Rod Dreher

The Inquisition is Coming for You…well, for me anyway

The Advocate Bounces the Rubble

CEfJ0HiWMAAo9kZThat’s the cover of the June issue of the leading LGBT magazine. These people are winning and have won — they have the overculture and its institutions, including the Democratic Party — and yet they posit their religious opposition as skinhead types who are preparing a pogrom. The revolution will not be complete, I guess, until the last Evangelical pastor is strangled with the entrails of the last Republican state legislator.

Seriously, this tells you something about the next phase of the culture war, and if you’re a social or religious conservative, it’s not good.

Among the Educated Crazies

Check out this post and video from my favourite blogger Rod Dreher.  I’m reallly not into the whole “Men’s Rights” movement – I  find the whole thing rather lame – but this is infuriating. Why can’t they speak on campus? If you don’t like it, don’t go. And look who is being violent – the brain-washed left-wing ideologues who want to impose their will and suppress dissent. They are indeed the true heirs to their Communist/Fascist forefathers. Rest assured radical femi-Nazis, my wife and I are raising our boys to be men! But might there be a gulag in their future? Scary stuff.

We need a First Amendment for Canada

Here’s a post from Rod Dreher from yesterday. I had mentioned that Rod rarely writes about Canada but this is one of those times.

American readers, take a moment to give silent thanks for the First Amendment. The Archdiocese of Vancouver is celebrating educational diversity in new and exciting ways. It had to because a pushy family and their pushy lawyer believe in celebrating diversity — and if you march to a different drummer, they’ll sue your butt until you comply:

In a joint statement today, the Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese (CISVA), and the family of Tracey Wilson, an 11-year-old diagnosed with gender dysphoria who had attended a Catholic school, announced the CISVA approval of a new policy that accommodates gender expression and students with gender dysphoria.

The Wilson family is applauding the CISVA for paving the way towards accommodating gender expression and gender dysphoria in youth. It will be the first Catholic school district in Canada to have such a policy.


The new policy was developed after Tracey, who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, filed a human rights complaint because her school did not accommodate her request to be treated as a girl.

The human rights complaint was resolved after the CISVA approved the Gender Dysphoria and Gender Expression policy and paid to the Wilsons a sum that both parties have agreed will remain undisclosed.

Get this — the Wilsons took the kid out of Catholic school over this, and enrolled her in public school, in which she says she’s thriving. But they still sued the Catholic school system under Canada’s absurd human rights law, and ended up not only shaking down the school for cash, but forcing this change on a private school system that she doesn’t plan on returning to. From the CBC:

“This is, as far as we know, certainly a North American first and probably a world first,” said the Wilson family’s lawyer, barbara findlay, who spells her name without capital letters.

“Not only is it important for the students in Vancouver who go to Catholic schools, but it will serve as a template for other Catholic school districts everywhere.”

“Who spells her name without capital letters.” Good grief. Gaze upon the sobriety-inducing visage of barbara findlay, and unlearn oppression — or else she’ll sue.

[H/T: A Canadian reader, whose name I will never, ever reveal, lest barbara findlay Q.C. hunt him down and tear his heart out with her teeth. — RD]

Does this seem even remotely just to you? Do I risk becoming a target just by posting this and disagreeing with the outcome? It’s scary. Perhaps the State and it’s human rights minions will overlook a small fry like me – for now!

Liberalism is a religion and it’s forcing me to convert

Sorry this is another lengthy post but worth the read.

I’ve been thinking about how to write about this topic for the past week. It doesn’t resonate in Canada like it does in the US because the majority of Canadians are already true believers and any dissenters have been for the most part shunned from the public square. Liberalism-progressivism long ago became the Canadian state religion. But in the US, these things still matter. I mentioned in a previous post how the Hobby Lobby decision has sent the American Left into fits of rage and intolerance – the Supreme Court ruled in favour of religious liberty which at one time was THE cornerstone of Western democracy. Now the Democrats and their leftist allies want to overturn even this very narrow ruling. There is only one right way to think and it is dictated by the state. Against gay “marriage” and contraception? That’s unacceptable and akin to racism. Either shut up or face the human rights tribunal. And you better apologize while you’re at it. Not that it matters

How Liberalism Became an Intolerant Dogma

In a July 11 article for The Week, Damon Linker explains “How liberalism became an intolerant dogma” (

My own cherished topic is this: Liberalism’s decline from a political philosophy of pluralism into a rigidly intolerant dogma.

The decline is especially pronounced on a range of issues wrapped up with religion and sex. For a time, electoral self-interest kept these intolerant tendencies in check, since the strongly liberal position on social issues was clearly a minority view. But the cultural shift during the Obama years that has led a majority of Americans to support gay marriage seems to have opened the floodgates to an ugly triumphalism on the left.

The result is a dogmatic form of liberalism that threatens to poison American civic life for the foreseeable future. Conservative Reihan Salam describes it, only somewhat hyperbolically, as a form of “weaponized secularism.”

I have often argued with my liberal friends and acquaintances that their worldview, despite their adamant denials, is a religion. Of course they take great offence saying they are atheists and don’t believe in the invisible God or the quaint and outdated idea of Truth. But they do: their God is the State and their Truth is what the State says it is. To my liberal readers, I mean no offence – I’m just pointing it out.

The Church of Illiberal Liberalism

As you would expect, Rod Dreher ( is excellent on this issue:

Under traditional liberalism, maintaining religious liberty is of vital importance; under the new, illiberal liberalism, religious liberty is a threat. In her analysis of the reaction to the Hobby Lobby ruling, Megan McArdle says that contemporary liberalism, as distinct from earlier iterations, drives religion out of the public square by abandoning the concept of negative rights (the right not to have to be forced to do something) in favor of positive rights (the right to force others to do something to serve you). Excerpt:

In the 19th century, the line between the individual and the government was just as firm as it is now, but there was a large public space in between that was nonetheless seen as private in the sense of being mostly outside of government control — which is why we still refer to “public” companies as being part of the “private” sector. Again, in the context of largely negative rights, this makes sense. You have individuals on one end and a small state on the other, and in the middle you have a large variety of private voluntary institutions that exert various forms of social and financial coercion, but not governmental coercion — which, unlike other forms of coercion, is ultimately enforced by the government’s monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.

Our concept of these spheres has shifted radically over the last century. In some ways, it offers more personal freedom — sex is private, and neither the state nor the neighbors are supposed to have any opinion whatsoever about what you do in the bedroom. Religion, too, is private. But outside of our most intimate relationships, almost everything else is now viewed as public, which is why Brendan Eich’s donation to an anti-gay-marriage group became, in the eyes of many, grounds for firing.

For many people, this massive public territory is all the legitimate province of the state. Institutions within that sphere are subject to close regulation by the government, including regulations that turn those institutions into agents of state goals — for example, by making them buy birth control for anyone they choose to employ. It is not a totalitarian view of government, but it is a totalizing view of government; almost everything we do ends up being shaped by the law and the bureaucrats appointed to enforce it. We resolve the conflict between negative and positive rights by restricting many negative rights to a shrunken private sphere where they cannot get much purchase.

A totalizing view of government — good phrase. In the new American liberal dispensation, we begin to approach what in modern France is called laïcité – the idea that maintaining the secular nature of the public realm and the state’s monopoly on power requires keeping religion and religious expression firmly privatized. It may ordinarily be understood as the principle of the separation of Church and State, which almost all Americans, left and right, favor. But in France, it is generally taken to mean that religion may be tolerated only insofar as it does not interfere with the state and its purposes. If that’s not a totalizing view of government, I don’t know what is. These different emphases of what secularism is may seem subtle, but they’re important — and we’re seeing them take hold in this country.

He continues:

The Church of Illiberal Liberalism worships a jealous god, who will brook no rivals.

And here’s the most important thing to grasp about the Church of Illiberal Liberalism: its communicants do not have the slightest understanding that theirs is a creed, a set of dogmas, a worldview that makes exclusivist claims. They think their ideology is not an ideology, but reality, plain and simple. The book to read to understand where we are and where we are going is James Kalb’s The Tyranny Of Liberalism. The Mark Levin-esque title is misleading; this is a philosophically serious book. From a 2009 interview with Kalb:

Ignatius Insight: You spend quite a bit of time, understandably, in the book defining liberalism and variations thereof. For the sake of clarity, what is a relatively concise definition of the liberalism you critique? What are its core principles and beliefs?

James Kalb: By liberalism I mean the view that equal freedom is the highest political, social, and moral principle. The big goal is to be able to do and get what we want, as much and as equally as possible.


That view comes from the view that transcendent standards don’t exist–or what amounts to the same thing, that they aren’t publicly knowable. That leaves desire as the standard for action, along with logic and knowledge of how to get what we want.

Desires are all equally desires, so they all equally deserve satisfaction. Nothing is exempt from the system, so everything becomes a resource to be used for our purposes. The end result is an overall project of reconstructing social life to make it a rational system for maximum equal preference satisfaction.

That’s what liberalism is now, and everything else has to give way to it. For example, traditional ties like family and inherited culture aren’t egalitarian or hedonistic or technologically rational. They have their own concerns. So they have to be done away with or turned into private hobbies that people can take or leave as they like. Anything else would violate freedom and equality.


Ignatius Insight: You argue that liberalism “began as an attempt to moderate the influence of religion in politics, [but] ends by establishing itself as a religion.” How is liberalism a religion? What are some examples of its religious nature? What significant challenges do these pose to serious, practicing Catholics?

James Kalb: People in authority treat liberalism as true, ultimate, and socially necessary. So far as they’re concerned, it gives the final standards that everyone has to defer to because they’re demanded by the order of the community and also by the fundamental way the world is. That’s what it means to say it’s the established religion.

Like other religions it helps maintain its place through saints, martyrs, rituals, and holidays. A candlelit vigil for Matthew Shepard is an example. There’s also education. All education is religious education, so education today is shot through with liberal indoctrination. Liberalism even has blasphemy laws, in the form of the laws against politically incorrect comments on Islam, homosexuality, and other topics that you find in Europe and Canada.

It also has some special features. Liberalism is a stealth religion. It becomes established and authoritative by claiming that it is not a religion but only the setting other religions need to cooperate peacefully.

The claim doesn’t make much sense, since religion has to do with ultimate issues. The religion of a society is simply the ultimate authoritative way the society grasps reality. As such it can’t be subordinate to anything else.

Liberalism has been successful at obfuscating its status as a religion, and that’s been key to its success. People believe they are keeping their own religion when they give first place to liberalism. What happens though is that their original religion gets assimilated and becomes a sort of poeticized version of liberalism.

You can see that tendency vividly in my former denomination, the Episcopal Church. At least at its upper levels “mission” now means promoting things like the UN Millennium Development Goals. I was in an Episcopal church recently in which the Stations of the Cross had been replaced on the wall by the Stations of the Millennium Development Goals.

That’s not a special oddity of the Episcopalians, of course. You can see the same tendency in all respectable mainline Protestant denominations. You also see it among many Catholics. That kind of assimilation is, I think, the biggest danger to the integrity of religious life today.

Read the whole thing. It’s really important. It is vital to fight in court and elsewhere to maintain authentic religious liberty against the dogmatic advances of the Church of Illiberal Liberalism, but in Kalb’s reading, it is more important for the traditional churches to fight within themselves to maintain their traditional self-understanding, in the face of MTD, which is the only kind of overt religiosity the Church of Illiberal Liberalism can tolerate. This is why Kalb, a Catholic, endorses what I call the Benedict Option:

Still, we’re stuck with liberalism right now. As things are, to live a life as free as possible from its poisons probably does require moral heroism. Certainly it means a break with the usual middle-class lifestyle. I can’t give a lot of useful advice to moral heroes, but it seems likely that a better way of life today will require things like homeschooling and other forms of intentional separation. We need settings in which a different pattern of life can be established. We all do the best we can, though.

There are lessons here for Canadian conservatives – maybe we should not have surrendered so easily? That quaint and cherished concept of the separation of church and state that liberals used to love so much means nothing. Now the state IS the church. Problem solved.

Start your morning with Rod Dreher

Sorry to harp on about Rod but he has another terrific post from July 2nd that I missed yesterday in which he analyses the Supreme Court of the United States decision Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby. I am a keen follower of American politics but some of you may not be so here’s a quick explanation of the decision from Wikipedia:

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, 573 U.S. ___ (2014), is a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court allowing closely held for-profit corporations to be exempt from a law they religiously object to if there is a less restrictive means of furthering the law’s interest. The case is the first time that the court has recognized a for-profit corporation’s claim of religious belief,[1] but it is limited to closely held corporations under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The court did not address whether such corporations are protected by the free-exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution. For such companies, the court directly struck down the contraceptive mandate, a regulation adopted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), requiring employers to cover certain contraceptives for their female employees. The court said that it was not the least restrictive way to ensure access to contraceptive care, noting that a less restrictive established alternative is already being provided for religious non-profits. The ruling could have widespread impact, allowing companies to be religiously exempt from federal laws.[2][3]

The decision has caused quite a stir. US lefties have gone bonkers.

Anyway, Dreher’s post is titled: Jonathan Haidt Can Explain The Liberal Hobby Lobby Freakout. Note: The mentions upfront of Fishtown and Belmont are references to Charles Murray’s Coming Apart. (

Jonathan Haidt Can Explain The Liberal Hobby Lobby Freakout

by Rod Dreher

A reader who posts under the name Salamander left this comment on the thread about the Left, epistemic closure, and the culture war, in which I made the point that so many on the cultural left are so confident in their own judgments, even though they don’t know what they don’t know. Salamander writes:

Rod, this is so true. I have long joked that my liberal friends love diversity, as long as the diverse persons in question behave exactly like the right sort of upper middle class white people.

I’ve also noticed my nice liberal friends assume that everyone thinks exactly like them. For example, my nice liberal upper middle class female friends know that the only reason they would possibly have gotten pregnant as a teenager would be that they were completely ignorant of how babies are made, or that they were ignorant of contraception, or evil patriarchs blocked all access to contraception, or they were raped – because why else would you jeopardize your college education and career plans? Hence they truly believe that since working class and underclass girls get pregnant frequently, it must be a combination of all of those – complete ignorance about sex and birth control, no doubt because of rape culture and patriarchy – hence more sex ed classes and burning down hobby lobby will fix it. None of them even know an actual baby mama, and have no idea that life’s priorities and circumstances are a little different in Fishtown.

Btw we live in a very Belmont-ish town, a short distance from a very Fishtown-ish town…but there is surprisingly little mixing between the SWPLs in iur town and the working class folks down the road. The five miles between us might as well be fifty in some ways. Both towns are about 99.9% white so it’s not racism. Our church is in the Fishtown-like town so we probably have more firsthand knowledge of the problems Fishtown folks face than our nice liberal friends do (they all go to the UU church in our town where they can obsess about which bathroom hypothetical transsexuals should use while ignoring the unemployment, drug addiction, and broken families down the road.)

She adds:

Rereading that, I sound a little harsh on my nice UU liberal friends. Many of them do serve in soup kitchens and do care about the poor…but I get the vibe that they prefer faraway poor, preferably of another color, because they can blame that sort of poverty on racism which they of course are against. The nearby dysfunctional white people are more problematic, because they refuse to behave like the proper sort of white people. As it is often difficult for upper middle class white people to imagine NOT being upper middle class, they can’t quite figure out why the lack of clear cut rules and moral norms has caused so much chaos in the lower socioeconomic groups, when it hasn’t affected them nearly so much.

This brought to mind something I write about from time to time: the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s finding that conservatives understand liberals better than liberals understand conservatives.

In his invaluable book The Righteous Mind, Haidt — a secular liberal — talks about how our moral intuitions inform our worldview far more than does reason. You can get a basic idea of his thesis in his TED talk. From that talk, here is a very basic outline of Haidt’s theory:

Let’s start at the beginning. What is morality and where does it come from? The worst idea in all of psychology is the idea that the mind is a blank slate at birth. Developmental psychology has shown that kids come into the world already knowing so much about the physical and social worlds, and programmed to make it really easy for them to learn certain things and hard to learn others. The best definition of innateness I’ve ever seen – this just clarifies so many things for me – is from the brain scientist Gary Marcus. He says, “The initial organization of the brain does not depend that much on experience. Nature provides a first draft, which experience then revises. Built-in doesn’t mean unmalleable; it means organized in advance of experience.” OK, so what’s on the first draft of the moral mind? To find out, my colleague, Craig Joseph, and I read through the literature on anthropology, on culture variation in morality and also on evolutionary psychology, looking for matches. What are the sorts of things that people talk about across disciplines? That you find across cultures and even across species? We found five — five best matches, which we call the five foundations of morality.

The first one is harm/care. We’re all mammals here, we all have a lot of neural and hormonal programming that makes us really bond with others, care for others, feel compassion for others, especially the weak and vulnerable. It gives us very strong feelings about those who cause harm. This moral foundation underlies about 70 percent of the moral statements I’ve heard here at TED.

The second foundation is fairness/reciprocity. There’s actually ambiguous evidence as to whether you find reciprocity in other animals, but the evidence for people could not be clearer. This Norman Rockwell painting is called “The Golden Rule,” and we heard about this from Karen Armstrong, of course, as the foundation of so many religions. That second foundation underlies the other 30 percentof the moral statements I’ve heard here at TED.

The third foundation is in-group/loyalty. You do find groups in the animal kingdom – you do find cooperative groups – but these groups are always either very small or they’re all siblings. It’s only among humans that you find very large groups of people who are able to cooperate, join together into groups, but in this case, groups that are united to fight other groups. This probably comes from our long history of tribal living, of tribal psychology. And this tribal psychology is so deeply pleasurable that even when we don’t have tribes, we go ahead and make them, because it’s fun. (Laughter) Sports is to war as pornography is to sex. We get to exercise some ancient, ancient drives.

The fourth foundation is authority/respect. Here you see submissive gestures from two members of very closely related species. But authority in humans is not so closely based on power and brutality, as it is in other primates. It’s based on more voluntary deference, and even elements of love, at times.

The fifth foundation is purity/sanctity. This painting is called “The Allegory Of Chastity,” but purity’s not just about suppressing female sexuality. It’s about any kind of ideology, any kind of idea that tells you that you can attain virtue by controlling what you do with your body, by controlling what you put into your body. And while the political right may moralize sex much more, the political left is really doing a lot of it with food. Food is becoming extremely moralized nowadays, and a lot of it is ideas about purity,about what you’re willing to touch, or put into your body.

Haidt found that in general, the moral mind of liberals rests on two of the five bases: Harm and Fairness. The moral mind of conservatives rests on these two bases, but also the other three: Loyalty, Authority, and Purity. Because of this, Haidt says, liberals have a much harder time understanding conservatives than vice versa. Todd Zywicki explores this point:

One other point that I find really interesting and important about Haidt’s work is his findings on the ability of different groups to empathize across these ideological divides. So in his book (p. 287) Haidt reports on the following experiment: after determining whether someone is liberal or conservative, he then has each person answer the standard battery of questions as if he were the opposite ideology. So, he would ask a liberal to answer the questions as if he were a “typical conservative” and vice-versa. What he finds is quite striking: “The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were the least accurate, especially those who describe themselves as ‘very liberal.’ The biggest errors in the whole study came when liberals answered the Care and Fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives.” In other words, moderates and conservatives can understand the liberal worldview and liberals are unable to relate to the conservative worldview, especially when it comes to questions of care and fairness.

In short, Haidt’s research suggests that many liberals really do believe that conservatives are heartless bastards–or as a friend of mine once remarked, “Conservatives think that liberals are good people with bad ideas, whereas liberals think conservatives are bad people”–and very liberal people think that especially strongly. Haidt suggests that there is some truth to this.

If it is the case that conservatives understand liberals better than liberals understand conservatives, why is that? Haidt’s hypothesis is that it is because conservative values are more overlapping than liberals–conservatives have a “thicker” moral worldview that includes all five values, whereas liberals have a “thinner” view that rests on only two variables. Thus, the liberal moral values are constituent part of the liberal views, but not vice-versa. So conservatives can process and affirm liberal moral views and liberals literally cannot understand how someone could be both moral and conservative–the moral values that might be animating a conservative (say, tradition or loyalty) are essentially seen by liberals as not being worth of moral weight. So conservatives who place weight on those values are literally seen as “immoral.”

More Zywicki:

As an aside, I think the “thinness” of the liberal moral worldview may explain a phenomenon that has puzzled me, which is the speed at which liberal views harden into orthodoxy and the willingness of liberals to use various forms of compulsion to enforce that orthodoxy. Consider same-sex marriage. For conservatives, this is actually quite a difficult topic and one sees a wide variety of opinion and discussion on the “conservative” side of the fence. “Conservative” opinion is not uniformly opposed to same-sex marriage and conservatives who support same-sex marriage are not ostracized or silenced for doing so. I think Haidt gives a sense why: same-sex marriage cuts across a lot of these moral dimensions in different ways–it simultaneously triggers sanctity (for religious conservatives) and authority (tradition), but it also triggers equality/fairness impulses and care/harm impulses for the individuals affected by it. So conservatives, I think, tend to see it as an issue on which reasonable minds can disagree and that those who hold contrasting views are not generally thought to be immoral or evil. I think this sense that there is room for legitimate disagreement is also consistent with the one near-consensus view of conservatives, which is that regardless of one’s position on the issue there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage, as opposed to allowing the issue to evolve through democratic processes that permit disparate moral and other views to be heard and compromised.

Liberals, by contrast, appear to broach little disagreement from the orthodoxy on this issue (and others for that matter), and I think Haidt gives us a sense why. If they are processing this only through the care and fairness moral value frameworks, then that implies that only immoral people could be opposed to same-sex marriage. And if these people are immoral, then their opposition is hateful and unjustified. So a notion quickly hardens into an orthodoxy–no moral person could oppose same sex marriage. It is then a logical step to a willingness to demonize and try to silence opponents of same-sex marriage as holding not just wrong-headed but illegitimate views, much like the Inquisition, which was premised on the idea that there is potential harm and no value in tolerating “error.” (‘That’s an oversimplification of the Inquisition, of course.) Ditto for more petty forms of censorship and suppression of speech, such as university speech codes.

I think this is right, and it goes far to explain why I am very pessimistic about the future of religious liberty in post-Christian America. You will remember that in the 1996 Romer v. Evans decision, Justice Kennedy, writing for the Court majority, said in striking down a Colorado’s Amendment 2, which banned special protection for gays and bisexuals:

Its sheer breadth is so discontinuous with the reasons offered for it that the amendment seems inexplicable by anything but animus toward the class that it affects; it lacks a rational relationship to legitimate state interests.

This is a classic example of the Haidtian disconnect between liberals and conservatives (N.B., Justices Kennedy and O’Connor, both nominated by Reagan, are more libertarian than conservative). The Court majority could not imagine any reason other than hatred as the basis for disapproving of homosexuality. This formed the basis for all subsequent gay rights jurisprudence, specifically Lawrence (2003) and Windsor (2013). And it will be on this basis that the Court eventually constitutionalizes same-sex marriage.

What does this have to do with the thermonuclear pants-crapping freakout from liberals over this week’s Hobby Lobby decision? Many liberals seem incapable of grasping that there were and are profound moral issues present in the controversy. Conservatives can, or should be able to, easily understand why liberals who do not believe that Purity, Authority, or Loyalty are morally significant qualities disagree with the decision. Conservatives can also understand why liberals who don’t believe that life begins at conception cannot grasp why it’s such a big deal to those who do, based on the Harm foundation. What is remarkable — and deeply worrying — is not only that so many liberals cannot imagine why conservatives conclude the things we conclude, but that they assume our beliefs only come from illegitimate assumptions. As Zywicki wrote, it’s a quick step from concluding that one’s opponents are only driven by hatred to concluding that they must be thoroughly stamped out, because their irrational animus must not be allowed any quarter. Error has no rights. Suffer not a witch to live. Etc.

The country has unmistakably become far more liberal on gay rights and sexuality in general over the past 50 years — and more individualistic too. When a majority of Americans accept the liberal view of sex and its meaning (or lack thereof), they will be much less sympathetic to religion-based dissent from the mainstream, precisely because they will not be able to comprehend how any decent person could believe the things that traditional religionists do. The Millennials are well on their way: according to the Pew study, they are more liberal than older Americans in their attitudes toward sexuality, they are less religious, they are less trusting of others, and they are more disconnected from institutions.

All this would not be as concerning to me if I had confidence that liberals empathized with conservatives, even as they disagreed with us. But on Haidt’s view, many (though not all) liberals see us only as crazy and/or bad when we disagree with them. And they don’t want to try to understand where we’re coming from, because what good can come from practicing empathy towards evil bastards?

What compounds the fear and frustration is that according to Pew, I am a “faith and family leftist” — that is, a moral and social conservative whose moral and social conservatism (my Christianity, frankly) causes me to break ranks with the mainstream right, usually over issues of economic fairness, including protecting the poor. I left the GOP and registered as an Independent because I no longer believe that the Republican Party’s agenda is one I can identify with. I consider myself more open to voting for Democrats today than I have been since college, especially on matters of foreign policy.

Yet seeing the grotesque animosity towards people like me from liberals over the small-beer Hobby Lobby decision compels me to face up to the fact that the only political force standing between me, my church, and my community, and a State dominated by people who think we traditional church people are cretins who deserve to be pushed around, is Republicans.

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Here’s the entire post.

Articles & Posts to read today

You should check out these articles from the past few days:

Can the G.O.P. Be a Party of Ideas? ( As Charles Murray tweeted, a “good account from a hostile witness.”

You’re doing it wrong (, a post from The Hipster Conservative about politicians using internet memes unironically!

What is Ethical Conservatism? ( As if there were any other kind of conservatism.


The New Sins of the ‘Nonjugdmental’ Millennials ( Yikes! Explains how millennials have replaced the old religion with a new one.

And an article from Aeon on the concept of Hell (

Two great but chilling posts from Rod Dreher: the first about “Rooting out Brendan Eichs at JP Morgan Chase” (, and the other about “Those Filth Catholic Nuns” who oppose the contraception mandate in the Obamacare law (

Scott Stinson at the National Post on Premier Wynne’s “activist centre” dreck (

And here’s the Globe and Mail’s Denise Balkissoon on our reaching “Peak Ink” (

Balkissoon concludes:

I’m going to declare that we’ve reached peak ink, and that tattoos are travelling on the downward slope of the 30-year fashion cycle. The mere act of letting a sharp needle pierce and mark your delicate skin is no longer enough to prove your edgy individuality, and formerly badass body art is acquiring a nostalgic, sepia tinge. As the old adage goes, you can buy fashion, but you can’t buy style. When your grandchildren trawl through your old Instagrams, I hope your body ink looks timeless, not dated.

Jeez, I hope not because the conservative cyclist just got this on the weekend:


That’s right – that’s Jesus on a Bike!! And it’s based on a design by Brent at Twin Six:


More on epistemic closure…and the last on epistemic closure

One of my favourite bloggers is Rod Dreher at The American Conservative. He’s a fantastic writer and a prolific blogger who writes on everything from politics and religion to art and sports.  He’s fair minded and will criticize and praise conservatives and Republicans as much as he criticizes and praises progressives and Democrats. And he doesn’t seem to share the general anti-Israel sentiment common at The American Conservative. Rod doesn’t write about Canada but that’s expected: he lives in St. Francisville, Louisiana.

His most recent book is titled The Little Way of Ruthie Leming which is the story of his Louisiana childhood and his sister’s battle with cancer. I’m reading Crunchy Cons right now which is his 2006 book. The subtitle says it all: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, Gun-Loving Organic Gardeners, Evangelical Free-Range Farmers, Hip Homeschooling Mamas, Right-Wing Nature Lovers, and Their Diverse Tribe of Countercultural Conservatives Plan to Save America (or At Least the Republican Party)”.

A conservative counterculture! I love it, except for the Birkenstocks of course. Anyway, I may write more about Crunchy Cons in a later post.


The reason I mention Rod here is that he, quite coincidentally, also wrote a commentary on Pascal-Emanuel Gobry’s latest article about “epistemic closure”. Of course, his commentary is better written than mine is and he takes a different direction.  It’s worth reading the entire commentary which can be found here at The American Conservative website:

Two key highlights for me:

“PEG [Pascal-Emanuel Gobry] gives examples, so you’ll want to read the whole thing. His broader point is that people on the left (it’s pretty clear he’s talking about media and academic elites) are so deep in their own bubble that they think their own way of seeing the world is obviously true, and they cannot imagine that there is another honest (if mistaken) way to interpret the world.

Are there conservatives who think this way too? Of course, and being someone who doesn’t enjoy tedium or ranting, I do my best to avoid getting into political or philosophical conversations with them, and I don’t read, watch or listen to their media. But with the exception of talk radio loudmouths, these conservatives have little or no voice, and therefore little influence over the broader culture. More particular to PEG’s point, the thing that we relative few number of mainstream media conservatives always notice (and talk about when we get together) is how uniform (and uniformly liberal) opinion is within our newsrooms, and how utterly unaware our liberal colleagues are of their own biases.”


“Which brings us back to Reader Bobby’s comment [alluding to the comment at the beginning of the post] about elites only rubbing shoulders with other elites, a social habit that misleads them into thinking that everybody sees the world as they do. We are all guilty of this, more or less. But we ought to work harder at trying to imagine the world as it might look to people very different from ourselves. That doesn’t mean that we are wrong in the conclusions we’ve arrived at, or in the convictions that we hold. It does mean, however, that we should be more humble about what we know, and more understanding of others when confronted by the true difficulties of knowing anything for certain.

Much has been made over the past few years about how folks getting to know gay people personally has converted them to the gay-rights cause. There’s a lot to that. It’s harder to hold stereotypical views of someone in a particular class if you know them personally. Yet I wonder: does it ever occur to liberals that they ought to try to get to know, say, a conservative Evangelical [or a conservative cyclist for that matter]? If not, why not?

I know exactly what he is talking about. I’ve worked in government and academia and I can tell you there are very few conservatives working in either environments. And people speak to each other as if there is only one position. They don’t think to ask themselves if someone else may think differently. And these are the same people who preach about diversity……but only if you think the way they do.


What is conservatism?

Here are a few definitions of conservatism I’ve heard from a few of my lefty acquaintances:

–       they are for unfettered free-market capitalism

–       they represent reactionary elitism

–       they are religious fanatics and warmongers

–       they hate human rights, gay rights, “gay marriage”

–       feminists are not conservatives

–       they are all big businessmen and white guys in suits

–       they want no government at all

–       and they are imperialists and royalists and love the military

Of course, these definitions are all stereotypes and caricatures. My favourite insult is when conservatives are called Nazis. Why is it my favourite? Because it demonstrates immediately that I am dealing with someone who is utterly ignorant not only about conservatism, which is expected I suppose, but also about socialism and leftism. They are shocked when I inform them that Nazis were socialists and the farthest thing from conservatives. Nazis had more in common with communists.

So once these folks climb off the wall and ask me the question what is a conservative, here’s my response.

Conservatism is not an ideology, like communism or progressivism. It’s a disposition. There are no manifestos or guidebooks. It’s pragmatic but not dogmatic. It’s principled but not fundamentalist.

Conservatives come in many stripes and labels: fiscal, social, religious, cultural. And in different settings, they are different creatures. But what do they have in common? The best definition of conservatism comes from Russell Kirk, the father of American conservatism. I’m quoting Rod Dreher of the American Conservative magazine who cites Russel Kirk’s “Ten Conservatives Principles” in a September 22, 2012 blog post:

Dreher writes: “I should start by saying that I don’t think there is only one way to be a conservative. There is not conservatism; there are conservatisms, and they draw from each other. The best general definition of “conservative” that I know is Russell Kirk’s essay on Ten Conservative Principles. Kirk begins:

Perhaps it would be well, most of the time, to use this word “conservative” as an adjective chiefly. For there exists no Model Conservative, and conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order.

The attitude we call conservatism is sustained by a body of sentiments, rather than by a system of ideological dogmata. It is almost true that a conservative may be defined as a person who thinks himself such. The conservative movement or body of opinion can accommodate a considerable diversity of views on a good many subjects, there being no Test Act or Thirty-Nine Articles of the conservative creed.

In essence, the conservative person is simply one who finds the permanent things more pleasing than Chaos and Old Night. (Yet conservatives know, with Burke, that healthy “change is the means of our preservation.”) A people’s historic continuity of experience, says the conservative, offers a guide to policy far better than the abstract designs of coffee-house philosophers. But of course there is more to the conservative persuasion than this general attitude.

It is not possible to draw up a neat catalogue of conservatives’ convictions; nevertheless, I offer you, summarily, ten general principles; it seems safe to say that most conservatives would subscribe to most of these maxims.

“I [Dreher] cannot improve on Kirk’s list, but I would say that for me, the first of his Ten Conservative Principles speaks deepest to why I am a conservative”:

First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for man, and man is made for it: human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent.

This word order signifies harmony. There are two aspects or types of order: the inner order of the soul, and the outer order of the commonwealth. Twenty-five centuries ago, Plato taught this doctrine, but even the educated nowadays find it difficult to understand. The problem of order has been a principal concern of conservatives ever since conservative became a term of politics.

Our twentieth-century world has experienced the hideous consequences of the collapse of belief in a moral order. Like the atrocities and disasters of Greece in the fifth century before Christ, the ruin of great nations in our century shows us the pit into which fall societies that mistake clever self-interest, or ingenious social controls, for pleasing alternatives to an oldfangled moral order.

It has been said by liberal intellectuals that the conservative believes all social questions, at heart, to be questions of private morality. Properly understood, this statement is quite true. A society in which men and women are governed by belief in an enduring moral order, by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honor, will be a good society—whatever political machinery it may utilize; while a society in which men and women are morally adrift, ignorant of norms, and intent chiefly upon gratification of appetites, will be a bad society—no matter how many people vote and no matter how liberal its formal constitution may be.

Dreher adds: “I, for example, don’t see how anyone can call himself a conservative in a meaningful sense and be in favor of the unrestrained free market. But that’s an argument worth having. I don’t think it’s prudent or wise to declare that anyone who disagrees with me is therefore not a conservative. I don’t understand economics as well as I ought to, so perhaps I have something to learn from them. And, many free-market fundamentalists on the libertarian side don’t understand culture and society as well as they might, and have something to learn from people like me.

Anyway, as Kirk said, conservatism is an attitude toward the world, not a dogmatic religion. It irritates me to no end that the American conservative mind is so closed, even to thinkers and resources in its own tradition. As Kirk’s tenth canon says, “The thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.” That means that we have to be willing and able to think creatively about conservative principles, and apply them to new facts and circumstances.

I suppose one way to think about conservatism — sorry, conservatisms — is by asking the question, “What do you want to conserve?” Kirk once said that the traditional family was the institution most important to conserve. I agree with that, and most of my conservatism comes from that conviction. That’s why, for example, I don’t place as much value on economic liberty as many conservatives do. If an economic practice undermines the integrity of the family and the familist order (which itself depends on a strong religious sense), then I am likely to oppose it. One of the reasons I have come to be much more skeptical of the aggressively militaristic and nationalistic foreign policy many conservatives advocate is the effect of war on family life (that is, of soldiers deployed and returned), and of what the acceptance of torture does to our moral sensibility. Similarly, I am in principle willing to accept more involvement of the state for the sake of shoring up the family and the moral order than libertarians are.”

Here’s a link to Kirk’s essay:

Here’s a link to Dreher’s blog post:



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