It is clear to me that just about any normative proposition concerning how we should organize ourselves and our resources is dependent upon or influenced by further propositions regarding knowledge about the existence of God and His relation to us. Take western Christianity, for example. If it is true, then, as a matter of fact, each human being is created, free and of enormous intrinsic worth whose objective good is with God; and moreover, each person is subject to the Ten Commandments, and we are commanded to care for the most vulnerable and love our neighbor; it’d also be true that direct abortion is evil, men and women are created for each other and that the man holds the servant leadership role as the head of the family, etc. Given this, if we know that Christianity is true, and if we are thinking rationally, then we will strive to conform our wills, society and political institutions to what God wants, for therein rests the ultimate good to which each of us are ordered. That seems obvious to me.
What is equally obvious to me is that if we don’t know that God exists, or that such a belief is not active in our political consciousness, then we will not try to conform our wills, society and political institutions to what God wants. What we think about ourselves, our society and our political institutions would eventually reflect a practical atheism—a world in which what we think and how we behave shows no recognition of God’s existence. That doesn’t suggest that we wouldn’t treat other things as if they were gods (e.g., nations, dictators, money, sex, and human freedom), but just that there’d be no recognition of God’s existence.
My primary point in the preceding paragraphs is just to say that God matters, particularly belief about God’s existence. So let’s apply this. What about the modern liberalism of Canada and the United States? Does God matter in these countries?
Canada did not have a state church (unlike England), but the Canadian people and their political institutions were once very Christian. For example, a great majority of people went to church regularly. Canada once gave exclusively Christian prayers in public schools and within its legislatures. It was once illegal to open stores on Sunday, and regular, public schoolteachers were mandated by law to inculcate by precept and example the principles Christian morality (technically they still are). But that is just not the case now—Canada has secularized greatly and much of the Christian ethos and privilege has been thrown out, particularly in Quebec. In fact, fundamentally anti-Christian developments have occurred within Canada since the 1960s, particularly those concerning divorce, abortion, secularization, same-sex marriage, assisted-suicide, and now transgenderism.
I don’t know much about the States and its institutions, but its liberalism has come a long way from Locke, the gent who affirmed that the liberty of man must be consistent with the moral law, a law of which is none other than God’s law. For Locke, even our rights themselves are derivative or flow from this general moral order, one of God. Hence, this is a very God-centric political philosophy. But now things are different. Liberty is now seen as the ability to choose and be let alone, or as the freedom of access; and rights are looked at as prior and potentially opposed to the moral order, not derivative of it. Is God in any of this? I don’t see it. Instead, what I see here are the inner workings of absolute autonomy and self-legislation, with God largely isolated into the “realm” of private belief for whomever cares to believe. Consequently, we see the unfolding of the nation’s theistic fibre, just as we found in Canada.
So in returning to my earlier point, we can ask: What about the liberalism in Canada and the States? Does God matter in these countries? It doesn’t appear so. The liberalism that now permeates their political institutions is a practical atheism, for there is no political consciousness that we are creations, subjects to the will of God and His moral order. Worse still, this liberalism exalts the individual’s autonomy and liberty as sovereign, an exaltation once exclusively reserved for God.
Faced with that measure of man, it can’t be the business of the state to pursue the common good and legislate morality for individuals. Instead, the state is to secure and safeguard the liberty of individuals despite any general or collective moral order. Hence, that’s why we are now seeing some institutional strictures of the moral order eradicated: Laws restricting divorce, abortion, same-sex “marriage”, prostitution, and assisted suicide are being tossed out as undue infringements. And that these eradications are seen as successes for freedom or liberty should not be surprising, because that conforms to how freedom and liberty have been redefined after Locke. Indeed, once we see and value freedom and liberty in the terms mentioned the preceding paragraphs, those strictures do seem like undue infringements. But whether they are, in fact, undue infringements will depend upon how we view liberty and what we believe about God.
It’s funny, you know. When people learn that I support those aforementiomed institutional strictures, I am called an opponent of liberty. But that is so wrong. That gets traditional conservatives wrong. In fact, it totally misunderstands everything. We cherish liberty, but oppose license. And license just is liberty understood apart from God and the moral order. That’s it. There’s nothing else to it. Of course, you might disagree, or maybe not. But at least now you can ask with a clearer understanding, what is liberty and should God matter?
- Unnatural Allies: The Left, Gays and Muslims - February 23, 2017
- Self-Legislation, Obligation, Natural Law, the State, Evil and Small ‘l’ Liberalism - February 1, 2017
- There is No Such Thing as “Sexual Orientation” - January 30, 2017
- On Animals and the Pursuit of Virtue: A Rejoinder - January 24, 2017
- Our Treatment of Animals and the Pursuit of Virtue - January 8, 2017
- Hey, Non-White Guys and MTV - December 31, 2016
- Love Wins? - December 22, 2016
- Political Vaginae - November 30, 2016
- God Matters: On Liberty, License and Liberalism - November 15, 2016
- On Freedom, Excellence, Liberals and Minorities - November 5, 2016