide.”
  3. Stage 3: “X now exists in 45 out of 50 states. Fellow conservatives, we need to learn how to adjust to this grim new reality.”
  4. Stage 4: “X isn’t so bad, really, when you think about it. And you know, sometimes change is good. Consider slavery…”
  5. Stage 5: “Hey, I was always in favor of X! You must have me confused with a [paleocon, theocon, Bible thumper, etc.]. But everyone knows that mainstream conservatism has nothing to do with those nutjobs…

Stage five describes contemporary conservatives thoroughly.

Christians do this, too.

“Those other Christians are bad, please like me now.”

I think I used to do it, too. Seminary trains you to want approval from non-Christians. Several professors I know are like this.

One of them is so condescending, even to people to whom he used to be a pastor, it’s difficult to imagine that he ever called himself a Christian. Usually hating Christians is the wine of atheists. But his main point is to signal to his academic friends that he’s not like all those low IQ rednecks he used to pastor.

No “Conservative Principles”

Even when conservatives claim to be using logic rather than rhetoric to make arguments against this or that idea or candidate, the same logic is applicable against them. Heck, I’ve heard conservatives rail against the tendency of populist movements to appeal to the poor and if anybody appeals to the poor they should be ignored. But that’s precisely part of Jesus’ appeal in the ancient world. Conservatives, in their effort to get people to see them as “not like those other conservatives” will make up principles they’ve never adopted before. This reminds me of when Publius Decius Mus opined that many of conservatives deep “principled concerns” aren’t even principles:

What, specifically, is good in a political context varies with the times and with circumstance, as does how best to achieve the good in a given context. The good is not tax rates or free trade. Those aren’t even principles. In the American political context, the good is the well-being of the physical America and its people, well-being defined (in terms that reflect both Aristotle and the American Founding) as their “safety and happiness.” That’s what conservatism should be working to conserve.

Examples

Mark Rubio said that he didn’t think conservatives should look at wikileaks materials because it might happen to conservatives one day. In other words, “It’s bad for politicians to be forced into transparency.” No moral principle such as privacy was evoked, but merely interest in power. Heck, it wasn’t even a, “Do unto others…” thing.

Elsewhere, on the Tweeter, Rick Wilson (a goober in love with family values rhetoric) asked Ann Coulter (who never claims to be polite) personal sex questions of a deeply disturbing nature.

In the National Review, Kevin Williamson exuberantly rhapsodized about how people who live in flyover communities deserve to die for no other reason except a “conservative” form of social darwinism which implies that politicians have no obligations toward the well being of their voters. No mention, of course, that it was bad trade deals supported by conservatives which sent their jobs overseas.

I’m Not Conservative

I’m not conservative by any respectably accepted definition. Conservatives, at least public pundits, are not interested in conserving principles, traditions, people, the economy, or the rule of law. They’re more interested in being the irenic but losing opposition to any of the forces bent on dissolving Western Civilization. The idea that sacrificing your view of the truth in response to social pressure is noble is unacceptable to me.

On the fundamental problem of socialist thinking

Socialism has a problem:

Bernie Sanders

What? Sanders? He’s a nice guy. What problem? It’s a totalitarianism problem.

Over at CapX (an obviously biased website), this observation was made:

Obviously, not everyone feels that dictatorship and mass murder are too high a price to pay for equality. Eric Hobsbawm, the British Marxist historian, for example, was once asked whether, if Communism had achieved its aims, but at the cost of, say, 15 to 20 million people – as opposed to the 100 million it actually killed in Russia and China – would he have supported it? His answer was a single word: Yes. Even today, many people, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau among them, fawn over Cuban dictatorship, because of its delivery of supposedly free health and education to the masses.

It is true that left-wing authoritarianism is a major problem on the level of social harm caused. This can be seen in the current state of eastern European countries and the association of communist ideology and authoritarianism despite the negative results of that worldview within living memory:

The aim of this article was twofold. First we aimed to contribute to the ongoing discussion on left-wing authoritarianism. Using representative samples the relationship between authoritarianism and political preferences was examined in 13 ex-communist Eastern European countries. Employing six different indicators of left-wing/communist political orientations made clear that, despite cross-national differences, left-wing  authoritarianism is definitely not a myth in Eastern Europe. Secondly, it was aimed to survey whether authoritarian individuals in Eastern European countries might be a possible threat to transition to democratic political systems. It was demonstrated that in general the Eastern European population seems to hold a positive opinion on democracy. It becomes also clear however that the authoritarian persons in the ex-communist countries do not hold a positive perspective on the democratic political system (305).

My thought is that western liberalism (Classical Liberalism) in its left and right wing instantiations leads to two negative results in the absence of Christian theology and Christian symbolic representations in the mind:

  1. Rejecting the image of God in man leads people to not mind the death of individual human beings, particularly if those human beings do not agree with them.
  2. Rejecting the existence of God while still believing in the logical consequences of belief in being made in God’s image leads to totalitarianism(this Charlton article is really good). Why? Because one still thinks of oneself as having all the trappings of being in God’s image: innate goodness, rationality, authority over the earth, the capacity for virtue, free will, etc. But on the other hand there is no actual God (who functions psychologically as a hyper pinnacle in the human dominance hierarchy) to judge you, so your positions, moral attitudes, etc all take the role of God in the mind. So your belief system becomes total and therefore must be imposed.

On a Biblical Case for Limited Government

Yoram Hazony makes the case that the Old Testament, through a form of extended narrative argument, favors limited government:

The biblical History of Israel presents the political order as oscillating between the imperial state, as represented by Egypt of the Pharaohs; and anarchy, as represented by Israel in the period of the judges. The first road leads to bondage; the second to dissolution and civil war. Neither, the narrative seeks to impress upon us, can serve as the basis for the freedom of a people.

The History wrestles with the question of whether there is a third option, which can secure a life of freedom for Israel, and for other nations as well. It teaches that there is such an option: A state that is not unlimited in principle, like the states of “all the nations” in the ancient Near East, but that seeks “the good and the right” by means of a system of dual legitimacy and a constitutional regime of restraint. This state must have rulers who understand that virtue emerges from limitation of the state’s borders, the size of its armies, its investment in foreign alliances, and its income. Only within these constraints will both the people and their king find a space in which the love of justice and of God that characterized the shepherds who were their forefathers can be rebuilt.

It’s an entrancing read, I highly recommend it.