North Western Winds

Contemplating it all from the great Pacific Northwest

Reason’s last step

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This is from an interesting essay by William A. Rusher, published at the Heritage Institute, called “Conservatism’s Third and Final Battle.” The contrast with the sonic whine coming from some so-called conservatives over the results of the recent Tory convention is quite stunning. Jay Currie’s upset, to say the least, that he didn’t get his way on the issue of SSM. You haven’t heard me say much about the Tories’ unwillingness to do anything about the utter lack of any abortion law in Canada, have you? They even tried to silence debate on the subject, and you heard nary a word (never mind a threat) from me about it. I trusted that silencing debate would not be allowed to stand, and ruefully admit that Canada may well not be ready yet to deal with the issue in a mature and civilized way. I’m still on board. If I can’t have a mile, I’ll take an inch. Seems to me that’s how successful coalitions get built.

Rusher writes:

Public opinion polls have clearly established that the American people are already–or perhaps I should say still–the most religious-minded of all Western societies. (In this respect, as in others, most Americans disagree with the intellectual elite.) And in the past 20 years we have seen a remarkable mobilization of a segment of religious believers for direct political action. In a sense, therefore, it can be said that the philosophical battle that [Russel] Kirk envisioned and [Alexander] Solzhenitsyn called for is already well and truly under way at the social and political level, under the rubric of what is often called the “culture war.”

If what we have seen thus far is the shape the battle is going to take, we conservatives are going to have to prepare ourselves to lose many allies who fought at our side in the struggles against communism and democratic socialism. Many libertarians and some classical liberals are simply not ready to accept a “metaphysical dream of the world” that has a central religious component. By the same token, however, we can expect to gain immense numbers of recruits in some hitherto almost wholly inaccessible segments of the population, notably including both blacks and Hispanics. Over time, I am confident that the conservative movement will win this final battle too, and that Kirk’s vision of an America true to its Creator will be realized.

But let me suggest to you that the battle may not take the form I have described–a knock-down, drag-out free-for-all between the remaining secular humanists and the regiments of the Religious Right. We have all witnessed occasions on which an unfashionable idea, but one with ultimately overwhelming justification, presents itself at the door of received opinion. At first, and for as long as possible, it will simply be ignored. Then it will be misrepresented and ridiculed. Next it will be denounced. And then, finally, it will (if it must) be accepted, with the dismissive comment, “We knew that all along.”

I suggest that this may be the final whimper of the intellectual elite, when the inadequacy of science to answer the ultimate questions is plain to everyone. It was Pascal who said that “Reason’s last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it.”

If the battle between modernity and the Judaeo-Christian tradition follows this second scenario, victory for the latter may come somewhat more quickly and painlessly than one might currently suppose. There are, I believe, immense moral reserves in the character of the American people, the heritage of those Christian centuries, still available to be drawn on in times of crisis. But it will be necessary for many Americans to put aside one all-too-convenient crutch, which is the legacy of the 1960s–that decade in which, two centuries after the Enlightenment and 30 years after the Humanist Manifesto, the moral bottom temporarily fell out of American society. I am referring to the current almost universal unwillingness to be “judgmental.”

Clearly, if I have to choose between Jay’s uber idealism and the persistent wisdom of people like Russel Kirk and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the choice won’t be too hard. The Tories would do well to do the same. Canada is not America – it lacks anything like the American people’s faith- but people here also deserve a real choice at the ballot box, and they deserve a party that is not afraid to lead to listen to 50% plus of the population. The intellectual heft of current SSM arguments is weak, vainly trying to tie it to the racial rights movement of the 1960’s. It is even less convincing for anyone who thinks that the prism of equal human rights is not the be all and end all of moral thinking. Canada too has a respectable religious heritage and a party that speaks kindly, sensibly, and intelligibly – and above all with the honest courage of conviction!- may succeed in waking it. Doing so will not be easy, but it would cause a tectonic shift in the way that we debate issues for a long time to come. Have courage!


Written by Curt

March 27, 2005 at 5:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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