- Civility & Rhetoric (53) : Discourse, Persuasion, Respect
- Activism & Revolt (16) : Making Change
- Family (1) : The Family
- Government, Law, Politics (57)
- War & Peace (31) : War & Peacemaking
- Journalism (10) : All that's fit to print
- Education (15) : Scholarship and Pedagogy
- History (11) : History and Method
- In/Tolerance (20) : Living With Differences
- Church & State (37) : God & Country
Atheist Delusions (Yale University Press: 2009), pp. 33-34.
Hence modernity’s first great attempt to define itself: an 'age of reason' emerging from and overthrowing an 'age of faith'. Behind this definition lay a simple but thoroughly enchanting tale. Once upon a time, it went, Western humanity was the cosseted and incurious ward of Mother Church; during this, the age of faith, culture stagnated, science languished, wars of religion were routinely waged, witches were burned by inquisitors, and Western humanity labored in brutish subjugation to dogma. All was darkness. ¶ Then, in the wake of the ‘wars of religion’ that had torn Christendom apart, came the full flowing of the Enlightenment and with it the reign of reason and progress. The secular nation-state arose, reduced religion to an establishment of the state and thereby rescued Western humanity from the blood-steeped intolerance of religion. ¶ This is, as I say, a simple and enchanting tale, easily followed and utterly captivating in its explanatory tidiness; its sole defect is that it happens to be false in every identifiable detail. This tale of the birth of the modern world has largely disappeared from respectable academic literature and survives now principally at the level of folklore, 'intellectual journalism,' and vulgar legend.
"Host", in the Atlantic Monthly (April 2005), p. 54.
It is worth considering the strange media landscape in which political talk radio is a salient. Never before have there been so many different national news sources — different now in terms of both medium and ideology. Major newspapers from anywhere are available online; there are the broadcast networks plus public TV, cable's CNN, Fox News, CNBC, et al., print and Web magazines, Internet bulletin boards, The Daily Show, e-mail newsletters, blogs. All this is well known; it's part of the Media Environment we live in. But there are prices and ironies here. One is that the increasing control of U.S. mass media by a mere handful of corporations has — rather counterintuitively — created a situation of extreme fragmentation, a kaleidoscope of information options. Another is that the ever increasing number of ideological news outlets creates precisely the kind of relativism that cultural conservatives decry, a kind of epistemic free-for-all in which "the truth" is wholly a matter of perspective and agenda. In some respects all this variety is probably good, productive of difference and dialogue and so on. But it can also be confusing and stressful for the average citizen. Short of signing on to a particular mass ideology and patronizing only those partisan news sources that ratify what you want to believe, it is increasingly hard to determine which sources to pay attention to and how exactly to distinguish real information from spin.
"Demea to Philo", in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779), Part X.
And why should man, added he, pretend to an exemption from the lot of all other animals? The whole earth, believe me, Philo, is cursed and polluted. A perpetual war is kindled amongst all living creatures. Necessity, hunger, want, stimulate the strong and courageous: Fear, anxiety, terror, agitate the weak and infirm. The first entrance into life gives anguish to the new-born infant and to its wretched parent: Weakness, impotence, distress, attend each stage of that life: and it is at last finished in agony and horror. ... Were a stranger to drop on a sudden into this world, I would show him, as a specimen of its ills, a hospital full of diseases, a prison crowded with malefactors and debtors, a field of battle strewed with carcasses, a fleet foundering in the ocean, a nation languishing under tyranny, famine, or pestilence. To turn the gay side of life to him, and give him a notion of its pleasures; whither should I conduct him? to a ball, to an opera, to court? He might justly think, that I was only showing him a diversity of distress and sorrow.
David Hume on Enemies of Liberty said...
Essays Moral, Political, Literary (1748), Essay 9.
In all ages of the world, priests have been enemies to liberty; and it is certain, that this steady conduct of theirs must have been founded on fixed reasons of interest and ambition. Liberty of thinking, and of expressing our thoughts, is always fatal to priestly power, and to those pious frauds, on which it is commonly founded; and, by an infallible connexion, which prevails among all kinds of liberty, this privilege can never be enjoyed, at least has never yet been enjoyed, but in a free government.
Essays Moral, Political, Literary (1742), Essay 2.
It is a very comfortable reflection to the lovers of liberty, that this peculiar privilege of Britain is of a kind that cannot easily be wrested from us, but must last as long as our government remains, in any degree, free and independent. It is seldom, that liberty of any kind is lost all at once. Slavery has so frightful an aspect to men accustomed to freedom, that it must steal upon them by degrees, and must disguise itself in a thousand shapes, in order to be received. But, if the liberty of the press ever be lost, it must be lost at once. The general laws against sedition and libelling are at present as strong as they possibly can be made. Nothing can impose a farther restraint, but either the clapping an Imprimatur upon the press, or the giving to the court very large discretionary powers to punish whatever displeases them. But these concessions would be such a bare-faced violation of liberty, that they will probably be the last efforts of a despotic government. We may conclude, that the liberty of Britain is gone for ever when these attempts shall succeed.
Essays Moral, Political, Literary (1748), Essay 4.
Nothing appears more surprizing to those, who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few; and the implicit submission, with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. When we enquire by what means this wonder is effected, we shall find, that, as Force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is therefore, on opinion only that government is founded; and this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments, as well as to the most free and most popular.
A Treatise on Human Nature (1739), Part 1, Sect. 11.
No quality of human nature is more remarkable, both in itself and in its consequences, than that propensity we have to sympathize with others, and to receive by communication their inclinations and sentiments, however different from, or even contrary to our own. This is not only conspicuous in children, who implicitly embrace every opinion propos’d to them; but also in men of the greatest judgment and understanding, who find it very difficult to follow their own reason or inclination, in opposition to that of their friends and daily companions. To this principle we ought to ascribe the great uniformity we may observe in the humours and turn of thinking of those of the same nation; and ’tis much more probable, that this resemblance arises from sympathy, than from any influence of the soil and climate, which, tho’ they continue invariably the same, are not able to preserve the character of a nation the same for a century together. A good-natur’d man finds himself in an instant of the same humour with his company; and even the proudest and most surly take a tincture from their countrymen and acquaintance. A chearful countenance infuses a sensible complacency and serenity into my mind; as an angry or sorrowful one throws a sudden dump upon me. Hatred, resentment, esteem, love, courage, mirth and melancholy; all these passions I feel more from communication than from my own natural temper and disposition. So remarkable a phaenomenon merits our attention, and must be trac’d up to its first principles.
The Dennis Prager Show (August 4th, 2008), Hour Three.
One major difference between Left and Right is that the Left does not understand the fragility of civilization. If I have to go beneath every political position to a core distinction between Left and Right, it would be that I am not on the Left because I do not believe that good civilization is normal. I believe it is an aberration and that it is entirely fragile.
Dennis Prager on the Nanny State said...
The Dennis Prager Show (September 1, 2009), Hour Three.
A thirty year old who is still relying on mom and dad, it's not a good sign right? So why is a society relying on government a good sign? Tell me the difference between relying on your parents as an adult and relying on the government as an adult? ... If you knew somebody were forty, and on virtually every major financial debt of their life they could turn to their parents, you would think that this is a person who has not grown up. Well, why if you turn to the government are you grown up? What is the difference between nanny-family and nanny-state? This is one of the many reasons that all the founders — especially Jefferson — were so adamant about keeping government small, their belief that humans needed to work out their lives for themselves. Everybody believes that there are a number of individuals who clearly have been hit by such tragedy that the state must come in if nothing else works. And we want other things to work.
James K. A. Smith (Baker Publishing Group: August 2009), 240 pages.
Malls, stadiums, and universities are actually liturgical structures that influence and shape our thoughts and affections. Humans — as Augustine noted — are "desiring agents," full of longings and passions; in brief, we are what we love. James K. A. Smith focuses on the themes of liturgy and desire in Desiring the Kingdom, the first book in what will be a three-volume set on the theology of culture. He redirects our yearnings to focus on the greatest good: God. Ultimately, Smith seeks to re-vision education through the process and practice of worship. Students of philosophy, theology, worldview, and culture will welcome Desiring the Kingdom, as will those involved in ministry and other interested readers. ~ Product Description
"Is the Religious Right Finished?" Christianity Today (September 6, 1999), pg. 54.
Christians are understandably dismayed that the culture has become unhitched from its Judeo-Christian roots. What many refuse to acknowledge is that, in a thousand ways, this unhitching was produced by a massive retreat by Christians from the intellectual, cultural, and philanthropic life of the nation. While evangelicals count millions of members among their grassroots political groups and are now, if anything, overrepresented in the legislative arena, the number of evangelicals at the top of America's powerful culture-shaping institutions could be seated in a single school bus! The watching world is understandably chagrined by the interest evangelicals have shown in power while simultaneously showing so little interest in the noncoercive arenas of society where one's only weapon is persuasion.
Don Eberly on Law and Morality said...
"Is the Religious Right Finished?" in Christianity Today (September 6, 1999), pg. 53
The Bible recognizes many evils, but does not supply a specific mandate for outlawing all that believers consider immoral or improper. As the late thologian John Courtney Murray put it, "The law, mindful of its nature, is required to be tolerant of many evils that morality condemns." Christian should not adopt the habit of their secular brethren in turning to the law to right every wrong, especially on issues where only a genuinely restored moral authority in the culture will get the job done.
"Is the Religious Right Finished?" in Christianity Today (September 6, 1999), pg. 53
But politics cannot begin to put the conecting tissue back in society. It is ill-equipped to reconstruct traditional moral beliefs. The best policies cannot recover courtship or marriage, make fathers responsible for their children, restore shock or shame where it once existed, or recover legitimate social authority to institutions that have been hollowed out by a pervasive ideology of individual autonomy. The vast majority of moral problems that trouble us cannot be eradicated by law.
"Is the Religious Right Finished?" Christianity Today (September 6, 1999), pg. 53.
The problem has not been expecting too little of politics, but far too much. True conservatism brings a natural skepticism to the reforming possibilities of politics. It sees as its first job the long-term cultivation of character, culture, and community. It views politics as "downstream" from culture, more reflecting it than shaping it. Conservatism avoids excessively politicizing religion or religionizing politics because genuine religious faith stirs allegiances that transcend nation and ideology. The Scriptures would counsel even more skepticism about both the possibilities of politics and the form in which it should be practiced.
Don Eberly on the Public Square said...
"Is the Religious Right Finished?" in Christianity Today (September 6, 1999), pg. 53
Public statesmen today should imagine themselves as called to serve, not in a predominantly Christian nation, but one that more resembles the conditions Paul encountered in Athens, where he invoked the literature and philosophy of the times to make his point without imagining a large sympathetic majority standing behind him.
"Truth Commissions and Judicial Trials" in The Provocations of Amnesty (New Africa Books: 2003) p. 86-7.
Ominously for some Euro-Americans, analogous discussions are now gathering in the United States. We are not done with the evil legacy of Euro-American treatment of African slaves and native Indians. How a future-oriented culture such as America's gets propelled into serious moral re-examination of the dark sides of its history is a subject worthy of much future consultation between historians, social scientists, and theological ethicists in America. Already the ferment of new visits to our own ignoble versions of administrative massacres may signal a new openness in our culture to hearing the simmering angry memories of those whose ancestors suffered those events. As he left Atlanta recently to return to South Africa, Desmond Tutu remarked, 'The United States needs a truth and reconciliation commission.' African Americans and Native Americans are likely to agree; but, as both the histories of trials and truth commissions described in this essay vividly suggests, every country, with its unique history, must craft its own unique way of reckoning with that history. No one measure will suffice for the making and remaking of a public conscience. Installing negative history in public memory is a multi-dimensional project that has to circle back again and again to old facts from new perspectives.
Douglas Coupland on Emoticons said...
Microserfs (HarperCollins: 2008), p. 127.
Mom wrote this one, saying, "They're called emoticons — I read about them in USA Today. They're like sideways happy faces." We all ganged up on her: "We hate those things!" Everyone except for Bug who, as it turns out, loves them. And then Susan 'fessed up that she liked some of them. And then Todd. And then Karla. I guess emoticons are like Baywatch — everyone says they don't watch it, but they really do.
David A. Dulio, Stephen K. Medvic, and Candice J. Nelson, Shades of Gray (Brookings: 2002), p. 14.
The problems include limited access to mass media outlets afforded to some voices in our political process; "sound bite" journalism that covers campaign strategy more than policy pronouncements and emphasizes conflict over consensus; and overreliance on the medium of television, the logic of which makes politics "an activity of style over substance, image over reality, melodrama over analysis, belief over knowing, awareness over understanding." The primary cause of these problems, [Robert] Denton argues, lies in "contemporary news values." As a business, the media must maintain high circulation (or ratings) in order to make a profit by selling advertising. The incentive to make the news entertaining is overwhelming. But information that is most useful in a democratic system may often be subtle and complex — boring, to some.
Jennifer Richards, ed. (Palgrave Macmillan: Dec 5, 2003), 240 pages.
This collection explores the concept of civility in the early modern period. It addresses a range of writings in English and Scottish — among them, conduct manuals, colonial tracts, diaries, letters, dialogues, poetry, drama, chronicles — by English, Welsh and Scots men and women in and about the Atlantic archipelago. It explores the many meanings of civility in the early modern period; it recovers some of the lost associations of civility as well as the complex use of the adjectives "civil" and "barbarous" in cultural and colonial encounters. ~ Product Description
Reflections on the Revolution in France (J. Dodsley: 1790) pp. 93-95, 96.
I confess to you, Sir, I never liked this continual talk of resistance and revolution, or the practice of making the extreme medicine of the constitution its daily bread. It renders the habit of society dangerously valetudinary: it is taking periodical doses of mercury sublimate, and swallowing down repeated provocatives of cantharides to our love of liberty. ¶ This distemper of remedy, grown habitual, relaxes and wears out, by a vulgar and prostituted use, the spring of that spirit which is to be exerted on great occasions. ... In the ordinary state of things, it produces in a country like ours the worst effects, even on the cause of that liberty which it abuses with the dissoluteness of an extravagant speculation. Almost all the high-bred republicans of my time have, after a short space, become the most decided, thorough-paced courtiers; they soon left the business of a tedious, moderate, but practical resistance to those of us whom, in the pride and intoxication of their theories, they have slighted, as not much better than tories. Hypocrisy, of course, delights in the most sublime speculations; for, never intending to go beyond speculation, it costs nothing to have it magnificent. But even in cases where rather levity than fraud was to be suspected in these ranting speculations, the issue has been much the same. These professors, finding their extreme principles not applicable to cases which, call only for a qualified, or, as I may say, civil, and legal resistance, in such cases employ no resistance at all. It is with them a war or a revolution, or it is nothing. Finding their schemes of politics not adapted to the state of the world in which they live, they often come to think lightly of all public principle; and are ready, on their part, to abandon for a very trivial interest what they find of very trivial value. Some indeed are of more steady and persevering natures; but these are eager politicians out of parliamient, who have little to tempt them to abandon their favourite projects. They have some change in the church or state, or both, constantly in their view. When that is the case, they are always bad citizens, and perfectly unsure connexions. For, considering their speculative designs as of infinite value, and the actual arrangement of the state as of no estimation, they are at best indifferent about it. They see no merit in the good, and no fault in the vicious management of public affairs; they rather rejoice in the latter, as more propitious to revolution. They see no merit or demerit in any man, or any action, or any political principle, any further than as they may forward or retard their design of change: they therefore take up, one day, the most violent stretched prerogative, and another the wildest democratic ideas of freedom, and pass from the one to the other without any sort of regard to cause, to person, or to party. ... Plots, massacres, assassinations, seem to some people a trivial price for obtaining a revolution. A cheap, bloodless reformation, a guiltless liberty appear flat and vapid to their taste. There must be a great change of scene; there must be a magnificent stage effect; there must be a grand spectacle to rouze the imagination, grown torpid with the lazy enjoyment of sixty years security, and the still unanimating repose of public prosperity.
Popular in Books
- Boston College's MA Philosophy Reading List
- Librarians' Top 100 Novels of 20th Century
- How People Poison Everything
- Faith of the Fatherless
- What's So Great About Christianity
- The Persecuted Atheist?
- Oxford Handbook of Skepticism
- Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics
- What Is a "Scientific Fact"? Won't Plain Ol' Facts Do?
- The Victory of Reason
Popular in Quotes
- Lt. Col. Mervin Willett Gonin DSO on the Holocaust
- Friedrich Nietzsche on Fighting Monsters
- Fyodor Dostoevsky (as Ivan Karamazov) on Evil
- Karl Marx on Religion
- J.P. Moreland on Postmodernism and Anger
- John Stuart Mill on Fallibility and Free Speech
- Mark Twain (as Huck Finn) on Ethics
- J.P. Moreland on Postmodernism
- Martin Luther King, Jr. on Just and Unjust Laws
- Angus Menuge on Inference to the Best Explanation
Popular in Papers
- The Euthanasia Debate: Understanding the Issues
- Aquinas versus Locke and Descartes on the Human Person and End-of-Life Ethics
- Utilitarianism and the Moral Life
- Philosophical Apologetics, the Church, and Contemporary Culture
- Scientific Creationism, Science, and Conceptual Problems
- Is Science a Threat or Help to Faith?
- Argument from Consciousness
- Complementarity, Agency Theory, and the God-of-the-Gaps
- Naturalism and Libertarian Agency
- The Indispensability of Theological Meta-ethical Foundations for Morality
- Stephen Hawking on the Anthropic Principle
- Os Guinness on the Weight of Prophetic Witness
- The Soul Hypothesis
- Leibniz on Perceiving Machines
- Steve Taylor on Recent Christian Art
- Laurence Bonjour on Presumptive Naturalism
- Judith Hayes on Science Education
- The Adjustment Bureau
- First Things Journal
- Bertrand Russell on the Value of Philosophy