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August 17, 2006


Kevin Jones

I'm disappointed the reaction to the McDonald piece has overshadowed the excellent symposium of which it was a part. Plenty of Catholic writers participated, and most writers scored plenty of points against the mainstream conservative punditry.

Denis Ambrose

Mac Donald makes the Enlightenment seem like a purely secular movement. Can this be true? Certainly, some had a contempt for organized religion (Hobbes), but then there are people like Locke who wrote entire works on Christianity (such as "The Reasonableness of Christianity" and his Letters on Toleration). Just some thoughts.

paul zummo

Denis: It depends of which Enlightenment you speak. The Scottish/British Enlightenment (Locke, Smith, etc.) was much friendlier to and embracing of religion than the French Enlightenment (Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau*). That's why whenever one speaks of "The Enlightenment" it's a mistake to leave off that s at the end, and it's an even bigger mistake to treat it (them) as a monolith.

*- Yes, I know he can technically be placed outside of the Enlightenment, but I would put him this class.



Well, the purpose is to claim the desired ground for oneself and to exclude from consideration any alternative possibilities whatsoever. But you knew that, of course. If you focus, as they almost always do, on what would seem to most the absurdly egregious in an adversary, one convinces oneself of the justice of ones claim and comes to rest. So today we take out on Ms. McDonald pointing and laughing and obscure what really frightens us.

I would suspect that the future for such tactics is rather meagre, actually. Already one can sense the insecurity of a neo-conservatism saddled with the utter failure of its policy initiatives and a clear movement away from them. For me there is no kind of "con", neo, paleo or otherwise, that justifies serious interest in the way that one might be interested in ones Catholicism, for example. We see in anything of this kind merely the pretentions of ideology over against truth and that hardly justifies any attention at all.


It seems very strange that when Christians talk about morality they must address the Crusades, the inquisition, slavery, etc. Somehow when secularists talk about their morality they don't need to explain Hitler and Stalin. Somehow their belief system gets a free pass for negative things that flow from it. Rhetorically it works just because nobody attacks secularism like they attack Catholicism.


Some of us struggle with the opposite difficulty: How to maintain faith in orthodox Christianity while having to acknowledge the painful fact that much of the moral analysis of the state of the world done by the largely secular Hard Left is substantially accurate.


"...while having to acknowledge the painful fact that much of the moral analysis of the state of the world done by the largely secular Hard Left is substantially accurate."

Just because a doctor offers a diagnosis that sounds plausible doesn't mean one must accept that same doctor's prescription if it involves cutting of one's head or similarly "innovative" therapies.


Gerry O' Neil


The hard Left is hardly in a position to offer moral criticism of virtually anything.

Marx's epigones have never abandoned the thesis of 'Historical Materialism', which denies objective morality, and indeed sees morality purely in terms of economics, class struggle, the hegemony of the ruling class, etc etc etc,

To borrow a phrase from a possible hero of yours, namely Friedrich Engels, you're talking "a rare kind of balderdash."


McDonald would do well to read some Rene Girard. I believe he provides a first rate framework which explains why victims, the marginalized, etc have become so valued over the decades and centuries.

In a word: Christianity. The moral system still remains Christian, though we may be reverting to a Pagan system slowly. The logical moral extension of the secular culture is Nietzsche (which provided Nazi philosophical framework). Secularism can talk all day and night about HOW a prisoner ought to be treated, but is incapable of answering the WHY.

Jeffrey Smith

Faulty history again. The increased concern for the treatment of prisoners was spearheaded by Quakers and Evangelicals. The abolitionists used the Bible as a source far more than the slave-owners. And I've never seen the slightest bit of evidence that the moral analysis of the state of the world, offered by the "hard left," is anything but wildly inaccurate.


"Her AC piece was on the plight of the atheist in the conservative movement:"

The reason they have a "plight" is simple.

Atheists & liberals are viewed exactly the same way by those of us that are conservatives.

At first one can take some amusement in arguing with them. This helps in sorting out "the ignorant that can be educated/evangelized" from "the zealots".

As one grows older the amusement quotient in arguing fades (unless your a lawyer/politician/academic/former debate team member/or otherwise don't have a life). The bull sessions with good liberals can wait for the afterlife. And hopefully you don't find yourself in the place where you can conduct arguments with the atheists & the majority of liberals for eternity. Aka Hell.

The liberal and the atheist (of whatever political bent) just doesn't "get it". So just smile, shake your head, and move on.

Scott Herr

First off, Ms Wellborn, I enjoy your blog very much. Long-time reader, first-time commenter.

What I find quite interesting in all of this is the lack of discussion about positivism. It seems to me as though most of our modern-day conservatism in the USA is really positivism disguised as conservatism. It seems to me that in many ways, in Western society, we are more concerned with maintaining the status quo than we are about finding true reasons in the nature of things to make determinations about morality.

It seems to me that, as Catholics, we should have no trouble admitting that atheists can come to a proper understanding of the moral law. If it is written on the hearts of all men, then all men should be able to find it. After all, virtue is something atainable by all people. All men can be naturally good. There is nothing specifically Christian about that. It just becomes easier if we are Christian because we have the aid of grace in addition to Revelation, which gives us the answers. It helps to save a lot of floundering about in the darkness hoping to find the truth.

Personally, I don't see what the controversy is or where it lies. One does not need to have a religious system to come to a proper understanding of the natural moral law. As I said earlier, it helps and makes the search easier but is not a prerequisite. Is that a weakness in our Catholic formation that we seem to have forgotten that or, at least, seemingly forgotten?

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