Wednesday, July 1, 2015

On Liberalism and the Fall of the Empire

As conservatives continue to lament the court decision on same-sex marriage, we hear ever more desperate cries of doom and gloom.  And none are crying louder than Catholic officials who are trying to paint the crumbling of their church as the destruction of America itself.  This article by Fr. Dwight Longnecker was cited by Catholic commenter planks length in my previous post on this topic.

Longnecker plaintively moans:
Hello  America! One of the most severe warnings that has come out to last week’s Supreme Court ruling was that from Justices Roberts and Scalia who observed that the will of the American people had been usurped by a handful of non elected lawyers.
They are referring, of course, to the majority in the Supreme court who affirmed equality for all couples, including same-sex, in their ability to marry in the USA.  And what of the will of the people?  It seems that a solid majority of Americans favor this decision.  So who really wants to usurp the will of the people?  It is Roberts and Scalia who are in the minority, both in the Supreme Court, and of the population in general.  But the most surprising thing about this statement is that any constitutional scholar should understand that the constitution is intended, at least in part, to protect the rights of all people against the "tyranny of the majority".  It is not the job of the Supreme Court to uphold the will of the people, but to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans.

But in this case, it appears that a minority of justices on the Supreme Court who speak on behalf of a minority of the people would like to usurp our freedom and impose their will, and their religious beliefs, on the rest of us, in violation of the constitution that they are supposed to uphold.  Shameful.

Longnecker goes on to quote an unnamed contributor who rails against the liberalism that he thinks is at the heart of all the evil that befalls us today.
The term “liberal” was taken from Liber Pater (the free Father) Roman deity of viticulture and wine; fertility and freedom. Liber Pater was the patron deity of Rome’s plebeians.and is synonymous with the Greek Dionysus/Bacchus.

In Italy during the 2nd Century this cult’s orgiastic rites, and its excesses were so infamous that the senate even tried to ban it.

Liberals today are the modern plebs, and is based both politically/socially on a philosophy advocating the freedom of the individuals including intoxication;abundance, and sexual gratification which is hedonism, ie. the seeking of pleasure.
This guy has no idea what he's talking about.  Liberalism was not named after any Roman god, and it has nothing to do with the debauchery of Bacchus.  This article will provide a better view of liberalism, and it includes the etymology of the word.  And despite the right-wing rantings of Scalia, Roberts, and their conservative followers, it is liberalism that seeks to free people from capricious dictates of unelected government.  A central principle of liberalism is that government should be by the consent of the governed. 

Nor was it the Roman plebeians who were noted for their debauchery.  That was more common among the upper-class patricians, who had the money to spend their time in drunken parties and orgies, while the plebes worked hard for a meager living and lived in squalor.  But Longnecker isn't going to let facts get in the way of his efforts to cast the problems of the world in the light of his conservative views.

Longnecker goes on to blame the fall of the Roman empire on the liberals who practiced such evils as homosexuality, pederasty, and abortion.  It may be common practice among right wing religious zealots to blame liberals for every bad thing that happens, but perhaps he should learn some history if he wants anyone to believe him.   And perhaps he should take note of the fact that the fall of Rome was coincident with the rise of Christianity.  Now I wouldn't be so bold as to claim that Christianity was the only reason for the fall of Rome, the way Loncnecker blames it primarily on liberals, but it is something that he should be aware of as he re-writes the history of the world to fit his conservative viewpoint.

He rounds up his revisionist rant by pointing out supposed similarities in modern society to the supposed liberalism of Rome that caused its destruction.  It is the decline in family values, abortion, and homosexuality that will be the undoing of America, he warns.  And let's not forget immigration.  As if the barbarian invasions of Rome were anything like the equivalent of Latinos looking for jobs.  He ends by saying "Those who ignore the tragedies of history are bound to repeat them."  Here's some news for the good friar: You, sir, are woefully ignorant of history. 

It was the spirit of liberalism that guided the founding of the USA.  It was the liberal policies of the 20th century that made the US the greatest economic power in history.  It was the rise of conservatism toward the end of the 20th century that ushered in the decades-long decline that we have witnessed since then.  What really bothers Longnecker is that his church is losing its grip on power and influence.  That's the falling empire that causes him so much grief.   Liberalism is not the enemy of society, it is the liberator.  And the liberation of society comes at the expense of the church. 


  1. This is the best answer to your latest posting.

    1. This amplifies what I said. The church is whining sour grapes over it's declining ability to rule the lives of the rest of us.

      Why do they focus exclusively on Kennedy? "The majority opinion for the court was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who, apparently, alone gets to decide disputed social questions in a manner that ancient kings would envy." He didn't decide the case. He voted with the majority. But the church sees him as the traitor who could have voted to let the church continue its reign of despotism.

      I said this before, and it bears repeating. Freedom of religion doesn't mean the church or any religious following gets to impose its beliefs on the rest of us. It's fine to be against gay marriages. So don't do what you are opposed to. Nobody has taken that freedom from you. Why is this so hard for you to understand? And why do you insist on forcing your beliefs on everyone else?

  2. But the church sees him as the traitor

    Exactly correct. He is a traitor - no better than Judas.

    why do you insist on forcing your beliefs on everyone else?

    You have that 100 percent backwards. You can call an ostrich a duck if you insist, but unless it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, etc., it ain't no duck. Kennedy can call same sex unions marriages if he so chooses, but it doesn't make them so. No amount of judicial overreach can change fundamental reality. Marriage is what it is, and it ain't what it ain't.

    You claim to be the one who insists on always "going by the evidence" - yet here is a clear case of your choosing to believe a fantasy rather than the plain truth. What the court has done is the equivalent of defining by judicial fiat all ostriches to be ducks... and we're supposed to just sit back and accept that?

    1. Who are you to declare what marriage is, or what marriage should be? What power does the church have to tell anyone outside its own membership who can or can't get married?

      I agree that people who want to have a religious marriage under the auspices of the church should be willing to follow the dictates of the church. But marriage as a legal institution, as defined by civil law and affirmed by the courts, has absolutely nothing to do with your church, or any definition your church may wish to attach to it, or any restrictions your church may wish to impose.

      So if you choose to abide by the rules of marriage as dictated by the church, have at it. Nobody is stopping you. Just don't go around thinking, as Scalia apparently does, that the church has the right or the power to define marriage for the rest of us, or to impose its own rules.

      This isn't medieval Europe. We have a secular constitution, and that constitution guarantees us certain freedoms, no matter how much you despise those freedoms.

  3. Well, on the bright side, the Church won't be standing alone on this issue. And we have the Mohammedans on our side as well.

    With any luck, you guys have just hit your "high water mark" - like the Confederacy at Pickett's Charge.

    1. You should move to Saudi Arabia. I hear they don't allow gay marriage there. You'd fit in well.

  4. I hear they don't allow gay marriage there. You'd fit in well.

    Not really. They don't allow Catholic Churches either. Kind of a deal breaker for me. Also, not sure I'd adapt to the heat. Not much of a desert person, myself.

    But nevertheless, kudos to them for having their heads screwed on straight as to same sex "marriage".

    1. I think you should move there anyway. It would be a good experience for you to live under someone else's religious laws.

  5. Replies
    1. Equality under the constitution is not someone else's religious laws. You have no idea how much your own rights are favored. And you never will until you actually lose them, which isn't going to happen any time soon.

  6. Replies
    1. And you fell for it. This is a religious jerk who is no more in favor of marriage equality than you are. Most of these guys already have plural marriages under the sanction of their church.

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  8. We are witnessing the last desperate attempts to stop the inexorable flow of history towards rationality, progress and maturation and away from supernatural superstition that has plagued humanity for millennia. As the wider community sets aside, one by one, each of the more ridiculous, indefensible, extreme and dangerous aspects of the Christian mirage, it comes as no surprise that the misguided reactionary rump of conservative religion would be doing their damnest to stick their finger into the dike holding back the tide of humanity's progress. The amusing feature and great irony of Longnecker's tale is that of watching the religiose trying to stick their fingers into the dike to stem the tide of progress while simultaneously sticking them into their ears to block out the unambiguous and resounding clear message coming not only from the community but now the highest court in the land. Let this be a salutory lesson. One cannot do both. The cracks in the dike and the numbers of ears to plug are more numerous than the ten fingers that Evolution has bequeathed us.

    Mary Jean Irion, American theologist, poet, University of Connecticut professor and writer, who within her career spent nine years as a columnist for the United Church Herald, eruditely and powerfully illustrates the religionists' contemporary position:

    'Christianity ... has been over for a hundred years now... When something even so small as a lightbulb goes out, the eyes for a moment still see it; and a sound after it is made will have, in the right places, an echo. So it is not at all strange that when something so huge as a world religion goes out, there remains for a century or more in certain places some notion that it is still there."

    By way of a Post Script, I draw the attention of our religious readers to the double-entendre in my use of the word 'dike' which in all likelihood would have been completely missed, given Longnecker's penchant for supporting and perpetuating institutional bigotry against SSM. You can't stick your all your fingers into a dike's hole and into your ears at the same time. 'Tis impossible. :o)

    1. Speaking of which, all those concubines of Solomon had to do something with themselves when the master was busy with but one. Interestingly, the bible seems to have no problem whatsoever with that. Why Christians do is a mystery. Evidently, they invent their morality as they go.

    2. Christians rely, as any and every informed atheist knows and understands, on the same pre-determinants for developing a moral code; our evolutionary and genetic predisposition towards altruism, the process of socialization and enculturation, and through community imperatives to establish order and stability within a group. There is no requirement to posit an extraterrestrial, extra-cosmic or atemporal 'ground of all being' to explain this perfectly natural human impulse. Indeed this impulse transcends all manner of peculiar and particular theistic and non-theistic religion. Good people do good things. Bad people do bad things. For good people to do bad things, that takes religion. The ISIS-like psychology of Christian thought in pathologically discriminating against, denying even the most basic civil and human right to those in our community, who through the accident of genetic evolution and no fault of their own are born LGBT, has now been set right by the Supreme Court. It is now illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual identity. A great victory for common sense and common decency.

  9. I note that Papalinton is fond of predicting the future. Well, here is one forecast he ought to ponder. I particularly like the comments about the "underlying motive force of the agents of decadence, destruction, and degeneracy".

    Now, perhaps as an Aussie he doesn't give a damn about the survival of the USA. But he'd do well to keep in mind that without us, he'd be speaking Japanese today.

    1. Scary. It sounds a lot like The Illuminati, a novel by Larry Burkett. If you haven't read it, it's a must-read for every persecuted Christian.

      It contains all the tropes - poor innocent Christians being thrown into concentration camps as the government is taken over by evil liberals (under the leadership of Satan himself), and the gay police go around like the Taliban enforcing their their moral codes. I laughed from start to finish.

    2. "I note that Papalinton is fond of predicting the future."

      I'm interested where you might have arrived at this conclusion from my comments above, Plank. All that I note in the comments above is drawn from contemporary observations and from the historical record. No prophesying here. Though I must admit I have on occasion extrapolated into the future to make a point. But not this time. A further observation that I would make, given the circumstances following the Supreme Court decision, is that the Christian paradigm must of necessity change to reflect the contemporary will of the people if it is ever to mitigate its slide into further irrelevancy. It must get its house in order if it is to even have a chance of surviving into the future. [I thought I would add that in for your benefit.] ;o) To plaintively cry, "The Church has been around for two thousand years" as some form of mantra of invincibility and longevity simply doesn't square with the historical record. The EGYPTIAN RELIGION lasted for 3,000 years, from the First Dynasty at around 2,500BCE to 600 CE when Islam overran it. What's really interesting, "Due to continued interest in Egyptian belief, in the late 20th century, several new religious groups have formed based on different reconstructions of ancient Egyptian religion."

      In recent decades, notwithstanding the numerous losses incurred since the Enlightenment, the RCC lost out bigtime with Roe v Wade, the sovereign right of the woman in decisions over her own body; the right to divorce in response to a violent or mismatched marriage; Obamacare; the right to control one's fecundity; the civil, human and constitutional right to marry another person without sexual discrimination. The next big challenge for the RCC will be the ordination of women into the priesthood.

  10. I'm interested where you might have arrived at this conclusion from my comments above, Plank.

    I didn't arrive at that conclusion from your comments above, but rather from reading through your long history of comments over on Dangerous Idea, where you make frequent and repeated predictions about the imminent global triumph of your own particular worldview.

  11. "... repeated predictions about the imminent global triumph of your own particular worldview."

    The characteristic and extravagant proclivity towards sweeping hyperbole in full regalia once again. If it is atheism you are talking about, atheism is not a worldview.

    My worldview is predicated on the one current substantive paradigm, metaphysical naturalism, founded on the substantive epistemologically and ontologically proven process of discovery currently available, methodological naturalism.

    Your metaphysical supernaturalism is a known failed paradigm, predicated as it is on a mythos. And its corollary, methodological supernaturalism, is a philosophical oxymoron. These are not 'triumphal' claims. These are just empirically and evidentially justified observations that have provided humanity with an explanatory tool and process for which an alternative rival paradigm is yet to challenge. Religion and theology is not an alternative explanatory paradigm, because it explains little if anything at all.