Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Worshipping the State or Projection by Conservatives

So I came across this fascinating interview on Red State with the author of Worshipping the State: How Liberalism Became Our State Religion, and there is so much to respond to in that interview.

First, let us deal with some hypocrisy by the author, Benjamin Wiker. Wiker complains about liberalism becoming "the default worldview imposed upon us," but isn't that exactly the sort of thing that conservative christians want to see happen with conservatism and, to a much greater extent, christianity? I mean, whenever people do stuff that break away from their worldview, they complain. That's the whole concept behind the War on Christmas. People are breaking away from the conservative christian worldview, and they see it as an attack on them. As a war they are fighting. You'll notice this is a common theme in the interview. Wiker is a hypocrite.

Next, one of the interviewers asks a very good question: How does Wiker define religion to both encompass christianity and liberalism? Wiker never answers the question. He never defines his term. Instead he goes on a tangent of talking about political philosophies which define themselves religiously or include worship of the state or philosophy. He says it happened with facism and communism (almost certainly talking about soviet style marxist-leninist communism), then makes an unsubstantiated claim that the same has happened with liberalism. To be fair to him, though, this is his thesis so he intends to substantiate it with the interview and the book. (Spoilers: This never happens.)

After that, he goes on to talk about the start of the separation of church and state. He talks about how it was the church that created the separation and how that set christianity apart from the pagan religions that came before it which would deify the emperor or king. Of course, this ignores that separation of church and state was an enlightenment concept most often credited to John Locke who wasn't born until 11632 HE (AD 1632) and the term wasn't used until a letter by Thomas Jefferson in 11802 HE (AD 1802). Of course, to be fair, proto-separation of church and state came in the form of Martin Luther's Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms which talks about the earthly kingdom of government and church through whom the abrahamic god rules by means of law and the heavenly kingdom of gospel and grace through which god rules through people obeying the laws he created in the bible. This doctrine comes from Mark 12:17, Matthew 22:21, and Luke 20:26 "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." However, this doctrine is far from a separation of church and state, but a separation of earthly authority, which includes the church and state, and heavenly authority. Christianity had not been separate from the state since emperor Constantine made it the state religion of the roman empire and it was only separate before because no state accepted christianity but, rather, persecuted it. All through the middle ages, kings derived their power from the papacy through the concept of Divine Right and the papacy actually controlled territory that was ruled over by various popes and eastern orthodox did so through the byzantine emperor. During the Reformation, various sects of christianity were supported by various states. In Geneva, the state fully embraced calvinism and the church and state merged. In England, the king split from the catholic church and created the church of England which is still fused with the british state. Separation of church and state is something that came from enlightenment thinkers. Indeed, it was Denis Diderot who once said "the distance between the throne and the altar can never be too great."

Now, for a slight quibble, he then takes Machiavelli's The Prince seriously, despite it being a subtle satire he wrote to appease the leaders who had locked him up.

Next he goes off on another tangent talking about how the states began to focus more on the world and less on the afterlife or spiritual stuff around the time of the writing of The Prince, ignoring that the church had beaten Machiavelli to that by 500 years when pope Benedict IX became the only pope to ever sell the papacy in 11045 HE (AD 1045). He complains that people focus on the world when they are in the world, which he claims creates a fusion of church and state by putting the state above the church, even though that would be dominance of state over church rather than a fusion.

Following that Wiker repeats his unsubstantiated claim that liberalism is a religion. The interviewers quickly change the subject.

They then focus on Obama, claiming that the press made him out to be sort of like a deity, citing a picture early in his presidency which made it look like he had a halo because of the glass behind him and how the press pushed him as a savior. This falls into the liberal bias in the media trap which, of course, completely ignore fox news. However, more to the point, they give absolutely no evidence that the media did this.

Following that he makes an absolutely absurd claim that I'd like to pick apart. Fascism and nazism are forms of liberalism. I'm going to let that sink in for a moment. Liberalism is founded on the concepts of liberty, equality, and justice. Fascism is an ultranationalist totalitarian philosophy that asserts that some races are inherently superior to others and those that are inferior should be crushed underfoot. Those two philosophies are completely incompatible. Claiming that fascism is a form of liberalism is absurd.

That absurd claim is a part of a bigger claim that liberalism shifts devotion from the abrahamic god to the state by focusing more on this world than the next. This completely ignores the possibility that one could have devotion to nothing as he implies that taking away devotion to the abrahamic god would lead to devotion to something else.

He then continues with his absurdity by talking about how people in nazi Germany had an insane devotion to Hitler and people in fascist Italy had an insane devotion to Mussolini as well as referencing how communists seem to have the same sort of devotion to their leader embalming them like saints. Wiker is talking about soviet-style marxist communism as if it were the only form of communism there was. None of these states were liberal (the soviet-style states weren't liberal for similar reasons as fascism wasn't), thus making them irrelevant to his point.

He then goes to his main point, Obama is being treated as a messiah or god. He also brings up FDR as another example of a deified president. This is more hypocrisy from him as he completely ignores Reagan who is treated far more deifically by conservatives than Obama and FDR combined. While Obama and FDR are considered by many (though not all) to be good presidents, many republicans feel its necessary to stamp a lot of what they do as things that Reagan would support or claim that people are betraying Reagan's ideals. While, of course, it would be absurd to call this deification, it's far more reverence than either Obama or FDR get.

Following that, Wiker makes a good point. Liberalism attempts to put its effort into giving us in this world what christianity only promises in the next. Of course, he didn't mean for that to be a good point, but it reminds me of the song the Preacher and the Slave. Christianity promises pie in the sky when people die while people have no food. Is it any wonder that liberalism is a growing trend?

Next, he makes another unsubstantiated claim that there is a shift toward centralization in  the US as a part of a belief that we need a new leader to bring the world into a better place.

They start talking about secular morality, next. Again, they bring up some good points which they don't think are good points. First, that religious freedom must include the freedom not to believe, second, asking what harm it causes if a secular person or an atheist is a moral person, and, third, it doesn't matter what people believe, just how people act. He argues, then, that secular and religious morality will inevitably come in conflict. He gives two examples, abortion and gay marriage, with the implication that people who are pro-choice or pro-gay marriage base their beliefs on secular morality and people who are pro-life or anti-gay marriage base their beliefs on religious or christian morality. This is false. For example, the prime minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, is an atheist who is against gay marriage. In addition, the episcopalian church is for gay marriage. Not all secular morality is the same just as not all religious or christian morality is the same. There are atheists or people who have secular morality and people who are christian or have religious morality on both sides of those debates.

Then they go on to talk about how, because secularists don't worship a god, they must worship something different, so they worship the state. This ignores the possibility that people could worship nothing. Wiker talks about what people look to as the ultimate source of humanity's salvation and redemption, applying a christian mode of thinking (that humanity needs salvation and/or redemption) to the lack in belief in a god. Unfortunately for his point, many people don't think that humanity needs either salvation or redemption, and, thus, don't need to look elsewhere for it.

He then goes on to claim that, since people don't believe in a god, they look to the state to improve their lives. This ignores people who go out to improve their lives for themselves, both atheistic and non-atheistic. For example Martin Luther King, who fought for rights the state never gave him.

Finally, they wrap up on considering the future, and Wiker makes the point that it depends on what people do now, which is really correct. What we do now can determine what the future will be like.

Wiker's thesis that liberalism is a religion imposed by liberal states is unsubstantiated and there is evidence against it, so there is absolutely no reason to believe it.

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