I’m continuing my reporting on the next installment from Conservative Estimate, the recently founded website that is devoted to demolishing Conservatism.
Yesterday, Alfred George showed that Religion could not back up its claim to deliver absolute morality, and that Religion is not, and ought not to be, involved in every societal question.
Today he shows why society should not take its marching orders from Religion.
Come down below the bifold orange penstrokes for the explanation.
Mr. George begins by asking whether Religion is a superior power to which society should defer? His answer is negative:
As we have seen, Religion is far from being the universal source of principles that religious people seem to think it is. It does nothing to prevent destructive self-interest. It cannot make people good, and therefore cooperative, in society. It has no access to truth that can be shared widely, because different sects and faiths believe different things; and even if some sort of ecumenical agreement is achieved on fundamental ethical principles, the details become the object of bitter acrimony among different believers.In order to paper over the obvious failure of Religion to achieve anything like world-wide consensus, the Conservative mind creates the idea of a golden age
when, it is pretended, all Americans had the same religion and the same values. . . . In the golden age, disagreement on first principles would never occur. In such a Garden of Eden, there would be no need for self-interest, because everyone’s interest would be the same.Of course, there never was such a time.
On the contrary, self-interest was just as dominant at the start of the republic as it is now, and the Framers chose to deal with it not through Religion, but through Reason. Their solution, outlined in The Federalist, was to pit self-interested factions against one another. They did not rely on Religion, or character, or personal virtue to overcome the vice of self-interest. They used the only power that is equal to self-interest to counter it—self-interest.They chose to pit faction against faction, in the expectation that even a moron could see that endless confrontation would not get him anywhere.
Since positive benevolence was not to be expected on a large scale, they invented negative benevolence: a state of cooperation arising from self-interests recognizing the value of compromise.The Framers, however, could not imagine a creature as destitute of rationality as the modern Conservative:
Nowadays, too many people believe that it is better to get everything you want instead of only some of what you want—even though its impossible to get everything you want! This is a failure of Reason. So the solution is not a return to some imaginary religious utopia, but a renewal of Reason. That’s all it takes to see that agreeing to compromise on some of your demands in order to attain some others beats refusing to compromise and stopping everyone, including yourself, from getting anything.You can read the whole post here.
Tomorrow Mr. George wiil finish considering the Myth of Religion by discussing the proper role of Religion in society.
I’ll be reporting back each day as a new installment appears.