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Eureka!

In 2012 scientists found the Higgs Boson. In 2015, after fifty years of trying, they finally found gravitational waves.

In 2021…

Leave camp turned Brexit into a religion to capture votes, study finds

Vote Leave turned Brexit into its own religion to capture supporters, a recent study by the universities of Birmingham and Warwick has found.

Researchers said slogans such as “take back control” used the NHS as the country’s Holy Grail that could be rescued from European forces threatened by Britain’s unique historical place in the world.

They also said Brexiteers focused on secular theological concepts such as sovereignty and nation to engage voters.

A study found it. It is Science.

45 comments to Eureka!

  • The Jannie

    Be fair: it’s as valid as the “studies” and “experts” in the Daily Mash . . .

  • Sigivald

    “See, the shibboleths of the Left are not “religion”, just “fact”.

    But anything that is against those is mere mystification and delusion.”

    (I mean, the NHS is a weirdly religious institution, in British attitudes towards it, but that’s … not something the Brexiters came up with.)

  • george m weinberg

    Doubtful. I can see worship of the NHS as being sort of like a religion, but I don’t think most pro-leave people were of that faith. Certainly it didn’t seem to be the case around here.

  • Bulldog Drummond

    but I don’t think most pro-leave people were of that faith

    Is this another from the “no faecal matter, eminent consulting detective” files?

  • I always find it gratifying when I observe political enemies displaying zero insight into why they suffered a crushing defeat. It means they can be defeated in the next big war as well.

  • Agammamon

    secular theological

    Is that like ‘multi-racial white supremacy’?

  • Lee Moore

    Wow, never mind the “scientific studies” – that site is completely bonkers.

  • Daniel

    What was that about the left and projection?

  • pete

    If anything it was pro-EU people, not counting big business leaders who had their own selfish economic reasons, who were the secular religionists.

    The central tenet of their faith is that everything European is self-evidently wonderful and everything British is self-evidently dreadful.

    As with many cultists they were genuinely bemused that everyone else couldn’t see the truth of what they asserted, and concluded that this was a clear indication of their evil nature.

  • I can see worship of the NHS as being sort of like a religion, but I don’t think most pro-leave people were of that faith. Certainly it didn’t seem to be the case around here. (george m weinberg, March 1, 2021 at 4:49 pm)

    Regrettably, the great British public – even just that majority of them that support Brexit – have yet to become so freedom-loving and safetyism-disdaining as to be perfectly represented by this site. 🙁

    People voted Leave for various reasons, which they ranked in various orders. Since Leave won, it has become generally believed, not without reason, that they would not have won without the NHS argument. That isn’t the same as saying it was the number one argument for most Leavers, but without it, today’s evening news would feature Cameron, Corbyn or whoever being mealy-mouthed about the excusable and not-to-be-too-criticised slowness of our glorious EU’s centralised vaccine roll-out.

  • pete

    I’m not sure that people worship the NHS. They just suspect that if it were to be replaced things would get a lot worse for many people, and that there would be a significant chance that things would be worse for them personally if they lose their job or get an expensive to treat ailment.

    People remember the privatisation of the trains, buses, energy, refuse collection and care homes, and other things too.

    All done for sound economic and political reasons, but they were bungled to varying degrees.

    When it comes to health care people don’t want to take any risks. The NHS is not perfect, but given the UK’s dismal record on privatisation it is very probably better than what would replace it – especially for the poor.

  • Fraser Orr

    Co-author Peter Kerr – a senior politics lecturer at the University of Birmingham

    I mean it is clearly not science, it is quite specifically politics. So it is what it is. I’m sure the labour party produced a study explaining why Corbyn would be an excellent prime minister, which should surely end with just as much a shrug as this.

    But one might discuss this in a broader context. I’d argue that nearly all political movements, including mainstream ones, have a lot of resemblance to a religion. I mean if you take a broad view of religion (to include non theistic ones) really what they provide are a moral code, a community, an us-verses-them, language designed to manipulate the thinking, an approved lifestyle, and so on. I mean many political movements do exactly these things. Green-ism certainly does all of those things. I guess religions also advocate a “purpose for life” and sometimes an eschatology. But now I think of it, green-ism does that too.

    But I don’t mean to pick on green-ism, you can make the case for conservatism, liberalism, even libertarianism fitting some or all of these characteristics too.

    I guess though when a poly-sci professor says “religion” he means “religion-in-a-bad-way”, and certainly “not-my-religion.”

  • Paul Marks

    I see so taking back control, self government, sovereignty and independence are “theological” concepts – and I suspect the academics are not fans of religion. As for the term “study” and “had found” – yes these politics are aping the language of science, they would call politics a “social science” and they would pretend that presenting their (leftist) political views is a “scientific study”.

    The theoretical question when one deals with academics is “do these people believe their own lies?” – because if they really believe this stuff they are not, technically, lying (because, in their delusional state, they actually believe their ravings are true).

    But the practical question is – “should taxpayers be forced to pay these people?”

    The answer is clearly NO – taxpayers should not be forced to pay for these academics.

    Presently the young are handed over to these people to be educated – and to hand over young people to such academics is horribly wrong.

  • staghounds

    All right thinkers know that religion is something only the ick people do.

    Except for Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Shamans. They are all cool and hip, and you are a racist if you don’t think so.

  • Eric

    I’d argue that nearly all political movements, including mainstream ones, have a lot of resemblance to a religion.

    I agree. That’s why people are so ready to dismiss and downplay information that doesn’t align with their existing political view.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Two themes discussed in the comment thread, as encapsulated by these two quotes:
    1. “that nearly all political movements, including mainstream ones, have a lot of resemblance to a religion.” (Fraser Orr)
    2. “It is Science.” (from OP)

    The Joseph de Maistre quote below, an all-time favorite quote of mine, relates to both of these themes quite aptly…

    Think about it.

    Human reason left to its own resources is completely incapable not only of creating but also of conserving any religious or political association, because it can only give rise to disputes and because, to conduct himself well, man needs beliefs, not problems. His cradle should be surrounded by dogmas; and, when his reason awakes, all his opinions should be given, at least all those relating to his conduct. Nothing is more vital to him than prejudices. Let us not take this word in bad part. It does not necessarily signify false ideas, but only, in the strict sense of the word, any opinions adopted without examination. Now, these kinds of opinion are essential to man; they are the real basis of his happiness and the palladium of empires. Without them, there can be neither religion, morality, nor government. There should be a state religion just as there is a state political system; or rather, religion and political dogmas, mingled and merged together, should together form a general or national mind sufficiently strong to repress the aberrations of the individual reason which is, of its nature, the mortal enemy of any association whatever because it gives birth only to divergent opinions.

  • Philippe Hermkens

    The answer to de Maistre is Ayn Rand.

    It’s funny that you prefer to die prematurely, to suffer, not to be happy, to be enslaved rather to use your own brain to decide what is right and what is wrong for you

  • The answer to de Maistre is Ayn Rand (Philippe Hermkens, March 2, 2021 at 10:47 am)

    “The answer to de Maistre (and Ayn Rand) is Edmund Burke”, says Niall Kilmartin.

    (Alternatively, “It is clear that we are separated by doctrinal differences”, said Charlie Brown to Linus when it proved impossible for them to agree on which of Santa Claus and The Great Pumpkin was the more reliable source for presents. 🙂 )

    Burke, in his very first book and in his final campaign against the French Revolution, shows that there is no ‘unprejudiced’ ‘natural’ human being waiting to be rescued from culture and convention, from ‘systemic whateverism’ by that or any revolution. Burke’s “Art is man’s nature” could without travesty be expressed as ‘Prejudice is man’s nature’ (he pretty well says so – that under every prejudice is found another, which should prompt not despair or cynicism but recognition that what the revolutionaries call prejudice and try to destroy simply is human nature).

    Hannah Arendt says much the same – “the heart demands darkness” and any “concealed” and/or “unconscious” motive dragged out of it into the light of day inevitably, by that very act, becomes a front for another one – typically a worse one whenever the dragging is political and forced. So, to that extent, neither of them wholly disagree with Shlomo’s de Maistre quote.

    However both valued a particular culture’s prejudices (e.g. for the US constitution, say), and devalued another’s, precisely insofar as a long history of free speech, mild government, opportunities for ordinary people to vote with their feet, etc., had selected the favoured culture’s inevitable prejudices, systemically watering some and weeding others. Thus their liberalism (old sense) was the justification of their conservative refusal to jettison past customs lightly, as one might hesitate to obey cancel-culture orders to junk Shakespeare because his work had survived till now.

    Summarising: it is the presence of some systemic freedom in the past that justifies giving it a vote against unsystemic force in the present.

    Shlomo doubtless knows more that I of de Maistre. Although some de Maistre’s ideas have parallels with those of my own heroes and heroines, it is not clear to me that he recognises this need for justification.

  • David Norman

    Shlomo Maistre: being an ignoramus I had never heard of Joseph de Maistre but am somewhat surprised by your love for a quotation that essentially says that people are better off if they are led by the nose and behave like sheep. The world of 1984 beckons. Phillipe’s quote from Ayn Rand does seem apposite.
    On the study, it surprises me not at all that a bunch of academics should view a wish not to be governed by a sclerotic and democratically unaccountable oligarchy as a ‘secular theological concept’.

  • Stonyground

    As I recall, the NHS was just given as an example of what the obscene amounts of money spent on EU membership could be spent on instead. A good question to ask was what are we getting for that money? EU membership gave us free access to European markets and their producers free access to ours. So why does a simple free trade agreement cost all that money? We’re not subsidising countries with really shitty economies are we? The money isn’t being swallowed up by a pointless and inefficient bureaucracy that produces nothing of value is it?

  • Dr. Caligiari

    Remeber kids:
    The marxisms is a scientific worldview!

  • Stonyground

    Old Karl was an armchair theorist though. Working stuff out in your head works for physics, not so much when it comes to the stuff with tons of variables. Didn’t he also start lying to himself once it started to become evident that he was wrong?

  • Dr Evil

    I read this. I thought about it. It was bollox.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Shlomo Maistre
    FWIW, I am an atheist, but I often say I am not an evangelical atheist. By which I mean I do not try to convert people to my way of thinking. Religion has a lot to offer people on a personal basis. A community to be part of, a moral code with a degree of certitude, a meaning and purpose to life, an answer to the great questions of life or death. As First Thessalonians said: “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope”. Atheism offers none of those things, in fact it really just offers one thing: a lack of a belief in god. Even if you broaden it out to “humanism” or something like that, it still doesn’t offer these things in spades.

    Of course believing you go to heaven after a virtuous death is the foundation for suicide bombing, so it has that as a down side, but last I checked there aren’t too many Anglican suicide bombers. Which is to say religion is a lot better if you don’t take it too seriously. It is why the phrase “committed Christian” always concerns me a bit.

    So, I guess it comes down to the question of the Matrix. Is it better to be deluded and happy, or red pilled and be bereft of the comforts of the delusion? I’m not sure it is my business to push anyone onto either side of that line. Me? I prefer the brutal maw of reality, but I certainly wouldn’t judge someone as foolish who chose a little self delusion to be happier. After all, we all have our own little delusions that bring us some comfort. The calories don’t count when you are on vacation, amirite?

    Don’t get me wrong, I will tell you what I think if you ask. But I don’t necessarily think that getting atheist coverts is a particularly great achievement. I have no faculty to save your soul. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with Hitchens, if not quite so hyperbolically, that “religion poisons everything” when looked at it as a whole social movement. But I think most religious people are lovely, and I would be loathe to interfere with that which brings them joy.

    I don’t mind crossing swords with a man like Niall, who is a religious believer, because he is substantial and smart and can stand up for himself intellectually quite effectively. I think it is rather horrible to do the same to the average man in the pew who maybe hasn’t thought all that deeply about it, and is just enjoying his community. I think it is just intellectual bullying. Perhaps though, that is patronizing of me.

  • bobby b

    Like Fraser Orr, I’m a quiet, non-evangelizing atheist.

    After a lifetime in various sorts of societies, I prefer to live in one that is significantly influenced by Christianity over one significantly influenced by atheists. People en masse do well when they have moral shepherds, especially when the shepherd teaches the Golden Rule.

    If that satisfies SM’s “prejudices”, then I am in agreement with him and his quote to some extent.

    (I limit my statement to Christianity only because I’ve not lived in societies organized around other religions sufficiently to make such judgments about them.)

  • Fraser Orr

    @Stonyground
    A good question to ask was what are we getting for that money? EU membership gave us free access to European markets and their producers free access to ours. So why does a simple free trade agreement cost all that money?

    FWIW, I think paying bureaucrats to not do things is often a pretty good spend of money.

  • Lee Moore

    All reasonably liberal modern societies rest on a foundation of religion, inherited from forebears who did believe. The decline of religious belief obviously gnaws away at that foundation, but for the moment it still does a reasonable job. Atheists, of whom I am one, are parasites on that religious culture; much as socialist societies struggle by economically on the corpse of the market economy they have strangled.

    This is not, of course, news. The death of the source of Christendom’s ethical foundations exercised Nietzsche, and the 20th century has given us ample reason to doubt that men are better suited than even a dead God, to decide what is good and what is evil.

    Like the lady who hoped that if we are indeed descended from monkeys, that fact would not become widely known, I have similar views on the death of God.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Lee Moore
    the 20th century has given us ample reason to doubt that men are better suited than even a dead God, to decide what is good and what is evil.

    I don’t think that is true at all. For sure there were a lot of nasty things happened in the 20th century, but it was the leverage of technology that made them especially bad, not some specific failure of enlightenment philosophy. People have been killing Jews for centuries, German efficiency and technology just made it a holocaust.

    The plain truth is that societies have become MORE moral[*] as they became less religious, not less. I need only mention the elimination of slavery, the emancipation and general liberation of women, and the acceptance of homosexuals as a normal part of society as examples. Religions frequently lament the secularization of society and the moral degradation of society, but any objective observer would have to dismiss that with a guffaw of contempt. When one compares the utter subjugation of women, largely on religious grounds with the increased amount of coarse language in our dialog, I clearly know which society I would prefer to live in. F–k yeah, I’m for the ladies.

    I’d remind you that Isaac Newton almost couldn’t get a professorship at Cambridge because he had funny ideas about the Trinity, needing a special dispensation from the King (randy Charlie the second, who was no paragon of Christian virtue himself.) I think I prefer a world where geniuses can get professorships irrespective of their religious beliefs.

    [*] Of course this depends on what one thinks of as “moral”. If, for example, one thinks that the freedom of homosexuals to live their lives unfettered is a bad thing then maybe society is in moral decline. However, the fact that even CHURCHES dance around this issue uncomfortably, unable to condemn what fifty years ago was yelled from the pulpit, tells as that even religion feels itself subject to the liberating and positive transformation of morality due to secular pressures. And the world is surely a better place for it. God help us that our morality were truly based on the atrocious morality put forward in the Old Testament. Unless, to press the point of this footnote, you think stoning a girl to death on her father’s doorstep because her husband found her lacking sufficient proof of viginity on her wedding night is something to aspire to.

  • I’m not wishing to drag this thread off the main topic, but my usual pedantry has me wanting to comment on a few points – and may therefore see me defeating my desire not to see this thread go too far off topic. 🙂

    The plain truth is that societies have become MORE moral[*] as they became less religious, not less. I need only mention the elimination of slavery (Fraser Orr, March 4, 2021 at 4:12 am)

    That is a non-sequitur: the UK’s anti-slavery movement was loudly evangelical Christian and relied immensely on Christian arguments to get support. The centuries-earlier gradual elimination of slavery within England and some other countries, without which the idea of a slave-free world could not have taken hold, is a complex thing to analyse, but one notes it did not happen outside Christendom.

    Of course, Fraser says ‘religious’ and Islam is a religion that has a lot to do with the Arab world being especially resistant to the west’s campaign against slavery. It’s a bit like saying a society is more or less ‘political’ – to some extent, the goodness or badness of that does rather depend on what the politics are. This naturally leads to

    Of course believing you go to heaven after a virtuous death is the foundation for suicide bombing, so it has that as a down side, but last I checked there aren’t too many Anglican suicide bombers … (Fraser Orr, March 3, 2021 at 10:54 pm)

    or Catholic ones or Methodists, or Presbyterians (save in the columns of Tim Blair and Mark Steyn, who often joke about ‘Presbyterian’ terrorists, but the context indicates that’s not the sect they mean 🙂 ). As we see all too clearly with woke “anti”-racism today, any movement can be made the cloak for practising its opposite, but when one founder advocated killing people to further its spread, and gave personal examples of this, while another did and taught the reverse, then reforming religious practice back to the founder can give benefits in the latter case but problems in the former.

    … Which is to say religion is a lot better if you don’t take it too seriously. It is why the phrase “committed Christian” always concerns me a bit.

    If they’re committed to Christ’s non-violence and self-sacrifice then they should concern you less than, say, eXtinction Rebellion who, ah, aren’t.

    I don’t mind crossing swords with a man like Niall, who is a religious believer, because he is substantial and smart and can stand up for himself intellectually quite effectively. …

    Above, I do my best to live up to this flattering encomium. 🙂

    … I think it is rather horrible to do the same to the average man in the pew who maybe hasn’t thought all that deeply about it, and is just enjoying his community. I think it is just intellectual bullying. Perhaps though, that is patronizing of me.

    And there again perhaps it is courteous (I could say Christian 🙂 ) of you, and/or maybe related to some emotions which (I speculate) support or even motivate your dislike of cancel culture, and/or just good conversational manners.

  • Paul Marks

    Shlomo – to base a society on principles that can not be rationally defended, is to base society on quick sand.

    Religion is not irrational – and even if God did not exist the moral law would be exactly the same (a point the Scholastics, the “School Men”, made for centuries).

    Maistre may have sincerely believed he was defending society – but he was undermining it, by (de facto) accepting the leftist attack that Western society was based on irrational dogmas (absurd superstitions) = it is very odd that Maistre took this position as he was a Roman Catholic, and Roman Catholic thinkers were normally very good at basing their position on a rational understanding of natural law and human agency.

    The late F.A. Hayek famously argued that one could reject the philosophy of the old Whigs (which is really the Aristotelian philosophy of the West) and still keep their political conclusions.

    Hayek was mistaken – as the political conclusions are based (foundationally) on the philosophy. Reject the philosophy, or claim it is irrational (just a superstition) and the political and legal structure falls.

    David Hume wrote, with indifference, about the “Euthanasia of the Constitution” – his philosophy (wrongly accepted Hayek_) led to the indifference – and, if accepted for a long period of time, leads to the “euthanasia of the constitution”.

    By the 1960s most of the principles of civilisation (not just politically – but culturally as well) were under attack, and the defenders of society were oddly WEAK.

    This is because their “arguments” (if they can even be called arguments) were David Hume style this-is-the-way-we-do-things-round-here stuff. which is no good at all.

    The defenders of society (Catholic, Protestant, Jewish atheist – or other) had forgotten the REASONS behind various customs and practices.

    And citing F.A. Hayek that we do not (even can not) know the reasons behind various customs and practices makes their destruction certain. Because that means they can not be rationally defended against attack. And to say “we do not need reason – just belief and FORCE” is something that Hayek himself would have rejected (because it is an insane, yes insane, position). When the attack of the 1960s came, the defence of “this is the way we do things round here” or “this is what we have always believed” was shown to be utterly threadbare – and the defenders of society no longer knew the arguments (the rational arguments) that their ancestors had known.

    The Hume-Hayek philosophical position does not defend traditional society – it signs its Death Warrant.

  • Paul Marks

    When John Selden was sent to the Tower of London he asked for a copy of the Talmud to study.

    This was not because he was Jewish, or was thinking of converting. It was because he admired the quality of the moral argument within it.

    The great thinkers of the Common Law, such as John Selden, would have had some sharp words for the position that there can be no such thing as a moral argument – that we just accept what is the fashion in our society and get punished if we do not.

    F.A. Hayek attacked Carl Schmitt for Schmitt’s political conclusions – his support for the Nazi Regime.

    But Hayek did not fundamentally attack Schmitt’s basic philosophical assumptions (because he, basically, shared them) – and Schmitt’s political stance follows on from his philosophical and legal position.

    If there is no natural justice (no natural law) and what society accepts as moral right and moral wrong is determined, in the end, by the rulers – then the National Socialist position is correct. As is any other movement that makes itself the rulers – for Schmitt’s position can be as easily used by Marxists as by National Socialists (or any other armed movement).

    Hat tip to the late Erik Von Kueahnelt-Leddihn for pointing this out.

  • Paul Marks

    As for the specific example of France.

    As early 877 AD King Charles the Bald accepted that there were various things that a King of France could NOT legally do, for example take land (by force) from one family and give the land to another family.

    In short he accepted that the law was NOT the will (commands) of the King of France. That law was NOT “will” not just “commands”.

    Nor is all this just about secular matters – theologians and Canon Lawyers were used to making moral arguments, the idea that there can be such thing as a moral or theological argument (that both morality and religion are based on habit and force) would have been rejected by them – and rightly rejected.

    The resort to FORCE (violence) in theological matters is something that both Catholics and Protestants have been guilty of – and it is a horrible betrayal of the gift of human reason and moral conscience.

    It is spitting in the face of God.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Niall Kilmartin
    That is a non-sequitur: the UK’s anti-slavery movement was loudly evangelical Christian and relied immensely on Christian arguments to get support.

    We can argue about some of the details, and Christians certainly came out on both sides of this issue, for example, the Southern Churches in the USA (the white ones anyway) were very much on the side of the South during the civil war, and the later day slavery of apartheid in South Africa found much moral cover in the Church’s doctrine of “carriers of water and hewers of wood” from, I believe, the book of Joshua.

    However, if one takes a step back and looks at the sweep of history the fact is that societies have become vastly more moral, by my lights anyway, over the past three hundred years, during a time when religion has been slowly loosing its vicelike grip of moral authority. Of course correlation does not demonstrate causality, but since the measure we are making is the morality of society, and the moral framework clearly moved from one authority to another, then a pretty clear causal link seems evident.

    I think though that the most interesting aspect of this though is not the effect of secular morality on secular society, but the effect of secular morality on the church. Were you to visit a Church in Jackson, MS two hundred years if you preached a sermon explaining the inferiority of black people, you would get resounding approval, if you preached the same today, you’d get yells of anger (perhaps especially so since they started letting black people into their churches.) If, in that same church, one hundred years ago, you preached a sermon about women being under the authority of their husbands, or talked about a husband using a switch to keep his wife in line, again you’d do so with great approval, contradicted perhaps only by the uncomfortable squirming of a few recalcitrant wives, uncomfortable sitting in the pews with all the bruises on their back. Today, you most certainly could not preach such a sermon. And today, if, in that same church, you preached a sermon condemning homosexuals in some churches you’d get a “hell yeah” and in others a lot of uncomfortable congregants. Hopefully, one hundred years from now such sermons will be as unacceptable as the others.

    And this undermines the church’s claim to be the fount of morality, since it is evident that the Church’s morality is just as much influenced by the maturing moral sensibilities of our secular society as that secular society finds some of its roots in the Bible. I often like to point out, though, that of the ten commandments only two and a half are against the law in most modern societies, and in fact those societies actually provide legally protected rights to violate several of them.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Philippe Hermkens,

    The answer to de Maistre is Ayn Rand.

    In what sense? I have read several of Rand’s books over the years, including but not limited to “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged”. She has interesting ideas, and certainly has earned a place on my bookshelf.

    It’s funny that you prefer to die prematurely, to suffer, not to be happy, to be enslaved rather to use your own brain to decide what is right and what is wrong for you

    I have a lot of flaws, but preferring to “be enslaved rather [than] to use [my] own brain to decide what is right and what is wrong for [me]” is not one of them. As for the rest of your presumptions, I am all too alive, but I will concede that in great wisdom there is great grief. The limits of knowledge are those of its nature, and I see no reason why you should not stick to your happiness.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Niall,

    You seem to be advancing two main ideas. I will address them one at a time.

    <Thus their liberalism (old sense) was the justification of their conservative refusal to jettison past customs lightly

    And that justification that they had for refusing to jettison past customs was warranted. So I agree that this was the case and that it was a good thing – insofar as it goes.

    Although some de Maistre’s ideas have parallels with those of my own heroes and heroines, it is not clear to me that he recognises this need for justification.

    I think there are many good reasons to preserve culture, tradition, customs, etc. One, particularly in the west, is to preserve liberty, individual rights, freedom, etc. I also think that there is – all else equal – more liberty and greater individual rights under a hereditary divine right absolute monarchy than under a democracy/constitutional republic. These are not mutually exclusive ideas.

    One aspect of the veracity of the quote from de Maistre I provided is that individual reason is destructive – destructive of all manner of human bonds, social fabrics, cultures, traditions, etc. This is a tough pill to swallow but it’s true. Just because some (old sense liberal) thinkers rightly have used their reason to come to the conclusion that they should refuse to give up customs, traditions etc in order to help preserve individual rights, liberty, freedom, etc does NOT mean that human reason does not generally lead to the consequences described by de Maistre, including in the quote I provided.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    David Norman,

    Shlomo Maistre: being an ignoramus I had never heard of Joseph de Maistre but am somewhat surprised by your love for a quotation that essentially says that people are better off if they are led by the nose and behave like sheep.

    Maybe you would be less surprised if you first considered the possibility that such a reality is for most of the population inevitable regardless of the pros and cons associated with it.

    The world of 1984 beckons.

    Tell me, what do you think is causing cancel culture? Why are millions of young people now Woke Social Justice Warriors? Do you think it’s a coincidence that religious youth, those raised in religious households by religious parents, raised to worship G-d first and foremost, are astronomically less likely to engage in this tyrannical, destructive behavior?

    Humans need religion. You may not. I may not. But most humans do need it. And if you raise a generation of youth without G-d they will create their own G-ds.

    Phillipe’s quote from Ayn Rand does seem apposite.

    I’ve read Rand. She has interesting ideas and her books have earned a place on my bookshelf but I don’t consider her a particularly serious thinker. If you’d like to read something that goes against the grain in a VERY serious manner, then you should not read Rand but instead you should read “Letters on the Spanish Inquisition”. You’re welcome.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Fraser Orr,

    FWIW, I am an atheist, but I often say I am not an evangelical atheist. By which I mean I do not try to convert people to my way of thinking. Religion has a lot to offer people on a personal basis. A community to be part of, a moral code with a degree of certitude, a meaning and purpose to life, an answer to the great questions of life or death. As First Thessalonians said: “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope”. Atheism offers none of those things, in fact it really just offers one thing: a lack of a belief in god. Even if you broaden it out to “humanism” or something like that, it still doesn’t offer these things in spades.

    Have you considered why it is that Muslims, Jews, Christians, etc who are raised in religious households, by religious parents, in religious communities, and raised to worship G-d are not very susceptible to Woke Social Justice? Humans need religion. Not all humans. Maybe not you. But most humans need it, most of the time.

    This need, of course, does not preclude the veracity of any single religion. I am a believer. Joseph de Maistre was a Catholic. I am a Jew. De Maistre was not, alas, correct about all things.

    Of course believing you go to heaven after a virtuous death is the foundation for suicide bombing, so it has that as a down side, but last I checked there aren’t too many Anglican suicide bombers. Which is to say religion is a lot better if you don’t take it too seriously. It is why the phrase “committed Christian” always concerns me a bit.

    There are so many things wrong with this statement I know not even where to begin. For now, I’ll just point out that if you actually look at history objectively then you will find that it is the atheists and the secular people who have committed on a per person basis more murders, mayhem, genocide, destruction, chaos, disorder, hatreds, and war than believers.

    So, I guess it comes down to the question of the Matrix. Is it better to be deluded and happy, or red pilled and be bereft of the comforts of the delusion?

    Anyone who thinks he chooses his own beliefs is already living in a Matrix. You do not choose your beliefs. Neither do I. We both have free will, but beliefs are realized. They are realized via revelation, introspection, inheritance, and brainwashing.

    Anyway, if I could choose to be an atheist then I would do so in a heartbeat because it would make me much

    I prefer the brutal maw of reality

    Is this what you think you prefer?

    but I certainly wouldn’t judge someone as foolish who chose a little self delusion to be happier.

    I judge you. Feel free to judge me – in fact, I welcome it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I will tell you what I think if you ask. But I don’t necessarily think that getting atheist coverts is a particularly great achievement.

    Why are you bringing up atheist converts? I am Jewish and I have never tried to convert anyone to any religion in my entire life. I don’t really give a fuck what you believe, but your statements betray a certain… insecurity.

    I have no faculty to save your soul. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with Hitchens, if not quite so hyperbolically, that “religion poisons everything” when looked at it as a whole social movement.

    There is a great South Park episode you should watch. In the episode there is a religious war between the Atheists and the Agnostics (iirc). Andrew Sullivan has said that atheism is still a stance on the metaphysical. Somewhere between that South Park episode and Andrew Sullivan’s line there is a lesson that proves Hitchens dangerously wrong. Can you spot it?

    But I think most religious people are lovely, and I would be loathe to interfere with that which brings them joy.

    I think most atheist people are lovely, and I would be loathe to interfere with that which brings them joy.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Anyway, if I could choose to be an atheist then I would do so in a heartbeat because it would make me much

    Should have said:

    Anyway, if I could choose to be an atheist then I would do so in a heartbeat because it would make me much happier*.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Paul Marks,

    Shlomo – to base a society on principles that can not be rationally defended, is to base society on quick sand.

    This is really the heart of our disagreement. There are so many aspects to our disagreement I don’t even know where to start. I will leave here two additional quotes from the truly Great Joseph de Maistre as responses.

    Although written laws are always only declarations of anterior rights, yet it is very far from true that everything that can be written is written; there is even in every constitution always something that cannot be written, and that must be left behind a dark and impenetrable cloud on pain of overturning the state.

    And

    One of the greatest errors of this age is to believe that the political constitution oś nations is the work of man alone and that a constitution can be made as a watchmaker makes a watch. This is quite false; but still more false is the belief that this great work can be executed by an assembly of men. The author of all things has only two ways of giving a government to a people. Most often he reserves to himself its formation more directly by making it grow, as it were, imperceptibly like a plant, through the conjunction of a multitude of those circumstances we call fortuitous. But when he wants to lay quickly the foundations of a political structure and to show the world a creation of this kind, he confides his power to rare men, the true Elect. Scattered thinly over the centuries, they rise like obelisks on time’s path, and, as humanity grows older, they appear the less. To fit them for these unusual tasks, God invests them with unusual power, often unknown to their contemporaries and perhaps to themselves. Bousseau himself has spoken the truth when he said that the work of the founder of a nation was a MISSION…. If the founders of nations, who were all prodigious men, were to come before our eyes and we were to recognize their genius and their power, instead of talking nonsensically of usurpation, fraud, and fanaticism, we would fall on our knees and our sterility would disappear before the sacred sign shining from their brows….

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Paul Marks,

    Religion is not irrational – and even if God did not exist the moral law would be exactly the same (a point the Scholastics, the “School Men”, made for centuries).

    Perhaps this is so, but would man be aware of it?

    Maistre may have sincerely believed he was defending society – but he was undermining it, by (de facto) accepting the leftist attack that Western society was based on irrational dogmas (absurd superstitions) = it is very odd that Maistre took this position as he was a Roman Catholic, and Roman Catholic thinkers were normally very good at basing their position on a rational understanding of natural law and human agency.

    “accepting the leftist attack that Western society was based on irrational dogmas (absurd superstitions)” Okay so here’s the thing. Humans are irrational. That’s pretty much the thing.

    The late F.A. Hayek famously argued that one could reject the philosophy of the old Whigs (which is really the Aristotelian philosophy of the West) and still keep their political conclusions.

    Hayek was mistaken – as the political conclusions are based (foundationally) on the philosophy. Reject the philosophy, or claim it is irrational (just a superstition) and the political and legal structure falls.

    “Reject the philosophy, or claim it is irrational (just a superstition) and the political and legal structure falls.” First of all, I think here you are conflating two separate ideas: 1. rejecting the philosophy or claiming the philosophy of government is irrational and 2. as part of governing a nation, rejecting the philosophy or claiming the philosophy of government is irrational.

    1 and 2 are completely different things. When I say something here it has a very different meaning than if I said it as POTUS.

    Also, I’m not claiming that the philosophy of the US government is irrational. I value liberty, I deeply admire the Constitution, I cherish individual rights, and freedoms, especially the first two amendments to the US Constitution. I think individual rights and freedoms are the greatest engine for economic growth and healthy society.

    And yet the fact remains that government that is based on something entirely rational is DOOMED TO FALL. Not because the philosophy is wrong, but because it is more LIKELY to be subject to the reasoning of mobs of people. This is a nuanced point so let me rephrase it. The more the justification for a government is subject to reason, the less likely the government will survive – this is true REGARDLESS of the philosophy guiding the government.

    David Hume wrote, with indifference, about the “Euthanasia of the Constitution” – his philosophy (wrongly accepted Hayek_) led to the indifference – and, if accepted for a long period of time, leads to the “euthanasia of the constitution”.

    By the 1960s most of the principles of civilisation (not just politically – but culturally as well) were under attack, and the defenders of society were oddly WEAK.

    Surely you mean the 1760s? Or even centuries before that? I’m with Samuel Johnson – the first Whig was the Devil. This is tongue-in-cheek. Well, partly tongue-in-cheek.

    This is because their “arguments” (if they can even be called arguments) were David Hume style this-is-the-way-we-do-things-round-here stuff. which is no good at all.

    So, let me explain my view here. I think that if anything the “this-is-the-way-we-do-things-round-here stuff” was a response to what you call “attacks on the principles of civilization”. Please consider this possibility in the framework of what I have said previously in this comment and many other comments in the past.

  • The most rational thing to do is to observe how various philosophies turn out in practice.

    Capitalism delivers the goods, but its supporters cannot explain why this is so. Socialism does not deliver the goods, but its supporters can explain away its many failures.

    We on this blog imagine we can explain, but explanations of free enterprise – indeed explanations of freedom in general, are often post hoc. Adam Smith was explaining (among other things) why Scotland was more prosperous a few decades after its 1707 Union with England gave it a more distant and less arbitrary government. He was not predicting this outcome beforehand.

    A rational socialist would support capitalism, recognising socialists’ inability to explain capitalism’s superior speed of advance towards socialisms’ overt goals as another of the often-observed facts. There is a complex relationship between socialists too arrogant to value outcomes above their theories and socialists driven by the movement’s less overt goals.

    Post-hoc rationality works on things we can look at: on the-way-we-do-things-round-here and the-way-they-do-things-over-there and not on the-way-noone-yet-ever-did-things-anywhere, so is based on ‘irrational, random’ (one could argue) offerings of the past. Since the experience of empowering a state to conduct large-scale experiments on its people has been similar to socialism (arguably, socialism is just an example of it), it is rational to accept these historical limitations.

    One may see confining to the set of studyable societies (only allowing minimal, cautious, reversible tiny-step evolutions of them) as less than irrational – for example, justified by the weeding-out of societies that died and ‘ideal’ societies that died before the attempt to create them got off the ground (natural-selection), or justified by a subtle divine guidance (de Maistre?), or one may combine such views (Burke).

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Niall Kilmartin,

    The most rational thing to do is to observe how various philosophies turn out in practice.

    […]

    We on this blog imagine we can explain, but explanations of free enterprise – indeed explanations of freedom in general, are often post hoc.

    This is a very important point. It reminds me of a quote from Joseph de Maistre (all things do, haha) “History, however, which is experimental politics”

    Similar to what you are saying, I’d argue that history is experimental politics, offering us experiments (of sorts) by which to judge our own ideas.

    De Maistre then discussed a number of paradoxes:

    With respect to population, commerce, prohibitory legislation, and a thousand other important subjects, the most plausible theory is almost always found contradicted and brought to nothing by experience. Let us cite a few examples.

    What method must be used to make a state strong? “It is necessary first to encourage population by every possible means.” On the contrary, every law tending directly to favor population without regard to other considerations is bad.

    How shall food shortages and famine be prevented? “Nothing is more simple. It is necessary to prohibit the export of grains.” On the contrary, a premium must be granted those who export them. The authoritative example of England has forced us to swallow this paradox.

    How shall the rate of exchange be maintained in favor of a certain country? “It is unquestionably necessary to curtail the export of specie, and, consequently, to ensure by strong legal prohibitions that the state buy no more than it sells.” On the contrary, these means have never been employed without worsening the rate of exchange, or what amounts to the same thing, without increasing the indebtedness of a nation. Nor can the opposite course be taken without improving the rate of exchange, that is, without making it evident that the nation has achieved a favorable balance of payments with its neighbors, etc., etc.

    Elsewhere – I cannot find it at the moment – he discusses to great effect how irrational things tend to last – the Catholic Church, hereditary divine-right monarchy, Judaism, etc much longer than do “rational” things like democracies etc.

    History is experimental politics, offering us experiments (of sorts) by which to judge our own ideas.

  • Shlomo Maistre (March 7, 2021 at 11:11 pm), interesting quotes, thanks for providing them.

    History is experimental politics.

    I know what was meant, so merely remark as a pedant that in the modern world, the word ‘experiment’ can conjure up the idea of control groups, careful elimination of variance in external factors, etc. A medical field trial with placebos and equalised selection of trial groups is an experiment. A doctor’s case book is a set of case studies, each patient bringing an unequalised constitution and lifestyle into the consulting room. Or, as one might pedantically ‘clarify’ de Maistre,

    History is set of case studies in politics.

    (I concede de Maistre’s original sounds better.)

    From common elements visible in these case studies, you may hope to get a post-hoc theory. It will be more trustworthy than the day-dreamed future-based theories of intellectuals and yet (I’m guessing de Maistre would eagerly say ‘and’, Burke would dispassionately say ‘and yet’, and Rand would reluctantly say ‘but’) could be like the Victorian belief that miasmas caused disease – not exactly right, though an essential aspect of the problem and a usable guide to its solution. (Basiljet built London’s sewers to carry away what caused its bad smells – and only later realised he had thereby improved its hygiene directly, not indirectly.

  • Fraser (Fraser Orr, March 5, 2021 at 9:06), I doubt ( 🙂 ) we will agree on the general point and I am ready to leave it to each interested reader’s view.

    Pedant Niall Kilmartin, however, notes that an aspect of your picture of the US 100 years ago suggests an imperfect grasp of anglosphere society of 200-years ago, let alone 100-years-ago.

    If you want to know what an actual church in a southern/western US state would be like 200 years ago, what powers and tediums women might experience in it, try reading the Sunday school and church service chapters in Mark Twain’s ‘Tom Sawyer’. Twain was describing the society of his childhood, and not flatteringly – he admitted that Frances Trollope’s ‘Domestic manners of the Americans’ (where you can also get information) was a fair description. Her son Anthony visited the US in 1860; his book on it similarly describes US relations between the sexes in humorously-critical fashion:

    Eve tempted Adam to eat the apple and I have forgiven her. If she had been a western woman, she would have ordered him to make his meal and I would not have forgiven her.

    but it is clear from the humour he extracts when the young widow Mrs Bold strikes Slope that he thinks it forgivable for women to strike men, not men to strike women – the pretence of chiding her is nominally to excuse but actually to enhance his narrator luxuriating in Slope’s humiliation.

    To similar effect, but very approving of the US compared to France, is de Tocqueville ‘Democracy in America’. And you can get background information from Laura Ingalls Wilder, Jean Webster, Gene Stratton Porter and many another such female source, both strictly factual and nominally fictional, etc. How a society sees itself is never the whole story, but without a wide, deep, genial reading of it, you can be misled by what the dogma of a later society wants you to think about it.

    The strongly-female-influenced victorian US temperance movement would not have existed if shocking examples of drunken male violence to wives had been absent – or if US women and men had not found these examples shocking because they contrasted with the sober behaviour US society typically expected of men towards women.

    So while FAIK there might have been a church such as you describe in Jackson MI 200 years ago or even as you claim 100 years ago – 150 years ago there were still the denied-statehood Mormons in Utah, after all – we know what the attitude of the rest of the US was towards the unreformed Mormons.

    In the Victorian UK, a typical present to a bride was Mrs Beaton’s ‘Household Management’. Any bride who read it through would be clearly and detailedly informed that English law forbade her husband’s striking her under any non-self-defence circumstances whatever – that, if she announced she’d become a freethinker and was walking out of this patriarchal marriage, he was not a criminal if he stood in the doorway obstructing her departure by a strictly passive resistance but he was a criminal the moment he used the least violence upon her. Mrs Beaton, like many another (like Fraser?) could believe in a time when the unreformed “good old days” had “good old laws” – she is ready to believe that at some earlier time there was a rod of a legally-limited thickness and length that husbands could use – but she is very clear that British victorian women did not live in that time.

    (Mostly, Mrs Beaton’s book is about recipes, what to pay the housekeeper, and how many leeches to apply to your husband when he falls ill, but the competently-researched and presented info on the female-relevant laws of her day is there for those who read the whole thing.)

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