Wednesday, March 01, 2006

First Epistle to Saint James the Apostate

Why might a person who is theoretically hostile to religion argue that religion is still necessary?

The article has its ideological blinders, to be sure.

The author might have shelved some bitterness at the "patriarchy" by noting the serious burdens that said system places upon men. Men may theoretically become more powerful under such a system, but in reality, they are also drastically more controlled -- and an emphasis on male self-control is a consistent hallmark of traditional patriarchies. There are good reasons why those seemingly bizarre homemakers' tracts of the 1950s seemed to make sense at the time... Technology has changed quite a lot. Even in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it took somebody performing hard work (in the 19th century, back-breaking work) in order to keep a home a fit place to live. Ever done a few loads of laundry without mechanical assistance? In the winter?

It seems to me that most of what the author decribes can readily be described as the results of societies that have become fundamentally out of balance. Modern secular dogmas become ideologically myopic to the point of solipsism... and why make a life-altering, permanent investment in the heavy duties of parenthood, if one has no concrete notion of any good but one's own? (For instance, the supposed "activist" who never actually goes out to engage in charitable work, but only critiques others' attempts to do so on ideological grounds. Said activist may remain ideologically pure by his standards, and thus avoid creating harm, but he generally does little to no good, either). Religion tends to become the counterweight by default, since no purely philosophical -- atheistic, agnostic, or even simply apathetic -- system of thought has ever been devised that sufficiently orients large members of societies away from themselves and towards other people the way that healthy religion does. Some of the unhealthily individualistic (and I'm speaking here as a publicly-avowed "small-l" libertarian) ideologies of the 20th century are already becoming known as profoundly solipsistic failures in this respect.

If Mr. Longman wants an antidote to "Patriarchy" as he sees it, he should seriously work to devise a philosophical system that will allow for individualism without the demographically crushing solipsism that often attends it, and which therefore will square the circle, and use a secular argument to preach satisfaction in providing for others. I could devise a philosophy like this off the top of my head in about twenty minutes. Whether such a philosophy would be acceptable to Longman is a bad bet: it would be explicitly futurist and consistently expansionist. Whether it would be accepted, and prove, over time, to be more *effective* than religion, is another bet entirely, and one I wouldn't put much money on. However hostile Longman may be to religion, it is quite clear that, society can measure religion according to secular standards, and discover secular arguments in favor for it.

Religion *works.*

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