Wednesday, March 25, 2009

X-Post: The Same Old "Party of No" Whining

American Nihilist X-Post

In a recent post purporting to be about an article in The American Spectator on "The New Humanism," written by Roger Scruton, Professor Donald Douglas says the following (in full):

I was reminded of Repsac3, and his merry band at American Nihilist, upon reading Roger Scruton's essay, "The New Humanism":

Like so many modern ideologies, the new humanism seeks to define itself through what it is against rather than what it is for. It is for nothing, or at any rate for nothing in particular. Ever since the Enlightenment there has been a tendency to adopt this negative approach to the human condition, rather than to live out the exacting demands of the Enlightenment morality, which tells us to take responsibility for ourselves and to cease our snivelling. Having shaken off their shackles and discovered that they have not obtained contentment, human beings have a lamentable tendency to believe that they are victims of some alien force, be it aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, capitalism, the priesthood, or simply the belief in God. And the feeling arises that they need only destroy this alien force, and happiness will be served up on a plate, in a garden of pleasures. That, in my view, is why the Enlightenment, which promised the reign of freedom and justice, issued in an unending series of wars.

Repsac3 has declared he's Unitarian, which has been discredited as disguised humanism amenable to atheism. It's nihilism, in other words, pure nothingness, just as Scruton shows.

Posted by Donald Douglas at 7:07 PM
Labels: Nihilist Left

Now, aside from being dismissive of my faith--a slight to which I respond here at Donald's post and, because one can no longer trust him to leave comments or links in opposition to him on his blog, here, too--I think Professor Douglas is misstating what Roger Scruton's article is about.

Indeed, according to Scruton, not all humanism is alike. At the beginning of the piece, Roger Scruton takes great pains to separate humanism in general to this "new humanism" he wishes to write about. Of "old" humanism, the author says:
"Looking back on it, I see the humanism of my parents as a kind of rearguard action on behalf of religious values. They, and their contemporaries, believed that man is the source of his own ideals and also the object of them. There is no need for God, they thought, in order to live with a vision of the higher life. All the values that had been appropriated by the Christian churches are available to the humanist too. Faith, hope, and charity can exist as human causes, and without the need for a heavenly focus; humanists can build their lives on the love of neighbor, can exercise the virtues and discipline their appetites so as to be just, prudent, temperate, and courageous, just as the Greeks had taught, long before the edict of the Church had fallen like a shadow across the human spirit. A humanist can be a patriot; he can believe with Jesus that "greater love hath no man than this, that he should lay down his life for his friend." He is the enemy of false sentiment and lax morals, and all the more vigilant on behalf of morality in that he believes it to be the thing by which humanity is exalted, and the proof that we can be the source of our own ideals."

The author goes on to say "That noble form of humanism has its roots in the Enlightenment, in Kant's defense of the moral law, and in the progressivism of well-meaning Victorian sages." Clearly--and in direct opposition to the picture Donald Douglas wishes to paint--not all humanism is the enemy according to Mr Scruton. It is possible to be a humanist without being a nihilist. In fact, it can be noble.

Then there is "new humanism," which lies in stark contrast to it's more noble cousin. Of it, Scruton writes:
"The new humanism spends little time exalting man as an ideal. It says nothing, or next to nothing, about faith, hope, and charity; is scathing about patriotism; and is dismissive of those rearguard actions in defense of the family, public spirit, and sexual restraint that animated my parents. Instead of idealizing man, the new humanism denigrates God and attacks the belief in God as a human weakness."

Professor Douglas willingly--indeed, intentionally--conflates the two, and accuses Unitarian Universalists the world over of being a party to the latter kind of humanism, in the process pretending that Roger Scruton agrees with him or in any way supports his argument. As I did in my original reply to Donald Douglas, I invite those interested to take a look at what Unitarian Universalists do and do not believe here, here, and here, and decide for yourselves whether Roger Scruton would say the humanism contained in Unitarian Universalist thought is of the "noble" or the "new" variety. Does it seek to build up, or tear down? Is it about ideals, or about anything goes morality? Is it about faith in God and in man, or about separating man from God or man from man?

And once you're done with that, I ask you to look at Donald Douglas' blog, and judge the beliefs he expresses by the same criteria. How much of his blog is devoted to building up the ideas and ideals he supports, and how much to tearing down the ideas and ideals of those with whom he disagrees? Is his blog acting as a positive force for (neo)conservatism or Republicanism, or does he overwhelmingly define himself and his conservative thinking by disparaging and dismissing those people and ideas he is against? How many of his posts are about the good of his political thinking and ways to make it better, and how many are sniveling attacks on bloggers, politicians, and people with whom he disagrees?

If you ask me, Donald Douglas is a perfect example of the "party of no." With both Donald and these elements in the Republican party or the conservative movement, it's seldom about saying and doing what's right themselves, but about disparaging and dismissing the accomplishments of others, and generally "taking the other guy down." Hopefully, such thinking will continue to lose favor with the American public (though yes, there always will be a niche market for hateful and destructive rhetoric), and folks like Donald will either find their positive soul, or lose what little impact they have on our American way of thinking. Because in the end, if all they're going to do is bitch and moan and tell everyone else how good they are and how bad everyone else is, who needs 'em?

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