The Absence of Substance: Secular Right and its failures

It doesn’t seem to me that Secular Right has been fulfilling either its potential or its needed role. This is hardly surprising – what is unusual is that some comments by major contributors suggest that they’re not satisfied with its accomplishments either.

Frankly, rather a lot of the site is devoted to pointing out examples of religious stupidity and absurdity in the news. That’s all well and good – I could mock religion all day. But it doesn’t actually do much of progressing towards the site’s goals. What should the purpose of Secular Right be, in my opinion?

A rather serious problem of our society is that our political activities have degenerated into the clash of two opposing camps. In order to effectively exert influence, people must ally themselves with one group or the other – and in the process, subordinate their policy preferences to that of the dominant factions. The result is that certain combinations of political positions – including the ones that I think are vital to the success and even the continued existence of our society – are not and cannot be represented or gain power.

Secularism – the idea that our politics can and should be structured without recourse to religious organization or belief – is currently represented only by Liberals. I could write entire posts on how and why modern American political Liberalism has diverged and actually become opposed to the original concept of liberality. Suffice it to say that I can greatly in favor of liberalism but greatly opposed to Liberalism, which I regard as contrary to the effective functioning of a free and intelligent society. Unfortunately, the only opposition of Liberalism is Conservatism, which mirrors its opponent in that it has diverged rather terribly from the philosophical or formal meaning of conservatism. I would be regarded by many as a conservative in certain ways, but not in any way that term is now popularly understood.

SR needs to discuss the application of rationalism and skepticism to politics. It needs to emphasize the Locke-derived, freethinking aspects of the American democratic tradition. And it needs to expel the people who insist that either embracing or giving lip service to religious belief is an inherent part of conservatism. It really needs to eliminate the people for whom conservatism is about sticking with tradition and the way things were done, and focus instead on the people who want to test and examine everything, then take the best from the past and preserve it. Much of the result is usually described as “social progressivism”, but the idea that the higher up you look in government the less influence it should have goes right back to the Founders and the concept of the Marketplace of Ideas.

Religious wingnuts should be tolerated to the degree that they agree to stop trying to enshrine their belief systems in politics and cease trying to declare their nonsense respectable from the top-down. If they’re willing to endorse secular policies in order to protect everyone’s freedoms and rights, including their own religious freedoms, they should be welcomed with open arms. Otherwise? Kick them to the streets.

At present, the most activity on SR occurs when Heather knocks religion and a bunch of religious morons come out of the woodwork to defend the honor of their cherished forms of stupidity. Secular Right can be, and needs to be, so much more.

No one can expect it to start solving our society’s problems, but it can at least try to make a small contribution to the solution.

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5 Responses to “The Absence of Substance: Secular Right and its failures”

  1. It needs to emphasize the Locke-derived, freethinking aspects of the American democratic tradition
    It really needs to eliminate the people for whom conservatism is about sticking with tradition
    the idea that the higher up you look in government the less influence it should have goes right back to the Founders
    There seems to be tension in there between reliance on and rejection of tradition. I think I’m more sympathetic to a conservatism of tradition, because I’m more distrustful of rationalism. I’m all for skepticism and questioning of the existing order even I don’t want said order disrupted. Because its hard to just promote a negative, I instead advocate empiricism & pluralism.

    • There seems to be tension in there between reliance on and rejection of tradition.

      Charmingly, there is a long tradition of rejecting tradition, which I am rather fond of.

      To put it more accurately, there is a position that the mere fact that something is traditional is not enough to sustain it or render it worth preserving. This position has become traditional among a certain strain of thinkers, not least because they do not reject the idea that tradition is valuable – just not inherently valuable.

      Skeptics can doubt the value of skepticism – in fact, they’re obligated to – but that does not in itself require them to reject skepticism. Skepticism of tradition is just a subset of that general principle.

  2. >Conservatism, which mirrors its opponent in that it has diverged rather terribly from the philosophical or formal meaning of conservatism.

    You’re upset that conservatives aren’t advocating the monarchy?

    • That’s just a particular incarnation of conservatism at one point in time in one particular society.

      In a trivial sense, conservatism in a monarchic society favors remaining monarchic; in a democratic society, it’s to remain democratic.

      Look at the larger picture, not a narrow frame. I favor conservatism of belief, of assertion, and of implementation. I say we should not assert that which we cannot support, and that the validity of an assertion rests on the strength of its support. I further note that the collection of attitudes and behaviors we call “human nature” is highly resistant to change, despite superficial behaviors being quite amenable to change, and so recommend that people who think people can be changed so as to make an exciting new design for society function are likely deluding themselves.

      Most importantly, it’s easy to make things worse but hard to make them better (generally speaking), and so claims that the world can be improved simply should be viewed with deep suspicion.

  3. […] up my alley, since he’s Last Ditch approved). Like the Inductivist, I value societal order (even though I indulge in irreverent & acidic skepticism with respect to it) and find them both personally displeasing and destructive of said order. So I suppose I’m a […]

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