The Official Blog Of Edward Cline

Conservatism: The Alabaster Elephant

I
ended “Religion
vs. The Arts
” by noting that some of the most magnificent art of the
past had religious themes or themes derived from religion (e.g., Michelangelo’s
heroic “David,”
the somber “Pieta,”
and the indescribable Sistine
Chapel
). The subject of that art was man himself, with religion serving as a
vehicle to portray him. I wrote that Romanticism will have come of age when men
no longer need an excuse to portray him as the heroic being he has been, is
today, and can always be, sans
supernatural excuses or nods to religious “first causers.” Just as
the Renaissance used religion as a vehicle to express a new and rational idea
of man, so did the Greeks in imagining their own gods.
Andrew
Klavan’s article, “Crisis in
the Arts
,” was largely a complaint about his fellow conservatives who
limit themselves to fulminating against the Left’s monopoly in the arts; I took
exception to his many religious statements and allusions. In that column, I
discussed why religion is impotent to aid in the regeneration of American
culture and a return (or rediscovery of) to a politics of freedom. In this
column I will discuss why conservatives, in a stricter, narrower or secular
political context, are equally impotent to bring about any measurable or
permanent change in that direction.
But,
no matter how vast the doctrinal literature of any given religion, or how ancient
its roots may be, religion, as a primitive form of philosophy, still belongs to
the caveman’s beliefs that spirits occupied trees and rivers and that illnesses
and diseases were caused by malicious gremlins that needed to be exorcised with
chants, rattles, and poisonous herbal concoctions.
Instead
of being born tabula rasa, statist
and religious dogmas separately contend that man is born with an
obscenity-marred chalkboard that must be erased with faith and force. Once cleansed of a rational epistemology and
inoculated against a rational metaphysics, both wish to write on that sterile
tablet.
A
friend who read my previous column wrote me about the phenomenon of religion
surviving the Enlightenment.
Religionists collide with a brick
wall on the issue of religion. For all the brilliance of some conservatives on
specific issues, it’s as if their minds slam shut the instant they’re
confronted with anything that might threaten to loosen their grip on Yaweh as
the core of their intellects. They react almost convulsively. They can’t think
in anything but straw man concepts like “materialism”,
“consumerism”, believing-in-something-bigger-than-yourself and
the rest of the standard thought-stopping bromides.
For example, there is no way I
could get one of them to understand that my “inner emotional reality”
is the result of my values because to him they have no meaning if not
centered on God. And if big close-knit families are essential to morality and
personal happiness, does he just write off anyone who doesn’t have one? Jews
are the same way and yes, so are “spiritual” liberals.

Having done my master’s thesis on the Eleusinian Mysteries celebration, I
suspect that religion survived in classical Greece at least in part
because it was fun.
My
question is: With what exactly would conservatives replace all of the Left’s
movies, documentaries, and art with? Should conservatives come to power and
evict leftists from the majority, would they replace both National Endowments
(of the Arts and Humanities) with the Christian version of the Saudi religious
police (the Mutaween, which should
rhyme with Halloween, but doesn’t)? Would they hesitate to abolish and defund
the NEA and the NEH? Would they replace Common Core with their own “Core,”
which might include Bible studies? Would they encourage the production of more
biblical epics, or “wholesome,” saccharine dramas and comedies that
don’t denigrate America or American values?
Andrew
Klavan doesn’t know.
Now,
I can depend on Obama lying. I can count on a RINO to be so adept at
flip-flopping on issues that his skills ought to be entered as an Olympic
sport. I always expect a career Democrat to obfuscate, lie, and behave like a
carnival barker or a used car salesman. But I never know what to expect from a
conservative, religious or not. Every time I look at a Republican or a
conservative, religious or not, I see a hollow, alabaster elephant.
What
values do they uphold? Here’s a clue from the February 10th number
of Conservative
HQ
, “Eric Cantor Earns an Opponent – Dave Brat”:
While we like Dave Brat’s
intellectual background (got a business degree from Hope College in Holland,
Michigan, then went to Princeton seminary) and especially the way his religious
background informs his views on economics: “I’ve always found it amazing how we
have the grand swath of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and we lost moral
arguments on (fiscal-policy issues) the major issue of our day,” he told NRO’s
Woodruff, Dave Brat isn’t some egghead professor – he’s the candidate of the
grassroots limited government constitutional conservatives and Tea Party
movement activists.
From
all the evidence at hand, whether we are speaking of religious or non-religious
conservatism, conservatives simply want to “conserve” the status quo,
to reach the same end as the Left’s, but at a slower pace, as though that
policy will not obliterate the country. Conservatism is bankrupt, empty, as
terrified of radical, pro-freedom changes in government as are the Obamas, the
Clintons, and the Bushes. Conservatives express horror at the prospect of the
Tea Party agenda ascending in influence in political discourse and action. Which
is why the Republicans first co-opted it, then diluted it, and finally rebuffed
it. Obama and Company express horror by siccing the IRS and the Justice
Department on their enemies in broad lawyerly “drone strikes” against
individuals and organizations.
Have
the conservatives, or the Republicans, indicated a revolt against Obama’s abuse
of executive power? Not much. The Republicans, even the conservatives among
them, side-lined the Tea Party and any serious challenge to the political
status quo. The Democrats side-swiped them and ran them off the road.
But,
no matter how vast the doctrinal literature of any given religion, or how
ancient its roots may be, religion, as a primitive form of philosophy, still
belongs to the caveman’s beliefs that spirits occupied trees and rivers and
that illnesses and diseases were caused by malicious gremlins that needed to be
exorcised with chants, rattles, and poisonous herbal concoctions.
Instead
of being born tabula rasa, statist
and religious dogmas contend that man is born with an obscenity-marred
chalkboard that must be erased with faith and/or force. 
Another
reader wrote me that a philosopher called faith “an ice pick to the brain.”
Once one defers to feelings (usually fear, or the cowardice that is writ large,
“I’d better believe in God, because I might be wrong about the illogic of
the existence of a supernatural being”), and abandons reason and reality,
one allows the systematic corrosion of one’s mind to establish itself and work
inexorably to its complete destruction. Faith is a cancer that can destroy the
best of minds and lead to death-bed conversions that negate an otherwise spotless
career and life.
The
only reason the Left wants to kill off religion is because it’s a rival for the
unreserved allegiance of “the masses.” Others who believe in freedom
of thought and action do not want to “kill off” religion, but let it
die a natural death.  Those “others”
are also the enemies of the Left. They are not the intrinsic or automatic
enemies of religion.  Religion is a
primitive form of philosophy, but a tenacious one. it’s easier to accept
because it requires only a modicum of adherence. Religion was able to survive
even in classical Greece, the birthplace of reason. There is an element in
religion, faith, which is guaranteed to neutralize even the most rational,
reason-committed individuals.  
The
troubling problem with strictly political conservatives, even when they don’t bring
up faith and family and “traditional” values, is that they assume
that big, managerial government is here to stay, but assure everyone that they’ll
do a better job of it than will intrusive, looting, spendthrift socialists,
liberals, or Democrats.
I
would no more trust Andrew Klavan holding the reins of government than do now Obama
or any other politician at large today.
The
alabaster elephant is empty.

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Religion vs. The Arts

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Obama’s New Thoughtcrime

2 Comments

  1. Michael Neibel

    Great article on the futility of opposing secular faith in government with religious faith in gods.

    I have long believed religion to be the fast food of philosophy. It's ready made, prefabricated if you will, you don't have to sit down and formulate anything. It's all done for you. You just have to shop the various markets like churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, etc. and find one you're comfortable with.

    Philosophy deserves its second place status because it failed to formulate a rational moral code, one based on this world, this reality.

    Ayn Rand I submit, has not just identified a rational moral code (a Herculean achievement itself) but will save the entire science of philosophy from the status of near oblivion under which it now suffers.

  2. Unknown

    Your article neglects to distinguish between religion and faith; what you state is true of religion, but not of true faith. It is the object of one's faith that distinguishes it from religion, resulting in perspectives and solutions that are the antithesis of those held by religion(s). A person of true faith is not motivated by power, coercion, fortune or importance but rather by truth, justice, and liberty. His country would be better served by his leadership; unfortunately, most citizens today are incapable of recognizing this rare individual.

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