Leaving religion for good 6

We dearly love an article we can enjoy examining critically. Best of all we like an opinion that we partly agree with and partly do not.

This article is by Star Parker, whose columns at Townhall on political issues we generally like. And here  again we have no quarrel with her political views. It is her conviction that religion is necessary and good that sparks our opposition.

A new Pew Research Center survey of opinion about the importance of religion in American life shows an interesting picture.

Over the last 12 years, the percentage of Americans that think religion is losing influence in American life has increased dramatically. In 2002, 52 percent of those surveyed said religion is losing influence. In 2014, 72 percent of Americans said religion is losing influence.

To us, of course, that’s good news.

However, while increasing numbers of Americans feel religion is losing influence, most feel this is a bad thing.

Fifty-six percent say that the waning influence of religion is a bad thing compared to 12 percent that say it is a good thing.

In a survey done by Pew in 2012, 58 percent of Americans said religion is “very important” and only 18 percent said it is not “too important” or “not important at all”.

This raises some interesting questions.

One clear one is why, when Americans think religion is very important, has the percentage of Americans who think religion is losing influence in American life increased almost 40 percent over the last 14 years?

Another one is what are the political implications? Certainly, in the Republican Party, there is an increasingly vocal libertarian leaning faction that sees religion as costly political baggage.

Yes – and that is one of the libertarian views with which we are in strong sympathy.

I attribute why almost three fourths of Americans feel that religion is losing influence in American life, while most feel this is a bad thing, to the law of unintended consequences.

She goes on to describe the disaster of welfare policies. We too think they have been – and continue to be – disastrous.

Many Americans have been unwittingly supporting policies for more than a half-century that they thought were good ideas and consistent with their values which have been neither. Now more Americans are beginning to appreciate the damage that has been done and how far the nation has strayed from their own sense of right and wrong.

Take the example of welfare.

When Aid to Families with Dependent Children program was dramatically expanded in the 1960s, it seemed morally correct for government to get more aggressive in the lives of the poor, particularly poor black women. … Massive increases of government in the lives of low-income black families were accompanied by a tripling of single parent households and out-of wedlock births, laying the groundwork for intergenerational poverty.

Right. Those have been and are the causes of “intergenerational poverty”.

But we omitted a sentence. It was this:

Who appreciated that the program would undermine the very religious, traditional values that keep families intact, essential for the work ethic that leads people out poverty?

It may well have been the case that Church-taught values contributed to a belief that children should be born to married parents. Many held that belief also because it is plainly best for children to be raised by a mother and a father. The principle is good whether endorsed or not by a religion.

We contend that it is because the state took over the responsibility of providing for children that men could so easily opt out of the traditional role of bread-winner to their families. It was government incursion into private life that did the damage to believers and non-believers alike. Their religion or lack of it had nothing to do with the “unintended consequences” of welfarism.

Now it’s happening in the whole country. As we’ve gotten more government telling Americans how to save for retirement, how to deal with their health care, how to educate their children – American families have been damaged and out-of-wedlock births have increased six-fold from 1960 to 42 percent today. Government has displaced family.

Right.

Some say today we have competing views about the role of government.

Conservatives and progressives do have different views about the role of government. That is not a matter of opinion, but a fact.

I would say we have competing views about what life is about.

Yes. We think life can be “about” anything that free individuals want to make it. Star Parker thinks that life was created, and the creator had a purpose, and that purpose, though impossible to define, is somehow helped along by this or that set of religious doctrines. About which set of doctrines in particular, there are “competing views” among the multitude of religions, each of which claims to teach “the truth”.

One view – a decidedly secular, materialistic view – sees no mystery in life.

We have a decidedly secular view – materialistic too in that we see the need to sustain our physical existence as well and as pleasantly as we possibly can. But we do not think there is no mystery.  On the contrary, we are aware that humankind knows very little. To learn more, to explore what we do not know about our universe and ourselves is the most exciting adventure of our conscious lives, and discovery is the engine of all progress.

Pretending to know that there is a purpose to life known only to a supernatural being who created it but chooses to keep his purpose secret, is to opt out of the great adventure.

The left wing version, which dominates the Democratic Party, says government can solve all of life’s problems.

Or most of them. And it’s a wrong and dangerous belief.

The hard-core libertarian version, found among some Republicans — says just leave everybody alone — you don’t bother me and I won’t bother you — and everything will work out for the best.

That is an absurd encapsulation of the libertarian view. No intelligent libertarian thinks that if people are left to make their own choices, if they are self-reliant, “everything will work out for the best”. Every individual will make his own successes and failures – and take responsibility for them. He knows that government cannot solve “all life’s problems” – and, what’s more, does a pretty poor job of solving the one problem it exists to solve: how best to protect liberty.

The other view maintains that you can’t have a free society that is not also a virtuous society.

A free society starts off with the virtue of being a free society. Freedom needs to be protected by law, and, if it is, crime will be punished, foreign enemies will be kept away, and the people can prosper. How good they are in their private lives remains forever dependent on individual character and choice.

It was what George Washington meant when he said in his farewell address that “of all the dispensations and habits that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports”.

We are sorry we can only partially agree with George Washington on this. Morality, yes. Religion? What religion has a history that can withstand moral criticism? Some – Christianity and Islam in particular – have a history of carnage and cruelty. That Christianity preaches against both make its actual record all the worse.

It is my sense that more Americans are beginning to wake up to the unintended, damaging consequences of the often well-intended government policies they have been supporting for many years.

More Americans are beginning to appreciate that we can’t separate our fiscal and economic problems from our moral problems and that if we want to recapture our freedom and prosperity, we must recapture our virtue.

Certainly. But we won’t do that by returning into the mental darkness of religion. We can do it by limiting the powers of government and recovering the idea of liberty as the highest value. That is political and moral virtue.

  • Don L

    That was a great exchange. Thanks Jillian. That would have been fun to watch if it had been a live event.

    My only observation is that it was too bad the discussion was limited to the effects of poverty programs affecting just the blacks. The rest of society too has had a meltdown of family. Not necessarily of a proram(s) result, but as a consequent (ya knows I’m goin’ dere) of FED inherent and intentional inflationary monetary policy.

    Who hasn’t ever listened to someone older comment about when they were young a thing cost Y and now it costs 100 Xs Y. In fact we have lived with that chronic, perpetual, inevitable price upward creep all of our lives (unless you are older than 101). And, we take it for granted. We just march happily along accepting that things always cost more.

    The FED promotes itself as having been created in order to fight inflation. A bold face lie. It’s purpose, in irrefutable fact, is to cause inflation…with the absurdly impossible belief that they can control it. Today, they lie about inflation: energy and food prices are omitted from the calculation.

    In reality, if a free market actually existed, prices would continually decline — deflation (not caused by a FED policy). Before the FED, deflation was normal. As new technology came about, as innovations in productivity hit the manufacturing floor and as transportation reduced times and lowered costs machinery…prices dropped. Consumers are Kings and Queens in a competitive free market. Savings are passed along toward attracting consumers. The FED cranks up its machinery to swallow the deflationary effects.

    Inflation is the intentional expansion of the money supply. The value, or value as a means of exchange, for each dollar drops. Counterfeiters always make out best. Their new money is not yet diluted ansd so it’s exchange value is still high. But as the dollars disburse through the economy, prices rise as more dollars are chasing fewer goods. Rising prices are not inflation…it is the symptom of inflation and ONLY GOVERNMENT CAN INFLATE!!!

    So, as the cost of living keeps rising above real wages…voila, both parents need to work to pay the bills. And, real wages keep dropping as the other effects of monetary & fiscal policies and “regulations for re-election dollars” take affect. Kids with no mother or father…now you add in child care costs and the spiral is generational crappola. Not ever to be solved by mumbo jumbo get down on your knees and genuflect or hymn 23 or filled sports arena prayer revival. It’s solved by throwing the bums out! And, as Cabbie #268 — “I know just how to get ya there”! more later. LOL

    • Thank you, Don. I intend to file it. Then I can quote it when need arises.

      Glad you survived the latest storm. (Caused, don’t you know, by global warming? Yeah – for sure.)

    • liz

      So, how does the “redistribution of wealth” from rich to poor by our present socialists fit in this picture? Let’s see….how about, the only difference between these liars and your average government liar is that they’re just lying more. Got it !
      Economics isn’t always clear to me, but understanding this fact simplifies things quite a lot!

      • REALBEING

        I’ve been taught that the real value in a person living their life is in making their own way. Now, how can I make my own way if I must depend on you to make it for me??

        The value of anything and ultimately in everything is found in the struggle to attain it………

  • REALBEING

    “However, while increasing numbers of Americans feel religion is losing influence, most feel this is a bad thing.
    Fifty-six percent say that the waning influence of religion is a bad thing compared to 12 percent that say it is a good thing.”

    LOL!!! I’d be willing to bet that those “56%ers” were all attached in some large way to a religion of some sort!!!

    • liz

      Yes. And the author of the article displays again the utter inability of Christians to separate morality from religion. Or maybe it’s more of a stubborn refusal to. Because that would mess up what they perceive as being in possession of something the world can’t do without.
      So, atheists will always be immoral by definition, in their minds.
      If you present them with facts they will label them as lies, just because you’re an atheist.
      And they’ll never notice how they contradict themselves by condemning “materialism”, yet at the same time championing capitalism.