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The Big Picture

'Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons.' -- Vizzini from "The Princess Bride"

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Authoritarianism and Infallibility

When you examine today's conservative Christians, in their writings, their values, and their lives, one of the clear views is that of absolute authoritarianism. By that I mean they adhere to absolute morals (even if those absolutes change drastically over the decades and centuries), and those absolutes are handed down to them only via authoritarian figures. Those authoritarians may be political leaders like President George W. Bush, or via religious leaders like D. James Kennedy (or James Dobson, et. al). Oddly enough, the one authoritarian figure they largely ignore is their god; God, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Ghost. I have written about this ignorance many times in the past, concerning their embrace of capitalism over the God-endorsed economics of communism, their lack of endorsement of murdering the infants of unbelievers, their flippant views on behavior of women (and men), and most importantly, their utter incoherence when it comes to dealing with the whole of the bible (e.g. just what did Jesus do, and when did he do it).

In spite of all this, today's conservatives, simply make up out of thin air, the day's absolutes (which will not be the same as tomorrow's absolutes). But absolutism to them is beyond all the change that happens, absolutism really means agreement with authoritarian dictates of that particular time. Take Michelle Malkin (via Glenn Greenwald). Her positions are so contradictary as to be absurd. For Christians (Americans) to torture brown people suspected of terrorism or to hold them in prison without even a trial is perfectly acceptable, but for brown people (non-Americans) to convict Christians (via a trial) of terrorism is reheprehensible. Its all in the religion, eh, Michelle? Michelle is living, breathing proof that absolutes are only absolute on a day-to-day basis and only for "us".

The deeper question would then become, why is it that supposed absolutes are strictly relative to the day on which they are proclaimed? The answer is what Glenn Greenwald explored the other day regarding John Hinderaker and Republicans at large. The answer is that these conservatives take their absolutes from authoritarian figures, the president, leaders of the religious right, etc. No matter what those authoritarians say, it is not simply "right", but right in an absolute sense -- one that can never be contradicted, even by further proclamations from that same authoritarian figure. Consider In vitro fertilization. In the 1980's, soon after Roe v. Wade and the birth of the Moral Majority, Conservative Christians decided they had something to say regarding the recent medical breakthrough, in-vitro fertilization. To them, at that time, it was a moral travesty that human medical science had taken the creative powers of God by creating fertilized eggs via technology rather than the natural order of things as ordained by God. That was then. Today, they say no matter the method of procreation used, it is all God's handiwork, and all those "soulless babies" are now fully human. (Unfortunately, this is the only example I found of this, so take it with some due skepticism.) It is not hard to see how that absolute moral could have been conceived in 1981, yet today be twisted 180 degrees into what we now witness.

While I do tend to agree with Greenwald on the infallibility issue, I have my divergences as well. No one can be a master of all human knowledge, thus, there will always be some point in which we need to defer to authority of others -- that transcends both the left and the right. The difference is that the right, especially conservative Christians, distort that necessity into a requirement on every issue. That is the authoritarian aspect to infallibility.

The problem is that our country, our own government is now usurping that weakness, that lack of skepticism. The current attitude among conservatives is that we can do no wrong -- torturing, the shredding of our very own Bill of Rights, the bastardization of everything our forefathers fought for in the Revolutionary War into a call for infallibility of an authoritarian government. It is wrong and no American should stand for it.

Authoritarianism does hold some use for any society, but the moment infallibility is thrown into the mix, it no longer can be called a democracy, and can only be labeled for what it is, a dictatorship.

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