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No Conservatism Without a Religious Foundation

ChezC3

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Not all religious people are conservatives; and not all conservatives are religious people. Christianity prescribes no especial form of politics. There have been famous radicals who were devout Christians—though most radicals have been nothing of the sort. All the same, there could be no conservatism without a religious foundation, and it is conservative people, by and large, who defend religion in our time.

Lord Hailsham, a talented English conservative of this century, in his little book The Case for Conservatism, remarks, “There is nothing I despise more than a politician who seeks to sell his politics by preaching religion, unless it be a preacher who tries to sell his sermons by talking politics.” Yet he goes on to say that conservatism and religion cannot be kept in separate compartments, and that the true conservative at heart is a religious man. The social influence of Christianity has been nobly conservative, and a similarly conservative influence has been exerted by Buddhism, Mohammedanism, Judaism, and the other higher religions.
No Conservatism Without a Religious Foundation - The Imaginative Conservative

Please take the time to read the entire article and then contribute your thoughts.

As for me, I am likely to agree...
 

RabidAlpaca

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It depends on how you really define conservatism, and what branch of that you're referring to. I don't think a blanket statement really works.

Political beliefs are generally comprised of two primary categories:
- Social
- Fiscal/Governmental

The social category for conservatism is usually made up primarily of anti-drug, anti-secularistic morality and anti-equality arguments. They tend to believe that the state should enforce their morality, which more often than not is a highly religious one. The social category of conservatism would have a very hard time surviving without religious backing. It's just too hard for free-thinking individuals to convince themselves that their fellow human beings should be locked in cages for non-violent behavior.

The fiscal/governmental side of conservatism however absolutely can exist and thrive without religion. (not that the modern GOP is even remotely financially responsible) If anything, a small and decentralized power structure is very incompatible with most religious mentalities.
 

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I agree, but that is my personal view of religion and conservative political thought. I can easily see other constructs which support conservative political thought and find no common cause with religious belief.
 

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I see no reason that politics and religion should be in any way connected.
 

ChezC3

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It depends on how you really define conservatism, and what branch of that you're referring to. I don't think a blanket statement really works.

Political beliefs are generally comprised of two primary categories:
- Social
- Fiscal/Governmental

The social category for conservatism is usually made up primarily of anti-drug, anti-secularistic morality and anti-equality arguments. They tend to believe that the state should enforce their morality, which more often than not is a highly religious one. The social category of conservatism would have a very hard time surviving without religious backing. It's just too hard for free-thinking individuals to convince themselves that their fellow human beings should be locked in cages for non-violent behavior.

The fiscal/governmental side of conservatism however absolutely can exist and thrive without religion. (not that the modern GOP is even remotely financially responsible) If anything, a small and decentralized power structure is very incompatible with most religious mentalities.

Well, I don't really know if there are branches of conservatism per se so much as there are ideologies which are compatible with conservatism in some specific respect and through their similarities fall under its shadow.

Another way of looking at it and probably closer in tune to the reality for most people is that they are cafeteria conservatives. They want to adhere to certain parts, disagree on others, and decide then to compartmentalize and isolate the different aspects of conservatism.

Conservatism, in my opinion, and I believe the article shows this as well, can't be compartmentalized. It is a complete system. The social, fiscal, and governmental aspects are tightly woven so much to the point that when you attempt to unravel it and pick apart the different strands, you no longer have conservatism. You have a quasi-conservatism or you have a completely different ideology all together.

The War on Drugs with its incarceration for non-violent offenders is an example of this bastardization. Our current economic state of affairs and everything that has led up to it, the fiscal perversion. The Government, slowly leading up to the War of Aggression and everything that has happen since, the governmental mutation.

Now I'm not laying the blame for this all on the quasi-conservatives shoulders, liberals have taken great strides in our degradation and I wouldn't want to not give them their due. I do blame quasi-conservatives for being quasi-conservative, which as G.K. Chesterton said, and another poster on another thread recently brought out --

"The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected."
In saying that my argument would be that the non-correcting sots we have and whom I sit in judgement against, aren't conservatives at all but merely have been manifestations of a perverted quasi-conservatism.
 

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Well, his central statement - "We deal charitably and justly by our fellow men and women only because we believe that a divine will commands us to do so, and to love one another" - is obviously and grotesquely false.

Also, when he says "The religious conservative is convinced that we have duties toward society" - that is not something that his presumed antagonists - those Communists and Nazis - would ever dispute. The line of division here is not between those who are convinced that they have duties toward society as an embodiment of a divine will and those who are convinced likewise for different reasons (the loyalty to their "race", their "social class", the quasi-divine perfect teachings of Marxism-Leninism, or whatever). The division here is between those who realize that "society" is an abstraction that can be easily used to ignore and suppress actual, real people - and those unwilling to think in such terms.

Funny how he attacks the red and brown "collectivism" - sort of like if Ronald McDonald would make passionate speeches against clowns (the uncharitable ones, of course).
 

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there could be no conservatism without a religious foundation,
Total and utter BS.

It is the bible thumping lot that is the problem on the right.
 

head of joaquin

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Conservatism is about cheap labor, enriching the rich. Nothing more. Conservatives use religion to trick naïve voters with pious views into voting against their own economic interest. Even the anti-abortion propaganda is just an attempt to produce more poor single mothers who'll work for low pay.

Cheap labor: besides that, there's no there there with conservatism.
 

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Well, his central statement - "We deal charitably and justly by our fellow men and women only because we believe that a divine will commands us to do so, and to love one another" - is obviously and grotesquely false.
It almost makes you wonder if the author is a sociopath.
 

ChezC3

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Well, his central statement - "We deal charitably and justly by our fellow men and women only because we believe that a divine will commands us to do so, and to love one another" - is obviously and grotesquely false.
Are you saying the statement itself is false or as it applies to conservatism?

Also, when he says "The religious conservative is convinced that we have duties toward society" - that is not something that his presumed antagonists - those Communists and Nazis - would ever dispute.
But as he goes on further to say --

Communism perverts the charity and love of Christianity into a fierce leveling doctrine that men must be made equal upon earth; at the same time, it denounces real equality, which is equality in the ultimate judgment of God
as well as

And when Christians preach charity, they mean the voluntary giving of those who have to those who have not; they do not mean compulsion by the state to take away from some in order to benefit others. “Statists that labor to contrive a commonwealth without poverty,” old Sir Thomas Browne says, “take away the object of our charity; not understanding only the commonwealth of a Christian, but forgetting the prophecy of Christ.” The Christian religion does indeed enjoin us to do unto others as we would have others do unto us; it does not enjoin us to employ political power to compel others to surrender their property.
So that would leave your statement here --

Funny how he attacks the red and brown "collectivism" - sort of like if Ronald McDonald would make passionate speeches against clowns (the uncharitable ones, of course).
a tad disingenuous, no?

Now before any further conversation can commence, I must make it clear that we are faced with the dilemma of what is and what ought. Your comment I can agree with in the fact that it represents what conservatism is today. It has been for a very long time. What I am discussing, and what I believe Russell Kirk was touching on, is what ought.

We're all collectivists in our own way. But it can be shown in similarity that conservatism tied with the religious, which the thesis was that's the only true conservatism is far more liberating than any collective you'll throw out there. It is far more liberating than the laissez faire economic libertarianism you'll put on that Hayekian pedestal of yours. Why? Because true conservatism tethers personal choice to self restraint and communal responsibility. It ties the individual to his community. It places the individual in his community. He's not just an isolated creature who shares living space. He understands that while he is an individual and guided by his own conscience, making his own decisions, he isn't separate from whom he interacts with but he is very much a part of, he is connected to as all members of the community are connected -- all of us interconnected together to each other. He understands economics not as a construct engaged in and of itself for its own ends, but for the betterment of people, individual people each and every one.


Let me again reiterate I am speaking on what ought and not what is. I'm well aware of the current condition of today's quasi-conservatism, after all I've been preaching its evils to you for the last 7 years if you'll be so kind as to remember...;)
 

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I see no reason that politics and religion should be in any way connected.
I think you are conflating "politics and religion" with "the state and religion." Religion, insofar as it inform's ones values and belief system, will ALWAYS have a role to play and politics...and it is not necessarily a bad thing.
 

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I think you are conflating "politics and religion" with "the state and religion." Religion, insofar as it inform's ones values and belief system, will ALWAYS have a role to play and politics...and it is not necessarily a bad thing.
Neither is it a good thing when conservative polititions use their religious beliefs to enact laws which are contrary to the constitution and/or existing law..
 

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I think you are conflating "politics and religion" with "the state and religion." Religion, insofar as it inform's ones values and belief system, will ALWAYS have a role to play and politics...and it is not necessarily a bad thing.
I disagree. I think having religious beliefs is a good thing. I think morality should guide politicians. I don't think religion belongs on the public stage. It should be a private and individual matter.
 

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Well, I don't really know if there are branches of conservatism per se
There are. Neo-conservatism, paleoconservatism, cultural conservatism, social conservatism, fiscal conservatism....


so much as there are ideologies which are compatible with conservatism in some specific respect and through their similarities fall under its shadow.
Meaning what, there is only One True Conservatism? Who gets to decide what ideas qualify as "true" conservatism? Him? You?


Another way of looking at it and probably closer in tune to the reality for most people is that they are cafeteria conservatives. They want to adhere to certain parts, disagree on others, and decide then to compartmentalize and isolate the different aspects of conservatism.
What's wrong with that? Why should someone be required to sign onto a series of ideas that they don't agree with, in order to be "awarded" with a label?


Conservatism, in my opinion, and I believe the article shows this as well, can't be compartmentalized. It is a complete system. The social, fiscal, and governmental aspects are tightly woven....
...that you could pull them apart with a string.

Fiscal conservatives have no need to also be social conservatives. The belief that "government is inefficient" and/or "the free market is highly efficient" do not require any religious basis whatsoever; e.g. Milton Friedman never relied on religious precepts to form his highly influential ideas.


In saying that my argument would be that the non-correcting sots we have and whom I sit in judgement against, aren't conservatives at all but merely have been manifestations of a perverted quasi-conservatism.
Right. So the way to make a coalition stronger, in a nation driven by electoral politics, is to throw as many people out of the coalition as possible by declaring them "impure." :mrgreen:

Maybe you'd be better off looking for and developing common ground, rather than looking for excuses to drive like-minded people away. Just a thought.
 

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Are you saying the statement itself is false or as it applies to conservatism?
It is false in any application. To suggest that we, humans, inherently lack both empathy and judgment unless exposed to the vaguely defined "divine will" - well, doesn't such attitude render any further discussion pointless?

We're all collectivists in our own way.
True. Just like we all sweat, and begin to stink if we forget to shower. So... let's not forget.

far more liberating than the laissez faire economic libertarianism you'll put on that Hayekian pedestal of yours.
The Hayekian pedestal is hardly designed to fit the vulgar "economism" you are referring to....


Because true conservatism tethers personal choice to self restraint and communal responsibility. It ties the individual to his community. It places the individual in his community. He's not just an isolated creature who shares living space.
That is all very sweet. But how do you define the boundaries of this precious "community"? When the natural desire to give preferential treatment to your family, your neighbors, your fellow [fill in your favorite group affiliation] does mutate into the collectivist monstrosities of racism or class hatred?

"The community" - where does it begin, where does it end? Should I buy blueberries from a farm in my own King County, but not from a farm in the Snohomish County? OK, maybe those Snohomishians (and I actually do not have any friends or relatives up there) do qualify somehow as "the community". By virtue of proximity, or because they speak English (well, most of them), or just because I say so. But surely, I should prefer the King/Snohomish berries to the Chilean ones - even if the Chilean imports are cheaper, bluer and berrier?

Unless, of course, my wife is from Chile?

Double "unless", if a whole bunch of my relatives and friends actually work on some blueberry farm near Valparaíso?

What is "the community", exactly?

If it is the sum total of actual affiliations and connections between real people - then there's no difference between your "conservatism" and the Hayekian liberalism/libertarianism.
If, on the other hand, it is another abstraction forced upon us by whoever has the power to force...well, you know what it is, in that case....
 
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head of joaquin

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I think the convicted tax cheat, sex addict and devout Catholic Berlusconi represents why it's hard to take conservative noises about religion seriously.
 

ChezC3

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It is false in any application. To suggest that we, humans, inherently lack both empathy and judgment unless exposed to the vaguely defined "divine will" - well, doesn't such attitude render any further discussion pointless?
Why would you assume empathy is inherent? Because some test was done which can leave thousands of more questions than the presumed answer it gave was performed? But, you know, we'll just concede that to bring up a better point. Why if I am inherently empathetic should I care? I'm free to choose, am I not? What do I care if you are hungry? Why would I give of my bountiful harvest to you, racked with pain? If you die of your starvation wouldn't that leave even more for me? Why should I care if you are injured? because what -- I feel you pain? More like "Sucks to be you"

You're arguing a bit here, while keeping it extremely vague, but you're arguing from silence. You're implying and I know you'll correct me if I'm wrong, but you are implying that, what, somehow, someway, we'd have just scientifically evolved into the civilization we've become?

Further, how at odds is that empathy to our natural instinct of survival, of self preservation? And being at odds, why would we cultivate it rather than dismissing it outright for what it really is? Weakness


True. Just like we all sweat, and begin to stink if we forget to shower. So... let's not forget.
Yes, we're all just unique snowflakes like everyone else...


The Hayekian pedestal is hardly designed to fit the vulgar "economism" you are referring to....
Yes, because privatized tyranny is so much more sophisticated....

That is all very sweet. But how do you define the boundaries of this precious "community"? When the natural desire to give preferential treatment to your family, your neighbors, your fellow [fill in your favorite group affiliation] does mutate into the collectivist monstrosities of racism or class hatred?

"The community" - where does it begin, where does it end? Should I buy blueberries from a farm in my own King County, but not from a farm in the Snohomish County? OK, maybe those Snohomishians (and I actually do not have any friends or relatives up there) do qualify somehow as "the community". By virtue of proximity, or because they speak English (well, most of them), or just because I say so. But surely, I should prefer the King/Snohomish berries to the Chilean ones - even if the Chilean imports are cheaper, bluer and berrier?

Unless, of course, my wife is from Chile?

Double "unless", if a whole bunch of my relatives and friends actually work on some blueberry farm near Valparaíso?

What is "the community", exactly?

If it is the sum total of actual affiliations and connections between real people - then there's no difference between your "conservatism" and the Hayekian liberalism/libertarianism.
If, on the other hand, it is another abstraction forced upon us by whoever has the power to force...well, you know what it is, in that case....
I believe you are confusing trade with production. How bluer, cheaper, and berrier would those delicious blueberries be and how many more varieties could your aficionado palate delight in, should those berries come from and are grown by a diverse group of blueberry farmers rather than a mono-cultural, gmo'd, monstanto-fied corporation? And perhaps. with land to spare you might be able to enjoy a varietal of cheese, wines, and other delicacies from individuals who work their own land, receiving the reward for their toil exclusively and in full? Rather than an abused, exploited, over-worked, under-paid cog in the wheel of the grand Blueberry Behemoth?

A community isn't a connect the dot of acquaintances, a 7 degrees of separation to Kevin Bacon, lets list every person I've ever met Linkdn jamboree. A community starts with your family, your neighbors, friends, people in your town. You're the one making it an abstraction.

If the natural tendency is to prefer your friends, family, neighbors, what is wrong with that? If you so choose. and why would it automatically turn into a Klan meeting? Be serious...
 

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Why would you assume empathy is inherent?
1) Read up on mirror neurons.
2) People who lack empathy often exhibit psychological and/or developmental issues. Narcissists, sociopaths and autistics all display an inability to empathize.

You do not need to believe in a deity in order to recognize that empathy


Why if I am inherently empathetic should I care? I'm free to choose, am I not? What do I care if you are hungry? Why would I give of my bountiful harvest to you, racked with pain?
1) It can be beneficial, to the society as a whole (and therefore partly to you) to help others.
2) Similar to 1), altruism can often form a good environmental survival strategy
3) Because most people actually do enjoy a good bit of altruism and charity.
4) Because if the imbalance is too great, social discontent and revolution can result.
5) The ability to empathize may be a key factor to being a moral agent.


Further, how at odds is that empathy to our natural instinct of survival, of self preservation?
It isn't.

Amazon.com: The Selfish Gene: 30th Anniversary Edition--with a new Introduction by the Author (9780199291151): Richard Dawkins: Books


A community starts with your family, your neighbors, friends, people in your town...
It's likely that humans have a biological (inherent) capacity to rapidly calculate group identities, while also being able to rapidly change the criteria applied.

E.g. I may live in a small tribe with a dozen clans, and strict rules about relationships between clans, and dozens of rules and markers of status. However, I may completely drop most of my concerns about clan identity or social status if my tribe is suddenly attacked by outsiders.

And, of course, there can always be conflict within a family, neighborhood, social circle, clan, tribe, town and so forth. Or, religious groups.

At any rate, the key point is that you don't need to rely on religion to provide a basis for empathy, altruism or social cohesion.
 

ChezC3

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1) .At any rate, the key point is that you don't need to rely on religion to provide a basis for empathy, altruism or social cohesion.
and yet there is no proof...
 

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"Now a conservative is a person who sees human society as an immortal contract between God and man, and between the generations that are dead, and the generation that is living now, and the generations which are yet to be born. It is possible to conceive of such a contract, and to feel a debt toward our ancestors and obligations toward our posterity, only if we are filled with a sense of eternal wisdom and power."

This screams theocracy to me. Which even though I am a Christian, I find very scary.
 

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and yet there is no proof...
I already stated the proof. Again, and slightly expanded:

• It is a biological fact that human beings have mirror neurons, which generates empathy.

• When an individual lacks this biological capacity to empathize, this manifests as a disorder -- e.g. narcissism, autism, borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, etc

• Humans evolved as social animals. That would be much more difficult without a biological capacity to empathize.

• The same neurological functions we use to empathize are also involved in learning. I.e. we learn a great deal from being able to look at another person, imitate their actions, and in turn have this influence our emotional state.

There shouldn't be any doubt that a "normal" human being has a biological capability to empathize. Some aspects can still be socially influenced, but that will mostly be the criteria used for an Us / Them division.

It's also quite evident that many societies do not rely on religion for social cohesion, and in some contexts religion can be the cause of civil strife. Modern China is one example, as it spent decades as an officially atheist nation; even now, the Chinese identity doesn't rely on Confucianism or Buddhism, it's linked to a shared history and nationalism. Or, religion in Japan never quite had the same importance as it did in many other parts of the world, and in many ways is as much about superstitions as anything else. It adopted (and adapted) Buddhism without fraying its social fabric.

And obviously, tensions between Catholics and Protestants was the cause of numerous wars in England and France; disputes among Shi'a and Sunni Muslims has also caused violence through the centuries.

So, yeah. There's a pretty decent amount of proof for my claims, whether you acknowledge it or not.
 

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So, yeah. There's a pretty decent amount of proof for my claims, whether you acknowledge it or not.
That's what you have. Claims, opinionated conjecture. You can't rewrite history, reset the clock, start anew. Religion has been our civilizing force no matter how much you may wish it weren't so. The world we have has turned out the only way it could be. Your beliefs and morals formulated because of religious beliefs. You can reject that idea all you want, lay your speculations on the alter of science, but you're just gonna have to face the facts.

Also, what you've presented is correlating evidence. Nothing has been demonstrated that that is what is the motivating force behind empathy, only what physical reactions take place along side it.

So as I've said, there is no proof.
 

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"Now a conservative is a person who sees human society as an immortal contract between God and man, and between the generations that are dead, and the generation that is living now, and the generations which are yet to be born. It is possible to conceive of such a contract, and to feel a debt toward our ancestors and obligations toward our posterity, only if we are filled with a sense of eternal wisdom and power."

This screams theocracy to me. Which even though I am a Christian, I find very scary.
Really? I don't. I see it as we are here for a finite time on earth as travelers, custodians of the age as part of the infinite.

Of the Abrahamic religions Christianity is the only one that was born in and existed along side secular authority. An internal force which would manifest itself outward, rather than an external force which imposes itself inward.
 

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That's what you have. Claims, opinionated conjecture.
There is hard scientific evidence for the existence of mirror neurons, and that they are active in infants before 12 months. And it's pretty solid that if your "empathy circuit" isn't working, you will manifest a psychological disorder.

It's also pretty clear that while a great deal about cognition can be socially influenced, I have never seen anyone claim that a basic human capacity like empathy is a social construction.

In contrast, what have you got? Nothing. Very impressive. :roll:


Religion has been our civilizing force no matter how much you may wish it weren't so.
I'm not saying that religion played or plays no role at all in the structure of societies.

What I'm saying, and what is quite clear, is that empathy has a biological basis. The fact that some religions encourage this quality (and many do not) does not, in any way shape or form, exclude or refute the idea that empathy has a biological basis.

Making such a claim would be akin to suggesting that it is religion, and only religion, which establishes respect for one's parents. (Confucianism clearly shows this is not the case btw.)

I'd also point out that if you do not have the neurological capacity to empathize, no exposure to religion will produce it in you. For example, you can't cure a sociopath with a religious education.


The world we have has turned out the only way it could be.
What nonsense is this? There are tons of contingencies to human history.


Your beliefs and morals formulated because of religious beliefs.
No, actually, they aren't.

For example, moral principles in China were dominated for centuries by Confucianism, which is not a religion. Ethics had almost nothing to do with religion in Japan. Whole generation in the USSR were never taught about religion, and derived their ethics without them.

Western philosophers have largely abandoned religious principles as the basis for ethics about 200 years ago. Contractualism, consequentialism, pragmatism, no religious basis.

Obviously, an American who is an atheist is not going to teach his or her children ethics with a religious basis.

And again: If you look at the work of Milton Friedman, arch-conservative and profound influence on Ronald Reagan's economic policies, absolutely none of his beliefs are based on religion. They're all based on his ideas about what does and does not work.


You may not like it, but the claim that "empathy is inherent" is a straight-up scientific claim, with scientific proof thereof. And nothing you've said actually refutes this claim.
 
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