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.
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.