Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)


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Saturday, January 28, 2006
 
No easy fixes. Moira Breen writes:

"Dear Natalie,

"Regarding your discussion with Mr. Grayling, his (to my mind) whimsical rejoinder arguing for religion, again, as the real root of atrocious human behavior made me wonder if the argument at bottom isn't really a disagreement about human nature. (Your correspondent ARC covers related territory in his invocation of Burke.) Grayling apparently believes that we can "fix" a great deal of human nastiness by purging religion from civilization. If only there were no monasteries, there could be no Stalins! I, on the other hand - though an atheist who dislikes and distrusts many manifestations of the religious impulse - shudder at the obscene naivete implicit in that account. I feel a lot safer, thank you very much, in a society where hosts of strong institutions - public/private, secular/religious, etc. - exist to protect their (overlapping) membership from the pretensions of every other institution.

"On another point, I fear that either Mr. Grayling is misleading your Martian readers, or I am misinformed on certain finer points of history.

"If the Martians were encountering Earth history for the first time in his recent response to you, they might reasonably conclude from his phrasing that the malignant United States - after all chock-a-block with religious enthusiasm and Southern Baptist types from the get-go - stood in opposition to the triumphant "secular, democratic and humanist offspring of Enlightenment [that] refused to accept either fascism or communism, and defeated the former in seventeen years and the latter in seventy". Maybe the persistence of American religiosity is just a product of sheer testy resentment at having been on the wrong side of history in the last century?

"(Well, actually I think that here Grayling is arguing - enthymematically, of course - for a certain credulous view, common among members of certain classes, that America c. 2000 "got religion" in some historically anomalous fashion - thus the perplexity disappears.)

"And, of course, glad to see you back."

Moira