Get Your Politics & Religion Right !

CertitudeI wonder how many religious and atheist bloggers are as certain about their political opinions as they are about their opinions on religion?

My guess: most!

Indeed, one of the first things I noticed when started visiting atheist blogs in 2009 was the clear “Democrat” bias. To the majority of blogging atheists, the natural outcome of a rational mind is both atheism and liberalism.

John Gray’s book, “The Silence of Animals“, opens with stories and insights into how we establish our opinionated worldviews where he exposes both Meliorism and Political Meanderings of famous opinionated political writers.

Meliorism: a secular humanist religion

 Do some atheists hold unfounded, irrational worldview-forming beliefs as potentially destructive as those proffered by religions?  Gray feels the answer is “yes” and I agree.  The belief in the unstoppable march of progress is one such view, and another is the overconfidence in reason and logic — especially one’s own.  Because the assumptions (articles of faith) are prevalent in Secular Humanism, I could never align with most secular humanist.  I often see Secular Humanism as a religion of its own sort, minus ghosts, spirits and demons.

Political Meandering

What really inspired me to write this post however was not the obvious religion-like assumptions of Secular Humanism, but the vicissitudes of human ideology. In post after post I expose my own silly vicissitudes here on Triangulations: my drifting into various type of religions, into various medical ideologies and into various political worldviews.  I do this to embrace the silliness that informs all of humanity and my own.

During the his first 60 pages, Gray exposes the political meanderings several early 20th Century writers.  I list them at the end of this post including the writer’s dates, one of his famous books and a tantalizing quote from that section of Gray’s book to show how he touches on both meliorism and political meandering.

For each author, Gray tells us of how their political and philosophical opinions varied widely over their careers.  So, are the late view of an author his wise and truly informed, reasonable views or are they merely similarly vulnerable rationalizations for the vagaries of conditions at the end of their lives, and no more objective than their younger year utopianisms?

By reading this review of Gray’s book in National Interest, I learned how over the years Gray, while remaining characteristically opinionated and devastatingly discerning, Gray himself has held contrary political views:   With this is mind, why are we to trust his present views?

Question to readers:  With these observations in mind, how important is it to get our opinions right about politics or even about religion?


 Appendix:  To give you a taste of Gray, here are the writers explored in the opening of “Silence of Animals”:

Joseph Conrad 1857-1924 “Heart of Darkness” (1899)

” ‘Humanity’ is a fiction composed from billions of individuals for each of whom life is singular and final. ”
[see my post “The Myth of Culture“]

Stefan Zweig 1881-1942  “The World of Yesterday (1942)

Ideals and values were irreconcilably opposed. In these circumstances gradual improvement was just another utopian dream. Progress in civilzation seems possible only in interludes when history is idling.”

Joseph Roth 1894-1939 “The Emperor’s Tomb” (1938)

“Starting as a progressive who looked eagerly to the future, Roth ended as a reactionary who looked back fondly on the empire of Franz Joseph.”

Eugene Lyons 1898 -1984 “Assignment in Utopia” (1937)

“Contrary to generations of western progressives, it was not Russian backwardness or mistakes in applying Marxian theory that produced the society that Lyons observed. Similar regimes came into being wherever the communist project was attempted. Lenin’s Russsia, Mao’s China, Ceausescu’s Romania and many more were variants of a single dictatorial model. From being a movement aiming for universal freedom, communism turned into a system of universal despotism. That is the logic of utopia.”

Curzio Malaparte 1898-1957 “The Voga Rises in Europe (1943)

“There are not two kinds of human being, savage and civilize.  There is only the human animal, forever at war with itself.”

Arthur Koestler 1905-1983 “Scum of the Earth” (1941)

Observing at close quarters the fall of France, Koestler abandoned the beliefs that had guided his life until then.  He had imagined that humankind longs for freedom.  Now he came to think that humans were incurably irrational: ‘Perhaps Hitler’s genius was not demagogy, not lying, but the fundamentally irrational approach to the masses, the appeal to the pre-logical, totemistic mentality.’ [

Norman Lewis 1908 – 2003 “I came I saw” (1985)

“Until now I had clung to the comforting belief that human beings eventually come to terms with pain and sorrow. No I understood I was wrong, and like Paul I suffered a conversion — but to pessimism … I knew that, condemned to everlasting darkness, hunger and loss, they would weep incessantly.”


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

10 responses to “Get Your Politics & Religion Right !

  1. Yes, I am as certain about politics as about religion. That is to say, I am uncertain about both.

    On politics, I despise the Democrats. However, the current version of the Republican Party is completely unfit to govern, so I often find myself voting for Democrats by default. I tend to evaluate issues on their own merit, regardless of what parties say. So that makes me an independent of sorts.

    On religion, I can’t answer the big question (“Is there a God?”). But I can see that a large part of organized religion is man made.

  2. @ Neil,
    Has watching the vacillations of thinkers or of yourself ever made you think about relaxing the “get it right” effort?

  3. It’s not so much a matter of vacillation. There are many questions that don’t need an answer, and “is there a God” is one of those questions. I don’t have to answer “Is there a tooth fairy” either.

    Of course, there’s the question “Is there a God who is concerned about my personal life and is important to me?” I answered that one, long ago.

  4. TWF

    With these observations in mind, how important is it to get our opinions right about politics or even about religion?

    Well, based on this information, as well as a collection of my own thoughts over the years, I think it is as important as it is unlikely. 🙂

    I have a left-sided bias as well, but I tend to be closer to the center than the end. I think there are definite strengths in the right-side as well. While I don’t despise the Dem’s like Neil, I do get caught siding for them due to the lack of centrist-right candidates.

  5. I am far less certain about many political opinions than I am about certain religious or philosophical positions. In fact, my opinions on a number of charged political issues have changed considerably over the past 10-15 years. For me, politics largely involves policy. This means that political views must be malleable because policy does not always work like we thought it might. When a particular policy is tried and fails spectacularly, I change my stance on it.

  6. @TWF,
    LOL — you get my point, thank you!
    It is likely that we have strong opinions –especially bloggers.
    It is likely they will change.
    And it is unlikely they will be “right”.

    My question: So, has this ever taken the wind out of your sails at trying to get a RIGHT opinion. OR, has it helped you take less seriously opinions you have.

    Thanks for stoppin’ in and the personal info.
    See my question to TWF, though. I must not have written clearly enough to make my real question obvious to someone reading the post.

    Do you think you ever held a political opinion (yes, even a view on “policy”) which was wrong? I have, lots of times. I think most people will say, “Yes, I have changed, but only because I have become wiser — I am even more right these days.”

  7. TWF

    I think that, at least outside of a heated debate, these kinds of realizations have helped me hold my beliefs with a little more humility, or at least honesty, in recognizing the limitations of my understanding, the implications of the facts, the limitations of the dataset, etc. In other words, yes, it has taken some of the wind out of my sails, as I am not keen on looking like a fool… unless trying to do so! And, not always, but often it does help me to take my own thoughts a little less seriously, as well as to be more receptive and tolerant to the thoughts of others.

  8. @TWF:
    Thanx for sharing — my reactions are similar.

  9. thisica

    For me, I actually am apathetic about politics and religion most of the time. And I suspect that we may be more apathetic than we think, since these issues only become an issue when they are raised consciously, which given the busyness of everyday life, doesn’t happen often. I worry more about things like the properties of matter and the problems with mental health care worldwide.

    In the context of geological time, all of our human issues become irrelevant. This has been a very recent realisation that I have thought about, with some ambiguity. For me, though, this kind of perspective allows me a sense of not needing to worry too much about our petty issues. But somehow I have to get a sense of what matters humanly, which is a struggle for me. How to reconcile deep time and human time I don’t know. But nevertheless, I don’t think much about it…I’ve got a life to live anyway.

  10. @thisica
    Like you, I care more about my immediate world — and thus I started blogging when religion affected my kids.
    I could care less about geological time scales, for I want to work on my garden in my own narrow time and be happy with that. I do think water, economics and more are very important — only because humans are dangerous.
    If you are not thinking about religion, why read this blog? Oh, I know, I write on other stuff too — about how the same mind that makes religion makes up the stuff in the non-religious life too. Yeah, I forgot. 🙂

Please share your opinions!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s