Saturday 23rd May 2015

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Are Atheism And Conservatism Compatible?

March 19, 2014 Frontpage No Comments

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK

It was no surprise that there was considerable give-and-take in the comments section that followed Charles C.W. Cooke’s column in the online edition of National Review on February 26. Cooke, a graduate of Oxford and staff writer at National Review, argued that Brent Bozell, the director of the conservative watchdog group the Media Research Center, was gravely wrong when he criticized the Conservative Political Action Conference for inviting a group called the American Atheists to participate in its annual gathering in Washington in March.
Bozell had written that the invitation to the atheist group was “an attack on conservative principles” and “an attack on God Himself. American Atheists is an organization devoted to hatred of God.”
Cooke rejected Bozell’s position in no uncertain terms, using himself — along with George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute, Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto, and television commentator S.E. Cupp — as examples of prominent conservatives who openly admit to being atheists.
I don’t know if this charge about Will, Krauthammer, and the others is entirely fair. I have heard them refer to themselves as “nonreligious,” but suspect they mean by that some form of agnosticism rather than full-blown atheism. But that is neither here nor there for the topic at hand. Cooke is an atheist who calls himself a conservative. He is not alone. I suspect that most readers of this column know individuals who take the same position as Cooke. Cooke argues he should not be “excommunicated from the Right” because of his atheism.
He insists that he does not harbor any “dislike” or lack of respect for those who believe in God. He does not think believers “any less intelligent” than himself. Beyond that, he concedes that religion “plays a vital and welcome role in civil society” and “has provided a number of indispensable insights into the human condition” and “acts as a remarkably effective and necessary check on the ambitions of government and central social-planners.”
He concedes that “it is Progressivism and not conservatism that is eternally hostile to variation and to individual belief, and, while we are constantly told that the opposite is the case, it is those who pride themselves on being secular who seem more likely and more keen to abridge my liberties than those who pride themselves on being religious.”
Cooke knows that there are those who will ask if he understands the implications of his position. He writes of how he is often asked, “If you don’t consider that human beings are entitled to ‘God-given’ liberties, don’t you believe that the unalienable rights that you spend your days defending are merely the product of ancient legal accidents or the one-time whims of transient majorities?”
He has an answer: “God or no God, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence are all built upon centuries of English law, human experience, and British and European philosophy, and the natural law case for them stands nicely on its own.”
He insists that a belief in human rights rooted in the work of “Locke and Newton and Cicero and Bacon and, ultimately, upon one’s own reason” can stand “without having an answer as to what created the world.”
The question, of course, is whether this line of thinking holds. Is it true that one need not believe in God to believe in the rights of the individual and a free society, such as that which developed in Western Europe and the United States?
Well, empirically, Cooke is correct. He is an example of just such an individual. That said, I would ask Cooke to consider what Edmund Burke meant by the phrase “unbought grace of life.” Burke used the term to admonish the 18th-century Enlightenment intellectuals who attacked the Europe of Altar and Throne and the traditional values of the Christian West in the name of liberty, equality, and the dignity of the individual citizen.
Burke pointed out that it was no accident that the idealists who championed these views were people who lived in the Christian West they were seeking to overthrow. In the passage that follows, Burke is reacting to the beheading of the Queen of France by the reformers parading under the banners of liberty, equality, and fraternity:
“Little did I dream . . . that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her, in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor, and of cavaliers! I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards, to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom! The unbought grace of life, the cheap defense of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone.”
Precisely. Atheists, who profess their belief in individual rights, representative government, and the belief that it is healthy for a society to enshrine in its customs and laws what Cooke describes as “remarkably effective and necessary checks on the ambitions of government and central social-planners,” owe it to themselves to ask why these beliefs developed in the Christian West — and not under Asian and Arab potentates and Polynesian and sub-Saharan despots justifying their oppressive rule with animist mumbo-jumbo.
Cooke and the atheists who agree with him believe in human rights and the dignity of the individual not because of conclusions they reached through an application of unaided human reason. They believe in those things because they live in a society shaped by the values of the Christian West. It is no accident that Cooke has found that “it is Progressivism and not conservatism that is eternally hostile to variation and to individual belief, and, while we are constantly told that the opposite is the case, it is those who pride themselves on being secular who seem more likely and more keen to abridge my liberties than those who pride themselves on being religious.”
Take away the heritage of the Christian West and that is what you get.
I hesitate to speak favorably of the History Channel’s production The Vikings. It contains levels of violence and sexuality that many will find unpalatable. That said, the series features an intriguing exploration of the clash between the Christian values of a captured British monk and the pagan view of life of “Bjorn,” the young, firstborn son of the Viking leader. As the series unfolds, viewers experience the decency and kindness of Bjorn being overwhelmed by the brutal understanding of masculinity of his Viking elders. We see him developing a bloodlust shocking to see in a young and angelic-looking boy.
The point: The values enshrined by our society matter. They shape us. They form our sense of decency and shame. Charles C.W. Cooke should keep that in mind. His respect for human rights and individual freedom is not something he was born with. It came from the unbought grace of living and maturing intellectually and spiritually in a society that remains buttressed by strong elements of the heritage of the Christian West, in spite of the best efforts of the secular left to undermine them.
He should also keep in mind what happens to a once-Christian society when that heritage loses its power to ennoble its citizenry. We have examples: France during the Reign of Terror, Germany under the Nazis, Russia under the Bolsheviks.

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Untitled 3

Pope FrancisAn Open Letter To His Holiness Pope Francis      Given the controversy and confusion surrounding the 2014 Synod on the Family, the staff of The Wanderer and its supporters thought it appropriate to address Pope Francis with an open letter . . .

Boy Scouts president: We need to allow open homosexual leaders

May 22, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Boy Scouts of America president Robert Gates says the youth organization must change with the times and allow open homosexual men to serve as Scout leaders. Gates, the former U.S. Secretary of Defense and CIA…Continue Reading

Federal Court Forces University of Notre Dame to Obey Pro-Abortion HHS Mandate

A federal appeals court has denied a request by the University of Notre Dame to get out of having to comply with the pro-abortion HHS mandate that is a part of Obamacare and requires businesses and church groups to pay…Continue Reading

The Reception of Holy Communion in the United States

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Francis has decided to mark the occasion with the “Year of Mercy.” Despite much happy-talk and positive papal press, it is a time of foreboding in…Continue Reading

‘Eleven Christians Killed Every Hour,’ Says Irish Bishop

According to Bishop John McAreavey, the Chair of the Council for Justice & Peace of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, statistics show that the situation of Christian persecution in the world is far more dire than most people understand. The…Continue Reading

Africa’s experience of family life must be heard at synod, Pope tells Togo’s bishops

Pope Francis received Togo’s bishops in audience on May 11 as part of their quinquennial ad limina visit to Rome. The West African nation of 6.8 million is 20% Muslim, 15% Protestant, and 14% Catholic, with approximately half of the…Continue Reading

The eco-encyclical won’t commit the Church to unsettled science

By the time the environment encyclical of Pope Francis is released, it will be anti-climactic. Not anti-climate change to be sure, as the Holy See is certainly enthusiastic about the issue. Actually, it is against climate change, but enthusiastic about…Continue Reading

“America’s Changing Religious Landscape.”

The Pew Research Center just released its latest study on “America’s Changing Religious Landscape.” The subtitle tells the story: “Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow.” For our purposes, I want to focus…Continue Reading

Vatican cardinal sees no change in family teachings at synod

VATICAN CITY (AP) — A senior Vatican cardinal predicted Saturday that there will be no change in the Catholic Church‘s practice and teaching about marriage, divorce and the reception of Communion at an upcoming meeting of bishops on family issues. Cardinal…Continue Reading

Synod Leader: Don’t Expect Changes in Catholic Church Policy

Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo, who is playing a key role in the Catholic Church’s upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family, said there will be no changes in church policy coming as a result of the summit. There has been…Continue Reading

Germany’s bishops vote to allow Church employees to publicly defy Catholic teaching

WURZBURG, Germany, May 6, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — On April 27 in Würzburg, the German bishops approved with more than a two-thirds majority a reform of the Catholic Church’s Labor Law in Germany, allowing some Church employees to publicly defy Church…Continue Reading

Archbishop Cupich Getting Comfortable With Pro-Aborts On Immigration Reform

True to his claim that immigration reform is “God’s agenda,” Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich has been cozying up to pro-abortion Democrats to get his social justice initiatives underway.  On Sunday, the Archbishop joined Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Il), a…Continue Reading

Pope’s doctrine chief under attack as he takes strong stand for marriage and family

muller

ROME, May 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pope Francis’ top advisor on Catholic doctrine is coming under attack as he continues to defend the Church’s teaching on marriage, family, and sexuality amid a campaign by a “progressive” faction of prelates. On…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

At the General Audience Francis asks that fathers and mothers take back their full role as educators

2015-05-21 L’Osservatore Romano “It is time for fathers and mothers to return from their exile – for they have exiled themselves from bringing up their children – and to fully resume their educational role”. This was the Pope’s declaration at the General Audience on Wednesday morning, 20 May. Continuing his series of catecheses on the family, he spoke to the crowds – many of them families – about the importance of parents as educators. The…Continue Reading

Pope’s appeal for World Day of Prayer for Church in China

(Vatican Radio) At his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis made a special appeal for prayer for Catholics in China.   The Holy Father’s appeal comes ahead of Sunday’s feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, celebrated throughout the world on May 24. Chinese Catholics have a special devotion to Mary, Help of Christians, whose feast day is marked with special devotions and pilgrimages, especially to the National Marian Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai. In…Continue Reading

General Audience: Parents’ Vocation To Educate Children

pope784

(Vatican Radio) In his catechesis at the General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis focused on the role of parents in the education of their children, which he called “an essential characteristic” of the family. The Holy Father noted the many difficulties facing parents today, especially those who find themselves in difficult situations. He spoke especially about the difficulties of separated couples, calling on them to “never, never, never take the children hostage!” He spoke out…Continue Reading

Pope to Mideast nuns: pray for peace, persecuted

(Vatican Radio) Saying he was giving them a “mission,”  Pope Francis has asked religious sisters from Bethlehem and the Middle East to pray for peace in the region and for two new Palestinian saints. 19th century Sister Miriam of Jesus Crucified Baouardy and Sister Marie-Alphonsine Ghattas were canonized in a big outdoor Mass presided by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s square on Sunday. Many of the Carmelite and Rosary sisters who had attended the canonization had…Continue Reading

Open Letter To U.S. Bishops Attending The Synod… The Church’s Teachings On The Family Need No Updating

By MICHAEL HARTNETT (Editor’s Note: Michael Hartnett lives with his family in the Chicago area, where he works as a project manager and public policy analyst. He has authored or coauthored numerous published reports that address federal transportation, environmental, and pension and retirement policies. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Aren’t Homosexuals Born That Way?”

By BRIAN CLOWES (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995.) + + + The most powerful weapon in the homosexual special rights arsenal is the victim status. A close second is the allegation that homosexuals are “born that way.” If scientists can show that homosexuality…Continue Reading

The Passing Of The Word “God”

By DONALD DeMARCO The Word of God will never pass away. But the word “God” continues to pass into oblivion. In some quarters the word is said to be discriminatory and offensive. Therefore, it must be removed. Atheists can be very touchy these days. Take the case of Alain Simoneau of Saguenay, Quebec. This nonbeliever…Continue Reading

Vietnam Today . . . Forty Years After The Fall Of Saigon

By LEE NGUYEN HO CHI MINH CITY (AsiaNews) — Forty years after the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, the Communist Party marked its anniversary by the largest ever military parade in the South. The parade commemorated the day when Communist troops from the North captured the city and ended the Vietnam War and…Continue Reading

Former Soviet Spy . . . We Created Liberation Theology

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNA) — Espionage deep in the heart of Europe. Secrets in the KGB. Defection from a Communist nation. Ion Mihai Pacepa has seen his share of excitement, serving as general for Communist Romania’s secret police before defecting to the United States in the late 1970s. The highest-ranking defector from Communism in the 1970s,…Continue Reading

The Wanderer Interviews His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke . . .

burk10

By DON FIER Part 1 (Editor’s Note: Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, who previously served as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome from June 2008 until November 2014, recently visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis. Prior to that he served as Archbishop…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Writing in the Sunday bulletin of the Church of St. Michael in New York City, Fr. George W. Rutler talked of the “web of contradiction [that] becomes more entangled in our day when politics are complicated by moral inconsistencies.” He cited three examples: “First, the birth of Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana occasioned celebrations, as the birth of any…Continue Reading

Truths Beyond Comprehension

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER The Solemnity Of The Most Holy Trinity (YR B) Readings: Deut. 4:32-34, 39-40 Romans 8:14-17 Matt. 28:16-20 In the first reading today, we hear Moses addressing the people of Israel after their Exodus from Egypt and after they had spent much time in the desert. Moses marveled, and rightly so, that God had entered into human…Continue Reading

Pope To The Bishops Of Mozambique . . . “The Paschal Mystery Is The Beating Heart Of The Mission Of The Church”

VATICAN CITY (ZENIT) — Pope Francis on May 9 received the bishops of Mozambique who were in Rome for their ad limina visit. + + + Dear brothers in the episcopate! You are welcome ad limina Apostolorum, the purpose of the visit undertaken by you these days, so that with your dioceses in your heart, you also celebrate and strengthen…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Rules Without Relationships Foster Rebellion

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK I write this week’s column from Lourdes, France, where I have joined a pilgrimage of 200 wounded warriors, volunteers, family members, military veterans, and chaplains from the United States. Most of us are here through the gift of the Knights of Columbus which has underwritten this magnificent opportunity for prayer, evangelization, fellowship, and renewal of…Continue Reading

Apologetics Course… How Do We Get To Know The Truth?

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 2 In the previous article we saw that our minds can apprehend the truth by our own personal experience. Now let us see the three other ways: By simply reasoning. In our days of constant Internet communication, texting, and less personal contact among people, sometimes reasoning is an ability in short supply. But it…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Charles Lwanga And Companions

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Catholic Church in Africa has experienced unprecedented growth in the past century. In 1900, shortly after the martyrdom of Charles Lwanga and companions, there were two million Catholics in Africa. When Pope Benedict XVI visited Africa in 2009, the Catholic population was 158 million. Once again the Church has witnessed that the blood of martyrs is…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Philip Neri

By CAROLE BRESLIN Throughout the history of the Church when great persecutions and heresies have been promoted, there were also great saints who underwent persecution in their attempts to protect the Deposit of Faith. Such was the case in the early 16th century, when the Catholic Church was suffering her greatest crisis to date with the Protestant Revolt. During this…Continue Reading