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Atheists, Conservatives, and the Struggle

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- Vol , No
So apparently George Will and Charles Krauthammer are “non-believers.” To be honest, I’m unsurprised. Nonbelief is the new black. In a world where we are taught that only an empiricist epistemology can, in any sense, touch Truth, most people either retreat into the pseudo-spirituality of the third eye or bow down to the yoke of modern-technological enslavement. But Will and Krauthammer are something in-between.
It’s been said that their remarks betray condescension. Essentially, conservatives of their bent either want objective truth and see God as a convenient fall man or just want to give the people a hit on the ole Marxian opium pipe. I have to admit, there was a time when I fell into the first camp. I was never really a non-theist, I just liked the ideas of truth and beauty more than the guy upstairs. Sure, I came around, but belief isn’t easy. In fact, it goes against our long-standing and early-inculcated empiricist mindset.
But it’s a necessary one for the true conservative who wants to stand for those principles. I have many friends who are non-believers. In fact, sometimes as a Catholic, I find non-militant agnostics a refreshing bunch. And one can, I suppose, believe whatever one wants. The difficulty is that without some idea of an absolute, absolute principles are a farce. True equality, liberty checked by reasoned understanding, and baseball all require a substantial basis in something beyond the personal or at least beyond the material. Who is equal in the entropic world of strongmen and imbeciles? Nobody.
To enter the tricky territory of 19th century, Danish, anti-Hegelianism, I think a little Kierkegaard could serve to enlighten: “If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this, I must believe.” God is not an object of the human intellect; he is the ultimate subject: the “is.” If I may speak paradoxically (how fitting), God is a great blessing in our scientific age. He offers an alternative epistemology in which science is useful, but not a deity unto itself. He rejects Enlightenment reason and shows his face to the pauper before Icarus.
I do not offer a critique of Will or Krauthammer. They are intelligent men. But we would do well to bolster conservatism, to provide an alternative to the outgrowths of 17th-century liberalism. Even if conservatism does not require theism, it requires epistemological openness.