Tuesday, March 11, 2014

There Will Be No Egalitarian Democracy Without God

"Stillborn Education" from "Gods of the Modern World" by Jose Clemente Orozco
I suppose, given the things I've been talking about here for the past two months, that I should read the late Ronald Dworkin's recently published book, "Religion Without God" but I am almost certain that I never will.   From this review by Michael Rosen, it sounds like the massive mind of Dworkin tried to come up with an intellectually coherent means of creating inherent rights, equally held by all that there is a moral obligation for us to respect without God.  While Rosen seems to have to be impressed, his description of what Dworkin came up with looks like it would be as easily blown away by someone who doesn't WANT to believe it as anything else could be.  Since Dworkin was a lawyer and legal scholar, I doubt that judges and justices who were disinclined to respect rights on an equal basis would lose any sleep tossing quotes from it around in their heads.  Atheistic arguments for such things have, I strongly suspect, that defect, that they carry no power to prick any conscience.

It also looks, to me, to be something so extremely complex that it is entirely unlikely to sustain equal rights under the law in the political sphere, where these kinds of enormously complex, secular arguments are even more impotent than they are among lawyers. I doubt the reportedly impressive and mighty considerations of  Harvard-Oxford scholar Dworkin will be more than a footnote in some other, equally impotent, scholarly attempt to provide the benefits given by God, while denying that is where those came from.   I doubt that all of the collective attempts by great scholars to do that, over the past three centuries, has had nearly the moral, social and political force of any of the well known assertions that our rights are granted to all of us by God.  I doubt that those have carried any force to do more than damage the entirely more effective assertion of rights as an equal, inherent endowment of God.   The scholars are talking to each other and their words fork no lightning in the wider world, down among the common folk, where the real existence of equal rights resides.  Dworkins' arguments won't have the beneficial effect of the declaration that the truth that God granted us equal rights is self evident.

Why this is important, given the aggressive promotion of atheism among the Ivy League class of the elite, where all of our Supreme Court and way too many of our chief executives come from, is that it has a real life consequence for us all.  If they don't believe that those rights are real, if they believe that their equal distribution by God isn't real, then they so often act as if they have no reason to pretend to believe that.  The alternative, generally in the assertions of scientistic materialism, has had a malignant effect in real life.  I wrote about the source of the Buck vs. Bell decision, informed by the sciency atheism of Holmes and I think it probably has a lot to do with some other decisions by less candid justices that are obviously a denial of the truth held to be self-evident in the Declaration of Independence.

The very end of the review, including a long quote from Dworkin's book shows that even these two elite thinkers are aware of the problems that I assert are unavoidable if atheism comes to dominate either a de facto ruling elite or, God help us, the general population.

Dworkin is always wonderfully clear and honest about what is involved in his position—it is part of what makes his book such a pleasure to read—and he concludes his discussion of the nature of value by explaining its limitations:

"I will not have convinced some of you. You will think that if all we can do to defend value judgments is appeal to other value judgments, and then finally to declare faith in the whole set of judgments, then our claims to objective truth are just whistles in the dark. But this challenge, however familiar, is not an argument against the religious worldview. It is only a rejection of that worldview. It denies the basic tenets of the religious attitude: it produces, at best, a standoff. You just do not have the religious point of view."

This expresses precisely my own reaction. I cannot see that describing the target of our disagreements about value as existing in a fully independent, objective realm is anything more than religion lite: the religious idea of eternal goodness without the miraculous elements of omnipotent divine will and personal immortality. Yet I am at one with Dworkin in thinking that even a fully secular individual should contemplate the universe not just with curiosity and wonder but with reverence and gratitude. Still, behind me I hear a voice—a Nietzschean one, perhaps—that tells me that what Dworkin and I are looking at is no more than a penumbra, the few rays that remain in the sky after the sun of revealed religion has set. If that is so, then the coming night may be dark indeed.

I am not at all hopeful that the brief period of modern democracy, especially in its most expansive, egalitarian form, can survive in a world where most people don't believe that people they don't care for were granted rights that they are morally obligated to respect and take with the utmost seriousness.   The atheism which elites might find personally liberating, leaving them free to enjoy the privileges that come with their economic and social status carries a general price in the removal of the belief in a God granted equality.  We have seen enough in modern history, beginning in that emblem of "enlightenment" thought, the French Revolution,  of what happens under "scientific" systems that have that as a feature of a ruling elite.  Generalizing that convenient skepticism will not do anything but further generalize the depravity that those experiments in atheistic government have been.  I don't think there is any reason to believe people who don't believe that they have that moral obligation will act as if they do have it.  And I don't think most people will take it seriously if they don't believe that it is imposed on them by any lesser authority than God.  Indeed, history also shows how difficult it was for men, like Jefferson, Madison, etc. to live up to their declaration with a belief in God and having gone on record asserting that.

Someone who is a more careful scholar than I'm able to be should write a fuller treatment of Dworkin's book than Michael Rosen has.  I hope that some of them cast as skeptical a look at it as it deserves, though that skepticism of this kind of literature has either not been expressed or it has been disappeared in the general materialist coercion of our educational and media elites.  I hope that they don't keep their heads up in the clouds where these elites like to keep these discussions but that they seriously consider the impotence of such artificial substitutes and patch jobs are certain to have in real life, where the real issues and consequences of killing off a belief in God will happen.   With a removal of a really effective belief in the moral obligation to respect rights, the removal of one that The People can understand and believe in, all hell will break loose.

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