A good man with a bad idea 32

The US Attorney General, William Barr, gave a formal talk at (Roman Catholic) Notre Dame Law School last week (Friday, October 11, 2019) which has come to our notice.

We respect Attorney General Barr for declaring, to questioners at a congressional hearing, that the admitted surveillance of President Trump by US intelligent agents was indeed spying. A statement that shocked the Democrats. Not because it wasn’t true, but because they didn’t want the truth to be spoken, and hated it to be spoken so bluntly.

We expect the Attorney General to shock them much more deeply and permanently by bringing all their criminal machinations to overthrow the duly elected president into open scrutiny, and charging all the guilty with their crimes. Our expectation and hope extend to seeing them jailed.

So we are reluctant to criticize Mr. Barr.

But his speech at the Law School raises an issue of importance to us.

Terry Jeffrey, editor in chief of CNSnews.com, reports the speech and comments on it at Townhall:

Barr simply explained what President John Adams meant by a statement he made in 1798 letter. He then showed the significance of that statement to American life today.

“We have no Government armed with Power which is capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by … morality and religion,” Barr quoted from Adams’s letter. “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”

Within this context, Barr accurately described the cultural war raging in America today.

“The challenge we face is precisely what the founding fathers foresaw would be the supreme test of a free society,” Barr told the Notre Dame law students.

“They never thought that the main danger to the republic would come from an external foe,” he said. “The question was whether the citizens in such a free society could maintain the moral discipline and virtue necessary for the survival of free institutions.”

“And this is really what they meant by self-government,” said Barr. “It did not mean primarily the mechanics by which we select a representative legislature. It referred to the capacity of each individual to restrain and govern themselves.”

A notion with which we have no quarrel.

Mr. Barr went on to say:

But what was the source of this internal controlling power? In a free republic, those restraints could not be handed down from above by philosopher kings. Instead, social order must flow up from the people themselves freely obeying the dictates of inwardly possessed and commonly shared moral values.

Certainly they must.

But then he said:

And to control willful human beings with an infinite capacity to rationalize, those moral values must rest on an authority independent of men’s wills. They must flow from the transcendent Supreme Being. In short, in the framers’ view, free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people, a people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order antecedent to both the state and to manmade laws and had the discipline to control themselves according to those enduring principles.

Why must they, how could they, “flow” from a “transcendent Supreme Being”? How is such a “transcendent moral order” made known to human beings? By the “Supreme Being” implanting the knowledge as instinct? Or through ancient assertions by ignorant men?

We state apodictically that no superhuman being ever spoke to a human being. Though both St. Paul and Muhammad say they were spoken to by “Jesus” and “the Archangel Gabriel” respectively.

We laugh off all such claims. Can we then accept that it is by instinct the religious have knowledge of a “transcendent moral order”? Moral knowledge planted deep in their souls?

But which “transcendent moral order”? Not only did Jesus and Gabriel give quite different moral commandments according to the human conduits of their messages, but instinct too has conveyed a variety of convictions as to what is morally right and wrong. They often contradict one another. While (for instance) some religions teach that a woman who commits adultery must be stoned to death by a crowd of righteously outraged citizens, another maintains that only one who is without sin may cast the first stone, and insists that all mortals are tainted with the sin of their first ancestors, so no one may start stoning.

We atheists want – as we thought the Founding Fathers all wanted – a state that has nothing to do with religion; steers clear of making any laws “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. But William Barr, and Terry Jeffrey¬† insist – and remind us John Adams insisted – that “our constitution was made only for a moral and religious People”. And they tell us the Constitution, and America itself as the free country founded on the Constitution, are chiefly under threat not – as we observe – from Congressional socialists, revolutionaries in the schools and universities, violent anarchists in the streets, but from “secularists”.

Barr argued that “secularists” are now attacking the moral order that is the foundation of our liberty and threatening religious freedom in pursuit of their cause.

First is the force, fervor and comprehensiveness of the assault on organized religion we are experiencing today. This is not decay. This is organized destruction. Secularists and their allies have marshaled all the forces of mass communication, popular culture, the entertainment industry and academia, in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.

The threat is not that the government will establish a state religion; the threat is that the state will attack people for conscientiously practicing their own.

“The problem is not that religion is being forced on others,” Barr said. “The problem is that irreligion is being forced; secular values are being forced on people of faith.

What secular values? What secularists are fervently and comprehensively assaulting organized religion?

It may be that secularists and atheists on the Left are doing so. But are they doing it to force secularist values, or Leftist values which are secular?

We atheist conservatives are doing nothing like that. And we don’t know any secularists or atheists on the political Right who are actively trying to stop people worshiping this or that god or sets of gods. Most of us just think it is absurd to do so. (And we certainly don’t want a theocracy. If we saw any danger of that coming up we would attempt, fervently and comprehensively, to stop it.)

Mr. Barr cites an example which is typical of the intolerance of the Left. Not of atheists and secularists generally – though it affected a religious organization – but essentially of the Left:

One example he cites is the crusade the Obama administration fought all the way to the Supreme Court to force Americans – including the Little Sisters of the Poor – to act against their conscience by mandating that they buy insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices.

But Barr recognizes that the ultimate battle is for the hearts and minds of America’s children.

“Ground zero for these attacks on religion are the schools,” he said.

He cited as one example an opinion issued by the Orange County Board of Education in California that said, “Parents who disagree with the instructional materials related to gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation may not excuse their children from this instruction.”

In other words, if you cannot afford to liberate your child from the government school, you must allow that government agency to teach your child that a boy can become a girl.

We share his indignation. That is not an atheist or a secularist reaction. It is common sense to repudiate such nonsense.

But the excellent Mr. Barr thinks that only Christian teaching – not science – can make the conclusive argument against the proposition that there are or can be more than two sexes.

Education is not vocational training. It is leading our children to the recognition that there is truth and helping them develop the facilities to discern and love the truth and the discipline to live by it.

Sounds good, but by “truth” he means the Christian religion.

We cannot have a moral renaissance unless we succeed in passing to the next generation our faith and values in full vigor.

“Our values” certainly.

“Our faith”? No. The less religion is taught to new generations, decidedly the better!

Wherever wars are being fought or threatened now, this month, this year, anywhere in our world, the cause in almost every case arises, burning hot and lethal, out of one or another religion’s “truth”.

Posted under Christianity, Ethics, Leftism, Religion general, United States, US Constitution by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, October 16, 2019

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