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Ed Driscoll

‘How Liberalism Became an Intolerant Dogma’

July 20th, 2014 - 3:29 pm

detroit_joe_louis_fist_10-6-13

“Liberals are increasingly religious about their own liberalism, treating it like a comprehensive view of reality and the human good,” Damon Linker writes at The Week:

From the dawn of the modern age, religious thinkers have warned that, strictly speaking, secular politics is impossible — that without the transcendent foundation of Judeo-Christian monotheism to limit the political sphere, ostensibly secular citizens would begin to invest political ideas and ideologies with transcendent, theological meaning.

Put somewhat differently: Human beings will be religious one way or another. Either they will be religious about religious things, or they will be religious about political things.

With traditional faith in rapid retreat over the past decade, liberals have begun to grow increasingly religious about their own liberalism, which they are treating as a comprehensive view of reality and the human good.

But liberalism’s leading theoreticians (Locke, Montesquieu, Jefferson, Madison, Tocqueville, Mill) never intended it to serve as a comprehensive view of reality and the human good. On the contrary, liberalism was supposed to act as a narrowly political strategy for living peacefully in a world of inexorably clashing comprehensive views of reality and the human good.

The key to the strategy was the promulgation of the pluralistic principle of toleration.

Which is why the proper response to the distinctive dogmatism of our time is to urge liberals to return to their tolerant roots. That’s what I’ve been trying to do in my own writing, and my efforts will continue until more liberals come to their senses and begin recalling their comrades to a robust defense of their own pluralistic principles.

Two comments: First, this is all old news to anyone who read Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism six year ago. And second, a return to liberalism’s “tolerant roots?” Good luck with that, champ.

(Photo at top of page of the Joe Louis fist memorial in Detroit, placed there in 1986, during the disastrous and racist 20 year reign of Democrat Mayor Coleman Young. Photo by James Marvin Phelps, Shutterstock.com.)

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All Comments   (10)
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“ Liberals are increasingly religious about their own liberalism”

The comparison of bad things: intolerance, liberalism (really communism, but why use the right name?) to religion is itself a sign of liberalism.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's Classical Liberalism, a product of the Enlightenment, culminating in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America. It was a breakaway from feudalism.

Modern "liberalism" (which is like calling the Sahara Desert an ocean) is rooted in marxism, which is simply feudalism updated for the Industrial Age
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Liberalism IS a religion, and one almost as old as humanity itself. It is just a secular (deity-free) version of Gnosticism.

Gnoticism teaches that human spirit was God, was cast to earth as a million points of light and is now trapped in the evil material. Only through the sufficient knowledge, can we return to be God. The process of being removed from God is called "alienation", a theme that should be familiar to students of Marx, even as he put a secular interpretation on it. Humanity could return to God when it achieved the perfect socialist condition. The foundational ideas of Gnosticism go back to the time of Plato.

This is not my pet theory, it comes from British philosopher R.T. Allen who wrote in his article "Flew, Marx and Gnosticism" (Philosophy Vol 68, No 263, (Jan, 1993):


"To understand [alienation] we have to go back behind Hegel, the immediate
source of Marx's ideas, to Hegel's own ultimate source: viz. Gnosticism.
For alienation is the central theme of Gnosticism, along with the
saving knowledge of how we became alienated, and from what, and of
how we can escape from it. That theme is summarized in the Valentinian
formula:

'What liberates is the knowledge of who we were, what we became;
where we were, whereinto we came; what birth is and what rebirth.'

All the Gnostic texts, though they differ in details, declare that we are
strangers, aliens, sparks of Light or Spirit trapped in evil matter. They
recount the cosmic process whereby the circles of the world have been
created, by ignorant or evil creators and not by the Light, and whereby
we have become entrapped in the midmost or deepest dungeon. Finally
they impart the knowledge needed to escape back to the one Light
whence we have come and which is our real home.

This is the pattern of thought that Hegel took over. But, rejecting all
other-worldliness, he sought to reconcile men to this world, of nature
and society, from which they had become estranged. We are the vehicles
of a self-creating Geist which, in order to become and to know
itself, has gone out into what is most alien to itself—the merely physical
world of Newtonian science—and is progressively coming thence to its
full self-realization and self-knowledge in and through human life and
history. With this knowledge, given by Hegel's own philosophy, man's
alienation from the world is in principle, overcome although Geist has
not yet fully realized itself in the world.

Marx took from Hegel two basic themes of Gnosticism, which Hegel
had secularized, and re-interpreted them in his own way: viz. the
cosmic drama of a fall into alienation from nature and one's fellow men,
and the saving knowledge, Marxism, which explains this and the way
out of alienation back to an unalienated existence. But in one central
respect Marx did not fully learn the lesson that Hegel had to teach him
about modifying ancient Gnosticism.

The Gnostic texts state that we are sparks of Light or fragments of
Spirit (pneuma), and imply that we are distinct from each other and
from the Light or Spirit only because of our fall or seduction into the
circles of the world. As we fell through each circle, we were clothed
with an outer covering. The return to the Light will be a reversal of that
process, so that, as we pass back through each circle we shall strip off
each coating. Consequently, but this is never stated, as far as I know, at
the end of that process each spark or fragment will cease to be distinct
and will merge back into the One Light or Spirit. Hence the End will be
the same as the Beginning."

Is this not the liberal vision, of achieving "a higher consciousness", now more commonly recast as "Singularity?" (NYT: "...that even death will be a thing of the past")

18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Damon Linker is the author of Theocons, Secular America Under Siege. He wrote this after a stint as an intern serving under the late Richard John Neuhaus at First Things magazine, a publication that PJM's David Goldman was writing for at the time. It was an insider hit piece where Linker gained the confidence of people he knew he was going to write lies about in order to profit personally. I don't care how well he writes about the positive role of religion in politics at this point. Everything the boy writes is not in service of the permanent things but in service of himself.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
cfbleachers, I'm not sure that there are any more "liberals" who can be peeled away from the "hard left". I think I know what you're talking about. There used to be a strong faction of the Democrats who were New Deal liberals on economic/domestic policy but were also honorable and patriotic. This goes back to Truman and the main representative for many years was Henry Jackson.

The last two I can think of were Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman and they got drummed out of the party. I voted Dem for many years but broke with the party when it was clear that what I call the "Michael Moore" faction was driving the bus. And the most distressing thing was that the party "elders" who should have known better went along with it for strictly political reasons.

Since then I have moved well to the right on economic issues as well, driven in part by the spectacle of the financial meltdown and subsequent bailout. Not quite a Tea Partier but very sympathetic. The lines are more clearly drawn now where the left believes in government solutions for all problems while the right is fighting for individual liberty. That is why our politics is increasingly divided and I don't think there is much middle ground any more.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Enlightenment liberalism of Locke and Montesquieu had to contend with the paleo-fascism of Rousseau from early on, Rousseau's "Will of the People" could not be mistaken. Of course that was the story of the French Revolution versus the American. The continent still lived with the echoes of living under the Roman centralized rule, while Britain and its American offspring did not.

Yes, Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism" is a good source for this argument. Also Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations", iirc.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
...a return to liberalism’s “tolerant roots?”

You go along with calling these leftists liberal? As Bob Newhart might say, Stop it! Just stop it!
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
"That’s what I’ve been trying to do in my own writing, and my efforts will continue until more liberals come to their senses and begin recalling their comrades to a robust defense of their own pluralistic principles."

This is not your daddy's liberalism. This is the kind of liberalism your granddaddy stormed the beaches at Normandy to oppose.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
As the battles over mandates with ObamaCare that force religious denominations to violate their beliefs or face sanctions and shut downs show now (and as the inevitable future lawsuits mandating religious denominations recognize same-sex marriages will show in the future), there is a large segment of the left that doesn't want to co-exist with western religion, but wants to grind it to dust if it doesn't become the modern American equivalent of Henry VIII's Church of England. As with most other matters, tolerance by the left will only be tolerated if it means those opposed to their demand for greater control by the state give in.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think that carving "liberals" away from hard leftists is an imperative.

The first order of business is to recognize that there is a difference.

The second order of business is to cease and desist conflating the two.

The third order of business is to understand that the hard left uses liberalism as a camouflage to do damage under the protection of the liberal flag.

The fourth order of business is to stop immediately...from using subliminal advertising for that false flag operation. Hard leftists are engaged in enemy action. Propaganda is not mainstream. Overthrow is not progressive. Traitors are not elite. Totalitarianism is not democratic. Clandestine operations are not transparency. And tyranny is not freedom.

Our laziness and apathy in adopting their subliminal false flag lexicon highlights the futility of complaining about "liberalism", when we mean hard leftist enemy action.

If we can't be bothered to stop helping them advance their subterfuge, we shouldn't bother to pretend to care about them tearing this nation apart.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
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