Politics, Religion

The Onward March of Christian Political Power

Fifty years ago, in conscientious reaction to the perceived erosion of biblical norms in society, religious conservatives began operationalizing the teachings of Christianity into a vigorous political program. Society’s accelerated liberalization in the 1960s—which featured the sexual revolution, drug experimentation, and enforced racial integration—prompted religious leaders to harness the power of “Judeo-Christian values” to build an electorally formidable monolith.

They succeeded. A ritual in Republican politics now involves presidential hopefuls prostrating themselves before religious conservatives in order to be anointed the next Great Godly Leader by the Christian masses. In other words, to even have a prayer in Republican politics, these candidates need their prayers. Today, though the individual battles are waged on different fronts, the nature of the conflict—the sociocultural clash between Christian political power and its rival frameworks—remains fundamentally the same. The debates over school prayer, stem cells, and evolution, have evolved into debates over religious liberty, transgender rights, and whether or not employees for functionally atheological corporate entities should be compelled to provide customers with a religiously-laden greeting during the winter holidays.

The prominence of these debates is evidence of the Christian Right’s capacity to retain and wield tremendous political power. You don’t propel the “War on Christmas” narrative—a fundamentally unserious pseudo-grievance—into a sustained national news narrative without it. Yet how is the Christian right able to do all this? It does it thanks to three independent but mutually-reinforcing factors, each like a leg on a stool. The platform on which the stool rests, however, is provided by the very way religious conservatism works in the first place.

A precondition for conservative Christian mobilization is the remarkable durability of the religious traditionalist’s mindset. Religious traditions can be impossibly stubborn things—adherents appreciate that they preserve ancient truths and practices, while detractors lament their frustrating unwillingness to modernize. Whether you like this feature or hate it, worldview consolidation is what enables Christian conservatism to remain a predictable movement. Despite the apocalyptic warnings on the Right about the society-dissolving acids of identity politics, conservative Christians are a bloc that votes largely in unison. What makes this possible is that conservative Christianity’s narrow set of values and beliefs get converted into a rigid set of political pursuits and goals.

But since Christian conservatism is built to withstand pressures to adapt, it becomes susceptible to all kinds of grifters and status-seekers. In many ways, belief consolidation sets up the perfect scam: Opportunists seeking fame and wealth can find in Christian conservatism a system that doesn’t require of its leaders continual reinvention—you master a fixed set of values and beliefs and let charisma do the rest.

With that in mind, let’s turn to the three sources of Christian political power.

1. The Tireless Hustle of Conservative Christian Personalities

Some conservative Christian personalities, such as the megachurch pastor, are locally significant; others, such as Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham, are nationally renowned. Every single one of them has a set of believers whose views they greatly influence and impact. This last point is significant. Above I wrote as though conservative Christians build their views independently of their teachers and leaders, as though these charismatic personalities only win the approval of conservative Christians by parroting back to them their antecedently-held beliefs. The dynamic is actually more complicated than that.

The views of ordinary believers are strongly shaped by those whom they see as Christian leaders in their lives. Describing this process more fully, we could say two things: (1) conservative Christians gravitate toward leaders they believe faithfully communicate Christian teaching and effectively model Christian living; and (2) self-interested actors within this space are able to personally gain a lot by taking their own preoccupations and packaging them as spiritual requirements or biblical imperatives.

Within American conservative Christianity, what these leaders do is funnel biblical content, cultural distinctives, and nationalistic tropes into a mix that ordinary believers imbibe as what it means to be authentically Christian. These leaders rely on Christians continuing to see them as enlightened and spiritually empowered. The moment they no longer see them this way, these teachers lose their power and influence—believers will just go to a different church, buy the books of other Christian leaders, or donate to different Christian ministries.

2. The Politically Active Conservative Organization

The Christian personalities mentioned above—pastors, authors, entertainers, etc.—help to solidify views and form political orientations, but they do not have an understanding of, or a familiarity with, political mobilization and policy formation. That’s where the politically active conservative Christian organization comes in. A few examples include The Family Research Council, The Heritage Foundation, The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), The Federalist Society, and more.

These are ready-made channels for directing funding and assistance toward policy outcomes congruent with conservative Christianity. These organizations exist to secure a singular objective: the social and political hegemony of Christian moral teaching. They tend to be not-for-profit entities funded by rich donors and pastor-directed financial support. As a result, they’re kept in line by those in a position to shut them down.

Recently, I wrote about the ERLC for the Washington Post:

In recent years, the ERLC has been no stranger to backlash. Russell Moore, who is president of the commission, has faced calls for his dismissal over the Trump-critical stance that he took during the 2016 election. Some members of the conservative evangelical Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, have seen in the ERLC’s actions a leftward drift toward “social justice.”

To cite an example of this power dynamic in action: Texas’ Prestonwood Baptist Church reportedly sought to withhold its recurring donation of $1 million unless Moore was ousted.

On many occasions, these organizations do great work. And they are critical for Christianity’s ongoing success in the public square.

3. The Right-Wing Media Ecosystem

Increasingly, this is the most decisive source of Christian political power. Right-wing media has found it astonishingly lucrative to package a set of political priorities as the only acceptable form of social conservatism. This is incentivized by the way the media market operates: there are entities and personalities whose hugely profitable positions in the Christian subculture entirely depend on how well they can embed the views of ordinary believers into their political narratives. Just as it is with Christian personalities, right-wing media entities don’t merely reflect the views of Christians back to them through their newscasts and coverage—these media entities actively shape the views of Christians to a significant degree as well.

In a superb piece for the New York Times, Amy Sullivan details the contours of our new “Fox Evangelicalism.”

[T]he nationalistic, race-baiting, fear-mongering form of politics enthusiastically practiced by Mr. Trump and Roy Moore in Alabama is central to a new strain of American evangelicalism. This emerging religious worldview—let’s call it “Fox evangelicalism”—is preached from the pulpits of conservative media outlets like Fox News. It imbues secular practices like shopping for gifts with religious significance and declares sacred something as worldly and profane as gun culture.

Day in and day out, right-wing media grinds out culturally revanchist appeals to the crassest forms of conservative and reactionary thinking. August marked the 200th consecutive month of Fox News’s ratings hegemony over its cable-news rivals. Though the conservative media landscape is broader than just one network, it’s interesting to note that in a recent Pew poll, 88 percent of “consistent conservatives” registered real trust in the coverage offered by Fox News. Right-wing media—Fox included—has exercised significant influence over committed conservatives based on the proposition that mainstream outlets are incorrigibly liberal. This is largely a fiction. But it is brilliant from a marketing perspective: News and commentary from the Right assumes a lofty importance when it can style itself in the credulous conservative mind as society’s last great line of defense against liberalism. Together, these mutually-reinforcing factors have produced an American colossus.

So the Christian Right, one of society’s most formidable voting blocs, is shaped to a significant degree by charismatic Christian personalities, politically-active conservative organizations, and right-wing media. It’s no wonder, then, that this group often makes theologically counterintuitive political decisions. On a simplistic theory of Christian political behavior—one that many Christians believe about themselves—faith-based conservatives simply vote for candidates who support their worldview.

Yet, in 2016, four out of five white evangelicals voted for a man whose life is a middle finger wagging in God’s eye—an uninterrupted desecration of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. Roy Moore, who possesses the extraordinary distinction of being even more detestable than Trump, also managed to win the backing of a sizable portion of the movement. It got so bad that at one point, I felt the need to pose a semi-satirical question at my publication in the form of a thought-experiment: Would Evangelicals Elect Lucifer?

The best explanation is that a political agenda need not look anything like the true essence of a group’s core identity. There is no presumption that the three sources I’ve listed convey to ordinary Christians a set of genuinely Christian political ideals; in fact, what we are seeing is conservative Christians absorbing political values that are scandalously contrary to biblical Christianity. In other words, there is no correlation between thinking one is choosing the candidate God would want and actually choosing the candidate God would want.

The particular causes Christians see as spiritually significant may be altogether foreign to the sort of emphases we find in the Bible. For example, it’s hard to see how a boycott of Nike over the company’s arrangement with Colin Kaepernick squares with God’s commands, or, to bring up an example from the subculture’s not-so-distant past, how exactly those cringeworthy, nausea-inducing Christian-themed graphic tees are supposed to represent a spiritually superior alternative to t-shirts of a more “secular” kind. These are exogenous campaigns, pushed by influence-peddlers and status-seekers and business interests. It isn’t cynical to expect that a movement so large would be penetrated by grifters, charlatans, and megalomaniacs (MAGAlomaniacs, too). These are the opportunists who have found a way to leverage aggregate Christian power into individual influence.

There is a reason Trump sought the Christian vote so tirelessly. The interplay of powerful institutions  within Christian conservatism—churches, parachurch organizations, Christian personalities and leaders, the avatars of the consumer Christian subculture, right-wing media entities —together represent a massively influential political machine that Trump can pander to, and thus rely upon, in order to preserve power for himself. It’s a mutually negotiated power loop: they support Trump and he elevates their individual interests. This is ordinary politics, of course, but what makes this arrangement remarkable is that he is, on paper, everything they should despise and campaign against. And they are, to him, idiotic worshipers whose desires for holy living are incompatible with the Trumpian way.

Yet, curiously, despite this mismatch on paper, we get a happy marriage. I give you some of the most prominent conservative Christian leaders of today:

  • Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council (emphasis mine), tells Trump he “gets a mulligan…a do-over” in response to revelations that Trump slept with a porn star months after his wife, Melania, gave birth to Barron, their son.
  • Franklin Graham, president of the humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse, and son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, said that Trump “defends the Christian faith more than any president in my lifetime.”
  • Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, whose honor code prohibits students from engaging in premarital or extramarital sex of any kind, blocked a student journalist from criticizing Trump for his comments captured on the “Access Hollywood” tape…you know, the comments in which Trump brags about extramarital pussygrabbing.
  • Robert Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch pastor with a successful television and radio ministry, arranged for that great Christian hymn, “Make America Great Again,” to be sung like a chorus of praise during one of his services.

Ultimately, this is not an article about Trump; I bring him into the picture as a way to show how the magnetic pull of the presidency is what leads to theological and ecclesiastical capture. The perpetuation of Christian political power requires sycophancy—in return, these eminent leaders and organizations get access and status. This quid pro quo is not hard to spell out in more detail: the president grants evangelical advisors influence, prestige, importance, and what he gets in return is the renewable imprimatur of Christian legitimacy, with sermons, statements, and TV and radio appearances, bearing down on ordinary Christians until there is no escape from the complete identification of one’s faith with voting for a particular candidate. Conservative believers are bombarded with a message that conflates support for Republicans with what it means to possess a vibrant Christian faith, with the latter only being actualizable by faithfully and energetically embracing the former.

This is power. And, as an evangelical myself, I do not think we should have it.

 

Berny Belvedere is a professor of philosophy and editor-in-chief of Arc Digital. His work has appeared in The Washington PostBuzzFeed NewsNational ReviewWeekly Standard, and other places. You can follow him on Twitter @bernybelvedere

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168 Comments

  1. Denis Leonard says

    Nice one! You get to take a swipe at Christians AND republicans in one swoop. You get to lump all the Christians in one basket and get to ignore democrat Christians, republican atheists, libertarians and classic liberals without breaking a sweat. “Right wing media eco-system,” brilliant! I love it! Kinda reminds me of MSNBC and those post modernists…something or other. Just think of the 100 million people who died at the hands of Christianity in th 20th century…oh, wait! That was that Marxist…something or other. Never mind.

      • Brian says

        I love how when Quillette publishes an article that correctly analyzes the Christian Right with the same lens with which it usually correctly analyzes the Social Justice Left, people show their true inconsistent colors by critiquing the former with the same critique they would never apply to the latter. Hilarious lack of self awareness by conservative opportunists who seize on the idiocy of the extreme SJW crowd simply because it suits their ideological utility. If we can paint progressives with a broad brush and make blanket statements about their moral inconsistencies, why can’t we do that with evangelicals? I mean, what irritates about SJW moral self-righteousness is precisely its similarity to evangelicalism.

        • Morgan says

          @Brian

          Because the “Christian Right” is no more than a convenient boogeyman. They are completely disenfranchised.

          This is easy, even for someone like you, to verify. Just tally up the number of college professors on the left and on the right. Where are all those “Christians” hiding? Presumably at the helm of social media companies and the such. Oh, wait.

          • Morgan: what do you mean by saying that the Christian right is disenfranchised? Conservative Christians make up approximately 25% of the overall electorate and are a dominant force within the Republican Party. They are hugely influential within the Congress and have been represented (at least in terms of policy) by two of the last three Presidents. It’s true that conservative Christians are marginalized within academia and the entertainment industry — as are conservatives in general — but they have extraordinary power in other parts of society.

          • “Because the “Christian Right” is no more than a convenient boogeyman”

            Look up psychological projection, Morgan.

        • ADM64 says

          The objection is conflating the Right with the Christian Right and then failing to note that the latter includes many strains. It further chooses to describe the Christian Right as inherently racist, sexist etc. The latter is not true generally. Similarly, the article in no way notes that the culture war was started on and by the Left. Moreover, leftist efforts to compel belief and dictate personal and institutional behavior even when the latter is non-violent or non-fraudulent (and thus violates no one’s rights) absolutely guaranteed a reaction.

          Many fundamentalist Christians, even those who fit the left’s stereotype of them, nevertheless live inoffensive and generally productive private lives. They would not cross the street to do anyone harm. Those who did not behave as such were gradually beaten into a neutral silence by invoking the idea that either we all have rights or none of us do. This was especially true in the 80s when the Moral Majority’s political agenda was beaten back on the basis that no one should be able to impose personal views on others. Not so, now! The SJW Left is explicit that everything is about power and that all must submit to them, and to applaud their views. The Christian Right sees politics being used to explicitly attack them, see that they themselves have not actually done anything, and properly respond. They recognize the hypocrisy and the double standard. People like the author, reeking of confirmation bias, then see this defensive reaction as theocracy in its infancy.

        • There is no broad brush used to paint progressives. What’s being targeted on the progressive side is their most mainstream, hardly fought views. This article, though, is full of strawmen and inaccuracies, nuts that it was published. It actually denied that media is almost entirely liberal with a reference to a Buzzfeed article that does nothing but … deny it’s all liberal.

      • Dokey says

        I lost count of the sloppy and conflated categories in this piece.

        To a Christian of my understanding (and I know I am not alone), the title of the piece is foreign: “Christian Political Power” is a contradiction in terms. Separate what you give to Cesar and god, etc. … unless one is giving human respect and a right to exist to those who disagree with or hate you politically. But that’s spiritual power, not political power.

        It’s frustrating. I do not identify with evangelism or the Christian Right, yet I am conflated with monoculture and snake oil sales, much as decent Muslims are sometimes told they must be suicide bombers because of their beliefs.

        This doesn’t seem to be a new phenomenon: many old Christian thinkers have said to live according to Yeshua’s teachings is to risk frequent misunderstanding by others. Perhaps the radical logic of treating aggression with love and forgiveness just isn’t comprehensible to a lot of people a lot of the time. And if someone doesn’t understand, they have a tendency to make something up and put it in the empty space, rather than say, “I don’t understand this.”

        I read a lot of ignorance here.

    • Christopher Young says

      Evangelical Christianity hasn’t weaved it’s way into the Democratic Party the way it has , and I would say falsely, into the Republican Party. Members of The Democratic Party keep their religious and spiritual lives private and aren’t trying to Theocritize our political system the way the republicans do! You also seem to assume that Marxism is the only or primary alternative to unregulated capitalism, but it’s not and I know of no one on the “left” advocating for what Lennin did to Marxism in the early 20c. Howev, to your point I would direct you to the genicidal holocaust that European explorers conducted in the name ofChristianityand the crown during the “settling” of The Western Hemisphere….! Calvinism runs deep and unconscious in the American psyche and it’s the Republican Party advocating for it, while liberals are actually working with the literal words of Jesus … Matt: 25… “…that you do unto my brother…”

      • Christopher Young says

        Replying to Denis Leonard👆🏽👆🏽👆🏽👆🏽

      • @Christopher Young

        “Howev, to your point I would direct you to the genicidal holocaust that European explorers conducted in the name ofChristianityand the crown during the “settling” of The Western Hemisphere….!”

        Seriously? Dude, spell check is your FRIEND. Embrace it!

        People do all sorts of things in “the name of” all sorts of things. That doesn’t make the association true. You won’t find me condemning atheism because Russian communists exterminated folks in the name of atheism. Or Chinese communists exterminated folks in the name of atheism. Or Cambodian communists exterminated folks in the name of atheism. Or Venezuelan communists exterminated folks in the name of atheism. (Although it IS hard to resist seeing a pattern in the noise, so I get where you’re coming from.)

        Peoples were conquering and wiping out other peoples long before Christianity for land and women, and they usually gave some mythical pretext (you can read all about this in large, brick-like, papery things called “beeyookz”). They still do. Human nature didn’t magically change when Christianity became a cultural force, and Christians are not excepted from greed and lust. In my opinion, any decent practice of Christianity requires mindfulness that Christians are not magically excepted from greed and lust.

        And the idea that either political party, with an existential goal of political power, has an edge on Christian values is HYSTERICAL. I need to know the name of your dealer.

    • Franz says

      Good to see Quillette has not lost its commitment to mediocre thinking.

      Everybody deserves a voice, after all.

    • You really don’t have reading for comprehension do you? IF you are a supposed “christian” and you say nothing in the face of these clearly anti-christ like advocates, then just like those “good germans” that kept silent as Hitler was committing his atrocities, then you are complicit! Your rant, sounds as if this article hit a nerve, too close to home. This isn’t necessarily about republicans and not democrats, there are pimps in the pulpit on the democratic side of the aisle, this is about those supposed “family values, bible thumping, activists” pretending to be christian when what they want much like those mullahs in the middle east – authoritarian, subservient sheep, that have the hive mindset. They don’t want people that actually think for themselves, and analyze information before they come to a conclusion.

      You are one of those. Please no need to hollar back your protestations, I get it.

    • ” a swipe at Christians AND republicans in one swoop.”

      Actually not, Denis. It’s a critique of evangelical Protestants and Trumpland. Evangelicals represent only one of every four Christians in America today and just shy of 18% of all Americans. The critique here is very specific in its targeting. The fact it is so on target is no doubt disturbing to those whose targets are hit. Nonetheless, you don’t get to dismiss it as somehow an attack on Christians and Republicans per se. That exacerbates a failure to think critically with disingenuity.

  2. augustine says

    It is only fair to ask what is the alternative to the Republican Party for center and center-right Christians who must vote their conscience (like everyone else does presumably).

    The alternative these days is not merely an anodyne Democrat who is a defender of secular values. Too often it is a candidate that espouses principles and ideas that are deeply repulsive (i.e., wrong and immoral) to people who live by Christian faith and ethics. Not to mention the sensibilities of non-Christian conservatives, and maybe libertarians as well.

    A candidate may be profoundly flawed, personally, and yet have much to offer by the principles he stands for as part of his commitment to the job. Political effectiveness is vital and we are seeing it in action right now. This is what scares the author and his cohorts– Christian political power succeeding, doing what it is supposed to do for its supporters.

    The flawed aspect is something that Jesus exhorts us to acknowledge in order that we may submit to a saving grace and it is something that every Christian understands about his fellow man.

    • @augustine: You make some very good points. If I were a conservative Christian and lived in a swing state I probably would have held my nose and voted for Donald Trump — despite the fact that he was probably the least Christian candidate for President in U.S. history. The conservative majority on the Supreme Court is likely to overturn Roe v. Wade, reconsider the issue of gay marriage, protect the religious liberty of individuals who have moral objections to homosexuality and transgenderism, soften the separation between church and state, etc. Evangelicals can be rightly accused of hypocrisy for dramatically changing their view on the importance of personal morality in elected leaders (based on a 2016 PRRI/Brookings poll), but the same is true of Democrats who dismissed a credible rape allegation against Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Double standards are part and parcel of partisan politics.

      However, it’s possible that the religious right and Republicans will pay a price for their achievements in the long term. The number of “nones” (people who are religiously unaffiliated) has grown dramatically in recent decades, and the perceived intolerance of the most visible form of religion in the U.S. — conservative Christianity — may have contributed to this trend. Over a third of Millennials are “nones,” and that age cohort is twice as likely to lean Democratic as they are Republican. Republicans are likely to face significant challenges as American society becomes more tolerant (on social issues) and secular.

    • I’m curious how you think Trump is supporting your Christian views. For example: how can the “pro-life” people turn a blind eye to Trump’s separating parents from their children, and throwing the children into absuive facilities where they’re often kept in cages? That alone should have been a deal-breaker. It’s very telling that Christians like you made excuses instead. Was the “War on Christmas” or hating gay people so important to you that you could ignore the evil he was doing?

      I’ll tell you what Trump is really doing for Christianity. He’s exposing the hypocrisy and moral emptines of the church. He’s showing them to not only be useless for the major issues of the day, but showing that they’ll gladly latch onto cruelty if they think it will help their cause, give them more power or more money.

      That is the one silver lining of the Trump disaster: this association will probably kill Evangelicalism over the medium / long term. They currently can’t keep their young people in the pews. Baptisms are considerably down. Anyone not already in the system will be unreachable. Long after Trump is gone, people will remember how the Christians sold their souls for a piece of the pie. And they won’t want any part of it.

      This is your “political effectiveness” in action. Accelerating the secularization of America in exchange for being permanently associated with the most corrupt and cruel president in our history.

      • @cs: Although I’m a secular progressive myself, I think you’re being unfair to principled Evangelicals. Some of the leaders of the religious right are deeply hypocritical, but that applies to leaders of the left as well. I think it’s unfair to accuse rank-and-file Christian conservatives of “moral emptiness.” The vast majority of them genuinely believe that abortion is murder, homosexuality is dangerous and wrong, the institution of the family is under threat, and American Christians are being persecuted. Although I think they’re mistaken on these issues, I don’t question their intelligence or their sincerity. The positions they hold are defensible if you accept their premises about the infallibility of the Bible.

        Some conservative Christians *were* upset by the Trump administration’s policy of family separation and protested against it. Instead of caricaturing and castigating Evangelicals, I think it makes more sense to find areas of agreement and work toward mutual understanding.

        • Looking at the cruelties both implemented and threatened by the Trump Administration, “moral emptiness” is probably the kindest descriptor for the evangelicals who still support him. Last I checked, 71 percent of evangelicals currently supporting him. 81 percent voted for him. It’s not a caricature when we’re talking about a super-majority of a group.

          I’m ex-evangelical. I was raised in this system. From personal experience, I think it’s safe to say there is no middle ground, though I salute you for trying to find one. Their cruelty and cravenness are almost boundless.

          While they’ve sunk to new lows during Trump’s term, they’ve been like this since the days of Reagan. I’m old enough to remember what they were like in the early 80’s. The United States was supporting atrocities in Central America. The fears of nuclear war were at an all time high (and giving childnood me nightmares). And my Baptist church & denomination both praised Reagan and thought the biggest danger to America was women wearing scanty clothing on television.

          They haven’t changed since then. Instead, they’ve doubled down. If any of them, like the author of this article, can move past the inane repression of the church, then I’ll welcome them with open arms. But otherwise, there’s no hope for them short of their cultic fevers breaking one day.

          • @cs: I sincerely hope you’re wrong about the impossibility of middle ground. I highly recommend the recent survey conducted by More in Common. It shows that most Americans are part of an “exhausted majority” which rejects the political extremes and their overheated rhetoric.

          • Diana Ayala says

            @cs I am not religious by any means but I think it unfair to blame Trump for the children in cages. You do know that picture being circulated was from Obama’s presidency, yes? On another note, I witness cultic fevers from the Left, too- except their organized religion is political correctness and an ideology that embraces victim-hood.

          • D.B. Cooper says

            @cs

            As tempting as it was to enumerate half a dozen or so, ‘evil’, ‘corrupt’, and/or ‘cruel’ acts perpetrated by President Obama, Clinton, etc., etc.; I thought better of it, because: (1) It seemed both unreasonable and indecent to respond in kind (vis-à-vis tu quoque fallacy); and (2) Trafficking in fallacious arguments would likely dissuade more reasonable actors (see @dellingdog, for example) from considering any/all countervailing evidence and/or opposing arguments going forward.

            For what it’s worth – and if the essentialist views arrogated throughout your comments counts for anything, it’s likely to be worth very little – the latter ((2) social proprieties & the cultivation of good faith arguments) was the primary mediating unit that mitigated my desires for low hanging fruit, although the former ((1) guarding against impotent rejoinders, e.g., tu quoque arguments) is still an important first principle; albeit, in this case one of lesser utility.

            I mentioned this, because your comments give every indication of a person whose widowed commitment to rational discourse seems to begin and end within the fabricated constraints of your own narrative paradigm – as opposed to say, the constraints of logic. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying or is illiterate. I doubt this is a surprise to anyone as even a cursory glance at the jaundice views expressed, would lead most any disinterested traveler to conclude that, for @cs, well-reasoned arguments are more of an unplanned luxury than a well-planned necessity. Put simply, only a fool would try to reason with unreasonable people.

            That’s not say your (@cs) pronounced fragility (with the principles of logic) isn’t worrisome. It is. But, only insofar as your hyperbolic/histrionic language creates, or has the potential to create, barriers to well-reasoned discourse by parties (see @dellingdog) who, rightly, seem more interested in testing/fleshing out their ideas against others than they do, prosecuting an emotional jihad on the Judeo-Christian faith for its own sake.

            @cs you (as well as the author) seem to have an axe to grind. I don’t begrudge you or anyone else for scratching that itch. I have a few axes of my own that I would like to grind from time-to-time, but no one here, at last count, is claiming or has claimed (if someone has, stop the self-sabotage) that parishioners of the Christian faith are anything but deeply flawed individuals – as deeply flawed as the rest of us, to be sure.

            Moreover, no one is suggesting (at least I hope no one is) that adherents/leaders of the Christian faith haven’t at times manifested inherently repressive and malevolent conditions/circumstances, but that is not the salient point in question. It is, more to the point, precisely because the Christian faith, as with all belief systems (Buddhism, atheism, Islam, etc.), is actualized by the collective reasoning of less than perfect people – to put it charitably – that these conditions/circumstances exist or have existed, and you can be damn sure they will continue on ad nauseum, forever and ever, amen.

            The fact that Christian parishioners have errored in ways, large and small, throughout its two-thousand-year existence, is not particularly surprising (you’re showing your age with the Reagan demarcation, trust me, the moral profanities stretch back a bit further than the ‘80s). What is surprising, however, is that you seem to expect said parishioners to bat 1000 and in accordance to your – not their – moral compass. And when they don’t – because they can’t – you set about undressing the entire faith with ineffectual complaints targeted at one or another of these deficiencies (as you see it). I say, ineffectual, because complaining about a problem(s) without offering a solution(s) is more or less just whining. And that’s what you’re doing – you’re whining like a little bitch. My apologies to any bitches in attendance. I meant no disrespect. I’m a big fan.

            In summation, and at the risk of asking you (@cs) to commit to an excess of sensibility, have you considered that maybe you’ve miss identified the problem? Is it possible your own beliefs have catalyzed an emotional state that is, ironically, not unlike – or entirely dissimilar – to those frequently channeled within the Christian faith? Since, it’s probably safe to assume that you believe the governing tenets of the Judeo-Christian faith to be the mother of all dumpster fires, it may be a worthwhile to consider why it exists at all. If you’re of the naturalist bent, you might ask yourself if such belief systems have (historically) provided a comparative advantage to individuals who were sympathetic towards them, or rather, individuals possessing traits that “made” them more likely to be sympathetic towards such belief systems.

            If true, your problem may rest with something closer to the human condition than any specific set of beliefs. So, before you arrest the dignity and self-worth of those you hate strongly disagree with, maybe consider the anthropological reality of the situation: If tomorrow, Christianity suddenly ceased to exist (forever more), do you really think these people would all at once disavow the 2nd Amendment; reject gender essentialism; become life-long PETA members; randomly hug trees; incorporate ‘ze’ – ‘zir’ – ‘xem’ gender neutral pronouns into their vernacular; call everyone including xemselves racist; kill babies become pro-choice; forfeit their socio-economic/moral agency; buy Che Guevara t-shirts… okay, that was the last one, but I could go all day.

        • Little Joe says

          Wow. No kidding. Once in a blue moon I’ll read the comments section. I regret it every time. Hobbes’ State of Nature.

          I think the best cure for religion is to read their foundational texts. Nothing made me an agnostic quicker than a cover-to-cover reading of the Bible. I think everyone should do it.

      • ga gamba says

        For example: how can the “pro-life” people turn a blind eye to Trump’s separating parents from their children, and throwing the children into absuive facilities where they’re often kept in cages?

        I’m not a Christian, so I won’t claim to speak for them. You seem to somehow ignore that parents arrested and incarcerated are often separated from their children and this pre-dates Trump by several decades if not centuries.

        As for ‘cages’, whether the barrier is a barred cell, a locked concrete room, or made of chain-link fencing, they’re there to stop the children from wandering off as well as to separate them from other more threatening people. These ‘cages’ are a temporary measure until they are placed with Child Protective Services (CPS), relatives, foster families, group homes, or orphanages. I suppose they are chain link because the influx was sudden and they were built to deal with the surge. Purpose-built concrete facilities would take years to construct.

        Of course, if the parents didn’t want to be separated from their children they ought not breach the law. That they lead their children through deadly deserts and often expose them to dangerous human traffickers suggests to me the parents’ care for their children is suspect. CPS will remove children from citizens’ homes for much less serious violations of the duty of care, so what makes illegal alien parents above the law is unclear to me.

        In short, you’ve fallen for a cockamamie narrative cooked up by a mass media that ignored the same facilities and same treatment of children by previous administrations. How did that happen?

      • @cs
        Seriously, stereotype much? As if Christians are some monolith group-think block. Not all Christians hate gays, some even wish Christmas and Easter were actually Christian holidays! There were actual Christians who didn’t vote for Trump, imagine that! Some of us actually think mixing our faith with politics is a bad idea, a very bad idea.

        Your blind hatred makes me sad, I sure hope you have a better day tomorrow. God bless.

      • Delightful says

        @cs

        “I’ll tell you what Trump is really doing for Christianity. He’s exposing the hypocrisy and moral emptines of the church.”

        Ah yes. “The church.”
        Which church?
        “You know … the church.”

        Yes, I know. Kinda like “liberals.”
        Which liberals or group of liberals?
        “LIBERALS.”

        I think there is a word for this kind of generalized bogeyman category in rhetorical fallacy. All I can think of is “Wizard of Oz” … “If I only had … If I only had …”

      • Innominata says

        @cs

        “I’m curious how you think Trump is supporting your Christian views.”

        Glad you asked. This is a trope the MSM likes to pound on too: “How can people who purport to follow Christian ethics support The Donald? Highpocrisay! Highpocrisay, I say!”

        The answer is that Donald Trump is Satan (figuratively). And Satan is an integral part of Christianity.

        If one … you now … thinks … the association is obvious: Donald Trump is lascivious, devious, manipulative, former of the truth to his own ends, charming, brilliant (I think “stable genius” is a gross understatement), witty, obscenely wealthy, vain, combative, mischievous, verbally outrageous, disruptive, mercenary (he was a Democrat till about five minutes ago), and loves to win at all costs. Just like portrayals of Satan, he is completely unconflicted and unapologetic about who he is, revels in it, even.

        Like the saying goes, “Better the devil you know…” And Christians KNOW Donald Trump. They know exactly who he is. He isn’t hiding it. On that point he is scrupulously forthright, and that is brilliant. He’s very honest about being devious, so to speak. He has in effect told Christians, “Give me the power, and I’ll work for you. It won’t be pretty, but it will be effective.” They believed him, because they (correctly so far) sensed that what he promised fit with his nature, a nature they have learned to understand and predict in literature, Bible study, and sermons.

        Those who don’t understand Christianity and who view Christians all as flyover morons miss that Christianity has an incredibly sophisticated and resilient relationship with Satan and the concept of evil, an intellectual tradition going back 6000 years through Judaism. In Christianity, Satan has a place in a world of duality, always will, by the very nature of existence. He never goes away. He must be confronted and factored in, using strength from Christ as one’s aid. Satan’s not some Disney devil cutout (“Satan’s bad, M’kay?”). Remember: he was head angel before he dropped from heaven. It’s complicated.

        So the question becomes: with Satan among us, do you want him on YOUR side or on the OTHER side when it comes to worldly affairs and conflict? Shades of gray, not black and white.

        Conservatives and the many Christians among them have had terrible leaders for a while. Retarded RINOs like Romney and McCain were so worried about being called meanies and racists by the Left and so focused on cultivating their own heroic and righteous image that they gave up at the lightest headwind or even turned traitor when it came to worldly political battles. They were losers. Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush would have been more of the same, and everyone knew it.

        Then Donald Trump came along and said, “They can call me whatever they want. I’ll fight for you tirelessly and I will WIN. I’ll play the bad guy to the hilt.” Many Christians said to themselves something like:

        “Well, I don’t agree with how this guy lives, but he’s not asking me to. In fact he’s explicitly offering me protection and freedom to live my Christian life as I choose by restraining the encroachments of the Left into my personal life. He’s asking for a chance to work for me on particular issues that are vital on a worldly level like: reforming immigration laws and procedures, lowering taxes to make American companies more competitive and stimulating job growth, getting out of the corrupt Iran deal, pushing back against the most terrifying godless authoritarian state the world has ever seen (the ChiComs), and stopping unconstitutional liberal activism by the federal judiciary. To hell with it: Lucifer’s time has come. I’m done struggling to find effective high-road leaders and losing. Let’s see how the morally authoritarian Left, the devious and corrupt mullahs, the European atheist elitocrats, the thieving lying Chinese, and all the others enjoy chewing on Son of the Morning. He’s just their kind of guy. I’d prefer a humble, scrupulously truthful, role model, monogamous leader, but we live in opposite world now. Let slip the dogs.”

        What Christians also intuited right about Donald Trump is that he possesses Satan’s paradoxical invulnerability. Satan wins by getting you to attack HIM. The more you try to batter and slander Satan, the stronger he becomes. Few on the Left seem to grasp this mechanism and just keep swinging and fighting the power, rather than being smart and relaxing their fingers in the Chinese handcuffs. They can’t understand why Trump’s base–including Christians–just smile and giggle when critics on the Left say, “Look! He’s a meanie! He calls names and may have said a racism! He is unchristian, and you’re supposed to be apologetic and ashamed, because he’s yours.”

        “Eh. He is and he isn’t. It’s complicated.”

        What the Left doesn’t seem to grasp is that there’s a difference between being UNchristian and being ANTIchristian. The latter is still part of Christianity.

        So far, Donald Trump has performed as expected and more. He has done many of the things he promised while provoking the Left into looking absolutely vicious and underhanded, in essence confirming his supporters’ suspicion that Satan was the right man for the job. At present, I suspect more Christians than ever will vote for him in 2020. The question of whether he plowed Stormy Daniels at some point won’t enter the equation at all.

        So that’s the long answer: Satan is part and parcel of a Christian view of the world, and that’s the part Donald Trump is playing, and I think he knows it. He’s like the other team in football: you dislike them in a performative way when you’re playing against them, but you know deep down you can’t play the game without them. And sometimes, you’d rather cheer for them than some third team you like even less, like the nihilist team.

        • Froggy says

          I’m not prepared to go along with Trump = Satan, but otherwise your points are well taken. For me the issue is that the Left is openly hostile to Christians and Christianity and constantly ascribes pernicious motives to our approach to various issues. A better way of interpreting Trump in this context is the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” concept. Surely Trump is no saint, but his willingness to man the ramparts for traditional American values in opposition to an increasingly rabid and violent Left, is about as much as we can expect at this point.

          The Left itself is comical in its diametric opposition to Trump, and the “caravan” is probably the most ridiculous manifestation of this. The idea that we should allow 10,000+ illiterate and dirt poor Central Americans into the country on the basis of their simple demand to live here with the clear understanding that they present not only a massive economic burden on the nation, but also a direct challenge to the sovereignty of our country is absurd on its face. Yet here is the Left making appeals to empathy in the most hypocritical possible way solely as a means of challenging Trump with the full understanding that if we were to allow this to happen, it would invite untold levels of illegal immigration into perpetuity.

          Trump, for all his faults, calls them like he sees them. He is literally the only guy out there pointing to the elephant in every room and asking the question, “What is this guy doing in here?” Over the years of Leftist ascendancy, we have been “required” as a society to ignore ever more ridiculous ideas in order to appear moral by the standards provided us by the Left and the media. As these failures continue to stack up, it has become more difficult to ignore this. Christians have been very alone during this time being “the asshole” in the room and pointing these absurdities out whether they are social, economic, or foreign policy matters. Now we have a guy with the power, charisma, and drive to not only join us in “noticing” this stuff, but with the intent and ability to oppose it all. Trans bathrooms, the globalist worldview, and “draining the swamp” come to mind as examples among many others.

          The Christian Right has “grown up” a bit during this time as well, and we are no longer pining for some righteous leader (who is probably unelectable) to carry the standard. It’s good enough that we have a person who is willing to fight for us to be left alone by the regulatory state and its minions.

          Make no mistake, the moral police of today are all on the Left. They have essentially become the de facto “religious” party at this point and while Christian leaders are content for Christians to be able to live their lives unmolested, these evangelical Leftists demand that you conform to their moral proscriptions or they will ruin you. Under these conditions, having a fighter who is willing to take the slings and arrows for you is about as good a deal as we are likely to see this side of eternity.

    • Circuses and Bread says

      @Augustine

      I’ll be happy to try to answer your question.

      There isn’t an alternative within American politics. If you’re a Christian of a social traditionalist bent, you’re pretty much out of luck. I think that might explain why there is a small, but I hope growing minority of Christian religious laity and leaders who are rejecting secular politics.

      Speaking as one unworthy Christian: politics isn’t our mission, it’s causing terrible problems, and we have an abysmal track record of using politics to achieve a better, more Christian society .

      We should be shaking the dust from our sandals.

      • augustine says

        Circuses and Bread,

        I very much agree with you that politics is not the mission of Christians. However, I don’t think we are called to reject the world’s ways altogether (an impossibility) but instead we should act and speak with an obedient heart.

        I am reminded of this favorite quote:

        We are not led to undo the work of creation or to rectify the Fall. The duty of the Christian is not to leave the world a better place. His duty is to leave this world a better man — Monsignor Gilbey

    • Aren’t there other parties in the US besides the Democans and the Republicrats? If all you sheeple grew a backbone and voted for them instead of the same old same old maybe you’d get something better, but you’re all too cowed and overcome with fatalistic resignation to vote with your consciences.

      • Circuses and Bread says

        @ Nicole

        Third parties are extremely constrained under US law. Merely getting on the ballot is a struggle. Once they’re on the ballot, the two major parties do all they can to marginalize the third parties. It’s not a viable strategy. Then again,voting isn’t a viable strategy, either.

        If you have the choice of spending your time playing today’s lottery or voting, you’d be far better off playing the lotto. At least if you play the lotto you have an infinitesimally small chance of winning $1.6 billion. What do you win if you cast the winning vote in an election? Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

        Voting is for chumps.

        • The phrase “better candidate” is an oxymoron. Voting may indeed be “for chumps,” but you can still do it in a way that isn’t totally absurd. I vote against the “worst candidates” (not an oxymoron) by selecting among whatever alternatives are available.

          I changed my party affiliation from Decline to State to Democrat for June 2016. That enabled me to vote against Hillary Clinton by selecting the only candidate on the California ballot who might have had a chance to beat her.

          I then scurried back to Decline to State. In November I voted against both major party candidates by casting a ballot for whatsisname on the Libertarian ticket.

          Two votes against one of them, and one vote against the other. Not bad.

  3. Daniel says

    Mr. Belvedere, some observations of your piece:

    Christians do indeed take some depressingly un-Christian positions. But I couldn’t help notice you don’t actually recommend any remedy to this. Allow me.

    What would most effectively get more Christians to take political positions that are clearly consistent with Biblical teaching would be to make the press as fair and objective as possible. That is the consistent theme that ran through all your examples, but let’s look at your most compelling example: Roy Moore. (Good heavens. Roy Moore.)
    The problem in that case was Christians considered the evidence against him to be indiscernible from just another political hit job. They had come to dismiss the MSM as being untrustworthy. Do you think Moore would have been elected if the media outlets that reported on his past had credibility with Christians?

    You seemed to indicate that you don’t think the MSM media is mostly leftist. I don’t understand how this statement is any more tenable than the evangelical support of Moore. There probably exists a study out there that recommends giving toddlers espressos before bed — it wouldn’t match with my experience.

    I too object to the political ugliness of Christians. I think the answer is to change to more civil discussion, and assuming that when given the opportunity, people prefer to let cooler heads prevail. I don’t think a philippic like yours is part of that change.

  4. Farris says

    ….”based on the proposition that mainstream outlets are incorrigibly liberal. This is largely a fiction…”

    One has to ignore a mountain of evidence which shows media coverage of Trump and conservative issues is overwhelming negative to make a statement such as this.

    …”who possesses the extraordinary distinction of being even more detestable than Trump..”

    Now there is an unbiased statement! It is continual declarations of this type that serve to confirm the notion that the media is antithetical to conservative issues. Liberal pundits are simply incapable of hiding their vitriol towards conservatives and Trump.

    …”those cringeworthy, nausea-inducing Christian-themed graphic tees …”

    Summation, the writer hates public displays of Christian Faith.

    The author is complaining of being bitten by a dog that has been back into a corner with a stick. Christians have endured the Robert Maplethorpe exhibit, being attacked over wishing another “Merry Christmas”, complaints about keeping a Bible on one’s own work place desk, seen a pastor have his sermon notes under subpoena…to name a few. Christians find themselves under attack from liberal politicians and surprise do not like it. Now some of these same liberals appear to be turning their attentions towards Jews. Yet these same supposedly seculars will defend Muslim prayer rooms in public schools. The writer considers Christians a bunch of gullible boobs. What he fails to recognize is these troglodytes are smart enough to know when a target has been drawn upon their backs.

    • @Farris: I think you make some very good points, but you might want to draw a distinction between “conservative Christians” and “liberal Christians.” Democrats are statistically more likely to be secular than Republicans but a plurality of Democrats (including the vast majority of African Americans) still identify as Christian. Although the article focuses almost exclusively on the religious right, the political views of Christians run the gamut from socialist (like Cornel West) to deeply conservative.

      I’m curious what you mean about liberals turning their attention to Jews. Are you referring to criticism of the state of Israel (which can be anti-Semitic but isn’t necessarily motivated by animus toward Jews), or do you have something else in mind?

      As a traditional liberal who values the separation between church and state, I would be completely opposed to a prayer room in a public school dedicated to Muslims. In the community college where I teach, the administration recently set aside a “quiet space” for students to use — but it’s open to people of any faith (or no faith).

      • Farris says

        @dellingdog

        Thank you for the question. I was referring to the fact that Universities are becoming increasingly hostile to Jewish students (a student at U.C.L.A. was told she could not serve in a student government post because she was Jewish, Jewish N.Y.U. students have had derogatory fliers left upon their doors, Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan are welcomed by democrats, Israel is a criminal actor to many democrats, ect…)
        I’m not imagining alienated Jews becoming republicans but would not be surprised if some type of backlash is coming.

      • Farris says

        @dellingdog

        Yes I am aware there are many liberal Christians. I happily worship with quite a few. I wasn’t trying to exclude my liberal brethren, but rather simply trying to cut to the chase. I understand the author thinks that Christian conservative like myself believe I have a direct line to God. Such is not the case. My faith is teaching me not to point to the splinter in my neighbor’s eye, while ignoring the plank in my own. I find that most misapprehensions about Christians occur when outsiders confuse church preachings with Christian teachings. Any professed Christian who thinks he is more beloved than his brother has some more reading and learning today. There have been many great men of God but he loves you and me, just as much as them.

      • One of the best things in the US constitution is the bit about the separation of church and state. It was put there not only to keep the church from influencing government (a very bad idea – see Inquistion!), but also to keep the government from meddling in church business. If the right makes the mistake of tearing down or mollifying separation of church and state, it will fling open the doors for government to enter in and dictate what every faith based instititution in the land can teach or preach. Fair warning!

        • @Nicole
          You need to do some studying. Separation of church and state, while being the correct thing to do, is not in the US Constitution, It stems from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson well after the Constitution was ratified. Yes, he was a wise and brilliant man. This is just a point of clarity – I totally agree with what you’re saying. Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s… etc etc

  5. Circuses and Bread says

    Wow. Just wow. This is a great article and I’m sorry that I don’t have a weekend to go over it and analyze it paragraph by paragraph. One clarification though. I get the sense that the author thinks that the Christian Right has accomplished a great deal in the political realm. And I suppose if you define “success” in the political realm as accumulating and wielding power for its own sake, then that’s probably correct. If however you define “success” as achieving the societal objectives that brought about the political grouping in the first place, then the “Christian Right” has been an abject failure. Worse, it has isolated social traditionalist Christians in a political ghetto.

    Thanks to the author and thanks to our hostess for publishing this.

    • @C&B: Given your anti-political stance, are you in favor of something like Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option”?

      • Circuses and Bread says

        @delingdog

        Yes. I think Mr. Dreher is on the right track in providing a very good solution. It’s not necessarily “the” solution. I like to shy away from one size fits all. We should give some well thought through and prayed over strategies a try and see what happens.

    • peanut gallery says

      YMMV, but I think the evangelical political activity has done more to damage the Christianity brand than the choir boy-diddlers in the RCC. I find what is taught and focused on in Christianity IME, to be unhelpful and or gross. Focusing on Jesus imminent return and their love of expensive holy-ghost penis-measuring. (Paying for expensive/ugly crosses and signs near strip clubs that say “Choose Christ’)

      This is why I think Peterson is important. He reinvigorated my interest in this old wisdom (Which isn’t even limited to Christianity) that has been abused by current practitioners. He rescued the book from the whale as it were. Christianity needs it’s own reform. The chaff should be thrown out and the useful stuff saved. Telling people that nothing matters because Jesus will return any day now, I swear. Is not what you should be aiming at. I think I finally chased the Jehova’s Witnesses away for good when I made this point about their “good news” a few months ago.

      “Jesus is is coming? Great! When? 5 hours, 5 years, 500 years? I got bills to pay and I still have to live my life properly the whole time. Do you tell your kids, don’t worry about college, Jesus will be hear to end the world soon? WTF. What’s the point of this message?” I was more polite, but that was the thrust of my point.

      • augustine says

        peanut gallery said

        “Telling people that nothing matters because Jesus will return any day now, I swear. Is not what you should be aiming at.”

        I used to puzzle over this sentiment also but it is an example of wrong interpretation I think. Teachings in the Bible do not exhort us to take this approach at all. It is a matter of realizing that once transcendence is grasped, and conversion takes place (however imperfect and mysterious all of that may be), it puts our worldly existence and troubles in a new perspective. Among other things, this entails the realization that the physical, personal experience of the world is not all that matters, one might say. It involves setting aside the Self, something known to other religions also.

        This plan makes a lot more sense to me than the nihilist view (e.g.) where nothing matters because… there is no truth and nothing matters.

    • joel h burnette says

      I think you are right and I believe this is a great article, and has some great comments. JHB

  6. X. Citoyen says

    On the one hand, I can understand why a young and impressionable Christian would be shocked that so many in the flock supported someone like Trump. Most have never been taught the difference between the City of Man and the City of God.

    On the other hand, I’m extremely skeptical when an adult with multiple publications adopts doe-eyed surprise. I’m not one to put much in attributed motives. But I will say I’m not persuaded by your professed innocence.

    • D.B. Cooper says

      @X. Citoyen

      I’m going to be blunt, here, Citizen X (I’m partial to the anglicized version). As a rule, I normally don’t consort with the French. My reasons are as varied as they are numerous; although the most operant of these would include my having strong priors against (1) people who, if not invented, are known to have fought under a white flag; (2) people who would let another man (Herr Hitler) on their front lawn, uncontested no less; and (3) people who pretend to consider Postmodern Structuralism a contribution – rather than a transmission of a communicable disease – to the intellectual canon of Western Civ.

      These, among many others legitimate reasons is why I maintain that there are two types of peoples in this world – those that use the metric system, and those that have been to the moon.

      Socio-cultural blemishes notwithstanding, I’m willing to overlook the dispositive facts as stated, in lieu of what appears to be aligning suspicions. Your comment, here, caught my eye, for no other reason than it seemed to flirt with some of my own sneaking suspicions – concerning this article, in particular, and Mr. Belvedere, in general.

      As is often the case when encountering pedestrian screed of this magnitude, I was left feeling I knew more than I could prove. And seeing as how Mr. Belvedere was running a surplus of a similar fate during his molestation of intellectual honesty polemical treatment, masquerading as “Just the facts, Mam,” I thought it only proper to carry a bit of water for him, even if he thinks I’m going the wrong way.

      Indulge me just a bit more, if you will. I’m getting there.

      I thought, I would employ your judgement, here; because (A) you seem to have more sense than most – I owe you a degree of good language – although I’ve been wrong before; and (B) as best as I can tell, your world-view is, in many respects, (along with the Weltanschauung of one or two other commentariats, e.g., @ga gamba) simpatico to my own. Which brings me to the central endorsement of this initiative.

      Did it occur to you – or anyone else who’s not given to rank hypocrisy, or intransigent postures that treat logical discourse like it’s a communicable disease – at any point during Mr. Belvedere’s is/was more (or only) concerned with clicks than with superfluous ideals that necessitate the logical primacy of well-reasoned arguments; by which I mean, non-hyperbolic, non-eyeball catching articles?

      Granted, if true, it would set a new precedent for imaginary hypocrisy, but how else would you explain a PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY writing an article that is, by all accounts, almost entirely divorced – even purposely so, it seemed at times – from the constraints of basic reasoning and rational argument?

      If Belvedere were just another critical theorist pimp, shamelessly, making his bones on one or another distortion of thought, then his empty pretenses for a matriculation to truth could easily (and accurately) be chalked up to understandable – yet, no less regrettable – failures of an overly-challenged mind.

      While widowed intellect is theoretically a sufficient cause for Belvedere’s muddled labyrinth of weasel speak, I have serious reservations about postulating such states in order to explain a PHILOSOPHER’s derivation of ideological sophistries. He may be languished as languished philosophers go, but an allergy to truth he has not.

      But just in case anyone’s feeling more charitable than I am, consider, for example, that around mid-defamation of the Christian faith, the man refutes a claim – a claim he assures us is inextricably attributed to ‘Right-wing media’, read strawman – about the political leanings of the mainstream media, and then substantiates his refutation by citing his own opinion. I shit you not, the man refuted a claim by citing his own opinion as sufficient grounds for the refutation of a claim he magically imputed based on an appeal to common belief. I cannot recall anyone arguing a more perfect circle than what Belvedere perpetrated across the (digital) pages of Quillette; yes, including even from the CT pimps. This takes sympathizing with yourself to a whole new level. The man has sac, I’ll give him that; but no one is that dumb.

      Despite Belvedere’s regular attempts to vandalize the church of logical arguments and rational beliefs – not to mention Christianity; such antics, proliferated though they may be, do not in and of themselves justify the presupposition that Belvedere’s aim was something closer to economic than academic.

      Nevertheless, his treatment of the central issue is not so much an argument, notice, but something closer to a series of antagonizing statements with no distinct center. At one point he even refutes his own position – a position he’d held ostensibly sense the opening paragraph: “Above I wrote as though conservative Christians build their views independently of their teachers and leaders… The dynamic is actually more complicated than that.

      This, of course, was one of the more astonishing philosophical acts of self-defeat, I’ve seen; as if he’d realized he marooned himself with the applied sophistry of his own treatise. But sophistry is not philosophy and the philosophy professor knows this all too well. What’s interesting is that Belvedere also seems to know how to sell a fight, as if he has a natural taste for promotion; or at the very least, an understanding and a desired appreciation for the rewards that follow.

      Thoughts?

      • Nick Ender says

        Dude this was so funny. “Those that use the metric system, and those that have been to the moon” great line. I’m totally going to use that. Although I’d bet dollars to cents the engineers used metric when designing the space launch. Great line still though. Instant classic.

        • D.B. Cooper says

          @Nick Ender

          Thank you, Sir. I thought, that was a nice capstone as well. I got a chuckle from it.

      • X. Citoyen says

        With an invitation like that, how could I refuse?

        Pride does require a minor rejoinder, however. Though Citoyens have been loyal subjects of Her Majesty for generations here in the New World, I can’t help but remind you that Benjamin Franklin was not so dismissive of the French when he went cap in hand to Paris in 1776. Nor did your countrymen thumb their noses at the ships, the guns, the men, and the 1 billion livres that followed. Perhaps that debt has now been paid and with interest besides—far be it for me to gainsay the cosmic ledger. Either way, we should recall those wise words of Burke about our place in the contract between the past and the future because both of us owe other and greater men far more than either of us is owed or owes each other.

        At any rate, just as one should not attribute to malice what can be explained by folly, so one should not attribute to clever sophistry what can be explained by mundane imitation. Every child nowadays knows that fiction writers use genres, but many adults seem to have forgotten that essayists are just as derivative in their use of commonplaces. Nature versus nurture is as old as Gorgias, for example, and the corruption of the church by the state as old as Augustine.

        And just as genres have generic narrators so commonplaces have implied authors. When the commonplace is the corruption of the church, the implied author is a believer exhorting his brethren to return to the righteous path. Of course, the real author need not share the motive of the implied author, just as (to keep with my metaphor slinging) the wolf has been known to wear sheepskins.

        All this is a post facto preface to my earlier remark. As I said before, I don’t care for attributing motives because I don’t find them persuasive or useful—if only because people often have more than one and they’re rarely clear about them even to themselves. So I won’t call Professor Belvedere a wolf chasing sheep or clicks or both because I can’t pretend to know his motives. But I can say, again, that I don’t find his voice particularly sincere. As you suggested, it smells more like clickbait than piety.

        It must be admitted that the smell says nothing about the substance. His claims might have some merit to them—the broken clock being right twice a day and so on. But I’m not especially inclined to get into the substance for the same reason I’ve never tried durian fruit—I can’t get past the smell.

        • D.B. Cooper says

          @X. Citoyen

          I knew, I poked the right bear. Your points are well taken, so much so your defense of the Frankish empire has dampened my earlier reservations to the point where I’m almost ready to lay claim to one of the more notable – and as it turns out, ironic – ancestors of my own Frankish antecedents, one King Louis XVI (if 23andMe is to be believed, that is). Nicely done, Monsieur X.

          Having already conceded the weight of your defense, I hesitate to about-face and rush headlong back into what are essentially trivial matters, but pride being what it is and all, I feel obliged – duty bound even – to push against these recriminations of revisionist history with one or two points of clarity.

          One narrative of the Franco-American Treaty might be that Franklin did, indeed, come calling cap in hand. On the face it, Franklin had every reason to kiss the French ring, so to speak; since, him and my countrymen were caught somewhere between being a patriot and a traitor (at least the indefatigable revolutionaries’ cohort – #shout out to Jefferson, Hancock, Madison and the rest of the boys). And seeing as how their ass – by which I mean, their necks – were on the line, one can imagine the desperate for any bit of help they could get. That said, however, and with all due respect and gratitude for the ships, guns, men, and livres; I’m not sure these enlightened acts of charity are as exculpating as you would like them to be.

          While the above narrative is certainly plausible, here are a few things you should first consider before taking another “Amerique tu es le bienvenu” victory lap.

          One, no gentleman of the first rank would be so mal à propos – to borrow a word – as to leverage another’s time of need as dispositive evidence of his own self-worth. And two, if the Franco-American Treaty counts for anything, it’s hard not to come away with the impression that Ben Franklin was less statesman than horse-trader. The terms (of the Treaty) Franklin negotiated makes Trump’s, The Art of the Deal, look like an instruction manual for Junior Monopoly.

          As it turned out, save the Almighty himself, old Ben and the boys could not have found a better mule ally than King Louis XVI, I’m ashamed to say. Inside a week (so the story goes) Franklin convinced Louis to bankroll a war that was not his own in order to found a new country that would not be his, and in return, Franklin gave up a few islands the Colonies never owned along with what I’m sure were assurances about greater geo-political power at the expense of France’s uber nemesis (Britian), i.e., promises in the abstract.

          I’m not sure if one can be totally partial, but all things considered, Franklin’s approach seems less ‘cap in hand’ than ‘strongarm mugging’. But, as I said, largely trivial matters. Let’s move on…

          HIGHLIGHTS

          On a more serious note, the Burke insight is as powerful a truth as anything that’s been uttered in this thread. I appreciate you bringing it to my attention. I’m sad to report, that I haven’t read much of Burke (to my own detriment, obviously), although I’m somewhat familiar with him as an historical figure. Despite the intelligentsia’s tacit disdain for the Enlightenment, it’s increasingly rare to find contemporary ideas with a comparable heat-to-light ratio. Burke was a player in the Enlightenment, was he not?

          At any rate, just as one should not attribute to malice what can be explained by folly, so one should not attribute to clever sophistry what can be explained by mundane imitation.

          Here, here! Well said, Monsieur.

          LOWLIGHTS

          I don’t care for attributing motives because I don’t find them persuasive or useful—if only because people often have more than one and they’re rarely clear about them even to themselves… I can’t pretend to know his motives.

          This seems about right for a trench I want to die in, so I’m going to push back on this idea for a bit. I find it interesting that you would claim to have such a deliberate indifference about the motives of others on the basis that: (1) they often come in multiples; and (2) they’re often as inwardly ambiguous (to one’s self) as they are outwardly (to everyone else).

          Have you considered the possibility that you’re being deceptive to yourself, and therefore to others, about of your own motives for why you don’t find ‘motive attribution’ persuasive or useful? I’m sorry, I would’ve hated myself if I didn’t pull that card.

          As I was saying, I find this interesting, because while you’re right, you “can’t pretend to know [anyone’s] motives” – if by “know” you mean, know with an absolute certainty – it does not follow that the absence of perfect knowledge, necessarily, precludes the utility of lesser degrees of certainty. When did absolute certainty become the standard for attributing motives to people, anyway? It’s a bit of question-begging to frame the act of attributing motives with anything less than absolute certainty as an undertaking of mere pretense.

          The point I’m hoping to press is that the two problems you raised aren’t exactly intractable in any sense, and therefore, the challenges they present can be widowed to a sufficient degree of certainty where one can be confident the motives attributed are more likely accurate than not. If the motives more likely to be accurate than not, then they’re more likely to be useful than not, and if they’re useful, they’re persuasive.

          As to the first, simply b/c there can be multiple motives, doesn’t mean there are, or that they’re potentially infinite. We make inferences from priors daily. Why would your Bayesian intuitions suddenly fail here?

          And as to the second, while there’s no doubt deception can be a tricky thing (by necessity, it turns out), it’s curious that the lack of absolute knowledge (due to deception) doesn’t preclude the precepts of English Common Law (trial by jury) from attributing motives and/or intent to the accused. Surely, you find adjudicating guilt by inference a persuasive and useful practice, no? An insightful person might wonder why there’s an apparent disconnect from one domain (court of law) to another (court of Quillette).

          Jusqu’à la prochaine fois, au revoir.

  7. Looking across the landscape of Trump’s policies, I can’t see Christ or the Gospel message anywhere.
    I see rage and cruelty, bigotry and intolerance.

    • X. Citoyen says

      I will also remember Trump as the “trans president” because he turned so many men into 14-year-old girls.

      • That’s a good line (honestly — it made me laugh), but liberals hardly have a monopoly on exaggerated outrage. Many on the right were absolutely apoplectic throughout Obama’s eight years in office. Hysteria is about the only thing the ideological extremes have in common.

    • Burlats de Montaigne says

      “I see rage and cruelty, bigotry and intolerance.”
      Please elucidate? Which actual “policies” are you referring to?

      • Policies?
        Family separation and throwing children in cages.

        Wanting to eliminate protections for pre-existing conditions, which could result in millions being denied insurance.

        Wanting to eliminate Obamacare with no alternatives in place, thus throwing healthcare into chaos.

        In a report prepared by his administration, Trump admitted the global temperatures will rise by 7 degrees F by 2100 and then stated profit is more important than saving the planet. Removing subsidies for renewables and adding subsidies for increased fossil fuel production. Removing regulations aimed at lessening the amount of greehouse gasses, especially methane, released into the atmosphere. Of all of Trump’s misdeeds, his handling of the environment will be what future generations will criticize most.

        Calling Nazis “good people”.

        Advocating violence and suppression against both the media and his political opponents.

        Cutting taxes in a way which rewards the very wealthy but punishes much of the middle class–especially the middle class which resides in blue states.

        After the tax cuts created a massive deficit, he and his party turn around and blame Social Security & Medicare. With the intention of cutting both.

        Wanting to remove student loan protections which benefit students.

        Calling the caravan of desperate refugees “a mob” and describing it as an “invasion”. Ignoring the fact this is a group of desperate Hondurans fleeing hunger and violence in their nation. I suppose all the “good Christians” will go along with this description and will want them turned away or treated harshly.

        And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We didn’t even get into the corruption and the possible collusion. Trump’s term will be a blessing to Dubya. Dubya will no longer be the worst president of the postwar era. Republicans sure know how to pick the most destructive people, don’t they?

        • Greg Lorriman says

          “Policies?
          Family separation and throwing children in cages.”

          You mean separating children from potential traffickers and abusers. And putting children, often teens, in to a police van is not unreasonable whereas representing it as ‘caging’ certainly just silly. Most of these people are economic migrants taking their children on incredibly dangerous routes. This is much more complex than your simplstic view.

          Forcing insurance to take on existing conditions is unreasonable. If Obama wanted a socialised health system, that is how he should have presented it. He did not.

          “Calling Nazis “good people”.”

          Nonsense.

          etc etc

          Your examples merely illustrate your prejudice and that your brain gives in to any and all emotional blackmail without thinking through longterm consequences. That’s the differences between conservatives and Leftists.

          • Diana Ayala says

            You are 100% correct. I was just called a white supremacist on another site for daring to disagree with illegal immigration or thousands of people storming the border under false pretenses. I told them I am actually a legal immigrant form Honduras and they said I was lying. It’s insane.

          • @Greg Lorriman

            Save your breath… After reading a few of cs posts it isn’t worth your time or energy, cs is a hater, and the projections of hate on Christians and Trump and the right-wing is exposing it for what it is. A prayer perhaps is in order????

        • McFly says

          This is a literal illustration of what the NPC memes draw attention to.

          A list of grievances based on wildly distorted interpretations of actual policies, actions, motivations, or intentions.

          These are programmed responses — not thoughtful critiques. These kinds of unhinged accusations (and they are accusations) of malice and malevolence are what prevent productive dialogue.

          The “script” you’ve regurgitated serves to push everyone farther into their respective corners.

          I used to think that one of the biggest challenges to civil discourse was a mutual lack of good faith. But it’s more than a lack of good faith. The Left actually thinks the Right is animated by objectively bad intent. And probably, the Right is just as convinced that the Left is a phenomenological manifestation of per se evil.

          When we’re not transfixed on backlit screens, scrolling through carefully curated streams of “information” confirming our biases and rationalizing cognitive dissonance, it doesn’t seem like anything is terribly amiss with respect to the health of the body politic. We open doors for each other. We wave each other into merging traffic. We greet each other and exchange pleasantries when passing each other in hall or the break room. Unless it’s Black Friday, we’re not fighting in stores and we engage in idle chit-chat while waiting in line for roller coasters or movie tickets.

          Beneath the surface though, real contempt is bubbling up and we can see some of that pressure escaping on comment threads like this… That release, however, is certainly insufficient to stave off the kind of roiling boil that will invariably dissolve the fabric holding this nation together.

          Where we do have interests in common, we’re unable to talk about them with each other.

          You clearly aren’t interested in any perspective that challenges the programmed reality you’ve embraced in statements like, “After the tax cuts created a massive deficit, he and his party turn around and blame Social Security & Medicare. With the intention of cutting both.”

          So much to unpack there. But for what?

          Nothing I or anyone else with a different opinion could say would inspire you to see anything other than a cruel desire to screw current and/or future recipients of Medicare/SS. I just become a tool of the hateful and “intolerant” forces you’ve been activated to stand against.

          Orange Man Bad. Resist.

          Trump IS this. Republicans ARE that. You don’t actually THINK these things. Simulated Thinking allows you to believe your own thought is responsible for outlining and producing the list above, but what you don’t see is how typical and cookie-cutter it is.

          It’s very clear that you’re not going to THINK about any substantive responses to the content of the information you conveyed. All an alternative opinion will do is provoke another pre-programmed response in support of the encoded underlying “truth” your reality is built upon: Republicans want to push granny off a cliff, cuz it will be good for the 1%, or something…

          So what’s the point? Obviously, there is none.

          That said, carry on…

          Maybe your side will win, and then “civility” can be tolerated again (pay no mind to the “collateral damage”).

          • McFly: Although I completely agree with your broader point about the dangers of demonization and the breakdown of civility, I think you’re being unfair to cs. Many of the items in his list accurately describe the Trump administration’s policies and rhetoric. Republicans tried (unsuccessfully) to repeal the ACA without having a plan in place to maintain insurance coverage for millions who would lose it. Since that legislation was stopped by John McCain, the administration has attempted to undermine the ACA via executive order. Trump has announced his intention to reverse Obama’s Clean Power Plan and to encourage the use of fossil fuels. His tax cuts disproportionately benefit the wealthy and penalize people living in states with higher tax rates since state income tax is no longer deductible. He has proposed changes to the student loan program that could negatively affect borrowers. Although President Trump’s tweets are open to interpretation — e.g., whether he was expressing sympathy with the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville or the people who were marching with them — I don’t think it’s unreasonable to characterize them as cs has.

            It’s fair to take issue with cs’s tone and stridency, but cs’s post is more civil and substantive than many conservative comments I’ve read on this site.

          • McFly says

            @dellingdog,

            In your opinion, cs’s “criticisms” are “accurate.”

            I disagree. In my opinion, they are wild-eyed or purposefully dishonest mischaracterizations. Furthermore, there is little-to-no reason for me to engage what you see as “substance,” because our experiences of what’s “real” leave us isolated from each other by light years. There’s no common ground for us to meet on. Where is the starting point that we can both look at and agree on what it is we see?

            Let me make my point another way:

            Here in Texas, “Beto” O’Rourke is running a TV ad wherein he actually says that Ted Cruz did X because “He thinks too many people have healthcare.”

            That is asinine. But it speaks to how one side attributes bad intentions to the other.

            It’s not that, “Ted Cruz’s ideas for how to improve the healthcare market for Americans are deficient or doomed to failure for these reasons…”

            It’s “Ted Cruz doesn’t want you to have access to healthcare.”

            “cs’s” comments are examples of that same tendency. Yours too, to a lesser degree.

            “His tax cuts disproportionately benefit the wealthy and penalize people living in states with higher tax rates since state income tax is no longer deductible.”

            Okay. I don’t think that’s an unfair description. But it’s what’s behind that description that ends up leading to a breakdown in communication.

            First, the “wealthy” shoulder the tax burden. Almost exclusively. Cuts in the marginal tax rates are going to disproportionately impact people who pay taxes.

            Second, why should high income tax states’ citizens be subsidized by low or no income tax states, in reference to the federal tax burden? If California wants to impose high income taxes on it’s citizens to fund it’s sovereign priorities, then I can think of no reason the government there should be prohibited from levying taxes at whatever rates it’s citizens will embrace. But that doesn’t absolve her citizens of their obligations to the federal government’s priorities.

            So, dellingdog… Where does the conversation go from here? Can it proceed on substance, or do we begin to attribute motives and start judging each other’s hearts?

            And if we can refrain from calling each other names, is that because we’re both being directly challenged to do it and we’re gonna prove we can, or because that is our natural tendency? Would that reflect a typical conversational evolution between two random, average Americans with divergent views, in your estimation?

        • Diana Ayala says

          You do now that most of people in that mob (and yes, that is what it is- see them violently tearing down fences?) are economic migrants. If you are truly fearing for your life you would seek “asylum” in the first country you came to.
          I was born and raised in Honduras and my parents still live there. People there now that claiming asylum is almost an automatic way to get in the States. You are being played my friend, big time. It also sucks for people like me who came here legally.

  8. Burlats de Montaigne says

    John Adams took his oath with his hand on a book of law not the Bible. Where did it all go wrong?

    • In 313 C.E., when Christianity took the first step toward becoming an imperial faith. Excessive entanglement of politics and religion inevitably corrupts both.

      • @dellingdog
        Yes, this was the Romanization of the Church, not the true faith. This was transforming Jesus from the guy who washed the feet of his disciples to dressing him with a breast plate, shield and sword. It’s safe to say nearly all the atrocities attributed to Christianity are a result of Constantine’s Warrior God. It’s also safe to say the Church has still not fully recovered. As a result this is the enduring view modernity (Christian and non-Christian alike) has of the faith regardless of all the good work Christians have done and still do.

  9. Between this piece and Max Boot’s a few days ago, I get the impression that Quillette is trying to counter accusations of conservative bias. I welcome publishing different perspectives; my problem with the articles is they are unoriginal, shallow, tendentious pieces that contribute nothing beyond what one can already find in the mainstream press. This article is a shrill rehash of how right-thinking liberals are supposed to think about the Christian right, and as for Max Boot, he’s the very definition of a mainstream middle-brow intellectual, who was a depressingly ubiquitous presence even before his attacks against Republicans for turning away from neocon tenets made him a media darling.

    What’s the point of Quillette publishing this stuff?

    It would be great to read intelligent, thoughtful commentary and analysis on these topics. But this kind of stale, predictable commentary from the usual suspects — not so much.

    • E. Olson says

      Good comment. If this is the best argument the leftist/atheist side can make then they are definitely standing on shifting sand. US Christian history is based on the separation of church and state, and the general belief in limited government as a means of protecting citizen rights to worship (or not) as they see fit. Thus US Christian traditions and values are completely compatible with private charity (as opposed to the coercion of the welfare state), gun rights (to counteract oppressive government), and protecting the rights of the innocent (i.e. opposition to publicly funded abortion, support for the presumed innocence of the accused). The rise of the Christian right over the past 40-50 years is not an offensive action meant to take over the government, but is instead a defensive action against attacks by the state on Christian culture and traditions that have included lawsuits against singing Christmas carols or private prayer in public schools, court ordered taking down of nativity scenes in front of firehouses, public funding of anti-Christian art, and forcing Christians and Christian organizations to provide free birth control to employees or perform abortions. It is also very important to note that Christians believe that man is imperfect, it is Christian to forgive sins, and that God will forgive the worst sinners if they ask for redemption. Thus a Christian can in good faith support sinners such as Donald Trump or Roy Moore, and even believe that they may be innocent of the charges leveled against them by the partisan media, because such candidates are deemed more likely to protect Christian values and traditions from attacks by the state than sinner alternatives such as Hillary Clinton or Liz 1/1064 Indian Warren.

      • augustine says

        E. Olson,

        Agree:

        “The rise of the Christian right over the past 40-50 years is not an offensive action meant to take over the government…”

        I’ve been hearing my whole life about the terrible threat from Christians on the Right, how they are on the verge of taking over and dictating their values to everyone else. It is a manufactured flight of fancy. If anything, the rise of atheistic progressivism since the 1960s shows that the influence of conservative Christians has had little effect on the profound liberalization of academia, media and the culture generally.

        Of course, there is a not insignificant number of liberal Christians and we know now that liberalism in its most prominent forms is happy to dictate its own values to the rest of us. Among the more liberal Christians those values seem to be holding out above and beyond Christian edicts, or perverting them to a political activism. These cycles have played out before but they seem to be on a more compressed timeline lately.

    • Matthew B says

      I thought this was the worst article I’ve read on Quillette. The writer refers to another opinion article HE WROTE to support his opinion in this article that the MSM is not predominately left of the centre.

      It was at that point that he lost me.

    • What sort of leftist perspective could Quillette publish that wouldn’t get published in the mainstream media? I can only think of two recent examples. Debbie Hayton is a transgender woman and a socialist, and Meghan Murphy is a radical feminist, but their articles in Quillette expressed skeptical positions about modern transgender activism. Even then, you could argue that those articles expressed conservative-leaning positions even though the authors’ personal politics are more leftist. What types of leftist views would you like to see here?

    • joel h burnette says

      Until today, I didn’t know Quillette existed–but if they have informative articles like this and commentary, I want to read more of it.

    • Hmmm: I think you make a good point. Although I’m on the center left and find some of Quillette’s right-leaning pieces to be poorly argued and unpersuasive, these two articles have not been very impressive. If anyone’s interested in well-written and provocative commentary and analysis from a socialist perspective, I recommend Nathan J. Robinson at Current Affairs.

    • Bernard Hill says

      …..you’d better get writing yourself then Mmmm eh?

  10. Damian O'Connor says

    We don’t really have a ‘religious right’ here in the UK. That said, when I look at the programme offered by our left wing Metropolitan, university and media elite which seems to me to be increasingly divorced from liberal notions and Enlightenment values, intolerant and dismissive, I have to say that I’m open to alternatives. It seems to me that the problem of Christianity is not so much the message as the people selling it – I was educated by priests and it damn well cured me of religion! And as plenty of other people have stated, if I was a US voter, I would have had no choice but to hold my nose and vote for Trump (Dear God, please forgive me) because the Clinton alternative looked far worse.

    Damian O’Connor
    Author of ‘A Short Guide to the History of South Africa.’

  11. Stoic Realist says

    I am neither a conservative nor a christian and despite multiple attempts I could not make it through this completely partisan screed. It brought to mind Jim Jones with its ‘fire and brimstone’ pejorative cult sermon style approach to the subject. This was simply an attack piece with the sub flavor of persecution victim. Is there some point that might have been made here? I am sure there is but not by this author.

  12. Greg Lorriman says

    Take the religion out of it, and to a large extent you are describing the Left/democrats. Charlatans included. Trump is a case in point as he himself said he would present himself in whichever party was most likely to win the presidency for him, and originally was a Democrat before the Democrats bowed to Buzzfeed and Twitter style emotional blackmail from which most of their policies derive.

    I was thinking this was a glorified buzzfeed article. Only to find it peppered with buzzfeed links. I expect better of Quillette.

    This isn’t a balanced, fair-minded piece. And it’s not factual.

  13. Greg Lorriman says

    Let’s visit just one of the many misrepresentations here, Trump’s ‘race-baiting’ :

    “Trump Calls Mexicans Rapists”

    …Except that in fact he was calling illegal immigrants criminals and rapists, not Mexicans per se. But the Left/democrat headline makes him look racist. If you look at the New York Times definitive list of Trump racism, there is not one objective example of Trump being racist. Being a hard-nosed business-man, sure, but not actual proof, let alone reliable evidence, that he is himself racist.

    There were enough Hispanics who saw through this BS that they voted for him, to slap buzzfeed smartly in the face.

    Then there’s Trump’s Islamophobia. But that isn’t racism as it’s not a matter of race at all. And a fair piece would illustrate the issues: that Islam does not support liberal democracy but rather democracy on its own terms. Same with its notions of ‘peace’. No Islamic person should be allowed citizenship in a country constitutionally devoted to liberal democracy. (But what’s really surprising is the application of US civil rights to non-nationals by the Supreme Court, and even in the face of national security issues).

    Or the article’s mention of guns. Guns are a symbol of liberty and community last-resort power over domination by the abuse of State or Federal powers, as with the means by which the US got its independence and won freedom. It’s really just not about guns. It’s about liberty.

    • “No Islamic person should be allowed citizenship in a country constitutionally devoted to liberal democracy.”

      Greg, did you mean to say “Islamicist” person (i.e., someone who advocates a theocracy)? The U.S. already has millions of Islamic (Muslim) citizens, the vast majority of whom are law-abiding and deeply grateful for the liberties which the U.S. provides.

      I think you’re right that we can’t know for sure whether President Trump himself is a racist, but he’s certainly made many statements which can reasonably be interpreted that way. It’s true that people on the left are predisposed to see racism where it doesn’t exist, but you’d have to be extraordinarily charitable to Trump to avoid seeing ANY racism in his tweets about Mexicans, blacks and Africans.

      • flipflopflipflop says

        “but you’d have to be extraordinarily charitable to Trump to avoid seeing ANY racism in his tweets about Mexicans, blacks and Africans.”

        While I suspect he is racist, as I believe almost everyone is ultimately, he has been very careful with his tweets, and not one of them has been racist. It’s prejudice that ends up withdrawing the benefit of the doubt and then assuming the worst, which is what you are, I believe, giving in to. And similarly for anyone on the Left, that is their default position in their attitude towards conservatives, labelling them as fascists etc, which is crazy talk.

        While I am prejudiced against him also, I keep firmly in mind that it is indeed possible that he is genuinely not racist, that nothing he has said has been objectively racist. And that his policies, while suitably tough, have not been racist.

        “The U.S. already has millions of Islamic (Muslim) citizens, the vast majority of whom are law-abiding and deeply grateful for the liberties which the U.S. provides.”

        Nevertheless they should be kicked out pronto. Their religion is incompatible with the constitution. It’s insane that no politician has stood up for the US against muslim immigration. Islam is not benign force like most monotheisms. It is a special case. It is constitutionally aggressive whatever the individual muslim says of themselves. We see that right throughout the Middle-East.

        Further, while the parents may be peaceable and law-abiding, and, as you say, grateful, and they may even not be devout believers, their own children are the ones that rise up against their adopted country, and have been much of the cause of the major erosion of privacy (super surveillance) and the private domain in the US.

  14. Greg Lorriman says

    This is a buzzfeed piece.

    Liberty is the problem with Buzzfeed and the Left: their policies are coercive and strip liberty by the backdoor. Run a bakery and won’t make a cake for a gay wedding: you will now be shutdown in many States. As has also happened in that other ‘free country’ the Uk since the 2010 Equality laws.

    Effectively, the organisation of the religious conservatives in the US is a response to the aggressive coercions of the Left/Democrats and the misbehaviour of the Supreme Court.

    “It’s a free country”, not any more.

    The Supreme Court has been the cause of this inspite of the protections of the constitution, such as piercing the private domain with the conflation of “Public Accommodation” that was created in the Civil Rights laws.

    It’s BS when they say all it comes down to is “If you won’t believe in gay marriage, don’t go to one”. People’s livelihoods are being taken away. And there is defacto no freedom of conscience, other than if you are a hobo. Without freedom of conscience, it’s not a free country.

    Or the presumption of non-life in the Roe vs Wade ruling, that gave no weight to the unborn. It’s simply not a purely individual matter that therefore comes under the private domain liberties. A baby is killed that was objectively alive. “It’s my body”, er, sure but we are also talking about another body here, and it’s alive also, and it’s not you.

    • You probably have two kidneys, and could spare one to save another’s life. You have bone marrow which could be donated to save a life. Sure, it’s your body but the other person has a body too. Why not pass a law forcing people to donate? After all, that would be the pro-life way. Forcing someone to go through pain and a permanent change in their body in order to give life to another.

      Anti-discrimination laws are there to keep society humming along. There are secular parts of the country where a bakery, which refused to serve conservative Christians, would be incredibly successful. There are places in the country where refusing to hire Christians would not be protested. But I suspect you would not gladly give up your legal protections in order to let those businesses freely express their views on evangelicals. If you’re open to the public, you serve the public. If part of the public can be denied services, they’ll suffer tremendously. A cake doesn’t matter so much, but to be denied service at a grocery story or a gas station would greatly limit people’s lives. If you were truly a Christian, you’d not want to cause such suffering.

      Furthermore, what you’re advocating is incredibly anti-Christlike. You’re obviously one of those people who would not cheer Christ on for spending dinners with the whores and the tax collectors, but would rather criticize them. You’d be the first one to throw the stone, and you’d do so with glee. Please stop calling yourself a Christian, and go with the more accurate title of Pharisee.

      • Cheester says

        The NPC programming was executed to a tee with you, cs. Not only do you have the complete package of contrived, predictable thoughts on political matters, you even have the anti-Christian DLC pack. When presented with the reality that your arguments are unconvincing to anyone capable of independent thought, you get mad and start name-calling. Unfortunately, the tendency of NPCs to freak out when their weak arguments are debunked is a feature, not a bug, in NPC programming.

        “You’re obviously one of those people who would not cheer Christ on for spending dinners with the whores and the tax collectors, but would rather criticize them.”

        What about the months of hysteria and personal attacks, even on Trump’s family members, from Leftists over an affair Trump had with a porn star many, many years ago?

        Also, it’s curious to see you accusing others of being the first to throw a stone in judgment, while you’re already busy hurling rocks at people who disagree with you. Then again, NPCs lack the self-awareness to notice these things.

        • Cheester: I’m wondering how much self-awareness you have. CS made substantive points in his post — if you disagree with them you should make counterarguments, not dismiss him because he’s an “NPC.” It should be easy to refute CS if his arguments are as weak as you say, but you resorted to name-calling instead of engaging in a respectful conversation.

      • Greg Lorriman says

        cs, you will not stop the emotional blackmail. Not volunteering to save another’s life is not equivalent to killing a person.

        Abortion is exactly that. Further, having a baby and giving birth is natural to women. It may not be convenient at times, and for sure rapists should be shot, but dealing with an unwanted pregnancy by killing the child is a depraved response.

        This doctrine has turned women against themselves and their own nature. And they are miserable for it. Women everywhere are depressed an popping pills to deal with their unhappy lives. And a lot of it is due to abortion, contraception, the abuse of sex and the anti-family attitude engendered.

        “But I suspect you would not gladly give up your legal protections in order to let those businesses freely express their views on evangelicals.”

        Indeed I would return to the previous: a genuinely free country where people have to deal with the reality that we are not living in fairy land, and that means a liberty of association and refusal. You have justified removing liberty in the private domain with your fine words, contradicting the spirit of the Constitution.

        True freedom has a high cost indeed, and requires patience to overcome prejudice, but it’s loss is incalculable and you Left morons and your emotional logic are making it happen.

        “If you were truly a Christian, you’d not want to cause such suffering.”

        Nonsense. Christians don’t have a problem with suffering. They have a problem with wrong-doing or the encouragement of wrong-doing. And they beleive in tough love. Your idea of Jesus is presumably some kind of fuddy duddy Fr Christmass, where being Christian is about being nice. It isn’t. That’s anglicanism/episcopalianism.

        If I can’t refuse to bake your gay cake, I would be complicit in sin. I can’t do that. Nor can I cooperate with certain matters as a professional. Your backdoor policies make 2nd class citizens of anyone whose beliefs don’t fit your particular ideology.

        You cannot have both liberty and equality. You have to choose. The US is about liberty not equality.

        So what, CS, am I going to do in your newly unfree country of the United States of Compulsions? Be a hobo?

        And who is next? What precious belief do you have that you may one day be forced to compromise?

        Once you strip the private domain of its liberty, there is no stopping the venality of politicians and twitter mobs.

        “Furthermore, what you’re advocating is incredibly anti-Christlike.”

        Complete nonsense. Christ called the sinners to repentance. Sure, he dined with them, but in order to teach them and to guide them to righteousness. He would not have baked your gay cake. Nor would he have gone to a gay marriage.

  15. Greg Lorriman says

    One of Quillette’s issues is how atheistic it is. Atheism is a huge presumption and effectively prejudicially cuts out half the world from rational analysis.

    Let’s puncture a few of those atheistic presumptions:

    “Religious belief is not rational.”

    A god could prove its own existence, in theory, so that depends on whether there is a god. Faith as “Belief without Evidence” is Bertrand Russel’s presumptuous redefinition. Thanks for that, Berty. It doesn’t derive from the etymological origins of ‘faith’.

    “The God Delusion” is the evidence that atheists, yet without proof, believe there is no god. It’s just too outrageous a presumption to come from anything but belief. Atheism as merely “lack of belief” is a fiction.

    But it’s thought to be impossible to prove there isn’t a god.

    Atheists are believers, yet without proof, and that is not rational.

    =>Religious persons are irrational if there is no god.

    =>Atheists are irrational even if there were no god.

    “Science proves that there is no god, or at least not of any of the established religions. ”

    A Catholic priest invented the Big Bang theory, Lemaitre. A Catholic monk is the father of modern genetics, Mendel. Sure, evolution was a shock to Christians, ….in the 19th century. But since most of Christianity had never had a dogma of a literal translation of the Bible, they got over it. And no, despite Gallileo, Christianity has in fact been always very pro the sciences and maths. Google the Witch of Agnesi and read up the women involved.

    • Greg Lorriman says

      “Which God is it among the thousands?”, the multi-gods objection.

      Most monotheisms aren’t exclusivist. And almost all of them define their respective supreme beings the same way. Ie, it’s the same God. The ‘rigid’ Catholic Church explicitly teaches that God has manifested in most monotheisms. And even “No salvation outside of the Church” has massive nuances that mean that I fully expect to see Gandhi in heaven.

      “What about the suffering and death of the innocent and children. No god would allow that?”

      Christianity fully addresses this. There’s never been an excuse for a Christian to lose their faith on this basis. The greater problem is not suffering but the loss of personal integrity that is sin/wrong-doing. Any suffering is a good thing compared to that. And so the innocent, God himself firstly in the person of the Messiah Jesus Christ, suffer for the sake of the guilty, to save them from sin not suffering. And death is a gateway to a better world without suffering for the good. Death is only bad for the obdurate bad.

      • Greg: You’re certainly right that the non-existence of God cannot be proven. However, I don’t see how it follows that atheism is a form of belief. The idea that an all-good, all-powerful, eternal Being created and governs the universe is far from obvious. If theists claim that this is true, it’s incumbent upon them to provide evidence to support this claim. Atheists are people who are not convinced by their arguments. Although I identify as an agnostic since I remain open to the possibility that some kind of higher power exists, I feel virtually certain that the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God isn’t real. In other words, I’m an atheist relative to the God of Abraham. This isn’t a belief system, it’s a conclusion I’ve drawn after evaluating the available evidence — including the ubiquity of apparently gratuitous suffering. Your argument that Christianity “fully addresses” the problem of evil relies on a lot of assumptions which not even all Christians would accept.

    • Farris says

      “Belgian Catholic priest Georges Lemaitre. used Einstein’s Equations to construct the theory that later became known as the Big Bang, and to predict the expansion of the universe 2 years before Edwin Hubble measured it.

      The initial response to his theory of an expanding universe with a finite age was derision. Fred Hoyle, another Cambridge astronomer, and an atheist, applied the name “Big Bang” to the theory as mockery. Hoyle hated the idea of a Universe with a beginning, and even after Edwin Hubble’s discovery of the expansion of the universe, Hoyle did not believe the question was settled, but proposed that along with the expansion, new matter appeared to fill the void, so the Universe could still be eternal. He was happier with the spontaneous unobserved generation of new matter than he was with a beginning to the universe.
      Fortunately, one of the great qualities of scientific inquiry, and the thing I love about it, is that it relies upon observations of the universe itself to correct any bias in the theorists might have, and that is what happened in the case of the “Big Bang” theory. In 1965, when radiation from the “primordial fireball” of Lemaitre’s theory was observed by Bell Labs engineers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, even the diehard skeptics were convinced, and now the Big Bang is the standard model astronomers use to think about the universe. And almost all of them agree it had some kind of beginning very different from the conditions we see now.”

      Except from: http://beaconsonthehill.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Singing-to-God_Hank_ds_2rmt.pdf

  16. Northern Observer says

    What I can’t square in this article is the claim of Christian Political power in the USA sitting side by side with the complete rout of Christian norms and practices in America’s culture, both elite and low culture. Christian social practice is a now a sub-culture in the USA especially in elite legal, media, entertainment and political culture.

    The other thought that comes to mind is the idea of Christian Moral Idealism and the limits of such a concept in truly faithful living. The author argues for a return to greater Moral Idealism as a cure for what ails Christianity in America. This idea gives me pause. How can we square a return to Idealism when the culture is openly persecuting Christian social practice?
    And it is not as if there is no a tradition of Political Realism in Christianity. I doubt very much that Cyrus the Great was a woke open borders trans ally, but he did give the Jews back their homeland and for that he is celebrated in the Old Testament. Christ’s render under to Cesar what is Caesar’s is another form of political realism; one that allows Christians to deal with political problems as they are rather than how they wish them to be. In this sense, Trump is simply the tool that was available, his rhetoric may not meet the standards of the saints, but that is not his job or his purpose, he is a dirty shield but he is better than no shield.

    Finally, I need to comment on the ignorant moral vanity I see here and in the media about illegal immigrants who choose to enter the USA with young children. You are Pharisees parading your virtue for the world to see while god knows what you do in private or to those closest to you. Your moral opprobrium needs a vacation or at least some education lest you gain some perspective on the issue. The President, ICE and the USA have done nothing wrong in regards to these people and is treating them fairly, compassionately even. You are being manipulated by journalists who make the mundane seem monstrous and add a few cries and tears to make you dance. Sober up and think as much as you feel for a change, Christ did not give us minds to act as slaves to our emotions. You really want to help? Emigrate to Central America and open a business to employ as many people as possible. Stop turning the nation into an open air refugee camp to fell good about yourself, it is unfair to all involved, the refugee, the recent legal immigrant, the long standing citizen.

    • Diana Ayala says

      Excellently put, Northern Observer.I am a legal Honduran immigrant who used to be a liberal and is now libertarian, who loves the principles the USA was founded upon It makes me sad and angry to see how white progressives swallow these lies and how uncomfortable and downright nasty they are when I don’t conform to their narrative. These liberals fail to see (because it would not conform to their preconceived notions) that most of these immigrants are here for economic reasons, are not real refugees and are taking the place of those who are in fact escaping war and famine and have been patiently waiting in line.

  17. This article describes most of my Missouri-native family to a T. The only critique I have of it is that it leaves out a factor that I believe is huge in evangelical politics–fear of the apocalypse. My mother’s political platform is formed almost entirely by which geopolitical moves she thinks will “usher in the antichrist”. This is why a lot of republicans don’t just disagree with people like George Soros–they truly and fully think he is a satanic character. Fox News is aware of this, and makes subtle references to such apocalyptic fears and narratives.

  18. What is this “real christianity”? Is it the kind from Saint Paul’s time that was OK with slavery. Or the one from Jesus’s time when he was OK with service in the Roman army (service which inevitably involved tons of violence we would consider unjust, in support of a state that created a wasteland and called it peace).

    And that’s when Christianity had the benefits of being a cult (when you’re a small minority you can outsource the thought decisions and tradeoffs of running a society to others). It’s no surprise to me that after Constantine they had to clear out some of the nonsense and be pragmatic, he had a real society to run.

    Or maybe real Christianity are those innumerable communist style cults that propped up over thousands of years, all of which failed much like their secular counterpart of communism failed. Maybe we should go ask the “Levelers” what real christianity is.

    Or was is the Gregory Clark Christianity that allowed good Christian bourgeois to out reproduce their co-Christians (read: let their neighbors kids starve) in northwest Europe for a thousand years or so thus leading to the higher average IQ that lets us have these debates on our magic boxes.

    Christianity is a good at making people a little nicer then they otherwise would to be. At providing some means to break out of certain bad social equilibriums. It helps people in difficult times cope. And it may even have some answers to some deep metaphysical questions.

    It doesn’t appear to be a very clear guidebook to a “just society”, most especially when we start getting outside of ones Dunbar number and talking about politics. I read Jesus as mostly stating as much during his ministry, but that’s my interpretation.

    What I hope Christianity is not is a suicide pact. If Christianity really is “pathological altruism” then it’s not an answer, it’s a disease. If it is a suicide pact and we’re supposed to do it anyway because god will sort it out in the afterlife, then I just don’t have the faith. If its not a suicide pact that maybe all those “compromises and hypocrisies” are just regular people trying to sort out how a real world pragmatic Christianity might operate.

    Leftist Christianity is difficult to believe in for many reasons, but most of all because it just seems to be anti-life and anti-faith. The Episcopal church pews are hardly full on Sunday. Mainline protestantism is dying. Partly because leftist christianity quickly converts to non-christianity, and partly because leftist Christians have very few children on average (a very bad sign for the correctness of their faith). Leftist Catholicism is awfully wrapped up in a gay child molestation ring. There is a passage in the Bible that says essentially, “you shall know them by their fruits.” What fruit has leftist Christianity born? It looks an awful lot like a suicide pact.

  19. Douglass Watts says

    There are two categories of the people you describe. There are those who are totally (from outside appearance) unaware of their cognitive dissonance. They somehow don’t get that their values are completely outside what Trump is as a human being. The second category is larger. Most people I know say, “I know he is not a good person, but….” The political agenda is more important for both categories. But, the left is the same way. This is why I, as a Christian, have become apolitical.

    • Circuses and Bread says

      @Douglas Watts

      Well said. In my case I went one step further to being overtly anti political.

      Perhaps my Christian brethren would like to educate me? I seem to have missed an important part of the Gospel. I don’t recall seeing a second Commandment from our Lord where we were supposed to embroil ourselves in political intrigues. And I seem to have completely missed that part where Jesus was chumming it up with Pontius Pilate and Herod. Maybe it’s in one of those newfangled translations?

      Last time I looked, the new Commandment that Christ left us with was “Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another.” So as we look at the lay of politics circa 2018, I have to ask one question:

      Are you feeling the love?

  20. Northern Observer says

    I wanted to bother the thread again, as I just came across a countervailing article in The New Republic.
    If conservative Christianity is so corrupt why was it able to recognize and deal with one of its founders crimes, Bill Gothard. https://newrepublic.com/article/151787/bill-gothard-fundamentalist-trap.
    Maybe conservative Christians have been too permissive in the past of their chieftains, but this case demonstrates that change is a coming.

  21. Paul M. says

    “[Religion] must seek to interfere with the lives of nonbelievers, or heretics, or adherents of other faiths. It may speak about the bliss of the next world, but it wants power in this one. This is only to be expected. It is, after all, wholly man-made. And it does not have the confidence in its own various preachings even to allow coexistence between different faiths.”

    -Christopher Hitchens

    • Greg Lorriman says

      Hitchens’ BS. Even the feared Inquisition didn’t touch non-believers, only heretics (those arrogantly asserting religious truths purely on their own authority), and satanists (witches).

      “It may speak about the bliss of the next world, but it wants power in this one.”

      ‘It’ isn’t a person. Neither does Christianity, as a religion, claim power of domination in this world “Give to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s, and to God what is God’s”. But sure, a few unscrupulous power-mongers and landgrabbers would use religion for their purposes, even Popes. Similarly with paedophiles targeting the priesthood.

      Most religions have lived peaceably for most of history side-by-side. A survey put religious wars at 7% of all wars. Even where nations had mingled religions, mostly they lived fine together, with some exceptions (ie, Islam).

      The Catholic Church has explicitly taught that God has manifested in most monotheisms. And most religions are not exclusivist, believing the others are manifestations of the same. Hitchens is lying. They even define their respective supreme beings the same way.

      “This is only to be expected. [Religion] is, after all, wholly man-made. ”

      Presumption. He needed to prove that.

      • Paul M. says

        “Presumption. He needed to prove that.”

        The Bible, The Koran, and the Torah were all written by men, no? The Book of Mormon, too, yes? Can you name one religious book or text that was NOT written by man?

        If not, please go sell crazy someplace else. We’re all stocked up here.

        Cheers.

        • Greg Lorriman says

          “Can you name one religious book or text that was NOT written by man?”

          That doesn’t prove reliigion is man-made. Even mere mortals have people write stuff for them, FFS.

          Meanwhile, most monotheisms define their supreme beings the same way. Personal, loving, just but also merciful (to the merciful).

          “If not, please go sell crazy someplace else. We’re all stocked up here.”

          You can only say that if you are a true believer and not merely agnostic.

          And yet you believe something that isn’t provable.

          Who’s crazy here?

          A god could hypothetically prove its own existence, after all. So religious people are only crazy if they are actually hallucinating.

          And proving itself is in fact that’s what we claim a god is doing on an individual level, person to person. But only for those not so arrogant as to assume they know it all when they logically can’t. There’s no such thing as blind faith, ultimately.

        • David says

          Religion only came into existence with the written word? No need for name calling.

          Man has written many texts/books about things he did not ‘make’. Some are even fiction.

      • Jan de Jong says

        Hitchens didn’t need to prove anything. The wild hypothesis is the existence of a god, not its absence.

        • Greg Lorriman says

          @ Jan de Jong

          Much of the world asserts the existence of a god. So how is that a wild hypothesis? If it is indeed personal, then surely its proof would a)be itself (rather than a ‘sign’), b)be personal to the individual.

          Further, self-aware systems exist in nature already (us and dolphins etc). And feedback loops exist in physics.

          So it’s really not so far-fetched, especially because…….

          It’s self-evident that there is a thing which is ‘existence’. One day physicist mathematicians might even arrive at describing it. But even before they do, logically it exists of itself (it needs no creator), and cannot not exist, nor is it possible that there was ever a state of absolute nothingness. Because it exists of itself, that’s a self-referencing and indivisble thing.

          ‘Existence’ therefore logically has the fundamental of self-awareness. At least in logic.

          So the real question is not “Is there a god”, but “Is the fundamental thing self-aware, and if it is, can it really be caring as so many religious persons claim”.

          This has a long lineage (Aquinas and there are previous philosophers alluding to the same). I didn’t just make it up out of my butt hole. So really, what the hell is Dawkins doing talking of “Who made God?” as his main argument?

          Since Christianity fully addresses the suffering of the innocent, starting with the supreme being itself subjecting itself to death by torture, I would look there first.

          After all, Christians are not claiming mere belief, but to perosnally know a god. That is evidence of a god. Sure, it’s ambivalent because it’s eidence of either a god or mass madness. But it can’t be swept under the carpet of atheist presumption “The God Delusion”.

          “god, if you exist, please reveal yourself”. So basic, any fool can think to do it, but not everyone will persevere until they get an answer. Atheism is in many cases a matter of negligence to do the bleedin’ obvious. Or else trauma or being raised by atheist parents.

          • Greg: You make some very good and interesting points, but it’s not fair to hold up Dawkins as the epitome of atheist thinking simply because he’s prominent and his book was a best seller. A.C. Grayling makes similar arguments against religion but is a much more careful thinker. If you’re interested in engaging a more nuanced (but still strident) case against theism, I recommend his book _The God Argument_.

        • D.B. Cooper says

          @Jan de Jong

          The wild hypothesis is the existence of a god, not its absence.

          I see this specious claim a lot, so let me help you out here. Most everyone has either heard or is familiar with the aphorism, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” What your tacitly advancing here is the argument from ignorance fallacy.

          Consider that “The wild hypothesis is the existence of a god, not its absence,” is a claim, just as if I were to say “The wild hypothesis is the absence of god, not its existence,” is a claim. Both operate under the same conditions, the burden of proof lies upon the claimant, regardless of its positive or negative content.

          Moreover, all valid claims require premises – premises, which, the claimant presupposes are true. That may be a tautology, let me restate that. Premises are statements the claimant assumes are true – a priori assumptions. Ultimately, any claim you make is grounded on a belief, or set of beliefs, you presuppose is/are true. The fact that you may or may not be proving a negative, is largely besides the point.

          Theist, atheist, naturalist, et al. (I’m gonna reserve judgement on the nihilist for the moment, they don’t believe meaning away, so I doubt it’ll make much difference to them) are seeking, each in their own way, to reconcile their world-view (faith) with the reality that is. So, let’s us not be so short-sighted to think atheism isn’t a belief system, requiring its own tenets of faith.

    • X. Citoyen says

      There’s an old saying that all stories begin in one of three ways: a stranger comes to town, a hero goes on a journey, or both. Hitchens’s story belongs to the last category. In his tale, the happy villagers lived in peace and harmony until big bad Beast of Religion came to town and frightened the villagers into obedience with fairy-tales of gods and demons and commanded them to do evil deeds. After much oppression and violence, Hitchens’s and his heroic Swordsmen of Reason rose up to slay the Beast of Religion and set the villagers free. And they fight on today! The end.

      Aside from the holes in the plot itself, four things prevent Hitchens’s followers from seeing that his history is a fairy-tale of heroes and demons not unlike that of—and certainly no truer than—the Beast of Religion: a lack of historical knowledge, a lack of knowledge about belief systems, the conceit of intellectual and moral superiority, and the sacred canopy provided by the commercialization of atheism, which allows one to remain immersed in the story world.

      Hitchens’s story will remain with us because it predates him. No doubt the particulars of his story belong to the Black Legend, but the basic plot has always been with us. The story’s popularity waxes now and again because of the inescapable uncertainty surrounding the existence of (some kind of) transcendent being. But it soon wanes when its internal contradictions become apparent, the most obvious being the one I just mentioned: The story about the story is just another story.

      I conclude with a conditional prediction from experience: If you live long enough, you read broadly enough, and you don’t make a living as a professional atheist, you will eventually see the Hitchens’s story as I’ve described it.

      • Correct – who spends so much time defining themselves by what they don’t believe? Here’s how I think we could define the likes of Hitchen’s et al ideas of “God”: An imaginary being, the denial of whom provides structure and meaning for many people.

        • I think you’re right that Hitchens was a sloppy thinker who made a straw man out of religion, but his opposition was motivated by the real harm that religion can do. The same is true of Sam Harris, who would much rather talk about A.I. and the nature of consciousness than the danger posed by Islamicists. Like most non-theists, he only cares about and actively opposes religious belief when he judges it to be harmful.

          • X. Citoyen says

            The difference between “the real harm that illiberal beliefs can do” and your remark about “the real harm that religion can do” is a rhetorical one. The former draws attention to the fact that the problem with the beliefs is that they’re inconsistent with one’s own. You can’t refute those beliefs from this standpoint because, well, we’re all familiar with Hume’s fact-value dichotomy. Normative beliefs are normative beliefs, illiberal or not. You can only contrast them with your own, argue their utility, and inform others about the inconsistency between, say, Westerners and Islamists.

            The genius of substituting “religion” for “illiberal beliefs” is that it allows you to circumvent the normative-versus-normative stalemate. Instead of saying so-and-so’s beliefs are inconsistent with mine, you say so-and-so’s beliefs are false because they come from a deity that doesn’t exist—the unspoken implication being that so-and-so would share your values if he weren’t beholden to the lying deity. In simpler terms, religion is used as a genetic fallacy, discrediting a position by discrediting its source.

            How can we be sure he’d hold liberal beliefs in the absence of a deity and not some other beliefs? That’s where the story I mentioned before comes in. The evidence that’s supposed to show that all so-and-sos would be liberals if it weren’t for religion is the Enlightenment-and-Progress narrative—religion is dying away and liberalism is taking its place, thanks to great work by the Swordsmen of Reason.

            I’m glad you mentioned Harris because, whether he’s aware of it or not, he shifts between the first and the second approach. When talking about Islam, he never makes use of religion, deities, or atheism. He sticks to showing how illiberal and how widespread illiberal beliefs are. When talking about Christian beliefs he dislikes, however, it’s all your beliefs are religious; thus, your beliefs come from God; God doesn’t exist; therefore, your beliefs are false. So Harris opposes religious belief he judges harmful by classifying them as religious to get around the normative stalemate.

            My favourite variation on the religion tactic is “people have used religion to justify doing terrible things,” the implication being they wouldn’t have been able to justify their actions in the absence of religion. The claim is self-refuting because it places motivation before justification. In the absence of religion, in other words, someone so motivated would not have had to justify his actions at all. And that is just want happened in the past when religion was silent on the particular terrible deed.

  22. Pingback: Disgusted Evangelical Scholar Details How Christian ‘Grifters and Status-Seekers’ Paved the Way for Trump – Liberal View News

  23. RB Glennie says

    Very disappointing article. Readers of Quillette come here for thoughtful analyses about what troubles Enlightened liberalism in Western countries – the challenges from both left and right. Buzz-words like `right-wing media ecosystem’ or statements like `functionally atheological corporations’ – I must say I haven’t encountered `atheological’ before – `compelling their employees to say “Merry Christmas”‘ are more at home at Vox or some other thoughtless, extremist, illiberal, anti-Enlightened site.

  24. Jan de Jong says

    Trump will turn out to be one of the better presidents, never mind the culture wars,

    • Greg Lorriman says

      I would live to agree with you, but he’s already proven not to have the spine.

      Ref: Assad, caged children etc.

    • He’ll go down as one of the worst. Easily the most corrupt. Surpasses the old winner, Harding, by a considerable margin.

      If collusion is proven, he’ll be the most traitorous. Will make Aaron Burr (a VP and not president, but still) look downright patriotic by comparison.

      He’s easily the most idiotic. They managed to hide Reagan’s mental decline, but Trump is on full view with his covfefe and word salads.

      He was president only to his base. Everyone else could go to hell, according to him and his party.

      Though with the tariffs, oversized tax cuts, and other economic mismanagement, he betrayed many of the white working class which made up his base. The tariffs alone are driving up prices and fueling layoffs. The tax cuts are increasing the deficit by a large margin, and will push economic inequality to new heights. The deregulation of the markets will allow the same mistakes as in the 2000s. And will have the same results for the economy.

      He’s horrific on the environment. He’s admitted there will be a huge temperature gain by 2100, but he’s stated profits are more important. Future generations will curse his name for this alone.

      His racism and sexism are on full display. His disinterest and dislike for democratic principles are clear. His policies of family separation, children in cages, and mass detention camps will be considered criminal.

      Historians will not consider him one of the better presidents. They will have a struggle finding anything redeemable about him. When the books are written about the Decline and Fall of the United States, Trump will play a central role. Future historians will find it difficult to talk about Trump because they’ll have difficulty controlling their laughter. That such an idiot could be given the reins of power will seem utterly ridiculous. As it should.

  25. codadmin says

    President Trump has never mentioned his race, even once. The fascist left and their never ending conspiracy theories about ‘dog whistles’ are, as ever and always, projections of themselves onto the people they hate.

  26. Victoria says

    Claire Lehman’s published this weak, bias-ridden article because it comports with her own blinding anti-Trump animus.

    There’s too many unsupported or fallacious claims to get into them, but from the comments this appeals to the sort of puritanical Christian (and atheistic leftist) comfortable with bearing false witness against Trump via unhinged hyperbole or simple false hoods. The ‘children in cages’ trope is a perfect example of their dishonesty.

    • Children were put in cages by a deliberate Trump policy. Families were separated at the border. Hundreds of children are still separated from the parents while the administration does nothing.

      The fact you could gloss over it shows the moral depravity of Trump supporters. There’s nothing redeeming about any of you.

      People like you are why I’ll never trust a Christian again. You turn a blind eye because you want the power. You want millions to suffer. You mistake pain for Christian love. Your churches are dying a slow death, and the world will be far better when evangelicalism falls into the dustbin of history.

      • If the parents were with children while committing any other crime, would you not think the children would be separated, and the “cages” were temporary and not something like an animal is put into, but instead of fenced area (unless schools with fencing are also cages to you).

        • In many, if not most, of the family-separation immigration cases, the parents were seeking asylum. Which is not a crime. US law allows an asylum seeker to cross the border. If they cross the border illegally, it is not held against them while the asylum case proceeds. This is the law Trump has decided to ignore.

          This was the policy during the Obama administration. Keep families together. This was also true of previous administrations. The Trump Administration made the deliberate choice to separate families.

          In cases of real crimes, the children are not imprisoned themselves. They are either placed with relatives, or placed in foster care. In most cases, the children are later reunited with their parents, so long as the parent’s crime didn’t involve child abuse.

          The detention centers inhumane treatment of their charges is well documented. Being in cages for hours a day is well documented. There are numerous documented accusations of sexual abuse and forced psychiatric medication against these children.

          But feel free to turn a blind eye and make excuses for this abhorrent behavior. I expect no kindness these days from conservative Christians, and I’d expect no better from you.

          • Greg Lorriman says

            cs “If they cross the border illegally, it is not held against them while the asylum case proceeds. This is the law Trump has decided to ignore.”

            And there are also a whole lot of criminals, people traffickers and sex traffickers among them, pretending to be parents. Illegal immigration is not the lovely scene you paint.

            They should assuredly be separated from their ‘parents’, at least until the facts are verified.

            Further, the dangers that the real parents have exposed their chidlren to also dictate a firm policy.

            An additionaly, firm treatment to discourage more of the same. There is, after all, a legitimate way for these people to get ‘asylum’ in the US, and they are not using it.

            This is how adults think. But the Democrat hive-mind has become saturated with emotional blackmail.

          • Diana Ayala says

            I How can you live with yourself as you type that Obama kept families together when the pic of kids in cages was from 2014?! These people claimed to be asylum-seekers but are and were economic migrants. It’s actually a huge joke in Honduras- people know that gringos will let them in if they claim to be fleeing gangs or violence. I work with nonprofits who help these people. True story: many have confided to em in Spanish that they made something up so they could get jobs here and send money back home.

          • Isaac says

            “This was the policy during the Obama administration. Keep families together.”

            Lie.

            The worst photos of the “children in cages” story were from 2014, when the crises of overwhelmed border agencies was at its most chaotic. Democrats downplayed the situation, insisting that it not be “politicized.” Of course, once there was a Republican in the White House, all bets were off, and photos from 2014 were paraded on TV and in magazines as if they were current.

            This strategy seems to have worked on certain…sheep-like voters, who repeat talking points such as yours.

  27. Caligula says

    “conservative Christians are a bloc that votes largely in unison”? Do you have any evidence to support this?

    “What makes this possible is that conservative Christianity’s narrow set of values and beliefs get converted into a rigid set of political pursuits and goals.” If social conservatism is among this “rigid set” then this has been a spectacular failure, as social norms continue to move ever further from traditional norms.

    And then there’s (dare I say it?) Trump. It appears that most conservative Christians voted for Trump. One can explain this as self-interest, as many perceived Obama and Clinton to represent threats to religious freedom. But, one can hardly explain this as a manifestation of social conservatism, as these voters can’t be unaware that Trump openly and notoriously violates most traditional social norms.

    “But since Christian conservatism is built to withstand pressures to adapt, it becomes susceptible to all kinds of grifters and status-seekers.” It certainly does, but, are not all political movements “built to withstand pressures” and “susceptible to … grifters and status seekers”? Even if one stipulates that this is true of Christian conservatism, is it UNIQUELY so, or even MORE SO than other political movements? If so, where’s your data to support these assertions?

    “These organizations exist to secure a singular objective: the social and political hegemony of Christian moral teaching.” Are they seeking Christian hegemony, or merely attempting to retain some space in the culture where they may express and follow Christian values (as they see them) without paying a very high price to do so? What makes you think they are seeking “hegemony”??

    “Increasingly, this [The Right-Wing Media Ecosystem” is the most decisive source of Christian political power. ” If so then there’s surely not much to get upset about, as anyone who looks can see that practically all media is overwhelmingly and massively hostile toward social conservatism and conservative Christians.

    Liberal orthodoxy rules The New York Times, the Washington Post, all the alphabet TV networks (with the sole exception of Fox), all the big-name book publishers, as well as Hollywood and, of course, all the elite (and most not-so-elite) college campuses. Everywhere one looks, Liberal Orthodoxy dominates the towering heights of American culture.

    Is just knowing that dissenters from this orthodoxy exist (and likely are plotting to proselytise their distasteful views!) so threatening to you that you feel they must be silenced? Or, perhaps, you could just be magnanimous enough to ignore these deplorables, even as they cling to their guns and religion and reject all that you find new and brave and admirable?

    • Caligula: Although I don’t agree with all your points, I want to thank you for actually engaging with the author’s claims and making arguments against his assertions!

    • Isaac says

      Wrong. Christianity teaches submission to God alone, and to authority insofar as they aren’t telling you to do anything wrong.

      The entire book of Acts is a story of a series of acts of brave civil disobedience.

      You are also wrong about them ending up on the far right or left. Most evangelicals are moderate conservatives and are not terribly political. You might catch an occasional political discussion at a church picnic, but at any university you’ll be swamped with nothing but childish political talking points.

  28. John Koontz says

    Trump’s appeal to Evangelicals and other conservatives is far less complex than this article cynically suggests. Unlike liberals and Never-Trumpers, they are not obsessed with his character. Their support has almost nothing to do with who he is but with what he does. And what he does is fight (he has all the right adversaries) and appoint judges and justices whose judicial philosophies reflect their deeply-held (as unquestionably distinguishable from his) understanding of the world. That he has also moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem only tightens the bond. But the trust is not unalterable. He gets a pass only on personal misbehavior. It is highly unlikely he’d ever get one on critical policy miscues.

    • McFly says

      This strikes me as perhaps the most “true” and accurate comment posted thus far… You demonstrate a nuanced understanding of what drives support for Trump as if you have interacted with a few and bothered to listen to what they have to say.

      Weird.

    • Indeed, that was EXPLICITLY the campaign promise Trump made. That he would support evangelical policies in exchange for their votes in a purely transactional exchange. A guy who wrote “The Art of the Deal” made a deal with his voters.

      Evangelicals supported Boy Scouts form the GOPe for years, only to get screwed. They also watched Democrats not get punished for supporting scoundrels (just look at the Clintons). Finally it was really really obvious how much contempt the GOPe had for them just below the surface. The lesson they learned is that voting for ineffectual Boy Scouts that secretly despise them isn’t what they needed.

      I ask a simple question. Who hates evangelicals behind closed doors. Democrats certainly did (openly). The GOPe certainly did. Did Trump? Trump didn’t hate anyone. Not actively being hated by the candidate you vote for is the best evangelicals have done in decades.

  29. MyRoyal-ness:) says

    Before anyone calls anyone else a “christian”, they should have to read the new testament in its entirety, as a study, with major focus on the four gospels, and then place labels where they belong. (This does not mean read “college” ideas of what a christian is; that is pretty much catholic dogma and often an absolute misrepresentation of new testament scripture.)

    Now, I’m going to suggest that I’m the black, neo-liberal crown prince of Norway and you need to title me so. If you respond to this, please write “Your Majesty, Prince Onyx of Norway, Liberator of the Oppressed, Supporter of Global Socialism, ” to reinforce the silliness of allowing someone a title just because they claim it. (For those of you whose brain is stuck on the racism default button you can go with “Your, Racist Highness” which will be almost as accurate as the other.)

    Christianity is a PERSONAL relationship with God. What a Christian does and how they act in their personal life will show whether or not they follow Christ. Now to upset nearly everyone at once, I’ve read the Bible several times and MOST professing christians are not actually followers of Jesus of Nazareth (aka “Christians”).

    Politics is another matter entirely and there is no perfect way of voting personal values. All people should do what they honestly believe is best for the safety and wellbeing of the individuals of their OWN nation. I agree with many liberal ideas but I can not support those who are ok with the murder of our unborn citizens. “Christians” supporting pro-choice? Killing the unborn is not following Jesus so how can they be Christian? (Spoiler: they can’t)

    Let me give you another example. As a nation, we need working immigration laws. Our laws need fixed, but we still need immigration laws. It is my duty as a citizen of the USA to vote to protect our borders. It is my duty as a believer in God to show compassion and concern for criminal aliens and to offer charity as I insist on the enforcement of our laws. It is also my duty to treating both native and alien as just as possible. I would never go to another country and break their laws while expecting that the consequences will be less than a native of that country (or to be praise and given special, preferential treatment and financial assistance). Parents committing crimes with their children in tow are negligent; a US citizen who broke into a home, even if it was to demand food and shelter, would be arrested and their children confiscated. True or not? You can feel for their situation, but the law must be upheld and you cannot vilify the law enforcer and glorify the criminal. If you either #1 are nasty to illegals or #2 show preference to illegals over the rights of citizens and say you are a “Christian”, you need to reflect because you’re not following the teachings of Jesus. Justice AND compassion, not one or the other, compassion AND justice are needed here. The law must be upheld and upheld humanely.

    People SHOULD help other humans. But it must be a personal choice and not a theft of their income to support someone else’s ideas of charity (in the form of taxes for support of other nations; usually, and sadly, quid pro quo to the harm of BOTH nations.) Personal charity and/or support of private, humanitarian organizations that provide WANTED education (not indoctrination), nutrition and healthcare to the needy are where we should do these things. People should be respect to give as their hearts lead them, not as their politicians bleed them. If you want to help the suffering masses of the world, a nation’s government is not the place to do this. You can figure that out in the word “government”. That is to be the head over a body for the interest of the body: the governed. The values of our diverse people are so very different from each other; using force of government to suppress one voice, while giving voice to others, causes conflict. Forcing your will on others is not ok and, yes, it is also not “Christian”. Jesus said leave the “blind leading the blind” alone to fall in their pit when they reject sound teaching. He didn’t say force the teaching by rule of law.

    My last example, if Mike wants to call himself Lolita Lorayne, OK! But, no one should be force to respect that beyond not being physically violent or verbally obnoxious in public places. People cannot go around stalking and harassing someone just because they do not like or agree with them. No one should feel it is ok to see Mike/Lolita at a restaurant, having dinner, and then verbally attack and harass him/her. Though people seem to think it is ok to attack political opponents and religious adherents. The behavior of the harasser is vile and disgusting, whoever the attacker and whoever their target. We all should be allowed to think, speak and live in the peace we are most comfortable. If we do not physically harm person, property or depriving someone of the liberty to complete their public activities.

    Real quick, If you call yourself a “christian” and you think divorce and remarriage is ok but homosexuality isn’t, you are deceived. If you call yourself a “christian” but you are flippant about heterosexual fornication, you are deluded. If you are a fornicator or you have a living “ex-spouse” and are committing adultery with your new “spouse”, you are in the same boat as is the professing christian homosexual. Embrace to truth.

    As to the president, get over it. God is in charge and if He wanted H.C. to be president, she would be. God uses all sorts, like psycho pharaoh and nebuchadnezzar and ceasar and pilot. Not such nice dudes, but GREAT for moving mountains.

  30. This article perfectly sums up what is so wonderful about Quillette; they don’t only pay lip service to such ideas as freedom of expression, open-mindedness and free dialogue. This is a perfect example of how journalism should work, without walking on glass to risk offending it’s readership. I find Mr.Belvedere’s arguments compelling and as one who grew up in an deeply conservative, Christian environment, I can concur that these concerns over the Christian Right’s power are well justified.

    • Everything someone refers to the author as “Mr. Belvedere” I can’t help but think of the title character from 80s sitcom of the same name …

  31. Yes, Christians are rushing from victory to victory in the culture wars, whether on abortion, gay marriage, offensive lyrics in popular music, transgenderism, pornography, marijuana prohibition.

    The height of Christian cultural power in this country was probably the Scopes monkey trial.

    Please stop trolling the readers of Quillette.

    P.S. Its Evangelical Christians, not “Christians”, being the fanatics who brought us Women’s Suffrage and Prohibition back in the day (to protect the Republic against those awful Patriarchical Papists who drank alcohol and who’s women wouldn’t vote anyways being barefoot and pregnant.)

    • If I had a god, it would have to be tfr, because the tribe with higher tfr usually ends up dominating the tribe with low tfr.

      Likewise, groups with low tfr might have better rational arguments than a group with high tfr, but I trust the group with bad arguments and higher tfr to prevail in the end. It is as if might makes right.

    • They lost scopes. And the mainline protestants where on the pro scopes (read pro eugenics) side while the ordinary folk type Christians were on the pro humanitarian side (go read what scopes was about).

      Of course perhaps they were wrong (maybe the eugenicists were right), but at least they were trying to be charitable and christian when they opposed evolution.

      • No, they won the trial, then lost the appeal. A recurring theme in Christian cultural conservatism. The same way they win in the legislature then lose in the Courts.

        The real sign of a powerful minority group is that you lose in the legislatures but win in Courts (like slave owners in the 1850’s).

        • The best existential refutation of secularism:

          https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40806-017-0090-z

          Results reveal that average parental fertility varied considerably according to religious groups, with Muslims being the most religious and the most fertile and Jews and Buddhists being the least. Within most religious groupings, religiosity was positively associated with parental fertility. While cross-sectional in nature, when our results are combined with evidence that both religiosity and fertility are substantially heritable traits, findings are consistent with view that earlier trends toward secularization (due to science education surrounding advancements in science) are currently being counter-balanced by genetic and reproductive forces. We also propose that the inverse association between intelligence and religiosity, and the inverse correlation between intelligence and fertility lead to predictions of a decline in secularism in the foreseeable future.

  32. Jezza says

    I am a Christian, and I take refuge in the fact that I am not in charge of anything, let alone my own life. I have done that which I ought not to have done, and left undone that which I ought to have done. However, I do try to live according to my maker’s instructions, especially the exhortation to love one another, that is, to do good to others. I sometimes find it very difficult to love my enemies and to achieve the spiritual tranquility that stance requires. Forgiveness is prerequisite. In my world, forgiveness is not ‘letting the criminal get away with it’ but rather unburdening one’s self of hatred and festering malice in order to see more clearly. The criminal will always carry the burden of his crime, but you will be free.

    Do I believe the Bible to be infallible? It was written by men, so no, I don’t. There is a line in a poem about young girls by Rupert Brooke: “Thoughts go blowing through them that are wiser than their own.” I think the same applies to biblical authors. Take for example the story of creation in Genesis. It follows the same sequence of events that some scientists now assert was what actually happened. How did the authors know? Don’t ask me.

    What I find most compelling about the Bible’s historical record is its warts and all approach. Nothing is glossed over or watered down. Abraham was a craven liar, Moses was a murderer, Lot gave his daughter to the crowd so his male guest would not be pack raped, David committed adultery and conspired to have the husband killed – and you complain about Donald Trump not being perfect! Oy vay!

  33. Bruce says

    What a load of horse crap. Ideologically possessed incongruent reasoning is not analysis. This has to be tactical and purposeful, in-your-face projection. For instance, the absolute fact of reality is that the media is with rare exception simply a democrat party pamphlet outlet. So to counter that the author uses the phrase “The Right-Wing Media Ecosystem” as if it even existed. Here’s another gem, “the proposition that mainstream outlets are incorrigibly liberal. This is largely a fiction.” This is enough to brand the author a flat out liar, but it actually carries a more sinister air than that. It’s inconceivable that the author actually accepts his own proposition, so in the end this is a person looking you straight in the face while kicking your dog, hoping your kid in the next room will hate you for it. It’s at the core an expression of the demonic left – a dissonant chattering buzz of fiendishness.

    • Bruce, it’s more than a little ironic that you include the claim “ideologically possessed incongruent reasoning is not analysis” in a post that denies the existence of right-wing media (have you heard of Fox News, Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh, etc.?), makes an ad hominem attack against Belvedere, and calls the left “demonic.” Fiendish ideologue, heal thyself.

  34. Sutter says

    “conservative Christians are a bloc that votes largely in unison”

    I hope to God (Atheist here, by the way) that others saw this terrible logical fallacy.

    Begging the question.

    To be conservative is defined by working to create conservative social norms. A liberal who lives out all the values conservatives differ from liberals on: gender roles, monogamy, non-promiscuity, dressing modestly, not doing illegal drugs, never divorcing, etc. is still a liberal. And most liberals DO live these kinds of lives. But they are liberal because they do not believe in enforcing these things as norms in any way at all – not by laws, or by informal social expectation.

    And instead, liberals often hold up and praise those who buck the norms, hoping to promote a future where they do not exist. This is their way of promoting new norms.

    Part of promoting norms is voting for candidates that will find ways to institute those norms – or even to simply verbally promote them. Liberals vote Democrat, conservatives vote Republican.

    Thus, the fact that the subset of Christians that are conservatives will vote for Republicans is contained in the definition of “conservative Christians.”

    —————————————————————————————————–
    So is it tribalism?

    It is not obviously pure tribalism.

    Some research findings show that people who join churches generally do so BECAUSE they are sexually conservative. In other words, churches are places for conservatives to find companionship because it is so difficult to do so in the wider world. Most members of churches basically don’t believe the dogma-this is what they mean when they say that they have “struggles with doubt.” Most members of churches dropped away from the faith as teens, and rejoined church as adults to have a “healthy” social environment in which to socialize their kids.

    This undermines the idea that conservative Christianity is purely an identity group that just votes for its race or tribe. Instead, it is an ideological voting block that is creating a community. We have a chicken-and-egg, cart before the horse issue here.

    As far as keeping American traditions alive or whatever, and being conservative on culture or immigration, I suppose you could call this identity politics, but only in arguing that conservatism itself is a form of identity politics. I would somewhat agree with that. Conservatism can be seen in that light. But most of us would rather not reduce the multi-dimensional phenomenon of conservation of culture to one dimension.

  35. Solomon says

    The paper contains factual lies. It is amazing I found it in Q.

    • Rashid Haddad says

      Agreed. The article is nothing but one long hate speech against Christians.

  36. Rashid Haddad says

    I’m shocked that Quillette would publish such anti-Christian hatred. And why is it assumed that Christian=right-wing. I am both but I also know many left-wing Christians and many right-wing liberals. The author of this article is filled with hate and bigotry.

    • Circuses and Bread says

      @Rashid

      So I guess we can look forward to an article written by you? I don’t say that to be flippant; I think that many of the commentators here are better than most of what I see in articles elsewhere.

      I happen to have liked this article. I’d also like to see a well written opposing viewpoint/article.

  37. What happened to this website? It’s turning into yet another liberal/progressive propaganda mill. I can read mindless anti-Christian screeds soaked in religious bigotry from 100s of other sites. Quillette’s unique contribution was offering rational opinion articles that were solidly based on facts and ran counter to conventional wisdom. Writers such as Coleman Hughes. Is that ethos gone?

  38. As a former Evangelical pastor, professor, and publisher who has supported Quillette from the beginning, I found this article was. huge *miss*. The author has, at best, a superficial grasp of the recent history of Christian political engagement. But kudos to Claire et al for opening the dialogue. A more *knowledgeable* writer would help.

  39. CameronH says

    If this site keeps putting up these pseudo far left intellectuals and their BS they will eventually just become another VOX or Huff post. I am becoming less inclined to come here.

    • augustine says

      Maybe real far left intellectuals would not deign to offer their views on a site like this one? Or instead of aversion they have submitted something but were rejected?

  40. Jonah Elbert says

    The article is unfortunate, since it is quick to jump into conclusions not necessitated by the circumstances considered. For example, the author claims that trump is basically exploiting Evangelical Christians’ naivete by posing as pandering to their cause for political gains. No evidence is presented for this statement.

    As much as human behavior is multifaceted, it is likely that Trump would in few situations decide to conform to “Christian standards” in order to gain approval. But that’s not usually the case. Take for example the start of his rise during the 2016 campaigns. Trump was first and foremost boisterous about illegal immigration and the threat of radical Islam to the country. On the onset, that coincides with conservative perspective on the issues, but whether Trump was devious merely to win evangelical support doesn’t make sense. This is the “fallacy of causation”. That two things agree with each other doesn’t mean one is caused by the other. Trump’s ardent stance predates campaign, as is everyone who holds to the belief and won’t classify themselves “Christian”.

    It is true that Trump’s personality might not have rest comfortably with more traditional evangelical minds, but as what appears, they value the protection and acknowledgment of Christian ideals, common sense politics, and freedom of religion, than mere brashness and imaginary “isms”.

  41. “[T]he nationalistic, race-baiting, fear-mongering form of politics enthusiastically practiced by Mr. Trump and Roy Moore in Alabama is central to a new strain of American evangelicalism. This emerging religious worldview—let’s call it “Fox evangelicalism”—is preached from the pulpits of conservative media outlets like Fox News. It imbues secular practices like shopping for gifts with religious significance and declares sacred something as worldly and profane as gun culture.”

    Honestly, I think I stopped reading here.

    I don’t really hate this article, but if this is a “superb” article, I’m not particularly willing to engage this piece.

    The whole “Donald Trump’s a racist” talking point has been oft repeated-and never substantiated.

  42. Grant says

    This is not a good description of the ‘religious right’ in America. How could it be? There are many tens of thousands of small churches all over this country, of which many are conservative. There is no right wing Christian cabal of of personality cult mega preachers giving marching orders to their minions. They are people who find stability and support in small communities.
    They voted for Trump out of pragmatism. They found Clinton immoral and lacking as well as Trump and voted largely, I think on the hope of conservative Supreme Court nominees which they see as a bulwark against an erosion of their liberties and legal attacks on their faith and culture.
    Turns out they made a wise choice.

  43. Isaac says

    This is really a bizarre read. It exactly and perfectly fails to reflect reality. The politicization of Christianity was attempted by groups such as the Christian Coalition in the 80s and 90s, with poor results…and then completely fizzled out. Pat Robertson, a central figure among them, was a fringe character then and all but completely invisible now. The “Christian Right” only remains a powerful political force in scary stories (such as this) told by those less-religious and less-Right.

    This observable reality should have been punctuated by the Never-Trumping of Trump by the majority of evangelicals…who backed Cruz, Jindal, Rubio, Jeb and others in lieu of Trump, and whose moral objections to Trump’s lifestyle proved irrelevant in the new political climate. This article completely missed that story. And now here we are, quote-mining select evangelicals (out of the context of their general skepticism of Trump) and trying to shine up The Donald as some sort of evangelical icon, when in fact he represents the growing irrelevance of evangelicals among the political Right.

    The Heritage Foundation, Federalist Society and so forth are broadly conservative and/or libertarian organizations that are supported by Christians for a very obvious reason: because they are holding the line for the propagation of certain objective realities that are out of fashion, but important to Christians. Evangelical, Bible-Believing Christians are a shrinking segment of society with very little clout. Since Christians do not, in fact, wield any mass-media outlets or major think-tanks all their own, the alternative to supporting broadly conservative outlets would be to either back only tiny church-level endeavors, or to just shrug and enjoy endless think-pieces about the joys of cuckoldry and the evils of monogamy, by the likes of Salon.com.

    Similarly, you can’t acknowledge the dichotomous nature of general elections? Christians are forced to debate between political candidates in terms relative to their opponents, not to Jesus. When a Christian says something nice about Trump, it is generally in light of his alternative. If rejection of Trump due to his repulsive personal character means voting for Hillary Clinton, of equally repulsive personal character AND more likely than Trump to propel the country in an objectively bad direction, AND entirely indebted to a string of corporate donors, then rejection of Trump becomes a hypocritical and self-defeating virtue-signal. “Lesser of two evils” isn’t just a rationalization, it’s also the end-point of the “greatest good” ethical principle in American elections.

  44. Maxwell says

    The idea that the left has become quasi-religious and operate on faith not reason or evidence is an analysis worth making, because they deny it. The revelation that self-avowed religious people are actually engaged in religious-style thinking is not.

  45. Area Man says

    I’m an atheist who has been acutely aware over the past 20 years of fundamentalist Christian encroachment on politics in general and the public sphere in particular. The concern with potential damage from Christian theocracy in the US transfers neatly to Islamic theocracies elsewhere. To see “Regressives” who were so quick to condemn Christian politics while ignoring Islamic politics is when the worm turned for me. Now I regard the social justice culture as more dangerous than anything I’ve seen in my lifetime from the Religious Right.

  46. Pingback: The Trampling March Of Christian Political Power – Reacle

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