Tuesday, April 05, 2005

On Faith --
A comment I posted to this thread:

I already answered your questions on American Street, so I will address your statement that "progressives get painted with a brush that doesn't accurately reflect the impact spiritual values have on their approach to public policy and political ideology."

Going back to my post on The American Street, I noted that: "I feel that my Catholicism is the reason that I am a liberal Democrat and that had I been raised Protestant or Jewish, I would be a soulless Republican. As such, I often interject religion into political discussions, and I won’t let it drop when someone else brings it up first. I understand now that Catholicism is as much a cultural thing as it is a religious thing and I could no more ignore being a Catholic than a black man could ignore the color of his skin or a woman can ignore her ovaries in day to day life."

The American left in recent decades seems to have the worldview that there is a place for religion in private life, but that there is no place for religion in public life. At times, it seems that the private sphere is given primacy over the public sphere, that the individual is always deemed more important than society as a whole. Modern American liberalism has been about expanding the size of the private sphere at the expense of the public sphere, and it is a valid concern to question whether there is a point when such expansion becomes detrimental to society.

In conservatism, the belief is that the rules should be the same for the private and public spheres, although the punishment for rules violations may be different between the two spheres.

(Personally, I prefer a more postmodern understanding that these two spheres have an indefinite boundary, that some things belong in both public and private life.)

Many progressives speak as though religion is something that belongs solely in the private sphere, while politics is a matter of the public sphere. As such, they choose not to demonstrate any linkage between religion and politics, since those things that are part of the private sphere ought to remain there. In fact, some progressives take great pains to show how they could come to political opinions in the public sphere as if the private sphere did not exist in some stupid approximation of the Rawlsian veil of ignorance. It is not entirely unsurprising that some people get the impression that progressive thinkers are uninformed by religion.

Another factor is that the more libertarian-minded lefties place the individual as more important than group identity (except in certain cases such as labor unions and minority group identities such as "African-American" or "Hispanic"). For many religious people, their conception of religion is communal, at least on Sundays. A church, a parish, a congregation, these are primary groups formed around religion. A good number of the progressive blogs I have read recently reflecting on faith seem to mention going off on a more solitary form of spirituality, leaving groups because they grow unhappy.

To sum up, for most people, religion is something that is communal in nature; as such, it cannot be restrained to the private sphere of life. For many progressives, religion seems to be more individualistic; as such, it becomes compartmentalizable and separable from the rest of human existence.

One of the problems with modern liberalism is that it has become too concerned with individualism and with justifying hedonistic behavior by idiots in order to permit liberties to more responsible individuals. I can point to the abortion debate, as few on the left are willing to take a stand and say that there are people having sex who shouldn't be having sex and that some restraint is within the realm of human capability (and I am happy that Democrats are trying to reduce the desire for abortions). This hedonism is the same thing that leads people to buy exurban houses causing urban sprawl so that they can commute for an hour to work in their SUV in an era of global warming and rising oil prices. It is the same hedonism that fuels unrestrained capitalism and the desire for profits without any corporate responsibility. Progressivism should be about opposing this culture of selfishness.
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