Seek perfection, get North Korea

A review by Anthony Daniels of The Conservative Foundations of the Liberal Order: Defending Democracy against Its Modern Enemies and Immoderate Friends, by Daniel J. Mahoney.

The utopian impulse, which fills the metaphysical vacuum left by the death of God and the abandonment of religion, is the greatest enemy of a free an dliberal order.

Contemporary militant atheists treat religion as if it consisted solely of the Spanish Inquisition and the stoning of adulterers.  That its history has included things that are inimical to a liberal order is undeniable; but to treat them as the whole of its contribution is like treating the history of medicine as nothing but amputation with anesthetic and the employment of Perkins’s metallic tractors.

Mahoney points out that one of the advantages of a religious sensibility for the liberal order is the acceptance of limitation that it confers.  A religious sensibility accepts not only existential limits to human life that are not of man’s making (a great advantage in facing death), but ethical ones as well, because the moral law is laid down by a will external to mankind’s own.  This preculdes the radical egotism that insists that every question should be judged by the light of every individual’s own unaided reason;  which all too often, of course, accords with, and gives its blessing to, the secret desires of the heart, as well as leading to conflict with others whose unaided reason tells them something quite different

As if to provide an instance of Shigalev’s famous deduction in Dostoevsky’s The Possessed, quoted by Mahoney, that “starting from unlimited freeedom, I arrive at absoluted despotism.”

In other words, you seek perfection and you get North Korea.

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2 Responses to Seek perfection, get North Korea

  1. Chris Reagan says:

    This post almost lays the foundation for the comment i just left on your post “The unscientific foundation of science.” Not being able to see that the human condition has flaws (sins), leads people to believe that the perfect world is deep inside of everyone of us, if only we would drop the vices that cause conflict (i.e. religion).
    But for someone who understands our condition as broken, we see that there is the external factor to our lives that has defined a moral code beyond what we can justify in our hearts and minds.
    Those that object to religion see the individual as the ‘despot’ of their life and can only see God as the same for the world, which he could be if He so chose, but in His desire to be glorified, has relinquished himself of that role until we ask Him to take that role again (In which we find His will.)
    So submission to those without religion looks like it’s an involuntary psychological submission to a figment which really IS our own hearts ad minds. A thought that, to those of us with religion, have a clear understanding that it is not true as we experience our hearts and minds fight God’s will for our life everyday.

    …N. Korea… sounds like a great God to me. lol

    • John says:

      Thanks again Chris. I find intelligent, principled, well-informed people on both sides of every argument of the day. And when you get to the nub of it, the disagreements aren’t so much based on who’s smarter or has better data, but on the operating assumption: is man perfectable or is he fallen? The answer to that makes you either a small-p progressive or a small-c conservative, and your vision for the just society flows from that.

      Fwiw, I was a small-c conservative long before I was a Christian. Shakespeare and the Greeks saw to that.

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