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April 14, 2005

Glenn Reynolds’ monolithic view of America

Mega-blogger and law professor Glenn Reynolds has offered his view of the recent upsurge of interest in religion. Beginning with the overwhelming success of Mel Gibson's The Passion, and the undeniable affect social Conservatives made in the 2004 elections, many have speculated what this means to America's immediate future. Obviously, as Reynolds points out, some on the political right are hopeful that it does signal a return to faith, but many on the left (or should I say the irreligious left) fear the same thing.

Reynolds quotes columnist Jack Kelly who in turn quotes University of Chicago economic historian Robert William Fogel lamenting the apparent shift of the populace toward matters of faith. Reynolds is doubtful — and uses a monolithic view of America as “proof”.

And that pretty much sums up his argument — because some Americans display a desire to teeter on the razor thin boundary between agnosticism and  true devotion to faith, obviously all Americans do — or at least enough to dismiss the rest as insignificant. But is America really that homogenous?

Expanding the political spectrum beyond the inadequate two-dimensions traditionally used, we can see that both Conservatives and Liberals are also divided in to sub-groups of social and economic. Social Conservatives view morality as a primary concern for the betterment of the nation. Opposite that would be Libertarians and ACLU types who see the “freedom” to be perverse and immoral as a crucial element in the betterment of the nation. (Since neither Glenn's article nor this one really touch on the economic part of the spectrum, I'll not bore you with it. You're welcome.)

So what does a glance across the sea of citizens that pack our nation reveal? Obviously a spectrum, with recognizable extremes. But where do the bulk of Americans fit? From where I sit, the vast majority of Americans oppose the things the...we'll call them Libertines...defend, but often pay too little attention to what the...lets call them Moralists...say, as opposed to what the Libertines claim they are saying, claim in rather loud and screechy voices. For example Jerry Falwell has never claimed Tinky Winky is homosexual. He quoted a CNN piece that pointed out the character's popularity with homosexuals — and the Libertines began screeching that Falwell called Tinky Winky a homosexual, then repeated it and repeated and repeated it, ad nauseum.

While the...oh, lets call them the Average Joes...just as soon not have homosexual marriage legal, they also just as soon not have a bunch of screaming activists calling them homophobes, so they keep quite unless they are able to respond anonymously in a poll or in a voting booth. So on the surface the Average Joes seem non-committal about moral issues, but when rubber meets the road, they vote like Moralists. Even more so as the Libertines become increasingly annoying with their screeching. Thus the recent trends.

Toward one end of the spectrum the Average Joes feel strongly about morality as well as faith, and only slightly so about to supposed restriction such morality would put on people. But I really don't see the other end of that spectrum populated with that many people. For the most part the “too much religion” Glenn warns about is a myth. I know of few among the Religious Right that really want to turn America into a Theocracy, let alone a totalitarian Theocracy as the Libertines screech about. On the other hand the Libertines are divided between the ACLU types who never saw a socialist state they didn't pine for and the Libertarians who keep getting stuck defending their indefensible arguments for the legalization of drugs.

Toward the end of his piece Glenn wrote:

I think there's a lot of sentiment in favor of people being able to practice their religion, and talk about their religion, without discrimination or ridicule. And I think there's some support (though less so) for efforts to inform legislation with religious values. There's also a commonsense attitude toward de minimis expressions of religion: Americans are not, for the most part, offended by references to God, or by things like prayers at football games.

But Americans really don't like busybodies telling them what to do.

While I agree with the first part, the last sentence is part of the myth the screeching Libertines want to perpetuate. What exactly are these “busybodies” telling people to do? Not murder their unborn babies? Most Americans oppose abortion as it is now legal in every state in the union. Not use drugs? Good luck convincing most Americans that's just the work of “busybodies”.  Not marry someone of the same gender? Again, most Americans oppose same-sex marriage.

Notice how easy it is to give some pretty specific abuses by the Libertines — censorship of religious expression, abortion “rights” enforced to the point of children being coerced into abortions by their molesters, the infirm being murdered by relatives — all real examples happening today. But what about the supposed abuses by the Moralists? Name some that are even close to being reality, let alone actually practiced.

The type of Moral abuse Glenn cites in his article are things done centuries ago in the West, but unheard of today. Yes, the Anglican church is the official religion of England, but the government doesn't recognize church weddings and the church doesn't recognize civil ceremonies, therefore even though Brits have an “official” state church, they have to have two ceremonies to have their marriages both legal and sanctified. In America the government recognizes church or any religious marriage ceremony, as legal, and authorizes the pastor, priest, rabbi or imam (I'm guessing that's who does Moslem weddings because I don't know) as an agent of the state for that purpose. The point being the issue of state forced religion, at least in the West, is nonexistent except for the forced teaching of the religion of Evolution — and that's another article.

Glenn Reynolds and people like him, who fear imaginary Theocracies, while allowing a real socialist tyranny to creep in, need to get over their loathing of religious devotion and look at who is actually doing what to whom.

Posted by Danny Carlton at April 14, 2005 03:11 PM

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