I only took a look at the first few comments. One guy was saying we need the fear of eternal damnation to provide a base for individual rights, and one gal said that, scientifically, there is a human being present at the moment of conception. I quit reading the comments after that. Both of these comments are absurd for the same reason: philosophical bankruptcy. In one case, it's the bankruptcy of the 'mystics of spirit' -- who think that there cannot be a natural reason for us to be properly human (i.e., that we need a "supernatural" reason). In the other case, it's the bankruptcy of the 'mystics of muscle' -- who think that knowledge can be gained without performing noncontradictory integration.
Great article, Jason. I especially liked your point about Santorum not being for liberty, but against contraception and sexual promiscuity. His focus on the "culture war" may or may not work to his disadvantage. What I do know is that freedom is likely to suffer, if this is how people defend it. If Santorum does win the nomination and faces off with Obama, the people will be left with this decision regarding government involvement: "If you'd like government involvement in your sex life, choose Santorum, or If you'd like government involvement in most spheres of your life, choose Obama." People would hopefully choose the lesser of the two freedom eaters. However, Santorum has yet to fully show how against freedom he is.
Furthermore, I'm wondering why the conservatives waited so long to stage such a concerted attack against Obama's health-care mandate. Were they waiting until they could use religious freedom to bolster support for their argument? What ever happened to political freedom? Do they think people don't hold political freedom in as high esteem as they do religious freedom? Perhaps it is as Jason suggests. Conservatives don't view atheists and agnostics as having rights. Therefore, they can only defend the religious person's rights.
The argument goes like this: "Only the good can have rights, and all good is ordained by a God, and the only way you can ensure the goodness of a person is to have him fear divine retribution."
This is implied in the comment Ed relayed.
Comments such as those are the reason I seldom read comments on unfamiliar sites. I used to read comments often but I've had my fill. However, comments are useful in that they are measures of a society's culture and intellectual climate. I've viewed enough comments to say with certainty that the views expressed in those two comments are representative.
I half-share your fear but with some cautious optimism. There is a saying that "The squeeky wheel gets the grease." What that means is that, if you hoot and holler a lot, you get something out of it -- but it is something unearned. So there is a perverse incentive to squeek a lot, but it is an incentive only for those of poor character. The reason that this matters is that internet communication is unsolicited, with participation relying on one's internal dispositions and expectations. But what this means is that there will be a disproportionate echo of those with poorly-formed character on the internet in general, because those of better character won't be as persistent in speaking up with such bold claims and demands.
So, for example, you could -- as an experiment -- write an article visible to an audience of 1000 people. The audience is made up, let's say, of 10 folks with poor character and 990 folks with good character. The 10 folks who have poor character are going to be disproportionately verbose in response to the experimental article -- either criticism or praise, depending on what they think they can get out of it without having to earn anything. They may even develop pseudonyms and pretend to be more than one person at a time. It will make the entire audience of 1000 people appear as if they are predominantly of poor character -- but this is merely an artifact of the medium of exchange (i.e., the internet) and not a reflection of the actual character of the people involved.
I'm hoping this is the case with your previous, dismaying experience.
Nice article, Jason, but wasted on "American Thinker." Based on some arguments for free markets, I put them in my Favorites, but eventually removed them. "American Thinker" is for conservatives, and Objectivists are not conservatives. If you put that up on an equally opposite liberal blog, you would get symmetrical comments from readers. And people here would wonder why you even bothered. But we have a lot of conservatives here who ignore the mandate for reason over faith and are surprised and dumbfounded when their conservative colleagues opt for blind belief in preference to logic driven by fact.
You made your point nicely. It was well-crafted. But it was wasted on the audience.
Thanks, everyone, for the comments and for understanding what the article is about. I have to wonder how many of those who posted on American Thinker understand my position. The way I read the comments, 16 people agree with me that liberty is the issue; 6 think religion is the issue; and 10 seem to be talking incoherently. And we might note that the comments are heavily moderated--only some are printed!
Michael, the audience is generally mixed. I suspect the more libertarian-oriented applauded. The religious-warriors wasted no time launching into a sermon. The last commenter was the only person who noticed that the Catholic Church was on board with Obamacare until the didn’t get their exemption. (Update: there's an article today, Sunday, than takes the Catholic Church to task for its previous support for Obamacare.)
However, I wouldn’t say it was a waste of time. Jonah Goldberg, the editor on National Review Online, was the one person who understood that the bigger issue is liberty in general. The other writers at NRO can’t stop talking about “the attack on religion.” Too bad Goldberg doesn’t prod his cohorts to focus on the liberty issue.
I have to agree with Kyle that conservatives have generally failed to oppose Obamacare--at least on moral grounds. Most of the objections revolve around “we can’t afford it because of the debt problem.” The religious issue brought into play something far more important to them. (Edited by Jason Pappas on 2/19, 7:13am)
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