Class Warfare Blog

January 8, 2012

Cultural Conservatives and the Age of Enlightenment

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:25 am
Tags: , , , ,

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has risen into the spotlight as a frontrunner based upon support of Republican cultural conservatives, mainly in the State of Iowa. Just what do these “cultural” conservatives want? What do they stand for?

According to Santorum’s rhetoric, these people decry the disintegration of our society due to Godlessness and the secular culture. Only a return to traditional marriage, church, and family will heal what ails the country.

So, are these people right? Let’s look at secular culture. Prior to the second half of the 18th Century, there was little to speak of in the way of secular culture in our Western tradition. The Churches reserved the right to punish anyone breaking their laws, church member or not, and the way this was enforced was through what was called the “Sacred Circle,” basically monarchs invoked the “divine rights of kings” and the Church backed them up. In return the kings backed up what ever the Churches wished to do. This, of course, led to much confusion and even more bloodshed as, for example, in England Catholics and Protestants vied for rule. Monarch after monarch outlawed first Catholicism, then Protestantism, with the people caught trying to figure out what to do, with dying often being the only option.

Along come the likes of Voltaire, Spinoza, Newton, Rousseau, Montesquieu, and John Locke who proposed that reason must be applied above all and that strict adherence to the dictates of people professing a direct pipeline to a deity was anathema. And, voila, secular culture was born and has been making strides ever since. The culture of the Enlightenment places individual freedom, democracy, and reason as the central values of society.

Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, both advocates of reason, were devotees of John Locke and incorporated many of his ideas, such as the separation of church and state, a principle many cultural conservatives are campaigning to undermine by having the U.S. declared a “Christian Nation,” for example, or by decrying the prohibition of prayer in schools. By the way, prayer in schools is prohibited nowhere in the U.S. The Constitution prohibits public schools (run by governments) from sponsoring or scheduling or authorizing any prayers, that is, it forbids state-sponsored prayers. This is what those cultural conservatives want, not “prayer in schools,” but “Government-led prayer in schools.” One wag stated it as “anyone who thinks there is no prayer in schools has never witnessed an algebra test.”

So, Cultural Conservatives decry what secular culture has done to the U.S. So, what have the effects been as secular culture slowly grinds away against religious righteousness? Well, let see, Mississippi, the state with the highest regular church attendance, according to a Gallup poll, also has the highest murder rate. Hmm. The least religious states in that same poll, New Hampshire and Vermont have the second and first lowest murder rates. Hmmm. Actually, if you go into what the data are and don’t just pick stories out of the news as the cultural conservatives do, you will find that most of the indicators of “Christian values” so beloved by Santorum and his ilk correlate exactly the opposite with what they claim the solution is. The more religious folks are, the less likely they are to conform with their values, not the other way around.

  Basically, overt religiosity in this country correlates well with ignorance.

Basically, overt religiosity in this country correlates well with ignorance. The higher the educational attainment of a region’s citizens, the lower the overt religiosity they exhibit, and the more moral the behavior of that group becomes and vice-versa.

I think most cultural conservatives missed out on the Age of Enlightenment and had they not, they would not ask people to look seriously at their claims as the evidence all points positively to the civilizing features of secular culture and negatively at religious culture.

And maybe it is a very good thing, and it is for very good reasons, that New Hampshire has the reputation for picking presidents and Iowa does not.

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