The Corner

Theocrats and All That

Via Andrew Sullivan a fascinating article by Mark Lilla from the New York Times. I certainly don’t agree with everything Lilla has to say – far from it, but this passage (also highlighted by Sullivan) is worth repeating here:

“The leading thinkers of the British and American Enlightenments hoped that life in a modern democratic order would shift the focus of Christianity from a faith-based reality to a reality-based faith. American religion is moving in the opposite direction today, back toward the ecstatic, literalist and credulous spirit of the Great Awakenings. Its most disturbing manifestations are not political, at least not yet. They are cultural. The fascination with the ”end times,” the belief in personal (and self-serving) miracles, the ignorance of basic science and history, the demonization of popular culture, the censoring of textbooks, the separatist instincts of the home-schooling movement — all these developments are far more worrying in the long term than the loss of a few Congressional seats.”

Of course, it’s worth making the point (Lilla doesn’t) that home schooling is often itself a reaction (and a very understandable reaction at that) to the other rising superstition of our time – you might call it, in fact, “ectstatic, literalist and credulous” – the multiculturalist mush and leftist slush that has invaded America’s education system and done so much to trash the study of history, of science and, yes, censor textbooks.

In fact there’s a nice little example of the way in which liberalism has swapped reason for dreams, fantasy and paranoia in a book review from today’s Financial Times. No link available so this one-fingered typist will transcribe it. It’s an (unsigned) review of a book called The Last Crusade: The Influence of the Christian Right on American foreign policy by Barbara Victor. Here goes:

“Victor analyses the accession of the religious right from relative obscurity to the forefront of US politics. She charts the gradual erosion of secular democracy, as politicians respond to the zeitgeist, channeling anxiety and popular desire for revenge into biblical patriotism. Saturated with religious influence, America has borne witness to the accession of a potentially dangerous “theocracy”…..

Its no good, I can’t go on.

Look, I share Derb’s profound skepticism about some aspects of the religious right (and accept the label – if not the spelling – as one of Jonah’s ’skepticons’), but this sort of talk is, I’m afraid, simply nuts.


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