Liberal atheist Camille Paglia has some interesting things to say:
…I’m speaking here as an atheist. I don’t believe there is a God, but I respect every religion deeply. All the great world religions contain a complex system of beliefs regarding the nature of the universe and human life that is far more profound than anything that liberalism has produced. We have a whole generation of young people who are clinging to politics and to politicized visions of sexuality for their belief system. They see nothing but politics, but politics is tiny. Politics applies only to society. There is a huge metaphysical realm out there that involves the eternal principles of life and death. The great tragic texts, including the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles, no longer have the central status they once had in education, because we have steadily moved away from the heritage of western civilization.
The real problem is a lack of knowledge of religion as well as a lack of respect for religion. I find it completely hypocritical for people in academe or the media to demand understanding of Muslim beliefs and yet be so derisive and dismissive of the devout Christian beliefs of Southern conservatives…
Ah, but they don’t demand an understanding of Muslim beliefs. Liberals aren’t asking us to look at the theological basis of Islam. They don’t want us to get an in-depth view of Islamic civilization. They don’t want to discuss the morals and manners of Islam. Islam, to liberals, is just yet another handy club with which to beat the Judeo-Christian West. Muslims have been assigned victim status and thus provide a prop in the liberal morality play. Who Muslims are, what they believe and what the various types of Muslims may want are irrelevant – indeed, it would be dangerous to know, because knowing might wreck the assigned victim status and thus wreck a perfectly good prop. Kudos to Paglia for understanding that her fellow liberals are sitting in the dark condemning the light – but she still fails to fully understand how obscuritanist the left really is. C.S. Lewis, who started out as an atheist, once stated that an atheist cannot be too careful in what he reads – if he’s not careful, he’ll eventually run across something which questions the premise of atheism, and then he’s cooked.
I have been impressed by things Paglia has written over the years – clearly, she is a well educated and intelligent person. But I do wonder what she’s really exposed herself to. Maybe she has been exceptionally broad in her reading and I’m being unfair – but I suspect that a great number of intelligent liberal atheists have never read things like Miracles and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis; The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton, The Great Heresies by Hilaire Belloc…let alone ever cracking open something like Summa Contra Gentiles by St. Thomas Aquinas (which is hard reading – partially on style as it was written so long ago, but mostly on just the skull-cracking intellect of the writing). Paglia clearly has read quite a lot of things – and even supposing there are a large number of people like her (ie, liberal but with intellectual curiosity), is there any evidence that liberals, on the whole, want to really know anything?
In general, I see liberals as operating like this:
1. Who is the guilty party they get to condemn?
2. What cost-free (to themselves) action is required to make themselves believe they have done a good deed?
The best example of this is the liberal mobs mobilized on social media these days – they get to vent hatred with abandon and by merely, say, Tweeting a hash tag they get to feel they have actually done something to make the world a better place. You might have heard about Cecil the lion – recently killed in a big game hunt in Africa…this is liberal heaven. The hunter is American and is a white male! Just be as mean and as cruel as you want on social media and tweet #CeciltheLion and, presto!, you’re morally on par with Blessed Mother Theresa! The hunter has had his personal and business addresses posted on line. He is probably more hated – especially on the left – than ISIS goons. And the MSM is just churning the outrage…even finding out that the hunter once donated to Romney! Pity they can’t spare a bit of that cracker-jack reporting ability to look into Hillary’s e mails, huh? 100,000 people have signed a White House petition to have the hunter extradited to Zimbabwe – even though he probably didn’t break any Zimbabwean laws (it appears that if you do go big game hunting, your guide is responsible for making sure you only hunt legal targets).
It is all perfectly meaningless – but just tailor made for our liberals. They get someone to hate and they don’t have to do anything in order to feel like they’ve done something (if they really cared about the Cecil the lions of the world, they’d actually go to Africa and engage in the very hard, physically demanding work of conservation…there to discover that part of conservation some times involves hunting the animals in order to keep populations in line with resources; Cecil was off limits for hunting – but ask anyone who actually knows and you’ll find out that population control is vital in sustaining wild animals). Maybe the hunter is just the worst rat the world has ever seen – best parodied in Monty Python’s Mosquito Hunting skit – but, who knows? I’ve known some hunters and from what I’ve seen, it is hunters who provide the wherewithal for real conservation efforts. A liberal, sitting there in a comfortable, western world might see a lion hunt as a barbarity…but for the Africans who live around the animals, it appears that a bit of hunting is a way to obtain resources to preserve the animals as well as being a way to make a living…and just maybe if liberals had a bit of thought (and humility, too) they’d understand that their condemnation of all hunting is actually a bit of liberal social-imperialism directed against Third World peoples?
But, there is no thought here – and no more thought in liberal views on things like Christians, Southerners, the United States of America or any other issue you can think of. Paglia is right that our left lives in an entirely political world – but it is not just political, but the most crude, unthinking, lowest-common-denominator gutter politics. Paglia is justly upset that someone like Sophocles isn’t studied on the left – but the reason isn’t because Sophocles doesn’t have anything to offer, but because if you actually take the time to learn about Sophocles, you simply will not be able to engage in a social media flame war over the outrage-du-jour. You won’t be a person demanding that anything disliked be banned, nor demanding that anything you like be subsidized. People who obtain real knowledge become humble – the biggest thing they know is that they don’t know much, and so are wary of sweeping generalizations. Hounding and harassing people even for real errors are beneath the dignity of a person who has any real knowledge.
This is not, by the way, to say that we on the right are all intellectual titans. We have our anti-intellectual Puritans who can only live in a world where they are 100% right and anyone who is even a little different is just WRONG!!!1! We see this in conservatives who furiously proclaim that anyone who isn’t 100% behind Ted Cruz is just a RINO commie!!!1! Such people, though, don’t control the right. For the broader right, both Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz are conservative and either of them are vastly superior to any liberal. There is room on the right for honest differences of opinion. The only thing asked is mutual respect and at least some bit of intellectual rigor – if you are going to take a position which is opposed to the general run of the right, then provide some solid reasoning for it. There is no room on the left for such things. The liberal mind is closed – because it has to be. It can’t admit difference because that would confuse matters. If there are grey areas and room for debate, then where is the easily identified target for hatred? Where, too, the ability to make a gesture which, while perfectly meaningless, will allow the liberal preen himself on his moral excellence? The liberal mind is closed and it will remain closed – because it is easier than any other mode of living. It allows free play for emotion and makes no demands for personal sacrifice (some have made it out that liberalism is like a religion – and to a certain extent, this is true…but in the most crucial aspect, it isn’t. Religion actually makes demands on a person…liberalism makes no demands, at all, upon the liberal personally…the cost will always be borne by The Other – the hated Other who is responsible for the crime).
Where people like Paglia really fit in is hard to say – certainly, she holds a lot of views I find to be just plain wrong. But even outside of my Biblical injunction to not hate anyone, I could never hate Paglia, or anyone like her. She’s honest. She’s thinking. What more can I ask of anyone? If they are honest and thinking but come to views 180 degrees out of kilter from my own then all I can say is that either my views are mistaken, or I haven’t presented them properly. If I’m any sort of a fair person, when someone like Paglia makes an effective challenge to my views, my job is to consider the challenge and see whether I can answer it reasonably. There are some other liberals I’ve come across out there like her – but they are few and far between. I wonder if it is just a lack of religious faith which keeps them from switching over to the right? Or is it just a stubborn unwillingness to reject all of the precepts of youth? Paglia came of age in the 60’s, after all. I don’t know – but I’m grateful for people like Paglia.
But if Paglia is waiting for a time when liberalism, as a whole, will be less derisive of dissent, then she’ll be waiting a long time. I know full well that back in olden days, liberalism was Liberalism…a concept of human liberty pressed to the maximum. So much for the olden days – it is long gone. It fell to the totalitarian left – and the totalitarian left has bolted close the door.