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Saturday, September 02, 2023

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I agree with your rejection of Catholic integralism or, indeed, any Christian variant of it, for as you persuasively argue in “Integralism in Three Sentences,” in our present, earthly state “when it comes to the final purpose of human life and how to attain it, there is reasonable belief, but no knowledge.” Although this position runs counter to that of the Catechism, which doctrinally affirms “that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason,” I know of no philosophic arguments that justify this conclusion; here below, we must content ourselves with faith, and one could reasonably argue that this is in fact what one would expect from scripture, where faith, rather than reason is repeatedly the path toward God. Thus, Christ tells those who come to him devotedly for healing of one kind or another, “Your faith has saved you” (Lk 7:50). With the few exceptions that make the divine presence “clearly seen” (Romans 1:20), the New Testament narratives relate over and over again that belief arises out the personal transformations induced by the wonders and words of Christ, including his Resurrection, but it always requires an existential choice, a metanoia, in which the old way of seeing things, of living is abandoned in a leap of faith and love toward him and his truth. When personally present here on Earth, many saw and heard the Second Person and yet could not make this leap. Are we to expect that all or most are willing or able to do it now? If not, then no matter what teleology guides the practice and law of a state, many or most will continue to diverge from the Christian path and follow others, whether theist, agnostic, or atheistic. The mysteries that surround final things will never be resolved either by reason or law, and any state that seeks to impose its viewpoint will necessarily be authoritarian or worse.

It is a very good thing for the cause of Freedom, that institutional Christianity is not unified, for 969 years and counting now. I myself am a believer, but under a theocracy, I would last for about 10 minutes.

Hello Bill,

Thank you for linking to your blog post from March 16, 2022. In it you say that Catholic integralists make the following claims…

First, every human life has an ultimate purpose. Second, the purpose is not different for different people…Third, the final common purpose is known and not open to doubt or debate…Fourth, the final common purpose is to know, love, and serve God in this world, and to be happy with him in the next.
You go onto say that if these four claims are true, then political order must be subordinate to eternal order, and furthermore, “…classical liberalism, with its commitments to religious liberty, free speech, the right to dissent, and separation of church and state, is an erroneous and pernicious political philosophy.”

The rest of your post argues against the Catholic Integralist on the basis that they do not know these claims. You say…

Only if it were known to be true could it be justifiably imposed via the awesome and coercive power of the State.
You propose a limited government with limited coercion. Given human nature, we need government to provide guardrails. But, given the coercive nature of government along with powers that are often abused, you think it should be limited. Your view is an “American conservatism” that avoids the “extremes of anarchism, libertarianism, socialism, communism and ‘wokeism’ as well as the various form of reaction whether of the alternative right or the throne-an-altar variety.”

I agree with much of this; however, it seems to me that what you are proposing, if it were possible to achieve, does not deal with the root of the problem. I am convinced that the issue is the secularism that evolved under these classically liberal ideas. Your “American conservatism” seems to presuppose governmental secularism. Why should we accept this? Looking at some of its fruits, for example, the fallout of the French Revolution and the current state of society, we have good reason to question this presupposition.

Another concern I have is your criteria for the use of the coercive power of the State. The criteria seems to be along the lines that since we cannot know, ‘P’, then the state cannot impose ‘P’. Yet, I (the state) impose on my household certain rules of conduct based on beliefs that you, Bill, say I do not know. Am I acting unjustly when I enforce these rules of conduct? If not, then what about the rules of conduct I impose on my business or the rules of conduct for a church, a club or other civic group that are imposed? What about rules of conduct for a community, a village, a town, a city or a state? It seems we are drawing lines and the real debate is where those lines ought to be drawn.

Many of the classically liberal commitments you mentioned above are limited to one degree or another by the state. One cannot yell “Fire!” in a crowded theatre. If one dissents in the wrong way, they go to jail for treason. Certain unsavory religious practices are not allowed. Clearly, there is nothing absolute about these freedoms. So, why not reject governmental secularism and explicitly embrace a broadly Judeo-Christian worldview where certain behaviors, duties, and activities are governed in alignment with this? This was the worldview presupposed by our Founders and one which they expected would undergird society.

Brian

Gentlemen,

I am pleased that we agree on the rejection of theocracy in all its forms. It is interesting (to put it mildly) that the Left has its own 'theocracy.' I call it Leftocracy and have more than once called for the separation of Left and state. What the Leftocrat does is substitute for God (or rather God's putative earthly representatives) the State and those who control it -- in the present situation from behind the scenes, with the hapless Joe Biden as puppet and mouthpiece.

There will never be theocracy in the USA, but there is now a dangerous form of Leftocracy in power hard at work destroying our constitutional republic. The leftocrats have taken over a once-respectable party, the Democrats, and have found a willing propaganda arm in the so-called 'legacy media.' With the exception of a small number of media outlets, e.g., Newsmax and Fox, the Fourth Estate has abdicated.

The numero uno example of leftist skullduggery is the 'lawfare' against DJT. But no one is safe, as witness the treatment of the Jan 6 trespassers.
Members of the "far-right, extremist Oath Keepers" (in lefty lingo) have been handed down harsh sentences. Here is the Oath Keepers website for you to decide how far right and extreme they are. https://usaoathkeepers.com/


As I have said many times, the bare fact my linkage does not constitute endorsement, in whole or in part, unless I say otherwise. But if you have an ounce of moral decency, and any concern for the truth, you will want to know how the Oath Keepers see themselves.

Hi Brian,

I found your comment after posting @12:50. Had you not shown up, I was planning on referencing your comment about Christian Nationalism in another thread.

>>what you are proposing, if it were possible to achieve, does not deal with the root of the problem. I am convinced that the issue is the secularism that evolved under these classically liberal ideas. Your “American conservatism” seems to presuppose governmental secularism. Why should we accept this?<<

First of all, it is possible to achieve because it has been achieved. Second, You say that secularism is the root of the problem. If we are not to sink to the level of journalists, we need to define 'secularism.' I might agree with you on some definitions, but not on others. Your use of 'governmental secularism' suggests that one could be a governmental secularist with out being secularist in some other sense. Neither you nor I believe that this world exhausts reality. We do not live for the good things of this life. We are not worldlings. So there is a sense in which neither of us are secularists. See here: https://www.etymonline.com/word/secular

I am not secular (worldly) but I'll cop to being a gov't secularist in that I believe that gov't and its functions should be kept separate from the SPECIFICS of particular religions and confessions. Trinity and Incarnation, for example, are constitutive doctrines of normative Christianity. Do you think subscription to them should be required to hold a political office?

It seems to me that you and people on your side regularly commit the slippery slope fallacy. See here for something on slippery slope arguments.https://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2014/02/marriage-and-the-state-a-couple-of-objections-considered.html

You seem to think that if you permit religious liberty (which includes the right to practice no religion) then the slide to the toleration of Satanism and what all else is inevitable. Why inevitable? We draw and enforce lines all the time.

And don't you Protestants believe in the Protestant Principle to the effect that the individual has every right to form his own conscience and the read the Bible as he reads it without 'Romanist' interference? But look at what that has led to! How many thousands of Protestant sects and sub-sects are there? If your slippery slope arguments were any good, we would have to return to an endorsement of the RCC's teaching authority.

Response to Brian, Part II

>> Another concern I have is your criteria for the use of the coercive power of the State. The criteria seems to be along the lines that since we cannot know, ‘P’, then the state cannot impose ‘P’. Yet, I (the state) impose on my household certain rules of conduct based on beliefs that you, Bill, say I do not know. Am I acting unjustly when I enforce these rules of conduct? If not, then what about the rules of conduct I impose on my business or the rules of conduct for a church, a club or other civic group that are imposed? What about rules of conduct for a community, a village, a town, a city or a state? It seems we are drawing lines and the real debate is where those lines ought to be drawn.<<

Sorry to be a pedant, but 'criteria' is plural; the singular is 'criterion' and that is what you want.

What I said is rather more specific: when it comes to the big questions about God, the soul, our supernatural destiny, if any, etc. we have reasoned faith but not knowledge. But only if we had knowledge of these matters would agents of the state be justified in using coercive methods to force acceptance of beliefs about these matters. For example suppose I KNOW that you will be consigned to hell for all eternity if you do not accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior. Then would I not be justified in torturing you, even unto death, for your own ultimate good? After all, what is a little transient torture as compared to an eternity of misery? (The case of Galileo facing the Inquisition is relevant here. As you know he was shown the instruments of torture.)

And please note that the relation of government to citizens is so unlike that of father/parents to children that your analogy is best rejected. Suppose you know that your young son must for his own good undergo painful medical treatments. Then of course you are justified in forcing him to undergo them.

Hello Bill,

Thank you for such a quick response.

First of all, it is possible to achieve because it has been achieved.
I don’t think I said otherwise. My concern is that even if we were able to go back, what is to say that we would not end up right back here again? Is there a root cause that explains how we so badly got off the rails? I think there is, and that root cause has to do with the idea that government must be secular.
I am not secular (worldly) but I'll cop to being a gov't secularist in that I believe that gov't and its functions should be kept separate from the SPECIFICS of particular religions and confessions.
The attempt to bifurcate governmental functions from the specifics of particular religions seems to progress more and more towards a practical atheism. This view of government aligns more closely to an atheistic/secular worldview than it does the Judeo-Christian worldview assumed by the Founding Fathers. Again, I suggest this is where the problem lies.

You suggest that I am committing a slippery slope fallacy. Perhaps, I am guilty of this, but you have misunderstood my concern. In a previous comment I quoted John Adams stating the necessity of a moral and religious people for the adequacy of the Constitution to govern. The Judeo-Christian worldview provided the needed structure supporting such a people. This foundation has been slowly eroding and today is outrightly repudiated by many. Because of this, we have become disintegrated as a nation to the point where many of us feel disenfranchised. We have lost the tie that binds. We are no longer a moral and religious people. A prima facie case can be made that governmental secularism has contributed to and enabled this erosion. We fix this by abandoning this commitment to secularism and embrace the moral and religious foundation of the Judeo-Christian worldview.

No need to apologize for my misuse of ‘criteria’ when I should have used ‘criterion’. I will try to never make that mistake again. I appreciate the correction.

The point of the father/parent analogy was to say that we all necessarily draw lines as to how and when we apply these kinds of principles. You say that it is not properly applied to the father in his own home, I agree. Presumably, you would not apply this criterion to civic institutions, businesses, etc. Once again, I would agree with you. But when it comes to the government, you say we should apply this rule. Why draw the line there?

Lastly, I was recently introduced to Kevin Vallier (Associate Professor of Philosophy at Bowling Green) via a podcast. Oxford University Press just published (9.1.23) his All the Kingdoms of the World: On Radical Religious Alternatives to Liberalism. He presents Catholic Integralism and its attractions, and then presents a case against it along with other post-liberal solutions. I thought you and the other readers might be interested. I plan on purchasing the book.

Brian

It is a sobering thought, ladies and gentlemen, that in the history of Christendom, there have been heretical groups that held that all matter was evil; Cathars and, to a lesser extent, Albigenses, and these were wiped out; and here we sit not having to contend with a society that considers all, or most, of creation to be evil; our lives are arguably much better therefore, yet go back and look, it was bloody. And now, the old evil starts to show again when the environmentalists start to say that "humans are bad for the planet." What a mess it has been, and may yet be.

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