Saturday, 31 March 2012

What's wrong with liberalism?

"You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave" (The Eagles). Juxtapose this quotation from one by Jesus – "everyone who commits sin is a slave" (John 8:34) – and you have a critique of liberalism and consumerism. Most people assume that the sheer freedom to do whatever they want, or buy whatever they want, renders them free. But if you can never actually "leave" (so that whenever you check out you find yourself back in the same hotel), and if you find it impossible to be virtuous and do the right thing (though you can do a million things that aren't right), you are still essentially a slave. Furthermore, you cannot free yourself, any more than you can open a locked door from the inside. To do that you would need to be outside the state in which you find yourself imprisoned. You need the jailor to come along. Jesus, of course, in the terms of this analogy, is the jailor who gets born into the prison (or hotel) along with you, and opens the door from the inside.

So much for the Christian critique of liberalism. Strange to find it echoed by the influential secular journal of the Royal Society of Arts. The latest issue contains a brief but important article by Adam Lent (director of the RSA's programme) titled "On Liberty". Since the RSA makes their journal freely available online, you can read it by following the link. Lent begins by pointing out a strange fact: "We fight wars in its defence. It is a

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Green Thomism

The latest issue of Nova et Vetera (10:1), the Thomistic theological journal published by the Augustine Institute, contains an impressive collection of articles on "Green" or environmental theology. It could be seen as complementary to the recent issue of Second Spring on the same theme.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

A Christian country

Is England a Christian country? Secularism takes a different form in England than it does in the USA, even though in both countries the traditional ethos, grounded in natural law, is collapsing, along with the sense of what we are here for (other than making money and having fun). In the US the Church and State are "separated". In England the Church is "established" because its head is also the nominal head of State. This has made it possible for many Christian-derived customs and habits to have been preserved into the twenty-first century. However, the pressure of secularism leads to a watering-down and an emptying-out of Christian conviction. The result is that the commonest form of Christianity in England is not Evangelical or Nonconformist, as it tends to be in the US, but rather a well-meaning but woolly kind of faith that hardly knows what it believes or what it stands for.

It is this semi-secularized Christianity, an instinctive but attenuated adherence to the Christian tradition, that prevails in the United Kingdom. Christianity becomes secularized when it fails to be both intellectually coherent (i.e. rational) and mystical. That is, when it reduces faith to a doctrine or set of beliefs, a bit like pieces of clothing we can choose to wear or not according to taste. Religion without genuine transcendence sits well with the

Thursday, 8 March 2012

More than human

Three years ago I wrote on Transhumanism here. An important series of articles is unfolding on Zenit in the form of an interview with Dr Christian Brugger herehere, and here. This is not science fiction.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

"After-birth abortion"

The recent furore over the publication by a reputable medical ethics journal of an article arguing that infanticide should be permitted because there is no moral difference between an embryo and a newborn, and the other fuss about the discovery that women in the UK are regularly given abortions on the NHS simply because they don't like the gender of the child ("gendercide"), have caused a certain amount of consternation in the minds of the British public.

If we are on a slippery slope to barbarism, it started earlier than the 1967 Abortion Act. It can be traced back at least to the 14th-century Oxford philosopher William of Ockham, and to other nominalist and voluntarist philosophers of the Middle Ages. Abortion is a social justice issue, and a moral issue, but more than that, it is an ontological and epistemological one. What is a "person", and what is a "right"? Modern dilemmas over abortion stem from the widespread assumption – derived from these philosophers – that the word "person" is merely a label that we choose to apply to some group of individuals we choose to relate to as equals. It does not, that is, have a deeper