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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

'I will not be God-whipped.'

Among the many reasons I subscribe to The New Republic, I rank Leon Wieseltier's indictments of idiocy pretty much at the top. From his essay in the November 22 issue, "The Elect: God's Second Term":

I will not be God-whipped. For a start, it is not at all clear that the "values" analysis of George W. Bush's reelection is correct . . . Moreover, the "faith" that is being praised as the road to political salvation, the Bush ideal of religion, is a zealous ignorance, a complacent renunciation of proof and evidence and logic and argument, as if the techniques of reason were merely liberal tools. . . .

The faith fetish, the belief in belief, is an insult not only to the mind, but also to the soul. For there are many varieties of faith, and the "faith" of the Republicans, which does not grasp the old distinction between fideism and faith, represents only one of those varieties. Not all religion in America is as superstitious and chiliastic and emotional and dogmatic and political as this. And not all religion in America is as Christian as this. When the spokesmen for Bush's holy base call for the restoration of religion to a central position in public life—for the repeal of the grand tradition of mutually beneficial separation that began with Roger Williams's heroic alienation from the theocracy of Massachusetts—they are usually calling for the restoration of their religion.

. . .

The liberal conscience is not a human failing. It is another kind of conscience. It has reasons. It is a thing of principle, not a thing of taste. The religious right complains of liberal condescension, and often properly; but then it condescends to liberalism by reducing it to class or to culture, and by regarding it not as a moral creed but as a moral corruption. The offense that religious conservatives regularly take from secular liberals is a little ridiculous. Why do they care so much about our disapproval? They are also in the business of disapproval. The truth is that this kind of conservatism is sustained by its feeling of victimization. Grievance makes it glad. It allows the right to combine the power of a majority with the pity of a minority.

. . .

The belief in God does not guarantee the knowledge of God's wishes. This is the most elementary lesson of the history of religious faith. The believer lives in the darkness more than he lives in the light. He does not wallow in God's guidance, he thirsts for it. And when God's guidance comes, it does not take the form of policy recommendations, unless he has created his God in the image of his desire. What deity is this, that has opinions about preemption and taxation and Quentin Tarantino? In this regard, there is no more ringing refutation of the religion of George W. Bush than the religion of Abraham Lincoln. "Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the other," Lincoln proclaimed at the beginning of his second term, and in the middle of a war. "The prayers of both could not be answered—that of neither has been answered fully." For Lincoln, his party was not God's party; or rather, the other party was as much God's party as his party was. And he explained this repudiation of human certainty this way: "The Almighty has his own purposes." He did not know what they were, he knew only that they were. Beware the politicians, and the politics, that know more.

See also editor Peter Beinart's column, "Morally Correct" (11.29.04).

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 23 November 2004 at 6:11 PM

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November 24, 2004 09:06 AM | Permalink for this comment

Go to any Unitarian church and find a variety of religious experience! :)


November 24, 2004 09:58 AM | Permalink for this comment

Lately I am feeling a bit grumpy at the Dems for allowing Bush's weak theology to trump liberal religion (and the religion of liberals, bot orthodox and non-). I am pleased to see that some people are speaking out, but how do we get our elected and other prominent leaders to take a strong and broad religious stand so that someone other than ourselves notice? Or are folks noticing and I just have my head too far in the turkey?

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