Monday, December 12, 2005

Why is America so Conservative?

Ok American liberals, don't get your panties all in a bunch. Even you're fairly conservative compared to Euro liberals. But the question still demands asking. We are the most conservative people in the Western World. Just to get here, our forefathers had to be the mavericks, the poor, the outcasts from every corner of the globe. We are some of the most innovative people on the planet, always on the move. And yet we hold to principles that seem to have been given up in most of the West, and are held up to ridicule in Europe.

I submit that it is because of our adherence to Judeo-Christian beliefs. One can be innovative and conservative at the same time if one subjects himself to laws of God. Then the state is not all powerful. We conservatives here in the States feel that our freedoms and responsibilities are God given, and we loan a bit of that power to the State to act in our stead. The State at that point just becomes our employee.

Once you lose religion, the State becomes God.

31 Comments:

At 8:02 PM, Anonymous Frank O'Dwyer said...

You are equivocating on the word "we" there...one minute you mean (christian) religious conservatives, next you mean all conservatives, next you mean the whole country.

Religious people seem to believe that if one has no religion then one must replace god with something else. This is not so. You do not believe in the easter bunny, I assume, but equally I assume you would be insulted if I insisted that the state, or indeed god, then becomes the easter bunny for you.

Plenty of people of all religions and none believe in separation of church and state. Freedom of religion is also freedom FROM religion. That's one reason, if not the main reason, that it works.

 
At 8:50 PM, Blogger Chas said...

Frank o'dwyer, I absolutely agree that it is freedom from religion that makes our system work. I developed that thought in the next post. As you say i need to tighten up what I mean by we.
The "we" here is the large majority of the conservative movement that i would call the "socials" ie the Southern Fried. A belief in God i don't think is needed to be a tax cutter, but when you talk about abortion, the death penalty, euthanisia, ect a moral framework is most helpful. Contrast this with the relativsim on the left. Thanks for the post!

 
At 9:38 PM, Anonymous Alan McDonald said...

CH,

I am so glad that you started your own blog. I look forward to chatting with you about our mutual love for America and our cousins in Northern Ireland.

Now, on the question you pose (and answer), we may have some issues surrounding the terms "conservative" and "liberal." Americans were certainly more liberal than most Europeans in the eighteenth century. We then established our liberalism and it became what we chose to conserve over the next 200+ years.

I look forward to much good discussion in the days to come.

P.S. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

 
At 10:19 PM, Blogger Chas said...

Alan McDonald, Welcome my old friend! Yea, I'm gonna give it a go, still getting my sea legs though. I still prefer my granny reading glasses and a 200 year old book, but this infernal machine seems to be the way to go.

A Merry Christmas to you Alan, and I look forwad to our future discussions.

 
At 1:33 AM, Anonymous Neal said...

a moral framework is most helpful.

Agreed...but there's no particular reason that a moral framework needs to have a religious foundation.

 
At 3:13 AM, Anonymous Frank O'Dwyer said...

Chas,

A belief in God i don't think is needed to be a tax cutter, but when you talk about abortion, the death penalty, euthanisia, ect a moral framework is most helpful.

Plenty of people believe in the same God and the same Bible as yourself and yet come to the opposite conclusion on all of those points than do you. Just as plenty of people do not believe in god and still have a "moral framework".

Contrast this with the relativsim on the left.

Statements such as this irk me as I would class myself a relativist but not a 'leftie' (though I am probably to the left of you :-)

Relativism is simply a moral philosophy, specifically a belief that there is no absolute good. I suspect that doesn't mean what you think it means, and it isn't the sole preserve of the 'left' at all.

It is often confused with situational ethics, or lack of any ethics at all, but it doesn't mean either. Nor does it imply any particular position on the questions you pose above (although I suspect I probably disagree with you on them all :-).

But, again, plenty of people take absolutist positions on those questions and still don't agree with you. So you're just left arguing as to which absolutism is 'correct', or what exactly God meant by which cryptic command. To me this is not much of a moral framework, i.e. it is not any more helpful in deciding the questions than is a relativist take on them, or for that matter than rolling a dice or astrology.

 
At 7:16 AM, Blogger Chas said...

Frank, What you seem to be saying is that what is right and wrong for one doesn't apply to another. At this point infanticide just becomes a matter of opinion for instance. As they say, it's not call The Ten Suggestions.

Neal, I'll have to think about that one!

 
At 2:34 PM, Anonymous Frank O'Dwyer said...

Frank, What you seem to be saying is that what is right and wrong for one doesn't apply to another.

Nope. Just that it depends on the reference frame used.

To take a topical example, the lethal injection of Williams was legal in the USA. If that had been attempted in England, the same people would be looking at jail time.

You would, I assume, say it is moral in either case. You might or might not also justify it with Biblical context. I would say it is moral in neither, and somebody else might quote the same Bible you do, yet agree with me.

The point being it's impossible to really discuss it unless you specify what reference frame you mean and you share that reference frame with the other person.

At this point infanticide just becomes a matter of opinion for instance.

It's a matter of opinion, but not just a matter of opinion. For example people will disagree as to what constitutes infanticide. People also have to deal with other people and their pesky opinions on the matter.

Was Hiroshima infanticide? Iraq? Is it infanticide when 1000s of children in the 3rd world are allowed to die?

As they say, it's not call The Ten Suggestions.

Yet there is not law against adultery, being mean to your parents, lying, worshiping false gods, etc. All equally grave sins as murder, right?

 
At 3:33 PM, Blogger Chas said...

Frank O'Dwyer, I tip my hat to your intellect! My head is spinning.

I think I know what you mean by there being no absolute good. If my baby eats tonight, is that good, if another child goes hungry?. However you are overlooking intent. For instance, infantacide is an overt act in which you intend to kill a child. Was Hiroshima infantacide? No, b/c the intent was to stop a war to save lives. We have to make these moral judgements everyday.

It's true that 2 Christians with the same Bible can come to 2 different worlviews. For instance, I don't believe in creationism. Some do.We have to use our God given intellects to weave through this.

I'll still hang my hat on the Big Ten as good rules for living, and forming part of the base for Conservatism.

 
At 7:10 PM, Anonymous Frank O'Dwyer said...

Chas,

Well your first point will probably cause much hilarity among the ATW contingent, but thanks anyway. I think. :-)

I think I know what you mean by there being no absolute good. If my baby eats tonight, is that good, if another child goes hungry?

Well that's part of it. That might be more 'nothing is perfect'.

It's not really about whether morality is absolute or relative, really. I choose to believe the latter because it makes more sense to me, but it's not provable either way. It's more having the humility to realise you may be mistaken, and the realism to understand that people often really do have different values in the first place. Shared values are the important ones.

Not only that but we often have different models of reality in the first place! Basic facts are even disputed. It is amazing that we are ever able to agree on anything.

However you are overlooking intent. For instance, infantacide is an overt act in which you intend to kill a child. Was Hiroshima infantacide? No, b/c the intent was to stop a war to save lives.

It was, but this is a slippery slope, and it amounts to saying the end justifies the means. It is as if to say you may kill 5 if you save 6 - or even if you save none but intended to save 6. A similar argument is used to justify the Iraq war. But at what point does a just action become mass murder? Can they forever kill innocent civilians, as many as they wish, simply because Saddam did so?

We have to make these moral judgements everyday.

Yes we do. Everything we do is a decision not to do something else.

All that money spent on the Iraq war would feed a lot of children.

I'll still hang my hat on the Big Ten as good rules for living, and forming part of the base for Conservatism.

Well of course you can choose whatever you want as your rules for living, and good luck to you. I'm sure you could do worse.

But as a base for a political view? Where does that leave non-Christians? How do you square that with separation of church and state?

 
At 8:22 PM, Blogger Chas said...

Frank, I thank you for a thoughtful discussion. But you're as slippery as a greased pig at a kids rodeo!

I really think we're a lot closer than it seems.

But as a base for a political view? Where does that leave non-Christians? How do you square that with separation of church and state?

I think it's a perfect place to start in basing a political party. It's a 1st principle. We stand under God, His children, from Whom we gain our right to life and liberty. The state doen't grant these. "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal." That's very different from the French Rev. where all men were declared equal by the state.

Church and state remain seperated b/c the government doesn't favor one religion over another (although it does seem to favor no religion, which puts the non-religious ahead of everyone else, a clear violation!)

As to non-Christians, let'em join up, and if they can sway the majority in a democratic way to change, they may try. It's a free country!

 
At 11:54 AM, Blogger MonicaR said...

There is no 'separation of Church and State' in the Constitution.

CH is right in that we consider our rights to be "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

It is not the State who grants these rights - it is the Creator. However:
"That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it..."

Another point I would like to make to Frank O'Dwyer. The first amendment says in part: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.."

It's freedom OF religion here in the United States of America - NOT freedom FROM religion. You don't have to like it but that's the way it is. We are not France. (Thank you GOD!!)

Frank - you can whine and cry all you want about the starving children. The FACT is - America feeds the world.

 
At 2:59 AM, Anonymous Frank O'Dwyer said...

Monicar,

The DOI is not law.

Secondly, freedom of religion is also freedom from religion. The two go hand in hand. Your freedom to practice your religion is another's freedom not to.

 
At 2:52 PM, Blogger Chas said...

Frank, your last statement is astounding (or astoundingly truthful). The fact that i practice my religion impinges on your right not too!? The right feels, i guess rightly so from your comment, that our very existence is an affront to the left. Good thing for the Bill of Rights!

 
At 3:31 PM, Anonymous Frank O'Dwyer said...

Frank, your last statement is astounding (or astoundingly truthful). The fact that i practice my religion impinges on your right not too!?

Not at all. You've misread what I've written - the keyword is freedom. The fact that you are FREE to practice means I am FREE not to. Your freedom doesn't impinge on mine, nor does mine on yours.

Perhaps it would be clearer if I wrote that your freedom to practice your religion also requires that you are free not to practice (say) Buddhism.

Which in turn means that atheists and agnostics have the freedom not to practice your religion, or anyone else's.

 
At 1:45 AM, Blogger MonicaR said...

Your freedom FROM religion doesn't give you the right to stop me from proclaiming mine, Frank.

The 'DOI' (as you call it) was quoted for a reason. I spelled it out to you so that you could understand the mindset that you are dealing with here. I see that you have completely ignored the major point and that is the 1st amendment to the Constition which was also quoted in part to you.

BTW - where have you noticed any persecution taking place here in the US because a citizen has a spiritual belief other than Christianity?

 
At 4:02 AM, Anonymous Frank O'Dwyer said...

Your freedom FROM religion doesn't give you the right to stop me from proclaiming mine, Frank.

Never claimed otherwise. We're talking about the right to practise religion here - "free exercise thereof". I know it may be hard for you to imagine, but some people actually want to practise their beliefs and not just hypocritically proclaim them.

At least you've now conceded that there is a right of freedom FROM religion. One wonders what the hell your point was in that case.

I see that you have completely ignored the major point and that is the 1st amendment to the Constition which was also quoted in part to you.

You're hallucinating, since this has been about the 1st amendment from the outset.

 
At 9:31 AM, Blogger Chas said...

Monica and Frank, Great discussion!

I'm starting to see a liberal/conservative split that I hadn't noticed before. We conservatives lean on the Declaration of Independence for establishing first principles, then going to the constitution to codify "our more perfect union."

Frank, you get straight to parsing the constitution, saying that the DOI isn't law.

That's what drives us on the right crazy. We see "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" as we're dragged into court to be told "what the constituting really means" (as opposed to what it actually says.)

 
At 5:56 PM, Anonymous Frank O'Dwyer said...

That's what drives us on the right crazy. We see "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" as we're dragged into court to be told "what the constituting really means" (as opposed to what it actually says.)

Sure, I understand that frustration. But if the DOI were written into the constitution it wouldn't make much difference. You'd still need somebody to interpret that. (Notice that rights aren't ranked in the DOI either, nor are they explained in detail or exhaustively listed).

It's inevitable that you'll get some judicial activism. Equally it's inevitable that just about any interpretation of a constitution will be seen as activism or a wrong interpretation by somebody. If there weren't at least two sides, you wouldn't need a judge. Even the judges don't always agree, do they?

Ultimately if the judges go further in interpretation than the people can tolerate, new judges will get appointed, and/or the constitution will get amended.

Don't criticise the process for not being perfect. You have it pretty good - at least your constitution is a good one. And I think it was Winston Churchill who said, "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried". Or words to that effect. :-)

 
At 11:57 PM, Blogger MonicaR said...

"At least you've now conceded that there is a right of freedom FROM religion. One wonders what the hell your point was in that case."

Frank - you don't see the point. LOL! I'll try to explain it one more time and then I'm giving up and marking you a hopeless case. (although WHY I haven't done that before now I do not know!!)

I did not concede a right of freedom FROM religion. I believe that anyone has a right to have any religious belief or none! I believe that all have a right to express their belief - or their disbelief.

Where I get pissed off is when people with the disbelief attempt to curtail my proclamation of belief.

D'ya get it now??!!!

 
At 12:01 AM, Blogger MonicaR said...

I have just asked 2 people (one a leftist) to read the point I am attempting to make to Frank. Both agree that what I have said is perfectly logical. None of us believe that Frank will 'get' it.
LOL!

You're in pretty bad shape, Frankie! Even my good neighbor leftist agrees with me.

 
At 12:41 AM, Anonymous Frank O'Dwyer said...

I did not concede a right of freedom FROM religion. I believe that anyone has a right to have any religious belief or none! I believe that all have a right to express their belief - or their disbelief.

Jeez...me too, Monica.

I do not mean in any sense that religion should be *hidden from view* or silenced, or that you can't proclaim it to your heart's content.

But you're so busy arguing against a point I've never made that you repeatedly miss that as well as that all have the right to exercise a religion or not to. This is what 'free exercise' means! There is more to most religions than simply talking about it, right?

Let me give an example of what I'm talking about: Christians are free to baptise their children, read the Bible, say their prayers and go to church. Atheists, Buddhists, and all the rest, are free not to do any of that. I would say they are free from that particular religion (just as you are free from all the others).

Now do you get it? I don't expect you'd disagree with what I've said there, though you might put it differently - is this just a terminology issue?

Where I get pissed off is when people with the disbelief attempt to curtail my proclamation of belief.

What examples have you in mind here?

 
At 5:06 PM, Blogger MonicaR said...

Ahhhhhh - so you DO get it - you're just arguing for no good reason then.

Then you concede that what we are looking at here is not 'freedom FROM religion' but 'freedom OF religion'.

"I do not mean in any sense that religion should be *hidden from view* or silenced..."

Then you are a minority amongst your leftist friends.

What examples have you in mind here?

I can't believe you are asking me that question! Perhaps another reader has the energy to spoon feed it to you? It's only one of the huge frigging debates in progress here in the US.

 
At 5:59 PM, Anonymous Frank O'Dwyer said...

Then you concede that what we are looking at here is not 'freedom FROM religion' but 'freedom OF religion'.

A case of "I say potayto, you say potahto"...I think we mean the same thing albeit for different reasons.

Me: What examples have you in mind here?

You: I can't believe you are asking me that question!

I prefer not to attempt to read your mind, given your propensity for hallucination so far! I assume you mean the prohibition on state-sponsored prayer in schools, I just wondered if you had other examples too, that's all.

 
At 1:21 AM, Blogger MonicaR said...

Ummmm. No - that would not be it.

Saying that I am hallucinating does not help your cause in wishing to be spoon fed.

 
At 6:59 AM, Anonymous Frank O'Dwyer said...

Saying that I am hallucinating does not help your cause in wishing to be spoon fed.

See there you go hallucinating again...I have no "cause in wishing to be spoonfed". :-)

The military chaplain controversy?

Do I win a prize if I guess this? :-)

 
At 11:22 PM, Blogger MonicaR said...

Keep guessing Frank. LOL!

 
At 6:08 AM, Anonymous Frank O'Dwyer said...

:-)

Well if you mean the Intelligent Design thing I'm going to be very disappointed in you...

(And it's customary to give up after three guesses :-)

 
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