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Atheist and conservative Atheist and conservative Presentation Transcript

  • Atheism & Conservatism?
  • A contradiction?Does atheism entail political liberalism?Does conservatism entail supernaturalism?
  • Where well goWho is Razib? Why does he matter?Who are atheist conservatives? Do they exist?What does Razib believe? Why?Why should we accept the importance of political pluralism among non-religious people?
  • But an asideTo obtain citations or methods for results please go to: razib.com and contact me via one of the available avenuesWhere is the Radical Right?
  • Tom Metzger - “White Aryan Resistance”
  • Vinayak Savarkar – intellectual founder of Hindu nationalism
  • Existence as refutationAn atheist can be conservative, and a conservative can be atheist!
  • Are conservative atheists rare?The fact that I am speaking before you isalso proof...they couldnt find a famousperson!
  • A few examples of a rare breedHeather Mac DonaldGeorge F. Will (agnostic, well claim him!)
  • Also some non-famous people Ideology of atheists and agnostics GSS, year 2000- 20% Liberal Moderate Con- 50% serva- 31%
  • Wrong for women to get abortion for birth defects Not wrong at allWrong only sometimes Almost always wrong Always wrong 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 Atheist & Not atheist agnostic or agnostic
  • Homosexual sex relations Not wrong at allWrong only sometimes Almost always wrong Always wrong 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 Atheist & Not atheist agnostic or agnostic
  • Is premarital sex wrong? Not wrong at allWrong only sometimes Almost always wrong Always wrong 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 Atheist & Not atheist agnostic or agnostic
  • Pornography should be Legal to allIllegal to under 18 Illegal to all 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 Atheist & Not atheist agnostic or agnostic
  • Sex with person other than spouse Not wrong at allWrong only sometimes Almost always wrong Always wrong 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 Atheist & Not atheist agnostic or agnostic
  • On economic issues divergence is far less stark Attitude toward income differences 7 – No government action 6 5 4 3 2 1 – Government should reduce 0 5 10 15 20 25 Atheist & Not atheist agnostic or agnostic
  • But Razib, you must be a libertarian! You are too reasonable!This is not Razib, this is a libertarian:
  • Why I am not a libertarian:
  • Live not by reason alone!Most of the human race does not live reflectivelyTheir actions are driven by impulse & emotion, not rationality
  • Wrong speciesLibertarianism, makes total sense to H. sapiens razib, but is rather confounding to H. sapiens sapiens“Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions”
  • On the issues:I oppose affirmative actionI think abortion and gay marriage should be handled legislatively, not through the courtsI am an isolationistI think the nation-state is a coherent and valuable entityI think collective attributes (religion, ethnicity, class) are legitimate aspects of human experience which one can value
  • On the partiesI have voted for Republicans, Democrats, and LibertariansMy conservatism is not about partisanship, but is admittedly more philosophical, dispositional, and intellectualI do not believe that any given election will determine the course of our civilization – there are limits to party politics
  • Conservative, not RepublicanI am not a conservative because I think the Republican Party platform will result in full employment in 5 yearsI am a conservative because I think Western civilization as it currently organizes itself is a valuable form of human flourishing
  • Politics as “cognitive style”
  • Politics as applied sociologyI am not personally particularly conservative in a conventional senseBut I balance my own intuitions about the “good life” against what I believe are the intuitions of the majorityAnd I accept that I am a social creature, so the intuitions of the majority do hold weight with me
  • Is consensual incest “wrong”?Should sex between adult siblings who use contraception (if they are opposite sex) be legally barred?Many people have a viscerally negative reaction to this, but can not provide rational groundsAnd aside from appealing to authorities (“God said it is wrong”) it is difficult to make an argument against this on individualist grounds
  • Is sex selective abortion “wrong”?Many people who accept that abortion is not wrong, and perhaps not even troubling, find sex selective abortion disquietingIs it due the sexism manifest when selection is against female fetuses?
  • Social harmony matters Xunzi, third of the great Confucian sages A materialist, the natural world is all there is A pessimist about human nature Emphasized ritual
  • The altruist can change everything Mozi, the anti- Confucian One should love all humans equally Music, ritual, etc., are wasteful Conceived of Heaven as relatively similar to Western God
  • China: 2,000 years of permanenceChina maintained a relatively secular political philosophy grounded in respect for tradition, history, and precedent up to the modern eraThough the system ultimately failed because of its inability adapt, Communist China is now sponsoring “Confucius Institutes”
  • Why did Xunzi “win” and Mozi fail?Because of his connection to Legalism Xunzi was relatively marginalized in Chinese history, but many historians argue that “State Confucianism” owes more to his variant of the philosophy than that of his predecessorsMozi seems to have been eminently laudable in his intent. His movement sponsored defense leagues to protect weak cities against the powerful
  • Xunzi & Mozi : human natureIn the details Confucians were not always right, but because of their reliance on previous precedent they integrated much of what we might term “modal human nature” into their philosophyIn contrast, Mozis rejection of gradations of love and affection, and the assertion that the arts are wasteful, operated with a faulty view of human nature
  • Order, integration, cohesionThe Confucian insight is focus on the individual as an atomic element of utility fails to capture the complexity of human affairsIn particular, social relations are of the essence to the proper functioning of human affairsThe rest is commentary
  • Scrouge McDuck was happier withHuey, Luey, and Duey, than with all the money in the world)
  • Wrongness may not be reasonable, and it may not be individual Sex selective abortion and “safe” incestuous sex may be individually “rational” But it may not be sustainable for civilization Making a fetish of coherent rational systems underestimates the complexity of social organisms
  • Why gay marriage and adult incest are differentHomosexuality is a minority orientation with a strongly biological component (at least in men)Gay marriage allows individuals to flourish, but does not impinge upon social harmony (most people are not homosexuals)Most people do not have a strong compulsion to incestuous relationships, but unfortunately sexual abuse through incest is a major social problemRecognizing the happiness of individual incestuous couples may still cause difficulties as one must consider the example and differentiation between these relatively rare relationships compared to the abusive ones
  • Yet propositions have to be tested!There is some literature on the persistence of brother-sister incest in rural Roman Egypt (a legacy of the incest practiced by the Pharaohs)Further investigation of this phenomenon may allow us to reconsider our intuitions about the social effects of banning adult incest
  • The logic of the unsystematic thinkerLook for precedentLook for empirical examplesAvoid absolutes (i.e., talk of “rights”)Evaluate on the scale of societiesAvoid long chains of inferential propositions (excessive “reasoning”)Dont confuse the normative and the positive
  • A plea for irreligious conservatism Non-religious conservatism is different in substance and style from modern religious conservatism It occupies a particular position it the ecology of ideas And notably, it is important to note that the moralistic stridency and certitude of many religious conservatives means they wish to “conserve” very little
  • “Progress” in antiquity St. Ambrose vs. Symmachus th 4 century debate of the Bishop of Milan vs. the pagan aristocrat in regards to due respect for ancient rites and symbols
  • A true and progressive future“It is no disgrace to pass to better things. This alone had I in common with the barbarians that of old I knew not God. Your sacrifice is a rite of sprinkling yourselves with the blood of beasts. Why do you look for the voice of God in dead beasts? Come and learn here on earth a heavenly warfare; we live here, but our warfare is above. Let God Himself, the Creator, teach me the mystery of heaven, not man who knew not himself. Whom should I believe about God, sooner than God Himself? How can I believe you, who confess that you know not what you worship?”
  • What St. Ambrose hadCertaintyVisionClarityLack of excessive respect for the past and precedentLack of sentimentalitySelf-assured rationality
  • What St. Ambrose and the Church Fathers got rightRoman paganism was steeped in superstitionIts rites were barbaric (e.g., animal sacrifice)Roman pagan culture was often inhumane (Symmachus private letters attest to casual purchase of animals and slaves for slaughter in games in the arena)The Christian “atheists” were right when they denied the gods of the Romans
  • What they may have gotten wrongWas pagan culture without redeeming value?Was Christendom genuinely more humane?Was the Christian God any less of a farce than Zeus, Isis, or the Platonic One?Were the superstitious rites and rituals of the pagans less edifying than the “pageantry” of the Roman Catholic Church?
  • Its a matter of perspectiveWe can look back with hindsight and see who was right or wrong, using our own yardsticksBut we dont always know where we are right or wrongExcessive certitude of our rational faculties outside of mathematics and the physical sciences is a recipe for overreach and hubrisBetween 400 and 1700 the West forgot the wisdom of allowing religious pluralism to flourish. Pluralism was a custom and tradition forgotten in the service of “better things”
  • In sum:What is the “good life” is no easy thing to be calculated through inferences from axioms which you derive from introspectionThe arc of the moral universe is long, but it may wind back and forth (e.g., religious pluralism)There are no ultimate truths in human affairs but for what humanity makesNever forget that we can all be wrong!